Box haircut, fresh from the barber’s that morning. Check!
Shades bought for 20 bob on Uhuru Highway on his face. Check!
Red shirt with big pockets. Check! Jeans. Check!
Reebok high-tops into which the ‘jeanikas’ were neatly tucked. Check!
At 2 pm, and reeking of the ‘Yu’ deodorant he had liberally applied, Tommy knocked meekly at ‘wakina’ Angel’s green gate.
She opened it, lifted her cute nose to daintily sniff the air, then wrung her hands as she rhymed: “Fi fie fo fume, I smell the cologne-perfume of a Congolese musician. Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll crack his bones to make my bread.”
Tommy laughed and laughed, but he was thinking of how gorgeous Angel looked in her little white polka-dotted dress, with just the teeniest dash of lipstick, and a touch of blush on her cheeks, mascara on her eye-lashes, purple eye shadow and mangomas (rubber shoes) now all the teen flash.
“You look like a Barbie doll, Miss Jack-n-the-Beanstalk,” he teased. Angel pouted dramatically.
“That’s not how a gentleman compliments a lady, Mister Tomski.”
Tommy quickly pulled Angel in, in a hug, then twirled her around as he sang: “Brown girl in the ring, sha la la la la la, she looks like a sugar in a plum…” “Plum, plum,“ Angel said, laughing.
From the upstairs window, her mom, a plump brown maternal woman, parted the curtain and called out.
“I didn’t know your date was for disco on the road.”
The ma-three they took to town was ‘XF’ a public service vehicle painted over in garish snarls of graffiti with a music system so loud that you heard it even before it came careening round the corner.
“XF”, Tommy smiled at Angel, “the only instance in life where sound travels faster than light.”
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“Eish,” Angel said, making her mock pout. “Are we going to catch a flick, or going for remedial classes in Physics.”
“Physo,” Tommy smirked, and Angel playfully pinched his arm. The matatu was almost full, even if it was a Sato afternoon, because it was one of the most popular ma-threes on the Langata - Nairobi West - Town route.
“Utabeba manzi wako (‘you’ll carry your girlfriend’), “the tout, a ‘pointy’ (mulatto) called Brayo Wera said, to Tommy’s secret delight. Angel sat on his lap, and said flirtatiously to Brayo.
“Lakini nitalipa half-fare?” (‘but I’ll pay half-fare’)
“Poa,” (okay), Brayo capitulated. “Na siku ingine come bila huyu dwanzi, na deri ni sare, sawa?” (‘But come another day without your dwarf, and the ride will be for free for you, okay?’)
Angel just smiled at the naughty Wera, as Tommy muttered under his breath, “Lout of a Tout.”
‘XF’ was playing a Michael Jackson song, ‘Human Nature’ blaring out of its woofers and speakers.
As the matatu tore past Nyayo Stadium, where AFC Leopards (Ingwe) were taking on traditional perennial rivals GOR Mahia (Kogalo), the music ironically shifted gear to M.J.’s ‘Just Good Friends.’
The whole ride to town passed by in a flash for Tommy Omtita, and as ‘XF’ began pounding out the beats to ‘Dirty Diana’, it was time to alight.
Hand-in-hand, Tommy and Angel crossed ‘Moi Avenue’ from Gill House.
At Kenya Cinema, there was a queue for the film “Brothers in Arms” starring Richard Berry and Patrick Bruel with the tagline ‘Enemies by Birth, Allies by Chance’ promising a gruel of cruel.
“I hate Actions,” Angel sniffed, glancing askance at the K.C. crowd. “I used to love ‘em in Praimo (Primary School),” Tommy admitted, “But then I guess I just became too mature for them.”
Allies through this chance dislike of “Actions,” the two teenagers smiled at each other, and re-linked the hands and unclasped after crossing the road.
Tommy resolved, there and then, to go for that first kiss at the appropriate moment in the dark cinema hall they were getting into (the plotted for appropriate moment being, of course, when Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy), kissed Lisa McDowell (Shari Meadley), as he inevitably would, ‘Coming to America’ being of the romantic comedy genre).
He literally glided up the staircase of Nairobi Cinema and into the marble-floor foyer at Mezzanine. Reluctantly letting go of Angel’s hand, Tommy went up to the fat lady at the ticket-booth window, and with his fingers, indicated he wanted two seats.
The above is an excerpt from the KICD-approved ‘Meet the Omtitas’ novella for young adults.
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