They say a cat leads nine lives; a butterfly, several; and a true Christian, two: here and hereafter. I do not know about a drug peddler, whom I had become. Anyway, what I had become I didn’t know anymore, in the manner of understanding myself as before. And what Jane might say about my new tendency, I didn’t mind anymore. And what neighbors would think about my abrupt wealth, well…they could have written a gossip column about it, for all I minded.
I worked and walked more at night than day. I slept more during the day than night. I bought a sweatshirt with a hood to cover my head and face, and shades for my eyes too. I walked with my head stooped; and I became wary of new faces, which I often supposed detectives, or avengers, who might have prowled after me, in desire to locate my house, or place of work. These maneuvers I employed, partly out of my choice–for obscurity, and partly out of a directive from Ken (my supervisor), who oversaw the distribution business.
At home, Jane had become livelier, as she neared the end of her pregnancy term. Three months had passed, since I discovered that JLK Regional Suppliers Company, for which I had earlier worked as an accountant during the day, peddled cocaine during the night. One of the conditions Ken issued to me after the discovery, included: not sharing with anybody, related to me by blood or spirit (as he knew at one point I went to church once a while). So, when Jane asked where I got all the money, to furnish the house, and buy her a small car, all within two months, I said I had worked harder than any man in the city ever had.
The change in our station inspirited her, and she dropped the militant tendency, which she had acquired not long past. One night, she said, “Taifa, Bae, what would you do, say…if, for example, ah—let me put it this way. Would you accept a kid that is not yours?”
I said children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t instigate a dispute. She said I had dodged her question. I said again, that children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t cause a party, to dodge a responsibility upon the other party. She said I had dodged her question the second time, but that it mattered little at the time. In this I read a possibility that the soon-to-be-born baby might be Fred’s, my former roommate. Anyway, we counted down the days, to a week or so.
By now I had acquired a muscle, what you may call ‘financial muscle’; and I did remit funds to my uncle in Maili Tisa, once a week. He would appreciate, and then castigate me for refusing to marry a good girl, whom he and his wife had hunted for me. I never revealed to him, that at the time, Jane had choked me so, that I had not a breathing room, nor decision making capacity, nor any freedom whatever.
About the lecturer, Caren’s husband; our friendship flourished. He gave me, for free, a book he had published, on writing styles. I found it (the book) engaging, and mind-opening. I never discontinued the routine (even in my change of fortune) of writing articles and submitting to the lecturer for review. These later times, I wrote about our drug operations at night: how we, Alex, Peter, Eric and I, and sometimes with Ken himself, drove to Dandora, or Eastleigh, to ferry coke. I wrote about the times policemen would stop us, and one of us, mostly Ken, would leave the car to talk to them. I wrote about the instance when a disagreement arose between us and the guys from whom we bought drugs down in Eastleigh, and Eric chose to burst the head of one of them with a bullet, before my eyes, to scare the rest of them into an understanding. I wrote about how I (using other characters of course) often feared for my life, as we had obtained intelligence, that rival gangs plotted a revenge against us. I also wrote about my domestic affairs; mainly about Jane, and how she had changed, and behaved more wifely. All these I wrote, and submitted to the lecturer myself, without Jane objecting, as she had done many weeks before; and the lecturer said, if I continued with the same fervor, I would make a fine novelist someday.
The day of labor arrived, one Sunday morning, in the month of October. I drove Jane to a hospital in Nairobi, and admitted her. This being my first experience in childbirth, I called Jane’s mother, that she might apply her experience in this matter. I stayed with my mother-in-law in the hospital till evening. Meanwhile, many thoughts danced in my mind, and the lady noticed my agitation.
“Taifa, it will be fine,” said she.
“Yap,” said I.
“I know you will make an excellent father.”
I never worried about the success of the procedure and all, to say the truth, but whether the kid would be mine or no.
Jane became a mother, at 6:45 pm, and at once named the boy, Taifa Jr. And she maintained that that name would stay, even against the playful persuasions from her mother, who hoped the kid might be named after her own father (Jane’s grandfather). The nurse permitted us to see Mother Jane, sometime in the early night.
When I laid my eyes upon her, I felt a different level of reverence for her, that I had never felt before. I saw her as a mother, and not as a wife per se. I felt some form of triumph, and excitement, to have been attached to her.
Then the turn came to look at the baby.
She had covered it in a shawl, everywhere, but its face. I bent to observe its face, and noticed that half of its nose looked like Fred’s, and the other half, looked like mine. Then I scrutinized the lips, and accepted that the upper lip resembled Fred’s, and the lower, mine. I said, “Hello toto, hello toto,” so it might open its small eyes. When it did, I noticed it had a dark left eye, like Fred’s, and a brighter, right eye, like mine. I then searched for one of its hands within the shawl, and said, “Toto, say hi to daddy, say hi to daddy.”
Meanwhile, Jane looked at my face, and all the while said, “Bae, isn’t he cute. Taifa Jr., isn’t he cute?” and I would nod and say, “Yap, yap,” when in truth, a foreign feeling crept up my gut. I found the tiny hand, at last. I fished it out of the shawl, and said, as I looked at it, “Boy, aren’t you cute?” I observed that its thumb resembled my thumb, and all the other fingers, resembled all the fingers that Fred, my former roommate, had.
I have never thought it possible that a man may at one time in his life need to betray two opposite and strong feelings at the same time. It would work, if a man could split his face into two, I think. In my case, I say, one side of my face, or of my brain, felt the reverence and pride for Mother Jane, and urged me to stay in her life; yet the other side of my face, where my left eye sees from, felt confusion, and betrayal, somewhat, as I found it easier to believe the beautiful boy wasn’t mine. I looked at Jane with both my eyes, and I could see that she received conflicting signals.
“Honey, are you very happy, or very scared?” she said, “Do you need to sit down?”
#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]