I have been living in my current house for seven months and I have never cooked a meal in it. I am a fairly decent cook and I love cooking, but I have never bothered to here. I survive on take-aways, heavy lunches, chapatis za Mama Vicky bought from the nearby market, and many meals at my partner’s house, who is my neighbour.
I promised myself a few months after I moved in my first meal would be a fish curry. My partner does not eat fish. She finds it disgusting, yet for some odd reason she enjoys sea food. Prawns, lobster, octopus, calamari, but not fish. I once pointed out fish also comes from the sea and, by that measure, is sea food. She was not convinced.
Exploring the reason for this, I find it is a way to assert myself in my space. By preparing a dish someone close to me cannot consume, I am laying claim to this territory as mine. It is infantile, yes, and even after this insight I still look forward to this meal.
For some reason I stopped. I never stop for strangers who look my way or say hello. Not any more. But I stopped for Marcos. Mackintosh. Enthusiastic in his greeting, jovial and energetic, I walked back to shake his hand.
He seemed deeply touched by this gesture. His hands were cold and clean as if he had just washed them. His lips were the characteristic red and chapped of ch’angaa drinkers, flecked with green spittle like he also chews miraa or muguka.
With his breath sickly sweet, he tells me he does not drink. I tell him he smells like he does. He tells me he has family problems, then he tells me he sees something in me and there is a reason I stopped and we met. He says he sees God in me. He asks if I am saved and accepted the lord Jesus as my personal saviour. I lie yes. He asks me if I am a student. I am flattered at this. I do not look old. I have recently acquired a heightened awareness of my looks, partly brought on by weight loss due to stress.
He repeats how it is God who has brought us together. I smirk inside but I feel myself seduced by the thought of a benevolent all-powerful being that cares about me. I almost believe it. I feel I am close to slipping back into religion at this point, when my love life has gone awry and I am questioning my job and my life choices more than usual. A few months ago everything was so clear. I thought I knew what I was doing. Life has a way of showing you you know nothing.
We pray together and he asks God to bless me. I accept this and welcome it. He wishes me a good day when I tell him I have to go. As expected, he touches me for something small, kitu ya chai. I oblige, removing a two-hundred shilling note from my left back pocket and thinking better of it. In my right one, I remove a hundred and give it to him. He thanks me and asks God to continue blessing me. I ask God to bless me. I will even ask for a blessing from a God I lost faith in.