Written by Nicholas Makau
When the waitress finally came to take the orders, she asked Wini if she was feeling the cold. I was aware she was good looking until she turned away with our orders, and I realised from the other view that she was just ordinary. Wini looked up at her in surprise, as if wondering what cold she was referring to.
The July cold was chilling, the richly grey clouds hovering just below the barely visible sky a stern reminder that Wini had no jacket . The restaurant, Rendezvous, was at the peak of the six storied building right at the heart of town, and the view of the rest of town was unhindered. Apart from the few taller buildings, the sight was breathtaking. The street we had come along wound up around the building and vanished into the stadium, from where a raucous polyglot of the cheerers interrupted the tranquillity of the city as a game of football ensued. Clearly the town residents loved the sport. But for a few souls, everyone seemed unaffected by the weather. The weather would be a nice place to our conversation.
At my request for a blind date, she had sounded unusually understanding. So routine had been our calls that we grew to be disappointed when we did not do it for a day. I enjoyed her long calls, especially late at night when the calmness of time would be undisturbed by calling friends, save for the occasional stalker.
I was growing easy with the feeling I had for her. At times the harshness of initial rejection is smoothened by the milk of a promising passion, even if that promise comes in the form of a phoned smile. But an unseen smile leaves the heart on the edge of destruction.
I wanted to attach a face to her nice voice; it was the most natural reason to give for a blind date. It is cruel falling in love with a voice. Love is as old as life itself, she had explained, and there was no point in trying to beat something that was part of nature, she gave in. I did agree with that standpoint and I shared her smile, on the phone.
She looked intently at the half-full glass of juice she held, carefully avoiding my inviting gaze, and blushed as if we were long-term acquaintances. I imagined what we would say to each other of this day if our date was ever successful. My mind embarrassed me by turning blank. Moments of awkwardness have a way of playing into the future.
So what do you do for a living? I had expected that question to pop up somewhere in our conversation but not on the initial stages. I did not reply, but poured more juice for her from the urn. I refused to refill my mug. She wanted to do me the honour, I playfully denied her. When we spoke again, it was about her friend Hannah, the girl who had identified me from my Facebook photo, the comment about familiarity, and the joke that all smart people look familiar. What we did not talk about was how I got her number.
She wore a sleeveless orange dress that hugged her brilliantly at the bosom. When she stood to walk to the conveniences, the dress hugged her well at the back as well, and it was long enough to almost sweep the ground. Her thick black belt seemed to accentuate her figure, sort of dividing her it into burst and butt. And her shoes were well hidden under the dress. Ready to be introduced to upcountry in-laws, I thought to myself. Throughout the phone calls I did know that Wini was beautiful, more to the side that emotion can get at gauging beauty from the sound of a voice. In person, she turned out to be more beautiful than I had feared.
I had gone to karaoke bars and night clubs, where you only gauged the beauty of a young woman from a recollection of her dancing figure from the dimmed lights. I knew that in due course I would pick up a girl, not one I had met in a night club but someone more companionable and trustworthy, who would oppose the idea of one night stands and whose curiosity would be easier for me to understand and satisfy. Such characters could not be easily picked up from places where lighting was never the priority.
A few heads turned when she was getting back to our table. It was like everyone wondered how, in such a flagrant dress, she looked from the inside. My imagination was moreover stretchered further to the same direction. Yet the one thing she needed most was the only item that would spoil the squashed look, my yellow jacket
When she settled down I asked where she came from. Nakuru, she said, although she knew I had meant where she stayed around town. At times the pressure of wanting to look common drives women to offer wild answers like Lower Kangemi when they actually mean Loresho. So, when at my prodding she told me Kibera, all my antennas tuned Langata. I understood the point about not being too matey with strangers.
A gust of cold breeze drove across, reinforcing the chilling weather. I could picture the town at the peak of summer later in the year. The heat reached the same heights as the cold dipped in the opposite scale. It is the best part of living amid the tropics; the extreme never lasts forever, just like in a good working relationship, a bad feeling never lasts forever.
When the waitress came with Wini’s salad, I asked for a refill of juice. Wini gave a questioning look. It drew attention to her earlier declined offer to pour the drink for me. I wanted to confuse such desire to be kind with desire to love, the senseless little things she does on a first date as a sign of falling in love.
Four hours inside and the fun was unrelenting. I was erring on my grandma’s magical word that if she still willed to be around for over an hour, it was sign that the future was not bleak. Four hours is such a short time for a date with a charming sense of humour and interest in the worldliness of dating bliss.
The street beneath was filling up as masses walked down into town from the stadium. I wondered that if by letting her go it would be a sign that I was losing my charm. There was the fulfilment derived from what seemed a first victory, yet there was the unnerving feeling that our parted company would sent me back to my loneliness.
It was the loneliness that had forced me to ignite a conversation with a beautiful stranger in Facebook, just as it had been loneliness that had led me back into the night clubs, watching images of what I knew were beautiful sybarites dancing from under the veil of darkness. I would go home to a different kind of loneliness, of being alone and not lonely.
When I asked the waitress for our bill, Wini footed to the cent. The waitress gave me a confused look, but did not comment.
To be continued…