Celebrating East African Writing!
It was déjà vu all over again. What had up to now been a series of coincidences now began to fit in like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle for there right in front of me stood the house I had been seeing in my dreams these last couple of days. And outside it the red car too.
An elderly woman who I presumed was the maid from the apron she wore opened the door on my third ring. She was short and plumb probably in her late fifties or early sixties. Her wrinkled face was light brown in complexion and her hair was covered in a piece of cloth common with African women of her age. Where her hair was exposed at the edges I could see the greying brought on by age.
In the background behind her I could hear young people laughing and the sound of a CD player doing one of the popular songs of the day. It was the unmistakable Unbwogable song by the Kenyan duo Gidi Gidi and Maji Maji that had taken the music scene by storm.
“Yes? May I help you?” The woman in apron enquired eyeing me rather strangely from head to foot. She must have decided she liked me or I didn’t present any sort of threat because a slight smile briefly touched the corners of her mouth before disappearing altogether to be replaced by a short version of a frown.
“My name is Kijana Bahati,” I said putting on my most charming smile, “I am from Nairobi, Kenya and I am here in Kampala with my colleagues attending a university students seminar at the Crane Hotel,” I pointed over my shoulder to my friends still standing on the road staring at us. ”I was wandering whether I could speak to your employer please.”
“What is it about?”, she wanted to know. She was now looking at me rather closely, probably wondering what a stranger all the way from Nairobi Kenya would be wanting with her employer. Her gaze was now beginning to unnerve me. The look on her face could almost be described as one of slight shock, as though she had seen a ghost.
I hadn’t figured on having to explain myself to anyone else other than the owner of the house. To tell this matronly lady in apron that I had seen this house in my dreams a number of times just did not sound right or sane.
“Er… I have a message for your employer from a friend in Nairobi which I have to deliver in person,” I said thinking fast on my feet.
“I am afraid she isn’t home. We are expecting her tomorrow. Maybe you can come back then to see her”, she answered still giving me the look. She had however recovered her composure and her face did not betray any emotion.
“I will come back tomorrow to see her. Tell her to expect me then. And thanks,” I said, glad to escape her gaze.
Without waiting for another word I turned back to join my friends Njoroge and Oti still standing at the road intersection where I had left them earlier.
Walking down the steps and out through the gate, I had a strange feeling that the woman in apron was still staring at me. As I quickened my pace, I noted that the red car I had noticed earlier was actually quite dilapidated. It had not been in use for some time – as though the owner had just walked away from it and left it to the elements of nature judging from the grass growing around it.
“What was that all about Bahati?” Njoroge asked as soon as we were on our way again.
“It’s another one of those familiar scenes I have been telling you about since we came to Kampala. This house and that red car outside have been featuring in my dreams these last couple of days and the moment we happened upon them I recognized them. I thought I would have a word with the owners who might be able to assist me but I am told she is away and will be back tomorrow. I have promised to come back then to see her. Who knows? She might be able to tell me something that will explain my mystery.”
“Might it be your fertile imagination at work again Bahati?”, Oti whose nickname was ‘the clown’ asked, punching me on the arm.”After all it won’t be the first time you’ve taken us on a wild goose chase, you know?” He added quacking like a duck for effect but cleverly moving out of arm’s reach.
“I swear this time it’s for real. I just cannot explain the whole thing.” I replied. “I wish it were my imagination as Oti suggests but it’s not.”
My so-called fertile imagination was borne out of my love for the theatre and acting, something I did with relish since my primary school days in Kijabe town where I had spent my earlier days at a local orphanage. I was now nineteen going on twenty and in my sophomore year taking a course in Economics at the University of Nairobi. The famous Education Theatre 2 building at the main campus was a favourite hanging out place for me. I was also known for my juicy bits as a contributor to the campus weekly paper The Comrade Features. Writing was another of my hobbies.
As we walked back to the hotel where we were staying, I knew that another piece of the jigsaw would surely fall into place once I met the owner of the house I had just left. I also had time to reflect on the events of the last four weeks.
(This is part of a longer short story titled Second Chances)
©Maruhi Maina 2009
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