Hi Elvis. Ten years since we saw each other. Fifteen since we first laid eyes on each other. Remember how we first met? I was the new kid on the block, living in your grandma’s rentals. Stood outside like you were willing me to make a move too. I did. And like two kindred stars, without talking, we communicated. I don’t know if you figured out I couldn’t understand you, speaking Nandi or one of those Kalenjin languages I hear I was speaking at the time. You spoke Kiembu. But how did you convince me to be your friend? How did we “click”?. I know you don’t know this, but I tell people you taught me Kiembu. That was the only way we could understand each other. Or I knew Kiswahili? No one ever tells me if I did.
We became best friends so fast, didn’t we? Went to school together, recited the alphabet letters together, did our homework together. We played together, always a team. Pen and ink, none coul do without the other. Introduced each other to our parents.
How did we move on to being a couple? How did I know you were mine and I was yours? When I wouldn’t write you in the noise makers list? When I would help you do your homework? When you’d be beaten by the teacher and I would whisper “sorry” and I would be beaten too? Probably when we secretly held hands under your dinner table at supper. Was it when your mum came to get you and you’d say “goodnight” and I learnt what that was, and I learnt how to say “sweet dreams”? Or was it when we learnt endearments and used them on each other even in front of our parents. I meet your mum occasionally. She reminds me of how we’d call each other, “sweetheart”.
Our feuds…. Damn! We feuded! Remember you cutting my ring and middle finger? I refused to move them when you were chopping some sticks. We’d been arguing. I still wear the scars like an eternal ring on that finger. I cried so much when you did it. Probably because my sweetheart had hurt me physically for the first time. Your papa gave you a serious beating. You were so jealous when all the adults were on my side instead of massaging your hurt ego. I had won😂
Again when you put your hand on this faceless girl’s shoulder. I even told your mum you did tabia mbaya with this and that girl. She asked me if we’d ever done tabia mbaya. Were we married then? Had we perhaps done a mock wedding in one of our games? Why didn’t they give us a beating? But our teachers. They viewed us as vile children. They called us separately to confirm the rumours. Why weren’t we scandalized? Why did we go on like it was nothing strange? Why didn’t we hide our faces? Why did I still hold your hand in fields and under dinner tables?
There was this field where we used to go play. It had some coriander growing there. Remember how you’d help me pick them to take home to mum? Even today, it’s so hard for me to prepare food without coriander. Remember helping me wash our house? Mum didn’t know what to do with our toothless smiles of accomplishment. It didn’t matter that we could slip and fall. No.
You took me to the shops too, remember? We went to get milk together. You were my provider, helper and protector.
When my brother was born, your sister came a week later. We’d put our siblings side by side and compare them. They were beautiful, weren’t they? I think our parents loved our obsession with our siblings. Mine passed on six months later. He wasn’t in his bed when I woke up. Pneumonia he hadn’t recovered from. Did I know where children went when they died? Mama had asked. Yes, to God . I was so innocent then.You were the only person I told my brother had gone to heaven. When we went to prepare his burial at our rural home, I was shocked you came. You, your mum and some pupils from school. Your mum said they wouldn’t have known if not for you. Did you know I needed you somehow? You held the portrait of him at the burial. You were so brave while I almost burst my eight year old lungs in cathartic sobs.
Our story probably ended the morning my mother said we were moving, a few months after his death. I was distraught. Mama! But Macharia… But goodbye! I should talk to him!. I didn’t. Did they suspect that if we’d known earlier, it would have been impossible to separate us? Your mum told my mum of how hard it was to contain you when you learnt I’d gone away. Left you. I had broken us up.
Four years ago, I came from running errands to find a small girl, probably seven years old. I asked mum if that was “Soni”. She asked how I had known. You resemble each other. Your sister is beautiful. Would my brother, your namesake have been handsome? She said you live with your dad. Mum told me your parents separated. I didn’t have the courage to ask for your phone no. from your mother.
We’d have gone on forever, wouldn’t we? A team. Were we good for each other? Were you bad for me? With you I had no restraints, no fears. I was indestructible and a child. I was happy, always. No, you were not bad for me. You were good for my spirit. For my freedom.
I started this as a love letter to every boy I ever loved. I’m ending it as a love letter to my first love, because I realize that it is with you that I was completely loved for me. You loved me when I had zero curves. When breasts weren’t what you’d see first. You loved me when I didn’t know I could use words to woo a boy in. You loved a girl with nothing. Nothing but a free spirit. And you didn’t lock it. You joined her on adventures that would give her memories to carry to eternity. You didn’t even understand each other when you met her. Yet that wasn’t a hindrance.
A couple of years back I was thinking and wondering where we would have gotten married if. In the Anglican Church you once took me to, or in the Catholic church Papa took me to. I say you were not bad for me yet I always wonder if we were together today, wouldn’t we be stuck with a kid? Teenage and parents? Maybe we’d have lost the love by now. Maybe we’d have grown up and our love would have been left in our childhood.
Elvis, where are you now? Do you remember? I sentimentalise you even now. Maybe because even with all my relationships I think of you as the guy who really loved me for me. As the guy who opened me up to something as beautiful as love. After our childhood scandals, would anyone believe I went on for more than a decade untouched? Said I wanted to be an adult first. Was it because my childhood was yours? And it was sacred. No one was to violate it. Touch something that had belonged to you. Did I leave you in my childhood? Did I wash you off finally? Do I look back and wonder if there’ll be that devotion ever again? Maybe, maybe not. But I loved you, in our own childlike way I loved you.