Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Atandi Anyona
She entered the room silently, in low heels, shaking curly hair, no Indonesian weave or synthetic strings, just a unique dome-shaped half-combed afro. Everything about her was un-classic, yet something about her appearance magnetized my eyeballs. No mascara on her face or piercings through her ears. Her soft caramel skin slightly exposed on her arms and shoulders; no strange patterns or tattoos, just tiny dark spots reflecting the merciless thirst of highland mosquitoes. Slowly she sat down, barely wiping the dust lying lazily over the brown thatch Maasai mat. There was something electric about her glance; somewhat jolly somewhat cautious. My papa used to tell me never to approach a girl whose facial gesture were difficult to unravel; his advice rarely found an iota of wax in my ears willing to take heed of his wise words.
Every rebellious cell swimming foolishly within my bloodstream decided to make a move on a girl whose mannerisms were more confusing than a set of identical biracial twins. It really does not take much insight to realize that my species, also known as gentlemen, impeccably exemplify a breed of indifferent idiots rushing toward the ‘battlefield of flirtation’ without optimal training, quality weapons or strategic thought. That said, I consider myself a relatively intelligent and highly intuitive young man. Not once have I subscribed to or exhibited the kind of reckless behavior vividly described above, at least not until my brain partly processed and sparsely internalized the subtle image of this remarkable dark-skinned female species displaying an outlook unbecoming of mainstream ideas of a ‘classy’ woman…
My grandma often warned me never to touch a girl’s hair. Any African in his right mind would not dare confront, let alone question an elderly woman’s instruction pertaining to maters of lineage or tradition. For reasons known only to our elderly, ‘our ways’ vehemently stipulated I keep my rough manly hands miles away from the black keratin serenating the soft scalp of a member of the opposite sex; that is, a woman’s hair. Grandma’s words, just like my father’s, God rest his soul, somehow never connected with my intuitive brain. Their words often reminded me of those boring mathematical formulas which students repeatedly recited with priestly devotion but rarely applied them correctly when solving examination questions.
Curiosity to approach the mystique lady gripped my mind harder than a hyena’s deadly bite. So vicious is a hyena’s bite that once this laughing creature clutches its prey’s flesh, its ‘steel jaws’ naturally lock only to open after it rips off a massive chunk of meat from the helpless moaning animal. The spell now cast, emotions somehow overriding all logic, my feet begun marching forward meticulously, merging perfectly with the rhythm of my heartbeat. It felt like I was walking on a tight-rope with a blindfold tied tightly around the eyes and handcuffs solidly securing my arms behind my back. Oshun, Orisha of Love, must have felt pity on my foolish self that she swiftly birthed an idea in my mind just as I sat down beside ‘lady mystique’.
“Excuse me Miss, you’ve got some grass on your hair” I said calmly.
Outwardly, my body looked confidently cool, calm and composed. Inwardly, all the regular body operations dragged, jerked and shouted “System Overload!” Nonetheless, the first part of my plan had taken root successfully. ‘Lady mystique’ slowly attempted to clean the imaginary ‘mess’ that she thought lay embarrassingly on her thick dark afro.
“Has it all come off?” she innocently asked.
“Just a little more on the left; don’t worry I’ll get it out for you” I sneakily replied.
I skillfully began to stroke her hair softly; first on the right side and then artistically proceeded to the left. I could not risk reshaping the one sculpture that every lady spends most of her time and money on: hair. Before I could complete the honorary task of ‘de-grassing’ the natural crown of ‘lady mystique’, the forbidden occurred. Our eyes met. I knew I had overstepped the zone of no return. It happened so fast that my mind experienced a terrifying short-circuit. The glitch sparked off a spiritual tsunami, which generated an electromagnetic reaction that in turn ignited an emotional overdose! In simple terms, I collapsed.
To say the truth, it happened like a three-punch technical knockout; what boxers call a TKO. When my eyes and those of ‘lady mystique’ met, a strange red light sucked my mind into a ghostly trance. Next, I heard Grandma’s cautionary words; they begun as a whisper then grew into an ungodly high-pitch sound which ruthlessly tore my eardrums igniting a mental trauma. Finally, my eyes slowly opened just before I head-butted the concrete floor and blacked out. The rest is difficult to disclose. I remember very little about the events of that mysterious Monday when I met ‘lady mystique’. All I Can say is I have never touched a girl’s hair since that day.
© Atandi Anyona 2013
Word: Tradition. Trigger: The lady sitting on the third staircase (left side), wearing a yellow t-shirt and spotting a cool afro.