Manic Pixie Dream Girl

And then she glanced at me. All the way from the other side of the road.

And for the first time since the moment I saw her- 2 minutes ago- I looked away; quickly; kind of startled, but playing it cool, like I hadn’t been creeping at her for the past 2 minutes. Behind the composed facade, my heart was racing; drumming; as if a proper ushering in to my social anxiety. She wasn’t supposed to see me ogling and now she definitely thinks that I’m a creep. Staring feels a lot less awkward when it’s unrequited.

And all of a sudden, I don’t know what to do with my hands; my right hand strokes the baby hairs on my chin, before shifting into an arm fold on my chest and no, this isn’t it, I move back to pocketing, wiping my sweaty palms by the insides of my pocket. I turn to my side; to my fellow boys in khaki pants and white untucked shirts, acting like I was part of their conversation. Hoping she made nothing of my stares.

One thing I know now is that there is much more beauty in the small things. In the parts and fractions more than you’d find in the wholes. In the bits and the shards; like the sunrise or the sunset compared to the sun in its full glory. And in the glances, Oh! The glances.

I could feel her eyes on me as I was looking away. A girl had caught my eye and by the look of it, it seems she saw something in me too. And there on those steps of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Secondary and technical school; there, just outside the walls enclosing our mosque; there, as I was waiting for my transportation home, on the last day of school, I engaged in the most intimate of eye contacts. I looked her way tactfully through Hussein’s shoulder blade only for our eyes to meet, for the first- not so brief time. I’m guessing she interpreted what some might consider creepy for boyish charm, cause her face had this welcome mat aura to it, like a dead star right before it twinkles.

I tried not to smile but I smiled. Then she smiled, and as if careful not to draw any attention to herself, waved, subtly.

Now, the details to this story might feel a little bit more glorified than they should be because you probably don’t get it. So, here’s a few things you should know. I was just an adolescent boy, probably in form 2 schooling in Sheikh Khalifa Secondary School. A mixed school, but separate. What I mean by that is that the rules were such that there was strictly no interaction between the sexes, and harsh repercussions were put in place for anyone who tried to go against that. Immediately you stepped into the school gate you could feel the great divide, boys’ classes and their dorms on the left side and girls’ classes, their dorms and whatever other business they had, cause I wouldn’t know, on the right. The only time you saw a female student was briefly from a distance, walking to the science labs, or the assembly hall(where they placed card-boards in between us to further enforce the divide) or the library which we shared, or for a brief moment when the door to their side of the dining hall opened. If you know you know. The routine was such that though you shared some facilities, you still wouldn’t meet. Like there was even a boys’ time and a girls’ time for accessing the staff-rooms. Tough times. Outside our classes however, there was this concrete bench under the shade of this huge tree, which was the most beloved spot to boarders and day scholars alike since the view from it was directly towards side B, which was what we called the girls’ side. (Which was weird cause they also referred to our side as side B). Anyways, we called that base ‘Big Tree.’ All conversations about football and the movies and girls happened at Big tree, looking towards side B, past the school’s courtyard. This act we called ‘kutia macho nuru’, which I can only translate to ‘giving a little light to the eyes’. In the squad there was always someone I call a familiar, the guy who knew about each and every girl that roamed and it was his duty to tell us who’s who. The Batulis’ and Susanna Snipers’. You know, just your everyday normal high school life. I mean you couldn’t make out the faces clearly due to the distance but still, it was a site we most cherished, seeing them green dresses in white hijabs floating all over the place. Yes, that was pathetic but si ni life. In conclusion, I went to that kind of mixed school.

That conditioned us in such a way that we always had this rush when seeing something that was forbidden for us to see; in our case, girls. So, after 3 months of boarding school, this was the first time I had seen a girl this close. And a beautiful girl for that matter. In glasses. Boy! Was I sucker for a girl in glasses. And she smiled; and waved; looking all perfect. Yes, IT WAS A HUGE DEAL.

“Dude, did I just see that girl wave at you?” goes Hussein, this big guy from 2B who was now standing next to me, not hiding the disbelief in his voice. “You gotta walk up to her, jishtukizie pimbi.”

Kemu tulia, relax”

Tulia nini? Acha ufala, mtoto mzuri ywakungoja kule na un’jismamia tu hapa. She’s waiting for you.”

“Mbona kelele tena we KubwaaKubwa? What’s all the fuss about?” Amedo, one of the boys from the group shoots at Hussein, and just like that they cut their conversation short and congregate around me.

And Hussein goes, “You see that really attractive female on the other side of the road,” He’s now pointing at her(Stunts like these were why the name Kubwaakubwa was coined specially for him, meaning BIG but doesn’t understand things) and they all look… and give an affirmative that they indeed do see her. “Now that girl just waved at HK (which was what they called me) na huyu zuzu, this fool, he’s still standing here.”

They all towered over me, like high school boys do, with ‘what is wrong with yous’ and ‘if that happened to mes’.

On the other side of the road, the girl boards a matatu and leaves towards Mtwapa which was in the opposite direction to where we were headed.

Unchemsha dogo, you’ve failed us”

After establishing that I had lost quite a lot of gangster points that day, the conversation moved back to what it was.

Another thing you should know about Sheikh Khalifa is that you could submit your exam papers immediately when you were done and were then free to do whatever. This being the last exam, there was always this hurry to finish and head home. No one cared really cared much about the last paper and we were among the first to finish that day.

Then the only boy from the sides of Mtwapa that I knew of, Rasuul, walked past the school gate and came up to where we were, on the series of steps on the front end of our mosque. Hussein goes to Rasuul like if only he had finished his exams just a few minutes earlier so that he could witness the upimbi that HK just did. I do not respond. I call Rasuul aside and relayed the girl’s description to him; the complexion, and the face; and the glasses; that’s pretty much all I had. He was pretty much also a familiar. He then proceeds to relate to me about a form four girl from the sides of Mtwapa (to whom the description kind of matched) whose father came to school angry a while back to report a form 4 guy, I don’t remember the name but I think it was along the lines of Ameer, who had been “talking” to her daughter.


And I never saw that girl ever again. Even despite the praying and hoping that I do get a chance to redeem myself. (For the gangster points)

Now, I haven’t really thought about that incident ever since but here we are. If I’m honest, it being more than 7 years, I wouldn’t know who this girl was if I was talking to her. But still, I remember.

We often wonder on how many stranger’s stories we make it into. Even in our briefest of encounters. Well that day, she made it into mine. And today, 7 years later, she’s immortalized. A manic pixie dream girl.

Adolescence, Anastasia, High school, home, kenya, Life, Memory, Mombasa, Non-fiction, Past, Sheikh Khalifa, Stories from Africa, Youth

Hassan Kassim

Hassan Kassim is a Mombasa-based Creative non-fiction writer, recently longlisted for the Toyin Falola prize, blogger and translator of Kiswahili work. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa and the European Union(E.U), and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management. Hassan writes about the ill-documented Communities of Coastal Kenya. His work has appeared in Writers Space Africa; his 2 non-fiction stories published in the anthology 'Twaweza,' a collaborative effort of 12 African writers on the African identity and set to appear in the forthcoming anthology for the Toyin Falola prize.

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Hassan Kassim is a Kenyan-based Creative non-fiction writer, blogger and translator of Kiswahili works with over 2 years of experience. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa, and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management.


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