Losing These Pieces
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I slide my body into black sweatpants, a black sweatshirt, a black coat, and slip my cold feet into my bathroom slippers. I hail an Uber, as if I had planned this for so long. As if I know what I am going to do wherever I am going. I hail an Uber, hoping this is not the day a hatty driver shows up; tunaenda wapi? Imekupea estimate ngapi? Uko na discount? Nairobi imekua mbaya siku hizi, eh? Unajua watu wanadungwa tu visu mchana. Na unaenda wapi usiku? Unameeet mtu? Ni boyfriend? Mapenzi ni kitu mzuri sana, lakini mimi ilinishinda bibi akatoroka akaniachia Watoto. It is people like these who will make me spend 18,000 shillings on a pair or Samsung buds.
The Uber finds me standing outside our building’s grey gate, my hands in my sweatpants' pockets, my head lowered to the ground. I get into the back seat, whisper a grumpy ‘hello’, and wait with bated breath for the questions to begin.
He does not speak.
I stare outside at the nightfall that is gathering, fast. At the vehicles slithering past us, in the slight traffic. At the red and orange and sometimes white lights that illuminate the darkness. At the sad and angry and calm faces of pedestrians dashing to cross roads ahead of us. I see urgency and want in their hidden eyes and bodies. It is a familiar urgency; like rushing towards a lover’s wide arms. Like rescuing an infant from an inferno. Like slipping across the railway line just as the train makes way past you.
My heart tires from these things. This life that is fleeting past me, as if my own is not stuck. As if my own is not threatening to leave me. As if I am not struggling to pick myself from the mud that is dragging me behind. My heart tires from seeing people full of life, as if I have not been empty for months now. As if my own heart has not forgotten the taste of life. As if the soles of my feet are not tired of running away from this emptiness that is swallowing my existence.
My heart tires from these things of the world, so I slide down in my seat, pull my black coat over my head, and hope that the pain in my bones, the anger in my chest, and the despair in my spirit do not manifest themselves in choking tears.
Not once, not twice, as I readjust my body on the seat, I catch the driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror, before he grunts and quickly turns away.
“Hapa kwa petrol station ni sawa?” He asks as the vehicle starts to turn from the highway, onto the service lane, and finally onto the entrance of the magnificent mall.
I nod, and catch his eyes in the rear view mirror. They are calm, his eyes, but sharp. As if he can see right through me. As if he sees all this anguish I am trying to mask. As if he can see all these months of heaviness I am carrying on my shoulders.
“Imekuja two forty,” he says, and quickly adds, “unaeza weka kwa mpesa yangu.”
“07…” I prompt, but before he finishes his mobile number, hell breaks loose.
My phone falls off my hands as I continuously hit my head against the headrest in front of me. I am choking on my tears, so my right hand palm is hitting the passenger seat next to me, as the left palm attempts, again, to pull out my hair.
I am losing it, I know, and I do not try to stop myself. I let the pain wash over me, stripping my flesh into pieces. I let my voice out of my chest, out of my mouth, so that I am crying as if this grief is finding me afresh. As if this thing I am mourning is still sitting heavy on my chest.
I am losing it, the driver knows, so he does not try to stop me. He does not even turn to look at me. He turns down the volume of the radio, and once, or twice, he lowers his window to reassure the petrol station attendants that all was well. That I was not kidnapped. That he had the ‘situation’ under control.
In my moments of losing it, I desperately want to tell the driver that I am lost. That my life has lost meaning, and everything around me is crumbling. That I am here because I cannot sit alone in my house; everything seems to be mocking me. That I am running away from myself, from the things that remind me of familiarity. That I hate this being lost, because I do not know where my feet should stand. That I hate this lying awake, my mind filled with wishful thinking. That I am tired of continuously banging my head against things, sometimes walls, when the anger starts to turn into guilt, then shame, and finally, little bouts of regret clothed in numerous what ifs?
I hate that I am losing these things that I am not sure I can live without.
I want to say all these things to a stranger, in a parking lot, in the dark, just to rid my chest of this heaviness, but my tongue refuses, completely, to move. So that when the head-banging and palm-hitting finally come to a stop, the driver slowly hands me a piece of pocket tissue, and warmly says, “Whatever it is, I shall pray for you, and I know you shall rise again.”
I hand him my phone so that I can pay and get out of his car before his soft words birth a fresh river of tears, but he looks at me, straight in the eyes, shakes his head, and says, “Please be careful out there. Nairobi is wicked to women, especially at night.”
He unlocks the doors and I can feel his eyes against my back as I walk the short distance between his car and the mall entrance.
I do not know what I am doing. I do not know why I am here. I am just following my feet, hoping they get me to a place where my heart feels at home. I hate that I am losing these things, and there is nothing I can do about it.
I begin to feel the choking tears making their way back to me, so I turn around and dash back to the car, slump into the back seat, again, and cry softly, until the driver parks in front of my gate and asks, “Do you have someone I can call?”
I shake my head, mumble my ‘thanks’, make my way back into my house, too tired to even. breathe.
We try again tomorrow.