Nina (Part 5)
I am seated on the sunny side of the matatu, on a mildly hot mid-morning. Yaa Gyasi’s The Transcendent Kingdom sits heavy on my lap, but instead of reading it, my gaze trails other vehicles outside. I want to see them, read their plates, to see their occupants; but all I see is misty darkness. The tout taps me, and I jerk a little.
Silence. Silence because Nairobi touts do not ask whether you are okay. They shoot their palms across your face, jingling coins, and wait for you to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar. They whistle, hard, and bang the matatu’s side, signalling the driver to stop. And if that is your stop and you are not at the door the minute it slows down, good luck finding your way home.
The warmest thing a Nairobi tout has said to me was, “Na hizo makucha hii town utang’olewa vidole.”
I nod, and give him a hundred shilling note, and quickly return my gaze outside. In the distance, I hear a phone ringing, someone talking into it, before I suddenly want to check my phone. It is not in my bag. I check again, every pocket; nothing. I tap the friendly conductor and ask timidly, “umenionea simu yangu?”
“Hapana madam. Ulikuja nayo?”
I am frantically searching my handbag, my heart already racing. I am on the verge of tears, even though I know whatever is making me cry is not the ‘lost’ phone.
“Ebu nipe number yako tupige tuone kama tutaipata.” The conductor offers.
I see this as his clever ploy to maybe get my number, then afterwards bother me with all manner of annoying messages:
Msupa, wewe ni mrembo sana. Uko na mtu?
Ni Kenna. Ule wa matatu leo. Unanikumbuka?
Unaweza kua unanicall kama unaenda tao ndio nikuwekee kiti mzuri ya mbele.
Unajua hii kazi yetu watu huidharau sana lakini iko na pesa. Siezi enda home bila 2k.
Still, I begin to say, “0718……”
“Inalia,” he says, looking straight into my eyes. However, no one picks, and I when I realise he is not giving up, I stand.
The walk back to my house is long and tiresome. Along the way, I think about my mother; because she is the only one who crosses my mind whenever I feel an impending heartbreak. Whenever life overwhelms me. Whenever I am at crossroads, and having a hard time finding reasons to keep still. I think of my mother because my heart is beating, fast, and sadness has settled on my face, and she is the only one who can calm me. I think of my mother because I might have just ‘lost’ my phone, and if she calls even once and I do not pick up, she will have a heart attack.
The first thing I see when I unlock my door is my vibrating phone on the sofa. Just before I get to it, the call disconnects: Private Number.
I crash on the floor, begging my heart to calm down. Begging my soul to find a way of ridding me of danger, or misfortune, if any. I beg the universe to let me know what is happening; why there is sadness on my face; but nothing shows.
My phone vibrates with an incoming message:
How soon can you get here? It is urgent.
I get up, slip into my rubber shoes, bolt the door behind me and run down the flight of stairs. I dial the number that had just texted, but the call does not connect.
Two hours later, I am standing in front of a huge brown door, unable to move any further. The soles of my shoes are covered in red mud, and have left stains on the white-tiled verandah. For some reason, my heart has stopped beating, fast, and I almost bet the sadness on my face has been replaced by gentleness. This is Gachie.
I push the door open and it squeaks in defense. Slipping out of my muddy shoes, I tiptoe into the vast living room, phone tightly clutched in my left palm.
“Nina…” I call out.
I drop my handbag on the sofa closest to the door, and start moving towards the bedroom. I have been here before. I know this house. I can move here, even in darkness, and not knock my feet against anything. I know which doors squeak when pushed, and which ones require you to lift a little before pushing.
Heading for the master bedroom, I feel a single drop of sweat make its way down the left side of my face. Far away, in the guest bathroom, I think I hear something fall, but I pay no attention.
“Nina…” I call out.
Clutching the door handle, I push it open, but something behind prevents it from opening completely. I push it, harder, hoping to displace whatever object is behind it. Push. Push. Push. It starts to move, slowly, as something crashes behind it. When I have enough space to fit my head, I stop. I crane my neck between the space.
When it hits me, my vision gets blurred, the soles of my feet lose grip on the floor, and I slide, slowly, to the floor. My head rotates, as my tear-clouded eyes try hard to see within the mess. The sadness comes back, full swing, and knocks me over. I bury my face in my arms and let out the loudest scream of my life. My whole body is shaking, and I am begging myself to be still. I bite hard on my lower lip, and let my heart and soul soak in the pain and heartbreak.
Nina’s limp body lies behind the door. A huge flower vase lies in pieces next to her, evidence that my pushing prompted it to land square on her forehead, which is already swelling. There are patches of blood at the chest area of Nina’s white top, and large scratch marks against her left cheek and neck. There is a tear on the white top, right where the left nipple should be. The rest of her body is completely naked.
I gather enough strength to drag myself up to her, place my index finger against her temple, and wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Nothing. I press my left ear right above her nose. Wait. Wait. Wait. Nothing.
Far away, I guess in the guest bathroom, I hear something fall. I rise to my feet and just as I step outside the door, I hear fast footsteps retreating from the front door, which slams shut with a thud.
There is a white piece of paper lying right next to my handbag. I flip it open and read:
I hope you get here in time. In case you do not, I hope you forgive me. I hope you understand. You, of all people, know how heavy my sadness and pain has been. I hope you understand that I needed I break. Again, thank you for being the one person I could count on.
My phone vibrates with an incoming message, giving me no time to digest these words. I slide it open and almost crash it against the wall.
“Ni Pau. Ule wa matatu leo. Unanikumbuka? Umepata phone au?”