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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cupping Java House Coffee. Enter Woman.

I just love coffee. Plain old fashioned coffee made from ground coffee beans with no milk and a dash of sugar.

One day soon after I started working, I decided to try Java House coffee. A number of friends were full of the coffee on offer there. This was after having to imbibe in weak coffee in campus, made from boiling water passed through a sieve with coffee beans. I will not bore you to death with remarks on the taste here, but I took it for a number of years, and I actually still miss it.

This being a big day for me, I brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth overly, no need to pass ill judgement on celebrated coffee, whilst you actually had toothpaste in your taste buds. I took a shower, used no shower gel, dried myself and oiled myself with no-perfumed Vaseline and sauntered out of the house without wearing any cologne, feeling light spirited and headed for the Java House on Mama Ngina Street. I used to stay deep inside Ruaraka, and had to walk about two kilometres to Thika Road to catch a mathree to town, so I set-off on my grand mission.

The day had bloomed like a lofty flowery plant from Mount Kenya, petals of hours torn free by the wind to seek cool water and shadow within which they might be forgotten. As I walked along the asphalt track, memories of days gone by shimmered with the slight heat peppered by a cool breeze, blurring details of the long walk and picturesque view of the GSU Headquarters into an impressionistic canvas upon which everything else was distorted when one looked too closely.

The black pieces of garbage disposal bags stuck on growth along the banks of Ruai River, the balustrade of the narrow bridge bound together by bolts and nuts, arrhythmic strands of birds chirping along the way, a few Colobus monkeys jumped from one tree to another, as some tinier genres of monkeys streaked along the GSU headquarters wire fence, dancing rhythmically as they did so. I passed the gate of the mysterious building, rumoured to be an NSIS officers’ mess, but was soon after opened as Hotel La Mada. I could imagine myself drinking weak coffee in campus, as I savoured the taste, eyes closed, just for a few moment of caffeine bliss to sink in, then back to books. The limbo between voluminous Finance books and coffee drinks shifted with the sun, sometimes noticed, sometimes eternal, as the rays pieced through the leaves of the trees outside my room in the hall of residence. The difference was inconsequential.

It was approaching 4 PM, and I got to the highway, had an uneventful ride to the city centre in the boom twaff No. 44 superide mathree and alighted at Tom Mboya street, near the post office. I had the urge to stroll into one of the noisy exhibitions and buy a few pirated movies look at some clothes on offer, but the urge to taste the famed coffee urged me on. I walked to Mama Ngina street, and paused briefly at the entrance to Java House. Will I be thrown out? Is there a dress code? Is it expensive? The thoughts flew through my mind, and I decided to just take the risk and get in, not go home as I had done before when I developed cold feet outside a club, I was too shy to walk in there.

Choosing the coffee was one difficult task once the friendly lady thrust the menu at my chubby scared face. She must have known instantly that it was my first time, and I was lucky that this was a coffee shop, not a pub or a brothel. I told her I wanted plain coffee, and she suggested the house coffee, without milk. “Any accompaniments?” she asked, and I declined, as I wanted to cup this coffee without prejudice and pass judgement fairly. As I waited for the coffee to be brought, I looked around and some people were reading newspapers, some were chatting while some were in serious discussion, probably a business deal and someone was reading a book.

I noticed the woman once my coffee was brought and I looked up to acknowledge the waiter. Buxom. Large eyes. More flesh than she needed. And the sort of smile that derailed conversations, wrecking trains of thought. Starting of on my coffee, I gave her no more thought than she deserved. Her eyes sought my own. Fragments of the road I walked on half an hour ago were coming back, and they had grown sharp. Faces without names. Backs gleaming. Ecstatic grimaces. Dark liquid waiting in my cup. Focus recedes. My mind starts drifting.

Flash and blindness. Evening sets in. Shadows have probably stopped moving outside. Stitching the night closed with the thread of explanation, two silhouettes mapping the path from pillowcase to comforter, the eternity separating me from solace.

Strange girl arises, her face discerning a contentment of sorts, reminds one of a faded moon in the night of memory. I hear the rabbit scream of the cappuccino machine. Cream mist hides the alchemist as I turn over to look at the counter. Probably.

Throat relaxed, smooth Kisii soapstone, a statue leaning on sharp elbows, claws extended. Passionate kisses, sweaty bodies in the dark of the night. Frosted windows and the lights keep flashing, spectrum keeping time with a slowing pulse. Vodka expands upon contact, forming a pool beside the bed. She has no such luck. Leaning over the side, she can see everything. Hair covered in beaded Maasai headdress, dreadlocks emerge from the side like dark twines of wild climbers in Mau forest. Iris the color of old bruises. Reaching down toward herself, a finger breaks the surface. The image ripples, distorts before she has the chance to recognize the face.

"Excuse me."

I looked away from the past to the present, chasing the voice. The woman was standing beside my table, tucking her golden necklace back into her inviting bosom. I look back at my untouched coffee, then back at her. I feel sixteen again. Her smile was hesitant, hopeful.

Like that of a nurse with a patient regaining consciousness.

"I'm sorry, but I'm supposed to be meeting somebody here, somebody I haven't met before. Are you James?"

Seconds fractured and broke apart, the smallest pieces of which I took to consider my response.

Could I be another man? For an hour? For a night?

Possibilities unfurled, paths carved by words and careful sentences.

I could start over here, pick up where another man never had the opportunity to leave off. I could pretend I knew things I had yet to learn. Middle names. Nairobi suburbs and neighbourhoods. Small countryside towns and the ages of siblings. I could pretend I did not know the things I have learned, speaking without fear of seduction or offence, acting a part unrehearsed. Long walks in Uhuru Park. Courtship. Gold and diamonds. Bells. Children.

Peering back into her eyes, I saw a hope independent of my face. The dream of a romantic, seeking the first star, dropping small leaves as she stripped bare a sapling on some dusty countryside path.

No matter how the story might be written, the ending is always the same.

"No," I replied with a wicked thought otherwise. Orgasms and despondency flitted across my vision, translucent spots after glimpsing bright light. "Should he fail to meet your appointment, however, I should be flattered to assume his place.", I added. The light behind her gaze dimmed somewhat, falling with the corners of her mouth.

"That's okay," she murmured. "Thanks." And away she went, returning to the chair from which she had risen.

I stared at the table, gulped the contents of my cup, my coffee cupping mission all but forgotten. The taste of the coffee was just plain, slouched in regret, lost opportunities. “I shall come back another day to cup the Java House Coffee….” I told myself. Occasional glances went unnoticed. Waitresses went about their business, serving coffee, eggs, Mexican beans and more. Gathering my courage in resignation, I asked for my bill, I saw the woman sitting by the window, watching. Waiting. I slipped the waitress a hundred shilling note and left.

This is romance, I thought as I walked out the door, the unwrapped gift of a promise, empty in expectant hands.

An unremarkable lady alone, hoping otherwise. This is the wound that always bleeds, the truth we look away from, stumbling about in the dark room. Why is it we only identify knives by touch?

Suppressing every instinct, I did not turn back.

10 comments:

Όstalgia said...

quite quite... its remarkable

Pekiro said...

Stiffys, u really a gud poet cum novelist! I u ever think of writing a novel, i would b the first to buy it! Thats a gud piece man!

Princess said...

Wonderful piece. I agree with Pekiro, I would definitely purchase your novel if you ever wrote one.

Unyc said...

Stiffy's....am smitten by u right now!!!
U hv a way with words that mke them so realistic, enchanting,poetic...keep u glued 2 the piece...wow! That ws remarkable.

Quintessence said...

WOW...enjoyed reading this man!

bantutu said...

IO was blown away man,This is the stuff legends are made of Can't wait for more...more....more. That was smthing man!

modoathii said...

dude, yaaaaaaani. eih. kuna vile...mpaka mamanzi wamekubali...ei, msee. we ni gandolf (sp) wa lord of the rings nini? wizard msee. the write (sio white) wizard.

Unyc said...

Stiffy's we need some more man.

Aegeus said...

Superb writing. Vivid descriptions, the 'internal conversations' I do identify with.

Prousette said...

You have a lovely way with words... more please!