I don’t know where to start. A cliche right? My answer is yes too. I’m confused. Torn between choosing to type directly on word press or on a word document. I’m sorry to interrupt your reading, I have to serve a customer. He is a short man, in a blue face mask with white elastic straps. I apologize because that is the only thing I noted while trying to focus on his eyes. Part of customer service skills, I recall. He is one of those customers who only want to ask about the price of a product and even start bargaining, but will end the conversation with ” I will come tomorrow, lakini unitengenezee hiyo Bei”. Well, I have done that a lot of times in those secondhand clothing stalls in Githurai 45. I now feel what those stall owners feel. It’s 09:43 a.m, and I haven’t even sold a single tube. A tube? Yes a metal tube. This is my third day at a metal workshop and welding store in a lonely town centre hundreds of kilometres away from the city. I keep looking at the back of the hard cover note book where the stall owner has jotted down the prices and sizes of every metal and sheet.
Like every one else, the Kenyan education system taught us to measure in metres, centimetres and kilometres, but here every measurement is in inches, feet and gauges. That means I have to frequently convert the measurements here and there. Sounds boring, right? You didn’t expect that I would bring some bit of Math or some random stuff about metal tubes? I didn’t plan to talk about it either. I wanted to write about some beautiful love story. Love story? Yes. Am I reading your mind? Probably not. Do you notice some grammar errors? Well,you should. Do you consider them grammar or punctuation mistakes? Hmmm. Don’t. Don’t go back to check. I am just about to start.
He is the second customer of the day, at 1:13 p.m. I hope you understand how boring my day is. His motorcycle stops by the door of “Baringo Honey 🍯” the name of my store. He is wearing a black face mask, darker than his melanin endowed shiny skin. His well set deep black eyes are shining in front of his milk white sclera. He is focused on the items on display, but my gaze is on him. As he comes closer, I notice that he is a bodaboda rider, an inflated rugged bumpy black winter jacket with a conical hood which has grey fluffy edges. “Good afternoon.” He adjusts his face mask to speak to me. I marvel at the neatly lying moustache. It is wet from the warmth of breathing in the mask. If it’s not for the face mask, I would have mistaken it for the “gel” that “my baby hair” gifted friends use. His lips are full, in between red and pink. The side buns are perfectly agreeing with the beard cascading down his chin. His barber must have taken a century to do it. Hiking up the slope of his cheeks towards the temple, I can’t help admiring the almond shaped forehead with the well bordered hairline. I am in love with his thick arc shaped eye brows, prettier than mine. Down the valley between his onyx eyes, the skillfully crafted straight nose is perfectly placed. Suddenly, the rough feel of his gloved fingers touch my hand. He has noticed my stare after failing to answer his greeting.
I look away quickly and then slowly looks back at him with embarrassment. His eyes are on me. I am nervous and my heart is beating faster than on June 6. I don’t know how the words “How are you Star” escape my mouth but I am sure that I wanted to say ” How are you Sir”. To my surprise, he smiles and responds, “Fine thank you honey”. The last part is what stops my pulse for a second, before I smile again at the art and sequence of his snow white dentition. I am trying to figure out how to explain to him that the name of the store “Baringo Honey 🍯” has nothing to do with me, but he holds my hand more firmly. “I know you’re new here. This store used to sell honey. Sweet honey. I was a loyal customer. The honey would run out and I would come back for more. However, today I haven’t come for the temporary honey. Not the short-lived sweetness anymore. I have come for an immortal purpose. My goal is to get the unending taste. The taste of the imperishable honey. The honey whose sweetness will last forever and if I don’t last forever it’s taste will.”
For two minutes, I have been listening to the most beautiful vocal chords in my life. His words are still echoing in my sub conscious mind and my heart is racing. I can feel the intensity of his eyes on me. I am staring at the grip on my wrist and I notice that my fingers are shaking. I am hesitant to look up lest our eyes meet. His hands move from my wrist to my elbow. I freeze. I can feel his warm mint breath above my forehead. He suddenly removes his hand from me and takes off his gloves. Before, I can jerk from him, he cups my chin in his warm spongy palms and moves his face closer to mine. I smile at him and he smiles back. I fake a whisper and he moves closer. This time around, I can feel his evenly trimmed beard making contact with my lips. I close my eyes and start to imagine of all the possibilities of the thoughts between us. I can feel his breathing, deep but long and seqeunced. I try to open my eyes but I won’t let them open fully. I want to peep through the gaps between my eyelashes but tears block every possibility of vision beyond my eyelids.
I stare into the dark imagination of a short dark and handsome man wanting to embrace me. I start to feel a hot flow over my cheeks and then a soothing wipe down the trail.
“I am Kim”.
“Kimutai? Kimberly? Or Kimani?”
Kim laughs. “I am Kim, short form for Keee-money”.
He says out his name in a strong Kikuyu accent and I can’t control my laughter. My laughter isn’t because of the way he says it, but because my previous thought and his physical attributes that perfectly suited Kimutai especially because of his white shining dentition. Before I can open my eyes wide enough, Kimani quickly pulls away and drops on the floor, blood oozing from his temple. My body freezes in position. I can see a dark figure on my right from the corner of my eye.
“Maintain your lane” A roaring voice breaks the silence in the air and starts coming towards my direction. Blood is already forming a stream on the rough corridor and Kim is silent but breathing heavily. I move forwards to help Kim but the stranger is fast enough to block my way. I stand in fear, arms wrapped across my shoulders. The stranger hasn’t looked at me for a second.
“Somebody help!” I shout in my throat but words fail to escape my lips. My lips are trembling and tears are welling up my eyes. A strong wind blows from the opposite side of the store clogging my teary eyes with dust and mud. It is at this point that I recall that I hadn’t prayed in the morning. I murmur a few words and hope for salvation.
I am not sure of how fast God answers prayers but I can’t contain my excitement at the vibration of my vocal chords. The stranger holding his weapon high ready to finish Kim looks at me. It is worth noting that he hadn’t looked at me the whole time. He lowers his weapon and slowly scrutinizes my presence. My body is frail and shaky. The stranger then lifts his eyes to look at the name of the store and then peeps to look at the merchandise.
From the way he is slowly shaking his head, and the curious eyes, I can tell that he has made a mistake.
He was wrong.