It started with a bicycle; His bicycle, my bicycle, a forest and a trail, long, quiet and a foggy trail. For a long time now, I always passionately talked about how cycling is my fourth love. When I am on top, I am in charge. And I love being in charge. I get on top of a couple of things, not just bicycles, and you know the power feels damn good. This should not surprise you since I am the first born in my family of a bunch of kids. Firstborns like me mostly have seen the wrath of our parents. Typical parents who beat you up when you are bullied and come home drenched in shameful tears.
One time my mother locked me up and my sister in our kitchen for letting my younger brother touch salt with a wounded finger. She came home from her errands in my hometown, Eldoret, only to find a bunch of neighbours kids hoping here and there in our compound. See, we were one of the few people who actually owned a home with a good-enough size compound for playing. My mother was also a darling and of course, my dad had planted lots of trees that was enough for all our neighbour’s kids to climb. So my mum comes homes and finds all these kids bubbling with fun, yet my younger brother, Butts, who was then the last born wailing in the kitchen. My mother’s rage knew no bound. She chased all the kids away and her wrath descended on my sister and I. After giving us six of the best (I hate that phrase) she locked us in the kitchen and dared us to escape.
I cannot tell whether it was out of fear or mischief, but my sister opened the door from a small opening and ran towards the gate.
“Umeamua kutoroka? Sawa kimbia na usiwai rudi hapa. Enda tuone utaenda wapi! (You have chosen to escape? Go, let’s see where you will live.)” My mum yelled after her.
Like a lost shameless sheep, she sauntered back to our kitchen prison.
Anyway, back to cycling.
My passion was birthed right there on that small compound in Eldoret. And this day, I am cycling with a boy I just met, a week ago at work. I had two reasons to hang out with this guy: he works at night so he isn’t typically an office-mate and two, he owned a bike! Whether expensive or not, it is a bike. And I love it.
Saturday morning, I see him cycle inside our office premise. The red rims on his bike seemed to invite me to say hi. His cycling gear made me wish I was on that bike. Sometimes I stammer when I get anxious and that day I did. So I asked our watchman who the bike guy is.
“I only see him once in a while on Saturdays. I will call him for you.” Kibet, our security guard, who probably likes me coz we hail from the same village, said.
So he signaled the guy, who waited for me to get to him.
“Hi I am Zumari, and cycling is my fourth love.”
“Hi… I am Mark. Do you want to cycle? You can have my bike as I go change.” Mark said as he stretched his hand towards me, after removing his gloves.
Is he blind? I am not in the right cycling clothes! I am wearing a body-corn, and for the first time that day, I regretted not wearing jeans on a weekend.
“No, thanks. Next time I will. Have you ever cycled on a trail, out of town? “I ask him as he packed his bike on some shade. I study him. He is petite, not as petite as me. He is fluent and sure of himself. He is taller than me. He owns a bicycle. His name is Mark that’s enough bad news.
I dated a Mark back in the day. Some piece of spoilt kid. I was a girl, he was a boy, but I was a girl who needed a man. So this Mark did not give me butterflies. Later on, I learnt, he believes love is a fallacy. Fool.
So a few days later, after my colleagues accused me of lacking a social life, I get the urge to engage in something that I love doing. So I reach out. I am scared of making the first move, but I tell myself, Mark is just a boy… Who owns a bike and I just want a cycling partner. Period. So I reach out.
” I am not a biker. I am a cyclist.”
Such an attitude! A man with an inflated ego!
“I know (insert stupid face emoji). Last time we met, you talked about cycling in Karura. Can we do that this weekend?” I say.
“I am up for it. Saturday 10 am in Karura.”
” Ok. What’s the starter pack?”
“Chocolate, water, gloves, and the right shoes. And oh bananas.”
Bananas? What for? But I couldn’t ask him.
That evening I went to Ngara and bought cycling shoes. I had the longest night. I couldn’t wait for morning. Me, cycling trail, a bike. And a boy I had only met and talked to once.
Flash forward. I arrive 1 hour 10 mins late and the boy did not bug me on my way there. I took in the breath of that chilly morning as I paid my entrance fee at the reception. I spot him on a bench, coiled in his gear. He looks at me and smiles. I smile back, with guilt. We hug briefly and I compliment his patience. Apparently, he says that is an attribute from his dad.
We go to the where the bicycles are parked to identify a good one for me. He already has his, that he had cycled from Kinoo to Karura. Oh boy!
I pay for my bike with instructions from the tender that we should be back within two hours.
As I mounted my mountain bike, I felt a burst of butterflies in my belly. As I saddled, I felt the wind hit my face with so much pleasure. I felt free. Isn’t freedom what we all crave for? All my nerves resonated with the fresh air produced by those trees.
“Geography was one of my favourite subjects.” He tells me.
“I loved geography coz I got to study the landscapes and oh the trips.”
He chuckled. I chuckle.
“Wangari Maathai did us a favour.”
“Would both of us be here, enjoying this if she hadn’t fought for the conservation of Karura?”
I smile. He looks at me. I smile again. I love smiles.
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We cycled for several kilometres. We passed a white man who was jogging. The trail was serene. I almost slid in a puddle of water. He kept asking me if my gears are fine. Once in a while, he would change the gear to fit the terrain. We talked about bikes. His crush bike is a “Bianchi for Scuderia Ferrari” SF01.
“Let’s race,” I said confidently.
“Mhh alright. Go ahead. I am giving you a head-start.”
I refused but after he insisted I obliged. I cannot remember who won, (I actually do but I am not telling) but my knees ached after that. Eventually, we found ourselves in a clear aisle-like trail. Trees made a canopy above us. He was ahead. He stopped. He sat on a bench. I sat next to him.
“You should eat bananas when you cycle. They are natures energy bars.”
He said as we shared the snacks we had.
“Who is your third love?”
“You said cycling is your fourth love. Who is your third?”
I smiled coyly. “Travelling and writing. I can’t choose between those two. I live for the road. If I could be paid to travel…”
As I keep talking about my love for telling stories. I watch his eyes. I feel the heat on my cheeks. Above us are angry clouds yet he looked like sunshine. I felt warm, warmer than the spring sunshine. He was a trap, a trap I have always wanted to fall in.
Mark talks fast. He says he is fast at everything other than love-making. He says he is a good cook and will cook for me someday. I agree to visit him…soon. He says he plans to cycle to Nakuru. I promise to cycle with him. He says if I don’t start practicing I won’t manage. Maybe one day, we will run away together and start a family of our own.
Mark says I talk with so much passion.
“You must value the thing that God has put into you.” He said as we cycled back to the same spot we started.
“Do you have any regrets whatsoever?” I ask. I watched his lips twitch. From under his helmet, his hazel eyes shone like sunlight on polished precious stone. This time, the hug lingered. A few minutes later, I watched him cycle away as my cab sped off back home.
Late at night, he calls me. “Zumari, your lips reminded me of a rosebud. Your lower lip had a cupid’s bow. I wanted to feel them against mine… My one regret… I should have kissed you.”
He breathes deeply and hangs up. I sink into serenity, just content to have been on that trail.