This is a napkin boat I am surprised is still in my custody. We all know paper boats and the fun involved in making them early in our art days. I would call it a paper boat, but this was a napkin boat. The material involved that is…
Once upon a time, I met a beautiful lady. I feel like that does not sound right… I meet beautiful ladies all the time. However, this one was different. I met her before I became a jarhead and it was love at first sight. She was the kind that you would not want to mess up any future prospects in case the tides turn into something major and awesome. Fast forward to my first year in uniform and I arranged a meeting to catch up. I had my first date. At the time, I was still working on my esteem issues. It was so pathetic that not even military training could get that out. We met at a café called CCS in Kerugoya. If you have not been to Kerugoya,and maybe you want to recreate that scenario, the café is opposite the Cooperative Bank of Kenya. That is to the side.
We had met up for Tea. I had coffee. But it does not matter – coffee or tea, the point is we sat down in a café and had something. The lady was beautiful as the last time I had checked and a little grown. It was a few years after I met her remember. I was also a little bit taller and shoulders a bit pronounced. Carrying logs and 100-pound bags at my days in Eldoret had its repercussions not forgetting a chest to die for. Ahem! You see I am still trying to raise my esteem… However, the lady was still too beautiful for me to handle and cannot rate my performance on this date at greater than 50% for this one. I would want to blame my naivety et al., but this is not about naivety. It’s about a paper boat.
Before we get to the boat. Dates in Nairobi are a big deal. Last, I checked that is. I remember a friend advising me what to wear almost 14 years ago on a date with a high school crush. Weee!!! It was Greek to me. Story for another day though. I was posted around Eastleigh that year and we all know Eastleigh is the island of clad. That is smart and presentable outfit. On this day, I had a pair of grey trousers a pink shirt and a grey windbreaker. Wait, the shirt was white with pink stripes. I also had some brown shoes with a very long nose. It was not a sharp shooter as such, but it was long there… suede for that matter. Having worn it for a while in the Kerugoya terrain had given it this curve at the extra bit where my foot could not reach – Aladdin Style. You know how most of the Eastleigh trousers are… (As compared to the Slim fits/ Italian make-dos on Kirinyaga Road) For some reason they never crease. But the single main crease lines running at the front and back are ever there no matter how many times you wash them and fold them for packing in your box. The waist was fine and fitting but for some reason (This I noted later in life), the legs always seemed too wide and it was not “smart enough”. Un-proportionally wide that is. That is how I turned up for my date. I was “Veeery Smart”! Declare by Shirley May was my scent of choice back then. I was dressed to kill eeehh. The kind that left my mother wondering why I had decided to return to Nairobi without notice. Back then, I only used to wear exceptionally well when returning to the City. Nowadays I can even come to Nairobi with gumboots.
Our ancestors indicated that they used to draw patterns on the ground when shyness struck. I think I read that somewhere – or someone lied to me. In addition, teachers earlier in life supported the same theory when the science lessons got to the part about physical changes, emotional awareness etc. They said girls could draw things on the ground or pretend to do so with their legs. (Kupoteza Poteza) I cannot remember that of the girls we had in primary school – They were unusually bold. Plus being tiny intimidates no one. Actually I don’t think I have ever seen the footwork. Other things but the footwork. Maybe because I was always staring into the horizon. In the sitting position, you cannot draw. So if there is a way to dilute shyness and panic at a date, it should be with the hands or something else. I know people who almost empty the entire sugar dish into the cup, while others stir the contents endlessly. I found another weird way to dilute this tension between us. I could not think of anything else. At least nowadays people have phones, Oil on Canvas Paintings and Screens in cafes to stare at when the going gets tough and cold.
Perceptibly, she was not interested in my boring boot camp stories. She did not seem interested to know how awesome military aircraft are, or my newly acquired single room in Kariobangi south. Every time I looked at her, she was staring at me with her beautiful white eyes. An unspoken look that said “I need something more!!! Try harder boy! Try harder!!!”. At some point, I discussed books and she happened to love novels as well. At least we had something in common. I would later empty an entire bookshelf for her at our home library. Not on that day though. I think she is the one with the most of my novels to this day. Back then, I never had a one-for-one rule. I trusted people too much back then and lost many good books along the way. While my hands were moving around the table, I found some napkins on the nice basket thingy they place them.
Halfway through my cup, I knew this was a failed mission to Saturn and I could forget its beautiful rings. But who was I to give up? Luckily, her etiquette was top notch and no matter how boring or complex I was, she stuck through it all. At some point, it occurred to me that this would be the last date or the last moments. I had no idea how I would make it epic. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves for some reason. Hotels and restaurants are for lunch on normal days. Unless in June and July when coffee dates come in handy. Therefore, I was not worried about an embarrassing walkout. So for the purposes of future memories, I decided to split a napkin into two and made two boats out of them. I cannot remember the commentary of my own version of Viasat Explore’s “How it’s Made” – Napkin Boat Edition.
I made a napkin boat for this lady. If you think making paper boats was easy, try making one with napkins. All the time, her eyes were on my hands. I was struggling with this because at the time, my fingers were fat and rough. Any wrong move and I would display how clumsy I am with brittle things. I don’t even know why I never told her that if I could build a napkin boat, I could build her a house. ‘I am slapping myself now’. The conversation was not exciting for her. From what it seemed. She uttered a few words but they could not sustain a conversation for long. I think I was doing it all wrong. At least I made us two boats. The good thing is her beautiful face and never ceasing smile was shinning from the artwork being worked by my fat clumsy, sweaty fingers. With napkins, and damp finger tips you cannot be perfect enough. It’s all clumsy. Being observed motivated me somehow.
After I was done, I gave one of the boats to her and made a stupid joke about how she would remember me with that in case I never came back. I promised I would keep its sister. You know those goodbye lines from movies. However, this hit a wall like radiation on lead.
That is how I happened to have this Napkin boat in my journal. The date ended. I was excited that at last I had the chance to go on “a date” with a lady or let’s say I had the chance to take a girl out. It was not much, but eeeerrr, it counted. After that encounter, I took her home. In a cab. Again, I think the only lady I ever paid cab for. I don’t like cabs because its somehow feels like a rip off. Yes I am stingy like that. I am a matatu & foot person, yes even at 4 am. It was still daytime in this case and it was only Ksh 100/-. Yes, that was Kerugoya for you. My fare from Nairobi to my house in Eastlands = Cab fare in Kerugoya. Good life huh?
Almost a year later, I would invite her for a date closer to the city at a certain Bonjour in a location I will not disclose. This time I was fired up and well confident with myself. I was running high in the spirit of the Magic of Thinking Big. I had a presentation at hand. When we sat down, I was like ‘Wait, Today I have something awesome to show you!” I pulled my laptop from my bag and powered it up. Placed it in front of our table and opened a PowerPoint presentation. If I disclose its contents here, you will never look at me the same way again. Her savior was the lady with the chicken and fries that came through because I had to shut it down.
Based on a True Story.
Fast forward to 2016. The lady is married and a mother of two. The gentleman is still making a clown of himself on dates.