A story by Kimaru Kim. 

Months to your twentieth birthday, a thread of beards will show on your face. They will be visible, quite unique and outstanding. They will resemble a broom in a rural home, tired of the banal task of sweeping the dust of an entire generation. You will be happy and proud. Anita will never again tag you on a meme saying that big boys with no beards should go for a long one in a potty.

You will think of the debut of beards on your smooth face like the icing on the cake. A grand welcome to the second floor of life. The world cordially inviting you for a ride that would last a decade. You will glow, for liberation is the thrill of escaping the teenage bracket. But you will be wrong. The appearance of beards will have the intensity of a fart after a heavy meal of beans and eggs. It will be powerful, life-changing, electrifying but temporary. Whatever happens, after it will have the effect of a Somali perfume – pleasurable and permanent.

You will meet a girl.

She will be overly friendly at your first encounter. She will smile all through the interaction session partly because she will think you are funny and partly because you are Kalenjin. Your inability to shut your mouth with your big teeth hidden will make you appear like you are always smiling. The two of you will appear so jovial in discovering the similarity that lies in the science that you both have two legs to walk, a mouth to speak and a nose to breathe. You will think that she is romantic.

After that first encounter, you will be exchanging messages on WhatsApp with the fury of a high school couple on a midterm break. She will give you all the signals, suggesting things like if you would be interested in showing her the design of your ceiling. You will take note of all that but you will pretend that they are invisible. You were raised well in the tea bushes of Kericho to understand that not every girl who smiles at you is desperate for a relationship. Some just want a friendly ear to vent out their frustrations as you all belong to a generation that has drugs as their staple food, hide feelings in memes and stuck in the abyss of depression.

You will meet frequently after your chats on WhatsApp become heated. She will behave in a way that suggests that she is always aching to be around you. By then you are being referred to using those pet names folks in relationships love to call each other. If someone accidentally reads your conversations, they will automatically think you are in a two seconds old relationship but it’s not that way. You can explain.  

In your heated conversations about different positions life can take, you will decide to shed your good boy tag. You will request a ‘serious date’ and switch off your data bundles to observe a minute of silence for the uncertain nature of the response. You will open her reply hoping for the best but preparing for a frustration housed in the nagging pain of a heartbreak. To your mercy, she will agree and you will find yourself at midnight using okoa bundles to attend a class at YouTube University learning how to take a girl out.

The great day will come and you will be so hyped up. The voices of those Indians on YouTube will be playing on repeat in your head like a newly released Sauti Sol jam. You will be having all the theory on how to administer the kiss on your fingertips and your lips will be so impatient to do the practical. You will choose an open location because you want to declare to the world that she is yours. You will make that master move of placing a hand on the neck complete with a seductive wink. She will do that thing of swinging hair to the side, a move known to exist in Hollywood movies, and look at you straight into the eye. All of a sudden, life will get hard on your side.  Some moments into the date, things will get steamy. Your lips will touch, but she’ll recoil soon after.

You will get a tad frustrated. Not because of the botched kiss, because of your okoa bundles that clearly went to waste. She will later text you, thanking you for kisses in open places, that such is her language of love. After the congratulatory messages, she will open up about her relationship. She will tell you how the pores have increased in her boat of love and that soon, without doubt, it will be sinking. That night, you will stay up late playing a marriage counselor with a Ph.D. in the science of healing broken souls.

It will continue seamlessly, the thing you have, until the evening of your twentieth birthday. She will be missing in action for no apparent reason. As the unofficial, unannounced and unverified boyfriend, you will be angered. You will want to text her long emotional paragraph, rant on WhatsApp status or even tweet a butchering thread on Twitter. After carefully thinking you will get some manners and you will sit down and be humble as you patiently wait for her.

Meanwhile, you will have noticed that she glows differently when she talks to a certain guy. That guy will not be present during the evening of your twentieth birthday. Before you join one plus one, she will appear dancing and smiling her gums out. She will come straight to you. She will whisper in your ear.

“Can I tell you a secret babe?”

You will encourage her to go ahead. You will tell no one.

“Cross your heart”

You will say sawa.

“Babe, he kissed me!”

You will painfully caress your beards and text your writer friend.

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