For the first time, last week on Monday, I felt a thrill similar to that of my first kiss. He could argue that it was the second but well, that one was on my eighteenth birthday and it is a story I am told. My first kiss was a sober one. I remember feeling so high yet at the same time, sober as a church mouse. It felt like my eighteen years squeezed into four minutes. Those who know me understand that high and conscious could never be put in the same sentence with me. A reputation I am not so proud of but who is there to judge?
I remember I was seated on the bed. He is not a guy to ask for anything, not even a kiss and even then, he would never touch my shoulder without caution, even when he was burning with desire. He was shy. My kind of shy. We both were. We just sat on the bed talking because I could talk for a whole night and he would throw occasional sarcastic, humorous comments encouraging me to go on. I did not even think much about anything else, I just felt things, and I ran with the feels.
I remember not being able to look away when we finally locked eyes on each other, feeling a bunch of teenage emotions than I could comprehend. At that moment, our lips locked.
This is precisely how I felt on Monday. An unexplainable thrill. Then when I broke my spell, I began to feel a mixture of excitement and anticipation maybe even joy and comfort, more like home. The feeling I had when I first kissed my boyfriend. This time though, it had nothing to do with a boy. It was a coffee shop. Let me explain.
My boyfriend and I had been walking down the famed Koinange Street for a while that Monday. In all earnest, I would like to blame the keen observation of building names on the fact that we are both artists. Quite frankly, we are also both village people, and we have heard all these stories about this infamous street. I suspect it was his first time on that street because he wanted to know whether we could see any hookers. I did not have a response to his question either. You guys, are there hookers in Koinange Street during the day?
We kept looking for clues to suggest the reputation of this street. I remember seeing a building called CJs and thinking this is it! This is where the action happens. A place called CJs in broad daylight’. How stupid. I mean CJ could be Chief Justice or Come Join or Colour Job. Who knows?
In my quest for observation I turned to the left and just like with my boyfriend during that very first kiss, I felt my whole body tremble. I could not turn away. There was this little brown beautiful Coffee shop that smelt of burnt coffee and muffins. The paintings on the wall were what made me freeze on the spot, grounded like a tree, I felt a sudden sweep of joy and comfort, almost like the wall had given me a huge warm hug. I felt at home.
These were not your typical fake Gucci shoes, fake Versace t-shirts come to my place type of paintings. They were not the ones that are always standing by the roadside with a blonde-dyed Mohawk locked hair with heads half shaved and multicoloured shirts type of mediocre paintings. The ones that are always made in so many duplicates until you can barely ever trace the original owner. No! These were real paintings. They were the black fedora hat, long black trench coat and black boots walking at the corners of the streets looking down kind of paintings.
To me, they seemed a little shy. Maybe, as shy as my boyfriend. Or the both of us. They were deep and comforting. An invitation to sit, stare and buy a coffee while at it. I remember one of the portraits, I could not make what half of the face was, but it felt like it oscillated between mystery and coyness, simplicity and complexity, elegance and hood. They seemed to be like my teenage years, wanting to stand out yet feeling embarrassed because every moment felt like everyone was trying to scrutinize you.
For a moment I felt happy and excited. Happier than I have felt more than a dozen times when I have gone looking for art at the Kenya National Theatre exhibitions.
I remembered the day I left Nyeri after my university days were over. I remembered the determination, energy, and curiosity of what could become. The dreams, now that I was coming to a city full of artists, potential and opportunities. I went through a short disappointment phase for a few months and got really dark. I was stupid to expect that I would show up to the city, full of ambition and skills and everything would turn out fine. When I recovered, I created my first fine art photography project, ‘Home, not Home’ and with it, I could see how dark my life had become. I needed to remember how to look beyond the clouds and see the stars. I needed to feel the sun on my face once again, and I needed a plan.
We were walking to Anniversary Towers that Monday. This was the very first time I had thought of employment since the day I left campus. I hope that someday I will make people feel something with my art because this is both a blessing and curse that I cannot walk away from. My boyfriend looked at me and said “it would be nice to make a story here,” and I agreed. We walked away, him on his path to greatness through writing and I on mine to Anniversary Towers to get documents to get me a job that would fund my future photography studio.
These careers, just like first kiss amazing moments and coffee shops with paintings that make our bodies tremble, we do not choose them, they choose us.
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