Binti Kiziwi

By Kau Makuei

I sit between Brian and Kibe on the side of a hill beside the soccer field at Sergero S.D.A. Secondary School, our backs facing the school huts. We gaze at the Cherangani Hills of Kenya and talk about anything and everything during our morning break.

“I can tell the distance to the Cherangani hills from the school,” Kibe boasts.

“I bet you can’t,” Brian teases.

I chuckle.

“Serious,” Kibe says. “The hills are about three kilometres from—”

“No way!” Brian shouts. “Man, I don’t know who taught you math.”

Brian laughs and I join in.

“Sine Theta taught him,” I say. Sine Theta is the nickname given to our math teacher, Mr. Sang. “And she taught you math too, Brian.”

Brian shakes his head. “Really?”

Kibe frowns. “Be my guest, then, and tell us what you think the distance is, Mr. Know-It-All,” he says.

Brian lies on his back and laughs. Kibe looks away, then plucks a blade of grass, sticks it in his mouth, and chews on it.

I turn sideways a little and see students in green sweaters standing in front of the classrooms. The girls wear forest green skirts and the boys black trousers. Other students sit nearby, on either side of us, on higher ground. Two boys get up and run down the incline to the dormitories beside the soccer field. A tall and curvy girl, making her way down the hill, walks in front of us. Brian sits up and we turn to watch her. The perfect model, I think. I look at Brian. His eyes remain on the girl. I look at Kibe. He still stares at the Cherangani hills, chewing on the blade of grass. I turn back to Brian.

“Do you know her?” I ask.

“Let’s find out.”

Brian makes to stand. I hold him back.

“What?” he says.

“Wait,” I say.

I look back at the girl. She sits below us on the grass, at the periphery of the field, her back towards us. I admire the back of her head. She must be a new student.

“You can go now,” I say.

Brian chuckles. He stands up and beats away pieces of dry grass from his trousers and sweater.

“Maybe Kau should go,” Kibe suggests.

“What?” Brian says.

“What?” I say.

Good idea, I think. Brian usually gets to go for all the beauties. It should be my turn.

“Let Kau go,” Kibe says.

Brian puts his hands in his pockets, looks at the girl, and then turns his gaze on me and smiles. He looks at his watch and reluctantly sits back down. “Call me if you need help.”

I stand up, brush off my trousers and sweater, and look at Brian and Kibe. I sigh and tramp down the hill. I reach the girl and take a deep breath.

“Hey,” I say and smile. She turns to look at me. I blush at the sight of her chocolate-brown baby face and big chocolate-brown eyes. “I thought it wasn’t good for a beautiful girl to sit alone.”

She smiles back, revealing nicely-spaced, sparkling white teeth, and then looks away.

A poor pickup line, I think to myself. Why did I say beautiful? Of all the words—beautiful! I could have used lovely, gorgeous, stunning, cute….

“My name is Kau.”

I sit down beside her. She looks at me. Our eyes lock. I smile.

Silence.

She looks away to the Cherangani hills. I follow her gaze.

“Aren’t the hills beautiful?” I say. She grins.

Beautiful, again? Magnificent would have been a better word.

I turn my head and look back up at Brian and Kibe. Brian says something to Kibe. They laugh. I wonder if they can hear us. I hope not.

“So, what’s your name?” I ask.

Silence.

“It must be a beautiful…lovely name.”

She covers her mouth with her right palm and turns her head to look at a nearby group of girls standing and chatting. 

Silence.

I look up at Brian and Kibe again and smile in an attempt to show that all is well and under control.

“Do you speak English?” I ask the girl. She turns her head from the group of girls towards the Cherangani hills.

Unaongea Kiingereza?” I repeat the question in Swahili.

More silence.

I look at her face and see annoying arrogance in place of the once alluring baby face. Her innocent eyes now look dark and evil.

“You must be a new student,” I say more to myself than to her.

The bell rings. Time for class. I silently thank God for the bell.

“Nice to meet you,” I say and stand up to leave.

I run towards Brian and Kibe.

“What’s her name?” Brian yells.

Binti kiziwi,” I shout back.

Brian and Kibe laugh.

“Binti” is Swahili for “daughter”—often used in front of a girl’s name to represent “miss”—and “kiziwi” is Swahili word for “deaf.”

“Hey!”

I hear a voice behind me. I turn and see the girl walking towards me.

“What did you just call me?” she asks.

I smile.

My turn to remain silent.