Flickers

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Dan is standing right there in the middle of the field. There is a throng of people moving in circles around him like vultures. Boys and girls. They have all been brought to this particular moment in time by an open tournament of basketball. Dan feels the weight of the sun baring down on him at full awe. Its slightly past midday. But he still has his sweater on. His second year in high school has not made him change much in toughness, for he still bears a little baby-face; not even a single strand of beard has peeped out of his chin. Dan always waited for a beard. Most of his classmates have already shown signs of ‘manliness’, with partially-grown beards. Others who have barely a millimeter of hair below the nose are foreseeing a moustache in the next couple of years. It’s a sign that you are actually superior. Dan laughs sometimes at this aspect of growing teenage boys. His friend Nzomo, who crazed over his little beardy chin, has now had an overgrowth of pimples under his chin as a result of the efforts to cut his hair without asking for any advice from any of the seniors. Dan would see him, with just soap and a shaver, desperate in his efforts, in the middle of the night, shaving. However, he himself has maintained a stoic face in this particular situation.

On the basketball court, there are teams sweating their asses off for a win. Teams interchange after every as they rest to catch a breath. Dan knows that he would have made the cut for the team had there not been taller guys than him. He loved the sport and Dan was really skillful at his game. During games, he would make other members of his class look stupid. They say that Dan would breeze past them like a wind. He was a little maestro. The cheering was musical. With both the girls and boys joining the fray, they sang for their school teams. Dan knew that although he wasn’t playing, their team was formidable enough to retain the title.

The music is blaring. From the raised conspicuous speakers placed right at the corners of the basketball courts. By popular demand, and as a matter of occasion, riddims pierce through the atmosphere and into peoples’ veins. It leaks into people’s emotion and grabs their minds into a frenzy. A feasting frenzy. It becomes like a demon getting into people’s heads. Slowly by slowly, it is as if people begin to get into pairs. In the open field, a boy is behind a girl. The boy’s shirt is completely untucked and his tie is swinging from his neck as if he has just come from a drinking party. The girl, with his long braids, holds his hand and bends in front of him and in the intoxicating music, begins twerking his ass on him. So random. Dan looks away. Here, he can see girls from different schools. It has blended into a mosaic mixture of colours. As the DJ mixes between Vybz Kartel, Konshens and Mavado, it gets intimate, even in their incomprehensive dialects. The heat is immense and from simple small talk, people are grinding off in a corner. It seems quite odd to be a lone ranger at this moment. Dan knew that even though he hadn’t talked to any girl, at least he was trying. In real sense, he was very choosy. Dan didn’t want one of those girls with no swag or sense of self to approach him. So, he avoided them. In the back of his mind, Dan knew that some anti-social, bookworm was hiding himself somewhere in the classes, probably immersing himself in loads of books. He knew they were ass holes. And for them, life would be very boring.

A whiff of sweet perfume grazes past his nose. Dan closes his eyes to embrace the scent. It compels his spirit into being. He feels a pat on his back and he quickly turns around. That was the first time he met Amani. Her outrageous afro with a touch of brown dye was quite something. She was the one wearing the perfume. It was a statement of her porsheness as much as her gusto. Dan was confused for a moment and lost his breath before regaining it again. Amani, as she introduced herself, had a short purple skirt that showed her flawless legs. She was stunning. When she asked him his name, Dan blushed. And Amani giggled. She was funny. They talked about everything. Music, movies, school, teachers, exams, and fun. Dan offered to buy her a bracelet. And they each got bracelets written each other’s names. Amani held Dan’s hand, and Dan felt warm for the first time. Amani held his hand as they found themselves against each other in a bathroom. He closed his eyes as their lips met. As she smeared lipstick on his shirt. She felt him kiss her neck. Slowly, with their hands entangled. Dan felt the cold tiles of the bathroom wall as he reached underneath her skirt. There, for some time, they felt each other in such openness. They drowned themselves in each other- chest to breast. It was a first for Daniel. He had heard stories but never told stories. Amani gave him her sweater, filled with perfume, as a souvenir. He would later smell that sweater and show his friends proof of his prospects. They exchanged numbers and promised to write each other letters before they finally embraced.

***

For several weeks, Dan lived in his own delicate bubble. He was not his old self anymore. He waited eagerly for half term so that he could call her. When he eventually did, the line was out of service, mteja. He began worrying that something bad had happened to her. Or that she had wrote down her number incorrectly. So, when they went back to school, he wrote her letters, but there was no reply. His friends started to make a mock of him, that he could not catch a fish and actually bag it.

So sometimes he wonders, whether Amani was really a one-time thing. She had made him feel so right. Was she really gone? Every time he wakes up from bed, he now knows that he lives life in flickers, such as that one with Amani, and that they really do fade away.

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