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The Flighty Encounter

By Nimrod Wambugu  (Kenya)


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The Flighty Encounter

The joy of watching his favourite soccer team at the local waterhole has taken a new meaning today. From the team’s line-up to the immaculate dress kit; from the initial deft touches of his favourite playmaker, the sublime ball-passing game and terrific pace of the entire team as it surges forward in search of a goal; to the cheers of every nifty lob, flick and attempt at goal. ‘This team is superb’, muses the young man. But why is it all so special today?


It all started at his beloved drinking joint around Christmas time. On the particular day, the night was slowly maturing, the pub gradually swallowing patrons, and he downing his portions with aplomb. The pleasure of having earned his first paycheck was evident. He imagined this would be his best Christmas so far. The scenes around him bespoke revelry at its peak. He gawked and ogled at the girls swaying their hips and gyrating to the music. That girl there must’ve studied the art of seduction - How she moves! That other one has a plunging neckline, arresting the gaze of the man directly in front of her like that of a leopard on spotting prey. If only he could trade places with him! Or with that dude whose lap is graced by one immensely voluptuous dark angel, who rocks ever so languidly the poor man must be on fire in the relevant faculties. Everywhere he looked, every sense of libidinous desire in him was being inflamed. Being the so-called season of giving, the beer flowed so freely, the camaraderie amongst the people was at its highest, and the cacophony of voices barely audible above the general din of the blaring speakers. The young man accepted this is how life should be.

Phone purrs in his pocket. Oh! It’s his cousin declaring his own location, and offering more drink. But there’s enough here; the music is right, the ambience magnificent, and as for the women - it was his harem.

‘…I don’t think I’ll get there. Lemme first, eh, find a guy I owe money.’ He lies, then re-enters his bewilderment.

He was suddenly roused from his trance by a waiter with a drink, bringing to his knowledge that somebody in the house had bought him one. ‘Someone I know?’ He pondered, ‘No. Someone I ought to know’, he wished. True to his wish, the waiter guided his line of sight to two ladies at the siberian end, the elder of which acknowledged with a slight nod and a coy smile. ‘Hmm’. Our boy sheepishly smiled back and issued a lame thumbs-up. The waiter disappeared and the boy was left wondering if the damsel had deemed him attractive or whether he radiated sex appeal. Wait! Did she mistake him for a bloke on a girls-prospecting mission? After mulling over this, he observed that the girl looked trendy, had confident of poise and, wonder of wonders, she buys beer! Never a man to shy away from such a development, he bade his time sipping the new drink, felt it was not too hasty nor too slow to make his approach, then sauntered over to the lass, thanked her for the drink and thanked Christmas in general for blessing him with a beautiful surrounding and prompt generosity.

It is only natural in these types of situations that such two parties eventually sit together and converse. It was under this logic that the lady excused herself from her younger companion and joined the handsome fellow at his table, whereupon they hit it off with a readily available topic of ‘Seems this time people have decided to have fun to the fullest, eh?’ and such other plain, colourless and spontaneous ejaculations that a boy of his age and limited wisdom can only conjure, faced with the circumstance of being suddenly accosted by a beautiful, confident woman.

‘It’s just that my girl here has had one too many. Can’t be great company.’ She cooed, and the good guy dug some advice, ‘Don’t worry. After allowing her water alone for an hour, she’ll be back to start again. So, do you buy drinks to guys this often?’

‘We-ll, I’ve just told you my company is failing me and, remember it’s Christmas? Plus you looked like you could use fun yourself’, she intoned.

Having been rescued from speculation as to why the girl had picked on him, and having imbibed to a degree, he relaxed and was ready to engineer their conversation afresh.

‘Anyway am Jim, and I think, a lawyer’

‘Think?’ laughing ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘I don’t know what to call it, but I was a student. Now am, uh, learning to work, but not yet. You know…’

‘An intern kinda?’ rescued the lady.

‘That’s what I heard! So what should I call you? My Christmas present?’

Here the woman shimmered a look of taking offence, but playfully nevertheless, adding,

‘You’re also silly. Am Dama, as in "Damaris", and I work at the coast. A receptionist at Coastal Bay Resort. Know it?’ Jim weighed the air with his hands in indecision.

‘It’s a tourist thing at the North Coast, you funny upcountry bloke!’

Typical again of such a development, conversation took flight, perching on one bit of information or the other, and depending on such varying factors as the muscled fella passing by, the new bottle design on this beer brand - ‘wait am minute! Are those people doing what I think they are doing?’ ‘What’s these old bags doing here, I thought this was a young-ish joint?’ - this new TV series and that useless more.

Later on, the boy could be heard to occasionally utter a flattering remark about her eyes (sparkling), or her teeth flashing, how her hair did this, how the smile did that, how the heavens had conspired to allow the acquaintance, and endless other intimations immature romantics endeavour to manufacture. But these playful banters still raised other internal deliberations in the boy. He felt that, just as they were zeroing in on what he assumed was the unwritten (yet logical) covenant normally resultant of encounters of this nature, something kept veering off-course at the last hurdle. The final jigsaw piece - though its slot well visible on the table - kept slipping, like its holder had sweaty palms. So close was he nearing something (he felt), so wide were the gates being flung, yet to enter proved mind-boggling indeed, even at this liberating level of intoxication. Just that final gambit seemed to be eluding him.

Maybe he needn’t have worried. With the pernicious nature of alcohol taking root, conversation started broaching deeper topics. The heroine, on her part, had found forum to spill all that she had kept in her bosom, as people of her gender are wont to do, having met a willing listener and having partook of a substance that seldom curtails this habit.

Dama changed gear, as if playtime was now over. She suddenly enveloped herself with a coy demeanour and feline qualities, then, leaning forward with frankness, started ‘You know what? You seem like a good guy…’

‘I think I should take offence at that. I hear ‘good’ is the new "ordinary"’ jumped in Jim, attempting to restore the now diminishing playfulness.

‘Now you’re spoiling everything’ said a withdrawing Dama but Jim was quick to absolve himself with pleading hand gestures. She started again.

‘I was saying you seem good good. Is it a crime for you men to be good and not be man about it? Any man by now would have already started asking whether we’re going to his place or mine.’ Jim swallowed a thought and she continued ‘you know we haven’t talked much about ourselves, you haven’t even said if you have a girlfriend.’

‘I wish I did’ sneaked in Jim. She gave a genuine smile.

‘My case is a bit complicated…’

Jim touched his ears in ‘I have these’ sort of way. The smile widened.

It was Jim’s patience in listening to all this - the fact that alcohol gradually slows him down notwithstanding - that further endeared him to Dama. She felt safe, appreciated and suffused with all those qualities she wished her previous and tumultuous affair had accorded her, not leaving her with a bastard son. For his age, our hero took all this with surprising maturity and dignity, at one time cursing that certain men do exist in society. Considerable time elapsed and countless bottles were disposed of as the couple delved into far-ranging topics to ease her burden. It is an understatement to say that women blatantly succumb to emotion because our heroine, at the penultimate hour of departure, was sitting on Jim’s lap and resting her head on his comforting shoulder. The young man had now forgotten all about gyrating hips and voluptuous dark angels. He had won himself a worthy damsel. The night and the beer were now approaching undesirable frontiers and consensus dictated that going home was inevitable. The lady, now being governed by emotion and the hero by lust, contrived to rent a taxi, dispense with her earlier companion and head to the young man’s love nest.

It was the impulsive and synchronized manner of rending their clothes off themselves and each other on entering his abode that precisely exemplifies the danger a medley of alcohol, youth and temptation can trigger. Here were two bodies speaking as one. Were the young man to attempt a narration of that night’s experience, he would metaphorically mumble something to the effect that they took a trip to Jupiter; stopped on every minor or major planet along the way, - even discovering that new planetoid named after the Inuit sea goddess - saw the entire Milky Way, flew back to earth only to take a detour, but, without the necessary interstellar regalia. Since even the greatest of days have an end, he later slept like an infant.

When Dama awoke him, ready for home, he imagined he had barely slept two hours while the sun piercing through the curtains suggested something else. He could summon only enough energy as to tell her he’d call, and then slipped back to slumber. A real two hours later and he was up, nursing a monster of a hangover and endless questions to himself, some of which he could not answer. Amidst all the puzzles that run through his mind, some things were clear though; he did not use protection, Dama was a stranger for all intents and purposes, and the inescapable truth that he may or may not have been infected with the mother of all STIs, the bug, what with its prevalence. He wanted to call her on impulse but could not remember exchanging phone numbers nor did his phone contain a Dama.

For the following four months, it is difficult to imagine the amount of agony, anguish and despair that gradually displaced the cheerfulness and zeal in life that used to reside in the Jim that previously knew no Dama. After initially dismissing the fact that they didn’t exchange contacts as a slight anomaly and that it was impossible to trace the house where they had dropped Dama’s younger companion, he was able to garner a semblance of inner peace by convincing himself that the connection they had had that eventful night, however much alcohol was a defining factor, there must have indeed resided a modicum of intelligence on the girl’s part as to discredit the notion that she could engage in a one-night-stand with a stranger, what with her fractured past. But then again, for a girl with her fragile disposition, she could easily have previously encountered another shoulder to cry on, with a familiar eventuality.

‘Come to think of it, beneath that beauty methinks she had those hollow, dark-ringed eyes peculiar to ladies who would find comfort to their sorrows here, tomorrow there.’

‘During infraction did I notice a scar on her lower belly? Might that be an abortion? Definitely she must be troubled. God knows which damned player had earlier taken advantage of her stress!’ ‘Am I really that blind? Maybe it was deliberate; her not giving me her numbers.’ ‘Why didn’t she ask anything about contraception? Ain’t it women who care? Maybe am worrying too much.’

The young man formed different permutations on his mind about the pressing issue but found himself venturing into further scarier scope. He started doubting other past but less risky dalliances no matter how much it was impossible to rule out real and present danger from the last episode.

To make matters worse, Jim realised how evident societal warnings on the bug were. Turning on the tube, he was either greeted by a public figure declaring how ruthlessly it had ravaged families, decimated populations, stigmatised individuals and annihilated this, destroyed that; or numerous other sponsored riders on its dangers. He imagined the picture and story that would come out of his being brought down by an illness society views as the result of downright moral depravity. He felt that his parents and society had brought him up as a beacon of hope to be emulated by many, only to pour his life and all that investment down the drain. ‘And to think I had so much fun!’ He wondered how many people of his calibre had fallen prey to the fate of this dreaded affliction. His appetite dwindled. He started imagining and developing symptoms that more or less confirmed the worst only to himself. Images of gravely emaciated zombies flashed.

In spite of all this, he raised no significant suspicion at his workplace. He decided to confide his escapade and worries to his cousin, who, though surprised at Jim’s failure to exercise caution with a stranger, advised him to visit a testing centre and to banish imagined fears that have duped many a soul. Finally able to be rational in thought and action, and further terrified by the prospect of living a life of constant worry with bouts of distress, panic attacks and hyperventilations, he gathered enough courage to visit a testing centre.


The game is now approaching the end. Jim’s team is leading by a trio of goals courtesy of a brace by his favourite striker and an own goal by the opposing team. This victory is made special by the reprieve life has gifted him. After the game is over, he’ll make one last lap around the joint in celebration of life. He can now remember Napoleon Bonaparte’s adage: It takes a single step from the sublime to the ridiculous.


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