Do you remember the first time you kissed a girl? Not a silly simple peck. I mean a proper kiss. The kind that starts on her neck, and somehow your tongue is at the back of her throat. Swabbing it. Tickling her esophagus. You can literally taste her insides with her pants on. And when you both come up for air, she has to take a step back to remind you that she has parents who would rather she was not devoured like this.
I meet this girl in Westlands at the Westgate Mall. She is on the first floor at the Art Caffe. She is wearing a pink dress with dandelions on the hem. There’s a silver clutch bag on the table. It tells you its owner is monied. She smiles when she sees me. She pushes away my arm when I move to shake her hand. Instead, she pulls me in for a hug. When she is done with me I slip into the chair beside her. She is bubbly, sitting next to her feels like there’s 2-liter bottle of coke on the seat facing me. Properly shaken, just waiting for someone to break the seal before everything bursts out. She literally squeals when I tell her she looks nice. Breaking into a long explanation explaining where her friend cum stylist finds her dresses.
“How do we do this?” I begin.
She laughs, turns and catches a waiter by his arm and….
“Unaweza tuletea menu?”
The gentleman happily obliges.
Eva is a fourth-year student at The University of Nairobi (she insists I capitalize it). She is on attachment at an audit firm. The one where the partners are always hitting on the younger babes. She enjoys the attention.
“Umewahi ingia box ya mmoja?” I ask.
She blushes terribly. She would never date a partner. Maybe just fuck them.
The waiter brings the menus and proceeds to have a 7-minute conversation with Eva. Not noticing my mouth is on the floor. My mind on overdrive trying to figure out what happened to the morals of this country. When did it become okay to sleep with older men. When I was younger we never did such things *wink.*
Finally, Calvin from the Art Caffe on the first floor of Westgate leaves to get the lady’s order. Forgetting that I am here as well. I forgive him.
“You mean you would sleep with a partner?”
“Why not? It would practically guarantee me a 6 figure job. Would you?”
Of course not. My mother would never agree to my sleeping with an older married woman for money *wink.* I make that crystal clear to her.
“What if she was not married?”
“They always are!”
“What if she wasn’t?”
“Hapana!” There is something dis-empowering about not being able to make your own money in this city. And if there is anything I have learned in this our Nairobi. A man and his woman’s money should be like oil and water. They should never interact.
“But would you sleep with an older babe if there wasn’t money involved?”
Who wouldn’t? The only question is how older?
She figures I am being hypocritical. If I would be willing to sleep with one for pleasure. Why not enjoy the work and get paid. We are after all prostitutes. We all sell a part of ourselves for money.
We are getting distracted. I have to retake control of the conversation. As much as I would love to argue about the merits and demerits of paid sex, this is not why we are here.
I’ve slept with Eva’s friend a couple of times. Laila. At her place mostly. She has horrible taste in furniture. And in men. We met for one of our monthly trysts and afterward, she asked me for a favor. I said no! Women always ask for the craziest things after sex! She insisted. Making the not so subtle threat that my privileges could be cut off. Her friend, Eva, wanted to tell her story. Who better to tell it to than the writer she does things with. I disagreed. Went to sleep and we were both agreed on what I would do by morning. This is why I am here on a perfectly good Saturday morning.
“Before we start I want to make something clear…”
“I’m not a lesbian!”
“I’m serious, mimi si lele.”
I assure her, even if she were. It would not make a difference to me. However, out of curiosity, I dig into it.
“Why would you say that.”
She is worried that Laila might have told me lies about her. “Laila anapenda udaku sometimes!” I calm her down and I assure her that Laila and I barely know each other. As such, there is no way we would be comfortable having such conversations with each other.
She calms down. Content.
She asks me if I remember the first time I kissed a girl.
Who doesn’t? Mine was behind the boys’ toilet in primary school with Sandra from Class 6 Joy. So named because the school administration named class streams after fruits of the holy spirit. Joy, peace, patience, and others. Sandra dragged me to a spot behind the boy’s toilets. She wanted to show me something. A secret. I thought she had stolen one of her father’s plastic bottles of booze again. Instead, I ended up getting a face full of teenage girl.
No, that is not what she means. She wants to know about the first time I got a proper kiss. Where I felt wanted, desired maybe even loved.
“Isn’t that too much to ask from a kiss?”
She shakes her head. “Huwezi kumbuka your first proper kiss?”
I have to go deep into my archives. Pulling out every kiss, inspecting it against the light of Eva’s revelation. I place every memory of a kiss on a mental weighing scale. Did I feel desired? Wanted? Loved? Increasingly I have to throw most kisses by the wayside. They wouldn’t fit Eva’s definition. They were not proper kisses. An ungentle jousting of the lips fueled by alcohol and sexual deprivation yes, but not a kiss. Until I arrive to this one, almost a decade past. In her father’s hotel room. Mombasa. They were on their annual vacation and I was….She cuts me off. She is not interested in the kiss. Can I remember how it made me feel?
Weightless. Like her lips were clouds and I got to play “brikicho” on them.
She laughs. Loudly. At my description. For a long 7 minutes until Calvin brings her order. She beams at him as she brings the mint milkshake with an oreo on top to her lips. There’s a bit of white froth on her upper lip now. She uses her tongue to flick it, into her mouth. Calvin and I both swallow loudly. She turns her attention back to me. Calvin dejected realizes that he forgot to take my order. I ask him what is the closest thing to “mchele na kuku ya stew.”
“Excuse me Sir?”
Again, I repeat my request for something that resembles ordinary chicken stew with rice. He points to chicken curry, served with some apparently special Sauce, Salsa, and rice. I understand nothing. I ask him to bring that.
Eva’s first kiss was in high school. At a drama festival function, walking to the bus after a day of festivities, when a boy grabbed, kissed her and walked away. She felt robbed.
Did she tell anyone about it?
Who would you report an unknown boy to? For stealing a kiss! They very likely would have blamed her for it.
She went through high school uninterested in boys. Hating the thought of them. Worried that another boy could very well choose to take more than a kiss from her.
“You never dated boys?”
She did. In passing. She can’t remember the specifics of the boys she dated. They feel like a breeze to her now. They were here but they were never really here. If that makes any sense.
I ask her about her fast real kiss.
It was from a girl.
Calvin interrupts us at this point. Balancing on his tray the most aromatic rice I have seen in a long time. A chicken thigh juts playfully from the plate. Inviting me, almost. To take it right there on the table. She senses my attention has wavered and asks to step away to the ladies for a bit. I consent, I use those few minutes to dig in. Calvin gratefully saves me from choking by magically appearing with a glass of water. Clearing the table deftly before she slips back into her chair.
The Kiss Eva, the kiss!
***********************To be Continued*****************
Photo Courtesy: Sharon McCutcheon