His name was James, he was tall, skinny and had an earthly tone complexion. He tried to hide it but he wore his heart on his sleeve. It was a long sleeve.
Vagrancy was the first thing I noticed about him and his curious nature that none could figure it out. Build in like a Rubix cube, the kind of jittery cube with soft edges.
We had just moved into this bucolic setting in the village from Kiambu Town, the noisy town where we lived next to a bakery, which you might say, earned us our daily bread, so to speak.
We were addicted to the bustle of the town, nosy neighbors, playing with my friends till late, the petrol stations, the tiny dukas, the availability of sweets when one day my father dropped the bombshell on us. : We were moving. Nay, we were relocating.
He decided one day that he was done with the fast lane life. No opinion from us. No reason. He was ready for the suburbia life where there with more ‘tranquility’, – where when people made noise it was with their jembes begging the ground to cave in, – where having a kitchen garden was not a foreign thing to possess.
I was astounded. Angry even.
I thought he was going through a midlife crisis because he had started wearing leather jackets after watching Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II, so I brushed him off.
I knew he meant business when I saw a yellow truck parked outside our flat and huge men started moving our things. The yellow in the truck was as bright as the sun as if to symbolize a new dawn, a strange new dawn to us, an unfamiliar dark dawn all planned by the leather jacket don.
We moved to the suburbs. My first impression was that there were too many tea and coffee plantations and not enough humans. The aura was cold and lonely and I felt a deep pit in my stomach and tears started flowing as my heart and spirit ached for my barefooted friends. The place was quiet I could literally hear my thoughts. Heck, we even had a conversation with Mother Nature and slept with our eyes open for a while.
We settled in and two weeks later I was in a matatu with a serious pout face which I had decided was the only way to get my father to come to his senses. I heard someone tap my shoulder from behind and as I turned my head tongue ready to swirl insults to this stranger touching me for no reason he said, “Hey, I think we’re neighbors” and that was the genesis of what I call our love affair, albeit brief. Let’s call him ‘Maestro’ because he always had a smile and a twinkle when you called him that.
James, uhm, Maestro, made my heart melt like butter on a hot saucepan every time we hang out. His mirth was infectious and it made even the tea plantation want to join in. Our families became friends and soon a wave on the road turned into family dinners.
James or maestro as I used to call him because of how easily he lured ladies into his trap experienced extreme dark times that he rarely exposed to me. No matter how hard he tried he could not fit in, and instead of spending time with his friends he started hanging out with the village drunks, checking in dingy corners where brews were served on metal cups to missing his classes, one thing led to another and he never graduated.
Maestro started obsessing about being rich and at 24, he needed to have a range rover, acres of land and plenty of businesses under his belt. Being his friend became difficult and when he asked me for sexual favors I felt a line had been crossed and I boxed him out of my life.
We became estranged and every time I saw him he was skinnier, his face scorched so much by the sun that I could not recognize him.
”Niko fiti,” would always be his response every time I would try and find out what was wrong. I never really pushed for fear of his trepidation infecting me.
Again, one thing led to another and he started dealing bhang in the hood. The boy I was fond off quickly turned into a stranger. He did not smile, the light in his eyes was switched off and what was left was a dim look.
One day while I was reflecting on my life I decided to take a stroll and visit him and found him lying on the floor lifeless. He had taken too much alcohol & was inebriated. He woke up, vomited a lot then went back to sleep.
When he woke up he was not embarrassed and his face was full of relief. His family had given up on him; society labeled him as dysfunctional and his friends a failure. He was helpless and hugged me so tightly and whispered I am depressed and I think about dying all the time.
I coaxed him to talk to his family, get help but he was beyond reproach. I decided to be there for him.
We would go for long walks as he talked about his dreams, of how he was going to be a billionaire. In some moments I saw the maestro come back, his soul fighting the sadness, his spirit just snapping back…but I was wrong. False hopes. Cold comfort. He had already decided his fate not even when I talked to him about God’s love.
He loved deeply; I could tell by the way he talked about his sisters, his new set of puppies and sometimes a girl with a big bum…that was his type. That’s every man’s type. No matter what they tell you, girl.
I remember it was a frosty Saturday, and I could have sworn I saw a snowflake floating. As we strolled cheerfully, he asked me to be his girlfriend.
I laughed it off but the look in his eyes said he was pretty serious.
I loved him, his being, his soul danced with mine at very edgy corners, his smile warmed my heart but I said No.
He was crushed, and he promised to win my heart and prove me wrong.
Two weeks later he was involved in a bad deal and was murdered.
He didn’t deserve it and I really struggled with not blaming myself.
What ifs filled my mind and clogged my soul and spirit.
I am at peace because I showed him love. He is still very alive in my soul.
Let’s show love to people we never know what they are going through.
Are you there for your friends? Is someone there for you? Take care of your mental health.
Story by Rita Hinga.