The Boy must prevail. He knows this. The sun, that hangs heavy on the sky, about to recede into the unknowns of tomorrow, but, still sharp enough to drench him in the salty waters of his vesicles and cloud his sight in a kaleidoscope of color knows this. The wind and earth work together, conspiring to muddle and unsettle him even further with their fog of sand because they too know. They know the Boy, know what he wants and hopes to achieve by the day's end. They've watched him before more than once and as their own version of a cosmic joke, they pit themselves against him, wanting to take part in this Game.
The Boy understands this. As he walks along the gravel footpath that hangs off the side of the one-lane dirt road he is taking, each calculated step in his black flip flops kicking back some grit, he revels in it and welcomes this subtle challenge to dissuade him, wearing it as one would an imaginary cloak of courage, his chest slightly puffed out to accentuate the breadth of his shoulders resonating with his confident lazy strut. He runs the fingers of his right hand along the coarse stone wall that runs alongside him, searching for something, a feeling that he would never be able to put into words, but one that would feel rightly justified in this situation and others alike or unlike in its cracks and crevices and identify the shifts in tenacity that would mark the end of a house's perimeter.
This is the way the Game is played, the way others before him did and others to come should. The prize even more satisfying when the odds stack up against him in a bid to have it rigged. And this is exactly how the Boy wants to play, with everything against him, his prevalence bringing him a deeper sense of accomplishment he is too immature to comprehend but too old to not see.
On cue, she avails herself at the opposite end. There is no hesitation. The right arm drops back to his side and his left arm rubs his face and hair in one upward sweeping motion before falling into place to play out his charismatic gait. He then visibly exhales and his demeanor subtly shifts, his attention silently refocusing on his mark. With the rules defined and the lines drawn, the Game begins.
She is in the company of an other but that only serves to excite the boy further, the Game pacing itself up to be a classic with the added challenge triggering an extra surge of adrenaline. His perception subconsciously erases the other from his sights after he gives her a split-second look-over, as he gets more engrossed into this episode. As the distance that separates them grows shorter, the Boy can tell he has made a good mark. The belle has been kissed by the sun, her choice of dress alluding to her defiant and youthful nature. She wants to be seen, wants him and others to look, to admire and to ogle, and in the end come away wishing that she would spare them an ounce of her attention, yet still know that that would never happen. But still, the Boy is adamantly laid back, his nerves showing their steel in spades . She is tall, almost as tall as he is, and her fullness reiterates the splendor of youth she possesses but he finds himself wishing that she be older than she looks, a reflexive preference that has served him well before but not a deal breaker, never a reason not to parley. And still, they draw closer.
And closer they draw, another level beginning, its rules, complicated as they are simple, simple as they are complicated. The Boy values this prelude, finding solace and stability in the false sense of serenity that is fostered by this self-directed conversational stream of consciousness, which he draws up in every variation of said situation to ratify made objectifications. Drawing nearer, he thrills himself on being able to look without looking, as he does now, and emerge with her likeness in mind to savor in the split-second that it lasts, but, like chardonnay tasted, mull over even after it dissipates, both, always leaving you pining for more.
She fades away in waves, a blur, a foggy mural of maya with shades of sable and dashes of veldt in the stead of the figures that stand before him. In it, she appears sfumato, her face too far to clearly make out but not too far to not see,her head adorned in an ordered array of colored locks that fall to her chest, obscuring parts of her face, her clothes, a palette of two tones that fade into each other, leaving her endless.
He always finds it amusing, this capacity for ingenious repetitiveness these episodes herald, each, excitingly boring in its rivetingly demanding runtime and anticlimactically ordinary culmination. Most humorously intriguing, his love et loathing for the predictability that its unintentional players herald. He revels in it, the logic behind this precursor and its impending reciprocation in raising the curtain for the stage.
In blind stupor, with an unquestioning sense of conformity, they adhere to, only serving to make them more foreseeable. That in moments like this, she, and others like her, would will to steal glances at him as would he at them, half heartbeats apart, invigorating, as they both will their eyes to not catch, or be caught, the catch and reward somewhere within, in between beats of each other and yet, just enough room is left to make it unprecedentedly novel, restoring his faith in these dances.
His first stolen glance unsatisfactory, he again rests his eyes on her, staring, for more than his turn allows, at a loss, glitching, unable to comprehend his ineptitude at quantifying her aura, and he barely manages to look away when he sees her head turn to take her turn and prod, finding refuge in anything but her, from the discordant endless caws the black birds that perch atop the power lines on the other side of the road make to the mismatched patterns the pebbles around him trace as he walks on them. And in his dissatisfaction, an idea is born, and a choice is made.
The Boy decides to disobey the game. Time arrives, wielding just enough presence to appear audibly apparent and warp his perception of reality, choosing to manifest in its illusively deceptive dilation, conveniently delaying their inevitable collision. Tick. Walking on, Tock, he abandons all regard for pre-established prerogatives in this level and deigns to look upon her but this time he dares not look away. Tick. His nostrils flare as he stares, Tock, his mind racing to make sense of the information it is receiving.
He sees her brown skin, Tock, appreciating her choice of yoga crop-top and accompanying matching cardigan that elegantly exposes some cleavage and a ripped midriff, Tick, notices the sharp arches the brows she has traced make, Tock, and turns his mouth upwards in a lopsided smile at her inability to raise her eyes to him because he has refused her her turn to stare back at him. Tick. He arches his brow when she unconsciously bites her cerise-ladened lower lip, Tock, trying to hide the blush that is adding a tint of red to her cheeks and looks away, Tick, first at her similarly sparkled blue sandals, Tock, then she shares that moment, a loaded expression on her face that is reciprocated on the other's, the seal marking the point in time they will choose to laugh about when they revisit this confrontation later on, Tick, her right hand unconsciously playing with the clutch that she is holding against her unsurprisingly similar, dulled blue sweats, drawing attention to her not so short, evenly toned legs, Tock, and she unconsciously crosses her left arm, rubbing her right upper-arm and yet still, he dares not look away, the Game's definitive moment upon them.
Time, which seems to agree with this notion, doubles down on its antics, dialing up the distortion, multiplying the defiance on his cognizance, but in that very interlude, as the boy ever so slightly moves himself to the right to preannounce himself as an obstacle on their course and readies his mouth to spew forth whatever well-worded sentiments it deems fit to begin their entrée, so does the girl simultaneously begin to gather herself together and she raises her head, locking eyes with him once more, yet, perhaps they have drawn too close for this time, the difference is insurmountable.
This time, as he stares into those brown eyes, the constructs set forth by Time lose their place, everything else seeming to fall away even though it is still there and it becomes evident he is held captive by her penetrating gaze. With searing emotion, they strike at him, tearing into him with a sobering innocence and he begins to drown under the intensity. Flailing wildly, he searches for reason, a sense of order around the skewed shapes that make up her irides to answer the question that lays yet unasked. Futilely. Like a mirror into his soul, all he sees is himself projected on them. His youth, unbridled, His charisma, alluring, His question, the nature of His intentions, the decency in His actions, the irreproachability of His choices, His answer. Futilely. Unmade, he bids his mouth stay shut and instead alts his shoulder to let them pass, the Game undone.
The boy knows not how long he ponders over his question but when he comes to, the sun hangs even lower on the canvas, about to descend behind the multi-storey buildings that lie across the street that is beyond the end of the road where he stands. Touts unceremoniously shout their ply routes as they look for fares amongst the small crowd that stands gathered by the road. Matatus honk wildly, their toots all part of the process to woo the customers into their metal cages wafting the magic that has pervaded the boy's encounter into dissipation. The air carries with it a soothing coolness, signature to the streets of Mombasa at this time of day, the winds picking up, whipping at his feet as if to berate him. When they begin to approach as he moves closer, he simply shakes his head to incline his disinterest, wanting to savor the sunset a tad bit longer. He has uncovered an existential crisis, his first even though he knows it not, and part of him reels at the inability to succinctly decode this experience. The other half of him that is more concerned with the more immediate literal repercussions that have been incurred spares him a laugh that it follows up with a groan when it makes him imagine what the boys will make of this ordeal and how long he will suffer for it, but he reasons they will have their days. Either way, too much time has been spent on this reverie and it seems better to go home before his phone begins to ring.
He hears it in his mind before he sees it, an intoxicating sensuality he cannot place of a woman's fragrance that manages to blend roses and bubblegum and still come off as palatable. She. Right ahead of him she stands, afro-hair, dark skin, long sleeved blue tunic, black leggings, doll shoes, worlds away she is, with her white air pods and unabated fixation on her phone to even notice him, but he has noticed her.
Subliminally, the scene pulls back by a half-inch, and in the background, a green blur begins to gain focus. From the right which is where he should be heading, it roughly inserts itself into the frame wrenching the focus from her to reveal itself as a manyanga. Extensively grafittied with green abstractions and stills of J. Cole on many sections of its faces, it pulls up to the kerb with a flurry of blaring toots, its tout alighting before it even comes to a stop to apply himself. Some people begin to board, slowly, the tout pacing himself back and forth to make an impression, yet still the boy remains motionless, watching his prize. She takes one pod out of her ear before advancing to the tout, and they begin to have a conversation, presumably about the route and to bargain the fare. Though he cannot hear them, his mind fills in the gaps, giving context as she throws her hands around, and when the tout opens his mouth in a laugh as he tries to counter against the heavy charm that is being used on him. As the scene plays on, the right side of his mouth slowly begins to curve up, quivering for just a brief moment when he notices the likeness between the earlier situation and this one, then onward it curves, slightly weaker, as he says to himself, Labda just Labda.