She gasped and breathed in the hot air. Her left arm stretched to feel her brow. It was moistened, and hot. She had a fever, and felt her head begin to ache again. Her eyes were already red, and now resembled a very ripe tomato. She sat there for a space of two minutes, and then jerked forth and tried to stand up, but then realized that she did not have the energy as she tumbled down to the ground. She had cried too much, and thus, she was too weak, especially in her knees and elbow. A thought came in her mind, so that she jerked forth again in another attempt to stand up, but as it was with the first attempt, she fell back, and this time reached the floor with a bang and felt her buttocks absorb the shock. Her head reeled, and she thought that she would cry again.
The floor was hard, as it was made of terrazzo, and it had potholes. The room was small, and had a small bulb that seemed as if it was struggling to keep the darkness away. The bed was miniature, like a baby’ cot, and was at the east end of the room. On top of it were piles of clothes, mostly unwashed and stinking of sweat. There was a bathroom section opposite the bed, which was separated from the room with a curtain. From this part of the room issued smells of human dung, as that which issue from a neglected public toilet, and it seemed to suggest that whoever had built it indoors had been misguided. There was a small table facing the only window the room had, and beside it, there was a plastic chair with one leg missing. On top of the table were two glasses. One of the glasses had a toothbrush, whose teeth were ragged and wasted, and the other was broken and had a dead fly in it. There was also a jug half filled with water and also a plate which had rotting food. The walls of the room looked crooked and as if they would cave in any time.
The girl began crying again. At first, it was only a sob, but as time progressed, it became louder and louder so that in the space of ten minutes, she was weeping uncontrollably. The crying went on for some minutes, and then she began whimpering again and then became quiet. Her eyes were now very swollen, and her face looked puffy, and seemed as if she had bathed with ocean water. Now, she was sitted on the floor leaning on the bed, and her legs were crossed. She wore a short skirt that was now travelling up her thighs. As she began to feel cold, she attempted to pull it to her knees, but as it is with the skirt, its material being not that which could be stretched, she only succeeded in undressing herself. With this realization, she became angry and slapped the floor. She was almost slapping it a second time, but then the first slap had registered some considerable pain and thus she stopped mid-air, with the revelation that she was not making much progress.
Slowly, the young woman rose up and then adjusted the skirt on her waist. Satisfied, she dragged herself to the bathroom as a man does if he has had too much of a drink. She seemed intoxicated and not aware of her consciousness. It was as if she was just a character who had been forced against her will to play the part of a zombie. The sound of a running tap filled the room, and then there was a gargle, and then a spit. The lady washed her face, and as she did this, let her slim and malnourished fingers feel her eyes. Afterwards, she flung the toilet lead open and then peed, then went to the sink again and examined herself in the mirror, and then smelled her hands and let them fall instantly, as she concocted her face as one does when he passes by a dumpsite. The next minute she was lathering her hands with almost all the force she had in her until the soap melted in her hands. She then rinsed herself and went over to the bed, took a dirty clothe and wiped her hands with it.
The young woman was now roaming about the room, and would occasionally deal the chair a few kicks. She looked disturbed and in a state of thought, and one could see that there was a great problem upon her shoulders. Now that she had cleaned her face, her facial features became refined; one could see that she was beautiful. The tomato colored eyes transformed into big white liquid eyes, and her puffy face regained its youth and smoothness but the worried look persisted. Finally, the young woman went up to the window and peeped outside for a while, then went to the bed and filtered through the dirty clothes until she had found a trouser which she wore immediately. The bulb went out and the door was banged. The lady had gone out.
Kathiani was a fast growing town, and it was now proving itself more than just a colonial outpost. There was a tarmac road that dissected it into two halves. The left side was the business district and the right side was the residential area. However, one would still find residential places in the business district, and these were mostly business apartments turned into living houses illegally and vulgar makeshifts that were mostly made of plastic bags and cartons. Of course the county government had tried to do something about it, but the people had protested, and owing to the fact that the general elections were only held after four years, a time span many politicians complained was too brief, the governor could not do anything, for it was only a matter of leaving the business district to its own devices, or starving his family. He had chosen the former.
The business district had now become the home of the poor when dark stroke, and it seemed that these folks had not been contented with dirtying the district, so they went ahead to make the place very insecure. At seven the business owners closed their shops, and everybody went home for the fear of losing their life or being robbed, and thus the streets were always deserted. But there was a night a young lady was seen walking along one of the streets, and it was ten o’clock! She did not look afraid, and did not look ahead, but walked with her face to the ground. She had now taken the Kinoo Street which led to the slum area. When the slum was at a close range, so that she could see it clearly, her walking became a jog, and soon enough, she took to her heels like an antelope afraid of its dear life into the slums.
“You have made your decision I see” an elderly voiced quaked in the darkness.
“Yes…do it quickly and be done with it” retorted a young voice.
“Alright my darling. Quick…of course…not to worry.”
“Can we start now?”
“You have the package?”
“Elena will bring it when the sun appears…”
“Elena…Elena…of course…not to worry.”
“Be done with it” trembled a young voice.
A match was struck, and the room immediately burst into light. On the walls were big silhouettes of two women, and it seemed than one of them had her head bend to the ground. There was a smell of wax in the air, and then an elderly face came into view. It was that of a woman, and she was giggling. The two of her front teeth were missing, and the rest of them were either yellow or rotten, and thus they seemed more like corn seeds than teeth. Her eyes were small but they shone brightly, and they told you that their owner was once a beautiful young lady. The elderly woman curved her emaciated lips into a smile and then let out a light laughter. Her eyes beseeched, and her facial expressions convinced. Then she spoke.
“Don’t worry my dalin’. Soon it will be over, and you will forget about it.”
The young lady’s face appeared in the light. Her big white eyes were now very watery, and her brow looked as if it had just been ploughed.
“Dalin’ it shall all come to pass.” The elderly woman spoke again, with every note well calculated to make her audience feel that there was nothing else that could be done. Her eyes showed that she regretted that it had come to this. It was a wonder how she had always managed the facial expressions, for one could see that they were authentic, and that she was really concerned and sad. But the woman had worked all her life in this sort of business, and so, she had engaged various types of customers, and with their variant characters, she had employed different tones and expressions to suit each of her client’s trait, as sympathy was part of her job. It was therefore all mechanical; all part of her job, and it was only unfortunate for the young woman to fall into the trap.
“I hope so” the young lady said.
“Of course. Now, shall we start?”
Another candle was lit, and the room was now brightly lighted, and the two women begun their business. It was not until an hour that they were done and parted company. The woman said that she was glad to help, and would be at the young lady’s help in future if there was a need. She again told the young lady “don’t worry dalin’, it shall all come to pass” and then bid her goodbye with her best wishes. The young lady was confused at first, and was torn between going back to her place and staying. But the elderly woman told her that it was best if she left for the benefit of each of them, and so, regrettably, the lady began her journey back home, her face to the ground, and her gait too slow, as if a part of her body ached.
There was a creak as the rotten door gave in, and then the bulb came to life as the young woman staggered inside. The room was as it was when the young lady had left it, apart from the stench that was now very strong. Upon her entrance, the lady went straight to the table, grabbed the plate with the rotting food and madly threw it outside. But as soon as the plate cracked outside, the lady fell to the floor and began to cry.
“Oh God! Be done with me” the lady chocked in tears.
She did not produce a sound but instead let the tears flow freely from her cheeks. The images came flashing, and dancing before her blurry eyes. Now, she could see it clearly. It had been so little. So little, and yet it had not been the first time. Where would it go? She closed her eyes with all the force in her
but the images could not go away. It seemed, the more she wanted to forget them; the more they
persisted. It was as if they were in a competition, and the images were winning. The third time, mind
u. The third time, and this time it had been bigger. The little features had been forming, and one could see the…oh Christ! What had the world come to? Why did I do it? Would there be yet another time? The
tears continued to flow. Her eyes were now open, but her gaze was fixed at the ceiling, and she seemed as if she was in a haze. Her face looked terrible, and she her entire physique made her look like a victim of paralysis. “it shall all come to pass dalin” indeed it shall come to pass! It seemed as if the voice was mocking her. Her throat felt so dry, and she did not want to cry anymore. She again felt very weak, but she was glad. She slowly stood up and went to switch off the light.
The room was now very dark, so that even if she had liked, she could not have seen any part of herself. She was now seated on the floor and leaning on her bed. She would punish herself. She would perhaps buy a…the young woman sprang up and rushed the bathroom. There, she puked and coughed for a while. She washed her face and went back to her earlier spot but she did not seat. Instead, she stood there undecidedly. Her gaze was fixed to one place, and her facial expression manifested shock. After two or three minutes, she went to her clothes, and like a robot, examined each of the clothes carefully until she reached a bed sheet. She felt the bed sheet with her thin fingers the way one would feel the head of a young one. Afterwards, she hugged the sheet tightly and let her tears soak in it. She was a miserable site, and her little body quaked with violence.
The girl was now standing on top of the table as she tied the bed sheet to the roof. The tears were still flowing to her cheeks, and she would occasionally taste them. Her little body continued to quake and her skin in the exposed parts developed goose flesh. It was not the cold that had made her quake so. There could be a bigger cause. The rear end of the bed sheet looked like a noose, and this she wore and fixed it upon her neck. Oh lord! The young lady had decided to take her life. Why would she not live with herself? Was the world not willing to give her a second chance…of course, it was not good to blame the world. It had nothing to do with her…no…she had nothing to do with the world anymore. It could take delight for battering her. It could take pleasure for making her do it for the third time, but it could not make her do it for a fourth time. She would be gone…too far from its evil hands and it would have to look for another victim…she would be safe…paradise…hell…purgatory.
“What are you doing up there?” it was Elena.
“What are you doing up there darling?”
“Oh my God, Raquel…please, please don’t do it. For the sake of me, Raquel, come down from there.”
“I brought you food. Raquel, are you listening, Raquel, Raquel, Raquel, Raquel…”
The room was now spinning and the floor was sinking. Elena, in confusion and great shock, let the plates in her hand fall to the ground. The room continued to spin, and she thought that she had felt urine travel along her thighs. Her friend was chocking now, and it was agonizing. She had never seen a dying person before, or a person struggle with death. unconsciously, Elena moved her left leg, then her right, then the movements became quicker, then, within a flash, she was hugging the feet of her dying friend. Raquel was giving her last kicks, but she could not let them deter her. She continued to hold her high, as she let the tears sock in her friend’s trouser. Between sobs, she murmured her friend’s name. She begged for forgiveness. Maybe she had wronged her in a way, consciously or unconsciously. But it did not matter now. There was no need defending herself. There was no need to put conditions to her bad treatments on her friend. She would take everything, every bit of a harsh word said, duties neglected, and even the times she had not been available when her friend had needed her. Her heart was in turmoil, and she felt the hairs on her head erect. Mild electric waves travelled along her skin, and the urine came out fast now. She sobbed, she was sorry. She called her friend’s name again. She vowed, she promised to be there for her. She promised to always be attentive, and never to hurl harsh words again, if only her friend was back. She felt her friend’s leg grow cold and still. She felt her own heart beat with violence and sweat issue from every single pore in her. It couldn’t be that things had come to this. What had she done now? Had she not begged? Had she not pleaded? Had she not taken back every bad word she had uttered and every bad deed done? Then why had the good lord taken her amid all this?
Elena remembered her friend; the good times they had had, the bitter times, everything came flashing back. Images merged into each other and sucked her in themselves, so that she thought that she was in a motion picture. Her friend’s laughter cracked in her ears, and her smile came before her face. Full of fear, she followed the images, and the images led her to every deed they had engaged in together. She saw themselves in class as they cheated in exams…no…as they helped each other pass the exams, the curious looks of triumph on her friend at that juncture poured in so that she dissolved in them. She was not an observer anymore, but felt every action occur once more as it had been. She felt her heart beat as it had done when the lecturer had come in all of a sudden, and she felt her own quiet breathing when she realized that all was well. She felt the sweat in her armpits and the dampness in her womanhood. She heard the pens of her colleagues travel on the exam booklets, then the shuffling of Raquel’s feet. The happiness came to her and the after exam plans were well laid out in her mind. Yet everything was now lost. She could not imagine how the smile would be but a memory…she could not imagine never seeing it ever again. How cruel, that they would never engage in any activity anymore, that she would never hug her friend anymore, or even share the latest gossip. The tears came out first now, and she was trying not to forget her friend’s voice. She was struggling to remember exactly how it had ringed, every note of it, but her thoughts distracted her. It seemed that her heart had developed a fatal wound, and she could never recover. Her heart would rot away, and then…she would be dead. Yes, she would be dead, and would swim through nothingness and reach out to her dear friend. They would re-unite, and would cry in each other’s arms. She would not wait to tell her friend how she had missed her. How she had spent hours on end thinking about her, thinking about their re union, and finally it was here, and she was very glad at heart that everything was normal again. There would be no more sufferings, no more pain, no more death, just happiness. The stillness of her friend distracted her, and the realization that she was holding onto a dead body made her scream.
Raquel had heard her friend call out her name. She was not dead! How so, she was not dead. Slowly, she opened her eyes. The filthiness of her room surrounded her, and she was convinced that she was not dead. She remembered of how she had been absorbed with terror, how she had defecated in fright, and suddenly her heart leapt with delight. She felt that it was very good to be alive again. It felt good. But by and by, she began to remember why she had given herself to the decision of taking her own life. There was a spontaneous transformation of her delight, so that it became anger and loathing. She was maddened at the very thought of having to live with herself. And what would people say? That she had done it, and as if it was not enough, tried to kill herself. She kicked her legs hard with anger. She cursed. Why would anyone think that they had any obligation or right to come between her and her choice? She had all the rights to her decisions? And her life was in her authority. If she decided to take it away, then it was her choice, and she expected everybody to abide by it and respect it. But the world had people who thought they could always stick their nose wherever they wished, and one of those filthy folks had saved her life! She would reprimand whoever he/she was. She would make it clear that it was her life. She wanted to kick her feet again, but then she went out as a bulb does upon switching off.
The small room was now filled. In its history, it had never accommodated such a large number of people. If at all it was alive, it would have suffocated. The people were now pushing, and each one of them wanted to have a look. They all rubbed against each other in violence, and it did not matter whether one was female or male, old or young. Women’s breasts would be caught up in the pushing bodies, and there was nothing the woman would do but pull them to herself. Those who had rushed to the place in slippers or open shoes regretted, and it occurred to them to well that they would nurse sores after taking a look. But it was alright with them. They would forfeit anything. What was important was to take a look. It would be hot news in the morning, and so everyone wanted to be the one to tell the tale, and so, the pushing would just not stop.
“It is okay now. She is safe” shouted Elena.
“We still wanna look.” a voice replied amidst the crowd.
“Oh lord…she needs air. Please make way”
“Seems to me that she was tired of the air you talking about when she did it. Just let us look” the same voice replied.
Women groaned in disproval, and some of them threatened to knock down the boy if he talked again. Seeing this as a challenge, the boy dared them, but the women did not yield to their threats. The boy challenged them again, and asked them whether they had been planted on the ground, or it was their nature to speak without much action. He said that he was allergic to the folk of the sort, and was afraid that they might infect him with cowardice, and so he left.
It was not until Elena had issued threats that the people began to leave amid groans. Those who had not taken a look groaned the most, and they shuffled their feet lazily, still in hope of capturing a glimpse at the last moment. But due to the pushing, one could not stay on a spot for long, and if one tried, one would be swept away by the others. Slowly, the room was emptying, and after twenty minutes, it was only Elena and her unconscious friend. Some women had tried to help, but she could not let them. She promised them that she could manage, and if overwhelmed, she would summon them. With their heads hung, the women went their way, and the room was now very quiet. The bulb was still fighting the darkness. Outside, the wind whispered as it filtered through trees. Elena became very still and listened. Somehow, she was reassured, and she smiled. She stole a glance at her friend and smiled once more. Raquel was sleeping in peace, and little movements could be seen on her chest. And to think, that such a beauty would have gone to waste! Elena sighed.
He felt stiff, and thought that he could take a stroll around his house just to ease his limbs. His mind felt crammed, and a certain dizziness was creeping in. he sat still; trying to make up his mind, for it was deep into the night. It sure felt dark, and he did not think that the neighborhood was very secure. Thoughts came and went, and finally he arose, placed his laptop on the table and took a sip from his wine. He stretched a little, and then went to his room to pick a jacket. It was then when he heard noises. Cautiously, he turned around and went up to the window that looked towards the road. It was pitch black, and he wondered what sort of people were out in the road at such a time. Scared, he switched off the light and went up to the window again and listened. At first, the voices were distant, and he could only distinguish them as human sounds. It was then they had laughed that he recognized that they were women. As the distance between the man and the aforementioned women narrowed, the clarity of the voices improved, and then man could catch a word or two. The women spoke fast, and the words he caught had elements of anger in them. There had been slow music that had been playing from his home theatre, and this he turned off to improve his listening…why would she murder herself…Raquel…I knew that bitch was crazy…he listened still, and he was able to thread the bits of words he had caught into a meaningful statement: As his mind worked on them, images came fast, and this he pinned to the words, and so, he was able to associate the words to a person. Raquel, the name seemed to bounce on his mind…up and down, as if it had been attached to a spring, and a child playing with it.
He retrieved his spectacles, wiped them and then wore them again. The voices were much closer now, and he could eavesdrop on their conversation. He set his ear, as a fisherman sets his hook, and almost instantly, he had made his catch. He had not been wrong. He felt dizzy now, and his legs were much stiffer. He switched on the lights again, and turned the theatre on. The wine glass was now in his hands, and he was making rounds about the room, thinking. He went to each corner of the house, observed every picture in the house, every painting and every statue. His eyes were fixed to these things, but his mind was digesting on the thoughts. He took another sip, went to the kitchen and back, refilled his glass, and went to his bedroom, wore on a jacket, changed into slippers and then went to his bathroom. The water felt warm on his hands, and he thought that having a shower would do him good. He sipped again from his wine, as the water continued to pour, and as his mind continued to turn the thoughts over and over. Finally, he went back to the sitting room and let himself sink into one of the sofas.
He looked worn out. There was a vein just across his brow, and this throbbed as if to a certain rhythm. His eyes were dark, and were now withdrawing into their sockets. His face was slim, and his nose was thick. His tongue came out and travelled along his lips, and then he took out a handkerchief and wiped his face for no apparent reason. Just above his right ear, there was grey hair, and one could see that this phenomenon was travelling across his head, and soon enough, every strand of his hair would be white. The man shook his head and made as if to stand, but ended up leaning forward. His elbows were now rested on his thighs, and his frame now looked exaggeratedly slim and taller than it really was. The man maintained this position for about twenty minutes. He would occasionally slap a fly across his face and then return the hand to where it had been. It seemed as if he was being examined, and as if this sort of posture would make him pass.
He heard the clock tick and immediately ignored it with little success. Tick…tick…tick…tick, he followed the rhythm its rhythm, and tapped his feet as an accompaniment. It was then realized that he was thinking about nothing. He now recognized the sound of automobiles zooming past his house, and those of a metal that had clinking miles away. He shook his head, and then rubbed his eyes. He realized that he was tired and worn out, and so he decided to call it a day. The girl, he would enquire the following day.
Now she would use the package to keep them away. She had begged them, worked herself into a pitiful site, tore into her hair and clothes, but it seemed that the brutes would not be aroused. Seeing that her strategy was not paying off, she had wiped her tears, washed her face and let her beauty shine. Yet they could not see what a fine damsel she was, or how she was willing to transform their hearts into wells of joy, and even satisfy their quest for education, even if it meant carnal knowledge. The men in blue uniform, it seemed, could only be aroused by the mention of the package. She looked at her friend lying helplessly on the bed, and then thought of how she had nearly lost her. She could not let her get off her eyes. She would guard the poor creature with her life. This she promised herself. As she gave them the package, she was full of sorrow, but then, it was only so or they would take her friend into custody…and then, Raquel would have to be charged with murder. Her hand crept into between her breasts and withdrew ten thousand shillings. The brutes took it greedily and then left and she could hear them argue on how they would share the spoils.
Elena was overwhelmed, and she felt weary and wasted. Her shoulders pained so, and her limbs felt as if they were not her’s anymore. It was as if an invincible mountain had been attached to them without her knowledge. Slothfully, she dragged her drowsy body to the door, locked it and then made herself a place to rest just beside the bed. She was so fatigued that she lied on the bed with the lights on and with her day’s clothe on, and without bathing. She almost snored when she remembered how her friend hated sleeping with the lights on. Unwillingly, she rose up and made to the switch. It was the lengthiest and the toughest journey she had ever undertaken, and she had almost given up. The place was too far, and then, she would have to make a return journey. It seemed most unfair to her that she could be subjected to such cruelty. But after all, it was her penance, and so, she had to bear with it.
The dogs howled, and they could not just stop.it was the most scary night, and Elena thought that despite her tiredness, she could not catch any sleep. In terror, she sweated, and her heart was tumultuous, and her hands trembled. She lay on her back and listened. The dogs were now howling angrily, as if they were sending a message! It was an ungodly hour, and she thought that it could only be that she was the only one who was awake, and so, if by any means the dog meant to send any message, and according to the degree of their moaning they were surely sending a message, then it was to her. All of her sudden her stomach felt empty, and then her heart pumped in panic. Her late grandmother had already told her that howling of dogs only meant death. They were two of them in the room, and she knew very well that she was in perfect health, and if hades would call upon one of them to cross the other side, then her friend was the one. It could not be so! It was only through a miracle that her friend had been saved, and now, she was to lose her for good. It could not be so. She would not accept. She would challenge every power; she would fight tooth and nail to keep her friend alive. “The dogs are only messengers, and they have to pass to the people the will of the gods.” Her grandmother’s voice rang in her ears. There was no time to waste. She scampered to her knees instantly. It seemed that the thoughts were a powerful sedative and an experienced massager, because all of a sudden, her paining shoulders were the perfect picture of health, and her tiresome muscles were now refreshed and relaxed.
“In the name of the son, the father and the holy spirit.” She began.
“our father who art in heaven…is they name…kingdom come…give us our bread, and give us our temptations, as we give those who tempt us, and don’t let us fall into temptations, forever and ever, Amen.” She continued, trying to remember the Lord’s Prayer. Sure enough, it had been a long time since she had said it, and thus she was grateful enough for the words she had murmured. She could not stop at there. She felt that she needed to add something, and thus, she worked herself in tears, sweat, and if it had been possible, she would have seen to it that blood gushed out of her eyes, but then, as much as she had strained and rubbed them as hard as she could, they only hurt, became red like two little plums but they did not shed blood. With good English and slavish punctuation, she asked God to forgive her sins for she was a sinner. She reminded God about Saul and Goliath, how Saul had killed the mountain of a man, and asked the good Lord to kill his plan of taking her friend in the same fashion. In turn she would…pray every…she would try her best to pray every day, and she would help the poor, go to church and become a good girl. She promised to stop her crooked ways and mend her behavior. She would buy a bible, and would attend a retreat, and would give a testimony and proclaim the miracles of the good lord. Sleep came to her in her prayers, in her dreams, she was still pleading with the lord, and continued to give promises, anything that came to her mind, it was not important, what was important was the health of her friend.”
In her dreams, she was in church and sat on the front pew. There was a man just beside the altar, and he was playing a piano. As her eyes travelled from wall to wall, she noticed paintings depicting the different stages of the way of the cross. Between two paintings of the stations, there was a picture of a saint. How wonderful, she thought. The music bounced on the walls, interacted with the spirits of saints, and travelled into her ears, into her entire body, and healing every tissue it came in contact with. The church was now bathed in yellow light, and everything, being touched with this heavenly light, became transformed, so that there was something of piety in each one of them. At the altar was the cross, and on it, the son of man. His eyes were teary, and his face implored. Blood issued from every part of his head, and his posture had an element of hurt. How blessed was the man. How loving was he, that he could accept such torture, for the sake of men! At the front of the altar, was a picture of mother Mary and her child. She looked at the picture with curiosity, and her mind wondered how such a humble woman was the mother of God. The music intensified now, and then she began to feel light, as if she was undergoing transfiguration. She poured her soul into the music, and then felt that she was in a seamless bliss. She was an angel now, and the son of man had installed in her, powers of healing. Now, she was swimming in the air towards her friend’s place, for she had left the church after pleading with the lord to let her practice her newly begotten powers on her friend. From the above the sky she could see the world, she thought that it was beautiful, and even much more beautiful to have the gift of flight. Having identified her friend’s house, she flew in through the window, and found her friend asleep. Slowly and with care, she massaged her brow, her neck, and then her eyes and the fever broke at once. The marks on her neck diffused, and it was once again, one of the most beautiful necks she had ever seen. Her friend woke up, and then she saw her eyes punctuated with peace.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
The mighty one has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age for those who fear him…”
She did not know how, but she sang the magnificat with a jolly heart. Like the sinner, she bent down and washed her lord’s feet with her tears, and then wiped them with her hair. She was grateful, and swore to serve he who had shown great things to her.
He had rolled in his sheets the entire night without sleep. Now, he woke up with heavy eyes and a fatigued body and dragged himself to the bathroom. Still drowsy, he opened the tap and the water came in flooding in the bathtub. He lifted his left leg as if it was that of a marionette, and then dipped it into the water, then repeated the procedure with his right one, and then allowed himself to sink in the tub. The water was good to his skin, and he let himself breath in the soap’s fragrance with relish. As he lied there in the water, he felt the tiredness leave his body, and his body was once more restored.
The birds chattered now, and a slow breeze crept in carrying with it the beautiful odor of the morning. He retrieved himself from the water and then dressed. He could not wait to inquire about the girl. He was now in a blue suit. He did not know why, but every time he wore it, he looked taller than he really was. Now, picked his watch and went to make himself a cup of coffee to begin his morning.
He was sitted at the front porch, and in his hands was the nation. He pored through the details, and after some considerable time, he shuffled the leaves of the paper, examined the pages briefly, until his eyes caught something that interested him, and then he would pore through the details once more. During such activity, his eyes, which during other times were withdrawn into their sockets, popped out, and then his moustache danced at the corners of his mouth. After a while, the man briefly closed his paper as if by undertaking a small break would regain his energies to read again. As usual, there were all kind of titles on different subjects, and being a man he was, for he regarded himself a scholar, and a man of history, he did not want a word printed on the nation to escape his eyes. The man took a deep breath and then returned to his paper. Now, he could not concentrate however hard he tried. He let his body sink deeper into the couch, and then threw his head backwards, so that his face examined the ceiling. In his mind, were a thousand and one thoughts, and these arrested him so that he was no longer able to think straight. After a space of five minutes, the man regained his posture, fished out his phone, and then began playing with it. Across the street, he saw two women headed to town. The pair seemed jolly, and their banter seemed high spirited. It was when he heard them mention Raquel that he scampered to his feet, almost dropping his phone. If he was to inquire about the girl, then this was the opportune moment. He decided to enquire from the women.
He was now half-walking, half-running. His heart beat fast, and his knees grew weak. The weak sun rays from the rising sun caught up with him, and in his blue suit, he felt as if he was in a boiler. The women were now a few paces away. Once more, they mentioned the girl’s name. He was now sure that she was the subject of their conversation, and if he was to fully understand of what had prevailed the day before; then it was upon him to hurry and catch up with them. The women turned, and saw the old man rushing towards them. With an air of curiosity, they stopped and examined him. His tongue was out like a dog’s, and he was now holding fast to his belly. His eyes strained, and they looked very small. As he walked, he kept leaning heavily forward, and the women feared that he would fall. The man now panted hard, and seemed as if he would collapse. He briefly stopped and then supported himself by placing his elbows on his thighs. After he had regained his breath, he waved for the women to stop, for they were turning and made as if to walk away.
“Can you help an old man out?” He heard himself say.
“It depends.” Answered one of the women.
“I was wondering if I can consult you for a moment,” he continued.
“You are consulting us right now.” The other answered.
“What is it about?” rejoined the stouter of the two, who had been the first one to talk. Her voice was full of sarcasm.
“About a girl. About a girl.”
“Well, there are many girls to begin with.” The stouter of the women continued.
“Raquel. Her name is Raquel.”
“We are listening. What about Raquel?”
“What has become of her?” the man continued.
The man went ahead and described the girl he was talking about. She was short, but not too short for her age. Her skin was light, and she liked wearing her hair into little dreadlocks. Just above the right side of her upper lip, she had a mark, a little black spot. She liked wearing trousers and trench coats, she did not talk much, and most of the times she was withdrawn, and did not have company. The man also mentioned that the said girl was a regular pedestrian on the very road they were standing beside, and one of the women nodded with acknowledgement.
“You mean the Raquel who tried to hang herself last night?” she said.
“Yes. I have heard…why did she do it?” the man choked.
“Who knows? There is surely no telling. You know, she doesn’t talk much, doesn’t have company apart from the girl…” she stopped in her statement and consulted her companion. “What is the girl’s name?”
“Elena.” The other woman muttered.
“Yes. Apart from Elena. They are all newcomers, and they don’t live wide apart from each other. Actually, they board just down the road. Not exactly down the road, but it not far from there.” She continued.
“I think there is something fishy with the two. They are not around on weekdays, and when they are around, they are always indoors. Mweke, don’t you feel it? You can imagine your Mwongeli holed up in her room the entire day. No friends, no talk, no nothing. Don’t you…”
The man distracted them.
“Can you give me the directions please?”
“Oh! Sure. It’s just down this road, and then to your right, you will see a narrow path. Take it until you find Kimangu Street. Now, travel southwards on Kimangu street, almost a hundred meters, and then on your left, you will see an apartment with Mutembei apartments on it. Ground floor. Room six. Got it?”
“Take this road, then narrow path, then Kimangu, then hundred meters southwards, then on my left. What was the name?”
“Mutembei apartments, ground floor, room six.”
“Thank you so much. May you be blessed.” He muttered.
“Same to you sir.” He heard their voices as they turned to leave.
The man watched the women until they had disappeared from his sight. They were chatting animatedly, and he had heard them mention an anxious old man, and he knew that there was no doubt that the old man was him, for there was not anyone else in sight that could fit the descriptions. He had occupied himself with watching the women, so that when they had vanished, he continued staring at the direction they had vanished into, as if by doing so, his eyes would develop into telescopes so that he would watch them to the very place they were headed to. Now, the endeavor having been terminated, against his will, the man returned to his present state, and it is when the question about the girl set him on another worrying course. He knew where she lived, and yet he found it rather imprudent to pay her a visit. He badly wanted to see her, and he prayed that, as the powers that keep men breathing and well alive continued to exist, and continue to exercise their powers, she be influenced in one way or another, so that, before the sun set, she may take her usual stroll, and he standing guard at his porch, take upon himself to watch her, so that, in his engagement of this activity, he would find rest in soul. But of course, it was only an old man’s wish, and he knew very well that such a thing would not happen. What a wicked old man he had become! He reprimanded himself. The poor girl was recuperating, yet he had the audacity to wish of such a rotten thing. The man scratched his head hard, until he felt the scratched part become warm and smell of blood. He missed seeing the girl, and this nature of his present emotion tore him between paying her a visit and going back to his house. The man wallowed in indecisiveness, and this state of his mind, as more often does to a body, planted on his face confusion and anxiety, so that a passer-by, upon examining the man, could have sworn that the old man was no longer in control of his faculties.
It was at such a time when the dew evaporates, and thus, as is a characteristic of such a time, many people awoke, and thus in their awakenings, began to fill their porches, as other’s poured into the streets, either to attend to their business, or those of their rumbling stomachs. Several people had passed him by, and he realized that if he continued to hold the spot, then he would create a spectacle. With the inspiration of guarding his reputation as a sane member of the society, regardless of how questionable the reputation might be, he started to his house, and promised himself that if at all he would pay the girl a visit, it would be better for him to wait. He felt dizziness began to creep in him, and his head develop a slight headache.
In front of him, the man could see his house now. He had never given it much of a thought, as a matter of fact, it had never occurred to him. such a house! He looked at queerly, and he wondered whether it really belonged to him. it was big, spacious. It was beautiful, too beautiful, but too lonely. He wondered why he had never married. He wondered of how the house would look like if it had a wife in it, and of course, a child. He fancied his neat leather couch, how would it look like it a child ever poured porridge on it? Or how would it feel like to sink on it, and to find that the little damned fool had drooled on it, or peed on it? He thought of his glass table. No one to pound it with a spoon it weakened, or even broke: No one to mess the carpets, no one to play with the knives, or the hose pipe, or the duvets, or the television. God! No one to interrupt his favorite channel, or tear his books, or leave ugly marks on them. He thought about all this things, still staring at his house. It was no longer beautiful. It was a concrete box, a place he had to endure, a place he had to suffer in. Be damned! He muttered. He felt sick now, and as if he would collapse. Sweat was pouring from his brow, as water does from a spring, and he began to feel his feet boil in his shoes. Slowly, he walked towards his house, as a condemned man walks to the gallows. His steps were unhurried. May be forced. His fists were clenched, and his teeth gritted in his mouth. his thoughts were now difficult to follow, and his heart was sick. Suddenly, he felt as if he would collapse, and knowing this, he hurried to his house.
He was mad of himself because of being so capable of such human emotion. If it were not the age that was creeping on him, then there was no telling of what he was becoming. Due to this thought, the man, for a second or so, hated his age, and might have cursed, but caught himself just in time; with the thought of the many turbulent days he had stood flooding in his mind. He was grateful of the many days he had lived, the many friends he had had, the career he had led, but not happy with what he was becoming now: a helpless human being, forced to beg! Of all things, a man of his stature had to beg? He could not believe it . But of course, it was that he could not help himself with the girl. It so happened that the first time he had met her, he had been swept with a sudden feeling of déjà vu, and he would of sworn before the gods, that he had seen her somewhere. It was however not the feeling of having seen her that moved him so, but the feeling that he was somehow connected to her. He could not explain that something, yet he felt that it was so real, almost tangible, as if it were a fluffy pillow that was good to feel on one cheeks.
The man lingered at his verandah for a while, with his hands in his pockets. He had reproached himself for the fear, and had tried, as much as he could allow himself, to control his trembling. At first, in the spirit of achieving this goal, the man had dismissed the girl as just another one in the bunch of them who did not have any reverence for human life. She, but not he, was supposed to be grateful that she was alive. Besides, he did not know her, and had only talked to her only a couple of times. And it was not what could be called a conversation in a standard social setting, but the uttering a few words to a passing stranger, only that between her and him, it had developed into an habit, that again develops into necessity, as if it were the air one breathes, and thus the inseparability. He had pursued the thought, but then, from somewhere deeper within him, a shrill voice had made itself heard, and by doing so, it had robbed the credibility from his words. He was angry, and he warned it of dire consequences if it would not shut up, and leave him to his business. But as it is with the voices, that are known is a human society as those of a conscience, the voice could not let him be. It told him that he knew the truth, and was only too scared to come into terms with it. He warned it again, and said that he would not tolerate it. But the voice was full of mockery and spite, and it spoke once more, and told him of what awful a man he was. He shut his ears, and was almost screaming if he had not checked himself. The voice had been right.
The room was now awash with the morning light. Her eyes were now half-opened, and the girl did not have the sufficient will to let them fully opened. In her half-awake mind, she wished that it was still at night, so that she could sleep some more. But of course, it could not be so, for she knew too well, and felt too well, a new day had begun. Elena had always begrudged all morning, and was not afraid of showing it. To her, it was the beginning of new responsibilities, the dressing of existing wounds, and the bearing of present pain. Like today, she had a business to take care of. The package! Of course, the unbearable wound. And then, her friend Raquel! The overwhelming pain. Between the sheets, she clicked, as by the carrying out of this activity, her resentful duties and feelings would be disappear. She woke up, albeit lazily, trying to carry as much time as she could, in the spirit of delaying the tasks beforehand. After she was fully conscious of herself, Elena knelt down and kissed the forehead of her friend, whose face was still grave, but whose quiet breath drove away the fear that would have been brought about by the emotions expressed on her face. Slowly, like a mother walking away from her sick child, Elena walked away into the bathroom, and with the same caution, opened the tap. As she washed her face, she felt her eyes, and she could feel that they were still heavy. She wondered whether she had had enough sleep. And even if it were so, she had to go in search of the package. But it was still early. She slapped her brow in anger. Why had she not thought of it? The day was still in its teens, and even if she had employed all the tricks known to her, she could not have earned a cent! Reproachfully, she approached the bed she had made herself, but then realized that she was full awake, and as it was her nature, once awake, she could never return to bed. Elena felt that she had wasted her day. It would be a long and a sad one she thought, still in wonder of where she would find a new package.
She was in was basking in the sun when her first client of the day arrived. Just as the client reached the door, the old woman summoned her energies and stood up. You could almost hear the crackling of her bones. The old lady was vicious. You could see it in her eyes as she was receiving the poor girl. She was a mean old devil. You could see it in her gait as they walked inside the room, swallowed by the darkness, leading the poor creature into hell. Morals never concerned her. You could discern it in her talk, as she greeted the trembling girl. Self-respect meant nothing. You could see it written on the palms of her hands, which were now heavily wrinkled, and loose, as if they had no veins that supplied blood to them, once the candle burst into life, and the five, one thousand shillings notes on them. She began her rehearsed speech. It was not rehearsed; she had gotten so used into it, such that when she talked, one could think that she had been born talking. The girl nodded, as her little body trembled. Her face did not look into that of the old woman, but it seemed as if it had been drawn to express either a perfect rapture or shock beyond words. The old woman coerced, molded words, as one molds iron. No, she remembered the words as she had used them so many times before, and felt her heart jolt with emotions seeing that those words were capable of their initial power to reel the victim in, to make her think that it was purely for her sake that she was doing it. The girl nodded in acknowledgement, her face looking like as if it had been drawn by a very sad child; then came the hollow laughter and quaking of the cheeks of the old day. It was done. Her day had begun well.
The town knew her by the name Koki. Not that they liked mentioning it, or listen as one mentioned it, or being associated with the name, but they called her so, for one had to have a name. She was not liked in the town, and not hated either. She was feared. Her name attracted palpitating hearts, and trembling lips, and those with white livers fled. But as much as this was the relationship between the said woman and the adults of the town, particularly those who were just out of their teens, and those who were new in the town, the woman was a darling to the children. They liked her. Not her person, or how she walked, but they liked her poisonous tongue and her dubious ways very much.
After attending to the young girl, Koki returned to her earlier spot. The sun was hot now, and the spot was not covered by shade anymore. Realizing this, the old lady insulted the sun, and asked it whether it could not leave her for god’s sake. The sun seemed to smile, and the old lady told it that it should be ashamed of itself for troubling an old lady. She scratched her head, sniffed her fingers, took her stool and decided to move to the tree where she always hid herself when the sun wanted to torture her. Realizing that she had won, the old lady mocked it, and then challenged it to follow her if it had the guts. “After all, you cannot follow me into the house…hahaha…or at night. Hey sun, why don’t you follow me tonight?” she mocked .Afterwards, she made herself comfortable and then reached into her breasts without much care of any spectacle, retrieving an old blackened tin. She clasped it in her hands as one does a rosary, and then she closed her eyes. Not that she was in prayer, but she had reverence for the black tin, and the stuff it housed. It was her only true friend, and it had never failed her since they had shook hands.
She looked cheerful now, and her eyes shone like two little stars. She pulled her lower lip outwards with her left hand while she poured the stuff she had pinched from the tin with the right hand. Almost immediately, the old lady sneezed most violently, spat on the on the ground, and then rubbed her nose until it looked like an additional organ on her face.
Just then, two small boys happened to be passing by. On seeing the old lady in her little ritual, the boys disowned their toys and then rushed to the woman, their little eyes showing mischief.
“Hey Koki. What you doing?” asked the first one.
“What did you see me doing? Rubbing your buttocks?” the old lady asked in disgust.
The boys exchanged glances and then fell in laughter. They would not regret for having disowned their toys.
“Why don’t we tell us Koki? We are not going to tell anybody. Besides, we are only small boys wanting to learn” Said the second boy.
“Get out of here. Run to your mothers. Go suckle, or I will…”
“What will you do Koki? Chase us? I would like to see you dare.”
“Oh well. I will not chase you. I will cook you for supper.”
The boys laughed again.
“We would like to see you do it.” The first boy answered, approaching the old lady, and then retreating almost instantly.
“Do you eat children Koki?” asked the second boy.
“Oh yes! You are not going to be the first. Now, if you excuse me, let me go get my tools.” The old lady said. Her smile was evil, and her sound had a tone that made the boys believe her.
The boys were now very scared. One by one, they began retreating, holding fast into each other. When they thought that they were at a safe distant and in readiness of flight, should the old lady turn around and pounce on them, the first boy, too scared, parted his lips to speak.
“What tools Koki?”
“oh, you know, knife, panga, shokas. Just hold on a min.” she answered as she pretended to open the door.
“Mike, let’s get out of here. The mean lady wants to eat us.” said the first boy to the second.
Without turning back, the two boys took to their heels.
“Run boys run. Go suckle…hahaha”
The old lady continued to laugh even after the boys had long disappeared. She was a woman who loved to celebrate victories, and this was her second victory in one day. The young girl had been attended to, and now the boys had run. She was very happy to know that she still held power over the town. It did her good. Then, as she was about to enter the house, she remembered about the last night. Of course, the damned girl had not brought the package as promised. She stopped in the middle of laughter so that her face became transformed once more. Her eyes burned, and her face showed a lot of wrinkles which she had always denied. She sighed. She regretted to having let such anger boil in her, for she felt sure that she was getting old, a fact that only herself was unaware of. She could somehow feel the wrinkles on her brow, something that she had worked for many years to suppress, but which people saw anyway. It was her fault. God knew what she would do with Elena if the package was not delivered before sunset. No one in town knew the limits of the old lady. She could do anything. She never cared. She could lose herself to torment her adversaries. She could spend a million in search of a coin. She simply had no limits.
Elena had been walking aimlessly in town. She had once reached the old lady’s abode, but then turned around very quickly and vanished because she did not know what she could tell her. Koki hated excuses. Now, Elena was lost in thought. There was no way she would get the money unless…unless she went back to the business. Oh God! How wretched she was! She remembered the last night. Everything was vivid now. The cross, the saints, mother Mary, the power that had touched her so. She was immediately filled with sadness. If she was to get the money, then she had to betray everything. Everything. Yet she had promised. She remembered the words.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
The mighty one has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age for those who fear him…”
She had now stopped, her hands wrapped up on her chest. The tears tumbled down now. The promises she had made came dancing before her, and yet she knew that she would not honor them if her friend was to live. And yet, the very promises had been her friend’s savior. Elena could not help herself now. She was sobbing. She was begging. For anything. Just anything. Even if it was a sign, she would take it. She would be glad. But nothing came. Nothing came apart from the knowledge of her friend’s secret being whispered from ear to ear if the deal was not sealed before sunset. She imagined the whole town knowing about it. She now became very afraid. What if the news somehow reached the university? she had to do something, and she had to do it fast. It was now or never.
“lord, am sorry. I know I promised to stop it. Don’t remind me. I know I did. I gave my word. But look at what is happening today. Look at my friend. Just look at her. Helpless, lost. She does not even know where she is, and I am her only hope. I cannot let the town know about it. Of course I cannot. I have to do something. Even…even if it means going back to the business. It is my only hope. It is her only chance to keep herself safe. And what is to become of her if I do not look for the money? Oh God! I know I am supposed to believe in you. But how can I? you are doing absolutely nothing to help. Absolutely nothing. Now tell me, if you were in my position, right in my very shoes, with a sick friend lying on her sick bed, perhaps her deathbed, and you have a chance to help her, and even safeguard her reputation, at least the smallest she’s got, what would you do? Would you sit down and do nothing because you promised some God who is not willing to help? Of course…of course there is heaven. I do not refute. I do not deny. There is heaven. But lets take it this way, we are all alive. We are all alive and on earth. We are supposed to believe. And we do not refute. We believe. Only that there is no hope. No help. God is dumb. He doesn’t feel anything. Doesn’t feel anything. Doesn’t feel anything, doesn’t know the pain of losing a friend. Best friend mind you, and yet there is a chance somewhere else. I am sorry. I am sorry my lord. I know I promised. But look, I cannot help myself. Perhaps I will fulfill my promise when things get better. When my friend is all well, then I will become all those things I promised. I will be good girl, I will buy a bible, I will pray always, and of course go to church. But not now. Now I have to safe my friend or regret forever. Believing? Hoping? It cannot be done.”
She went on and on convincing herself that she was making the right decision. She had stopped crying now, but was pacing about the road lost in thought. She was talking to herself, yet aloud, as if she was a defense counsel convincing the court why her client was not guilty. Her hands carved the air in the shapes of her words. At last, she convinced herself that the only hope was to go back to the business. She would make the plans, she would make the contacts and then make herself ready. It was the only chance.
An hour later, elana had gone back to her abode.
She was now ready. It was only to call her friend and make the contact, and then everything else would fall into its place. She was sitting on the bed, with her phone in her hands. She had not yet made the contacts, but was fighting had enough to do it. It required a lot of energy, a lot of will power, a lot of encouragement. Once more, she thought about her friend, about the secret. It was enough inspiration. She made the call.
“Hello girlfriend.” She tried to sound cool.
“Hello dolly. Is everything perfecto?” her friend’s voice came in.
“Of course. Everything is all right…hahaha…aki wewe. Is it French or Spanish?”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. But it sounds cool huh. You sure you good, and Raquel?”
“I am good. Raquel is awesome. Kwanza she is asleep imagine. You know her. Anyways, I wanted to ask for a small favor.”
“What is it bff?”
“Si you know this biashara. I need a client. Of course rich. Ten thao to be more exact. Kwanza Prof. Ngendwa, the lecturer. That guy has got mullah, na ni msoo and he is not ashamed of getting it rubbed on his…hehe…so you will get to him? Tell him its Elesh baby. The gorgeous doll who is ready to paaarty. Ya! You also come with yours huh, make it a double date. I wouldn’t mind in the afte…tell him to counsel the lectures…he can always cook the excuses. He always does. Kwanza if you tell him it’s Elesh, atawaka moto…hehe…sawa. Keep in touch”
“Of course. See you then bff.”
She hung up.
She was now lying on her bed, trying not to think. Everything was now done, and there was no turning back. She tried to imagine the fun, the beach they would go to, the drinks they would have, the friends she had missed who she would meet again, but she felt nothing. Not happiness, not sadness. It had to be done and got over with. She closed her eyes, counting every minute, every second. It was taking too long. She jerked forth, and checked her phone. Nothing. She wondered whether she was supposed to call again, but she checked herself. She had only called thirty minutes ago, and if she did it again, she would be sending the wrong message. No one had ever thought Elena to be the desperate type. She had everything girls in the business could ever ask for. She was always a favorite, and was willing to keep it at that.
They were now in his verandah, each of them in his own rocking chair. In their hands were glasses of wine, and at a small round table, which was the only table in the vicinity, lay a bottle of wine. They looked happy, as if they were going through the best moment of their lives.
“it is not so professor Ngendwa. I think African literature has a chance. I think so.” Said the host.
“it is so. but that is if we wake up. Everything in this part of the world is rotten. Everything is infested with worms. Do you think an African man has any chance in the world? I sometimes ask myself so. but then, the only thing I see is the African man falling into his own traps.” Said the professor.
“what do you mean”
“look at the university. what are we teaching? My friend, I have never taught literature in years. I just go and mumble in class. And everyone in that class knows the truth! I mean, no one wants any learning! We all know what we want, yet we cannot bring ourselves to accept it. You see, the truth, they say is a bitter pill. So, are we willing to swallow it? Of course not! So what do we do? We lie. Lying is the word.”
The professor was sitting straight. He poured himself another glass of wine and then continued to explain. His host continued to lie on his chair, listening, like an humble child in class.
“I remember you asking me why I am so free with the girls in class. I didn’t answer you then, because I was too ashamed of myself. I was a shame to the profession, a shame to my title, a shame to my position. But well, now I am not. You ask me why? I will tell you. Because I have since learnt the truth, and as they say, it has set me free. In fact, we should make a toast to my freedom.”
The host rose from his chair, went to the table and poured himself another drink. He had an air of contemplation, and one could see that he had a lot in mind. He looked at his friend, and then laughed. He had never laughed so in years, and just has he had done so, his face looked young again, and the unhealthy paleness on his face broke. He was now staring at his friend. There was silence, and each of the men was examining the other. The host broke the silence.
“what truth, what freedom?”
“you want to know? You really really want to know, I will tell you.”
The professor stood up, went up to his friend and then patted him on the back. The two men stood facing each other now.
“the truth and the truth. so help me God.”
“quit stalling. Tell me already.”
“I was beginning to wonder. Why did you call me today. You know, it is very shameful of me to come to your house and leave without even asking. You might even consider it to be rude. Isn’t it.”
“it doesn’t matter. You know I can always call you. And, I want to believe that you are not changing the subject.”
“of course. Why should I? where were we? Right. Nothing but the truth. you see”
Before he could finish his statement, his phone rang.
“God! Who is the bastard? I hate someone calling me when I am in the middle of something.”
“you should pick. It might be important.”
He fished out his phone. It was Shish. Immediately, he knew what she wanted. He had expected it. No, he had wanted it. He had meant to call her for days, but then he had kept on postponing it, and now she had called. He picked it, and then excused himself from his host.
“yes darling. Yes. I missed you.”
“really?” the voice came in.
“of course my dear. I always miss you even when we are together.”
“oh, so sweet. You know you are the sweetest man ever.”
“I know my dear. So…”
“I have your message.”
“my message? From who? What did does the person want?”
“hey hun. Its just Elesh. She wanted a favor.”
“elesh? Oh, of course.”
“can you meet? Afte? I will also be there.”
“of course. You can all come.”
The professor hang up.
He dropped the phone back into the pockets then began moving about. He would stop and smile, and then move about again. The host continued to eye him, and not a word was uttered between the two men. Then, almost unexpectedly, the professor made a quick turn and stared his host into the eyes. he was smiling.
“do you have an idea who called me? of course, I believe you have an idea. It cannot escape you. Right. I will confirm your guesses, because, without my confirmation, however true or correct your guesses are, they will remain to be guesses. But let me save you thr problem. That was a woman. Too obvious is it? She is my mistress. Of course, you know that. But here is the juicy part, the one which you have no idea. She is a student at the university. my student.”
He laughed again.
His host did not talk, but continued to eye the man. When you looked at him, you could see that he was pondering a million things, one could not be too sure whether he had heard a word the professor had said. He seemed to be a painting of a scientist contemplating the results of his experiment. Nothing mattered but the results. Even the world was shut out, and it was him and the experiment. The professor continued to speak, and this time, he did not speak has a man does when he addresses an audience, rather, it was as if he was speaking his own thoughts loudly. He was lost in his world too. May be he was in a bathtub scrubbing himself clean, or may be he was alone in his sitting room, or maybe he was in the lecture hall alone. It did not matter. He was all by himself, and speaking out loud was not an harmful thing at all. He continued.
“you could ask me if I am sane, whether I am a fool, or simply, whether I have lost my mind. ‘what if the board knew? What if the union knew? They would surely kick you out, and I believe you are not such a fool to risk that much. You are a clever man, an intelligent fellow. Why are you doing this to yourself? Why do you choose to ruin your career?” I know you would ask. But well, I would simply laugh. Not that the questions are stupid or anything, but I would laugh. Most probably, I would laugh at myself. I would laugh at those things mentioned. The job, the career, my reputation, among other things. Have I weighed out the risks? Well, honeslty, I don’t know. But that is not to say that I do not pretend that they do not exist. May be I have just been lazy. Or may be reluctant, or may be I do not care. But there is one thing I care about now. And that is mediocrity. You see, I might have the intestines to stomach everything else, but not mediocrity. I will say I am repellent to it. ‘would the board not throw you out, what about the union? They will kick you out for sure. Throw you out in the cold.’ Of course, it might be true. They might do these things to me. am I the first one? Definitely, the answer would be a strong no. and yet, if you mind to care about the truth, and you did a little digging in their lives, you would be shocked to find out their little nasty secrets. Oh, here is the part where you ask whether there is any evidence. Again, I would laugh. You don’t need evidence! No one has ever needed any evidence. It is the preserve of the court of law. For those men in grotesque black gowns and hammers who have to quote I don’t know ‘for clarification’. Its irrelevant anyway. And they are a fake. There is no justice in that! I have never seen justice in a court of law. Of course, these are my allegations. Everything is an allegation. There has never been evidence…except, except in people’s hearts. And I daresay, people are quite economical with the truth. this is the part where I say that truth has been reduced to salt. Only used in small quantities, and yet too valuable. The irony being, if you used too much of it, then you stand to spoil everything. So you see, the university dons will have me thrown out. And yet, they do the thing they codemn in broad daylight. No one is clean anyway. They will hold press conferences and open sessions, and in these platforms, they will, in the harshest terms possible, condemn my behavior. They will say that I am a shame to the profession. Oh yes! A shame…for having the audacity to expose their secret adventures to the secret eye. everyone in the meeting would clap. But wait a minute, does this mean that they believe it? Do they really really believe that I am the only rotten tomato in their midst. Only crackpots would. Only crackpots.”
He stopped, and then went back to his rocking chair. He was calm as before, and he continued to sip from his glass. If anyone had ever come into their amidst, they would never believe that the professor had spoken a word. The host had been listening in silence. He had heard every word of it. Every word. And somewhere he had lost track of the professor’s words, and instead lost into his own thoughts. Of course, he had known all what the professor meant to say. He had once thought so about a year ago, and he had wondered whar would happen if he had ever been caught. But now it did not matter. He was thinking about the girl. Somewhere, he had heard that the girl was a university girl, and he did not know what university. but that did not matter. What if she resulted to the same things the professor had mentioned? Was she anyone’s mistress? Had she ever had any liaison with her lecturers? He did not want to think about it. He did not want to know the answer, yet he did not know why. It was better if the thing was forgotten, like a man hanged in public, never to be remembered again.
“I did not ask you anything.” The host muttered.
“I know that you did not ask anything. At least, not loudly. But that is not to mean you have not thought about it, and what would become of me.”
“and do you think I was interested into hearing you mumble all that nonsense?” the sound had a tone of anger.
The professor laughed.
“nonsense? What nonsense? Well, I can say that it is nonsense. But then, I would be dead sure that it is not the truth, rather a reply I am supposed to give.”
“how then do you feel taking to bed those innocent women. How do you feel? Have you ever wondered how their parents would react if they found out? Besides, its not right. I bet that if it were your daughter, you would break every breakable part of the man who did such a nasty thing to her. Believe me.”
The professor smiled.
“that is very true. If I had a daughter, and someone did such a thing to her, I would be enraged. And like you said, break every breakable part of the man. This I would do, and then the next morning, I would bath and pay a visit to my mistress, who, if you care to know, is someone else’s daughter. You see, that is how society has taught us to do. It is the right thing for a man to come into the defense of his own daughter, and perfectly alright to sleep with another one’s. its just like thievery, like murder, corruption, extortion, caning, jailing, mention it. The thing is rooted in almost every human action. I do not know what to call it. Perhaps its self-centredness. Perhaps its singularism. I don’t know.”
“is that how you defend yourself? Is it how you convince yourself that you are doing anything wrong?”
“no. of course not. I am not defending myself. And from what would I need to defend myself from? The mediocre society? the law? Pooh…I don’t care. They can come for me if they want to, and I will face them alright.a man has to embrace the consequences of his actions.”
“that means you acknowledge of your wrong doing.”
“yes. If we can call it that. I accept, just like a thieve would accept getting arrested or getting shot when he goes to still. Just like a wife would accept a broken marriage if caught with another man out of her matrimonial home. Just like a child would accept a whipping when caught with particles of sugar stuck at the sides of its mouth. I would gladly accept.”
“are you insane?”
“I don’t know.”
“you don’t know?”
“well, will you mind describing to me how insane people look like? How they behave, how they talk, how they walk, just what behavior is right for an insane man.”
“I am your friend, and I advice you to stop it. Just stop it, and don’t you care justifying yourself. It is wrong. Those are the rules, and we are all bound to follow them. You know what happens to those who don’t. they become outcasts, laughing stocks, condemned men curled somewhere in a dirty street, drowning in misery and having hungry stomachs. I don’t want you to trod down the path of destruction. It is not for a man like you. A man with a name, a man with a reputation, a role model. How would I feel seeing you asking for alms in the dirty street? You covered up with dirt after many days without soap. And God knows what dilapidated clothes you would have on…rags. And somewhere in your mind, you are contemplating suicide, regretting, asking why you had done it. Why you had not listened…cursing the damned society and its silly rules. But you see, at such a time, there is nothing much that you can do. So, make straight every crooked thought in your mind, and you will co-exist well with the society. it is just so easy. You see, we have all wanted those things. We have all wanted not to be held accountable of our actions. We have tried to fight society. but the thing is, we cannot. Have you ever thought of how it would be if there were any rules? Just imagine it. You can kill someone you don’t like when you feel like it. Someone can kill you anytime if they don’t like your face. And a lot more things can follow suit.”
“what other worse thing would happen apart from being killed. Just a thought.” The professor smiled.
“I had almost forgotten that you are an atheist. But I will say it anyway. You will go to hell, face the music.”
“funny.anyway, I will cross that bridge when I come to it. We don’t have to worry about the future when we can half-handle the present. But I am thankful for your advice. I would be very happy to follow your every word, except I cannot.”
“why cant you?”
“where is the fun in that?”
“well, you are a grown man. There are things grown men don’t have to discuss about.”
“like campus girls of course. But anyway, I respect your opinions very much. I am needed somewhere else at the moment. It is sad because you have not yet told me what you wanted to tell me.”
“you have already professor. You have already. I now feel a lot better I tell you. So long friend. We will catch up at a later time.”
“so long sir.”
The host walked the professor to the road. The two men walked in perfect silence. When they reached the road, the host watched the professor get into his car and vanish. He returned to his house, picked the glasses and the wine bottle and got inside.
Somehow, she had wandered off to sleep. the vision came back to her, only that it was more vivid, and the face of mother mary seemed sorrowful than she had ever seen. The church bells chimed, and she now heard sounds of prayerful nuns from a distant. She was sitting at where she had sat before, but it was not at night. The morning sun had penetrated the church, but it seemed, as much as it tried, unable to break the air of piety. Raquel dropped to her feet. She was crying, pleading to be left alone. But the more she pleaded, the more her heart broke, for she knew that the decision was hers. She had never been confused before. She was in a turmoil. She stopped pleading and began to pray. She prayed for her friend, and thanked God that Elena was alive. She asked God to make her firm, so that she could walk boldly on the path of truth. yet, as she prayed, she knew that it could not be done.
Raquel woke up in a start. She shook her head in vehemence, as if by doing so, she would shake herself from the things she had seen. She rose from the bed and went up to the mirror. She was now staring at a young woman soaked in sweat, with a face showing the markings of a blanket, and eyes full of fear, and lips quaking g with terror. She looked around her, and then everything dawned to her. The sick feeling returned, and she knew that she had to prepare herself. It was the last time she would do it.
She was now transfixed in the mirror, looking deep into her own eyes. then, she began to feel something cajole in her breast. She moved her left arm and felt her face. She wondered whether it belonged to her. She felt her nose, it looked flat and exaggeratedly big. It was not her nose. Her fingers moved across the cheeks, then almost abruptly, rested on her quaking lips. She let herself run her fingers across them, as she felt a certain wave of sensation sweep across her. It was a feeling she had never felt before. It was alien to her, and it had brought with it thoughts that had never filled her mind before. What was she looking at? Was the flesh she was feeling that of Raquel? She wondered. Now, it seemed that she was a spirit, and the flesh she felt was not apart of hers. She looked into her eyes again, they seemed to her, mere balls. They were not hers. She was a spirit now, she was by herserlf, and she did not have to do what she had promised her friend. She would not call, and if her friend called, she would not pick up the phone. She was free from the body that had slaved her so, that had driven her into untold things, forced her to do things against her will. Now that she was free, she would begin a new life, a pious one. She would never let herself be lead astray. She would fulfill the promise she had made to her maker.
The phone rang. It was the thing that reminded her that she could never get out of that body. She was a slave of it, and it was the slave of the world. the body had to obey the world, and she had to obey the body. So, we went up to her bed and picked up the phone. It was the professor. She had a mind of not picking up, for vehemence was building inside her. She waited to gather more courage, but failed. She picked it up.
“hello sir.” She tried to sound herself.
“hello. Take the bus to town. Café Ifrica. Mind the time.”
And then the wire was disconnected. She felt her voice replay again and again. ‘yes sir’ she had submitted. She had accepted that she could never be free. And yet, she had promised! She remembered how desperate she had been. How she had begged, how she had promised. And now, she had said yes, to the things she had vowed to stop. She had said yes, and then like an idiot pig, returned to the mud again after the wash.
“it is hopeless. It cannot be done. It might never be done.” She heard herself say.
Raquel had taken a quick shower, and was now dressing. Before, she would go over her clothes uncountable times, trying to find the right one. But now, it did not matter. She picked a brown trouser and slid into it, and she did not care whether it had crises. She then took a brown top as well and wore it, then on it, wore a black jacket. Hurriedly, she picked her make up bag and went up to the mirror to pretty herserlf.
First, she took the eye pencil, sharpened it carefully and then made a thick line where her eyebrows were supposed to be, for she had shaven them. The then picked the powder, rubbed it on her face, took the mascara and did the same. When she was satisified, she went to her shoe collection box and took a pair of wedges and wore them. Without further thought, she walked outside.
As she walked down the road to the bus station, she tried not to think about anything. All she wanted was to reach the café and be done with it. If only the time would go fast, if only it was a matter of two seconds and then be done with the whole affair, then she would be very glad at heart. But she very well knew that it could not be so. The journey to town would be long. And then, the professor was always the solemn type. She remembered the last time. He had engaged her as if he was taking part a strainous activity that required a lot of effort. He might have been cutting wood, or he might have been pushing a car. His face had been serious, and his grip had been tight. He was hurting her. But after they had been done, the guy had smiled, and it was the first time since they had met when she had seen him do so. then she knew that he had enjoyed himself. He had enjoyed every minute and every second of it. It seemed to her unusual. She had had experience, yet in all her days in the job, she had never come across such a man before. One who took pleasure in such a queer manner? She knew that she should fear him. he had given her a lot of money, and said that he would be in touch. He was not like the others. he never made any promises, he never engaged in a discourse, and he never tried to be funny. he was always drinking, and always thoughtful. Yes, she had a reason to be scared of him.
Raquel was now in the bus. Her heart beat fast, and she felt that she was no different from an animal which was being led to the abattoir. But there was a difference. She was leading herself into it, and then, she would come out of the place alive. Alive but butchered. She thought that the poor animal was better placed, for it did not have to live with the pain. it would be burdened no more. But her, she would never forget. She would live with it. She felt like crying. And she was very angry. She felt herself a powerless being. Maybe an ant was even stronger. She had no power, and the world knew it, and it was forcing her into every damnable thing it could ever think of. And she, the weak creature she was, submitted to everything. Never questioning, never hesitating. She very much wanted to cry now. But she held the tears in. it would only be a sign of weakness, of acceptance, of acknowledgement that she could do nothing. She decided to steel herself. She would face the thing before her with a bold face and unwavering spirit. And maybe, even if the world beat her, it could respect her. It would know that she was of mettle. Maybe it would be scared, because one day, she would reverse things.
Like the last time, the café was half filled. It was a spacious one, and it was exquisite, themed in English. The few men present wore expensive suits, and their partners, who were often very young girls, were made to wear flowing dresses. Many of the dresses were red. Some of the ladies wore hats, and others let their hair flow to their shoulders. Raquel examined herself, and immediately, felt out of place. The ladies wore smiles, and she saw several couples engage each other in small talk, as they sipped from their glasses. They looked happy, yet something about them spoke otherwise. They were all like her. All pawns, all preys of forces they could not fight. But unlike her, they had gladly accepted their fates. They embraced it, and it seemed that they were unaware of the fact that they were being murdered. Only people like Raquel could see it. But what did it matter? If they were happy, if they were contented, then what right did others have to critique them? It was their lives to live, and today was just like any other day. A day that had to be lived.
After searching for several minutes, Elena finally spotted the professor. He was sitting on a high stool just beside the counter. Beside him was another unoccupied high stool, and when he saw her, he beckoned her to approach. He was drinking whiskey, and when she had reached him, he did not stand to hug her like most men in the café did. He gestured her to have the sit. After she was sat, the waiter came with a tray, and on it was a bottle of wine and a stem glass. She had not asked for it, and she had not been asked what she wanted. Thw waiter smiled at her, and she smiled back as she took the stem glass and let the waiter pour the wine.
“I hope you shall enjoy your drink ma’am” and then he went away.
They did not talk. The man did not look as if he was aware of his partner. He was now showing the counter his back, and his hand was a bottle of whiskey, where he drank straight from. He was examining the couples. He would sip from the bottle and smile, and then, with curiosity in his eyes, continue to investigate the people. Elena was staring at the man. He seemed to her, a queer animal, and it made her feel good to examine her. She wondered what he was thinking. When he smiled, she would put herself to task to know what he smiled about. She would follow his eyes, and yet, she saw nothing funny. perhaps the man was losing his sanity, perhaps he was smiling at the thought of what he would do to her. This thought brought a sick feeling to her. She now looked forward to getting rid of him.
The band had now taken its place on stage. She never knew that there was a band! She did not even know that there was a stage. She passed her glance to the professor, and then she met his shining eyes. it seemed that he was no longer the man she knew. He was now different, he was anxious like a child. She had never known whether the man was capable of such emotion. She could not believe it was him. maybe he was mad, maybe he was no longer himself. But how could she know? Such men were unpredictable.
He took a wild gulp from his bottle, his eyes closed as one who is experiencing a lot of pain. then, he shook his head violently, wiped his face, and then smiled. He jumped from his stool as if he was young again. Elena was perturbed. She had never seen him do so. he moved towards her, and then went down with one knee.
“shall we dance?”
His eyes were shining. He was like a child, and she knew that his heart was beating fast, waiting. Waiting for her to answer. Yet, it was the very same man who had ordered her to meet at the place. She was in awe, maybe it was a trick, she thought to herserlf. She had never been treated so by any man she had met in her many years in the job. Many had tried to please her, many had knelt down like the man before her, and many had asked for a dance. But it was not as the man before her had done, because as they did it, she could see a sneer in their eyes, and she knew very well that it was just a move to fool the crowd. But this man, this professor, if her instincts were alright, he did not mean to fool anyone. He was genuine, and he really wanted them to dance. She stepped down her stool graciously, smiled, and then took the hand of the professor. Like newly-weds, the two went to the dance floor. Still, elena could not believe it. But she was happy, and the sick feeling had disappeared. They danced to the rhythm of the music. Not any particular dance, but they danced, however each of them knew how. The professor was clumsy, and he kept on stepping on her toes. When he did, she would smile at him, and he would blush and say “sorry.” Then they continued to dance. Left and right, left and right. They had lost themselves in their own world, like two kids in a wonderland. The band did not disappoint. The music was smooth, soulful and inspired. At first, they had begun with jazz, and now it was soul.
The dance floor was now filled with smiling couple. It was if they were all transported into another world, where joy was all they knew. Now, the sun was beginning to sink, and its yellow light lighted the room, so that the place looked enchanted. If she was right, it was one of her best evenings. And yet, it had been unexpected. As they danced now, many things filled her mind. She wondered why the professor had made a turnaround in behavior, why he had submitted to her. She subtly glanced at his face. She could see his youth fading, but she had to admit that he was a charming man. His hair was very shaggy and unkempt, but something in it made her like it. She thought, it made him look fierce and wild. It might be his sign of revolt, and she liked it. She was very sure that he did not notice her looking at him, and she could see that he was a man enjoying the moment. She wondered how it would be after the music. She wondered whether he would change to his former self, whether they would do it. Now, she felt that she was being foolish to think of the distant future. Things would solve themselves when their time came.
“I am tired.” the professor finally said.
“can we rest for a while?” he added quickly.
“sure.” She added, not knowing the kind of tone she was supposed to keep.
“I mean, if it is okay with you.” He stared at her, as if to study her.
“lets rest for a while”
The two went back to their places. The professor did not climb his stool, but leaned on the counter staring the dance floor. He was just has he had been before they had danced, like a child. At last, he parted his lips to talk, but he only laughed and then turned to her. She could not know why she thought of the man mad in happiness, but she thought so anyway.
“you are happy.” She said. Her lips trembled.
“very.” He answered, and then turned to the crowd.
For a moment, they were silent, and each of them could feel the other’s heart with violence. Elena knew that everything had changed. Something was driving her to like the man. Not as a woman likes a man she is in love with, but a different kind of liking. She could not explain it, but she felt it, and wanted to with the man’s company. Although she trembled badly, she was not afraid. Something in her kept pushing her to talk, to comment something, just so that she could hear the man talk. She tried to, but then no words came. She smiled.
“shall we go outside?” he finally said.
Without a reply, she took his hand and led him outside. But then he stopped. Elena’s heart beat fast, and she wondered whether what she had done was wrong. But then the man smiled.
“not with my whiskey!”
She smiled, and out they were gone. The evening was a beautiful one. She remembered the many nights she had watched the sun sink, all by herself. She had always been a lonely girl, and watching the sun set always gave her a certain kind of fulfillment. Now, she was watching it with this gentleman she had met…no, a man she had been forced to see, a part of the job. She thought about this, and new however true it was, it was not what she was feeling inside. Yes she had been forced to see him by circumstances, and she had fought against it and lost. Now here they were. the man was sipping from his whiskey, and his eyes were fixed at the fading sun. his face showed that he was a contented man, a man in peacewith himself, a man who was happy. She wanted to convince herself that she wanted this meeting with him be done with, so that she went her own way, yet she felt that she was very comfortable around him. the man turned around and found her watching him, he smiled, and then took her hand into his, and then pressed it gently. She felt the pressure on her palm. It was a kind of language that did not need any words, and it was saying, “I love you elena.” She laughed. She was going too far now. What was getting into her, what made her think that the man would ever love a rotten creature like her? He surely knew that she was a rotten sick pathetic brat. He knew she was in the business. He knew what she did after the classes. He knew that she loved older men like him, and just like his peers, he had called her for a drink, so that they would have a good time and that’s all. After it was over, he would give her the money, and maybe at a later date, he would call her if the urge came back. But the man had asked her for a dance. He had knelt down, he had taken her to the dance floor, and they had danced happily…for two hours. Two hours she did not realize until they were over. And now, here they were, enjoying the sun set in silence. What could she make of it? She was very confused. At last, she decided not to give herself any hopes. It would be better that way, and she would not have to suffer a broken heart.
“it is a very good sunset” the man finally said, pressing her hand.
“it is beautiful.” She added.
“you know, I always want to see the sun set, and when it does, I always hope I will live another day to witness its magic.” He muttered, almost to himself.
“sometimes I feel like switching sides with the sun. think about it. I would be immortal.”
“how beautiful! And I would never miss a sunset till my death. I would always watch you rise, and be there when you set.”
“do you watch the sun set sir?”
“what do you mean? I watch the sun rise every morning. It is a most magnificent scene. You know, its yellow light firsts fills my house, and I see that my house is enchanted, and then I go to watch it.”
She was amazed by the abrupt discourse. The man talked, and she could feel that he was nostalgic. He was not making up words, he was not trying to fool her. He was speaking his mind, and it seemed to her, that he was very happy talking to her.
“I have never watched it rise.” She continued.
“you should someday, see how powerful it is.”
“yes sir.” She replied.
She waited for him to speak again, but he did not. He had slid back into his thoughts now, and maybe he did not want to be spoken to again. Elena wondered why he had spoken to her at first. she wanted to steal back her arm. She wanted to go away, she wanted to be herself now. Just as she was about to turn, the man parted his lips to speak.
“elena, I have been thinking about it, and finally, I want to talk to you about something. If you did your digging, you could have founded out that I am a very practical man. I have never felt the urge or the importance of hiding myself behind masks. Like I was telling a certain friend of mine, I resent human pretense. I will not feign happiness when I am hurting inside, and I will not feign love to get someone into bed. If I want to bed you, I will tell you right off. Elena, I want to sleep with you. Believe me, I will not go about town wasting money on senseless roses or taking you to a fancy beach just to please you. I don’t do that. However, this should not lead you to think that I am the most unromantic man you have ever met. I will tell you one day about it, how I once fell in love. And now, I always look back to those days, and think to myself, what beautiful days those were! I don’t pretend that they were nasty, or bad mouth that woman to please you. But I will say this, now I am interested in you. No no no don’t get me wrong. I am not interested you as a man is interested in a woman he wants to get to bed. How do I put it, it is rather philosophical, this feeling. Do you understand?”
She nodded without much thought. She was seeing the edges of the entire thing, but she could not quite grasp what it was. She was glad that the man had once fallen in love. It was a thread she would swing on. she noticed, when the man had talked of how he had fallen in love, he had done it with emotion, and his hands clang onto the air, as if it was the woman. He had closed his eyes then, and she knew that the memories were flying in at the time. Now, she wondered how the woman had looked like. She imagined them dancing. She saw him step onto her toes, she smiled. They might have been happy she thought. No, they were happy. She was sure about it. And this made her ask herself what had happened. She wanted to ask him, but then, she stopped and let him talk.
“I see you understand. It gives me hope that this relationship shall go places. However, I want to set some guidelines. Let’s say, rules of engagement. Are you ready?”
She nodded without much thought.
“from today, you are not to think of yourself as a call girl. However, you can meet any men you like. You are to understand that this relationship is not based on sexual grounds or love. Are you with me? you are free to attach or not attach any emotions towards me. whatever works for you. You are to behave like yourself. If I call you and you don’t want to talk to me, feel free to hang up. If you are busy when I call you, feel free to tell me so. if you need money from me, you will tell me, and I will gladly give it to you. I am a man. I know you understand. Sometimes I will want you. But you will have the final word. Have you understood?”
She nodded with much thought. She did not know what the man was aiming at, and yet she could feel that he wanted her to be free. From what? It came to her. He wanted her to be free from himself. Maybe he thought that he would corrupt her, or maybe he knew that he would corrupt her, and he had just given her false freedom so that when it happened, she could think that it was her won doing. It did not matter to her now. She was very much interested in him, for she knew that he was a man full of surprises. Just a while ago, she had been dead sure that he was in love with her, and now she realized it was not nothing of the sort, that he was only philosophically interested in her, whatever that meant.
“I know you are wondering how the night shall end. And of course, I know you are wondering whether I will give you any money. First, here is the money. Then we go to my place. However, we shall go to my place if you want to. Don’t think that you don’t have a choice. You have free will on your side. Whatever decision you make, it shall not affect our relationship.”
He had given her the money. It was much more than she had expected. She was now very confused. She thought it would be very rude if she turned down the offer of going to his place, and yet he had said that she had free will on her side. She wanted to pay back the old witch her debts, and on the other side, she wanted to make the man happy. She wondered what she would do.
“we shall go.” She finally made her thought.
“fine with me” he said.
“shall we?” he added.
the man took her hand and led her outside. He was a little tipsy, and she could feel that he was fighting off staggering. When they were at the parking lot, the man could not make out where his car was, and for a moment, he thought that it had been stolen. Finally, they saw it, and off they went.
When she first woke up, she could not quite make out where she was. she was an astronaut who had had her first landing on another planet. Everything was strange to her but by and by, she began to get things. She now understood that she was on her bed, in her hide out house, and well alive. It was already in the middle of the night, and she could not remember what had happened to her. But she knew, she was well aware that she had attempted to end her life. That was all she could remember. Now, she did not know how it felt being alive. Slowly, she crept out of her bed and walked to the bathroom. The floor was cold on her feet, and it was hard, she noticed this, and decided that it was good. When she reached the bathroom section, she realized that she had not wanted to use it, instead, she had wanted to exercise, to know how it felt walking again. Now she was moving about the room in nostalgia. The room was bare as she had known it, and the hideous bulb was spreading its hideous yellow light everywhere. She walked towards the wall and felt them. They were as she had known them. Cold, bare and ragged. She went to the window, the curtain was drawn. She had not noticed it. The moon was only a cresent, and there were many scattered stars across the sky. She felt a great want to watch them and to feel the wind penetrate her skin. She wondered how the cold felt, she wondered how the nights were.
She went to the pile of her clothes and snatched a leso, which she tied around her chest. She was barefooted and wanted to remain that way, for she wanted to feel the particles of soil creep between her toes. She wanted to feel the soil tumble beneath her feet as she walked, she wanted to see how her feet would look like, with dust all over them. The door was half open. She touched it and it creaked. For the first time since she had gotten out of her bed, she smiled. The sound reminded her of how she had hated the room. Now, she did not touch it but pulled slightly, and it gave way. Just as she stepped outside, the wind came blowing in. it blew the loosely tied leso, and she had to tie it again. It blew across her hair, and it felt as if a person was stroking it. It blew into her eyes, and she had to shut them. She did not know what she felt now, but she could tell that she was greatly pleased. She walked to the road, and just as it was in her mind, the soil crept between her toes, and then it began to tickle. She smiled again.
Now she had found herself place just outside her house. The place was very bare, but she did not mind it. As a matter of fact, she had chosen the spot because she wanted to play with the soil, for it gave her great joy. It reminded her of her childhood, of her younger days when they had played with sand with her mates in the neighborhood. There was this day, they had played liso. She had no idea why she remembered it, but the memories came to her unsought and unasked for. She saw herself filling a kimbo tin and then pouring the contents before her friends could hit her with the ball. She saw herself run to and fro, dodging the ball, and filling more tins. She saw her friends frown, she saw them complain because they could not hit her with the ball. Then she heard on of them tell her to make herself be hit by the ball for the sake of the game. She had laughed, and when her friend threw the ball, she had jumped at it and made herself hit, and then her reign had been over. Other kids and played, but not even one of them had outlasted her. From then on, she became a champion of liso, so that everytime they played, everyone wanted to be on her side. The memories brought her great happiness. She wanted to play liso again. She wanted to dodge the ball and fill more kimbo tins. She wanted to play until her friends grew weary of it, but then, it was not possible. She was a grown woman now, and the world had changed. She wondered why it had to change, why she had grown. She wondered where her childhood friends were, and she wondered what had become of them. God, if at all it were possible, to see them again. If it were possible for them to become small girls again, then she did not know what happiness would feel her heart. She remembered jumping the rope, singing bablica bablica. She remembered how she had come to find out that it was public van not bablica when she was already grown. They had not known the words, yet they had sung whatever had come to their minds, and they were happy. She remembered a lot of things, and let herself get lost in the memories. She remembered her first soil cake, her first clothe child, she remembered everything.
The clouds had come from nowhere, and were now travelling across the sky. At first, they fed on stars until they could not be seen, and now they were chewing the moon. She saw the light fade as the moon became swallowed, and then it grew very dark. She was scared of the dark. She had always been scared of the dark even when she was a small girl. She remembered her parents threatening to throw her away into the darkness when she misbehaved. With this thought, she immediately picked herself up and run to the house, closing the door beside her.
She felt safe now. The darkness would not reach at her, no matter strong willed it was. Slowly, she took her clothes off. She wanted to bathe, to know how the water felt on her body. She had tried to remember it, to bring the memories of when she had bathed last, but nothing came. So she took the leso, wrapped it around herself, in the Maasai version, and then went to the bathroom. She switched on the heater, so that when the water poured, it felt warm on her skin. She felt it very much soothing, so she went ahead to lather herself. Then she remembered how, when she was a kid, soap used to get into her eyes, and she had to cry bitterly until her mother washed it out. Now she wondered how it felt, and she felt a strong urge to let the soap into her eyes. Mischievously, she did. Ouch! She cried. It had hurt really badly, but then it was funny and fulfilling. She spent a long time in the bathroom, the water battering her naked body. Finally, she made to step out of the bathroom, but remembered just in time that she remembered that it had been long since she had touched cold water. So, she switched off the heater and turned on the shower. Now, the shower was vertically above her, cuddled body. Slowly, she opened the shower, and the cold water came down, almost freezing her. She switched it off, and then came out of the bathroom trembling, and the teeth rattling. She had no clean clothes, and so, she had to re-wear her previous ones.
She was now sitting on her bed, in monk’s style. She felt very refreshed and very comfortable. She felt her heart light, and her mind free. She did not have to think about anything. She just had to sit, and let time pass by, unaffecting her. And it did, until her eyes bagged at their sockets, and finally fell to sleep. that night, she slept like a kid, it was just like in a childhood days, when she would lie on her mother’s lap and finally wander off to sleep, dream of fanciful dreams, filled with dollies and stuffed animals, and many games, laughter, and much filling of kimbo tins until her friends cursed. Those where the days she dreamt about.
When she finally woke up, Elena was sitting beside her. The air was thick with delicious smells, and she took them in as she sat up. Out of the smells, she could make out tangawizi tea, boiled nduma and smoked ngwaci. There were a rare delicacy, and quite expensive nowadays. She looked at a friend, not believing that the breakfast was meant for her. She was very happy that her friend was with her, and she told Elena so between a bite of the gwaci. That morning, Elena looked very bright, and Raquel was a chatter box. She could not just keep quiet, but kept on talking about playing liso, how she had missed the good old days, how she had played with the soil, how she had let soap enter her eyes, and how she had pulled a stunt of bathing with cold water. Elena listened, and she was very glad that her friend was back into the adorable girl she had always known. When they had finished the tea, elena said that she had a surprise. Raquel mumbled about how she hated surprises, but before she could say that she was mad with her friend, Elena pulled a kitenge dress from a box just beside her feet. Raquel, upon seeing the cloth, hugged her friend, and in this activity, let tears drop freely from her eyes. she was so overjoyous, and so greatful, that words, as much as she tried to let them out, could not express the gratitude. She was glad, that after all, there was someone beside her, someone to walk with her every step of the way. And how could she pay her for such kindness? How could she appreciate such a friend, if not to shed tears for? For, when the soul is overwhelmed with emotion, the tongue is overwhelmed with words. And when such a time comes, it is only prudent to let the soul speak, for soul can always speak to soul. So, from that moment on, Raquel made it her duty to stand by her friend, just as her friend had done. In turn, Elena, in her heart, sealed a pact, whose details were to be true to her eternal friend.
“try it out” elena said.
“it is so much beautiful. Can I wear it now?” she asked, as a kid does.
“of course. Didn’t you hear me tell you to try it out? Besides, those clothes you have on stink of sweat” answered Elena between laughter.
“Amma try it now. I’m so so happy. Oh! My God!” screamed Raquel.
“quick. I wanna see.”
“okay okay. Wait for it, wait for it, taraah…how do I look”
Raquel could not yet believe that such a beautiful dress belonged to her. She knew that it was wonderful, and she kept turning and turning and asking her friend what she thought. Elena said that she was very jealous of her, and that she had been misguided to give up such a beautiful dress.
“joke on you. See, I beat you now.” Raquel boasted, showing off her dress.
“don’t be so happy to forget that we have a million things to do. Did I say a million? We have so much to do. C’mon. first you seat down, because I have something I want to tell you, then thereafter, you will put on your shoes, because there is a place I want you to take me to.
Raquel sat beside her friend, but she still stole glances at her dress, and giggling, until Elena gave her a slight bash on the head.
“concentrate” she said.
Within no time, Elena, the girl who had been so cheerful, whose face had shown a soul full of joy to the brim, and a heart which knew no pain, changed all of a sudden, so that her countenance, which had been the manifestation of these qualities bared a most sad look, so that, when Raquel, still in her happier times, gazed at it, without question, all her joy was drowned, and her concentration grew as her throat became coarse and dry, and her nerves twitched, afraid that the tale might be a grievous one in nature. Since her waking the previous night, Raquel had given thought to the things that had transpired; those which had made her lie so unconscious for so many an hours. Of course, when she had woken up, she had indeed felt restored and refreshed, and it was as if she had been a new born baby, in a new world, who knew of no such things as worldly sorrows, but who had had been born, not like babies are born without a brain, without thoughts, but born in consciousness. And so, as it is the nature of the world, it had accorded her much happiness, by the virtue of bringing upon her mind the memories of happier moments when she had been young. But we all know the world and its tricks. And certainly, this must been a most cruel trick on Raquel, for she had forgotten about her present circumstances, and had only occupied herself with the happier moments, which, if viewed in a different angle, might be a buffer, so that she might not hate her life so much and contemplate of taking it yet another time. Now, it is to be understood that she had been renewed, and being so, she should have the energy to take in every word her friend might say.
Elena was a girl who had had a thorough schooling in relation to the social natures of man. She now knew that it was of great importance if she employed her learned skills, so that she breaks the news in the most sensitive way. So she began her tale. First, she narrated of her endeavors with the professor. She had spoken of their dance, and had not failed to mention the clumsy nature of her partner. She talked of how they had sat in silence watching the evening sun, and then, with carefulness, moved to the details of the conditions which the professor bestowed upon her. Her friend had been still all the while, and even when a fly had danced near her nose, she had not stirred, for the fear that by doing so, she might affect the progress of the tale, which to her ears, was a most sweet one, and which, upon her reflection, had not heard from the very lips of her good friend. Therefore, in her quietness, she could not bring herself into knowing that the tale was just a passing tale, which might be only a way to prepare her for a much sadder one which was to come.
The tale, as it had been proposed, was a much sad one, so that, as Elena went into its detail, she could not help but wash her very adorable face in tears. She said that it had been a very tempting moment, to see her friend on the self-made deathly hallows, in pursuit of taking her life away. Here, the teller of the tale worked herself into more sorrow, so that her lips trembled with half-pronounced words loosely hanging on them, for she was very much afraid of her friend’s reaction. Earlier, she had decided against bringing such a kind of discourse, but then, she very much wanted to know why it could have been, that her friend had decided to do the unthinkable. The two of them had been together the previous day, and to Elena, Raquel had been a strong young lady, quite ready to take the bull by its horns, having gone over many days of sorrow, and coming to the thought that the shedding of tears was a futile thing, and self-pity only darkened the soul.
Elena had known what had happened. She had known the man. Indeed, she had been there when he had commanded Raquel to do away with the growing child. As a matter of fact, it had not been a command, but rather, a threat. And what could a mere girl do with a threat against her life and family? When they were on their way home, Elena had comforted her dear friend, and between sobs, had told her that it was most prudent to do away with the growing child, rather than running into confrontations. That way, she would make herself safe, and even her family. Besidet, who knew what rotten thing an influential man might brew when his position and interests are put in jeopardy? Influential men, these are brutes, they will kill and maim, they will coerce, they will threaten, and they will not have mercy upon anyone. Now, Elena remembered herself say the words. Her lips had trembled, just as they now were, for she was very much afraid of the said men. She did not need any explaining, she had witnessed, and since then, she had vowed to agree to every rule, every word they might say without question.
Raquel had not stirred yet. She seemed but a log, and Elena had for a second wondered whether she had put into thought any word she had said. She then became very afraid, suppose the young lady was brewing something wicked again, suppose she was thinking of taking a more lethal measure, say poison, then how could that be. Now they were both silent. Elena trembled violently, like a mountain ready to erupt. Raquel was cool and rather reserved, and it seemed very unusual for her, for only minutes before, she had been in the most a most excellent mood.
The grace period having come into an end, Raquel, who had been the recipient of such, began chewing the words of her friend, for it was these words that signaled the end of the merry moment of this marvelous creature. She had been rather cool and reserved, not that in her heart resided emotions of goodwill, but rather, the conditions made it possible to think. Now, she saw herself saunter in the darkness towards the old witches place. The journey had seemed long, and the night had been so dark, so dark as her soul had been. She had been most afraid, just like the other two times. Mostly, she was weary of the pain that would come. She had been very afraid of it, and then, she had been very scared that thins might not go unplanned, and when things went awry, people bled to death, and died in the most horrible way. And what news would reach her parents? Would they believe, would they live with themselves, realizing that they had failed to raise their daughter in upright ways? For when a child errs, the parent is bound to feel incompetent, and though it is not his fault, and though it is totally the doing of the child, somehow guilt steals into their innocent hearts, and when this happens, they being of a soft nature, will live for the rest of their lives in doom. Indeed, it is very taunting to imagine of the lives they might lead. It is horrifying, to imagine their long faces, their bagged eyes, their pinched and wastes frames, sitting somewhere in a corner, in their hands, a counterfeit of their long gone daughter. When she had been going to the old woman, these were the thoughts that had seized her mind. She had been very sad, and she felt that she had failed her very own mother, who, as she well knew, had done every damnable thing to raise her. Their father had been a drunk, a good for nothing, and it had been the duty of the mother to bring her up, together with her two young siblings.
Life had been bitter, and stomachs had rumbled to no avail. The shelves had run out of stock, and the small piece of land had grown barren, unable to yield any crop. Their father, the drunk miser, had drained the family resources in his liquor. He had sold anything sellable, and it was luck if he had not sold his daughter too. Oh yes, the brute had sold his daughter. And for what? For a pint. Each and every day of her life, the recollections of that day came to her. She saw the four strong men enter her house, led by her staggering drunk father.
“Where is she woman?” he had bellowed, punching his wife who had just opened the door for them.
“Where is that good for nothing daughter of yours?” he had bellowed again, sweeping a slap across her face.
She had begun to cry. She fell on his knees, and pleaded, tears rolling out of her eyes. But the man seemed immune to her begging, and though he was very drunk, he had kicked her, and torn into her hair, and shook her violently.
“I ask where she is.” He had bellowed again.
There was nothing the poor woman could have done. Her face was very pink at the moment, and then, her nose began to bleed. But it was as if the man had no eyes, and no feelings. In fact, one would wonder of how he had come to marry such a beautiful woman, only to turn her into a punching bag, a slave. Now, he was very frustrated, for he could not find his young daughter, who, if luck had been on his side, would have given out to the three brutes as payment for his drink. But the gods had foreseen the act, and had rushed to young girl, and made her to hide under the sofa just before the door had been opened.
She had heard her father bellow, and then she had heard a slap, and then the wailing of her dear mother. She had wanted to cry, she had wanted to give herself up, for the sake of her mother’s freedom, yet she was very afraid, and could not even move a leg. Not that she had not tried. But there was no energy left in the young girl. Extreme fear does not reside with courage. The two, are like a cat and a dog, they can never reside under the same roof. So, the young girl had remained helpless under the chair, listening to the wailing of her mother, and the bellowing of her cruel father. Then, it became quiet again. She waited. Still nothing. She waited again yet again, nothing. At that juncture, her heart pounded hard, and she had felt that she would faint, for fear, the extreme of all fear, had tented in her heart. What if he had murdered her mother? And if so, didn’t it mean that she had taken part in the cruel act? For all the man had wanted was the wretched girl, and the wretched girl had hid herself, and left the angry man with no other choice than to take out his fury on his wife, who he felt, was responsible for the disappearance of the wretched girl. The girl had now grown very pale on her face. She wished that something might stir, something, especially a human voice. But then, there was still nothing, and the place had assumed the silence of a graveyard. The hairs of her body stood erect now, her pores gave way to gallons of sweat, and she felt a warm liquid travel down her thighs, wetting the very spot she was sat. Now, if the cruel father was still at large, then the liquid, which had begun to flow, would give the sign, and she would be immediately smoked out.