When I make my entrance to the Java at Reinsurance Plaza, one of the waiters points me to a table that seats one. I want to bury my head in shame, because, again, why are you walking into a restaurant alone, if your intention is to not sit alone? But I gather courage and ask him for a table of two.

When I find my seat, I immediately feel uncomfortable because it is a center table. There are people seated behind me, about four tables, and I keep feeling their eyes against my back. I keep fighting the feeling of a knife being driven right through my back, tearing my heart into two, and letting my blood dry on the small wooden table.

So, even though Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing lies open in front of me, I am unable to read. My eyes keep darting from here to there, checking my wrist watch, and swearing for the hundredth time that I will stop being the one human being who keeps time. I will say we meet at 2 p.m., then shamelessly drag my feet at 4 p.m. into the bathroom, all the time picking my calls and saying, niko hapa tu kwa corner. Hata nishakuona. Simama tu hapo.

My ‘date’ arrives one and a half hours later. Way after I have shifted tablest wo times, and finally getting that corner seat with my back to the wall. Way after my glass of mango juice has run out, the waiter has carried it away, and I am now looking like a peasant who walks into expensive restaurants just to pass time, and to take pictures for scaring the village witches.

My ‘date’ makes up for running late. They do not waste time beating around the bush, and within a few minutes, my head is spinning with all the news that is hitting me. You are paying for my training that lasts 3 months? Me? My work is just to sit in class and learn and bag that certificate? You are moving me up the ranks at work? Haiya. Like a typical Kenyan, I am tempted to ask ‘for real? Si jokes?’ What is that you said? That I will be in charge of the whole company? Me? Me with my small body? Me who started out on this just fir fun? Are you sure you are talking to me? 

I am seated there thinking all this is a dream when my ‘date’ makes a call and says, ‘oh yeah. She is in. She will attend the classes starting from tomorrow.”

I am still reeling from the shock when a familiar figure walks into the restaurant, right past me, and a wide smile flashes across my face. He is in a t-shirt and jeans, a black cap and glasses, with a bag that I know does not miss books. I get carried away in the moment and tap my date saying ‘Haiya, have you ever met Ndugu Abisai? There he is.”

I am a second too late to tell my ‘date’ not to look at him directly, because immediately I say the name Ndugu Abisai, their whole body tuns and follows Ndugu, right until he sits down.

So now, I am scared because si Ndugu will think I am saying things behind his back with strangers? Halafu he will go slander me on Facebook? But Ndugu, calm and composed, flashes the most radiant of smiles at me and lifts his left thumb to me.

I sigh in relief.

When you meet Ndugu, either of these are bound to happen; laugh your heart out, or become a ball of emotions. If you are lucky like I was, you will experience both of them.

I join Ndugu at his table seconds after my ‘date’ leaves, and before I know it, there is a large mug of tea in front of me. When he removes his cap, a waiter comes to the table, salutes to him, bows and says a joyful, ‘ah, kumbe ni wewe bwana? Kwa nini umetoa kofia? Unafanya nakusahau. Karibu sana. Leo naona umetuletea mrembo.’

I give out a pretense-laugh because, no, I am still not ready to talk about warembo with Ndugu. I am still recollecting the broken pieces of my heart after reading his tribute to his lover. I am still finding courage to love without fear of loss. I am still rereading his letter to his lover, and wondering what it takes for a man to pen such an emotional letter (Read the letter here).

But Ndugu is calm and composed, so he waves the waiter away and says, ‘huyu tunajaribu kumrecruit kwa hii kamati yetu ya chai.’

We talk about books and the cartels in the book industry. We talk about our sales, and how the money suddenly leaves our pockets immediately we get it. We drift and talk about sex, and in his words, ‘This Nairobi is full of sex, and people willing to have sex. You do not have to go on forcing people to indulge in it.’

We talk about money; the bait in people expecting to own you whenever they start giving you monetary favours. We talk about the ‘eating fare’ scandals and come to a conclusion that if I really like you, you will not need to send me fare. I will just come.

When we drift again and start talking about loss and death, I am short of words, because I know no matter what I say, I am yet to experience it first-hand. So, I remain quiet as he goes on and on about walking carcasses. About broken bones and tired hearts walking around the streets, dishing out strong faces and fake smiles. Why? Because it is the way life is. You keep hearing of fatalities and somehow think you and your people are immune to all that. You imagine death was meant for other people; not you or the people you love. But sooner or later, it knocks on your door and leaves you empty-handed. it reminds you that there will be low moments in life, for everyone, but life has to go on. 

I only find my tongue when my person arrives to pick me up and when I introduce them to each other, Ndugu jumps in and says, ‘Mwambie apart from being a writer, I am a professional Actuary. Unajua kuna watu hudhani we writers hatunanga akili so tukaamua tu kupigia watu story.”

Of course, we laugh our hearts out and promise to catch up later. And even when I get home, Ndugu’s words remain with me: Our work as writers is not just to make money from the craft. Sometimes, we need to mirror what happens in society, and hope that through our writing, someone out there gets the courage to live another day.



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Ndugu Abisai
Aaah. Now that it is out here, kamati ya CHAI unataka kuingia lini officially?
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Mkinifanya CHAIrman hata leo naeza ingia😂😂

Deep. Sad bit of life. I hope people will manage to cry out their heart when death hit them close. Maybe they can accept it faster.
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Because we never think loss and death can happen to us or someone we love..... I have a lot of respect for writers, they mirror our world in a way most people can't.
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Mimi I felt like I was there all through. Except that I had to give you people faces in my head, ya Eunniah is hilarious 🤣🤣🤣
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But why are you behaving badly?😂

You two make my dull days brighter,thank you for your stories... Ndugu really sorry for your loss,take heart brother....👊🏿👊🏿
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Thank you for reading.

I read all your pieces with the voice I imagine you have.....tupatane lini ninunue chai na niskie sauti yako
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Hata leo inaweza sana😂

Africans so bad in keeping time. You only realize how bad it is when you decide to be the one keeping it. I can relate your frustrations having to wait for one and a half hours... though it was worth it. The deal on the table was beautifully choking. Fantastic, keep the keyboard on fire 🔥
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One more thing, I lack words for Ndugu Abisai, I went through his tragic experience with the depravity of death first hand...and the tearful letter to Jane: this must be strange but let him know that Jane has read the letter only that she can't reply or edit his writing
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Muthoni Wa D.
Uyu ndugu yufanya wasiopenda chai waipende tu!
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Paul El Krucial
‘ah, kumbe ni wewe bwana? Kwa nini umetoa kofia? Unafanya nakusahau. Karibu sana. Leo naona umetuletea mrembo.’ That waiter I hope mlim-tip 😂😂
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Tip ni lazima kama ibada.

Yunia and time keeping can't be mixed In the same statement buana. That's gross 😂😂😂.
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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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