Remember the first time we met? It was in that café along Banda Street, you were in a cream frock and I had a cold yet for some reason I ordered a milkshake. Do you remember how you berated me the entire time? It should have gotten under my skin but with the novelty of a first date it felt fresh. It hinted that you were a woman who wouldn’t watch me do idiotic things, it said that you would hold me to a higher standard. And isn’t that the entire point of human interactions, making someone better than you found them?
We took a walk through Uhuru Park, remember that? I think that was the closest we ever looked like a couple. You in your tiny open wedge heels and that cream dress that went way past your knees. I know it took a lot for you to wear that. You looked modest in it. I knew there was only so much flesh you could reveal. I knew there was no one time we would go out and I would get to see your cleavage or thighs but all that was okay because you excited me in other ways.
At Uhuru Park we stood at the furthest corner of the small lake, the breeze picking up where the milkshake left off and making my cold even worse. You told me later that your legs felt like jelly the entire time. I don’t know if I told you this but I had the biggest urge to hold your hand though I didn’t. That was sort of the soundtrack of our dating. I did not want to rush things. You were like the last piece of cake that a child wants to save. With you I always had this eerie feeling that I couldn’t eat my cake and have it too.
Remember that bible argument we had on our second date? Of course you won. You brought a gun to a pillow fight. You had a bible in your handbag and a warehouse of facts in your phone. It’s like you had dreamt about it the previous night. In that way you never fully got my jokes. I mean, I sometimes made you laugh but those jokes were always a source of argument for us. You felt that my way of saying serious things was by hiding them in japes and sarcasm and you felt that made me feel exempt from taking responsibility for what I was truly saying because I could always say it was a joke.
Our third date was something, wasn’t it? You paid for this one, way to step up, eh? You had chicken and fries and I had a fruit salad. I often told you that I was a bad eater but you didn’t buy it this time. You felt I was ordering something cheap because you were paying. I can’t completely deny your line of thought. It was the conservative man in me, the man that grew up seeing women being taken care of by men. The man that grew up seeing men around him treating women as if they were inferior. I’m trying to unlearn that, I feel I still need a few more classes to completely wash it out of my system.
That wasn’t the climax of that date though, was it? Remember the hand-holding afterwards, as if we were a couple of giggling teenegers? We were at Sarit, basement. I think you were mumbling something about the pictures of the honchos on the wall and I grabbed your hand and our fingers intertwined out of stimuli. You told me you googled it later to know what it meant. But I couldn’t tell you why I did that. It was something instinctual, a rabid attraction more than anything else. Neither of us could speak after that because of the hot blood coursing through our veins and the sexual tension that could have been cut with a knife. Remember you almost forgot your parking change? If we had fallen in love we could have gone bankrupt. That, or we could have combusted into flames the day our naked bodies touched.
There were some things that I didn’t like about you but those things I could live with because the things I liked about you overpowered them. I liked your brilliant mind, you had a sharp reply for anything I said. You used to say shit that made me really think. I liked that you were hardworking. I mean, you were driving and I wasn’t. A big part of me was really proud of that. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that a small part of me felt emasculated, as if I needed to put on a bigger show. It was the part that was taught that the man had to always be doing better than the woman, that there was a problem if the woman you fancied was a few steps ahead of you. I know now that society is wrong but it’s still something I’m fighting with. It’s still something I haven’t healed from completely.
Remember that date we had at Chicken Inn? You hated the meal. I was very broke then. I think I was only left with fare after I paid for it. It was supposed to be a reconciliation date but it ended up being a breakup. I have been listening to 4:44. ‘I am the one who fucked up a good thing. I apologize because I fell short of what I said I’m all about—when the mask falls off, Santa Claus is fake.’
I had a hard time sleeping the night the divide happened. I was upcountry. I had met her in church and I decided to kill my boredom by texting her and for some reason one of the obscene texts meant for her found its way in your phone. It was at a time when we were planning to take things to a different level. I tossed in that bed that night as if it were made of thorns. I cursed myself for risking a good thing for a fling. I think we had planned for a picnic in Karura and you cancelled it because you felt the goodwill had been eroded and that’s how we found ourselves at Chicken Inn.
After the date we went to our construction site. You had completely refused the idea of coming to my place. It’s a nice house by the way, with seats, electricity and working taps. I remember you had just moved out so I suggested that maybe you should make me tea at yours, another idea you refused. We finally settled on our construction site. It was a Sunday. I had actually planned to bring in a table, two seats and some flowers. I thought the setup would be romantic, in an olde worlde sort of way, but I felt it would have been too much work on such short notice. It took me aback when I told you the idea and you said you would have hated it.
We were on the top most floor of the site. I watched you from a distance. We were maybe five paces apart and as the light filtered in through the open spaces where the windows and doors should have been I wondered how to broach the subject that was eating both of us up. I think you were in a black skirt, loose top and flip-flops. I don’t remember any interaction we had where you weren’t in a skirt, even though you had told me skirts were not your thing. I imagined that you did it for me. That you did it because you knew I had a thing for women in dresses but that still wounded me. It told me how unfit we were for each other because you should have been comfortable going out with me in what you felt most comfortable in.
I finally spoke. I told you I wanted us to be an item, that I wanted to put a badge on things after months of joking and silliness. You asked what a relationship meant to me and my tongue was in knots. In hindsight, a relationship to me would mean being there for each other and at the same time giving the other the space they need to be themselves. And lots of touch. I want to touch and be touched. It’s my love language after all.
You said a relationship for me probably meant sex and you were not ready for that. I told you that going without sex wouldn’t kill me. That’s true, it wouldn’t. But I would feel like a thirsty man living close to a well he couldn’t drink from and that would have made me sore. But I realize now that at the time I was saying anything that could have gotten me a yes. You then said something that I couldn’t have argued with because of the intensity of its truth—that our values were so far apart to the point that they would always be a source of conflict.
I realize now that in many ways we wouldn’t have worked but sometimes I’m curious and I check to see what is going on with you. If there’s a man, a child, if you have updated your profile photo. Sometimes I zoom it in, sometimes I’m swallowed by dreams of what could have been and I think of texting you but I don’t because no’s, like yes’s, should be respected. But some days I miss you and I wonder if you do, too?
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I like to think of myself as a reader who writes, a Pan-African who thinks with the tips of his fingers, but when I'm not molesting the keyboard I'm usually destroying yogurt (not Frusion) or staring into the vastness of space.