There is a song by LP that my former crush and I sing to each other, or sometimes to ourselves. It's called 'Lost on You'. It’s a song for the hopeless romantics, the after math. Life is hard but it’s even tougher when love doesn't exist. I spend most of my evenings chilling with my friends and the biggest chunk of our conversations is really about the purpose of life. 'It's love', I say. 'The only reason we toil every day is just so we could be loved'. They don't get it.
Back then, we were so in love only we didn’t realize it. We took everything for granted. So now we look at each other and ask whatever happened to what we could have been. There is a stinging feeling it gives me whenever I think of it, the people we were, the people we could have been, and the people we are. At times I want to run back ,or maybe I should just hold onto what I have, pick the phone up and call her. Tell her, remind her that I've been thinking about her. But then I remember, if it had happened like I wish it should have, I wouldn’t be having this story. So I jilt back, hold onto the memories of the pink dark smells and the euphoric reds that accompanied it. I lost a lot trying to piece together a romantic future, only romance did not pick me. But like LP says, the only thing you ask them is if they remember all the danger you came from, the falls, the tenderness, do they still burn like embers? Are those things lost on them too?
Rosa had the kind of beauty that would stare into your soul. Penetrate your imagination, screw with your sanity for a bit before you eventually learnt to hold it, blink twice and smile back. A black skin has a history, an ancestral story to give to its kids. For Rosa, it was the complimentary mole just on top of her left nostril that would always leave me amazed. I dreamt of meeting her every time she would be away, just to check out the mole. I would sit there staring at her, asking myself mental questions like; what made such a glorifying feature drop on her nose. She was an indiscriminate beauty. It amazed me that with all that melanin, the mole was even darker. Like a sign off, to tell the world that this is where it all began, and where that came from there was more. How a single mole on a face that was unique enough to already be beautiful sought out more attention than any other features amazed me. She would sit in front of me rubbing around slowly as if she could read my mind. At that, I would flinch and stare at another feature on her face. We both were 8. In those dark days, we would sneak away from our parents’ homes, run downstream to one cypress tree and bask in the cold pretending to wait for the moon to come.
The best of the times in our meet ups would be on Sundays. She was raised by a mother who really knew how to dress her. As for me, I would run to church with my half-washed legs and half oiled face. She would be properly washed and dressed for the church. Her dark skin would look like it was polished with some rubbing oil, glowing through the morning dew. Her face looked delicate. Her head wrapped in a Kanga, a bible in her hand, and a white handkerchief nipped to her chest. I had nothing like that. Back then that kind of dressing was luxurious. Most of us would walk around the market in our half naked shorts like it didn't matter. It didn’t. We would take the half nakedness to church, rock it to the altar and still bend our asses off in front of the pulpit after receiving the holy sacrament. Those were the moments a few silent giggles from the congregation would follow, we were used to it. As young men we didn’t care, and it felt nice flaunting those little tushies in front of the Lord, thanking Him for creating those little cane holders for us. Even better was the cold chilling breeze that would pass through those little ass cheeks and hit our indiscriminate sometimes smeary fecal exits, it always felt nice.
Speaking of wiping, there is always a long whole story about that practice. There was training, there were accompaniments, there were drills, runs, chases, and the eventual graduation; self-acclimatization. In the old village days, there never used to be pampers. Worse still, only the wealthy could afford the nappies. In some homes, there would be that nappy that had stood and passed the test of time, it had wiped the asses of all the 7 of you. So, it went on softening with every birth and if you were lucky to be the last born, you found it in old age, soft, cranked up and ready to break at the sound of a fart. That meant you had to learn to control your farting desires, at that early age. You had to know how to twitch your little ass so that the farting gas is fairly distributed all through your nappy. You didn't want to blast up the old thing, it would explode like a nuclear bomb. We suffered, but we survived.
But that’s a story for people who could even afford the nappies. In our family, we were never accorded that luxury. I for one don't remember any single day my ass was covered, I mean, from all my childhood memories. This tushy of mine saw it all, it tasted all the weathers, raw. It was hit by all the morning chills, sun burnt, softly wiped by the evening winds and most painfully memorably eaten up by the cactus thorns on several occasions in the name of playing. My mother had a lot of other things to worry about but my little tushy. I never worried about it too. In fact, more than once when people have commented about how flat it is, I have always looked back and consoled it, 'They don't know where we've come from', I tell it, then we wiggle on. True to that, it was a journey. It starts with not being able to afford nappies. The 3-year-old version of me begins roaming the whole village out-rightly naked, occasionally covered on the top by a ragged half top I inherited from my elder sister, nobody cared about the tushy. To my mother, this eased the burden of her worrying about how to wrap me because she knew even if I let it go, nothing would be soiled, and she only needed to worry about wiping me clean later when I reported back home. Those were the lovely moments, running to my mum knowing I have soiled myself and now she can’t ignore me, sliding into the house yelling out 'mama, mama', like saying young Ralph here reporting for a wiping, oh man! It used to be fun until my mother once got fed up, and she had to put me through potty training. That's when all hell broke loose. In our village just like many rural villages, there used to be a known potty field, predominantly used for fecal conferencing. All people of all ages would convene at least once a day, at individual convenient times of course, to bless the land that God heed unto them, the land that was never denying, the fertile land that brought unto them the desires of their stomach, the one that fed and satisfied their hungers, the sacred land of all fortunes, bless you land! The potty field needed to have some unique specifications but the biggest of all would be it had to have some special kind of grass that's soft to tissue, you know, like tissue paper. That was something to fight over, getting a nice untouched corner to slide your bare tushy after relieving yourself, that was the dream. It was even better in the mornings when the grass was young and lubricated by the morning dew. You slide your way and by the time you reach at the other side of the 2-Meter stretch, you are as clean as you could ever imagine. So amazing how such a young behind never got blisters, Isn't God wonderful? That was the training.
The accompaniment only happened once for me, mother took me to one of those fields and commandeered me, 'From today, this is where you do all your business, and I don’t want to see you come home half soiled thinking anyone will wipe you, are we clear?' she trotted, 'yes mama', I responded half unsure what she meant while I stood there glaring at a multitude of semi anthills of other people's businesses. Some rotten and eaten off by the ants, some as fresh as tomorrow would be. I was mesmerized though, this was epic, and without knowing, I quickly fell into deep thought, 'Now I have more than 2 acres of land to do my business, how nice. I think I will pick this corner, no, this is a bit tough to enter the field, I need to discover an entry that has not been used a lot, fresh to the soil, and I can safely get to my corner without interfering with other people's businesses. Hmm, this one would do, I just must go through that thicket, very few people have that courage. Perfect. That will do for me'. By the time I came back to my mind, my mother was nowhere to be seen, so I went ahead and did a dry run. I went to the farthest corner and immediately did my business, then quickly slid on the soft grass, it felt good, satisfying. The evenings; while they were the most satisfying of times to do the business at the field, they were never the best. You understand, while you would love the dark to hide, you need the light to see so you don’t step on other people’s business while seeking out your corner. But you still needed to do it, you can’t sleep over it. A friend of mine once said: 'He who sleeps with an itchy behind, wakes up with a smelly finger'. That's exactly what you didn't want to happen. When the business came you had to take it all out. That training innately stuck, and it was not just a theory, it really used to happen. I for once know better than not to listen to my elders. Once my elder brother tried forcing me to wash my hands after a meal of fish, he said, 'If you don't wash your hands before you sleep the rats will eat your fingers at night'. I was sleepy and had no time for such bullshit, so I went ahead and dozed off my sleepy head. The following morning, I woke up with a half-eaten nail on my left pinkie finger. The rats in our village were mafias. Those things would eat half of you and you wouldn't notice until the following morning. They were anesthetic experts, they'd bite and breeze it off, you won’t feel a thing until the morning when their evil anesthetic painkillers ran off. In fact, that’s the time your young romantic mind would take you to the ocean banks with your childhood girlfriend chasing each other around in the waters and coming out to bask in the breeze only that the breeze you thought was from the ocean was actually from the carnivorous rats. Alright, back to the evening business. There was one best way to conduct the evening defecation; go with an improvised tissue paper. Now there is a trick to this. Not just any leaf could be used to wipe your behind. There were some specifications a leaf needed to have for it to qualify to be used to wipe that young and precious behind. You needed to learn. Unfortunately, owing to the convening and the private and confidential nature of the evening business, you had nobody to take you through the leaf orientation. So, you had to rely on the tenacity of your young behind to stand the pressure of the trials. I knew this well. In the dark, I would fumble within the thickets looking for leaves that felt the best on hand before I transferred them to my bottoms for trials. More than once I would get hold of a green mamba's tail, quickly retract my weary hands as it ran for its life the other way. Yes, even snakes didn't want to be mistaken for tissue leaves, they knew the business was not pretty, ha ha. Occasionally I would land my hands in haste on thorns, caterpillars, and a myriad of all the weird evening insects while trying to pick the best leaves. Important to mention, during this period you had to ensure your nails were reasonably short lest you scoop some away. Yeah, there times you never had the luxury of picking the best wide and tough leaves. The leaves had to be tough enough to be able to sustain the friction at the bottom, this tushy had hardened out of necessity and hence was never a good match for soft leaves. The worst evening experiences however were when you were unlucky enough to meet a plant that knew you were coming, literally. they had a type of leaves that was soft on one side and rough and thorny on the other. What it meant was, for you to properly do the business you had to check both sides of the leaf to ensure you are using the right side. Otherwise, you would go home with a 'not so happy' behind you won’t even be able to sit.
As I grew up, I slowly lost the luxury of using the open field. Graduation was beckoning, self-actualization. It now meant I couldn't run to the open field anymore, I had to hide every time I did my business evening or morning. Good thing I could still use the leaves. At that age, you progress to the use of the famous hoe. In this case, you had to hole up. I mean literally dig a hole behind a bush, (or someone's house if you are cheeky enough to survive stone throws) and do your business. The tricky part of it was the fact that you had to do it in coordinated pulses. Like; 'yeah that's one, two, third one is taking too long I'll finish later'. This is the only way you would survive in case someone unexpected showed up and you had to run for your life. Worse still, the food we were being fed was not the best to do emergency hole ups with. Millet meals were not the best at all. I mean it was fine feeding on it, the issue was excreting it. You would need a supporting pole to fully do your business. The main reason our fields were full of hard balls of the business by the following day they'd be so hard they would leave a blister on your foot sole were you to accidentally step on them. That meant when you leave to go do your business, you disappear for over 45 minutes then resurface. That's why most of us don't need to exercise to keep fit. Those were 45 minutes of relentless squatting, and pushing, by the time you leave the hole you are as fit a fiddle with well-developed six packs from squeezing your intestines doing the business. As if that was not enough, you still had to be on the lookout for other natural inhabitants of your holing area. These included the ants that would march around your buttocks as if to inspect if you are dropping the right business for their later consumption; stray and wild rabbits some of which would be bold enough to come close enough to sniff your cold tushy before realizing they could quickly be converted to the next excrete and sprint off; dogs chasing and screwing around you; and even snakes. Of all these, the one thing that scared me the most was the snakes. Our village had stories of pythons swallowing grownups whole, I was super freaked out knowing I was tiny, I was just a lick away and I am in a python's belly. I remember this one particular day I had gone to my grandparents’ place, and as usual after lunch I asked for the famous hoe. My grandparents’ home was surrounded by thickets of jelly palms, they offered perfect cover to hole up and do the business. I picked one jelly palm tree that had some ripened jellies, for the reason of my own imagination. The thing is while growing up, we would lick the lovely fruity flesh around those seeds, we were technically eating anything that was not poisonous, and that day, for recreational purposes, I just felt the urge to have a long nice look at the ripened seeds while doing my business. So, I went on to do my pulsated drops; 'one hold, two hold', while I was contemplating doing the third one, I heard the dry leaves behind me move swiftly, I ignored, they didn't stop. So, I turned my head around to see what it was. To my scare, there it was, a black python. I went motionless, even my bowels stopped moving. I stopped breathing, I literally stopped doing everything, I was a log. That was the longest one minute of my life. The world stopped in a moment, I could not even scream for rescue. In my head I had already started seeing heaven and was glad I had just received the sacrament that day, I was gone. By the time I came back to my senses, the thing had slid past me and dissipated into the thickets. I quickly picked my ass up and ran to where the rest of the people were, still speechless and smelling my business. I didn't even get to use the leaves, evil black thing! When I finally came to terms with what had happened, it was 6 hours later. I was constipated for the next 2 days. It was a journey before we even learnt to use and gathered enough courage to use the pit latrines, let me not get to the pit latrine narrative, I will save that for another day.
Back to Rosa. We dreamt of so many things by then but the last we ever thought of was changing how we looked. I was a small emaciated boy which meant I brought no assurance of security around any girl. How she managed to keep hanging out with me is something I could never unravel. I would smell of roasted sweet potatoes from lunch, but she would be the one thing sitting next to me sniffing that sweat away. Once or twice a week I would not take a shower because of my innate sleepyhead. When you wake up late and you know the teacher on duty is one of those crazy ones. He beats the hell out of you and is probably the reason every term your aunt must keep replacing your torn school shorts. You got to run to school with bits of your old unwashed blanket holding onto your unkempt hair. For that period and duration, I was so assured of having a dynasty in my old age. This was love.
At 19 years of age, I had just cleared high school and was going through the ceremonial 2 years period of doing nothing, giving the government time to invite me to the university. It was a chilly Sunday morning I had just left our home, walked the path that stretched from our home linking to the main road. I heard someone call my name, it was Rosa. As always, I was thrilled to see her, and did I mention by then we could hug, so I bundled my still little but sufficient chest on hers. A warm feeling of lost acceptance rolled down my spine, this was pure compassion. For one I have never hugged a lady and felt that kind of love and compassion mixed with need and necessity at the same time. It was blissful. Rosa had also grown. She now had a whole round figure with a little bumped and steady chest. Hugging her made me jump out of my head for a moment, there I was back draining and swamped by my own thoughts of her siring me kids soon. One thing she had never lost was her dark complexion. It was mature and looked like a polished leather cardigan. She was complete to me. We shared brief pleasantries right there at the road side then slowly started walking to church. There I was, a young man in love walking side by side to her childhood darling, it felt like the steps at the isle. This time I was properly dressed, well at least my shorts weren't as torn as they usually would be. In the short walk, I learnt Rosa had lost her mom, following which her father had sent her to stay with one of her wealthy uncles in Nairobi. That's where she had attended her high school. She was set to join the university too. We got to church and briefly halted our chit chats. After church, we agreed to meet that evening and catch up more, I couldn't wait.
Fast forward and it was 3 years on. I am at our campus cafeteria, not really buying anything but as any other boy, ogling at the nice fat lasses passing by while pretending to read some handout notes. One particular lass caught my eyes. A familiar figure. She was as round as I loved them, the height I used to consider perfect for me, her face was full. By that time, I had already given myself the green light to pounce, I was ready. She was headed my way, even better. I couldn't make her face up as she was coming from the direction where the sun was setting, my eyes were blurred off and the only thing I could see was how magnificent her shape was. A raft of some small naive butterflies ran through my spine as I did my final prayer for success. When she got to the shade I made her up, she was this light skinned lady, full of life, she was smiling at me.
'Hi Ralph’, she saluted. 'Hello' I trotted back, hold up it certainly hit me, she called my name before I even introduced myself. 'You look familiar', I said jerking onto my feet to fill into her already wide-open arms. She was hugging me already. While still hugging, I was still trying to remember where exactly I could have met such a damsel when suddenly everything all came back. The feeling of the hug and the way she curdled my back jolted my old romantic nerves. I quickly held my head back to look at her face. I was looking for one simple element of my old lost love, Rosa. True to my suspicion, there it was, my glorious mole, staring deep into my soul. Rosa had changed her complexion, everything on her was light skinned but the mole. It stood there and defied everything she had done to her skin. 'What did you do to your skin?', I asked her in surprise. She looked at me, giggled, and said, 'Nothing'. At the back of my head, while I was happy to meet Rosa I knew something had happened and whatever had happened was not just 'nothing' as she was putting it. I was a sad young man. There she was, my childhood sweetheart in all her embodiment of personality and everything I had loved about her but her complexion. For a few minutes, I was subconsciously mad at her for taking all my imaginations of her natural beauty away. Does she know how many romantic beaches we had walked to together; how her dark and unique skin would faze all the people around us; how important I had felt for just knowing her with all that glory of a color? Did she understand how she had destroyed my dream of having pure African kids to the core, dark on the outside and so tough on the inside? I had all this worked out Rosa, now I don't have you anymore. She seemed to be in a good mood so I didn't want to actually ask her those questions, but it hit me so hard that I had lost my childhood drooling on her natural beauty only for her to come to Nairobi and wash it all away, damn her rich uncle that actually was willing to spend money on her. I was a broken man, but I kept the impromptu date rolling. She ordered me some fries as we went to talk about her new life and how she was feeling rejuvenated and a new person. Damn you Rosa, I did not want you to change. I sat and listened though. We had eventually joined the same university, and while she broke those news to me, while I should have been elated, I sat there emotionless, briefly interjecting her to ask a question here and there, while she did most of the talking. She even told me she was dating. I didn't hear much of it as I was deep in thought, until I heard a car hoot. 'There he is', she yelled in excitement as she got up to leave. 'Oh, who?' I asked. 'My boyfriend', she responded gathering her bag. That's when it hit me that she had been telling me about her new boyfriend. I was so absent minded I didn't hear any of it. 'I'll see you around Ralph', she said as she left for the car. I was so dumbfounded, I could not even understand what I was thinking about.
That was it, the world had robbed me wild and clear. I luckily managed to have a glimpse of the said boyfriend, sitting patiently in his Toyota Premio waiting for the girlfriend. He was in his early thirties, probably on a 4th employment with the 'I am here to take it all' attitude. I sat and sank my face back into my hand out notes, I wasn't reading anything. The world of love had decided to punish me for loving Rosa when she was dark, it changed her complexion and gave her a wealthy boyfriend when I was still poor, I was torn. That night Rosa sent me a message telling me they had arrived home safely and that she was making them supper. I responded back to wish her a goodnight, I was broken. When I eventually got over it, I had made up my mind never to wish so long. Rosa and I were no more, and I had to accept she wasn't the person I knew before. We kept talking and met occasionally. When we meet the first thing I joke about is how much childhood I lost on her trying to wait only for her to change her skin and boyfriend. She laughs back and tells me it was a stage she had to go through. She is now single and searching by the way, and here is a link to LP's song Lost on You.