(Or The Silence That Speaks a Thousand Words.)
We sat there staring at each other, smiling shyly every so often. It felt like the first time, and in may ways it was. It was the first time I let her, any one actually, see my insecurity, the well-masked one: my irrational fear of abandonment and betrayal, the one that becomes jealousy. I did not know how she would react, yet this did not stop me from in-a-roundabout-way asking whether I was being primed for a heartbreak. I had the house coffee, she had the tropical milkshake, her daughter the fries.
The smell almost broke me yet I was too proud to eat. I would not have enjoyed a meal, anyway, not in the questioning state I was in. I do not have a right to be jealous, yet reason and emotion are not known to walk together. She says they put too much banana. The pedant appears and explains how bananas are the base ingredient for milkshakes and smoothies. I catch him almost too late and add, jokingly I hoped, that bananas are awesome! She differs; ice cream should be the main ingredient.
The little girl is hungry, and not even the heat of the fries can stop her. Bites and blows and more bites and more blows, then she is off to explore the world, but not too far from Mummy.
We sat there, silently, taking in the view and the quiet noise of a coffee lounge on a warm Saturday afternoon, quietly observing the other patrons, saying nothings, how we both loved the place and this will be our new joint. Nothing because words lost their flavour. There are moments that words cannot capture. This is it. I reached over and asked her to come closer. She leans in, I gently pinch her soft cherub-like cheeks. That used to be me, having my chubby cheeks pinched, before the metabolism kicked in. She smiles like Louis Armstrong, all teeth and warmth, then a giggle tumbles out. I laugh. This is perfect. Would that I could all of life would be a warm Saturday afternoon in a coffee lounge.
Often, we find ourselves searching for a companion to talk to and to talk to us. I find it better to have one with whom you do not have to say anything to, to have one with whom you can be completely silent with. This is it. We exchange more nothings:
ME: “I hope the bill is not too exorbitant, ama nitabaki nichonge viazi.”
ME: “Next time we’ll come here for pizza.”
HER: “Sure.” NODS.
The waiter saunters by, I stop him to ask his name. George. He walks on. I explain to her the importance of knowing the names of the waitstaff, something about getting better service next time around and it being rude, beckoning with an urgent hand, or worse, shouting across the space. The pedant again. She indulges him.
ME: “Niambie sasa. Nipe story.”
HER: “Sina story. WEWE nipe story!”
HER: “These are a thousand words of silence, or the silence that speaks a thousand words.”
I like that. I will steal it, I tell her. She smiles and says that I should go ahead.
I look to my right and slightly behind: girls, six of them, unhinged and confident, like they own the place. I gather they do, well, their parents or close relatives do. The four younger ones playing with colored pens, two older ones, quietly ensconced in a conversation, both petite yet exuding the quiet power of… people who belong. Frequently, one of them goes to the kitchen, bleached dread-locked and lithe, black-panted, black-and-red-topped and sure. Light-skinned, caramel. Definitely owner. Accurately, then, two women, four girls.
At the edge, yellow sleeveless blouse, I had almost missed her, the one on the other counter, not the main one with the bar. The help. She looked it, completely engaged yet removed from the whole experience. That and they did not offer her a slice of the sinfully delicious-looking pizza from which other slices around the table came from. This was my hunger screaming. Alas, the tragedy of being on the outside looking in. I know exactly how she feels. I imagine I know exactly how she feels. I turn back to my date and share my observations. We resume our silence, as her daughter hovers about the table, wide-eyed and curious.
She picks up the little girl.
ME: “She has beautiful eyes.”
HER: “Kama ya mama yake.”
Everything else is just details, mundane.
I pay the bill, and sigh gratefully. Yeup, this is definitely the new chill spot. We walk out, admiring the decor and the wooden floors. They had a good interior designer. We walk out into the madness and the crowd, into the unforgiving Nakuru afternoon. I had almost forgotten, what with being on the second floor next to the wide wide-open windows and the breeze and adrift on the stillness of a spotless afternoon. We walked back into the void.