I had seen spotless sitting spaces before, but not like Caren’s. I’d visited freshened houses before, but not like Caren’s. Bedecked rooms, I’d sat in before, but not like Caren’s. All over her cream walls, in this sitting room, hung framed exquisite photos—of her and a burly man, with a curved mustache—her father I supposed, or uncle–and pieces or art that granted the room an exclusive air. In one of those pieces of drawings, I saw, a baby antelope flattened on the grass—in the wilderness, by a lion’s mighty paw. Two long blue couches, flanked an oval glass table, at the middle of the room. And a vase of china, on this table, held some sweet-smelling yellow flowers, which I couldn’t identify. Beside the vase, a bowl of green and red apples rested. A fridge, a plasma TV, and several speakers, stood on the side of the wall opposite the entrance door. All this, I caught while I waited by the opened door. Caren had already stepped on her brown carpet, and Shish had removed her shoes (which she placed on the rack inside the house, a stride from the door) and would head for the couch presently. “Taifa, come in, come in—and close the door,” said Caren.
“Oh, yap,” said I. My shoes, I pulled, by degrees. With each degree, I widened my nostrils and inhaled the air around to detect if my socks would cause mighty discomfort in this house. “Aaa…yap,” said I—to myself, “yap…this is—not so…not so baad…yap.” On the rack, I too placed my shoes; I handled them like eggs. Then I cleared my voice and moved to sit beside Shish. Caren still stood by the opposite couch, regarding me. Now, she said, “Ah, it is quite hot in here—do you feel it, Shish?”
“Mhn-mnh,” said Shish.
Caren walked to the window, and yanked the blue curtains open. She also pushed the panes open. “Ah, better now. Is it not, Taifa?”
“Yap,” said I. My feet, I squeezed them together, and stepped one on the other—if this would inhibit the smell. I cleared my throat again, then rotated my left eye alone to regard my shoes on the rack, and warn them.
Anyway, Caren walked back from the window and stationed herself before us, smiling. “Feel free. Shish. You are home.” She crossed her hands below her breasts, and continued: “Before we eat, what will you drink?”
“Me? I will serve myself,” said Shish; she rose and paced to the fridge, and picked a bottle of some thick dark drink. Back to the couch, she threw herself.
“Taifa—you—you can also serve yourself—” said Caren.
“No. Just give me water. Aahm, yap.”
“Aahm…yap,” said I, nodding.
Through the kitchen door, on the right side of this room, she went. While she stayed in there, I turned to Shish, and said, in a voice that a rat couldn’t hear:
“Shish, shish! What—what does…what does she do?”
“Shhhh!” said Shish.
“Shish,” I tapped her left thigh, “what does she—”
A spoon, or something like that, tinged on the kitchen floor, so I paused.
Then I continued. “—Shish,” her knee, I tapped, “do you know her well?”
“Akh! Taifa…Taifa!” said she, tugging my hand away.
“You two…be good…be good. Taifa, don’t harass a girl…I can hear you, haha,” said Caren from her kitchen.
“Haha,” said I, “I’m not, in fact—she is pinching me!”
Caren chuckled and said no more.
“Shish,” I tapped her shoulder, “what does she do?”
“Taifa—stop. Why don’t you ask her?”
“Ask me what?” said Caren, blocking her kitchen door, a glass of water gripped in left hand. We hadn’t seen her emerge from the kitchen. Shish smiled and looked at me. I betrayed no signs of secrecy. Said I, “I was asking her if you paid a decorator to make this,” I flailed my arms about, referring to the décor.
“Ah, this…” said she, turning round while standing on the same spot, with my water in her hand. “Ah, this,” she faced us, “this I did myself. Thanks. Taifa you are keen—are you…are you a writer?”
The one time I’d tried writing—online articles for Ken—I found that job a burden. Would I tell her I tried to write but quitted? No, a boy doesn’t do that. “Aaahm…yap.”
“You are a writer?” said she, moving closer to the table. She handed me the water. Away, she never turned. There, she stayed, waiting for my response.
“Yap, yap,” said I.
“Woow. That’s nice,” said she, turning her neck to one side, and leaning on one leg more than the other.
“And…and—and what do you write?”
I cleared my throat.
I raised my left palm, and moved it forwards and backwards, for emphasis, in the manner of suggesting, ‘hold your horse—hold your horse’.
“I want to know, I want to know!” she danced.
Shish grinned, with a quantity of drink in her mouth.
“What is funny?” Caren now said to Shish. More, Shish grinned, and a drop of her drink drained off her lower lip, which she wiped using the back of her hand. And then she lifted her hand up, and shook her head, as to mean, ‘keep me out of it’.
“Okay,” said Caren, as she turned to me again, “Taifa?”
“Are you a writer?”
“Yap,” said I, nodding.
“What do you write?”
“Aahm…stories! Yap, I write stories.”
“I mean, like, what kind of stories?”
“General stories. Yap.”
“I mean, like, romance or…or murder…or mystery…or detective…or myths—you see?”
“Oh, the middle one, yap—the one you said in the middle—”
“In the middle of what?”
Shish laughed now, and the drink in her mouth squirted out. And the drink choked her, and she coughed like a child. And Caren jumped to her. And Caren took her bottle and handed it to me. And she curved Shish’s back downward, and rapped it, all the while saying, “Sorry, oh—sorry my dear.”
When that cough ceased, Caren said, “Are you better now?”
Shish inhaled for some seconds then nodded. She pulled a piece of tissue paper from her purse and wiped her eyes. Then she said, “Taifa, mnh…”
At this point, Caren excused herself into the kitchen. Shish looked at me and said, “Stop these jokes.”
From the kitchen, Caren said, “Taifa.”
“By the way, I have a friend. A lecturer—he teaches literature. If you—if you are serious about writing, I can arrange for the two of you to meet—”
“Oh, is he male or femal—?”
Shish pinched me.
Up on the wall, I focused my sight, and revisited the photo of Caren and the burly man with a mustache—whom I suspected to be her uncle—or some relation. Could he be the friend she mentioned?
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.
[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]