I laid the great love of my life @WanjiruWaGitau to rest yesterday at her home in Makuyu, Murang’a. I’m breaking apart. Thank you all for your love, prayers and thoughts. Let me breath and rest. I will respond to all of you in time.Tweet
You tell me you were at home alone when you saw the tweet. Seated, on the sofa your mother had given you when you left home. Only. It was raining massively that day. As if all of the universe had conspired to mourn my girl with me. You felt it, the pain. You can’t explain it. You felt at some level that I was a good man. So you clicked on my username. If only to see who Wanjiru’s man was. And the first thing you noticed was her on my header image and my profile picture too. She was beautiful wasn’t she?
Yes, she liked black lipstick. I know, we argued consistently about it. But she liked it and that was all that mattered. I bought tons of red lipstick for her. She wore it only on special occasions. “Na ujue ni juu yako tu.” She’d say as she put it on. Smacking her lips, turning from the mirror and, “Nakaa aje babe?” Of course, I’d absolutely marvel at her. “Unakaa fiti kuruka!” Can you see her blushing. The dimples looking like 2 crater lakes on the slopes of a volcanic mountain. We buried her in it. The red lipstick. That was a special occasion, yes?
From my header, you turn to my bio; father, lover to @WanjiruWaGitau, hater of all things football and closeted nomad who works in an office.
It made you laugh, that a traveler was shackled somehow to a desk. Collecting an average salary when they’d rather be somewhere in the North. Herding cattle, moving constantly. You liked me. So you dug deeper. Stumbling across my Instagram handle that was curiously, private. You sent a request and waited. Then waited, then waited longer. It took another month, before that was responded to. Forgive me, I was still learning to shift in my bed without bumping into her.
When I responded, opening up my profile, you were at some level disappointed. Instead of my pictures you found hers. Mostly. Almost all were shots of us traveling. A picture of the Isiolo-Marsabit highway on a breezy Sunday evening from inside the car. We were rushing to come back to Nairobi coz of work on Monday. But the sun was making waves as it settled for the night, so we pulled off the road to watch it set. The tarmac, almost shimmered in the evening glow. Causing the air from afar to seem as if it was dancing in a haze. Showing off one last hour before it went to bed. And at the corner of that picture, a leg in pink ankles socks. Spread eagerly on a dashboard. As if to say, “this is home.”
You scrolled further. Wondering how come my kid wasn’t in any of the pictures. Of course I later explained our agreement with her mother. My baby would grow up off social media. Only getting on it when she made that decision herself. But there are whispers of her in the pictures. Like this one, taken in a national park in Saiwa. A baby shawl making an appearance next to a masai shuka and 3 bottles of wine. You wondered how she looked like. Did she have my nose? You hoped so. Or her mother’s eyes, you hoped not.
The only clear image you found of me was in a desert in Tsavo. A land-cruiser packed on the side of the road. Unwillingly. You see 2 men hard at work changing the tyres. Only, one of them gets up and poses for the camera. The photographer snaps. Me.
Again, Wanjiru is not too far. There’s hint of her existence even in that photo.
“Where, I can’t see her.”
You bring the phone closer, then you zoom in on the image.
“Look at the windscreen.”
Aaaaah there she is, looking magnificently bored. I remember now. We were in a rush, attempting to cut through Tsavo East, emerge at the Sala gate and continue on to Malindi. Our attempt to save money on fuel by cutting down on the distance covered.
“Why are you showing me all this?” I ask.
You get up and head into the kitchen. You’re making coffee. It’s what you do when you need to calm down. There’s the sound of you turning on the kettle. The rumble as it comes on and electricity flows through its coil. Aaaah, you’ve opened the overhead cupboards now. Pulled 2 cups? The red one for you, black for me. The drawer under the sink is stuck again. Yes pull it. One more time, harder now. It comes off, the spoons and forks rumbling as it opens. 2 teaspoons of sugar for you. None for me. The kettle whistles and lets out a low hiss. Then it shuts off. Pour water into the cups, stir then; you reappear. Balancing 2 cups in your hands. You place one in front of me, the other you sip from.
Now, you’re ready to talk.
You begin “Hii nyumba si yangu babe!”
What do you mean?
You point out that everything in this house has been here longer than you. There’s nothing in the house beyond your clothes that is yours.
I jump in, asking you what you’d like for me to do
You chime in, “I was wondering if you would let me redecorate.”
“But what does redecorating have to do with Wanjiru?”
You want to feel like this is also your home. Like there’s something about you that is permanent here. Yes, you live here. You even sleep in her bed, but it not your house. You want to be able to choose the curtains, utensils, even change the bed.
“Why would you change the bed?”
You snap! Because you’re tired of sleeping in a dead woman’s bed and living in a museum dedicated to her. You regret that instantly. In your apology, I sense you trying to get those words back. They refuse to come back. Yet, you are adamant. You want more. You want me to let her go. You want us to truly, truly build a life together.
“How would that look like?”
You want us to start off by buying new clothes for my daughter. She’s outgrowing the stock her mother left. Plus, you are tired of the hand-me downs Wanjiru’s sister always brings every other month.
“Is that all?”
You grow a little more confident. There’s even the slightest of tingles in your eyes. Perhaps fueled by “feeling” you are about to win.
“I want to us to have a baby.”
Do you feel the silence? Take out your tongue, taste it.
We stare at each other for a bit. You waiting for answers, me thinking of ways to say it.
“Babe, what do you think?”
You have to leave.
“What, why, wait is it because of the baby?”
You have to leave.
You launch into a full blown defense of yourself,.
Look at you now arguing for yourself. To save yourself. To stay. Reminding me of how hard you’ve worked to be here with us. You’ve earned the right to be here. You’ve earned the right for me to love you. You’ve earned the right to no longer be in Wanjiru’s shadow. You want me to love you. Why can’t I? You’ve loved me at my lowest. When even family thought I would never recover. You’ve literally been at my side these past…
Fortunately, we are spared the depravity of your negotiating for love. The door opens, and my daughter appears still in Wanjiru’s sister’s arms. When she sees me, she breaks free. Jumping to the ground and coming into papa’s arms.
Can you smell that, she smells like her mama. A little bit of lilac, and tonnes of marigold. Wait, what is that I smell? Freshly cut grass.
“Ulikuwa wapi Karimi?”
“Kwa fieeld baba.”
She lifts her hands up, she wants to sit in the chair you were in barely a second ago. I help her into it. Only look, only her eyes appear above the dining table. So I pull that chair away and place her in her high chair. She wants to drink my coffee.
“Are you sure Karimi?”
So I grab one of her sippy cups. Her mother bought it. Has a photo of a black mickey-mouse on it. I pour some of my coffee in it, and let her drink it.
She spits it all out.
Look, we are laughing now. She takes another sip, then another, then another. Aaaah, she has her father’s appreciation for coffee. She starts to tell me where they went with auntie. Her auntie comes back from her bedroom, pulls your chair and sits. I can feel she wants to know what I did to you. Nothing. Why then are you in the bedroom crying and packing? I wouldn’t know.
In another 10 minutes, I will see you from the corner of my eye rolling your suitcase headed to the door. Karimi and her aunt are singing some Kikuyu song her mother loved. They don’t notice this. You stop, hoping for me to call you back. I don’t. It is better this way. You open the door, and are kind enough not to bang it behind you.
“You won’t go after her?” Wanjiru’s sister whispers.
Go after who?
We go back to our drinking coffee game. Me pouring some of mine into her sippy cup. Her spitting her first sip, then drinking again and again and again. Your still warm coffee in the red mug pushed conveniently to the side.
Karimi points at the window.
“Ona Dayyi.” She’s slowly getting to daddy.
3 little bugs are banging their bodies on the window attempting to get in. Perhaps running away from the raindrops that are drizzling. Karimi’s attention on the window, she hardly notices her auntie’s right hand disappearing beneath the table and onto my knee. I take it and squeeze it. She smiles, and goodness she has half of her sister’s eyes.
I squeeze her hand again. She holds on longer than is appropriate or necessary.
Wanjiru would approve.
Photo Credits: Git Stephen Gitau
Thank you for coming back again. Ikibamba sana si you share with friends. A writer needs to eat 🙂
PS: Just a beautiful coincidence that the photo aligns to the story. May the photographer be blessed. Amen?