“I Saved Your Bucket”
An Original Love Story by Shama Mrema
ferociously calm eyes,
dark black braids down to her back,
gorgeous natural face, and
the body of a model.
12-year-old me described her as “pretty.”
But that single word did her beauty no justice
neither does the above description I so eloquently attempted to put together.
I was back in Tanzania.
11 years old, fresh off the plane after spending 9 years in the US.
See, I had grown up in the US till my parents became missionaries back to my own country.
They returned with me.
all-American 5th grader, ready to put my motherland in submission.
(Wow. That didn’t sound good at all, but you understand what I’m saying and I refuse to backtrack and correct it.)
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
We moved into a compound 30 minutes from the beach and 15 minutes from the airport.
It was a beautiful 2-story, 5-bedroom, 6.5-bathroom house
(equipped with AC, electricity, and 2 acres surrounding the house)
Yes, all of the above were available there. Tanzania is in East Africa and that place is modern yo.
Our house had a 15-foot high brick wall surrounding it.
With only 3 gates.
A front gate for a car, a small one next to it for pedestrians/bikes, and the third on the other side of the compound for walking the cows out to graze and other stuff. Outside the back gate was somewhat a valley which had grazing grass for our 6 cows. The little valley also had a well about 40 feet away. Nothing awesome. Just a 20-foot-deep, no-lid, cement cylinder in the ground. Occasionally people would come and fetch water.
And others would illegally bring their livestock to graze around the well.
In order to avoid the latter, the people that constructed the house, wall,
and 10×10 gate made a very small hole in the metal gate.
So we could peek on people knocking, and spy on people trespassing.
One day at about 12pm, I happened to be on the other inner side of our compound and I looked through the peephole.
And. I. Saw. Her.
The most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
She was wearing a black tank top and a yellowish wrap around her waist.
She carried one bucket and she walked up the tiny dirt road to the well like it was a runway.
I stood on my tiptoes for about an hour.
Watching her come,
lower the pail,
fill the pail,
pull the pail up,
dump it in her bucket,
She then proceeded to place it on her head,
and repeat the process all over again.
I had never seen anyone like her.
Daily she came.
Sometimes she would come with a friend.
And I could tell she had a great sense of humor because she always managed to keep herself and her friend smiling and entertained.
Being 40 feet away with only one eye on a a scorching hot metal gate, I never heard anything.
Just the faint, high-pitched sound of feminine laughter.
I finally asked my friend Chezdio if he knew the girl, and after peeking through the hole, he said, “Yes, her name is Stella.”
It even sounded beautiful.
I couldn’t be more excited!
I finally put a name to the face I was infatuated by.
A few weeks of constant stalking later, my friend told me to go say something to her.
“How do I start?”
“Will she like me back?”
“I feel like I know her ‘cuz I’ve watched her so much.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I’ll wait till the right time”
“There is never a better time than the present.”
A saying I wish 12-year-old Shama knew.
Finally I mustered up the courage after watching her go to and fro, through the oh-so-limited peephole frame.
“I was gonna say something to her .”
“I’m gonna holla at her.”
“I’m gonna man up and leave the comfort of this two-story house and safety of these tall walls and I will speak with Stella.”
That’s how I pep talked myself.
Finally a day came.
Sometime between 12 and 1 pm as usual.
one cheek on metal,
one eye in peephole,
one scorching hot African sun,
and one Stella.
She was just a girl, but she was on fire.
No Alicia Keys intended.
She tossed the fetching pail tied to a rope.
She pulled it up with water,
poured into her bucket.
Pulled up again to fill her now 1/2 full bucket.
She tossed again and pulled up… the rope.
Just the rope.
No bucket, and I could tell that a mix of anger and disappointment had taken her over.
She went home with her half empty bucket and a handful of rope.
Knowing how to troubleshoot that particular issue, I went and grabbed a long stick with a wire hook on the end.
I opened up the door and marched down there like I was Superman about to save Lois Lane.
I hooked the bucket,
pulled it up,
and tied a piece of rope onto the saved bucket.
Contemplating departure so I could continue to stalk Stella from my not so comfortable hidden distance,
I convinced myself to stay.
And I did.
And a 25-foot-long makeshift stick towering in my right hand.
Before I could conjugate and rehearse what to say when she approached,
I turned around to see her walking towards me.
was going through my head.
(You know, when your brain forgets to brain)
The girl of my dreams.
The object of my affection.
Miss pretty eyes.
The light-skinned princess was approaching me and I turned around to look her in the face, and the only words that came out of my mouth were…
“I saved your bucket!”
Amused and with an awkward look on her face she said,
which is Swahili for “Thank you.”
“Geez, she even sounds like an angel!”
I thought to myself.
“What do I say next?”
“Where do we go from here?”
“How many children will she want to have?”
I kept on reasoning all this to myself and finally I pointed with my thumb behind my back and said,
“I live up there on the second story.”
“That’s nice,” she said as she picked up the pail from the side of the well and tossed into the water.
“Well, I gotta go,” I responded.
Hasting up the hill to the gate I walked,
dragging the saving stick in my hand.
And my dignity as well.
I didn’t have to go.
I was done with homeschool for the day.
All I was gonna do was stalk her anyway.
I could’ve stayed.
I should’ve stayed.
She coulda been Mrs. Mrema right now.
Or maybe not.
I still wonder how it was supposed to be.
I still wonder how it was supposed to be.
I ended up asking Stella out one day after the “Well Encounter.”
She rejected me and ended up dating some Average Joe in our neighborhood.
For some odd reason, puberty, euphoria, and hormones had my feelings in submission.
She crashed the party of my emotions,
but refused to stay when I invited her into my heart </3
Stella now lives 10 minutes from my parents’ house in Tanzania
and she has 2 kids, with the same guy she started dating after I saved her bucket.
Stella was my first infatuation
and I learned that…
I didn’t learn a thing.
I just thought this story was pretty cool and apparently, you did, too.
That’s why you’re still reading this.