“You come here often,” It’s a statement or a question, depending on how you look at it. Z breathes out, “I used to when my wife was alive, hii ndio ilikuwa baze but now it’s not that often. It’s a nice place, right?” I take in the place, “Yes it is. I like the ancient look, these lights are hanging so low, just perfect,” I point out at the lights.
“It’s warm, cosy and homely.” I’m I gushing? “That is Ka’hawa for you.” He waves out his hand gesturing at the space, Ka’hawa. He continues, “You’ve never been here before?” “I actually have. When C was expectant, coffee was one of her cravings and this is where I faithfully bought her coffee.” I stir my coffee, Frappé. “Your wife?” He inquires. “Yes. Sorry I forgot to mention it to you, I thought I did.” He does not say anything about that.
“Why would you even have that?” He chuckles pointing at my mug. “What? Frappé? I have a sweet tooth, that gives”
I quickly add, ‘I’m not big on coffee, C was. Her favorite was Cappuccino with an added flavour of Caramel.” I sip my Frappé; sweet, too sweet. “Kanaingia?” He taunts me. I chuckle, “Hadi kwa bone marrow.” He laughs out loud. His laugh is loud, infectious and healthy? And it has a grunt. So basically I laugh too but because I find the grunting amusing. “Aaaah,”he calms down from the laugh and says, “I love my Irish Coffee.” He lifts up his mug and looks at it proudly, you’d think it’s a trophy or a souvenir.
Then he looks at me with a grin “Cheers!” Who am I to turn that down, “Cheers!” We sip our coffee.
“You know why I love Irish Coffee?”
I lamely answer, “Because it was your wife’s favorite.”
“No, no, she did not like the whisky. I don’t like it either, I love it.” He takes a long sip.
“You love it cause of the whisky?”
“Surprisingly yes. It portrays maturity, class and manhood.” The latter he says it with an extra tinge to his voice.
“In short Frappé portrays immaturity childishness?” I mimic.
“You said it, I did not.”
We both chuckle and drink to rare but great evenings.
We are quiet. I take this time to look around. The space is not that busy. From where I sit, which is at a corner next to the window facing the street,
I can count six people present excluding the staff and Z. Slow Jazz instrumental plays in the background; it reminds me of C. Not Jazz as a whole, the saxophone. She loved the saxophone.
She would banter, “I really love it’s sound. I don’t know, I just…” Then she would tsk and continue, “it just gives me chills and butterflies. You get me?” I definitely agree but I would tease her, “But it hurts that there is someone, in this case something, that gives you butterflies other than me. Why do you break my heart?” I’d place my hand on my chest and with a silly grin look at her.
“You are crazy!”
“For you. Crazy for you.”
Z takes me out of my reverie, “You seem to be deep in thought.”
“Not really, I was just taking in the place.” He does not buy it. “You miss her?” He asks me the same question I asked him in the bus. I’m quiet for a few seconds, sip my coffee and look out the window, “You have no idea.” I look back at him and continue, “I miss her so much. So much it hurts. Do you hurt?” I ask him, which I doubt if he does. It has been fourteen years for him.
“My kind of hurt is not the same as yours. I miss her, that has not changed despite the years, but my missing of her is not marred with pain and bitterness. I healed which you have not.” I purse my lips, a habit I picked from C. He adds, “I can tell.”
I deeply sigh.
“For how long were you married?” He sips his coffee which is halfway done. “Just an year and ten months.” I cross my arms and lean back. “That is sad.” He symphathizes. “Very! And you know what, it’s been a month since she died and my girls are just four months! How about that?” I bang the table which does not just surprise Z but me too. I’m frustrated. Angry. I place my elbows on the table.
“Ka’hawa has a rooftop,” he begins, picks his mug and stands up. “Let’s move there.” He adds. I take my Frappé and follow him.
‘Wherever you go, I go.’ He has this strange pull on me.
He stops to talk to one of the male staff, they seem to know each other since they casually laugh and give each other the man hug.
We stand at the rooftop.
“Have you been here before?” Z asks. “No,” I say taking in the place. The setting here is different, instead of rustic chairs and tables, it’s stacks of hay as seats and logs of wood as tables. Blankets and throw pillows add colour and life to the place. It’s beautiful. No one is here, just us two plus the cold.
“Hand me your mug,” I look behind. I did not even realise I had stepped away from him while I was taking in the place. I’m puzzled.
“Ah! So you have finished your mature and classy Irish Coffee” I mock, “and now you want to have my childish Frappé!”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Very funny. I’m serious, hand me your mug.” He moves towards me and stretches out his arm beckoning at my mug. “Oookay,” I don’t where this is heading to. “This is not a clever way to kill someone. My advice, take it or leave it.” I say in a bid to lighten the sudden change of emotion.
“I wish I could but no.” He chuckles and takes away my mug. He takes a step back, “This is what I want you to do, walk towards that wall,” he gestures to the wall which acts like a barrier to the space, using his left hand, the one he is holding my mug. “and yell.” He emphasizes on the ‘yell’.
“Do your hear me?” He asks.
“Yes I’ve heard you but no, there is no way I’m yelling”
“Why? People will think I’m crazy.”
“Which people?” He looks around. “I see no one here. Who even cares? Who the fuck even cares?” He now raises his voice, “No one! No one cares.”
“Is that the only thing you heard? Fuck you!”
“You cussed again, this time at me.”
He is about to pour on me my coffee and I quickly say, “Fine, fine! I’ll yell!”
No one cares, I know. It just feels weird yelling at night, it’s not even that late.
I move towards the wall and place my palms on the cold stone.
It’s beautiful from up here. Nairobi is beautiful.
I’m numb. I don’t feel the anger I felt minutes ago. Is it the serenity that is giving me peace? Maybe this was a bad idea.
“She is not coming back ” I’m startled. I did not even hear him. He stands beside me but slightly behind me.
“And she will never ever come back.”
That irks me, “I know”
“Then why are you angry if you know?”
“Why I’m I angry? Who are you to ask me why I’m angry, you of all people?” The ‘peace’ is slowing fading away, “She left me! She left me alone! She walked out of my life just like that!
“That is obvious.”
Now that makes me furious. “I swear if you say one more stupid thing,” I breathe out, “May God help you.”
“You are selfish.”
I quickly look at him, “What did you just say?”
“You are selfish,” and he has the audacity to repeat. What he says next infuriates me, “You say she left you? She left you alone? What about your girls? Where are they in all this? You are so consumed in your bitterness that you’ve left them out!”
I grit my teeth, “You will not talk about my girls that way, no you will not!”
I’m angry. Mad. I’m literally shaking. I have this urge to let out my anger on Z. I think he reads my mind since he says, “Go on. Yell.”
I do not think twice, I yell. Lord, I yell.
I yell out the: sleepless nights, anxieties of the day, pain, anger, frustration. I yell out for my babies too. They might be so little but I know they feel the: pain, emptiness, sadness partly because of me.
“Enough. That is enough.” Z pats my back. I’m breathing hard. He pulls me back and holds me, hugs me. I cry. I break down. He does not say anything.
After a while, I pull back.
‘Here use this.” I now accept the white handkerchief I had refused while in the bus. “How does it feel?” He firmly holds my shoulders. I deeply breathe out, “Better,” I add, “free.”
“Round two?” He chuckles. I manage to grin.
“Come my son,” This is the second time he’s called me that. He places his arm on my back and guides me to sit on one of the stacks of hay. He sits across me.
“You still want your Frappé?” I shake my head.
“Fine. T, fourteen years ago I was on this rooftop and I yelled out just like you did.” I look up at him. He continues, “this is where I said my goodbye.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“This is where I let her go. This is where I decided to move on. This is where,” I cut him short.
“And just like that the pain was gone?”
“No it did not.” I sigh.
“It’s all in the mind, T. All in the mind.” He points at his head and continues, “C left you but she did not leave you alone. Your babies, they are what you have right now. I assume they are twins,” I nod.
“What are their names?”
“V and P” He chuckles.
“What is it with you and letters? You are serious?” I smile and nod my head twice.
“What do they stand for? Violet and Purple?” I laugh out loud.
“That was a good one. You said it, I did not.” I get back at him.
“Focus on them. Sacrifice your time for their sake. You are not just their father, you are their mother. Yes they might have people around them, people that love and take care of them but it is you they need the most. You are a good man, a good father I can tell and I know it’s not easy but what I know is that you can do it.”
I stay silent. He continues, ” Turn your pain to joy. Turn your bitterness to happiness. Joy and happiness are your babies. Turn to them. Fully and wholeheartedly.”
Who is this man? How did I not see all this?
“Did you also do the same thing?” I ask him.
“Yes I did. My wife left me with three kids, the ages of; 13, 11 and 9. Two girls and a boy respectively.”
“And that was it?” I ask.
“No. What I did next you don’t have to but I’d advise you to”
“I bought a journal and I wrote letters to her.”
“But wasn’t that adding more salt to injury?”
“Surprisingly not. It healed my injuries”
“What did you write about?”
“Anything and everything. I had no limitations.”
“Do you still write to her?”
“No. The pen took away my pain. That is why I told you earlier my kind of hurt is different than yours.”
“Oh” I quietly say.
Silence. We stay in silence.
“It’s almost ten, you wouldn’t want to keep your girls waiting.” He grins.
“I did not even notice how much time has passed.” We both stand up and make our way down.
He insists on paying the bill after I offer to.
We stand outside Ka’hawa. This is where we part.
“Is T really your name?” He does not think it is.
“Yes it is. You don’t believe me?” I chuckle.
“Of course I believe you Thomas. Why would I doubt you?”
“I see what you did there” We both laugh.
He places his hand on my shoulder, “You know what you need to do?”
“Laugh more!” I grin.
“Yes that and going home to your babies.”
“Right away!” I agree.
“Where can I find you?” I ask.
“Give me your hand,” he holds it even before I oblige. He takes out a pen from his jacket, roughly rubs my arm and writes down his number. I’m astonished.
“Say hi to your girls for me. Thank you for the company.” He seems to be in a rush. Even before I pour my heart out in thanksgiving, he turns and walks away.
“When can I see you again?” I yell.
He turns back, spread his arms and yells back, ” I’m always here T. Always.”
Wait. I think I’ve heard that before.
“You have my number. Call me.”
He walks away and this time, he doesn’t turn back.