Celebrating East African Writing!


Written by Maureen Waithaka

Sometimes, it is easy to shut everything out when she’s around. Even when she’s not really, all I have to do is close my eyes and my mind drifts effortlessly to her. Today, just like the first day I saw her on the square, she’s standing under the bright orange awning of her flower shop. I try to pull back and see the rest of the building in front of which she is standing but it is all blacks and greys. All I can see is her underneath that brilliant coloured awning. There is a gentle breeze blowing and it whips the awning into a pulse – a warm, soulful, orange pulse that washes over her and becomes her. She looks vaguely anxious.

Annie looked over across the street, there was this strange looking guy staring at her from behind the bushes. This was the third time she’d seen him this week.  She tried, like she had the previous two days, to get his attention by waving but he just kept staring. This was getting really worrying. She shivered and gathered her coat about her. And seriously considered calling the police.

She made an open palm gesture that was unfamiliar to me, but it was beautiful. Everything she did was beautiful. Every time she moved I stopped. Things slowed down and faded into the background and all that was left was her. Even the little things, like the way she gathered he coat about her just now, had me transfixed. I could watch her all day. I wanted to know everything about her. What time did she get up in the morning? What kind of perfume did she wear? How did she drink her coffee? Did she drink coffee? I wanted to approach her and talk to her. I had never been good at small talk and I wondered if she would get it if I just walked up to her and jumped into a real in depth conversation. Lately I had become obsessed with finding the deeper experience in all my relationships. I was tired of going about things superficial and only scratching the surface of life. I wanted to get into it, like really get into it and live it. I was going to do it. I was going to talk to her and it was going to be profound!

Annie started to move back slowly and then faster when she noticed that indeed, he was walking rather purposefully toward her. She swung around and ran behind the counter all the while fumbling for her phone from inside her pocket. She could feel the fear that was at first fleeting begin to build up and fill her throat. He crossed the street barely taking notice of the traffic; drivers swerving to avoid him. All the time he advanced towards her, never broke eye contact. He had this weird look on his face, midway between rage and ecstasy. She finally took out her phone and stared at it blankly as she realised she didn’t know what number to call for the police to come. She looked up to see him cross the threshold, now he was mere feet from the counter. She looked about her confused. What now? Suddenly she remembered her security guard who was out back on his tea break. “Soldieeer!” she shouted for him in a momentary panic-induced lapse of memory during which she forgot his name. She must have sounded really distressed because the guard rushed to the front in mere second,s arriving just in time to apprehend the strange man from across the street as he drew out his hand wielding…

My open palm. I had just started to hold out my hand for her to shake as I introduced myself when a strong man in a blue uniform grabbed both my hands and restrained me. I didn’t understand. All I wanted was a handshake and a simple conversation. Now here I was being held back like some kind of attacker. To make it worse, a crowd was building up and the people were pointing at me and saying horrid things like “Weirdo!” and “Stalker!”. But the very worst part of it was her, how upset she was. She was frightened and shaking visibly. She wouldn’t even look at me. I had done that to her. It was terrible. The strong man pulled me back and turned me away from her so I couldn’t see her any more. He said something about the police being on their way to deal with me properly. “In the mean time,” he added, “get on your knees!”

© Maureen Waithaka  2013

This Photograph was taken by photographer and author Aernout Zevenbergen at the 2012 Storymoja Hay Festival  at the National Museums of Kenya during a performance of Shungwaya by The Theatre Company.

This Photograph was taken by photographer and author Aernout Zevenbergen at the 2012 Storymoja Hay Festival at the National Museums of Kenya during a performance of Shungwaya by The Theatre Company.

Word: Knees. Trigger: the people in the performance are kneeling.


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