When I look back today, way back to that period, I see a youthful mind cloaked under the veil of confusion. When I look back now, way back to that moment when I rented a house along Ngong Road, I see a soul wandering in the city of indecision. As I look back now, I tell myself, ah, let me recount this story. Thus, I write:
There were other younger people in this flat, wherein I rented a house, after paying thousands in rent and down payment for maintenance, water, and so forth; there were university students on the same floor as I, and they played booming music on Sunday mornings. There were bachelors in some rooms, and I saw them most evenings, carrying bread and milk and avocados. There were single women on some floors, and I would meet them by the main gate sometimes, welcoming some familiar faces of men, that appeared at the flat, once or twice a week, on Saturdays or Sundays.
I cut myself a share of this lifestyle, of bachelorhood and once-a-week visits from Jane, as she would visit often over the weekend. Caren lived a floor down; therefore, once in a while, when her lecturer friend stayed away, I’d drop by her house in the evenings, to talk about how her day had turned. During the day, I went to work at River Road, under Ken’s supervision, in Joe’s JLK Regional Suppliers Company. Three months had now passed, since I relocated to this new estate along Ngong Road. I liked the place very much, but suffocated under its high rent. I knew, with the amount of salary I drew from employment in Joe’s company, I wouldn’t sustain paying my rent, and meeting intermittent financial demands from Jane, which as a man, I’d vowed to bear. Only two options revealed to me then; that, if I wanted to improve my fortune in the short term, one, I should ask Ken to increase my remuneration, seeing that I’d worked harder than Eric, Adam, Peter, and even the new employees that’d joined few months before; and that I had performed well in accountancy matters, my professional background in soil technology notwithstanding, and had thus reduced some of the losses the business had borne hitherto, before my enrollment. Second, I also thought of taking Caren at her word; since she’d told me that if I should ever desire to learn the art of creative writing, I inform her.
Inform her I did, once Saturday evening. It was a cold evening; it was a cloudy evening; it was a busy evening, at least for the bachelors and single women and students and families that occupied this flat. On, I had a short, and a jumper, and sandals, and a black head hood when I left my house. Down to Caren’s house, on the lower floor, I descended. She opened the door when she heard my knock, which I made unique by rapping the door twice, in quick succession. I don’t know how her lecturer man knocked her door, but she told me she knew how. She ushered me in, and I left my sandals by the door.
She’d prepared ugali and kuku, my favorite fare, as I detected from the aroma that emanated from the kitchen; and, I thought I should device a method to partake in it, before I could divulge to her the nature of my visit. I sat on the couch, at my usual spot, and said, while she went back to her kitchen:
“Ah, so! How was your day?”
“Fine! And yours?”
“Ah, excellent enough,” said I, “Is…is your friend coming?” As I asked this, I looked at his face on the photo upon the wall, and envied him; for, despite his age, which I figured lay between fifty and sixty years, he had such a young and arresting woman in Caren.
“Jack?”—for that was his name, Professor Jack or something—“No. Not this weekend. He told me he has some engagements in Kiambu until next week.”
“Oh, ok.” I felt at home. I placed my legs upon the glass table, and said, “Ah, Karesh, you know you are a terrific cook?”
“Haha. Stop kidding. Jack says I put a lot of salt and chilli.”
“Ah, I suppose he has lost taste in many delicious things.”
Caren remained silent awhile. So I filled the gap:
“Caren, you cook better than my mama, you know that?”
“Haa, stop kidding, Taifa. I know I am a moderate cook. Even Jane cooks better than me most of the time—”
Here, she said the truth, mostly. Yet, I wanted her kuku. So I pursued:
“Listen, that is not true. You are better than Jane—”
“Haa, I wish she heard you say that—”
“Good thing she isn’t here. I mean it. You prepare kuku better than anybody.”
“You want to taste?”
“No. No. I am actually going back now, I just wanted to see how you were doing—which I have—”
“Don’t be silly,” said she. That she insisted I stay, excited me so. “Wait, it is almost ready. You don’t need to go back to cook. Again, I don’t like eating alone.”
Said I, “Mnh…let me see…mnh…ok. It’s ok, I’ll wait. Not for long though.”
“Hah, I said wait, I’ll be there right away.”
Meantime, I scanned her sitting room; however, my focus centered on the lecturer’s picture on the wall. If I asked Caren to introduce me to him, how would he perceive it?
By and by, Caren ferried supper to the table on a white tray. We both went to the sink to wash our hands with the cold water; she first, then I. Back at the table, sitting opposite each, we wiped our hands and ate. From the taste and texture of the ugali we ate, I confirmed her claim of her being a moderate cook. But I must exclude kuku from this comparison, since, a kuku, however prepared, always tastes delicious, to me at least. I admit this judgment may sound skewed; but heck, we may as well ask my tongue and tummy.
Anyway, we finished eating at about the moment when her clock’s hands said 8:00 pm. I thought it a proper moment to ask more about Jack the professor, and his literary classes. Said I, with a glass of juice in my hand—which Caren had served after the meal, she having a glass of wine, “Ah, you know, I have been thinking.”
“About what you said?”
“Wha would that be?”
“You said Jack could teach me how to write if you asked him?”
“Oh, sure. I see, you have decided to learn.”
“Yap. I want to try. I—”
“Let me ask you. At the end of it, you want to write for fun, for money, for fame, or just for the sake of it—”
Power went out in the flat, and in the whole estate—or city, I thought.
#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]