Gone in 60 Seconds

7

He told me this story a little over a year ago. So it isn’t that old a story.

At least not as old as the last time Arsenal won anything. See, unlike Arsenal, who struggle to recreate the memories of how it feels to lift a trophy, he can remember everything about this girl to the tinniest of details. I met Jay in 2021. He had read my blog posts especially the boys and girls series, they intrigued him and he inevitably became an avid reader of the blog. He was religious, to say the least. One of those who would send me a text every Thursday at noon to ask whether I had posted anything and also get very disenchanted if I failed to post.

He loved reading my blog. He never commented though. He always posted a love after reading but never at any one time did he leave a comment. He would follow up with long thoughtful conversations on chat or text telling me what he thought about the post and asking questions. This one time we had a prolonged discourse on how I loved to mix ‘archaic’ words with modern language. He wondered whether that was merited. When I told him that I was a linguistics major in undergrad, he quipped that I should find him the law in linguistics that allows one to mix old and modern English. I told him that even if that law existed, I had long forgotten about it. I just loved writing and sometimes the rules would be a tad ignored, not always though.

When I asked him why he never left a comment, he said that that was a lot of work and that he preferred to be anonymous.

“I am a private person. I don’t like too much scrutiny.” He said. I wondered who would follow up on his comments on such a small blog. He told me that you never know. “It’s a very small world, a very small messed up world.” Jay clearly has trust issues. He doesn’t allow anyone to know him that much and neither does he open up. He’s the kind of a guy who will count his cash after withdrawing it from the ATM. He seriously believes that the Automated Teller Machine can con him.

I asked why he didn’t subscribe to my blog as well. He said that he didn’t have a working email address and he wasn’t looking to register one.

“That’s weird of you,” I probed “Who doesn’t have an email address in 2023?” Jay told me that he didn’t care much for technology. Whenever he had something that required an email address, he always used his work mail that he didn’t have to keep going back to unless a client really needed him to.

Jay is one of those rare young men who harbor within themselves terribly old souls. He always dresses in suits. Hardly do you ever find him dressed down unless he is in the house, mountain climbing or at the gym. He believes in looking sharp. He’s always cleanly shaven, beards well trimmed and oiled, and he does his nails. When he walks into a room, you’ll notice his shoes. It is like he invests in shoes. When I asked about them he said that he had more than 60 pairs of shoes; he collects them for fun. He loves to smell nice but he doesn’t wear one of those choking colognes that people insist on. His is mild but bold, quiet but very distinct. If you know him then you know what he smells like.

He’s a finance guru. At only 32, he has worked for two of the biggest banking institutions in the country and a multinational. He resigned two years ago to start his own consultancy and, needless to say, he isn’t doing too badly. He runs an offices in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, has a staff base of about 12 and is looking to expand. When he moved from the multinational, he was fortunate to leave with a few clients. “These three clients have kept me afloat for the period of time when we were starting.” He tells me.

So Jay had a story. A boys and girls story that he wanted to share and I obliged.

He had gone in for his routine shave one Friday afternoon. He doesn’t do Saturdays because everyone does Saturdays. He isn’t cliché, doesn’t like being predictable at all. He doesn’t like to wait on the queue either so he always schedules his hair dates.

“When I walked into the barbershop, there was literally zero traffic,” Jay tells me “It was just my barber and a wash girl. I loved it that way anyway.”

He hadn’t seen this one before, the wash girl. She was new. The barber would tell him later that that Friday was actually her first day there. “She didn’t look like a wash girl to me. She was a little bit too polished. She spoke fluent English, dressed very well and had exceptional etiquette. To me, she looked like a middle level manager in some company and not a wash girl.” Jay says.

So he did his hair, had it washed and got the usual head massage. Only that, the head massage was professionally done this time round.

“A lot of times, a head massage just leaves you with gallons of oil on your face and head.” Jay quips.

This girl knew what she was doing. She was thorough and took her time. She was so professional that she only talked to him a couple of times when she asked whether the water was too hot, or whether his posture was comfortable, or whether he had done a facial in a while and lastly when she asked whether he was now okay. Jay had never had that kind of service in a barbershop. He was impressed.

That day passed. He would come for his usual hair date every week and leave without saying a word to the wash girl. But he had started liking her. There was just something about her that kept tagging at the love strings in his heart. Because of how good she was, he would always ask whether she was available every time he was scheduling an appointment. If she wasn’t in, he would move the appointment to another day. He thought that this was purely professional but truth be told, his heart was now leading his mind.

They had never had a conversation lasting more than two sentences. Theirs would follow the format of a Q and A session. It lasted for a while until one day Jay spoke out. This one day, he needed a haircut late in the evening because he needed to attend a function early the next day.

“When I called my barber at around 8.30 p.m. he said that I could come only that Gina might not wait up for me. He said that it was really late and she had had a very long day.” Jay tells me. He asked the barber to kindly ask Gina to wait and added that he was willing to pay her something small for working overtime. She agreed to it. It was on this day that he finally held a proper conversation with her. He asked her name. Where she was from because she didn’t speak the local dialect. What she had studied and why she was working in a barbershop and very many other questions. When he was about to leave, he finally got the guts to ask for her number.

“She chuckled and walked away,” He says “I, at that point knew that that meant no so I prepared to leave.” Gina however walked to the counter scribbled something on a tiny piece of paper and passed it to onto Jay in the same way that peddlers pass on drugs in a busy street. No one saw what she had done. He tipped her, handsomely, and left. When he got into his car, he unfolded the paper to find her name, phone number and a smiley. That was the first time in a very long time that someone had done something that cheesy to him. He couldn’t help but smile sheepishly as he keyed in the number into his phone. He didn’t talk to her that day or the day after. Actually, he didn’t talk to her for another month. He maintained his norm; he’d schedule an appointment, come, get his hair done, get a wash, head massage, pay his bill, tip his wash girl and head out.

“So why didn’t you talk to her all this time?” I asked Jay.

“Mwendwa, truth is I didn’t know exactly where to start with her. I didn’t want it to look like I was coming on too strong and I didn’t want to make her feel awkward whenever I came to the barber shop. I was also struggling to manage my feelings because at the time, I was actually seeing someone else.” He alluded.

“So when did you finally start talking to her?” I asked Jay.

“So this one day,” Jays starts, amidst a stutter and a laughter “Gina had washed my hair and was done with the head massage. As she removed the towel around my neck, she placed her palm on my cheek, turned my face toward her and said, ‘please return my number if you don’t plan on using it’. She then walked away.”

That got me laughing for a couple of minutes. But it was then that Jay sent out the first message. What he thought would be a difficult conversation turned out to be a very easy one. It flowed. She was the kind of person he enjoyed talking to. She was really easy, intelligent and emotionally aware. In the words of a Gen Z, ‘they vibed’.

He discovered that she was actually a graduate. She had only started working in a barbershop because she had not gotten the job she wanted. She was still looking. She wasn’t born and bred in Jay’s town but she had moved there because she felt that she wanted something new, a challenge, something to chase-she was never one to settle for anything. She also didn’t like her hometown. She told Jay that it was toxic. She wanted to stay away from her family because they were toxic and her heart was exhausted. She needed a new start and break.

Jay fell for Gina the same way the Kenya shilling has fallen to the dollar-or worse still. So they started hanging out when she wasn’t working. It was a challenge because she worked long hours. She was paid on commission and the longer you worked the better the commission. Gina would later move from the barbershop and to an NGO slightly off town. That was a welcome move but her hours were still bad. It was a small NGO; she straightaway became a field officer. That meant long hours and lots of travel.

“We dated a lot on phone mostly. Seeing that both Gina and I were busy people. There are times we planned a date and she’d cancel last minute. It became a norm. Not something I enjoyed though.” Jay said.

“So did you break up with your significant other to date Gina?” I posed a bit perplexed.

“No,” He says “Gina knew that there was someone in my life and she was comfortable with it or so I thought.”

This relationship developed faster than they expected. Soon there was demand for time and more time. Questions were asked and answers needed to be given. “Who are we? What are we doing? What’s the future of this? Are we an item? What about your person? Can we be exclusive? When are we going to get intimate?” All these were questions asked and most of them didn’t have straightforward answers. Jay had gotten to a place that he needed to make a decision. He wanted to fully commit to Gina.

“I decided that I would have the conversation with her.” He tells me.

So one cold Tuesday evening in September, they met up. Gina was in the middle of a workshop in one of the hotels in town and couldn’t get a proper break so they met at the parking, inside Jay’s car. Jay would tell Gina that he was ready to go all in with her. He asked her to name all her TCs, right there, right then, he was ready. She stated a few, he said yes to all minus none. They agreed to go out to some place the next day to hang out and spend time together. They hugged, made out and said bye. Jay was elated. He felt that he had done the right thing.

He had gotten his girl, finally!

“We didn’t talk that night. She wasn’t online and I was a bit preoccupied with stuff at work. I remember sending a chat to saying hi and goodnight which wasn’t read or replied.” He said. He called the next day but her phone was off, the call went straight to voicemail. He tried again a couple of times only to find the same thing. Gina had gone offline. The whole of that week, he couldn’t find her on phone. When he called her work place they told her that she had taken a few days off. He couldn’t go to her place because; they had never visited each other’s houses. Simply, he couldn’t find her.

Gina was offline for more than three weeks and when she finally came back online, all she could say was that she was okay. She then went offline again. Jay didn’t understand what was happening. In the next week, Jay called Gina’s number but it didn’t go through. He chatted her up on WhatsApp and found that his number had been blocked. Gina couldn’t be reached, deliberately. Jay tried to find a way to reach her to no avail. He even talked to her workmates but none of them wanted to give him any information. She had told them not to talk to him about her.

Almost a year later, Jay has no answers. He has no idea what happened. He doesn’t know whether she is okay, what he might have done wrong or why she ghosted him.

“So what did you do Jay?” I ask him.

“What do you do? I could sit here and hope that the woman I fell for will one day come back to me and then end up passing over other opportunities to find love and happiness. Or I could decide that Gina is a grown up and she had her own reasons for doing what she did and just move on. I picked the latter.” Jay responded.

There’s one thing that hurts Jay about the whole thing. He tells me that all his life, he never allowed anyone to go past the walls to his heart. He didn’t trust much. He was always emotionally guarded. But he let that guard down with Gina. He let her in. He said that even though they didn’t get intimate a lot, he allowed her to know him deeply. He regrets that he let someone in who then left with a huge chunk of his heart never to come back.

“And how is that going now?” I inquire.

Jay forces a smile, albeit struggling not to look or sound too emotional and says, “Mwendwa, it is the hope that kills you! Ask any Arsenal fan!”

21 Comments
  1. This is incredible 🤩…..the story is an eye opener to the people who have never been hurt….I mean in terms of love affairs….to not always jump into conclusions on how people handle matters that deal with trust…let’s get to understand others more… thanks for the amazing story 🙏🏼

  2. Ask any Arsenal fan….this is character development pro-max. Then she will appear with an explanation ‘imeenda shule’

  3. Wow! Great! Tell Jay to keep hope alive, one day who knows Gina may show up! Or better still find answers! Such is life.

  4. I ‘felt it’ for Jay.
    I’m not an Arsenal fun😂 but I totally know how it feels when Jay says, ‘ It’s the hope that kills you!’

    I would love to read a follow up of Jay’s story in several weeks or months or years to come. I’m sure he will have something to be grateful for from this story. Thank you😁

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