Somewhere in Mikindani-Changamwe, there is a line of stalls which has many shops and cafes. It has a semi-wide corridor in which children play along. At the far end of the corridor is a makeshift garage. There are a few guys dressed in overalls who have all manner of tools popping out of their pockets. I’m standing outside a shop as I wait for her to arrive. She insisted that I should visit her place and know where her story originates from. Her place is the source of all what she is about to tell me. I did not quite know what to expect.
Everybody knows everyone here. I’m the outsider. The guy who crossed two bridges in search of a story. This search led me to Mikindani. It led me to her. The weather changed from sunny to slightly windy. The type of wind that brought chills. The sky was gray and it had began to drizzle. Then I saw her. I just knew it was her. She walked slowly, and with each step there was something about her graceful nature. She was like an African queen. She was in an aqua blue dress which stopped slightly below her knees. Her eyes seemed to scan around the vast multitudes of peoples moving around the area. She removed her phone from her purse and called me. I smiled when I saw her number pop up on my screen.
She flashed a smile when she saw me. It was the prettiest smile that I had seen in a long time. She had deep brown bronze colored eyes. She had dimples on her cheeks and a frontal gap in between her frontal teeth. Her dressed hugged her temple so well. Her natural hair created a beautiful wave as it flowed slightly through the wind.
“It’s finally nice to meet you”, she said as she pulled me into a hug that resulted with a pat on the back. She smelled good. I just had to inhale her presence and aura. She said that she lived a few blocks from where we were. She led me on in to her place. The place she had called home for a couple of years now. That place which always welcomed her with warmth and provided shelter to her humane soul.
We got to her apartment after a couple of stairs, through a doorway that had flowery patterns curved on it. Her door knob had the shape of a lion’s head with a metallic handle in between its mouth. It is one of those houses that smell good, characterized by a certain warmth that reminded me of home. It showed that there was presence of love in this house. There is a small shoe rack that also acts as a coat hanger. There is a small line of coats and jackets hanged lined, arranged and multitude pairs of shoes neatly arranged.
“Wine or juice?”
“Wine would do just fine.”
She proceeds and takes a bottle of wine from her refrigerator and pours it into those fancy wine glasses. You have a nice house. It has a nice smell. She smiles, once again flashing her nice set of white teeth. We settle down at the plush aqua blue couches in the living room. The telly is on but on mute. To know her story, we shall first have to travel back in time. A time when she had to change towns due to her nature of work. We have to travel through a town that changed the course of her life, but before that we have to know how she ended up going to that town in the first place.
“It all began when I called a certain bus company’s customer care line. I was making two reservations to travel towards Kilifi.” She says. The guy who picked up the phone was courteous and had etiquette. He spoke nicely, had a deep guttural voice, and made the conversation interesting. He made me laugh. The conversation was not boring. It was fun. She looked forward to hear his voice again. There was a nagging conscience that made her want to know who the guy behind that voice was. How does he look like? Is he tall, dark or is he one of those light skinned dudes? She pegged her hopes on that she’d see him the day she would be travelling.
(Let’s call her Ibby, shall we?) He called her two days later through the office line and inquired if she was still travelling. “It is how he spoke, that made one look forward in enjoying the journey.” She says. He wasn’t quick in dismissing the call or in a rush to tell one to pay. “You know like how those Tala guys can call and harass one into making a payment?” She says. “No.” I tell her. I honestly would not want my peace disturbed by some accounts guy telling one to pay their loan or be threatened by being blacklisted in the CRB. “Well he was none of that, but he stuck along the lines of his profession well. He had a way with words.” She says.
She sent money to the pay-bill number and he called back and told her that he had received the payment and that her ticket was ready. On the day she was to travel she reached town early. Her mother came half an hour later. She reached early cause she wanted to pick the tickets and also see the guy behind the voice. “There were so many people in the passengers lobby. I remember some guy at the counter who printed me my tickets. He was quick to dismiss me.” She says. It brought out a huge difference between the customer care guy and what was happening on the ground. Amwadeghu, I tell you things were very different. It left her startled for a while. She went outside and decided to chill for the bus.
The bus that pulled up was beautiful. Elegance was an understatement. It was just as the way he had described it. She sure got value for her money. She felt happy that they had got a new bus and it was comfy. Still her conscience nagged her. Ibby wanted to thank him personally. And as if on cue her phone rang. Ibby looked at her screen and wondered why the bus company was calling her. Then she remembered it was him. That guy. That guy whose voice made her feel butterflies. But what could a girl do?
He gave her his number, wished her a safe journey, then told her that he would call her the following day to know if she reached safe and sound. All that time Ibby had not mentioned his name. I was itchy to know his name. That jamaa’s personality intrigued me. Did the voice behind the phone had a name? Or was his name the customer care guy?
“What was his name?”
“Relax, we will get there.” Ibby did not know what to expect when she called him the following day. She called at around 0900 hours. He picked up and right away he knew it was her. “How did he know?” I asked. “He said he had a way of distinguishing voices and he rarely gave his number to clients.” We both agree that he was a smooth one.
So they talked that day, and each day after. He would ask of how her day was, how she was fairing on, and he would tell her of his. With each day she grew close to him, lingered on the phone for long periods just waiting for his name to pop up on her screen be it his call or texts. One day she called and it seemed like he was cooking. He did not seem the type that would cook, but would instead prefer takeaways cause he always reached home late. He put her on speaker and they talked as he proceeded to cook. Ibby remembers him saying that he loved good food and he’d rather cook other than having badly cooked. “I told him I was an excellent cook.” Ibby says as she woke up and went back to the fridge and brought the bottle of wine and poured out its content to our glasses.
He said he would love to taste Ibby’s well cooked food. Ibby is a chef by profession. “That night I flirted a lot on the phone with him.” He sent me his pics via app. “That satisfied my desire to the very least. But still I wanted to see him physically. That fueled my desire more. I had created this picture of him in my mind.” A cheeky smile plays across her face for a millisecond.
One Wednesday evening he called her, told her that he was en-route to Taita. He was going to attend his cousin sister’s burial. He felt low, his voice notation was on the lower side. He did not have much to talk. He said that he’d call when he would have reached.
The next day on that early Thursday morning, Kai called and told Ibby that he was watching the sun rise from the East. He sent pics of where he was. “His name was Kai.” Ibby says. They talked for a while then he said he was headed home. He was with his family. Around mid-day a text popped on her phone asking her to join him. Ibby remembers asking Kai in which town he was in and he said, “C 105.” “Where is that on earth?” I asked. “Voi,” she said.
“There is something just magical about that town. It’s cool breezes, the hills surrounding it and the SGR snaking its way through brings a magnificent view.” She says.
“So you boarded the next bus and headed to where Kai was?”
“No, I did not have enough cash at the moment. But Kai was adamant and his stubbornness was like a trolley with a bent wheel.”
“He sent me money, and I was on to the next vehicle on my way to him.” She says with a chuckle. Ibby says at some point she thought she had thrown caution to the wind. She was scared yet thrilled. Here she was headed to a town she knew no one apart from Kai. Ibby arrived at Voi town late in the evening. The clock was pushing towards seven by the time she arrived. She called Kai. Kai was late by ten minutes when he arrived to pick her up. He was with his cousin. They were a bit tipsy. Kai smoked, Ibby remembers him asking what was her take on guys who smoked. She said she did not like smokers. He kept quiet on that. He took her to where the rest of his cousins where they were having drinks and the air was thick with smoke, and introduced her to them. They are a happy fun lot. She had to come to terms with his habits. Ibby could not change someone she had just met the first time.
Kai was the youngest in the group, but also he had a way of how he handled things despite him being young. We had drinks, good food and some good jazz before we went home. It was quiet far from Voi town. At the parking lot Kai kissed her, then said nothing. He opened for her the doors of the car. It was getting cold and he had lent her his jacket. It had that nice swift waft scent of BRUT. His kissed had lit a fire inside her, a fire of lust, desire, burnt flames of passions. She watched his every move, how he talked, how he laughed, how he drove as he showed him the surroundings even though it was dark.
They got home and she freshened up, while he cooked. His other cousins had passed out in the living room while two others passed out in the next room. Well their house was huge, had that homely feeling. That night every desire and fantasy of hers was fulfilled by Kai. In the morning they had a steamy session in the bathroom. She put on one of his tees and a pair of shorts. She truly felt at home. Kai was easy around her. He did not pretend. That Friday morning, Kai drove his friend to Voi so that he could board the bus back to Nairobi.
Ibby was well acquainted by the time Kai got back. Kai got back with three more women and booze. And meat. His cousins had pestered him that he could not be having fun, while they were on a dry of some sorts. Kai did just that so that he could have Ibby’s undivided attention. They celebrated a life well lived, they were a bit sad that their cousin sister had passed on. So they talked about her happy moments when they were roasting meat and drinking their whiskey. Kai was amazed at both Ibby’s skills in the kitchen and in between the sheets.
“It was one of those lit weekends, knowing that it was perhaps just a fling.” Ibby says. Her deep brown bronze eyes have a certain glow that makes them alive. After that weekend, Ibby was sure that things would go south after the fling had ended. But Kai always called and checked on her. He would travel down to coast and see her whenever he got the chance. Ibby fell in love with him.
“To be honest I fell in love with Kai’s voice first, then I fell in love with whom he was as a person. I really wanted to meet Kai. And that the main reason why I went to that town was when he told me that he was faced with the demise of his relative. It was the sole reason why I met Kai in the first place.” Ibby said with a far flung gaze.
They dated on and off for a while, before it became official. Then months later he shifted towns and went quiet about it. He resurfaced later when Ibby was going through serial bouts of depression. “What caused the depression?” I asked. Ibby was undergoing through a rough financial patch, she had lost her job, and when she looked at her peers; she felt like a failure.
Couple of times Ibby had contemplated suicide, but it was simply not her time to die. Her parents had then separated. It took a toll on her. “It was Kai who told me things would be alright. How would they be alright when he had gone silent close to a year? So I clang on to him. He gave me hope, he was there when most people deserted her.” Ibby says. She had bouts of emotional mood swings. At one point she would be happy, and a few minutes sad and depressed. The next morning she would be yelling all manner of things and hurling things through the window. He stuck it through all. Even on those days when she called him horrible names.
He took it all in, he made Ibby see a councilor, and when she was getting better, he disappeared again. He would only text once in a while. Then out of the blue he called Ibby and asked her if she was okay and if Ibby would see him. He was in town. She went to where he was. Ibby could not just resist the urge to see Kai. They talked had drinks, then he ordered a cab for her and called later to confirm if she safely reached home.
“Are you guys still together?” I asked.
“It is better if I loved him from afar. And still let him know that I still love him, despite the change of dynamics even if I do not show it often or say it enough times.”Ibby says.
“If there’s one thing you do not regret at all and that one place you’d want to go back to, what would it be?” I asked. I could feel the wine swirling in my head.
“I do not regret meeting Kai at all, and if there’s one place I’d like to go back in time it would be that town. C 105 – Voi. The source of everything” Ibby says with a chuckle.
She walked me down the flight of stairs, back to where she had found me. Outside the sky had let its waters break loose. I was not going to get rained on this time. I hailed a taxi and as I got in and watched through the side mirror I could still see her silhouette waving back at me.