They come in a little after midnight. Just about when it begins to get chilly, when the air reeks desertion, and the haze of darkness accepts its fate making the grandeur of the environment look insubstantial and unreal. They are always dropped off by taxi, each time a different taxi. They stagger past my small habitat avoiding my gaze as assiduously as if I was a forbidden fruit they had been warned about. A single look at them tells that they are well buried under the magnificent alcohol haze. They hold each other, always in couples, either trying to keep away the cold, supporting each other from the lack of balance or as a sexual foreplay ritual before the main thing.
On most days they are four of them. The two masculine figure are not residents here, who I am supposed to stop but I no longer interest myself in the dedication of arguing with drunk people. So I let them pass, I actually think they like me for that. They walk with footsteps slowed to a jarring and unmistakable cadence like zombie footsteps. Past me and into the hostel lobby and later to their rooms and minutes later after the laughing and indistinct loud statements die down, I can hear heavy breathing and low moans. Sex. I always try to create a mental picture of what goes on in that room but over and over, my imagination fails me.
The rooms are fitted and furnitured for four occupants. Their room particularly has two other roommates when they walk in. Meaning that when the pangs of love can no longer themselves, the action happens in front of two innocent roommates, probably sleeping and another couple who most likely are engaged in the same activity. Somehow, I find myself hoping in between the moans that these two couples have the decency to take upper bunks. I have no idea why that to me assumes the possibility of being more private.
On more than one instances, I find myself thinking about this situation. My interest predominantly lands on one of the four. I tend to overthink people or situations sometimes. Often I find myself unable to hold back from asking myself about the appearance of circumstances until I am in my humble bed, flipping from side to another unable to solve a conundrum in my head. I do not have much education, you see, I never had a chance for university, therefore, most of the lifestyles people I guard live, are either new to me or coveted greatly in my subconscious.
Her name is Lucia. A young brilliant tenant from one of the rooms on the ground floor. I find myself under the spell of her plain facial expression when she is sober. A masterpiece of calm, an appearance of strange and dangerous fearlessness. For the two years I have manned the gate since she moved in, nothing appeared to ruffle her or make her upset. When there was a strike in school and students threw stones all over breaking glass and burning grass, she just strolled by me like she was talking a walk in the park. She has a stillness so powerful that molecules and atoms appear to align themselves systematically when she walks into the lobby. This often makes her look more mature than she actually is, older even. However, all this disappears like the sun in winter on weekend nights when she staggers past my watch kibanda. Then, she looks susceptible, open to suggestion and unguarded.
Yesterday was on a Sunday. She had been out partying with her three other friends and came home later than usual drenched in alcohol like a headless chicken ready for plucking. Her supposed boyfriend held her right arm around himself, half of her weight well on his shoulders. They came in at around three in the morning and after a few amateur moans from room C16 on the ground floor, everything was still and the night went on as usual.
The following morning, just about when my shift was to come to an end, Lucia comes from the lobby full of grace and glamor in a stripped somehow long dress and make up that must have taken tonnes of patience. My evaluation was that she was headed to church. As she walked past me, she turned her gaze slowly towards me, smiled and waved at me. The usual calm had returned, her ebony oval face revealing a particular kind of smoothness like the bark of a guava tree. This was the first attention to me in two years.
The other opening day, her parents brought her to school, dropped her off on their usual Toyota Corolla. I have seen her get dropped by her parents each time a new semester begins. They always come in shopping bags and suitcases, walk up to room C16, help her get settled in and then make a family prayer before a series of hugs and goodbyes. That room has seen more mood and moral variations than a husband to a pregnant woman.
After the parents leave, it is usually not long before her horny boyfriend swaggers past me on the gate. I can almost see two weeks’ semester break dry spell written on his face. They meet in the lobby, hug and kiss passionately before they leave the lobby into C16. The last time he held a small bunch of red roses in his hands. For once, I gave him points for effort in my head.
Today is on a Monday, my shift begins at six in the evening. I have not been able to let Lucia out of my mind all day long. I should have been sleeping but sleep comes with difficulty these days. I lay in the wake of my distracted mind trying to bring perspective to fantasies. My room is humble, my gatekeeper salary goes to my savings because I do not plan to be one my entire life.
Financial limitations can only keep a man grounded physically but not mentally. So today, just about the time Lucia comes from town with her boyfriend, a bag of fries for supper in her hands I will do it. Something I have thought about doing for as long as I can remember being a hostel guard. I will request the boyfriend to give us a minute, walk up to her and let myself feel the scent of her presence. It will be the closest I have been to her. I believe myself to be good-looking and a good speaker, so I do not expect presentation to be a problem to me.
I let her boyfriend past the gate at weird ungodly hours, so I do not expect him to be an issue. He owes me that much. I will let her pretty face reflect all my insecurities and reveal a shine of hope, brighter than the sun in summer. I will have to be quick not to draw a lot of attention from other students passing through. I will be in the best of dressing and smoothness of tongue. It won’t matter how many times I have heard her sexual moans in room C16, or that her parents look as protective as a lioness to her cubs. The only variables will be me, a gatekeeper, and her, a taken a girlfriend standing in the doorway to the hostel.
This evening will be the day I ask her to be my girlfriend and we will all be here when I narrate to you how it goes tomorrow.
Feature Image of Mukiri Gitiri Captured by Gathige.