Plummeting

“It’s a lovely night.”

“Oh My God! did you just say that?”

“What?”

“It’s a lovely night? What am I even supposed to do with that”?

“Well forgive me for trying to make a conversation”

“No sir!” She stopped walking and stared directly at me,” you had your chance at conversation like 5 minutes ago when you picked me up from stage and all you said was Hi, how was your journey.” as she gestured inserting air quotes. “I’m now kind of used to this comfortable quiet and I see you trying to ruin it for me. Check yourself kid, you’re only trying to fill the air with words, terrified of silence, as one often is, smart enough to recognize his many personal failings, but unwilling or unable to take the steps required to fix them.”

“Bojack Horseman?”

“Just shut up.” She said, with a thump of her foot, fighting the smile growing on her face and finally giving in to a chuckle. “All I’m saying is stop turning healthy silence into uncomfortable one by trying to fill every tiny space with words. Like I feel your eyes on me as I’m looking away, feeling like you have to say something. Trust me, you don’t. There’s nothing lacking in this silence.”

“Okay.” I said, looking ahead, defeated, coming to terms with what she just said.

It was just me and Humaira on the road that night. Which wasn’t unnatural for that hour in this particular day of the week. Especially now when exams were around the corner.

The night was really rather lovely though; the sky well-lit with stars, a full moon which cancelled out the need for stars. Let alone the well-lit pathways in the university with a difference. We were walking side to side heading towards the Administration building which to me always looked like this huge M-Pesa shop due to its choice of painting; green and white, or was it cream. I heard stories of how the guy who invented the M-Pesa platform used to go here. Perhaps that building was part of the inspiration of the white and green to M-Pesa or maybe I’m just thinking about it too much. It most definitely was just Safaricom.

I looked back at Humaira lost in thought. It was really concerning and rather peculiar for someone who has always been so bubbly and had her ways of giving life to a room.

I remember the previous semester when I first reported to the university and like everyone at first, hated everything about it; the weather, the environment, the people. I remember calling my father constantly asking about any scholarship opportunities or if I could transfer to Mombasa and I remember him urging me to be patient.

That was until I found belonging, a community in the form of MUMSA and most interesting of all, this short, bubbly fourth year student of psychology, Humaira.

I wouldn’t know how to describe her cause if I’m honest, I had never met anyone like her before. She was smart, funny, thoughtful, amazing in every possible way and I was just me. So, all my friends used to wonder how someone so perfect hung out with me. How we seemed to be so in sync, and if I’m honest, I had no idea. There was just something natural about us from the beginning that made us feel familiar despite just having met. Around her I was more than myself.

But what was going on inside that thick skull of hers tonight?

“Hummy, we’re almost at your place and it seems that you have a lot weighing you down leo. Is everything Okay?”

She went silent for a moment, as if picking her next words carefully.

“No, not really”

I could feel her sinking in as she said that, slowly looking up at me. And it was then I realized that in this world of marching processions of ‘I’m fines’, I was not really equipped to handle that.

“I still can’t believe that it’s already been four years. Like, in a month, I’ll be out there without the comfort that the school system has provided, and I’m supposed to step into this new world of responsibilities. I don’t think I’m ready for that.”

“Duuude! Is the master psycho-analyst afraid of change?”

“Did you just call me a dude?” She snapped, looking at me sideways.

“Hah,” I facepalmed myself, “Not like ‘a dude’, it’s more like ‘dude’, you get?

She looked at me rather confused.

“Have you watched that series, Broad City?” I asked her.

“No.”

“Oh, then you won’t get that. I know you know what I mean though. What I’m implying is, it’s okay to kind of have that fear of the uncertainty that comes with the future. We all do.”

Oee…Fresher. This is different from…”

Chup.” Placing my index on my lip, “Will you please let me finish?” and she signaled zipping her mouth up.

“Thank you. As I was saying, we all get lost at times Humaira. And not because we’re actually lost, but we kind of get paralyzed by anxiety as we’re anticipating what’s to come next. What we’re meant to become. This in turn blinds us to what we already are. I’m sure you can’t see that right now cause the standards you hold yourself by will ensure that you always fall short of being enough. You shortchange yourself but you’re something else Humaira. Forgive me for jumping into conclusions but I can’t think of anyone else better equipped to adapting more than you. So, I wouldn’t be worried. More so, is there really a point to worrying about what’s yet to happen? Did you really come this far so that you could doubt yourself? I mean…”

She looked down for a second, and when she looked up, her face was rather glowing and evidently, there was a cord I had struck.

“Here we are Twalib. I can’t thank you enough for coming to pick me up today. I’m not sure what I would do without you kid.”

“It’s nothing.” I told her, with a shrug of my shoulders.

“Would you like to come inside and have a bite to eat?”

“No thank you, I’m good.”

“I know I phrased that as a question but I wasn’t really asking.”

I chuckled and followed her into the girl’s hostel. I really had not learnt how to say no to her.

Her roommate was asleep by now so she couldn’t let me inside. She handed me 2 plates and asked me to take the party to the roof. She only carried doughnuts. And to think that there was time a bite actually meant real food.

We set up at the rooftop. A late night picnic. The view was breath-taking. The one redeeming quality this institution had; tall buildings with great views. I could see a huge portion of the campus from here; our modern Margaret Thatcher library, the usually so busy academic highway and my personal favorite, it doesn’t have a name, but we baptized it to The Romantic Highway.

It was this highway connecting hostel K to J with lamp posts on the side. It just had a different feel to it. But the real view was seated right next to me and I craved nothing more than being next to her. Seating. Eating. Talking. About nothing and everything at the same time. As I watch her laugh wholeheartedly for the first time in a very long time.

We lie on our backs, so close. That the only thing between us was our pieces of fabric.

“The night is actually beautiful.” She said

“Told you.” I said, not shifting my gaze from the face of the smiling moon.

She tilts her head to my side, laying a smile on my cheek. And decides to shift completely to her side, facing me. For the first time, her hand brazes the back of mine. I could feel the electricity as my heart throbbed fiercely, chills multiplying as I gulp down a lumpsum amount of saliva. What was happening?

I turn towards her with a kind of smirk, staring into her eyes. She had oceans for eyes, with all I ever wanted floating in them. I drowned in them completely making all the twinkles on the blanket enveloping us suddenly fade. All but a tiny constellation. As if forming a spotlight on the two of us. It’s like the world shrunk, even disappeared, with the two of us being what was left of it. So close, we were literally sharing the same breath.

I lie on my side as well, facing her directly, knees touching. She takes charge of the moment. Reaching for my right hand with both hers. For that moment right there, I could dissolve into molecules for all I care. I felt it all, all at once.

And in a snap, she collected what was left of her senses, pulling back and only interlocking our pinkies. Her eyes still fixated on me. And she breaks into the most beautiful, most genuine smile.

“I’m so glad we ran into each other.”

Those words pierce right through me and that cool guy smirk I was maintaining turns into the dorkiest smile. She laughs inside as she closes her eyes. The best night so far.

We lay there. In silence. Amidst the emptiness of the universe. Taking in the magnanimity of the moment I was in. What are we doing? The cold slowly sets in, eating me up from my toes. I stare at her again, my tormentor. She acts like all this is normal but it’s not normal for me. Knowing her and this age thing, she’d shut us down in a moment if I said that out loud. Always leaving the trail of crumbs but expecting me to act like they’re not there, stirring me all up but demanding I don’t swirl. She’s a cruel one, kid.

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Fiction, inspiration, Life, love, Responsibility


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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