On Friday evening Tamara called. I was in town after a lunch with Yvonne, who for a while I hadn’t laid my eyes on. She had her chips masala in the balcony of Sizzling Grill. It is always good seeing her because men love women. Not all women, specific women.
Tamara’s voice had this new edge like she was high or something. An edge of someone happy.
“Looks like you don’t want anything to do with me nowadays.” Her voice rings through my left ear. With her soft voice, you can never think of her words negatively.
“Hehe, did you die while I was away?” I tell her in a joke to which she laughs hysterically. “I almost died. You wanted to read that in the obituary?”
“If you didn’t die, you almost dying isn’t a big deal. Or is it?”
“When you coming to see me?” she asks. I can no longer hear the heavy breathing I used to hear when she talked to me on phone. A sign that she was responding well to our programme.
“For you, I am busy. Not so soon.”
“Really! Come on!”
“Weekend? You good?”
“Saturday is fine, at two.” She says, hopefully.
“Saturday I’ll be in church. We’ve got a Passover this Sabbath. Maybe Sunday if you’re loose.”
“Fine by me.”
“Will try and get there. You like the programme?”
“You shall see for yourself. That is why I want you to come.”
On Sunday I packed my bags to Karen. She asked me to meet her at Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden. They have this Sunday Buffet in the gardens with live music and Croquet on their front lawn.
I was stupefied as to how much she’s changed. I don’t know how to express that kind of feeling with words. But she had the biggest smile I have ever seen on her face. Her face was glittery and happiness sprawled all over her new body.
We exchange this huge, tight hug and stay in the bubble for a while. I hold her right hand, and she turns around in her red dress.
“Girl, you look amazing! You look like you’re in your sweet 16s.” she smiles coyly and I know I’ve hit her soft spot right. Which is a genuine expression because she’s smashing. She is happy beyond how words can express.
“Thank you. Really.” She finally says. She leads to an open garden and we take a seat under cool shade. Even in the torrid sun of Sunday afternoon, this place allows you to enjoy a cool breeze. The place oozes a colonial charm.
“First, you look stunning. I can serve you on a plate and eat you like I was being paid millions…” I was going on when I collect myself because Tamara is somebody’s mother. But she enjoys my flattery. The trick is knowing when to stop and focus on her personality rather than objectifying her.
I serve myself two chicken wings and white rice, and a tall glass of cocktail. My stomach amounts to that of a kid- small and choosy. I wonder what Nairobi did to me that I no longer eat two plates of ugali like I used to when I lived in Kisii. Nowadays just a single slice is enough. Those times I could devour 8 chapatis and still leave space for water. Nowadays I can’t go past two.
“I have something I want to tell you.” She recollects herself.
“If it is good you can shoot. But if it’s bad, lemme enjoy the breeze and the scent of these lovely flowers of this garden.” That comes subconsciously out of my mouth. I am already into my chicken wings. Since I come from uncivilized digs, I use my hands when others are fighting with knives and forks. They taste so good that I no longer notice the excitement on her face.
“Can you imagine that 30kgs are gone off my body?” She breaks the news to me. I drop the wing in disbelief. Her eyes have this sparkling glitter.-
“In one month? No way.”
“Yeah.” The excitement is spread all over her face. “I’m responding quite well to the training.”
“I am happy for you.” I rub the back of her left arm with my right arm. She looks deep into my eyes. Goosebumps hit my skin and I know what is coming. “How do you feel now that you’re lighter?” I break the brief silence.
‘Never been so happy. Generally, I am doing quite fantastic. And I’m grateful I took the deal. Thank you for it.”
“Well, at least you didn’t spoil my meal. Haha.”
We watch butterflies. Nice scents waft from the sweet-smelling frangipani to our nostrils. We admire the brightly coloured bougainvillea. One thing I notice is that Tamara’s eating habits have changed. She does more veggies and smoothies than I do.
Look, I’m just a kid from the ghetto. Never visits these fancy places often. And just like any person not from these sides, I’d prefer meat over anything- I eat greens and drink smoothies wherever I come from. Once I’m exposed to a diet where I can have what I haven’t enjoyed in a while, I spoil myself. But I inject little manners while doing it without pretending.
I keep admiring her and her nicely fitting dress. Her body is toned and smoother. I don’t know if she realizes so but I steal quick glances often. When she catches me in the moment I throw in the perfect excuse- checking out progress.
Time moves so fast and the sun dies in the east. Darkness starts peeling its eyes. She suggests we go into the Tamambo’s diner. I wonder what is really going in her mind because it is late and I need to go.
“It’s getting late you know. “ I echo out as I loosely scratch my head in anticipation of anything. She shakes her head and responds- “Is that a way of avoiding me or am I boring?”
“What do you mean? Come one now!” I sound so naija-like.
“We can hang out here all night. There is a nice fireplace, cosy rooms and plenty of food and TV. I’ll have you for the night?” she gets up and plods to the diner. Out of choice, I follow. There is a point in a man’s life where your own decisions don’t matter.
This was one of those points. Where a decision had already been made. Even if it seemed like I had an option to tap out and go home, I knew my limbs were tethered to a sturdy peg.
I trail like a sniff dog.
Ivy brings Tamara butternut pumpkin and coconut soup. “No soup for me,” I whisper to Ivy. We are seated on these suede chairs near the fire, a small table by each chair. We sit comfortably by the fire as we enjoy the warmth. Silence takes space in between. Our eyes are focused on the yellow flames. Tamara enjoys her soup quietly.
She later orders salad Nicoise- a healthy classic full of salad leaves, marinated tuna, olives, potato, tomato, green beans, boiled egg, olive oil, lime and fresh herbs. When I set my eyes on it, I get hungry. I start swallowing heavy chunks of saliva. I call Ivy to the side and ask her to serve me Chicken Cobb salad. Just saw it on the menu. When it finally arrives, I could see lettuce, a boiled egg, crispy bacon (not my favourite), chicken flakes, avocado, tomato wedges & blue cheese. It is served with balsamic, thousand island or honey and mustard dressing.
You’ll notice big words there. Meet your salad and you wouldn’t care more about the words. Normal ingredients given confusing names. We relish this in silence.
When the salad gets finished, she tells me how the training has been- what she likes and what she loathes. The work as she says has not been easy. Losing 30 kgs in a month takes everything you’ve got and top-notch trainers. Her 500k price has begun paying off. The reason she likes me is that unlike other trainers in the team, I am soft and humanly. She doesn’t know that is why I don’t wanna meet her often because she’ll relapse if I keep seeing her often. I always find lazy ways of doing my things- something people may never understand.
When around her, I don’t observe any rules of eating. I devour junk as much as I can. The trick is that I know when to cut the fat. At times I don’t mind because I’ve always wanted to add some weight. To enable her to reach her maximum potential, I have to minimize our interactions to let her get used to the various trainers.
It is around midnight when we stagger into our unit. The unit houses two ensuite bedrooms. Each room is furnished with a fireplace, verandah, satellite TV, digital internet lease line connection, mini bar (which is simply useless to me), bath and shower, robes and hair dryers. The feeling is alluring and homely. I surrender to my bed at around 1 after a warm shower, a brief TV watch and a warm peck from Tamara. For once I forget my misery and switch off to enjoy an executive sleep.
A toast to Tamara’s milestone.
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?