“…hakuna kushare joh, fisi akikam ng’orea…”- SWAT, Saba ,Ethic
Mia was trying to concentrate on doing her make-up. The excited chatter and giggles from the other room only did so much to calm her anxiety. She did not like going out when she wasn’t in the mood, let alone go out for a full-blown concert. Her girlfriends in the other room deep in their prattle, talking nineteen to the dozen. She did not understand what was with this Koroga Festival hype; it was like an infectious flu that everyone was catching, an exciting rumor nobody wanted to be left out of. She didn’t even know what edition of the Koroga Festival this one was, all she knew was that everyone was going because Ethic were performing.
The upbeat, Gengetone group of performers, who apparently had managed to garner an overnight, large and loyal following through their bop-worthy club hits. Nobody could deny it; they were true superstars, and the fact that they were the main act at the Festival only served to heighten everyone’s anticipation.
“Shit!” she cursed, running a crooked line of lipstick, her palms sweaty and her mind absent.
“Mia! We need to go aki, finish up you join us for this shot before we order the Uber,”
Mia and her three girlfriends were halfway through their pregame. Gin and Tonic. It was half past eight and they had just gotten their regular entry tickets from their plug; TicketSasa regulars had already sold out over a week before. The alcohol had already started coursing through her system; swaying her earlier stance on going. This might not be such a bad idea after all, she thought, downing a sizable shot of Gordon’s, feeling the familiar taste of a truly lit night on the tip of her tongue, followed by the warm sensation rising up her mid-section.
It was the first time she was going out and having fun with her friends; she wasn’t like this before. Sad, withdrawn and often introverted Mia. She hated what that boy had done to her. Her ex, the undeserving son of a gun. Make no mistake, she was over it; that she fully knew, but something had died in her, dried up, trampled on and thrown away. Put out like a candlelight in the middle of a Harmattan wind.
She had vowed never to be vulnerable again. She hated leaving her emotional-self unguarded, lest a malicious wolf comes along and snatches her heart, or whatever was left of it.
She overheard Ivy ordering the Uber to Tatu City, the venue to the Festival, and all she could think about was the stranger she had met over a month ago. He looked too stressed to be out on an early Sunday morning. Typing furiously on his phone, an already warm cappuccino by his side. His eyes sunken, his demeanor overwhelmed, like he had a load to get off his heart. She didn’t know what to do. To say Hi? To eye him from the corner of the Pepino’s terrace? She found herself walking towards his table, her palms sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, her anxiety doing a real number on her.
It was only after having a conversation with him, did she realize he was deeply hurting. Just like her. She wasn’t so sure what to make of all of it. He was different, his soft demeanor, a half smile painted across his face, his eyes tired. There was a certain vulnerability he exuded; the kind of vulnerability that made her want to hold him close, to tell him that everything would be alright. Too bad they didn’t exchange numbers the first time she met him over three months ago at the studio. Over a blunt. She only remembered his first name, Imanda.
With every passing day; she felt an impatience growing in her, like an embryo in the womb, soon enough, she couldn’t ignore it. She felt it. She saw him everywhere she went. Every time she was in town, walking down Moi Avenue, heading home after school, she would catch a whiff of his Tom Ford cologne. Her heart would race, and immediately sink, the hollow feeling in her stomach choking her; it wasn’t him. Her mind was paying tricks on her sanity. Often, she would stare out the window of her Citi Hoppa, the maddening rush of people pushing though the full streets of Nairobi. Her mind unconsciously seeking for his face, for his gait. Once in a while, she’d see someone who walked exactly like him, but his dressing a tad too garish to be him.
She felt like she knew how he’d dress on a Saturday afternoon. His faded black Amiri jeans, a Nike Tee, maybe a cap on? A corduroy jacket? She’d follow another with her eye, with the same height, same body build; but this one was wearing spectacles.
Sigh. She was tired.
“Mia!! C’mon let’s go! The Uber’s already downstairs girl,” snapping out of her trance; back to reality.
“And you need to cheer up okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost gosh” Ivy said. And as they took the last mirror selfie, all glammed up and looking gorgeous; she couldn’t help but feel a strong sense of foreboding. She didn’t know what, but she could feel it.
“Bro! Open the door you coward!” you heard DK’s voice boom through your door, knocking hard at it.
You were annoyed. It was quarter past five in the evening, and you were listening to Kaytranada’s 99%, your most favourite album, high off your ass.
“What the fuck do you want?!” you retorted. Of course you knew what he wanted.
Earlier on, he had told you something about Ethic performing at Koroga Festival, and wanted you to go as well. You weren’t in the mood. You hated crowds, you hated lines and most of all you hated concerts. To make matters worse, you did not even have a ticket. They had sold out ages ago and you had given up on the entire idea.
You opened your door. DK looked like he had some really good news to tell you, you hoped; otherwise, on god you were going to slam the door in his face.
“Broooo…twende Koroga man”, he said, you were about to slam your door on him, but he had his foot firmly against the door.
“Before you say anything, look who I have here”
With a puzzled look on your face, you tried to figure out what kind of head-assery this boy was up to, till you saw Jannae standing at his side, with a full bottle of Gin. This nigga. You thought, in true fashion, he knew had to grease your palms.
“Hii Jannae, are you together with this idiot?” You asked.
Jannae was your best friend and classmate at Law School, and you did not know what she was up to with DK. You never knew what was going on between them; they always gave you mixed signals. They were an intriguing pair. One moment they would be all cute, flirting and all, and the other moment, furiously fighting, an excuse to even aggressively flirt. Theirs was like a pendulum in motion swinging from one point to another, there was a tension between them, that none wanted to acknowledge, you knew they had zero plans of addressing it.
But today, seemingly, they had different plans, and those plans involved you. You let the two in, DK feeding you profuse details about the event, listing all reasons why you had to go; a miserable attempt at convincing you. Either way, you were already bought cheap and fast, once you had seen the bottle. You didn’t even care about the tickets; he had already mentioned something about getting them from a friend of a friend. You were sure it was those unscrupulous Instagram Ticket merchants who sold the same ticket to the same group of unsuspecting revelers. You cared less. As long as you were knee-deep in the bottle, you could be convinced to jump off the Eiffel Tower. As the three of you pre-gamed, already dressed and ready to head out, you felt odd. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it wasn’t, either way, you were going to find out soon.
Tatu City was a hell of a distance. Two bottles down and you were already in party mode, your alter ego on full act. You were a different person intoxicated, more daring, more macho, your introverted self-non-existent, morphing into the alpha in your pack of wolves (Read hyenas), and ready to hunt down your unsuspecting prey. Any female would fall for your fluid lines and deceptive charms, charms that hid your crumbling belief in love and equally contrasting craving for affection.
High off Gin and Jane, dressed to murder. The place was packed; you couldn’t help but sympathize with the hoodwinked party-goers, now standing in small groups outside the venue, cold and desolate. DK led the way to the regular entry gate; had your tickets scanned; and in no time, you were in. Just in time for Ethic’s main act. It was exhilarating. Only if you knew how things would change in the next couple of minutes.
DK led the way to the open bars, to get enough fuel to burn through the night. The lines were long, and you couldn’t handle waiting. You trusted DK with the job. You stayed outside, enjoying the curtain raisers to Ethic’s main act.
“Hi Stranger,” you heard.
Your heart stopped. You mind unable to process the magnitude of the moment.
You slowly turned. It was her. Mia. The stranger you met at the studio over three months ago. The stranger that found you nursing your wounds over a cappuccino. “Why are your hands shaking?” she asks. You felt entirely fucked up; both inside your head and in your heart; or whatever was left of it, and even that which remained of it, was wild aflame. Questions that were ought to be buried deep down the reserves of your mind surfaced with such force that you couldn’t even see clearly. Everything just faded into a blurry mess. Had you fallen in love with her? Did you feel the same way the moment your eyes locked? Have you ever pictured the two of you for eternity?
The answer is singular.
You had fallen so deeply and irrevocably in love.
It was her. It was always her, a confession you were terrified to make.
Three is the number of times you’ve met her.
Three is the number of times you have felt this way.
And three, is the number of confessions you’ve made.