As I sat in a matatu awaiting the driver to engage the clutch, my minds wandered freely. What if she was only joking? What if she doesn’t show up? What if she shows up in company of her man? There were several what ifs criss-crossing my mind albeit, I didn’t change my mind. I was very much determined to meet her, and I was excited about the prospect of touring Narok County for the very first time; a county that produced miss tourism Kenya 2019 and was perhaps going to produce my ‘first lady’.
I could often hear a voice telling me, “JB, people who have achieved great things in life have had to take risks. You are no exception. Go ahead, she has never lied to before. Be optimistic”! That voice kept on coming whenever I start to despair. Fellow passengers conversed with one another about the weather, football and the famous handshake in Kenya but I had no interest in anything except meeting Chep, as I had grown fond of calling her.
When the driver negotiated the first corner in Nairobi just after leaving the station I sent her a message, “We’re now leaving Nairobi my dear. See you in the next two hours or so”.
Chep replied immediately but in Kalenjin, “Itagat! Achamin we nenyu” (welcome. I love you dear). I immediately locked my phone and placed it in one of inner pockets of my leather jacket, zipped it up and sat upright with my both arms folded before my chest. Chep was waiting for me and knowing that alone was enough to heal even a headache. Looking out through the windows I saw trees and buildings running backwards at a high speed, the driver was supplying the engine with enough fuel I guess.
I alighted in Narok town a few minutes to 10am. Being on a Valentine’s day, red and black colours were notably the dominant colours. I adjusted my red tie and tucked in properly, and then hired a motorbike to Abossi Hotel where Chep was likely to be waiting for me. The road was full of dust. When I arrived there I called her, she did not pick, second time she did not pick third time too. I thought what I feared for the most had come. I moved into a shade and started wiping the dust from my clothes with a handkerchief while pondering on what to do next.
Suddenly someone blindfolded me from behind. The softness of the palms revealed who it was. No robber on this earth has such soft hands and strong fragrance.
“JB welcome to Narok. Ababai amuu kwenyoo” ( I’m glad you came), Chep said heartily letting go of my eyeballs which had already gotten used to her hands. We anxiously hugged and exchange pleasant smiles. “I thought it was a hoax”! I said trying to suppress my excitements!
“What did you think was a hoax dear”? She looked straight into my eyes.
“Your coming to meet me here”.
Chep held my left hand and started walking towards a panya route leading to a certain hill. “You are yet to know me JB. That is why you think I can just promise to hook up with someone for the sake of it”, I felt embarrassed.
Chep is a bit tall with admirable lateral growth. Her center of gravity (COG) rests slightly below her navel. Her skin colour and chocolate share ancestry and she is proudly beautiful naturally. No makeups. Her small round face, small eyes and nose give her a unique attractive look. And I haven’t said anything about her small succulent lips!
As we walked up the hill I remembered the story of Waiyaki and Nyambura in the novel The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. The more we walked up the hill the more my blood boiled up. “This hill is called Abossi”, Chep continued after a short silence, “it is an important physical feature in our community. For many years elders have come here to worship whenever it was necessary to ask for anything or just thank God for adequate rains, bumper harvest or healthy and active livestock…”
“So it serves as a shrine”? I interrupted.
“To some extent, yes. It’s here where boys assemble during and initiation. Sometimes people come to this hill for adventure or picnic or just have their time away from interruption and noise, people like us, you and me”, she laughed and gave me a stolen glance.
Listening to Chep talk about her community and the Abossi Hill was a wonderful experience. Her natural soft voice and Kalenjin accent had a soothing and delirious impact on me. I wanted her to go on and on but she cut the story short once we were on top of Abossi Hill. Narok is a beautiful County when viewed from the hill. Green and hilly.
“That over there is Narok town “, Chep said pointing her finger at what looked like a few tents erected for guests. I nodded my head and let my eyes wander from one place to another. I noted that, even though Narok has plenty of resources, it is lagging behind in terms of development; especially infrastructural facilities and amenities. “Whenever it rains heavily that town you see there floods. Ours is a poor landscape JB”, her voice was faint and barely audible. Perhaps she regretted!
She took me to another place on hill where there was a pair of flat stones similar to grinding stone.
“We are going to sit here my dear” she pulled out a red handkerchief from around her waist and carefully wiped the stone on the right then the left. As she wiped the stones my minds wandered. I looked at Chep closely and all I could see was a beautiful young woman wiping am expensive car in the front yard of an expensive mansion. I saw well nurtured and socialised African woman in Beatrice Chepkirui, a woman who deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. A woman worth being wifed by a loving and caring man with whom she was on the hill.
“Karibu, tebii ingweny”! (Welcome, sit down please) she said after she spread a red cloth on both stones. She wore a seductive smile that almost carried me away. “Why did you chose this as venue for our date”? I asked whilst sitting down.
“The two stones are believed to have been chairs of our ancestors. The couple used to sit here and watch over the Narok land stretching to beyond those hills at the far end”, she indicated with a sweep of her left hand in the air then proceeded, ” I have always wanted to sit here and watch my ancestral land like my ancestors, albeit, my grandma told me that it was a taboo for a single girl or boy to sit on these stones”, she paused, held my hand and looked directly into my eyes like an optician, “I chose this venue because I believe I’m no longer single, JB” tears welled in her beautiful small eyes as her voice faintly came out carrying lots of feelings!
Beatrice was very emotional. Even though I didn’t know much about her past, my presence seemed to foster in her the dreams of young womanhood. The dreams of having a man of her own with whom she could share her secrets and life admirations and challenges. The feelings we had for each other on that hill were strange and overwhelming, the feelings that always drawn up some people in such a quiet, peaceful and isolated place.
“Chep, achamin chamanenyun. You are a queen to me. I have learnt a lot from and about you. Now I know what I have been missing. I promise to love and adore you always. Come and sit on my laps darling”, She weakly stood up and sat on my laps. I felt like the circuit was complete!
“JB I carried a Kalenjin regalia for you”, she opened her handbag and groped for something. “Here it is. It is worn on the wrist by both men and women but the colour of these beads is what determines the gender”.
“And what does it mean, Chep”?
“This I give to you purely as a keepsake darling, nevertheless it could mean other things in other contexts. And I am putting it on your hand right away”, she held my left arm through her armpit onto her bust and had it on my wrist. All this time I was not me. I realized I had missed a lot in life but it was not too late to start having it. Chep opened my romantic eyes and ignited a fire in my heart. A fire that burns sorrows and worries in life. Truly, there are women out there who have lots and lots of love but there’s inadequacy of loyal consumers, like me. In her own words, love is an art and it is expressible.
“Kongoi my love. I will keep this array where you have placed it throughout, it’s you who will remove it if need be. Chep you are valorous and I love you so much”, I was sweating furiously. Chep loosened up my tie and helped me to unbutton my shirt. Her eyes were wet, and perhaps she was wet everywhere. She kissed me and her first teardrop fell on my chest and trickled downwards like a rain drop falling from the sky. It was a warm teardrop. She repeated it and more teardrops fell on me; within a few minutes I was wet and she too was wet. I held her tightly against my chest but I could not have enough of her. She had grown too weak to resist being held in whichever way I wished to hold her. So I held her in whichever ways. It was the first Valentine’s day I had someone to hold in whichever ways.
Birds and butterflies of the hill sang and jumped from one branch of trees to another with overwhelming happiness. Small birds jumped on each other’s backs and spread out their wings and feathers. Maybe that is how birds undress. Or perhaps they were congratulating their fellow lover birds and reminding them of what happens in the interior of Abossi Hill. All of us were birds and butterflies of the hill. I didn’t know being a bird or butterfly was such an amazing thing.
“JB do you see that dam down there”? Chep gobbled trying to regain her consciousness. The dam appeared small from the hill top but its water reflect a lot of light. “Yes I see it dear”, I responded wiping my eyes with the back of my hand like a man who had just been woken up in the middle of the night.
“It is a big dam when viewed from around there. Next time when you come I will take you there to see the surroundings, ever green crops”. One thing was clear, Chep had already come back from the imaginary world. The world of birds and butterflies.
We talked and talked the whole day. This was the shortest day I have ever seen, it ended so fast! As I held Chep’s hand descending from the hill it was undoubtedly clear that the two of had just started a journey. A journey that would later on culminate into a big ceremony involving people of all walks of life. People of different cultural practices and beliefs. Our hearts beat rhythmically together and perhaps there’s an imaginary blood vessel connecting our hearts to each other…
Achamin we nenyu Beatrice Chepkirui.