Celebrating East African Writing!
I have always been of the mindset that all human beings are inherently good. Yes, the tenets of the idealists do hold firm with me, even if only in a utopian world. In Utopia, people love one another for what they are, flaws and all. In Utopia, friendships are made easily, and enmity is rare. In Utopia…only in Utopia.
Living in the city all my life has made me a robust and fast-paced individual. This allows me to make friends easily. At a party I’m the girl who’s mingling and talking with everyone.
Because of the many friends, no, acquaintances that I have made, I’ve always been invited to parties or events that require that ultimate party girl because that is who I was. I’m not that person anymore. But wait, I get ahead of myself.
It was the month of June two or three years ago when I met him. Tall and lithe, boasting a crew cut that would put a soldier’s to shame. I met him quite by accident at a party. Ideally we would never have talked, but the fact that he was standing all alone near the radio sipping his drink caught my attention.
“Hi,” I said to him.
“Hi,” he replied.
“Forgive me for being so direct but what is a fine brotha like you doing standing all alone in a room full of beautiful, mostly single women?”
He laughed out loud. Let me take a moment to describe his laugh. It was a hearty one; one of those that come from the bowels of the stomach. And he had really white teeth one could almost think that he had them professionally cleaned. He also had a dimple on his right cheek that made him seem really young.
“Well this is not my kind of scene. I’m only here because my cousin dragged me out because she said I’m too much of a recluse.”
“Hold that thought. Let me get a refill of my drink. Would you like one?”
“Yeah sure, please I’d like a Coke.”
“Just a Coke?”
“Yes please. I don’t drink.”
If his shyness had caught my attention, his apparent lack of interest in women and the fact that he did not drink definitely captivated me.
“So far, so good. You are interesting,” I said when I returned, a Coke in one hand, a beer in the other. “So what is your kind of scene?”
“Definitely not this one,” he replied, a slight smile playing on his lips.
“Evasive, aren’t we?” I shot back.
“No, I’m not being evasive. I just think you’d probably find it a bit strange.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“What’s your first impression of me?”
“Well… You are definitely outgoing and you seem like someone who loves fun.”
I giggled. “Well that’s very true. But on the flip side, I’m introverted in some ways.”
He snickered. “Yeah, right. How?”
“I love having alone time. Many times I just like to sit and listen to music and write or read a book.”
“That sounds cool, but how often do you do it?”
“Four out of every five opportunities I have to go out,” I replied, smiling slightly.
He looked taken aback. “Wow,” he began, and took a sip of his Coke. “I would never have figured. I mean, I know we’ve just met, but really, I wouldn’t have imagined that.”
“Well, there you are. So what is your kind of scene?”
“I like the arts. I’m into plays and cultural things and I like to go for such events.”
“Really? That’s so cool! I love plays as well! My favorite theater group is Festival of Creative Arts. What’s yours?”
“I love FCA as well. I think they are awesome and really funny. But I also like Phoenix and Heartstrings as well.”
“I love this! I rarely have someone who I can talk to about that aspect of my life.”
“I won’t lie, right now I’m impressed. I would never have figured you for an arts person.”
“Ha, I’ve even subscribed to an arts news letter that tells me what’s happening every week in the arts world.”
“That’s really cool.”
“Again, forgive the boldness, but may I have your number?”
Shyly smiling, he said, “Sure thing. You really are forthright.”
I smiled back. “Not all the time. But I like you. I definitely will look you up sometime.”
“Yeah, that would be lovely. Maybe we could go for a play or something.”
“I would love that.”
It has been a year and a half of pure bliss. Moses and I kicked it off instantly that day we met at my friend’s party. I guess it was inevitable that we would indeed date. I mean, we had become inseparable. Moses. My Moses.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate life. Life indeed is beautiful. What blessing and honor it is that the good Lord, in His infinite wisdom, chose us to be here today. Even so, still with love and in love, He called Moses to His bosom…”
I closed my eyes. A sharp pain, like a stab, kept torturing me beneath my breast. I concentrated on the pain and the erratic beating of my heart.
“… And so it is not our place to question why the Lord chose to call Moses so young, and leave behind a grieving family and a fiancee. The Lord…”
Again, I switched off and tuned off the pastor’s voice. I was not ready to confront the good Lord on this issue. For now, He had won.
Moses and I had been planning to start a family soon. For me, I was enthralled with the idea. I had discovered this maternal and caring side of me that I never knew existed. Moses, in his own gentle and caring way, had weaned me off partying and clubs. Some of my friends were green with envy; others thought I had just become plain boring. My ideal night out was watching movies with him and sipping wine. I was content.
“One should strive to live his life in a worthy manner. Worthy before the eyes of the Lord, and an example to all men. When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice at the sight of your Maker. Moses was one of those who we truly can say his life was nipped in the bud. He loved his family so much and was always dedicated to them. His friends always knew they had a true friend in him. Cindy, his girl friend, knew she had a rock in her man.”
I jumped at the mention of my name. I barely was paying attention to the sermon; so lost was I in the pain of my memories. My cheeks were wet with tears that I did not know I had shed. I wiped them off furiously and tried to focus on the pastor.
“And so we pray for comfort for the family and friends. We pray that the Lord may abide with them and carry them through this difficult period. You are the Father to the fatherless; a Brother to the brotherless; a Son to the sonless…”
He proposed to me down at the Coast. Retrospectively, I realized that he must have gone through so much trouble; simple man that he is. Was. I will never get used to talking about him in the past tense. We had gone with a group of friends for a short holiday. Everyone, except me, knew the agenda of the trip. So on that Saturday, we all went sky diving except for him. He claimed not to be feeling too well, and refused to hear any reasons I put up to stay with him.
Three and a half hours later we returned to the hotel, exhilarated and excited. I went straight to Moses’ room, only to find he was not there. A few minutes later, he sent me a message saying that he was feeling better, he had taken a walk and that he would see me in a short while at the hotel.
I went to the pool for a luxurious swim to while the time away. At around five, Moses came to the pool side and found me asleep on a beach bed, book in hand. He gently woke me up and told me that he had reserved a table for us for dinner at a floating restaurant in Malindi. He requested for me to go to my room and change into “something pretty” as he put it, so that we could leave as soon as possible.
The drive down to Malindi was scenic. Watching the sunset from the highway, I felt so blessed and lucky to have such a man in my life. My friends were cracking jokes and having a really good time. Wow.
We finally reached the restaurant. It was a sight to behold. The restaurant was actually a ship. Tiny lanterns hang lit at regular intervals casting a soft glow in the fading day light. At the bow ran tubes of light illuminating tables of food, many of which were delicacies. At the stern was a disco ball hanging from the roof over what was presumably the dance floor. There was a band playing soft jazz music right next to the dance floor. The furnishings gave the whole place a somewhat rustic ambience. In a nutshell, it was beautiful.
We sat down to a three course meal that was sinfully delicious. A bottle of white wine. Prawns served with lemon wedges, chicken served with pepper sauce, and a tossed mixed salad. And for dessert, chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries.
At the end of the meal we sat back and relaxed, enjoying each other’s company. At one point, I turned to Moses in excitement, exclaiming, “They are playing our song!” This was Brian McKnight’s, The Love of my Life.
I was jolted out of my reverie when I noticed people walking out of the chapel. I had not even noticed that the service was over. I wearily got up and joined Moses’ family behind his coffin. Simple mahogany. A tribute to him.
Outside the chapel, we all got into the hearse car and made our way to his final resting place. I looked around me. Before me sat his mother, stoic now as she had always been. His sister, her eyes swollen with crying. His brother, his features so taut from fighting back tears. They all expressed all I felt, yet they seemed to be completely alienated from the on-goings…
Moses got up and shyly asked me to dance, to which I demurely accepted. On the dance floor it was as if no one else existed or mattered. It was just the two of us. Looking into his eyes I could see his love for me shine through.
Suddenly, he pulled away from me and fumbled in his pocket for something. I looked on at him quizzically. My expression quickly changed from that of puzzlement, then curiosity, then disbelief. He went down on one knee and uttered words that would forever change my life as I knew it. “Cindy, will you marry me?”
Tears running down my face, I could only smile and nod vigorously; so overwhelmed was I. Cheers went round the room as he got up and slipped a beautiful ring on my finger and then gently kissed me.
We got out of the car and walked a short distance to the grave. The pall bearers had already arrived and had set up everything for the burial. The pastor began with a prayer, then his body was slowly lowered into the grave. I felt as if I too was being buried with him…
I burst through the doors of the hospital, having received a call from one of Moses’ friends that there had been a bad accident. Moses had been working late and as he was driving home, a drunk driver had hit him. He lost control of the car and it had rolled several times. Good Samaritans had rushed him to the emergency room where he was taken to the intensive care unit.
I took one look at him and almost fainted. Swathed in bandages, he looked so lifeless. Tubes ran in and out of his body trying to feed him vital liquids and pain killers. He was scheduled for an operation to ease the pressure on his brain as a result of the accident. I sat there and prayed to God, pleading for his life and telling the Lord about all the plans we had.
At one point I must have been talking out loud, because I felt Moses’ hand twitch then his eyes opened. I called for the nurses for I thought that this was a good sign, but it was not to be. He looked at me straight in the eyes and mouthed the words, “I love you.” With that, he took his last breath.
The mourners were called to throw clods of earth into the grave. Each time the soil hit his coffin was a nail into my own coffin. The wails and moans of those around me made me feel his absence even more acutely. The pastor intoned, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.” The ceremony was over and I turned and walked away, devoid of any emotion.
© Mercy Ojwang’ 2009
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