You are trying so hard not to choke on the tears that are welling up right then. There’s no way you want to cry in front of your peers – and the admissions board too.
Uncle Garry said that the University of Nairobi was not for sissies.
“Surprised I called?” He asks, trying to get under your skin.
I mean, he knows you two haven’t seen each other for the longest of times. And it would be a one-in-a-million chance that he would think of you or the family he left.
You debate with your inner self. Do you continue talking to the man whom you barely know, or do you rant about how he abandoned you?
The decision is hard. But your father doesn’t care that you don’t want to have the conversation.
“I don’t want to cause you any pain. I will hang up and leave,” he says somberly.
“Wai-” Your words are cut off mid-sentence. How rude of him!
This day can’t be worse for you. First, it was Paul, and now your father. Did they sit down and decide to nag your head today?
You take a deep breath and compose yourself as your turn to present your admission letters winds up. The admission panel is smiling at you as you properly hand over every document that was asked of you in their 365-paged joining instructions guide.
They must think you are some sort of angel. Your lopsided smile, your courteous aura, the way you nod your head as they speak words of encouragement. It is all they want in a student.
A warm feeling thaws inside your chest and you immediately feel like you could reach the sky and high-five the sun. Everything is working out.
You promise yourself that you won’t tear up, or even think of your father and Paul. You are here for Tumo and Mama.
As soon as you are done, you begin the trek to your hostel. They are not world-class, but they are habitable. It’s not like you expected a bellhop to run and pick your bags, or a concierge to start reading off delicacies from their menu for you.
Even Uncle Garry would have known that and told you.
Halfway on the walk to your hall, you spot a very familiar face within the many freshmen heads around you. At first, you doubt yourself and wonder whether you are hallucinating.
Then you walk faster and reach the person you’ve been pursuing for the last minute. And it turns out you definitely know this person.
A shoulder tap makes the person turn their face to yours and then glow up brightly.
This time it doesn’t bother you that Chrissy calls you K. She is your best bud, the kind that tolerates, loves, cries with you, laughs with and at you. The only being in the world that can call you any name and you’ll be k with it. 😉
She wraps her arms around your neck and you embrace like you are still little kids.
You walk giddily into your hall and later find out that you have to share a room with Chrissy! Isn’t it what you just want?
“Wow, K. I am so glad to see you,” she says. “Now we can foot the water bill together!”
You belly-laugh. It sounds strange, but it’s been long since you laughed heartily. And only Chrissy makes you feel this way.
“College,” you say with a sigh, laying your head down on your bed. “Can’t wait. I know you can’t as well.”
“For the parties and cocktail drinks? I would die for that, K,” Chrissy exclaims.
You admire her personality and her looks. She does her natural bouncy afro with confidence and always likes her bangles. Guys would surely lust after her if she went to those parties.
“I was talking about books, Chrissy,” you say. “Finance sounds like a fun subject.”
“If you’re talking about money, money, money,” Chrissy says, her eyes widening. “Then I can see why it would be fun.” She then crosses her arms. “But seriously, you are an arms-length away from the city, K! ”
Oh. There’s only one thing about Chrissy that you now remember irks you. Her wild side. And her well-kept secrets that lie with you about her side jobs. You just hope that college can tame her a bit.
Just a bit.
You get caught in the spur of the moment and tell Chrissy all about your day, and the calls that threatened to derail you. This time you barely hold back the tears. You deserve to feel bad.
“Oh no, dear,” Chrissy says with the meekest of voices. She pulls you into a hug. “You are so strong to look so frail, K.”
“I know. But why is all this happening now? Why would my father call me? Or even Paul?”
Chrissy is pursuing Psychology and you hope she can diagnose you. But she has barely touched Psychology: A Concise Introduction by Richard Griggs to know what you are going through.
At this point, even Richard Griggs doesn’t have a clue.
“Leave Paul alone, K. He did just more than enough for you to even think about him,” Chrissy adamantly says, a fierce look crossing her eyes.
Yeah, no one messes with Chrissy’s domain.
Your eyes are red and swollen. You can’t stop sniffling and for some reason, Billie Eilish’s Bellyache song echoes in your mind. You are distraught and wasted.
Chrissy holds your face up and says, “You are a mess, darling. Let’s go out.”
“Now? I haven’t even unpacked,” you protest, wiping away your tears.
“Me too. So now we are even. Can we go now?” Chrissy says with a mischievous smile. “I have the perfect hangout for us, K. You’ll love it.”
You doubt it.
The club is nested at the corner of a street you don’t know. Even though it is eight in the evening, it looks like it’s the break of dawn.
Lights fill up the street and the adjacent buildings. Punk-ass rock music, dancehall, and reggae tunes drown out the hushed talks of the individuals in the club.
Even for Chrissy, this is quite an upgrade. You know well that she likes hanging out in dingy bars, gyrating on a pole all night. She calls it “drawing parabolas” just to throw you off the scent.
Today she decides to take you out to a fly club and you decide she is right. You are uptight and need to loosen up.
“The night is still young, K,” you hear Chrissy say. Damn, she spotted you almost tipping over in sleep. “Come over here and meet my friend.”
You zombie-walk to her friend. He’s quite old, you note. His hands can barely hold the glass of Crazy Cork and he’s using a hearing aid to hear you scream your name at him over Avicii’s Lonely Together.
Wow. For Chrissy, this is a downgrade, you tell yourself, trying to get yourself a glass of Fanta Pineapple.
“Thirsy, honey?” The bartender asks you, already reaching for an imposing tub of Vodka. “Chrissy’s paying. I can whip up someth’n.”
You smile slyly at him and hold your hand up. “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t drink.”
The bartender almost gets into a fit. He has never served soda ever in his years as a bartender. He wonders whether he will serve it chilled, shaken or stirred.
What is soda? He almost asks out loud before handing you a glass of your favorite soft drink.
“Really, K? I pay and you want to drink soda?” Chrissy cries out as she joins you at the bar table. “Should have taken you for the church retreat then.”
“Chrissy, you know I don’t drink,” you say as you sip your soda gracefully.
Chrissy must be a hard-core person to have such a high tolerance. She has probably glugged more than a bottle or two and her eyes are not even droopy.
A song she definitely likes to rock to is tuned in. Everyone in the club gets into duo-position with their partners for the song. You haven’t heard of that song, but you appreciate the melodies and beats instantly.
Obviously, Chrissy goes to her partner and they start dancing. Well, she starts dancing. The old man seems to be zoned out. Clearly, it is Chrissy who is enjoying herself.
You feel embarrassed to see her like that. The back door is wide open. You wonder whether you can bolt out of here and go sleep already.
“K, come here and dance! Don’t stress!” Chrissy calls out for you.
I can’t leave her here. I just can’t.
One dance won’t hurt. You join Chrissy and you start swinging your bodies to and fro. The song really hypes you up. The old man has retreated to his seat and blacked out.
Chrissy looks at you. You look at her. You realize she looks sick. Her eyes are a deep shade of red and her lips are heavy.
She lets go of you and hits the turf in her own vomit.