“I love you and I want to be loved” – dvsn, Don’t Choose
Ivy was pretty excited, and fidgety, for two good reasons.
Waiting was not her particular cup of tea; and the palpable excitement in the air could not allow her the room of thought. She tried to calm her nerves by focusing on something else. She was seated alone in this spacious waiting area, a hallway sparingly decorated with Neo-classical West African sculptures. They looked ugly; the kind of ugly white people would gush over. The overhead lights were bare; three spotlights hanging over reed-lampshades. The white tiles on the floor squeaky clean, a red oriental rug adorning the centre of the floor; with visitors seats on either side. Even though the velvet seats were very plush and comfy, Ivy was on the edge. The large glass pivot door at the entrance reflecting the sun’s golden rays through the hallway, in her hands was Mia’s purse, an intricately beaded work of art. She had spoken to the receptionist behind the massive mahogany desk, her spectacles framing her Auntie-like countenance. She had asked how long it would take for Mia to get done. She wished that she hadn’t asked in the first place. Her response was curt, a voice that was whetted on broken bottles.
It was the morning of 17th January 2020, and Mia’s gallery exhibition brief was due at the organization offices at Dusit D2. Ivy recalled the events of the previous month as though it was yesterday. She was at her studio apartment in Kilimani; jamming to dvsn’s Morning After, blunt in hand, sub-consciously planning the day ahead of her., when she got Mia’s phonecall.
“Ivy! Oh my geez you are definitely not going to believe this!…”
In the first instance, Ivy thought that something had gone horridly wrong, but when Mia narrated to her the news, she felt an overwhelming feeling of pride for her. Mia was going nuts, telling her about receiving an email with an .org domain, how she thought it was the usual generic marketing emails from random companies, until she saw her name and VSCO Gallery Exhibition in the same sentence. She knew how much this meant for Mia; and how long she had been waiting for this break in her on-and-off love with photography. The fact that Mia’s application to the prestigious Gallery was accepted amidst the deluge of applications from photographers and visual artists who she considered to be way more advanced and professional than her, was a testament to her pure dedication to her passions. And it paid off.
Ivy was no doctor but it was getting hard for her to find the patience to wait. Mia left no word on how long it would take the panel of organizers to brief her. The anticipation was killing her, on the other hand, she thought about the entire situation. It was no easy feat, and for Mia to be presenting her works before a global audience was really the universe working overtime to make her dreams come true.
Ivy was like the sister Mia never had. They had gone through the same primary school, kept in close touch through their high school years. And since the grand scheme of things was set in stone; they ended up in the same university. They were an inseparable pair; through their happy-drunk nights, through all the boys; theirs was a true love whose strings no seeming scissor could cut through.
Amid all this, Ivy felt unsettled. A nagging thought nibbling at the back of her mind. Mia had talked to her the day before about some complimentary tickets that had been affixed with the invitation to the exhibition. She really wanted to invite him. The stranger that kept on popping up in her life, like an incessant reminder that sooner or later, things had to be set in motion.
Ivy wasn’t entirely trusting of a stranger, especially one who was the object of Mia’s adornment. She didn’t know him that well to offer proper judgment, although she had to admit, she had never seen Mia this love-struck before, Cupid’s arrow had precisely found its mark and sunk deep into Mia’s heart. Mia was swooning at every mention or slight nuance of him. She never missed a chance to point out the fact that he was an artist, and truly, imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. Her psyche craved for him, a chance to pick out his mind, know what he was thinking about, why the half-smile was on his face every time she tried to flirt with him. She had never fathomed that she would be this terribly infatuated with a boy who essentially was a stranger to her. But oh yes, there’s always something enticing about the unknown, and with every passing day, this feeling was amplified ten-fold. And it was now in this zenith of her photography vocation, that she felt it was only right to invite him.
Lost and neck-deep in her thoughts, Ivy didn’t see Mia walk down the stairs that led to the first floor offices of the gallery; eyeing her the entire way.
“What are you thinking about?” Mia intoned. Ivy looked up, startled, at the face of Mia smiling down on her.
“I think you should invite him,” Ivy said.
“I already did,” Mischief written all over Mia’s face.
Ivy looked at her, not entirely amazed at how sneaky Mia could be, and it was in this moment that her premonition about Mia’s feelings was reinforced.
She was unmistakably in love.
What does someone wear to an artsy event? You thought out loud. This was a particularly a paradoxical moment for you, that although you were into fashion and design, you couldn’t style yourself for a gallery exhibition. And to add to your conundrum, you had been, out of the blue, been invited by your crush. A true predicament that was hard to solve. You looked through your wardrobe, trying to find a fit for the day. She had mentioned something about there being an evening after-party, and you had to consider that too.
Maybe if you could start with the shoes you were going to wear, and work upwards, maybe that would work? No, your collection of footwear was 99% Nike and Adidas and 1% leather. You had little to work with. How about the pants you were going to wear? Not promising either, jeans was the staple of your wardrobe; black jeans, faded Amiri jeans, light blue rugged jeans, dark blue jeans, jeans with the rips, the Chrome Hearts jeans. And what about your top, would it be a t-shirt, or a shirt?
This was all turning out to be a Herculean task. And a head ache for that matter. Maybe less is more, you thought. Faced with many options, with varieties screaming at you ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ , it was only rational to go with a clean, simple look. White Air Force ones, faded black Chrome Hearts Jeans, a white tee, and rugged dark grey denim jacket. Mono-tone was the best thing to do since you were not especially skilled in the area of color co-ordination. Tom Ford was the cologne and as you combed your hair, you left out a slightly rough but neat curled top.
You had never been to Dusit D2 in your entire life. Neither was the miraa-in-his teeth Uber driver. He kept on asking you which side of Westlands it was and which exit he should take. You really had no idea and all you could do was read out the map to him. When you finally got there and paid him his 500 shillings, was when you knew this event was really no small-fish business. And you were a less than a small-fish, tinier than a plankton. And before you was this looming task of wooing your crush and not look like a buffoon in the process.
You walked through the security entrance, and the well labeled signage pointed you to the gallery showcase. People were already here, you tried as much to avoid the ‘fashionably late’ shenanigans that you knew would definitely not strike the right chord, especially on a formal invitation by a girl you were trying to make yours.
As you walked through the large mahogany doors, handing out your ticket to be screened by the intimidating door-men, your eyes were already scanning through the floor, trying to familiarize with the environment you were in. But in truth, you were actually looking for her. Mia.
You had called her before you arrived and she said she was tied up finishing up some business with the gallery organizers and told you to just walk in and make yourself at ease. What she didn’t know, was that you weren’t a people’s person as such, and this was all socially awkward. People of all kind, whose backgrounds probably was inclusive of high tastes in art, were strutting around the gallery, once in awhile taking a moment to snap a quick one with their favorites. You had no favorites, you were alone and Mia wasn’t in view. Your first instinct was to find Mia’s name on the catalog to see which section of the gallery was presenting her works. Section Five. You walked through the polished floors, finding your way around the various framed works of art.
You finally found the section, and on a sign, her name written, and along the white wall, were eight frames of her photographic works. You started with the first one, a colorful shot of the Nairobi sunset over Syokimau. The layers of light and color ascending through the clouds, nature fuzzed out in the background, an aura of warmth exuding out of the picture. You didn’t know how to feel about it, except the fact that you knew she was a truly gifted artist. You were a freelance photographer too, but this was just out of the world. If it were you, you definitely couldn’t have seen the angle through which she shot it.
The next one was a mono-toned shot through the window of a high floor in Panari. Her shots seemed expertly composed, abstract yet perfect. A black and white image meant to draw your attention to the lines and the curves that made the picture. The half grey blending into the blacks and the off whites blending into the half greys. The geometric balance of shapes and patterns playing a mesmerising waltz.
You felt like every shot she took had a story behind it, you felt like she wanted to take a picture because of how it made her feel, like taking a portrait of someone you love. She was painting and the world was her canvas. Every moment frozen in time possessing a character that she carefully though out. The gradient of the colours meant to evoke an emotion in the person looking at it.
You were so lost in her world, that you didn’t notice her creeping up on you. It was only after feeling her small hand, her palm softly clasping yours did you feel a surge of emotion you had never felt before. Another moment frozen in time.
“Hi stranger,” she said, her palm pressing against yours.
It was orgasmic. And you were left breathless.
As you looked into her eyes, you had to confess that she was a true work of art.
A work of art that you had fallen deeply in love with.
You had confessions to make, and this was the fifth one.