If you had the option of choosing what precise moment you prefer to die, what would your choice be? Most of us would probably say just after going for confession. Let’s face it; none of us likes the idea of paying for our sins, right? Sins by definition are everything your mama and your pastor or priest have told you not to do, but which for some obscure reason appear infinitely more appealing than the good deeds. But what to do? It is what it is, right? Ok, enough of that.
One of the Sins I was repeatedly admonished against as I grew up was ‘Girls’. I’m serious. My list of the top ten sins to avoid had ‘Girls’ leading at first position by a colossal margin. Precisely put, I remember such assertions as ‘Achana na hawa wasichana’, ‘Wasichana watakuharibia maisha’, and my favourite one, frantically delivered just before I left for campus, ‘Ukiwaona, toka mbio!’.
It came as a complete surprise to me when my Paps raised this issue for the first time, during one of our scant-but-still-scary father-son bonding sessions. Turns out ‘Girls’ wasn’t a sin; and that’s how ‘Girls’ lost the singles quotes. “Girls are good”, he said. “But not now”, he concluded with finality. According to Paps, I had to finish my schooling first before I earned any rights to Girls. Girls would distract me from achieving his dream of fathering the first ‘A’ material in our village. Nothing was going to come between me and his social bragging rights, nothing!!
In the face of this maze of declarations regarding this mysterious opposite sex, who would blame me for being increasingly curious? Thus I began staring.
At first it was an innocent question of why not? What made them so evil? Why was I to stay away from them? Were my sisters different from them? If so, how? The only tangible difference between us was that they wore dresses (that was long ago) and didn’t seem to break their voices while ours rapidly did. They seemed perfectly harmless to me. I sincerely couldn’t place my deeply-Christian-teenage finger around it.
This was of course before I had ‘the Talk’ with Jack.
Jack was the mister-know-it-all giant of our class. Every new term, he would show up with a new wave of disturbing intelligence, gathered during the holidays from unverified sources at his uncle’s local pub. Oh, you should have attended one of his ‘Sermons’. They were deeply compelling in the least, and most of us innocent underlings hang onto his every word. He was Jack after all. If only he had applied his out-of-class studiousness in class, where it actually mattered, I’m sure he’d be way better off now.
The editor allowing, I will share with you some of Jack’s theories in another article.
So one day Jack caught me staring.
Actually, at that time I wasn’t staring at a Girl, not at all. I vividly remember that my thoughts lingered around our new Biology teacher, who seemed determined to lure me to sleep every time she opened her orifice to teach. Painfully boring doesn’t begin to explain her teaching methods. I was simply worried about my grades, and while staring at oblivion, I wondered how I would make it through her classes and grasp something, anything.
“You like her?” asked Jack, patting me hard on my feeble back.
“What!?” I asked, startled out of my one person silent crisis meeting.
“Christine!” he barked back.
“The Girl you were staring at Silly!” this guy had little if any courtesy in his veins.
“I wasn’t staring at any girl!” I protested.
“Yeah right!! I saw the way you were looking at her melons” he barked again amid mock laughter.
“Melons!?” I genuinely didn’t know what that meant.
To this day I still think that conversation went on for longer than it should have, with the absolute wrong person.
Jack gave me the first real biology lesson of my life, and promised me a practical session at a later date, when he felt I was ready. I couldn’t look at Girls the same way again after that conversation. The next day, madam sleepy-slipperson taught us about the reproductive system and it felt like revision to me.
Jack changed my life. From that day onwards, the staring moved to a whole new level. It wasn’t about why not any more. According to Jack, behind those innocent curtains lay the single best gift a man could ever receive. This realization made me feel different every time I stared. And I liked the feeling. So I kept staring, day in day out, wondering when I would finally behold this mysterious jewel that the Girls oh so hid from us.
I got caught many times thereafter, often by the object of my stare. Some gave me a sneering look and walked away; some smiled shyly and still walked away; and some simply scanned me from head to toe, probably decided I held no detriment, and continued minding their business. So I kept staring.
Eventually, Jack, who by now was a close ill-advisor of mine, had found me the perfect specimen for our first practical session. He, and his cohorts who were also closely monitoring my progress, showed up in class one day and whisked me out of my religiously strict study session. I didn’t take that kindly. He told me it was worth it, and once again, against my better judgment, I acquiesced to Jack’s lessons of life.
That’s when I met Christine, in person. And that’s when Girls lost the capital G.
To be continued…
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