Shawn looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, pleased with the image he saw. He’d showered, brushed his teeth, and had just finished fixing the mane of hair on his head. He’d been growing out freeform dreadlocks for a little over a year now. As cool as they looked (now), they’d become a handful. He often tied his hair back or wore a headband to prevent it getting in the way, especially when he was playing football.

But today he decided he’d wear his hair down. He’d have his first “official” date with Rose today, and he wanted to look his best. He’d gone to the barber last night and made sure his hair looked less Mau Mau and more Lenny Kravitz. He’d shaved his beard after Rose had said she liked the cleaner look on him, and he hadn’t let it grow out since. He’d started to like the beardless look too. He looked younger, less world-weary. It didn’t hurt either that his jawline got to have its moment.

He moisturised his skin, which always seemed in need of moisture, and sprayed on perfume. Shawn didn’t like to pay too much attention to how he looked, but he couldn’t bear leaving the house without wearing some sort of fragrance. He took pride in smelling good, and it stoked his ego that people remembered that about him. He left the bathroom in his underwear and walked to his bedroom, ready to get dressed and leave the house.

He’d agonised over what to wear as he lay in bed the night before and most of the day today.

He wanted to look his best and impress Rose, and knowing her, she’d be dressed to the nines. He didn’t want to look out of place next to her, especially when they were going out to a nice restaurant for dinner. He wanted her to be proud of him, and a part of him also wanted people to be envious when they saw him.

He’d settled on a long-sleeved white dress shirt and a pair of black skinny jeans. He wasn’t feeling dressy enough to wear more formal trousers. Besides, the jeans looked good and told the world (and Rose) that he wasn’t taking things too seriously and could be laid back. He didn’t want to look like he was going to a business meeting. The date was supposed to be fun and relaxed, and as much as he wanted to look good, he wanted to dress that way too.

He’d decided sneakers would be a little too casual for the date, especially the pairs he had; a pair of low-top Jordan 1’s, some Converse All Stars, and a few pairs of Vans. He wanted a pair that was a little more “grown up” than what he was used to wearing to the office every day. For that reason, he’d gone earlier in the day to the city centre in Nairobi, to a shop he had only been in once before (window-shopping, no less), and bought an expensive pair of black leather Chelsea boots. They cost way more than any other pair he’d ever bought. They took a large chunk out of his already modest paycheck, and he rationalised the purchase by telling himself the shoes were very high quality (which indeed they were) and that he’d use them for many years to come (that remains to be seen). But for the date, they were more than worth it, and really that was all the reason he needed.

But now, looking at the clothing laid out on his bed, he felt he needed to change one of them. There was something off about the outfit, but he wasn’t sure what. He thought it might be the shirt, that it would look a little weird paired with the jeans and the boots. But he really liked the shirt, and wanted Rose to see him in it, so he wasn’t keen on switching it. He wasn’t keen on switching the jeans either because he didn’t really want to wear chinos or dress trousers.

He walked to the kitchen, where his mother sat at a small table in a corner of the kitchen, looking through sales made by a flower business she’d recently started. She looked up as he entered the kitchen, looking at him curiously over her glasses.

“Mom, could you come and help me with something?” Shawn asked.

“With what?”

“Clothes that don’t seem to match.”

“Clothes for your date?”


“Is that what those expensive shoes you bought today are for?”

“What makes you think they were expensive?”

“I know you,” she said with a smile. “You wouldn’t buy just any shoes for a date, especially now with all that money you’re earning. Aren’t you the same person who refused to wear a hand-me-down suit to Aunty Linda’s wedding?”

“Would you just come and help me and leave my tastes and my shoes and my money alone?”

“Okay, just give me a minute.”

Shawn walked out of the kitchen and back to his room. He opened the door to his wardrobe and looked inside. After coming back home after a few years living and studying abroad, he’d realised that the distance had improved his relationship with his parents. He felt freer and more comfortable with them now, and they seemed to see him as less of a child now. They’d even offered him his childhood room back until he settled in and found a place of his own.

Shawn’s mother walked into his room and saw the clothes laid out on the bed and immediately said: “That shirt…”

“I thought it might be the shirt, but I wasn’t sure,” Shawn said.

“Don’t you have one with short sleeves?”

“I do. Do you think it’ll go better with the other clothes?”

“I think so. Try it on and let’s see.”

Shawn took out a white dress shirt very similar to the one he’d originally picked out, but this one had short sleeves. He showed it his mother, who nodded, and he put it on. He put on the rest of the outfit, shoes included, and looked at his mother.

“I think this looks better than that other shirt,” she said. “Turn around?”

Shawn did and his mother nodded in approval.

“This is good. You look very handsome my son.”

“Thank you. Let’s hope Rose thinks so as well.”

“Even if she doesn’t, my opinion is the only one that matters.”

“Of course, Mom,” Shawn said with a laugh. “Thank you very much, I’ll head out now to pick her up.”

“Have fun,” his mother told him as he walked to the door.

“There’s something for you to give to her by the door, don’t leave without it.

“And please don’t take her home very late,” she continued, “remember the manners I taught you. And don’t misbehave please.”

“Misbehave? What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about dear mother,” Shawn said as he walked out the door, picking up a beautiful bouquet of flowers that sat by the door.

Shawn got into the car and drove off, the bouquet of roses on the seat next to him. It was just past seven o’clock and it would take him at least ten minutes to drive to Rose’s house. He’d told her that he’d pick her up at 7:30, and he wasn’t going to be late, even if she was. As he stopped at a junction and waited for the traffic lights to turn green, he smiled to himself. He was nervous about the date, nervous about how it would go, but he’d also really enjoyed getting ready for it and especially dressing up for it. And now that the date was so close, he realised that he wasn’t just nervous, but excited as well.