“I was thinking…. we could, erm….”
“You know, if you aren’t too busy this weekend….”
“Spit it out, man! For someone who claims to be a writer and an avid reader you are surprisingly inarticulate!”
“Surprisingly inarticulate when it comes to you.” I do not say this out loud, I grin and lick my lips, now chapped because she brings out the nerves, brings out that special daftness reserved for infatuated boys. I can almost hear the gleeful tittering of the other commuters beneath the music. Today, it is an oldish hip-hop mix, most of the songs are from the 2000s. It could be worse. Another time, I would have looked away, or let that be that. Not today. Today I get damned. Or not. Hey, I cannot ruin it any more than I may already have with my hemming and hawing and dancing about it. It is not like I have anything else lined up in this department and I am not swimming in women, so I may as well fall on my face with this one, and swim with her. Swim in her?
I stare at her face as she stares back, not backing down, never backing down. She wants an answer, and instead of coming up with one, I am imagining myself tracing her high cheekbones with the tips of my fingers while I whisper stupid shit to her and grab her arse. Stupid shit because by then it will not matter, I will be grabbing that onion from heaven. I do not know what said things may be. I have never been one to talk dirty. But, it is not just about the onion. She is just the right amount of mysterious. Looking into her is looking into a dimly-lit room: I can make out that there are beautiful things there, but I cannot make out what they may be. I just know that I want to know what they are. We are seated next to each other, we do on most rides, in the morning and the evening, and she lives four gates away from my house, yet on most days she feels too far.
I narrow my eyes and match her stare, curving my lips into what I imagine is a cross between a resigned smirk and a I’ll-get-you-soon smile. She smiles. I not so much as see it but feel it. It is like when the sun peeks out from under the clouds on a gloomy day. I cannot help but smile back. I only now notice the current song, Frontin’ by Pharrell. I much prefer the Jamie Cullum cover, being, as she put it once, “a poseur with pretensions of sophisitcation. A village superstar in the big city who now becomes just a village boy.” This is exactly what I am doing, what we are doing, frontin‘.
Our interactions are based on denial: we pretend that we are not in love with each other, and we pretend that it bothers neither of us how cool we play it. And very cool does she plays it, cooler than I do. Beneath her veneer lies a tangle of emotions I might have quite a bit to do with. She would never admit it, especially if I was right. It is in the little things, like last week when she sneered and looked somewhat deflated when I told her I had been invited for a play that Thursday evening and I would not be helping her with her shopping. I have never openly admitted my obsessive fondness for her until now. Almost everyone who meets her gets tangled in her effortless invisible web. I am no different. But now she is here with me, closer than she has ever been. That has to mean something.
She shifts a bit more to my side even though we are about to reach our stop, and leans towards me. Her perfume is cloying, a thick floral scent that her mother got her as one of her presents when she visited Israel, strong Christian woman that she is. Her breath smells vaguely of onions and pepper from that kachumbari she never seems to get enough of at lunch time, the one Mama Oti prepares “special for mrembo”, and that more often than not reminds me of tear gas. Her bust brushes against my arm, softly-hard against my shirt. I imagine that it is her nipple that is pushing harder, straining eagerly. It is not; it is a brooch, a yellow one today – a lizard eye that draws me further into her abyss. I can feel my pulse quickening. Shit, this never used to happen when I used to walk to and from work when I was still living with my parents. I have become unfit. At least this is what I tell myself.
“Stop being such a pussy.”
She whispers and pulls back, her soulful brown eyes widening a bit more. She slowly bites her lower lip and lifts her left eyebrow in a quizzical manner.
“Come over to my place this weekend. I’ll make you that kamande stew I’ve been promising. We can…. Watch a movie after, or let the movie watch us?”
“Much better! See, that wasn’t so hard! That’s one thing off my plate. Ungeniuliza mapema tumalizane haraka. A girl has things to do you know.”
I do not know if she is joking. That special daftness again. I look at her and I can tell my face is frozen, perplexed into silence.
“Do I make you this stupid?”
“Well, better me than anybody else.”
I feel the matatu jerking to a stop. She gets out first and I follow her, hanging back a bit, thoroughly enjoying the view. I adjust my belt and tuck in my shirt a little more. Wearing button-downs and dress pants to work is concept I am still getting to, even after two months.
“Stop staring at my arse.”
She half turns and smiles as she says this. She knows what she has and what it does to everyone who sees it. Experiences it, rather, because one does not simply see the moon, one basks in its glow, mesmerized by its shimmer. I catch up to her and she links her arm with mine, pulling me closer. It is dark already. She would probably never do this in broad daylight.
“I can’t help it.”
“You’ll have enough of it soon to last you a lifetime.”
She winks. I smile. Good problems.