I did not like him. He was a bit too full of himself; too proud, too opinionated and occasionally he would speak publicly in his mother tongue. He was just like his tribesmen and I was a stereotypist: always associating people’s behavior with their tribes.
The thing about tribalism in a country trying to fight it, is that it is taught early in our clans. I learnt this when I was introduced as a Maasai, at a school in an area largely inhabited by the Maasai community; and the children could easily tell which community I came from. In my clan, it goes without saying that you cannot marry from a certain community. I like defying the odds and testing the waters. I wanted to get married in the forbidden tribe.
He talked too much and his leadership style was too faulty. It took guts for such a man to believe in himself, I thought. We would talk, occasionally. We would talk about books and relationships. He liked to listen to my opinions, or so I thought. However, most of the times we were joking and when we got serious; I was following up on his Christianity. Sometimes, he would teach me a luo word or two because he thought that I had a luo boyfriend and we would arrange fish cooking lessons with his friends which never materialized. He occasionally came to my room to borrow my notes after praising my handwriting and asking how it was possible for someone to write like that. He had a sweet tongue, the main reason why I had a liking for men from his community. I also thought he could write, which I later confirmed. He was just the usual campus boy, with little ambition and an exaggerated ego. I was too judgmental.
Before you begin imagining things, let me make it clear that neither did I like him, nor did I have the slightest crush on him. In fact, I mostly thought about another luo gentleman whom we won’t speak about today.
I never took him seriously. I thought he was a mere joker who did not have a clue of what exactly he wanted in life. The only place we seemed to agree was on books; the reading part and not the ‘him owning or borrowing one’. The last time he had borrowed my book, I never got it back and when I finally lay sight on it, the edges were a shade of brown, it was dog-eared and some pages were on the verge of getting off. It was not the first time; it was the last.
Despite the many faults, he was a great source of encouragement. He believed in me in leaps and bounds that I did not. He told me that he loved my written work and was actually one of the biggest reasons I started a blog. Sometimes, he borrowed movies from me because he believed that I was likely to have some Christian movies. One day, he opened up his soul to me. He told me of the bad things he thought he had done and for once, I saw some good in him. We started chatting on whatsapp and exchanging e-books about purpose, or rather, I sent him those books. We had lengthy conversations which made me realize just how witty he could get. We shared our dreams and visions and I kept thinking that he dreamed too little. He seemed the type that would be scared of bunjee jumping and skydiving. He said he liked to travel. In those conversations, we grew, mostly in our souls. In moments when he sought my counsel, I would apply the same advice I gave him. He never stopped encouraging me and telling me that I was a super woman. He shared his written work with me and I thought that he wrote well. Later, I told him that he was trying too much to write like Bikozulu and I am still looking forward to a piece written in his own style.
Once, he texted me...
“You know the pic where there is a cat looking at itself in the mirror and seeing a lion? I am that lion.” I smiled.
“Emma, you love weddings too much, how many weddings will you have?”
“As many. A Kikuyu one, a church one, a silver jubilee and a golden jubilee.”
“You forgot a luo one.”
We talked about the different dowry payment procedures we had. I remembered how my friends casually said that every time I passed near my dad, he saw 150 goats. He joked that they had sent jowang’ yo to the girl’s home already: the people the groom sends in advance to check where the bride comes from. He explained their chik(traditions) and I did the same. He now calls me Jaber nyiri and I call him Jakom. I should probably call him Mwanake.
Recently, I sent him a good book and he put one of my inspirational photos as his whatsapp profile picture.