Celebrating East African Writing!
And when thou art weary I’ll find thee a bed
Of mosses and flowers to pillow thy head
There, beauteous Emma, I’ll sit at thy feet,
While my story of love I enraptured repeat.
-From ‘To Emma’, by John Keats
We sat facing each in a highway restaurant adjoining a petrol station where the bus had made a brief stop-over before embarking to the final destination.
I looked from my plate to this stunning Julia who was forking chips to her mouth as she drank soda straight from a straw.
Our eyes met and she smiled.
“Actually, what do you do for a living?” she asked.
The question caught me off guard. Already, I was formulating an approach strategy to entice her my way and my brains were in an overdrive phrasing and rephrasing the question I best thought suited the occasion.
“Um… Oh…” I stammered the usual I’m ‘confident’ in as my brains went in a reverse spin. I must confess her question drove the wind out of my sails rendering my occasional quick knack of lies irrelevant.
She was staring me straight in the eye.
It did not need rocket science to figure out the next lie of the day.
“I’m a teleptochnologist,” I said.
Did she choke on her chips or bit the fork hard or nearly swallowed the drinking straw altogether as she ‘multi-tasked’ in her eating? I saw her eyes open as wide as a twenty shilling coin.
Girl, I’m a hustler. Only three months ago I was a matatu driver who drove with reckless abandon like a Joginder Singh practicing for a forthcoming East African Classic Rally that, in my zigzagging in and out of the lane, I caused multiple accidents that led to a traffic gridlock stretching a good five kilometers on both road lanes and that took close to a whole five hours to clear. Haven’t you heard I’m the loose driver on the wanted police list and thus am running as far as possible to save my skin…..?
But what I told her was, “it means I’m a telephone diagnostician working as a teleco-analogist with one of the local mobile service provider.”
She could see through my bluff.
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“In layman’s language, I’m a technician,” I said.
“And it took you that long with a lengthy jargon to simply tell me a single word?” and she was smiling.
Now I could see that she was beginning to take a bit of interest in me. I knew she would next ask of my marital status and thus I fine-tuned my well ready-made lie.
She looked at me with a smile. There was a shiny glint in her eyes that twinkled briefly before she refocused to her eating.
I don’t know if what followed was done exclusively for my benefit or because of the room’s atmosphere. I must confess it was a bit stuffy and, despite three suspended fans outdoing each, the heat was a bit oppressive that the lady took off her dress coat and remained in a see-through spaghetti top.
I suspended my breath.
She bent lowly on the table as one hand reached down to her feet to scratch an itchy spot giving my roving eyes ample time to feast on her exposed cleavage that was full ripe.
I swallowed a mouthful of draught.
Our eyes met and I heard her speak as if from a distance. The excitement of the moment had benumbed me of my audiology senses that her sibilant voice seemed to seep out of the nether regions.
“Um… huh…” I intoned as mellifluously as my crackly voice would convey.
A smile split across her face as a shard of sun’s light across a gloomy cloud.
She was staring at a plastic flower that adorned the table we sat at. “Just asked if you know anything about flowers.”
Women and flowers! As far as I knew, flowers were weeds that simply added aesthetic beauty to homesteads and conveyed nothing beyond that.
“Nothing much,” I said plainly.
“Would you believe that giving a woman a flower conveys an unspoken message to her?”
Now here we go! I don’t see how dead weeds like those lovers exchange every Valentine Day makes sense to the recipients where words of endearments would suffice.
Perhaps the ones who best understands and appreciates flowers are the souls of the dead that had them wreathing or growing atop their mounds and sending sweet fragrances to their nostrils in the afterlife as appeasements when they blossoms.
Or the newlyweds who are pampered with them as they walk down the aisle.
“Are you aware if you gave a lady, let’s say, a red chrysanthemum, you’re conveying your deepest love to her and that a stripped carnation symbolizes your refusal or rejection of her?” she asked.
Man, I’m not a florist expert and as thus I felt this topic would better be left to the whites who express their sentiments through valueless weeds. I’m not acquainted with flowers which I know are the ‘totems’ of the dead and the two I can least identify by names are roses and the datura stramonium species.
“I’m sorry, madam, but I’m the least versed when it comes to flowers. Looks like you worked with a flower firm before.”
“No,” she said. “I spent close to a decade in Europe where it wasn’t unusual to see people conveying messages through sending of flowers.”
“I’d say that’s a cultural practice alien to our African societies that know nothing about flowers except during the occasional once a year Valentine treats.”
“You’re to the point.”
“And would it best suit you to let me know what you were doing in Europe for close to a decade?”
“Ah, Dave, besides being funny, you seem curious. I’ve this liking of you as it strikes me you’re an intelligent type. Well, I was doing my literature degree then.”
The way she said it! Had I not been on the run, I’d have regaled my drinking companions at Kirurumo Bar with tall tales while toasting myself to this added feather to my cap.
“And what actually do you do for a living?” I asked.
“As you know, I’m a writer, a web content manager and an editor with a local publishing company.”
“Which website do you run?”
It was a name synonymous with those in the literary field and you need only be a novice to the writing world to stumble upon it.
“The bus will be leaving in the next five minutes. All passengers are asked to hurry up in whatever they are doing,” a bellicose voice shouted from the doorway.
She again leaned lowly on the table as she reached out to her dropped handkerchief. The firm outline of her shapely breasts made me breath hard as my heart raced with anticipation.
“Was it calculated? I wondered watching her glance in my direction.
“Your combined bill will amount to… let me see,” a waiter was saying.
“I’m paying,” I said looking Julia with a smile.
As we emerged out in the sun, she asked me in such a silent voice that I had to lean closely to hear her.
“Are you married?”
To be concluded.
©Paul Kariuki 2011
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Sunday 27th of March 2011 and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week on Monday 28th March. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.