‘What are you afraid of?…You have got nothing to lose.
‘You are crazy,’ she said amid a light laughter.
Time for me had stood still. I looked up at the starless sky just to stop myself from staring. This Nairobi skyline. Someone cannot even enjoy the stars. I cursed to myself.
The traffic lights at the intersection changed to green. The matatus were in a rush. It was almost midnight. The number of commuters was dwindling. One last round before calling it a night. It was like the last call at the bar before closure (have you ever been present? I see you. Wink!).
Gari ya mwisho. The calling of the tout, brought me back to the present. This guy is persistent. Can he not see we are busy here? Trying to spoil my moment. I took it as a personal attack to me as the thoughts raged within.
* * *
As I stood there looking around I did not expect it to be her. She was some distance from where I stood. In the dark at least I could make out she was in a buibui. I watched as the dialer on my phone made the call. In anticipation I waited for the person on the other end to pick up. She answered her phone.
I approached. Whether it was the navy blue hijab or her black buibui or the fascination that she was Muslim that first caught my attention I’ll never really know.
‘Hey,’ I stretched out my hand. She was beautiful (pardon my straightforwardness). Her face was well rounded, clear eyes that made the moon seem dull. Her lips made me hold my breath, I looked away ( first impressions matter). She was chocolate in complexion.
‘I am Rayya,’ she said.
‘I am Michael, pleased to meet you,’ I said taking back my outstretched hand that seemed to have been ignored. Was she a snob? Or was my scent off? Or was my shirt not ironed. Turmoil in head. Conflicting thoughts. She ain’t feeling you. Sorry my guy. Hideous laughter from the wicked part of my brain. Basking in the glory of my failure. You can always make a come back. The merciful part came to my rescue. (My joy when I later learnt that Muslim girls don’t shake hands with men. My victory dance was the bomb).
‘I walk you to your stage?’ I offered after pleasantries(the gentleman in me showing, my momma raised me right). She walked a pace ahead of me. I watched her lips move as she talked. Be careful you don’t stumble and fall on your face. The voice in my head cautioned.
How does her hair look? Is it soft or rough to the touch? How is her body shaped beneath that buibui? Is she as beautiful? I could not help myself but wonder. She was a mystery. A puzzle I wanted so bad to crack. A jigsaw puzzle piece I was determined to find where she would fit into.
* * *
Our conversation went on for hours. I did not want it to stop. The city lights only made it worse. I got to see her in a different light. She was radiant. I loved even more what I saw.
Was I falling? Would it hurt if I hit the ground? (no! Men don’t catch feelings. The macho in me held steadfast).
The end of everything is better than its beginning. Who said that? I paused as I said goodbye. I wanted her to stay a second longer. Even a millisecond longer would be just fine.
* * *
A month later.
‘What will happen between us now?’ Rayya asked over the phone.
‘Well…I am not really sure. But does it really matter?’ Michael tried his best to answer the question. He scratched his head with his free hand holding his phone to his ear like his life depended on it.
‘Yes it does. I might be falling for you. But this religion thing…,’ she said stopping short in a sigh.
‘Why don’t we cross the bridge when we get there?’ he posed the question.
‘What if?…we get there and we don’t find an amicable solution. What then?’ she reiterated.
‘We will decide then what we will be willing to do for love…,’he paused. ‘Ours will be an illicit bond.’