Long before the measure of affection for your girlfriend was quantified by your readiness and willingness to send her fare, couples spent quality time strolling estate roads, sipping Afia juice and buying low budget thoughtful gifts for each other. How much money you had to your name did not help or hurt your cause. People just genuinely liked each other.
I was raised in a rural area where extravagance was not glorified. We preferred simplicity because simple was enough and again, we did not have much anyway. As teenagers, it was prohibited for a boy and a girl to be seen walking side by side unless they were going or coming from church. In the village, everyone knew everyone, and gossip spread like wildfire with a pinch of gasoline. If you wanted to have any sort of romantic relationship, it had to be in secret. In a way, all that sneaking around just added to the thrill.
I come from a strict home where rules were followed to the letter. If you were supposed to be home by 7 pm, 7:05 was an indication of defiance. One that guaranteed a session of lecturing and stern ultimatums. We weren’t built to be rebellious or speak our minds. It is was what it was, and we had no say about any of it. Talking about girls or anything related to dating was seen as immoral. So, we suppressed it for as long as we needed to.
By my second year of campus, I was still a virgin. No one knew, honestly, I doubt anyone cared. It was me, my laptop and a course I didn’t like. Being busy with assignments and projects was the only silver lining of being in school because it left me little or no time to think about my hopeless social life. Plus, I now lived alone in a small rented house a few metres from campus. My neighbours were other campus students but our similarities ended there. They partied on weekdays and had secret affairs with lecturers, and then there was me, my only vice was watching pornography when everyone else was asleep.
Every story involving a boring guy changes when he meets a girl. My story is no different. I met Lizz at the end of my second year and we hit it off immediately. She was in nursing school and was on attachment in the school dispensary. We met when I went to get medicine for the serious case of diarrhoea I had struggled with after consuming roadside gizzards. The fact that I couldn’t even get a cool affliction speaks volumes about the dire state of my life.
She was my first. I wanted to see her every minute of every day. Some kind of reaction had occurred in my being that led me to think of only her. My favourite thing to do was to show her off to my buddies back in the village who hadn’t yet known the warmth of a woman. They didn’t say it but even a blind man could see the envy in their eyes. Oh, how the tide had changed.
Three short loving months into our relationship and it was already valentine’s day. It was the first of its kind. This time I was spoken for, I was in love. Lizzie, the nurse who quenched my thirst and took away my shame. She deserved more than the best, more than red matching outfits, she deserved a grand gesture of love. One she would remember for eternity.
All I knew was Afia juice and queen cakes. Lizz was well travelled and had seen interesting men, way more interesting than me, queen cakes wouldn’t cut it. My village instincts were defiant, urging me to refrain from flamboyance, reminding me that I had been cut from a simple cloth. I thought, “A humbled yet thoughtful gift, that is what I need to find.”
I spent weeks trying to find a gift that was thoughtful but not cheap. I had a thousand bad ideas in my mind. My buddies from the village had more terrible ones, one told me to take her to the agricultural show. Getting our faces painted didn’t seem romantic enough. One Friday evening as I went through my daily routine of pornography watching, I had a rush of genius. I was going to get her a bra!
I was so proud of myself that the next morning I was in a boutique shamelessly trying to explain the size of her breasts to the attendant. I didn’t realize that there were so many sizes to choose from. My only reference was that they fit perfectly in my palm. Visibly bored by my cluelessness, the attendant asked, “…are they bigger or smaller than mine?”.
Was she permitting me to look? Was it a trick question? I couldn’t take the risk, so I looked forward and said, “just give me the size that is the equivalent of the medium”. The air had already started feeling thick and warm, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable, I should have just taken her to the show to see the mermaid from Mombasa. “Would you like the matching panties as well?”.
“No please! Just the bra thanks you!”. As I was paying the bill, my phone began to buzz from my pocket. It was a call from my father. He and my mother were in town and wanted to say hello. I put the bra in my bag next to my laptop. I walked a short distance to the bank which was where my father had asked me to meet them. We spoke briefly and they asked me to go into the bank with them because they wanted to open a savings account for me.
My father sat across from me at the banker’s desk as he explained how the account worked. My mother sat on a bench next to where we were, with my bag on her lap. It was time to start the paperwork. I took the pen and started filling out the forms. My dad frisked himself for a pen to fill his forms. Without thinking, I told my mother that there was a pen in my bag, under the laptop.
She lifted out the laptop and then a medium-sized red laced bra fell to the floor of the bank. It is the collective gasps of the people queuing nearby that made me realize what I had done. My dad didn’t miss a beat when he asked, “Kijana, you are now wearing bras?”
Here is part 2 – If The Bra Fits: A Valentine’s Day Story Part 2