Remember that shop where you used to buy balloons when you were young? Does the shop still exist? I laughed at myself the other day when my friend Jack reminded me how we used to blow balloons and how the big ones always appeared to be at the center of that square board with balloons attached to numbers. So you go to that shop that sell balloons, give two shillings to the shop keeper and then choose a random number from the board. You hope that your number unlocks the big balloon. Sadly, nine out of ten chances always landed on the small ones.
Now you have to walk back home with your small balloon feeling wasted as you try to inflate it. You invest energy and dry breath inflating a balloon with the hope that it will pull one of those ‘…the smaller the balloon the larger it inflates…’ kind of thing. Why were the small balloons always tighter and harder to inflate anyway?
I was four when I learnt to blow up a balloon. It’s now twenty five years since then and trust me, I think blowing up balloons is the best skill I ever learnt in school. To date, I have blown up more than small and big balloons. I have blown up opportunities, relationships, academics, name it. I have blown up more things in my life than I have applied trigonometry. I wonder why I never meet balloon-hawkers in town. I think it would be relieving for people with a blown up life like mine to have a balloon corner at the CBD, just like smokers, so that once in a while, we go there with our balloons and just feel ourselves investing dry energy in them. Therapy is not cheap, but balloons are.
Jack literary blew my mind way when I asked him about his girlfriend and he responded with “I blew it up!” He’s been insisting on finding out who my lady is so when he brought the topic up again last week, I threw it back at him like I always do.
“Mama wa kwako ako aje Mbai?” Jack asked me
“Mama yupi?” I asked him almost immediately.
“Hehe! Kwani uko na wangapi?”
“It depends with we unajua mgani! Ask about a specific person nitakupea a specific answer! You know you can be asking about tomatoes and am here answering bout Oranges!”
“Ule dame yako wa TL?” He asked. I smiled as I gave him that eye that says ‘tell me more’. We laughed. I could tell he had someone in mind but wasn’t sure whether to mention her name or to hold the thought.
“Boss! Hehe! wife ako aje?” I asked him. Jack did not notice the spin.
“Niliachana na yeye!” he said
I was tempted to ask if he meant aliachana na yeye or aliachwa but I held back that thought. I have listened to many relationship dramas and unions at Kilimanjaro lavish than I have at any other joint in town. Therefore noticing a brother is indirectly in search of someone to talk to, I choose to be polite.
“What happened?” I ask him
“Mi nilikua depressed!” Jack responds.
I tuck my right hand inside the left hand; look straight at him as I willingly lean to the back of the seat. What is one supposed to do when a brother opens out to you and mentions depression? Did you guys learn about handling depression in school ama like me, you were busy blowing up balloons and matching the patterns in the ceiling?
“Mbai, mi siko poa!” Jack begins to recite. “I have this condition that comes and goes from time to time. So when it comes, ninakua depressed. And it has extremes. Naeza kua am happy one minute then all of a sudden I loose energy and start feeling low. At times when am depressed, I make decisions zingine poa, zingine sio poa. I have been handling it well but you know depression is like a balloon. It can inflate your head and when it’s too much, you can just blow up!”
“So what happened with your lady?” I asked him
“I went and told her nataka tuachane!” Jack said.
“Ivo tu? Ama mbona mlikua mnaachna?” I said, using the help of my hands to try make him explain
“I told her am depressed and I would feel better tukiachana, at least juu nilifeel maybe tukiachana ataacha kukua worried about me!” Jack responded with a low emotional tone.
I don’t know about you but let me just ask; when you love someone, regardless of whether you are depressed or not, do you let them go or you fight off your depression to be with them? He told me how much he loved her but also mentioned how worried she would become whenever he was depressed. I didn’t remember to ask how long they have been together but at least he mentioned it’s slightly been a month since he broke up with her.
“Do you miss her?” I ask him
“Buda kwanza niko na ile kiu enye she’s the only one who knows how to quench it!” he responds. We laugh
“So why don’t you go to her and apologize?” I ask.
Jack says it’s not easy. He tells me how he has done it already. Twice in fact. He tells me how the second time he tried to apologize, he blew up everything. He had called her to town on a Friday evening for a drink. He wasn’t expecting she would agree to turn up. She agreed.
So Alice comes to town to meet up with a depressed Jack. She tells him how she doesn’t have money and they agree that Jack will give her some kidogo cash to use as transport back home. Alice makes her way to club waves at round 8pm that Friday only to find Jack blown up by beer. But he holds his shit together after recognizing her. He orders a drink for her and they start catching up – he actually does the talking while she listens. It’s said that there are two things a man can’t hide; when he is high and when he is in love. But do they say anything about a man who is high, in love and depressed at the same time?
When a man is high, he opens out to the woman he loves. When a man is depressed and high at the same time, he cheats on the woman he loves. Jack did both. That Friday, he started drinking four hours before Alice arrived. By the time he was clocking two hours, he had called Jane and asked her to join him for a drink. Jane is one of those women that a guy keeps close just in case the sugar in his tea needs to be stirred up a little. Jane arrived an hour after Alice and Jack had met. By then, Alice was a bit tipsy and Jack had told him how things had been rough on him since breaking up with her.
Jack had taken in enough beer so it made it easy for him to seamlessly open out to Alice and tell her how since the breakup, he had tried to get her off his head by sleeping with the likes of Jane but all in vain. Jack had even apologized to Alice and she had promised to think about them getting back together. They had tossed and were just about to ask for another round when Jane walked in.
“It was nasty!” Jack says.
I put my right hand on my chin, leaned forward and the only words that came out of my mouth were “Shieet!” I almost felt for a cheating man. “So what happened?” I asked him.
“Jane kilijiintroduce! Ati hi, am Jane! Alice aliniangalia akajam! Then akajitoa!”
“Wait! Where did she go to? You were to give her fare back home?” I recounted
“Mi ata sijui! I have never seen her since that day. She doesn’t speak to me or pick up my calls. Ata text hajibu!” Jack bemoaned. He looked like someone feeling sorry for his skin.
“You don’t do that to a girl you guy! Why don’t you just let her go?” I advised.
“Because I can’t!” Jack said. “Mbai, that girl takes care of me bana! She handles me in manner that no other girl can. Yes! There have been other girls like Jane but Alice is the one. She is the reason I wake up in the morning kupiga hustle manze. And I miss her” he added.
I have read and heard stories about men having three types of girlfriends at any given time. The trophy – a beautiful girl who elevates your standards amongst friends, the bedroom bully – may not be beautiful enough to introduce to friends but has unrivalled bedroom skills and finally the zip clipper. She is those ladies you hear people say a man marries someone who is like his mother. The zip clippers open a man’s eyes to world of infinite possibilities. Their beauty and sweetness goes beyond the surface of their skin.
Dear Alice, I don’t know if you really are Jack’s zip clipper. I don’t know if he expected me to write this piece or whether his confession in this story will ever get to you. I don’t know how you go home that night or if he again did his business with Jane. All I know is this; that Jack has no one else to blow up balloons with besides you. I asked him what he would tell you if you agreed to meet up with him and this is what he said.
“There’s nothing left to tell her. She has seen everything and the real picture is in the sky. Kiburi yangu imefika soo. I convince myself that I need her in my life because she brings out the man in me but truth be told; It’s true I need her back.”