It is Sunday afternoon and you’re strolling on Aga Khan Walk making your way to the skate park. It’s sunny, not a cloud in the sky. The cloud, instead, seems to be above your head. Looming, a step ahead of you.
Today of all Sundays, you feel restless. Like something is off. You hop-walk the dusty steps to the skate park and just as you’re about to reach the last step, you feel a hand on your shoulder. Steady and un-moving with a distant smell of weed. Cold chills make their way down your spine to the start of your jeans.
You turn around, slow and steady and there he is, almost, in all his glory. Only this time you don’t recognize him. The man is chocolate skinned, with sunken eyes that haven’t seen sleep in weeks and a sparsely grown beard. Brown cigarette pants and a red muscle shirt.
“Yes?” you ask him and you can’t believe how your voice. High pitched, shaky and weak.
“You’ve dropped your scarf” he says in a raspy husky voice and you realize you had held your breath since he touched your shoulder.
It isn’t him but it could have been. It could have been Sam.
You say thank you, pick up your scarf, and stumble awkwardly to the sidewalk seats and the memory you chose to forget 5 years ago, comes to life.
It was February 21st 2011. You had just turned 16. Sweet sixteen and as usual, your brother- Alex, was late in wishing you a happy birthday.
“Hey. Why have you been so silent? Have you not missed me?”
“Aaaiii. I’ve missed you baby sis. How are you?”
“Pshht… how can you ask me how I am and you haven’t wished me a happy birthday? What kind of brother are you?”
“Sorry siz. You know medical school is like… Happy birthday though. What are you doing this weekend; I take you out to Nax Vegas?”
And, that’s how the road trip to Nakuru, Nax Vegas, began.
Alex being the party-holic he is put it up on Facebook and soon, more than 50 people were celebrating your birthday at Sam’s house, your brother’s homie. You didn’t even know half of them.
To mark “the big day” you tagged Tasha, your childhood bestie, along. In 2 hours, Tasha and your brother’s two homies- Vinnie and Sam- had gotten along so well; they had inside jokes and pet names.
When Vinnie started touching her inner thigh, you pulled her aside but she frowned and asked if you were the only one allowed to have fun. You knew what fun was but Vinnie’s kind of fun was definitely not what Tasha thought.
You tried talking to your brother but Sam showed up and suddenly, the thought of talking to your brother about Vinnie and Tasha disappeared into mist.
Sam was cute. You always had a school-girl crush on him. Tall, chocolate skinned, had a nicely shaped beard and a deep baritone voice. Just your type.
He offered you a drink just before Tasha came around offering shots and whatnots to both of you. You don’t drink. But, you’re allowed to have fun on your birthday, right?
Then, he passed a blunt. You don’t take weed but he smoked it so well- smoke rings. Tasha was also doing it. Everyone seemed to be doing it.
The first puff was bitter. Too much smoke down your throat. You wondered how people could hold it in- so much smoke, too little air. Sam told you to chill. Hold it in your mouth then open your mouth just a little and let the smoke out.
He was blowing smoke rings. That’s the secret he said- the way you shape your tongue and mouth.
Soon, you could do a chimney smoke.
Minutes passed. Hours ran and you could barely feel your hands. Your heart was beating like an African drum in Rhumba and everything looked blurry. You were floating.
Sam offered to take you to the guest room to sleep as the others played truth or dare.
He put his arm over your shoulder and slid the other arm on your waist as you went up the stairs.
“I have always liked you, you know but you’re Alex’s kid sister”
He sounded far away. But, you could tell window just beside the stairs was open, rattling the curtains.
“You’re different from all the other girls. You’re smart, you’re beautiful and you take care of yourself” he continued
Why is the floor tilting up? You wondered and almost laughed.
“You’re special. You’ve always been” He said. Before he could say anything else, your eyes shut and your knees gave away as he carried you in his arms but you could still hear everything.
The squeak of the bed when he dropped you on the mattress. The feeling of freedom when your heels were removed and the silent moments before Sam clicked and said, “It won’t make a difference. She likes me anyway”.
And, his hands touched and they touched everywhere. Even, places you didn’t know and his trousers zip slid down. Noisily as if subtly mocking your trust in people’s goodness. You tried to make a sound but the feeling of cotton in your mouth made it hard and you watched everything in slow motion before seeing black.
When you woke up, you didn’t remember. But the pain in your lower abdomen and your half nudity made you wonder what happened. Then, you pulled the duvet away, looked down and saw red. It all made sense.
Sam came into the room, shirtless and saw your tearful eyes and shrugged.
“It was bound to happen anyway. You like me. I like you. It’s what people do when they like each other”
Was it? Was it what people did when they liked each other? Did liking him make everything consensual?
Your phone alarm jots you back to reality. It’s 4 pm and the skate trainers are packing up their stuff. The smell of Java brewing coffee reminds you how hungry you are and you grab your bag to go eat.
Life moves on. It hurts and it haunts every fibre of you, but life moves on. So what if he was not convicted? You can choose who you want to be. Your past doesn’t need to define you. You choose to be here and now, stronger and better than yesterday, you muse.
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