By Beverly Masita, Nakuru, Kenya
Sitting in the corner and looking at people have a go at champagne and dance maybe wasn’t my kind of thing. Grabbing a glass and standing with one of the pretty girls near the bar, chit-chatting and pointing out matches with cute asses was my thing. See? Very fine line.
Dinner wasn’t half as bad if you were the kind that was popular in high school, the pretty clique, the rich kid. Obviously, we all just went to dinner to have a taste of high school again; wicked banter, frowning upon that guy who didn’t dress up well enough, laughing at the girl whose makeup was a mess, giggling about the weird relationships and of course, who got wealthy and thrived within the shortest time. Not having it in mind that everybody has their timeline. Maybe ‘alumni dinner’ is a fancy word covering up the pretense that comes with this whole thing. In as much as there is a fabrication and showing off, I would like to think that the fundraisings and mentorships that take place are for a good cause.
My train of thought was interrupted by an all too familiar silhouette. Tall, her legs long and ever striking. She had that aura of confidence; it was intoxicating. A smile slowly formed on my lips as thoughts of how her animated laughter used to fill the room, how contagious her smile was, and how her gaze sent chills down my spine. She was a goddess and me, a mere mortal. My eyes followed her form as she walked towards another acquainted face. And as it used to, my heart constricted at the sight of the two together. I drank my champagne once more, watching as she leaned against his shoulder. Being a few tables away from mine, I spotted his hand snake around her waist, that charmer! I couldn’t decide who was luckier, him or her? Maybe they deserved each other. I sipped whatever drink I had in hand, smiling at the warm sensation it brought to my stomach. Scanning the rest of the room, nothing seemed to grab my attention as avidly as the two did. So maybe coming to this meet had its perks.
This time she crinkled her nose, probably in disgust from what one of her parties had said, or maybe what she had remembered. Her hand slowly slid from Gab’s chest, a move all too conversant. He did not seem to notice the lack of pressure from her hand because he continued with his dynamic speech. Her head turned as her eyes skimmed the room, and as cliché, as it may sound, her eyes caught mine. I could not place the feeling, was I happy, nostalgic, fearful? Would she even remember me? Of course not! Who was I kidding? Ten years apart was a lot of time. Her right eye twitched like how it used to whenever she was unsure of herself. A minute later, a smirk formed on her lips. Figuring out her next move wasn’t rocket science. She quickly slid from the conversation and left his side and began walking my way. Time had been good to her, kind in fact. She had faint laugh lines, her skin was smooth and her posture; still upright. Maybe I should have tested the universe in another way, daring it to give me a million dollars as opposed to catching the attention of the one person who made my high school life bittersweet. She cocked her head to the side as she got closer, her hair moving to the side, exposing her ringed neck.
“You look awfully familiar.” Were her words as soon as she was within earshot.
I held her gaze some more. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t an act of courage. It was resolved. I had made peace with being in the shadows as far as her life was concerned. I couldn’t help but smile at her. Up-close she was even more beautiful. Forgive me for being cliché but hands down, she was still striking.
“Of course, I look familiar, why else would I be in the reunion?” I couldn’t silence my thoughts as they came flooding out of my lips.
I should make her the subject of my interrogation since she availed herself. Easy prey. After all, I was here to pry and get to understand what people thought about these kinds of events. So far, what I got before attending this function was a lot of bad-mouthing and sneering. Typical humans; we don’t appreciate the good part of things. We go ahead and point out the flaws without giving it a thought.
“That aside, why did you come?”
Her response was interrupted by one of the waiters who offered us yet another glass of whatever was on his tray. We both took a glass and waited for the waiter to move to another group of guests. The silence that followed the departure of the waiter only made me anticipate her answer.
“Never in my life did I think I would be asked such a question, isn’t that the ultimate goal?” Her tongue prodded her left cheek.
Smirking at her response, I figured two could play this game. I wasn’t about to cower before her once again. Once bitten, twice shy.
“I dare say not, I mean, from where am standing it is pretty clear that Gab isn’t as sating as you’d like him to be.” Her eyes couldn’t find mine, and she looked away as shock or maybe shame registered on her features. I had clearly hit a nerve. My recently developed smart mouth was quickly becoming the shrine to my ego; and oh boy, was it mounting!
“And what would you know about satisfying my needs?” She furrowed her eyebrows and made as if to shake her head but decided against it.
The tension that filled the air was already too thick, and the event was turning out for the better. I cussed the gods for the second time tonight. Perhaps I shouldn’t get too excited, definitely a way to jinx the outcome. Gab saved me from answering the question as he came and swept her from me. I wish I could say it like the old times, but that would be too much of a stretch. In some instances, maybe it was the same. I smiled at the tiny hope in me which wished that she would have found her spine by now, and possibly do what she wanted as opposed to blindly following the bastard.
I watched them as they walked towards the popular clique — some déjà vu. Watching her smile towards the rest of the crowd shattered the remaining bit of hope I had. In some sense, I would call myself delusional for thinking that she would no longer pretend to fit in. Her smile seemed to rub off on the rest, as they all lit up and continued chatting.
Today was about getting together, throwing in ideas about what the school should be like now, meeting the people that went rogue right after school, those who would smile up at you and say “Hey, I heard you studied marketing at University of Nairobi, come over next week and let us have tea.” Then they would hand you a business card coated with gold and smile broadly at you. You would smile back because you somehow managed to get connected. A week later, you will go and appease your stomach with this blueberry, rich Kericho teas, act humble and smart, get yourself a job in this advertising company. There are also those who would put you up for the occasional backyard festival of nyam chom, because now you have a little muscle and your shoulders manage to fill your shirts properly. You look like a gentleman with a very clean shave and sideburns that women’s eyes die for, your unique pair of shoes making a statement of how charming and smart you are. Thank God for your mother who passed down the spirit of having special shoes for such kinds of special occasions to you.
In as much as I came here with the intent of picking people’s minds about this sugar-coated charade, I ended up getting a gold business card, invitations to a nyam chom festival and got my heart restarted by a woman who got my tongue wagging. Life indeed serves you a different kind of salad when you least expect it. So I slowly draw my attention back to holding a glass and staring at its rim, silently thanking God for this man who thought about starting his own company.