It’s been a long one coming. Alice sits from across the small coffee table. The big square is her favorite joint; it is convenient for me because of the proximity from work.
Alice is beautiful, she is chocolate in skin complexion and her make-up game is on point. Maybe I should blackmail her to teach me how to do my eyebrows. She is wearing bald, bold platinum bald. Her red lipstick screams independence, red is the color of the bold after all. She has a heavy Meru accent laced with a strong American accent, how she talks will just blow your mind.
”Good to finally put a face to the name Diana.”
”You sounded disturbed.”
”I have wanted to talk about this for a really long time.”
‘‘What do you want to talk about?”
”My dad, i want to talk about my dad.”
”I am here now, talk to me.”
”Coffee? I picked it up as a habit from you.”
”I hope you haven’t picked other unconventional stuff from me too.”
‘‘Only the good ones. You are an inspiration to so many of us, the way you write, you speak to me, my soul in particular.”
”Alice, maybe you should write me a fat cheque.”
She stops mid-sentence and stares at me, I know what’s going on in her mind, ”this woman is charging me for listening to me?”
I burst out with laughter, she is confused.
” Got you a good one.”
She rolls her eyes I can see the end of Iran. Our coffee is served.
”You were saying something about your dad.”
”God, I hate that man.”
I spurt out my coffee, not what I expected to hear.
‘’Hate is such a strong word.’’
“My mum died when I was only 5 years old. God rest her soul in peace. So it was me and my sister.”
‘’I am so sorry for your loss.’’
She sips her coffee and looks out the big window at the already building up traffic, Mombasa road can be a nightmare. I don’t want to interrupt her train of thoughts, maybe she is having a memory of her mother. Then she suddenly turns to me and carries on, with no emotion at all.
‘’That man went to the states after the burial and we never heard or saw him until when I was in form 2. By the way my sister and I are only months apart, we look like twins. She was in form 1.’’
I sip my coffee and note the similarities to what happened to my cousins. Dad in states then shows up when kids are going to High School, which is a good thing because granny will get help paying school fees, right?
‘’Our lives automatically changed, and for the better. He had married another woman, she welcomed us with open arms and insisted that we call her mum. They had built a house in Syokimau. We just blended right in; she had 2 sons, my brothers, I love those boys.”
‘’That sounds like a good thing.’’
‘’Yeah, we were one happy family. He used to take us out, take us shopping, to excursions, you know those kind of things.’’
‘’We grew up in the village with our granny, so coming to Nairobi to this transformation was kind of big. Kids in school knew we were rich because our dad was an American. He used to pop up in school in his black Benz and we’d be called from class regardless of what lesson was going on, the corruption in our institutions! Simply because he was from America, sic.’’
‘’I could have loved that experience while in High school, I could have behaved like a royal.’’
She laughs, maybe for the first time since I got here, or maybe because her laughter is rich and can win an Oscar if there was a laughing competition.
‘’After High School, my grandma became ill so we had to bring her to live us. Dad gave us an apartment along James Gichuru road. He owned the building, he actually gave it to us so as to sustain ourselves. I Joined Strathmore University to pursue International Relations. Life was good, we were okay. I mean, we had everything we needed. My best friend from High School came to live with us. For some reason my grandma used to say she had a dark soul.”
At this point she sips her coffee whilst fully. I can see the battling thoughts tearing at her, I can feel the thud of her heart from, her chest is not rising softly, no. It is raging. Is she upset? I reach out and touch her hand, I don’t know what to say to her. She looks up and her eyes are filled with tears. She takes out a handkerchief from her Korr bag and head to the bathroom. I am not good with dealing with emotions and for the few minutes that I am left alone, I reflect on a lot, finish my coffee and order for a fresh mug. A few minutes later, she returns. Her make-up is fresh, she doesn’t look like she was blowing her nose a second ago, she looks ready for a magazine shoot.
‘’Sorry about that.’’
‘’Oh, It is okay, are you feeling better now?’’
‘’Yeah. This is where it gets messed up.’’
I simply nod and wait.
‘’My dad used to come to see us every day, he stopped. He moved from home in Syokimau and never wanted anyone to know where he was staying. But he still provided for us and paid our school fees.
My sister joined University of Nairobi, my brothers were still in High School. Mum had her hardware shop going. He may have changed a bit but everything else was pretty much the same.’’
She sips her coffee, it is cold. She makes those faces, yuk faces. She makes a new order for fries and nuggets.
‘’Two years later, when, i was a third year, things fell apart. My best friend moved out of our house and somehow everything just went wrong.’’
‘’That week, dad called us for a meeting at home. He said he was bankrupt and could no longer afford paying our fees. As a matter of fact, he said we were grown up women and should find ourselves husbands.’’
‘’Yeah. I dropped out of school and started working at Nakumatt to keep my sister in school. Honestly, I wasn’t making much. Grandma needed her meds, mum had struggles of her own. Things were hard for all of us. Eventually, my sister dropped out of school too.’’
‘’That was just the beggining. One morning, i went to my dad’s office, guess who I find there?’’
She snorts, a painful snorts coming from the chest. You know those choking snorts? That one.
‘’My best friend. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was now managing my father’s properties. Can you believe that?’’
‘’This is worse than I thought.’’
‘’It does not stop there. I demanded to speak to my dad. She shut the door on my face and asked the security people to throw me out.’’
‘’What? The nerve that woman has.’’
‘’I waited outside until she left the office, she was driving his classic Benz. I followed her to somewhere along Kiambu road. I followed her to the house, a big stand alone house. Dad was outside smoking and when he saw me, the cigarette fell. I was not there for drama or anything, i just wanted my dad back.’’
‘’Did you talk to him?’’
‘’I did. I told him how she had thrown me out of the office.’’
‘’What did he say?’’
‘’That is what makes it all sad, he defended her. He asked me to leave and promised to call me.’’
‘’Did he call you?’’
‘’No, that week, we were served with an eviction note. He had sold off the house, we had a month to vacate.’’
I couldn’t wrap my head around this, I mean, what sort of a father does that? To his children?
‘’The Syokimau house and shop had also been sold off. We had no option but go back to the village. No degree, no father and all for what?’’
‘’I don’t know what to say Alice, really, I am so sorry.’’
‘’I found a job at the chief’s office, the only advantage I had in the village was that I was from Nairobi and I had been to University. I later found out that he had sold off all the properties and bought land in Karen, he built a really big house for my friend and they have two kids I think.’’
She laughs again, this time, a softer laugher that rings in my ears long after she stopped. She does not sound bitter at all.
‘’I got a Greencard a few years ago. I took my sister, my grandma and my brothers. We managed to buy land for mum in Thika and built a house for her, she says she does not want to be a slave to the Americans.’’
‘’And your dad?’’
‘’I don’t care about him, he can continue changing diapers for all I care.’’
Pain comes in phases. I think by the fact that she has spoken about it, she is on her last phase. I want her to be happy with where life has taken her.
‘’Should we pray for karma to visit your friend?’’
She looks at me again like I am unbelievable.
‘’Diana, you really are crazy.’’
‘’Huh! My coffee got cold listening to you.’’
We both laugh. I finish the last of my coffee and she cleans her plate. Such a petite body but she eats a lot, where does the food go?
‘’Thank you for listening to me.’’
‘’You are Welcome dear, anytime.’’
‘’So, summer bunny, what did you bring for me? Reeboks?’’
It is a good feeling to watch someone lighten up, let loose and pour it all out.
‘’I am getting married in a few months; he wants the dowry but he isn’t getting nothing. He will not even walk me down the aisle.’’
Alice, do not let pain and anger consume you.’’
‘’I am not angry anymore. But I just hate him. I have brothers and a mum, they will walk me down.’’
It is late, time for me to get home. She insists on paying and we take our separate ubers.
A dad, instrumental yet can be so destructive.