It has been a long week. When not on indexes I was on maps. Trying to coordinate delivery, meet client expectations, maximize understanding of concepts by the delegation… It was a daunting one. I am glad it’s finally Friday. This means that I am done with this initial engagement and I can finally travel home to prepare for what’s coming.
Joel told me I shouldn’t miss our presidential elections. I don’t plan to.
I have already packed so I freshen up fast, put on a new shirt and request the hotel to call me a cab. Meanwhile, I finish up everything entailing my stay there ensuring that there’s no single proof that I was ever there. I even wipe off my fingerprints off the window seals, the handset, the shower knob, the bed stand… I then use some bleach to clear my DNA from the scene… hehe
After checking out, I notice it’s getting chilly but I have no sweater or hood. I always carry one but provided I have been on a beach resort all along, it didn’t seem necessary.
The cab guy is an over bearded Swahili gentleman in combat shorts, a designer t-shirt, and some Adidas sandals. His Swahili is as heavy as the rest. Only that it is traveled Swahili. He packs my single suitcase in the boot and we head off to Dar after endless kwaheris from the delighted clients and hotel staff.
What’s visiting a country without tasting their nightlife?
I arrive in Dar some minutes past nine, check in to another hotel, secure my suitcases and head out to look for a bureau de change to convert some money for the adventure ahead. I prefer a bajaji to a cab primarily because of their flexibility though they are more expensive. We drive around since most exchange points are closed but we manage to get someone who does the conversion for a commission. People gotta eat. Right?
The next stop is Maisha. Maisha means life so I imagine that there has to be some life in that place. I am given several other options by the bajaji driver but I choose Maisha. I will always choose life…
I am hungry. I am cold and a little bit exhausted. Thus being my last night here I plan to make it the best yet.
After paying 10 Gs at the entrance I head inside too, unfortunately, find an almost empty club. I am heartbroken. The club is neatly packed, shades of red and black on bar stools and the only thing I notice is that all waitresses are in blazers.
The place is cold. Too cold. After a few minutes of boring music, freezing temperatures and a boring ambiance I am contemplating on going to sleep. I won’t bore myself to death in this place.
But because I am a Christian and I believe in second chances, I call a waitress and ask for a cold sprite. A sprite. That should tell you something. She tries to smile but then I am not in my best spirits having wasted my time and resources to check into a lifeless disco parlor..hehe
What happens here? I ask the polite girl. She is in a white t-shirt, some ugly shorts, and a black blazer. “Hamna show leo” she smilingly answers me back. She is excited. Maybe it’s my funny accent. Maybe its because I am literally shaking.
I order some chicken wings to calm my hunger as I slowly sip my sprite.
People are trickling in. Just like someone’s votes during last months elections. At least there’s some hope for the club. The reason I don’t head out is that I don’t know my way around town. It’s also some minutes to midnight. So I stay put.
The wings are delicious. Being a Kenyan I order some Tanzanian beer. Apparently, some guys take wine kwa club in Tanzania. Fully grown men. I find that weird. Maybe its because I am too Kenyanized. I need to go out more.
Its midnight and the place is packed. I always thought Kenyan ladies were fly. Mamas down here?…. They are dancing all over the place and their dresses are miles above the knee. If not dresses, the shorts are even flimsier. They can dance also.
Except one… There must have been more but she is the only one I notice. I think it’s because she has a bucket full of wine bottles on her table. Maybe it’s because she is taking some soft drink direct from a can. She is facing the dancing stage. She can’t see me primarily because I am directly behind her. She has some conservative blouse, loosely fitting black trousers and some Lacoste white slip on shoes. She looks unbothered by the whining, dancing and gyrating.
She sips her drink purposefully.
When Seduce me by Ali Kiba starts playing, she stands up. More like erupts from her seat. A volcano type of eruption… Unexpected and abrupt. Startling and sudden… I didn’t see it coming. The song seems to touch a part of her… She sings along to the lyrics… Then she notices me watching her. And in turn, I notice her noticing me noticing her…
She smiles and sits down. She doesn’t fancy an audience. But I am drawn in. I am pulled to move towards her and say hello but something holds me back. Maybe the Kilimanjaro I am taking isn’t as effective as the oil I consume back home.
I am not one to lack confidence when approaching someone, a lady to be precise (the only time I approach a guy is when I am passing by him)… but something about this one shouts that I should keep my butt to my unstable stool. I just watch as her friends come and go… dance and sit back down… sip wine and whine…
Her aunt is also sitting with them. She seems to be quite overprotective of this particular girl. She lets every other girl dance with whomever they choose but she doesn’t allow anyone near this one. The ones who get drunk enough to approach the table leave with their egos between their legs.
It’s funny really. There isn’t a single guy who manages to get her up to dance or do anything. She oscillates between her phone, her refrigerated drink and once in a while staring back at me.
I look for the colleague who had accompanied me here and I spot him on the dance floor, a girl on his waist, a sprite on one hand and Ali Kiba on his lips. He doesn’t seem bothered by anything in the world. The night is drifting right based on my judgment of the state of his bodily moves.
I am happy for him.
It’s around 4:45 and I have had enough. I need to leave. I take my beer bottle in one hand, my phone on the other and approach her table. Every other occupant of the table is somewhere on the dancefloor jumping the night away. She is alone.
I tap her shoulder when I reach where she is sitting and she looks back at me. She doesn’t say a word but smiles instead. It’s an honest smile. One I never expected based on how she treated everyone else who tried to join her at her table.
She stretches her hand and I clasp her palm in mine.
“My name is Ken” I am literally shouting because of how loud the music is. She leans into my ear and softly declares…
“Light?” I whisper back.
“Yes… naitwa Lightness”
“Pleasure to meet you Lightness” Her hand is still in mine as we do the introductions amid the noise. She has soft palms. I then flip her palm and notice her expensively manicured nails.
At this moment her aunt comes back and she almost yanks me away thinking I am disturbing her precious one. She introduces me to her aunt after which she (her aunt) smiles and leaves to go back to her dancing.
After she is gone, the conversation continues…
“I am leaving Dar es Salaam and I might not be back for a while”
“I am going back to my country…”
“Nchi gani hiyo?”
“I am Kenyan.”
“Mbona hunijibu na Kiswahili?”
“My Swahili is too broken to be meaningful. I prefer English. Moreso when talking to you.”
She laughs. A laughter followed by a smile that just seems so genuinely sweet, with just the right touch of shyness that unexpected warmth rushes through me. She is confident and grounded. She has seen it all and heard almost everything the male species has to say. She has been approached and promised dynasties and kingdoms. Wakanda might have been one of them…
I am drawn to this girl. She is intently looking at me. Not the ‘expecting me to say something’ kind of look but a look that portrays understanding, contentment, and gratification.
I can only imagine what might be going through her mind, thoughts like; What does she think of me? Oh, I’m so ugly! Does she like me? Am I doing the right thing just sitting next to her and holding her hand? Did I take too long to approach her? Does she think I am a coward for seeing the signs and not acting on them? I know those thoughts all too well.
Then something amazing happens, like a light turning on in a dark room, her eyes lighten and she smiles again. Wow, I wonder, smiles really do have power. They can reach places the sun can’t and warm the very soul. I smile back at her, hoping to read her mind through her smiling lips.
“I love your smile.”
“Asante” then she smiles again.
“Nipe number yako” she says…
“Will you call me if I do?” I ask innocently. I am sitting next to her and she has turned her seat to face me. My legs are between hers and my fingers are clasped tenderly between hers.
“Hapana, give me your phone nikupe yangu pia so that you can call me,” she says. She hands me her phone after unlocking it and I hand over mine.
+254 721 … … I key in the digits on her italicized keypad. She does the same on my phone and we hand back either of our phones reluctantly,
“Unasafiri kurudi Kenya kesho?” She asks into my ears. The intensity of the music has subsidized and she doesn’t have to whisper in my ears or scream for me to hear her.
“That’s the plan. I wish I could stay longer but I have had a long week. The past five minutes have been the best I have had in a long time. I don’t know why I took that long to get here but I am glad I finally did. Something about you held me to my chair but something stronger drew me out of it. I would give anything to stay longer, to look into your eyes longer, to watch the crowd dance longer… to hear you laugh for a little bit longer… But as it is I can’t… However, I hope to see you the next time I am around. I will make it soon because I am sure I can’t stay too long without seeing you”
“I feel the same way. I won’t say much sababu najua tutaongea mengi Zaidi baadaye.”
I then order her another round of her drink and start walking out. Something inside me wants to stay longer but my head is demanding for some rest. I feel her eyes on my back as I head up the stairs. I am walking away from someone I deeply want to stay by with the hope that I see her someday. It is insane but it’s the only thing there is to be done.
I will see her again soon. I have to see her again soon.
She is the first person I call as soon as I land at JKIA the following day. Messages come in but I ignore everything and dial her number. The happiness in her voice is all over the place. She makes me happy by laughing often.
The days that follow, though brief, are the best I have had since I left my previous relationship. In her, I meet a girl I am willing to change for. She questions my desires, evaluates my needs and most importantly she holds my hand, in an attempt to take me out of the darkness.
She had a kind of understated beauty, perhaps it is because she is so disarmingly unaware of her prettiness. She comes out as kind and concerned…
In a nutshell, in the words of Fakorede;
“She sees me for me, not through rose-colored glasses or the image-enhancing filters of an app; refusing to judge or downplay my weakness, reveling in my strength yet not dwelling on it; accepting, completely, that there will be lumps in the batter sometimes and always choosing to let them be.
She is there when I need her (and when I pretend not to), still enough for me to listen to her breathing and patient enough to infect me with her calmness.
She pours out tenderness like the swollen sky weeps rain in April, soaking me to my soul with pain-erasing drops of softness; a torrent that leaves me grateful to be so vulnerable to her.
She wraps her arms around me, wrapping her large heart around me, wrapping her unfathomable mind around me without smothering me; putting out old fires, starting new ones and warming me every day so I could warm her the following day.
She graces my presence with her attention, uninterrupted by human or machine; eyes meeting hers, holding and following as if in a dance of wordless conversation.
She lies with me in semi-darkness, our favorite sounds lighting up space around us in ways the stars cannot comprehend.
There’s a promise that she will grow with me, stronger together that we can ever be apart; growing into me as I grow into her, finding more of each other as we get lost in us.
She stays, so wherever I turn I find her there, shades of her in everything of mine she has touched (my heart, most of all), my life intertwined with hers.
She blesses me with her future as I offer her mine; our pasts not dwelled upon but acknowledged, understood and left behind because this imperfect now we are working out will always be better than a thousand maybes in which we never meet.”
But then life, as always, messes up everything.