A while back, I met Cleophas Onyango at the gate when I was going to the nearby garbage pit, and he was leaning against the gate, eating a sugarcane.
He was wearing a black vest with small, green prints of the marijuana plant patterned in vertical lines. There were Rastafarian colours around the neckline, sleeve and hem and a faded photo of Bob Marley covering the front. The vest was tucked into a pair of navy blue tailored pants and a white shirt was thrown over one shoulder.
“Hi,” he greeted.
Since I was either deaf or I just chose to completely ignore him, I walked on past him to the garbage pit, where I used a stick to poke through the reeking, rotting garbage to see if I could find my dignity, standards, personal values, and principles.
After a minute or so, I gave up. I would look through another garbage pit later, I told myself as I walked back to the plot. Cleophas Onyango, who was still leaning against the gate consuming his sweet stalk, looked at me as I approached the gate.
“Hi,” he greeted again, still chewing. “You look as sweet as this sugarcane.”
He raised the sugarcane in his hand and winked, a naughty smile creeping from the corner of his lips. I was terribly flattered. It’s not every day that someone compares my looks to the taste of sugarcane. So I stopped and looked at him. Then I also leaned on the gate, next to him, nodded, and encouraged him, “Uh huh, go on. I’m interested.”
He beamed with optimism. He spat out the sugarcane fibre, then wiped his lips and chin with the back of his hand. He was tall and really, really dark, darker than my soul. He was not exactly handsome, but he was well-built, with huge arms and broad shoulders, proportional to his height. He had lovely eyes, a big nose, even bigger lips, and a little gap between his upper teeth.
He told me that he was called Cleophas Onyango, but I could feel free to call him Onyi or Cleo, but the 'C' in Cleo was silent, so the correct pronunciation of Cleo was LEE-OH. He assured me, though, that the 'C' in Cleophas remained clearly enunciated.
He told me that I looked beautiful, like a field of young millet blossoming in the sunshine, enticing, and smelling like the promise of delicious, hot, healthy porridge, and all the birds of the land want to dig their beaks in the grain. A field of young, green millet with a stream of cool, clear water running across it.
He told me that I looked like I was born at a time of great, bountiful harvest, where granaries brimmed with food and there was always something stewing in a pot in the kitchens, and the livestock had reproduced in droves, and the poultry was laying eggs munificently. Such a time when the rains never failed and the sun never scorched.
He told me that I looked like a hibiscus flower, large, white and pretty in a thicket of dry bougainvillea, the soft, tender petals brushing against a kind zephyr. A hibiscus flower from whose petals a soothing, medicinal beverage that can heal a broken heart can be made.
He told me that I looked like a girl he could take home to his mother in Alego, Nyanza, and for whom a bull would be slaughtered in the presence of his ancestors, and they would be pleased, and his friends and enemies alike would wail in jealousy and regret.
At this point, my cold, cold heart was already a pool of molten butter at my feet. His words were bewitching, and I felt like a highly sought-after Swedish model with African roots and great legs. So when he asked me if he could take me out to have whatever I wanted while he got lost in my eyes, I told him that I was, in fact, ready for marriage.
He picked a little broomstick from the ground and used it to quickly scribble my phone number on his arm. He promised to call me.
Later, I saw him in school uniform with a bag and a tattered logarithm(ic) tables book in one hand. Cleophas Onyango is a Form Two boy at a local high school, which he joined last term. He came from Nyanza and is staying with his uncle.
I told him that I was disappointed that he didn’t mention that he was just a young child grappling with the realities of adolescence, but he told me that he doesn’t struggle with adolescence. He glides through it, gracefully, like a confident snake in its habitat.
That I needn’t feel disappointed because even though he is young, he has the charm of a thousand great men who lived in days of old.
And that if I am worried about his non-existent financial status, he will enrich my life with the power of his brain and feed me with his mind like a lioness effortlessly feeds her cubs with a fat antelope or zebra.
Cleophas Onyango, young as he is, has a tongue of pure silk and raw honey and I am patiently saving myself for him as I unleash my inner cougar.