March Madness challenge 2-A Kenyan in Uganda or a Kenyan looks at Uganda. I want to read a short story from that perspective. How you do it is up to you.
“Ok, SSebo.” He said turning around to receive glowing green bottle of mountain dew that had been demanded. He winked in thanks and turned around.
The night had begun turning chilly while it was still evening and now he wished he had worn something warmer than this tee-shirt. He remembered a few years ago, when he first moved to Kampala and every day felt heavy and sweaty and hot. Back then he had dreamed of nights like this, those and the flat plain of Nairobi. But the body and the mind acclimatise to everything. Nowadays he could almost spot a rhythm in the way the boda bodas moved. He saw their jamming together as a kind of atomic imperative- the laws of Newton being followed to a tee. Their lack of regard for road rules was a wink to the inevitability of chaos, their noise was yet another song lifted up to a universe so silent it needed all it could get. He had been back home and seen the slow infestation of Kenya with the same disease and displaying the same symptoms but what they did in Nairobi could not compare to what happened here.
Earlier in the evening he had witnessed the passing of one convoy. The sun had just began setting and the light was weaker as if it had been shaded or now took longer than the prescribed eight minutes to get to earth losing a wave with every second, a photon every minute. The world hooded itself with shadows and the sounds of crickets announced night’s homecoming. His moment of introspection was spoiled by the show though. Motorcycle after motorcycle whizzed past. They hooted as they passed, four abreast, swarming like locusts. Most impressive though were the women on the back of the motorcycles. Each driver carried with him a specimen worthy of finer study, individual attention. A lady who though robbed of her singularity combined with the one beside her and behind her and in front to form a moving monument to booty. Their higher voices and more carefree laughter dotted the evening. Turning the distraction from an inconvenience into a circus.
When it ended he crossed the road and sat down for some soup. He had been coming here for months now and they knew just what he wanted. It was put down in front of him along with some ugali and cabbage to wash it down. He had no idea what they put in this soup, there was a texture so rich and smooth that every sip of it brought to his mind the word baganda. The chilli was mixed in just right, taking up the spaces between the liquid and the bubbles, he had been slurping it so intently that he completely missed Atu’s entrance.
“I knew I’d find you here.”
“This doesn’t make you psychic, anyone would find me here.”
“This is how you talk to a girl you are trying to talk to?”
“Would you rather I told you that the very scent of you as you walked in filled my head with so many daydreams I’m still seeing everything orange? Or that I’ve been thinking what to tell you since the last time we spoke?”
“Mkenya, that would be good.”
“It would and I realise you think you want good. In all my time here this soup was the finest taste of Uganda. There is nothing like it at home and yet it feels familiar, like I sampled it in another life and only chose to be born in Kenya by mistake, or only so I could have it later in life when I could appreciate it. Then I tasted you and knew that was all a lie.”
“Doesn’t it feel nice to tell your girl such things? Not all the time this roughness. Eiii.”
After supper they had made their way back to his shop where he now had her as a helper, someone to reach for soda, someone to warm his surroundings. He turned away from the customer he had just served. It was time to close anyway. He pulled shut the door of the shop. Feeling the excitement of the next action already building up in him.
“What shall we have today Atu?”
“A quiet night without the aid of alcohol?” The twinkle in her eye said that this statement meant vodka.
He had never imagined that he would spend his life as a shopkeeper in another country. But life gave you what it did. And when it did what was important was to go to the freezer in the shop, slide it open so that mist and cold poured out of it and crept along the floor like a new-born baby, consider the rainbow made by tall bottles of gin and brandy and vodka, reach for the chosen sacrifice and hear its brothers clink in happiness, shut that door, and pour a gulp down your throat. There was never going to be any lemonade anyway.
“Ehhh you Kenyans. You just drink like there is no tomorrow.” Her eyes still sparkled in merriment. He handed her the bottle. She did what he did except somehow she made it classy, there was something dainty in her movements, measured as if to the beat of the music of the moon, something dazzling even in that act. Then she laughed setting off small tremors in him.
“Did I ever tell you about the first Kenyans I met?”
“The first ones ever?”
“Yah. It was a long time ago. I was visiting my cousin in a place called Mityana. She told me there were these Kenyans who liked drinking in this local bar. Waraji and mountain dew was their cocktail. So we went. I had just finished high school, they were in university there for some work thing. I don’t really remember. All that rang in my mind was Nazizi singing ‘Kenyan Boy.’ I was so excited. So we went and my cousin introduced me. Ohhh they were fun. We talked and we laughed for a long time. All the time they ordered more waragi. Poured it into their glasses sometimes, shots for everyone others. The night ended with us walking to their place. I have to tell you Mityana is a semi-rural place, at that time there were no street-lights. People would fetch water from the river-electricity was spotty so it could go for fourty hours or four depending on, who knows. And they lived far away from the bar. We’re walking along, all of us unsteady. Evening dew has already started settling on our toes. These shoes we wear as women sometimes, I don’t even know what they are for. Wet grass defeats their protective purpose. Just that is enough. We came to a bridge and we had to cross it to get there. It swayed as we went, I was really scared but I made it through. The guy I was talking to though slipped just before we got to the end. When we got home I had to wait as he looked for a candle and water to wash with and then proceeded to bathe. I was young though, and not going anywhere anyway. He finished his process and took me to his room. And can you imagine he was unable to do anything. I was so ready I just went to join my cousin and her friend. ”
The conclusion of the story had him half-rising already. “That really happened?”
“Of course not, but you see the value of sweet lies? Already you’re rising to me. and that’s just the lesson behind the first bead. We call it talking the blood down. You know someone has been knocking on the door for a while now.”
He stood hesitant for a minute.
“Are you going to open it or do you want to come here and find out more of the secrets of the Nile.”
“The secrets of the Nile?”
“How it floods, where it flows, what makes it squirt. Other bead lessons.”
He went to Atu. The man on the other side of the door stood for a minute and thought back to the sewing machine his men had carried out that day so many years ago. His heart beat faster at the thought of finding its owner soon. He decided that the only thing he could do was knock louder.