In October that year, V was lost in herself. She had decided to spend time on herself. She wanted to explore her life. She wanted to try and figure out just how far she could go and what her limits were. She was still hopeful that some day she would see Ali again, so she kept herself busy while she waited. Some days she would sketch people, other days she would watch movies and series like she was on a mission, some other days she would spend writing, she no longer filled her journal, so she did lots of poems. On other days when she was completely idle, she would watch TV. One morning she did; she switched her TV to one of the local channels and stared at the woman’s face. Most of the media personnel at that time were more concerned with their outfits and their fake accents than the contents of what they were transmitting.
However, this day she seemed to have found a program she could actually listen to. It was about art. And she loved art. She watched a certain young man talk about his art with a passion. V wondered if she could ever get there. She watched on with zeal. It was exciting to see someone who did exactly what she did and excel at it. She wanted to be just as successful. She watched on and instinctively noted down his phone number when he gave it at the end of the program. She knew it was pointless, that most of those successful people hardly ever picked random calls; but she took down his number anyway. She had done this before; she had taken down a DJ’s number, and then a music producer’s and so on and so on, but she never made a point to call, because she knew it was pointless.
This particular day however, she felt like she had hit her limits. She had to get a life. She had to do something to keep her busy, and maybe this was just it!
“Yes… hello! Am I talking to Jimmy?”
“I’m V, I got this number on air today, and I liked the show”
He had poor English. She knew that because she had heard him fumble with words on the show. She brushed it off. She thought it was funny.
“I have the same talent as you and was wondering if you could be open to working with someone.”
“I have never worked with anyone, but sure, send me samples of your work and let me evaluate”
It was so simple. Too simple she almost didn’t believe it. Why wasn’t he a snob like most accomplished people? The guy had been on air, couldn’t he behave like it? She was glad, just a little surprised.
She sent the samples. He commented that they were good but not that great. She felt upset, as far as she was concerned, she was great, just waiting to be discovered. However, she decided to ‘play along’. V was one stubborn girl and when she was convinced about something, it was hard to get her mind off it.
They set up a date. She was to meet him with her samples and then they would decide on the way forward from then. She was broke. She figured she would need at least some money for startup. She asked her father for it. As usual, he did not give it to her. She asked her mother though she knew that that was a long shot. That same evening, her mum had three thousand shillings ready for her. V was touched. She promised herself that when her art picked up, she would complete her mother’s house as a sign of gratitude.
After a few rain checks, they met. She instantly noticed that he had a sweet smile, the kind that was infectious. She had been alone for too long she was scared that she would erupt. They met at Jimmy’s uncle’s house. V felt safe there because she expected there would be company. Back at the house, they were alone in the room, she was tense, too scared that she would embarrass herself in one way or the other. She sat on one side of the table, staring at his drawings. He sat on the other side, staring at her.
V didn’t need to be informed further. The moment she saw his drawings, she understood what he meant hers were not great. She realized he had been polite. Her drawings were merely rough sketches and had absolutely nothing on his. She had a lot to learn.
“I’d like you to show me how you do these drawings, they are just so great.”
“Everyone starts somewhere, don’t worry, you’ll get it at some point.”
She ignored the fact that he was peering at her breasts with his eyes. She felt uncomfortable but decided she wouldn’t do anything about it. Moreover Ali had assured her that he was coming to see her. She’d heard this song one too many times but she still believed him. She hoped every time that it was true. She wanted so bad to see him. She missed him.
“I have this drawing I’m expected to deliver to a client, but I never draw during the day, too much light it affects my eyes.”
“That’s ok. I only need to see you shade a drawing, it doesn’t have to be the real deal.”
He crossed over to her side. She was seated next to the door. He pulled the door and closed it. It was rather dark. She moved inches away from him. They were seated on a three-sitter sofa. He then hit the lights. He drew his drawing pad from under the table and made a quick sketch of an eye.
“Are you going to move closer and watch me shade or should I?”
“I can see you from here, don’t worry.”
“Are you scared of me?”
“Why would I be?”
He smiled. She smiled back. Then he went ahead to shade the eye.
“Siiiimple… just make light strokes till the whole drawing is covered”
“Oh, I see! Can I try that?”
She moved closer to him, took the pencil from him and started to draw. She would redo the eye and shade it just like she’d seen him do.
“No, use lighter strokes, ease up your hand.”
“Here, let me help.”
He held her hand like a nursery school teacher showing a child how to write the letter A. She loosened her hand and started to shade, following his strokes. She could see a slight difference. She knew that this would be fruitful. He let go and she kept stroking. She still couldn’t do it like him, but V was a fast learner and so she was confident she would soon get it right.
“So, what’s your story?” V was never comfortable with silence in the presence of strangers. And at that time, Jimmy was still a stranger to her.
“What do you mean, what’s my story?”
“Most artists are damaged people. What’s your story?”
“Assuming there was a story, why would I tell you? We just met.”
“You have a point.” Dead end to the small talk. She sighed. “I think I’ll leave now.”
“How’s the boyfriend?”
He has been promising to come for months now and I haven’t seen him in a long time, and we don’t really talk, but I really love him, though I have a feeling he moved on from me. But sometimes am usually confused and I just don’t know whether to move on. But I can’t because I’m bound by the promise I made to him earlier this year… “He is great.”
“That’s nice. Let me put these things in order then I’ll give you a push.”
Just then, someone knocked on the door. He stood up to open it. An older man walked in. From the looks of it, she could tell he was about twice his age. He had a newspaper rolled under his right armpit. He wiped little sweat drops from his forehead with the back of his left hand. He looked worn and exhausted. V almost got up to give him water; she remembered that she was a visitor in the house. The two men exchanged pleasantries. Then Jimmy introduced her as ‘a girl who saw me on TV, she too draws and she wants me to help her with her art work.’ It almost came out as a lie; the kind where schoolboys and schoolgirls would use homework as an excuse to see their boyfriends or girlfriends. She had only seen this in movies and had no firsthand experience. He introduced the older guy as his uncle. Being the girl she was, V made some small talk with him before explaining that she had to leave. The uncle looked at her with slight curiosity but agreed that she could go. He told her that she was welcome to come back another time.
When she left, Jimmy saw her out.
“You are quite fun to hang with.”
“Seriously, you’re interesting and funny and beautiful”
Ali called her beautiful all the time when they were still together. She however assumed it was more of a title than a compliment. V knew she was many things but beautiful. She’d never really cared what she looked like. All her life, people would notice her for her brains, and so she cared that she looked smart more than she cared about her beauty.
“Do you stay far from here?”
“Not quite. But I can get there by bike.”
“Let me walk you home?”
She wasn’t sure, but she had no particular reason to decline. They walked for about an hour but it didn’t seem that long. He was funny too. And she still couldn’t believe that this guy she had met on TV had actually found time for her. She was starting to picture herself as a big artist. After all, wasn’t networking important?
“So, V, when are we meeting for your next class?”
“I’m free tomorrow.” She offered.
“Tomorrow is Friday; I’ll be at the mosque.”
“Oh, I forgot you’re Muslim… How’s Monday? I’m awfully busy on weekends.”
“Monday is quite ok with me. I’ll not be around over the weekend anyway.”
“Same place, same time”
“Monday it is then.”
When she got home, they said their goodbyes and she rushed to the house. She couldn’t wait to call and tell Ali about her day. She deemed it a great achievement. She had hoped he would be excited like she was. She also wanted to deliver the news in a way that would make him jealous. She had no intentions of doing anything with Jimmy. Sure she liked his smile, and his art, but that was all. Ali didn’t see it that way. She could tell he was jealous. His responses were clouded with insecurity. Perhaps the trust was faded. Or maybe he understood that he’d been away for too long and was scared that perhaps she would get tired of waiting.