Noelle 1pm. Nairobi.
She uses office lunchtime to daydream. She likes to have little meals that make her feel better than most because she “is responsible for her body.” Mainly, it’s because she likes being slender.
Noelle isn’t the kind of girl one would expect to settle down into a cosy little marriage. And yet, here she is, five years in, ring intact, reeking of infidelity. She sits on the roof of their building, and there is a slight breeze in spite of the day’s heat. When the wind blows against her skin it prickles; reminding her of lips foreign and lips familiar that had trod on the same melanin path just a day before.
She forces her mind to switch to the time that she met Dave at Joe’s birthday party. How instrumental Joe has been in their lives… “I don’t feel cute in this dress,” she had told Lisa, her lips swelling into a forlorn pout.
Lisa had laughed; she has the kind of laughter that can irritate or inspire you, depending on your mental state. “No one is capable of resisting that shape of yours darling. Stop fussing!”
Lisa, Joe’s girlfriend, had planned a surprise party for him in one of these “uptown” areas with a secluded pool and had been feeling very pleased with her achievement. Unknown then to Noelle, she had been planning on playing matchmaker after meeting Joe’s best friend Dave for a long time. She had been certain that they would simply “click” especially after her interactions with Noelle at their mutual chama. It was a simple but intimate affair; people around the warmed pool, lit from within, a laptop somewhere with impressive speakers, the aroma of choma and smatterings of conversations intertwined with one or two dives into the water, plates filling up
mutura, and emptying, plastic cups filling and refilling, cars parking in the driveway, someone’s Blue Subaru annoying someone else… and the laughter of friends who get each other.
The game of musical chairs had been rigged in Dave’s favour by the crafty Lisa, who got everyone in on it. The winner was meant to get a present; which turned out to be a burger made by Noelle, whose prowess in the kitchen was something Dave keeps saying he would not want to live without. He had taken his time when the burger was handed to him, sitting on a disposable plate, brimming with ingredients, and smelling like a bachelor’s salvation. Everyone had been in stitches (perhaps partly because of that lethal Muratina that Lisa had sourced from her cheeky grandpa) watching Dave lift a stringy onion, sniff it, and gasp dramatically with pleasure, before
staring so loving at that burger that Noelle, with a half exasperated, half amused laugh shouted, “Put the damn thing in your mouth!” To which Dave, ever the comedian had replied, deadpan face, “I really want to hear you say that in a different setting,” to uproarious laughter that drowned the music. After that bite he had yelled,
“Burgers will never be the same without you!”
And after that first burger came their subsequent “burger date night” routine that they have kept going through the years without fail. They explored different burger joints for two months in and
around Nairobi almost every week. Dave had quickly admitted that he could not get enough of her smile, her giggle, her voice. He gave in to the free fall sensation that is falling irrepressibly in love. And when they held hands the blood rush he would feel would make every cell in his body shout “She’s the one!”
It was cute to watch them. Then they became so sugary that they were insufferable. I remember thinking once that if I heard one of them say “heeeeeey baaaaaabe!” one last time; I would have to turn in my immortality for blind and deafness.
Eight more months of burgers, movies, picnics, date nights wove themselves into a beautiful web that convinced Noelle that he could be worth a chance; he was her man.
It was interesting that their first kiss happened on that eighth burger date, but Dave had been determined. He was still trying to know more about her, trying to lift that no-nonsense air she wove with her mascara. I actually expected fireworks in form of a slap after that first kiss.
And yet, the whole world seemed to stop when their lips touched: his moist with fear, hers melted by longing. Later, as Joe keeled over his Pilsner, Dave had recounted the kiss, saying how everything in the world had made sense to him, and everything had suddenly been at peace, how he could smell colours and see scents…” To which Joe had asked, mid teasing laughter, “You didn’t take one of Lisa’s edibles before you guys left my house that day did you?”
But Dave hadn’t been joking, although he had laughed with his friend. Every time they kiss he finds himself transported back to that first kiss, a feeling he keeps telling Noelle he will never get over.
But here she is, five years in, ring intact. Comparing kisses and fighting an urge to jump off this roof.