It’s a hot afternoon. I have just touched down in Dar es Salaam, after an hour’s flight from Nairobi. I am looking forward to this phase of the trip to this side of East Africa because I will get an opportunity to do a thing or two in between sessions. The last time I was out of Nairobi, so many people were on my neck because I didn’t bring them ‘anything’.
I might get a chance to correct that. I might get a chance but disregard it altogether. This is because a big chunk of those who complained of not getting anything is unknown to my day to day existence.
I am picked up by a soft-spoken Swahili guy called Zack who is to take me to the hotel. I sleep the whole way there. In between the journey, I get a chance to convert my currency to Tshs in a bureau, which I am served by a Somali girl.
These are everywhere. The only difference is their Mastery of Swahili. Down South, it’s more polished. It has confidence. It knows its home so it is cocky. Her Swahili is impeccable. I am shocked as she hands me the notes, but the world is full of contradictions.
Its been a hot day. I have just taken the four o’clock tea and the ocean is just calming down. ‘Uncle’ is sitting opposite me speaking with Masai about a girl who has just served us some Mahamri. My mind isn’t there but it is on a boat that’s approaching the shore. I am thousands of kilometers from home but I am always at home outdoors.
I feel alive.
I dip my legs in the sea water that’s hitting the shore and I feel freshened up. I love the feel of salt water on any place in my body primarily because there usually is a salty aftertaste. Not on the body but on the part of the skin that the ocean water interacts with. This is the reason I naturally love the coast. Having swum on the waters of the Atlantic, I can’t get enough of the endless depths, the beautiful sunsets and the continuous separation from reality.
I am an escapist so this is a perfect getaway for me.
When my eyes come back from reality, I look at Masai and Uncle and there is a girl just next to them, her eyes on the horizon, unbothered but aware of everything happening beside her. I know this because her presence isn’t something you just ignore. She has the presence that announces itself like the sound of a symphony.
She is in a black skirt and a blue, polo-like t-shirt. She is chocolate in complexion from the sides and I can tell she is attractive because her skin is freckles. I love fecklessness. It represents something beyond what we can commonly resonate with and understand. They signify more than just mere understanding.
The feeling brought about by the waves is replaced by a hunger to be with her.
A lump forms in my throat. Something that never happens. I am lost by the mere probability of never talking to her. The waves are stronger now and I am less bothered by their push and drive and more concerned about what I should say to this mystery.
Then I remember the face.
I have seen her somewhere.
It’s 6:30, time for my morning run. Having checked in the previous day, I am yet to get accustomed to the terrain of the coastline so I am not sure which way to begin my morning jog. I slowly drag my tired body out of my bed, wash my face, brush my teeth and unlock the door. The sheets on the bed are as I found them. Unspread.
They are white. I marvel at the sight of purity.
Slowly I open the door and walk outside. The sun is just escaping the clouds and from a distance, I can feel the sound of ocean waves as they make contact with the coastline. The ocean’s music takes command of my ears with crashing waves and the cries of the gulls so much that I don’t notice her approaching.
She isn’t coming to me but headed towards the opposite direction.
On her hands is a silver iPhone. Her hair is braided and she is wearing black trousers and a white t-shirt. I don’t see her face but I like the way she walks away from me. For a moment I forget locking the door and just stare.
I know its bad manners to do so but I can’t help it.
That’s what hits me when I look at her, engrossed in her own thoughts as she looks at the sunset. It seems to consume her. A devouring that can’t be explained by words. She is at peace away from human existence. Quiet but loud in her engagement with the fiercest of what nature has to offer. I can tell the ocean scares her in some ways I might never get to know but its waters caress her feet in ways I might just get a chance to explore.
The hem of her skirt is barely touching the water but it’s wet because of the unpredictability of the waves. Its high tide in one moment but in the next, the water barely touches her ankles. She keeps trying to hold the garment above water levels but she fails every single time. I don’t know if it’s intentional or if it’s because of the overwhelming nature of her surroundings.
I decide to throw caution to the wind and talk to her. I lift myself up with my hands from the coarse rock I am sitting on and proceed to the place she is standing. When I get there, I don’t talk to her and just direct my eyes to the sunset that has her so engaged.
She looks at me and I pretend not to see.