It was around seven in the morning. I sat on the balcony facing the east where yellow embers of the sun were beginning to flicker. Sitting at that very same spot gave me immense joy. From here, I could watch the entire neighbourhood, as well as the city far away. It always felt pleasurable taking in the caressing sun during morning times. At around 6.30 in the morning, sleep would evade me. Rolling back and forth, I would finally get out of bed. While dragging my three-legged stool, I would throw my eyes over the neighbours to see if their curtains of the window facing my apartment were drawn.
For the last three years, it had been a custom for me and for them. At 6.50am of every day their curtains would be drawn, even during the cold weather. I could notice this even from my room. And I always feared the day those curtains would remain intact because they were the only sign that life was going on. I rarely got time to chat with Lennox and his wife, Askar. But once in a while in the evenings I we would enjoy a banter in their house, laugh and roll and eat. They were an old couple who had lived in that hood for as long as I could remember. I came to know them well the third year into my stay as their immediate neighbour.
The curtains were drawn. And Askar stood by the window gazing at my direction. At least I felt so. I waved at her, she didn’t reciprocate. Her thoughts might have been somewhere else even though everyone else could have said the same thing, she was looking at my direction.
Inside, Imelda was readying herself. The world was lighting up. From the east the sun was becoming vibrant. There was no better time to enjoy a morning sun, it was sweet and nourishing. I could feel it penetrate my soft skin and travel inside, warming every part of my numb body. After a while, I pulled a bigger chair close to the railing. I threw my hands on the railing and stooped on it like a dog after a huge speck.
I watched her leave through the front gate. Her long hair was tied to a single stroke and it lazily trailed her bare back. She had spent a night at my place. She looked sheen than I had ever seen before. Her purse rested well in her left arm. She wore brown heels that hoisted her ass keeping her back swaying seductively.
Even so, our night had been tempestuous. She always had trust issues with me. Problems always cropped up when she was at my place. Over and over she had confessed that she liked me, so much that the world would break apart if I left. At least I believed so.
Our relationship was two years old. It was something that was meant to last, and end up in marriage. She obsessed about marriage, and wonderful kids and a beautiful family. This was not my dream, but with time I was starting to accept that it was. I would wed, and sire kids and love her and my family. I would forsake the world for her sake and the sake of our family.
Over those two years, we had only popped the cherry twice- once every year. These were the terms she had come with into the relationship. Not that I shared or agreed with the terms. I was adamant for one reason- she was spending most of her weekends at my place, sleeping in my bed, using my bathroom, and walking around my house in scanty dressing. I was more of a watch-man than a partner.
Every time I watched her walking around me in her booty short and loose blouse while bra-less my member would shoot. My adrenaline would lower though, but my testosterone would peak. But would she allow me to sleep with her?
She often said that much sex before marriage would kill our relationship. That we would exhaust everything pleasurable, then boredom would assume and slaughter this child before it sees a better tomorrow. I spent most of the days longing for her, though we could kiss a lot. Whenever we slept in the same bed, each weekend my blood warmed up, but she could never for one time forget or give in to drop her pants.
I respected her principles, and I was good with them. To say the truth, I was an impatient gentleman. The measure of intolerance amounted by day. Each day I set my eyes upon her, something would leave me because slowly I was giving up on her. Many of her beliefs were changeless.
If you asked if I cherished her, the answer would be yes I did. Spending two years with someone creates an unassailable bond that if broken or anything happens, it will take another two years to heal. But mine was a silent attachment that I treasured like a fragile egg in my heart.
As I watched her take a cab to her home, I sat in silence and the relief I thought would surge through me was replaced by troubled thoughts. I didn’t say goodbye to her, or give her a push to the road and call an Uber for her. Was I giving up on her?
That night things had escalated. You see Imelda is unpredictable. Her emotions are unstable some times. You can be laughing with her this moment, the next moment she is sulking. You can be talking this moment the next moment she is totally not in the mood. These mood swings had made me have one leg in the relationship while the other one stayed at the door. This latter leg had on most cases managed to move inside, only to go outside again when my heart felt like going for the exit.
Thirty minutes were gone when I looked back to my neighbours’ window. Askar was not there and the curtains were not drawn. My heart went racing. Being an instinctual guy, I felt that something was wrong. I rushed downstairs and jumped over the medium height wooden fence to their house. Their Rottweiler barked lazily from its kennel.
The door was not bolted. I knocked softly and pushed it ajar. Seated in the living room was Askar her back facing me.
“Hello Askar, is everything alright?” I queried.
When she turned to look at me, her eyes were weary and teary. “He is ….gone. Forever.” She said more tears flowing down her face.
“What do you mean? Who is gone?” I probed, not knowing what to do.
“My husband. He is gone. Why me Lord, why me?” she cried. Just like any man, I didn’t know how to react to grief. On most cases I would just get out of the scene to clear my head. But seeing her like that, old and weary and grieved, I even felt more compelled to cry. It was quite sad.
I approached her and took her in my arms. It was the best I could do. Sometimes silence is the most powerful scream. Inside I was weeping. Lennox was the simplest folk I ever met. Despite his old age, his English, smile and humor never abandoned him. His smile made him look young. There were number of times when I drove him to town when he had business to sort out. I had got used to them that they had become like family to me. They always treated me like their son.
Whenever my car broke down I could freely use theirs. Askar brought cookies to my place all the time, especially on weekends when Imelda was around. Imelda and Askar never cliqued in a huge way. Askar had once told me that I might not marry Imelda. But did I hear? The sort of feelings I had invested into that relationship could not allow me to listen to counsel.
The death of Lennox was a huge blow to Askar. Lennox had been the only person who had brought much joy to her. They had spent much of their old age together, enjoying life and reeling on good conversations, good food, childish games and fun. They had left their kids in Holland and stayed in Kenya since they had found a home.
These kids travelled once in a while to check on them folks. I had seen two of the four- Alphonso and Clarion. They were well raised children who had excelled in their lives. The other two, I heard, were also doing well.
We gave Lennox a good send off. Her wife requested him to be buried at the front yard of their house so that she could keep remembering of how a good man she was to him. People in black suits, dresses and dark goggles flocked into the compound. I was the only man who was not in a suit. I, however, wore a black trouser and a black shirt that was buttoned up to the neck, and sat one seat behind Askar. I escorted her to the dais to give her last speech, and stood by her side, wiped her tears with a white kerchief, till she finished.
For two months, I helped Askar, with other friends of hers, to regain normalcy. Five months later her kids took her back to Holland. Without her around, my life assumed a boring dimension. I had become used to them. Most of my evenings were spent around them, chatting, listening to stories and sleeping before the fireplace. I missed the warmth and the love.
With nowhere else to receive that love, I turned to Imelda. It was hard to notice that life had taken a toll on Imelda. She had entered the corporate world and started life from the top. She had become busy and official. One thing that was consistent with her was that she spent weekends at my place.
“We should get married in August.” One day I told her while she cooked. She dropped the pan in that moment. She struggled with words while fetching the pan facing the opposite direction. This was the beginning of a journey of no words.
I was going to be a husband, and later a father.
Something happened on the way to that ‘paradise’ called marriage. Something cockblocking because Imelda became someone else. One day she came home from work. It was a weekday. She never came to my place during weekdays, so I premeditated that something urgent was going down. Or that she had great news that could not fit a phone call or a wait till the weekend.
No hugs were exchanged that day. Everything was really wrong. She never looked at me. After a long silence decorated with uncertainty and discomfort, I popped the bubble.
“Hey, what’s up?” This question was accompanied by a long pause and then a deep breath.
“Canon……….. I’m leaving! I’m sorry I have to say it but this is the last we shall ever see each other.” She finally said.
To be honest, I was stupefied. I would have known if she was joking, she wasn’t. I stood up in total disbelief.
“What! Why?” I blurted out seeking to find out answers.
“I just have to leave.” With that she left for the door.
At that time I didn’t have an idea of what to do. For the second time, I watched her leave. Her moods were un-rattled and she didn’t look remorseful as such.
I was crushed, at the same time I didn’t know what to do. All the feelings that attacked my body had no particular definition. They all came like a battalion. Anger. Confusion. Despair. Disbelief, etal.
Weeks later I paid a witchdoctor a courtesy call so that I can fully understand why my life had taken a nosedive and where it was headed. Given that my faith in a living God was infirm, visiting a mganga was easy. I called a friend of a friend of mine whose affinity for visiting an array of witches was renowned. He didn’t hesitate to land me into a doorstep of one mganga mashuhuri.
In a dingy house situated at the heart of Ukambani, I met an old man. In that darkness, all I could see were his two eyes that darted from side to side locating his work artillery. His voice informed me of his old soul, though he tremoured a bit and got me scared and struggling for the door.
He at best understood Kiswahili and Kamba. The friend who brought me there was requested to wait outside. Inside, he lit a thin candle that provided frail light. With it, I was able to have a good view of it. He took time organizing and collecting his work tools and bundling them together- some bones, a huge human hand that had been dried, some dry leaves, and some concoctions in different bottles that were not labelled, a wooden bowl, some sticks, a gourd and a mirror.
He then sat taciturnly on a mat spread on the floor. The mat sprawled to all the corners of the house. No one came in wearing shoes. From outside, I could hear soft laughter of things I didn’t know. But with time, the laughter became even more pronounced as he aligned his instruments of work. When he finally spoke to me, thirty minutes had elapsed. He didn’t seem to pay much attention on time.
“Karibu mwanangu.” He then took some ash and spread it in a circle before me. “Weka mkono mwako apo ndani.”
Fear engulfed me, but even so I obeyed cowardly because I needed answers. I was afraid of the methods he would use to determine the output. He then, selectively, picked a bone and placed it across on two round sticks. He lay the gourd carefully on his right side and then poured a mix of the concoctions in the bowl. All this while I watched with my heart in my mouth. After a while, he finished and then talked a few mysterious words with his eyes shut.
“Naona umekuja na shida moja. Umeachwa na msichana uliyekuwa unataka kumwoa na pia maisha yako haiendi vizuri.” He said when he opened his eyes. I wondered how he knew that now that I had not told me prior. Again, basing on that, I trusted his competence.
“Na…am.” I stammered back.
“Usiwe na shaka mwanangu, tutapata jib utu saa hii.” I shook my head in resounding anticipation. “Wataka kujua ni nini kilitendeka ama kile kinachoendelea na maisha yako?”
“Naam.” I answered, now confident. I was beginning to trust him.
He took to his gourd and then resumed to his foreign lingo. He talked and talked for almost twenty minutes. Then out of nowhere voices started coming from the gourd. They were scary and guttural, speaking in a foreign language too. With time, the witch held the gourd tighter, it was like the gourd wanted to run away. Forces emanating from inside were quite strong and the old guy fought a tough battle taming those forces.
Fighting such a war on a daily basis might have been the cause of his fast ageing.
The voices started coming from all corners of the room. It shook and the old man held tightly to the gourd. I sat there fearing for my life. My hand was still in the circle. The ashes that made the circle disappeared gradually and there was no single trace of it.
Then everything came to a sudden standstill. The poor chap was sweating from every collar of his body. He wiped the sweat on his face and using a piece of cloth, he wiped the mirror that stood on his left side. Imelda’s image appeared on it. Her image was so clear than I had ever seen in pictures. She stood there, with eyes of an angel.
“Huyu apa hasimu wako.” He said, a slight cough escaping him. “Ukimwangalia vizuri ni yule mpenzi wako wa dhati aliyekuacha matatani.”
If there is a time I was run over with confusion, it was this moment. How possible could this be? And why would that happen to me? What was the intention?
“Siamini macho yangu. Hivi kwamba yawezekana yeye ndiye anayefanya maisha yangu kuenda mrama?” I asked him.
“Hii dunia kuna mengi mwanangu. Kulingana na habari ambazo ninazo, alikwendea kwa watalaalamu mashuhuri toka Pemba. Msichana mzuri kweli, lakini aliambiwa kwamba wewe humfai. Na kwamba ndo yenu wala maisha yenu pamoja hayatafaulu.”
“Kwa sababu gani?”
“Mwenzako huyu alikuwa anataka kuonyeshwa kama kweli maisha yenu pamoja yatakuwa mema kama alivyotarajia. Kufika pale kwa mganga, akaambiwa kuwa utapata ukimwi mwaka mmoja baada ya ndo yenu na maisha yenu yatabadilika.”
“Unayajuaje haya wewe?”
“Mi daktari, ndiyo kazi yangu. Waona tumfanyie nini? Nkichukua huu wembe nimkate kwa hii kioo itakuwa amekutana na kifo saa hii.”
“Achana naye. Sikuja kuua mtu leo.”
I got up and ready to leave. Inside my head thoughts contended. I just didn’t know what to really think of feel. But all I understood was that I didn’t know what to do with my life. I didn’t know that both of us were doomed. Her to a witch, and I, the same?
“Vihela vyangu elfu kumi na mbili uweke kwenye sinia apo nje ya mlango.
See you next week.