An agreement had been struck, that when ready, I’d tell Caren—she that lived in the lower floor (I lived on the upper floor), in that flat along Ngong Road, to invite her husband, a lecturer of literature, for a gathering. In this gathering, Caren would employ her charm upon the man, and persuade him that I, Taifa Mkenya, her friend, needed critical training in the matter of creative writing. Well, do not think that this matter had reached the stage of life and death; for I had never written a word hitherto, but worked daytime, in that firm along River Road. Proper to say, that Caren had a way of converting thoughts and wishes into actions; mostly the thoughts and wishes of those souls about her, among whom I belonged, I suppose.
Aside from advocating for my learning of the writing business, Caren pushed for the unity of Jane Shish (her friend too) and me. As it happened, a quiet mode of living had been started, a month old now, between Jane Shish and me, as of husband and wife; though to reveal the truth, I itched from day to day, that I should mine a reason whatever, for termination of this arrangement. If you must know, Jane Shish had dated my former host, Fred, the person who hosted me for some months when I stepped upon the city for the first time. Then, by and by, Jane (as she visited Fred’s house in which I stayed, sometimes when Fred delayed at work for one thing or other) and I grew closer. One day, in a house warning party somewhere in Umoja Estate, which all three of us attended, besides Caren; in the name of I don’t know what, under the influence of I don’t know what, under the guidance of an agile black monkey on my left shoulder and a sleepy little angel on my right shoulder, and in the merry influence of a first-time beer (for me), Jane and I saw a forbidden fruit, and jumped at it, and plucked it, and bit it. So it began.
But now, in the course of these end months of 2014, I began to suffocate under Jane’s presence. I would want to visit Magomano Bar for a bottle but she’d want to visit someplace else for dinner; I’d want to stay out on Friday night and she’d want us to snug ourselves on the couch for a comedy; I’d want to visit the church to repent all my sins for the week and she would want us to travel to Machakos; I’d want to see my friends some evenings and she would tell me to grow out of boyhood, and into manhood, in preparation of husband-to-be business. In this manner, our union grew apart. However, Caren, in her element, favored the confirmation of this union; and, often she’d say, in a jolly manner, that she’d relish to play the role of maid of honor.
In this manner, Jane and I lived. Towards the very end of 2014, mid-December I think, I resorted to short speeches and grunts, as the primary mode of communication, to avoid elongated arguments, most of which Jane won. I discovered, late in time however, through trials and fails, and some pain, that I could avoid squabbles with Jane if I shut up, or if I issued one-worded responses, and one-lettered grunts. For example, she’d come home in the evening, there at Dagoretti Corner, and upon opening the door, and finding me watching an episode or whatsapping, she’d would start talking at the door. Mostly she spoke over themes that culminated in a word ‘marriage’, or ‘wife’, or ‘husband’, or ‘wedding’, being dropped somewhere within the long sentences. I remember one evening, the same evening that Caren’s husband came. This evening, as standard, Jane unbolted the door (I’d locked it from inside), and found me lying on the couch, quarter-asleep. I didn’t open my eyes when she stepped in, but raised my snoring.
From the door she said:
“Hey hun, I went to town today, after work. Guess who I met! I met…I met”—I heard her unstrap her sandals—“hoosh. I met Apondi. You know what, she is marrying Ken!” I wanted to ask which Ken she meant; for I worked, there at River Road, under a supervisor called Ken Onyango; moreover, she and I both knew the lady called Eve Apondi, who, as a matter of fact introduced me to Ken during those days I stayed in Fred’s house in Kawangware. Which Ken she meant I wanted to ask, but feared she should drag me into an argument I had avoided in the last few weeks. Therefore, I snored more; but she spoke more: “Can you imagine that! She is marrying Ken, of all people. Who would have imagined that, mnh!” I heard her step upon the rug, and head to the fridge on the other side. “Hun, I know you can hear me. Can you imagine that? Ken—of all people, marrying Apondi. Who would have seen that coming, mnh!” I heard the fridge click open, and a bottle ping, and the fridge click shut soon. Next, I knew she’d walk over to me, at the couch. In consequence, I stiffened my body, and snored louder, and paused the snores at some points, and filled those points with heavy grunts and snorts, and shook my head in short jerks, and twitched some of my toes and fingers, to give the impression that I suffered a nightmare at this point.
Despite all these mechanisms, Jane came and sat on the couch’s arm, upon which my head lay, facing up, and cupped my chin with her palm. “I know you can hear me, hun. You see how easy it is. To get married. You just wake up, and, there! You have it. We should, can you”—she slapped my cheek—“can you hear me, hun? Haiya, are you ok, hun? Haiya—he is not, he is not,” said she in a whisper; for I had by now held my body very still and suspended my breathing altogether. “Haiya, he is sick, he is sick,” she said to herself. Then to me, “Hun, wake up.” She tapped my shoulder. “Hun, wake up now.” She swayed my head. “Taifa, wake up now.” She tugged at my t-shirt. “Taifa! Wake up!” She punched my chest with both fists and a ball of spittle choked me so, I sat up quick and coughed my tongue out. She rapped my back with her palms to ease my agony. And kept saying, “Hun, are you ok? Are you sick?” upon which I raised my right hand (as I coughed further) in a gesture to mean, ‘give me some time, girl, give me some time’.
By and by, my coughing eased. Jane fixed herself on the couch and let my head rest upon her thighs. She fed me some of the juice she drank. Then she said, “Hun, are you ok now?”
I shook my head.
“Are you sick?”—she felt my forehead—“Your forehead isn’t hot. Your temperature is normal, I guess. Do you feel any discomfort anywhere?”
“Where, your eyes?”
“Where?” she place a hand on my stomach, “You stomach?”
“Mmh,” I said, nodding.
“Oh, pole, should I get you some Actals?”
“O God, you will be ok without the medication, you mean?”
“Mmh.” I nodded.
“Huh. Ok.” She held silence awhile, meanwhile running her fingers through my young beards. At length, she said, “Well, hun, as I was saying—I don’t know if you heard me, did you, did you hear me?” she turned her head round to observe my face.
I shook my head, in the negative.
“Well, hun, as I was saying, Apondi and Ken are getting married, can you imagine that?”
I began to cough again, harder than before. Jane gave a start, saying, “I think you need some drugs.” She began to settle my head on the couch (off her thighs), so she could fetch for me those drugs, but I held her hands, and stopped my coughing business for the moment. “You don’t want any drugs, you will be ok?”
She took another round of silence, running her fingers through my young beards. By and by, she said, “Well, hun, I went to town today, and guess who I met? I met Apondi. She was shopping for some stuff. And she told me she’ll get married soon. To whom? Can you guess? Give a guess, give a guess—”
My phone beeped in a message. From the table I picked it and displayed the message upon its screen, for Jane to see too, that Caren had messaged me, that her husband—the lecturer, the man to impart critical writing skills into my head, had come, and would leave within half hour, and I should rush downstairs to Caren’s house, to meet him.
#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]