The sun in Amboseli wakes up with lipstick on its face, as if it didn’t wash up before bed the previous night. A pomegranate sun; red and beautiful. It rises long after the sleeping mountain wakes up. When Kilimanjaro has drawn away the clouds from its face, and lets you see its head. Its white head, thickened by snow that makes it look like an old man. Locals call it Oldoinyo Oibor, Maasai for The White Mountain.
At 6.30 am the sun smiles red rays upon the tip of Oldoinyo Oibor, turning the tip burgundy, like the beard of a Somali man. At 6.35 it begins its sojourn to the skies. It creeps, you cannot hear it move; it is a thief you do not notice. Then all of a sudden it is 6.40am and it is hiding behind a heap of clouds. At that point, it blows its morning breath to the sky, turning it orange. If you have an Instagram account, this would be the best time to update it. At 6.50am, it has risen completely. The sky regains its blue hue. The mountain regains its white hair.
Osborne did not get the pomegranate sun, or the orange skies. We woke up late on that day. Then thanks to Fortune’s faithful visits to the ladies little room, we had to delay a little bit. We only caught this spectacle on our drive to the manyatta where the shoot was scheduled for. I think I was the source of this ill luck. The fault was in my stars; the dark clouds from my loss at the OLX SoMAwards 2014 the previous night spread itself over the team.
That is why I was in a foul mood that morning. That is when you came up to me. I could have looked at how the giraffes walk leisurely into your compound and cooed at their sight. I could have looked at the Kilimanjaro and imagined how many likes a selfie at the top would solicit. But then I saw you. And you saw me seeing you. We saw each other. An animalistic connection.
You walked to me, and began talking to me. I wanted to send you away at first because I was working. Osborne gets jittery when I am holding his equipment (the camera lights!) and not concentrating. In fact I shooed you away when you began talking to me in Maasai. Saliva filled your mouth when you spoke. You stopped in the middle of your words to check if I understood anything. I didn’t. I only heard what I thought you would say. Something along the lines of; “Chin up my goon. The most deserving do not always win…”
“Bebi, that was Biko’s tweet to me.”
“That is beside the point. Look, people love pictures more than words. Especially where the picture is on a pretty face with sexy legs like Sylvia’s. Compare those with your broken tooth, blue black skin and a sprawling kitambi almost rivaling that man over there…”
“That is Johnny, our driver. Fair point.”
“Next time, my goon. Next time you will get something.”
Then you did something weird. You jumped. A little jump that made me laugh. I had not laughed since the previous night. When you landed, you hit the ground so hard that the loose, brown Amboseli dust rose to my face. You took my hand when Osborne is not looking and squeezed something into my palm, like it was a secret gift your people had forbidden you from giving away to sponsored tourists.
Then you walked away. And as you did, you tried to get into Osborne’s shots. Your kinsmen tried to make you leave as Osborne took a knee and clicked to his bliss. Bebi, where are the rest of your marbles?
I hold on to that bead. I held on to it on our drive back to Nairobi. I hold on to it and wonder how many gloomy men have come your way, and how many of them you have beaded. I held on to it when Osborne’s thirst for a money shot took us to the heart of the Nairobi National Park in search of rock art. Rock art, my sweet mad Maasai princess, is our ancestor’s graffiti of animals and shit like that.
That day it was raining sunshine. Dark ominous clouds assembled over the park and peed rays. Our tour guide, some Jaluo dude whose name I cannot recall, showed us into a park. Now I have to make you understand something. At this time of the day, at around 4pm, that is when lions and other predators like going to look for supper. You must know this. I mean, your dad must have killed a lion to validate the growth of his pubes.
This Jaluo man (let’s call him Suna) asks us to alight from the tour van and venture into the park. He picks up a stone and throws into the thicket. Then asks us to follow. The cave we are looking for is kedo 50 meters from the road where our van is parked. We get there only for Karanja to say that he has forgotten the camera cable in the van. Suna and Karanja leave us in the cave entrance to go fetch it. Osborne and I remain. I am still holding on to your beads, praying that Enkai does not let us spend the night in some animal’s bowels, where we will be churned into faeces. The fact that Osborne is spotting bones everywhere does not help take my mind off the fact that we are chilling in some carnivore’s dining room.
We hear rustling. I grab an iron camera stand. Osborne grabs his camera and readily points it at the place the noise is coming from. Wow. How creative. Osborne must either imagine that lions are scared witless of his Canon cameras, or that Mufasa is here for selfies with #TeamOsborne and then he will be on his way.
Something pops its head out. It is Suna, with a timid Karanja following closely behind. The shoot takes less than three minutes. We leave.
That moment was scary for me because I thought I would not see you again my sweet Maasai valentine. I reminisce about how our paths crossed. I sit in the office now, my boss heaping demands for copy on my desk, and all I see is the shape of your mouth, and the saliva around your lips, the way you want to photobomb your way into Safaricom’s calendar, and your little jump that tickles me pink.
One day I will quit this city. Run away from the madness of matatus and their makangas. I am yet to decide which kind of makangas I prefer; they ones who shout “pesa hapo mbele!” or the ones who ask the passenger behind you to poke your shoulders for matatu fare.
I will pack and leave. I will crown my head with Karanja’s headphones and play Nao Me Toca by Anselmo Ralph, hop into Johnny’s tour van and come to you. I will deny this to Fortune three times, and swear by the sleeping mountains name that we have nothing going on; she takes too much tea and then has to go to the bathroom 72 times. I will build you a manyatta close to Kilima Safari camp. In the mornings we will kiss with the rising of each pomegranate sun. I will grow hair and put locks in it, and I will let you dye it red when I become a moran. I will wipe your drooling mouth with my shuka. I will love how the scent of goat milk on your skin lingers when you leave my hut.
You will teach me that little jump, I learn fast. When wazungus come, I will jump for them and they will give me hefty tips. If Safaricom sends Osborne out again next year, I will fleece him for his money’s worth. And we will live. In the humble manyatta where giraffes pass by each morning to wish us a good day, we will live.
If fate wills it, we will go to your father, not to ask for permission to marry you, but to ask for his blessings. I will explain to him that I would have killed a lion in your honour, but KWS rules are a bender. But I will also explain to him that Luos break six of their teeth to prove that their growing beards are no accident, and that this chipped front tooth is just the beginning.
We will sit in the evening and watch Oldoinyo Oibor wake up and blow away the clouds from its face. I will tell you stories about Nairobi late into the night. How you would imagine that in Galleria they have the mind to put tissue paper in each toilet. But no. They don’t. Bebi, Galleria is one of those places you go to eat, and when the bill comes, you look up to the waitress and ask “Kwani ni kura nimenunua?” I will tell you of that final Saturday when we were done with Osborne’s shoot for the day, eating KFC chicken in the mall. I ate more than my large intestines could handle. So I excused myself.
Food was pressing against the doors of my anus, agitated. I paid no attention to the cleaner standing with a mop next to the sink. It was like a stampede going on, so I ran into one of the toilets. That KFC chicken, burger and fries stormed out, and I sat there with my eyes closed and my pants on my ankles, enjoying the relief of passing shit. When I was done, I looked around for tissue. There was none.
I sat there debating whether or not to call Osborne or Johnny to bring me tissue. I ruled against it. If word ever got out in the van, Johnny would never let me have a breath of fresh air until I was embarrassed senseless. So I rummaged through my pockets, hoping that Enkai would have miraculously put tissue in my pockets. All I found was my wallet, with Ksh. 1000 bob in it.
Bebi, do not laugh. I was confronted with a tricky situation; walk out of the toilet and ask the cleaner for tissue, or to wipe my ass with a brownie.
Jaber, ujaluo ni gharama.
[Photos: Behind the Scenes by Osborne Macharia]