It was a sunny morning that Christmas of 2018, and me and my siblings rushed down to the market to get some supplies for the big day. It was always exciting for us to do the family’s shopping because later we were able to use the money that we saved, to buy off-brand makeup. As sixteen-year olds it was very exciting. We also got to meet up with boys. It was flattering to me, because most of the boys liked me for my very curvy body. I was looking eighteen already, and I wanted to be eighteen already. I dreamt of leaving home by that age and modeling, building my own house, driving my own car—the dreams of a child that I got to realize a few years later when I actually turned eighteen.
As we rushed down to the market we kept on calculating what we could buy and where to find the cheaper items so we could save money. My cousin Cynthia was a year older than us other two in our “favorite cousins group,” which made her the leader of the pack. She was tall for her age, but lighter skinned than us, which gave her an advantage. Even if we don’t talk much about it, most African men love lighter skinned girls compared to the darker skinned girls. Silvia, the middle one, was three months older than me, but she looked the youngest, for she was skinny and had a beautiful petite body. Sometimes I got jealous of how she looked so majestic when she walked, like a peacock. Silvia had a boyfriend, Joseph, who loved her, and she loved him. Joseph met us along the way to the market and we all walked hurriedly together while planning for the evening.
During the evening hours of Christmas, after cooking, cleaning, and eating, we were allowed to go out into town and hangout with friends until our curfew time, which was 9pm. We were all so excited. ”I hope your friend Gideon will be there!” Cynthia said to Joseph. Cynthia had had the biggest crush on Gideon ever since his family moved into town. We often met at church and exchanged greetings. Cynthia was ready to profess her love to Gideon since in her words “he was taking too long”
”Yes, we’ll all meet at Oasis pub and have some drinks, I can’t wait to see you dancing, my queen,” Joseph replied to Cynthia while looking at Silvia with the biggest smile ever.
”Aww you guys, I want to be in love too!” I said. I really admired the way they loved each other and hoped to have the same kind of love one day, but the problem was I had never been attracted to any of the boys that liked me. There was always something missing or something wrong or off about them. I always found fault in everything they did, their dress code, the way they spoke or walked or even laughed. I am quite picky with my choices.
We arrived at the market and shopped for everything that was on the list, then we headed home. Joseph lived a few blocks before our home so we said our goodbyes and continued to our house for the feast. The day went smoothly. We met other cousins who had traveled from neighboring towns. Everything moved in harmony. Finally it was 5pm and we had cleaned all the dishes and organized the house. We were ready to go and hangout with our friends. We all went to the bathroom together and had our bath while making jokes about how our evening would be spent. We always did everything together, even sharing the same room as well.
Cynthia wore a red shirt and black leggings. Silvia on the other hand had a red round dress, and I had a red short tight dress. We had planned on wearing red this Christmas. We looked “bomb,” as we always said it.
After a few minutes of putting on our makeup we rushed out of the gate and got on a Boda to the pub. When we got close we could hear the loud music coming from the pub, we were so excited. “Hurry up Boda man, we don’t have time to spare, that’s my best song!” Silvia shouted to the driver.
We got off, paid the Boda man, and ran inside while screaming. Joseph, Gideon, and Kato were seated at a corner and waved to us to join them. We rushed over and Joseph hugged Silvia, lifting her up, while Cynthia went and sat on Gideon’s lap and gave him a peck. I stood there, confused about what to do. I’m sure the boys had planned on linking me up with Kato who was one of the cool guys in town. He was a dancer for a crew, which made a lot of girls fall in love with him. But I didn’t like Kato like that.
I said hello to the three boys and told my cousins I was going to dance. I moved quickly into the center of the crowd, dancing, probably as a way to dodge Kato, but also to have fun since I did not plan on meeting anyone today. As I danced, my eyes met with a stranger who stood looking at me the whole time. He was a masculine big guy, with chiseled jaws, big eyes, and very beautiful pink lips. My heart skipped. I smiled and kept dancing while we kept staring at each other. I was hooked. After a while he walked up and asked me to dance and offered to get me a drink.
“A Coca-Cola please.” He smiled and called the waiter to bring me my order as we danced. I felt the world around us go quiet, like it was just us two left in the world, dancing to our best songs. I honestly do not remember which songs played or if they were terrible songs. All I knew was I wanted to keep dancing with him. The waiter took a long time to bring our drinks so we walked to the counter to pick them up ourselves. “Can we go out and get some fresh air? And maybe talk a little ?” the stranger asked.
“Yes, for sure,” I replied, with the cringiest blush ever. We took our drinks and walked out to sit in the garden. We sat in silence for a while as we giggled and looked away each time our eyes locked.
“I am Michael,” he said “And you are?”
”Shantel,” I replied
“Well, a beautiful name for a beautiful girl. You really know how to dance. Where did you learn all those moves?” he asked with a grin on his face. This was probably the cutest grin that I’d ever laid my eyes on.
”My brother dances, and I always go with him for rehearsals. I guess that’s where I learned the moves from. You have nice lips, you know?” I said shyly, looking away.
”Really? You think I have nice lips?” He got closer to me. We had been sitting on the grass facing each other, but a few meters apart.
“Come on, stop being cheeky. I know you’ve probably heard that a lot,” I replied shyly.
“Hey,” he said. “Look at me, and say it while looking at me.” Now he was only a few inches away as he lifted my face to look directly at his.
“You’re making me shy,” I blushed as l looked at him, his hand on my chin. My heart was racing. I could feel myself literally losing my breath.
“You have very beautiful eyes, you know that right? Of Course you do, I’m sure a lot of boys have told you that,” he said with that grin that made me lose my senses.
”Well none of those boys make my heart pound like you do right now, and they don’t have such nice lips as you,” I chuckled. His hands ran down my neck and he held me with so much authority and pulled me to him with the other hand around my waist and then he kissed me. I was breathless by the time we stopped. My first kiss from the first boy I ever liked.
“Are you still shy?” He asked. I nodded because I couldn’t speak anymore. My entire nervous system must have gone into shock, in a good way.
” Did you like it?” he asked again.
”Yes,” I said breathlessly
“Shantel, Shantel?” I heard Silvia’s sharp voice pierce crazily through the air. “Oh, there you are. Let’s go, let’s go. It’s almost 9pm, get up.” Cynthia gave Michael a dirty look. She pulled me off the ground and hurried me to the gate of the pub. I kept looking at Michael with teary eyes but he smiled and waved. I waved back from outside the gate, and soon I was seated on a Boda on my way home. I was inside my head the whole time. Cynthia and Silvia kept mumbling, but all I could think of was Michael’s hands and lips—that kiss. I wished I could go back, but we had a curfew and if we broke the curfew this time maybe the next Christmas we wouldn’t get to go out again.
For the next few days I kept going back to the pub, hoping that I’d find Michael again, or find anyone who knew who he was, but to no avail. I had had my first kiss with a stranger who I have never seen again. All I know was his name, if that even as his name. So little is left that I could think that I was hallucinating, but Cynthia and Silvia both saw him, too. Could we have all hallucinated?
2 February, 2023