6. Of Heartbreaks and Unions
I really hate hurting other people’s feelings, especially when I can help it. It is for this reason that the night was the longest I have ever had. I kept tossing and turning, trying to come up with a plausible explanation that would make Christine less hurt.
None forth came. Actually, the more I thought, the more I realized how much fucked up I was. There was no getting out of this. Sleep finally overwhelmed me in the wee hours of the morning. After what seemed like a few minutes, it was daybreak and the room was a hive of activity as everyone was getting ready to for class.
I reluctantly got out of bed and dragged my lazy feet to the shower only to find the heaters dysfunctional. Great, I thought to myself, the heavens have conspired against me. I stood at the furthest corner of the bathroom and turned the tap with an outstretched hand, which proved quite futile as the cold water immediately splashed on me the moment it hit the floor. I counted one to three and jumped right under the punishing jet with a shriek. I was done a short while later. I dressed hurriedly and left without taking breakfast since I was getting late and the day’s CAT was due in an hour’s time.
The exam proved to be a welcome distraction. For the first time in several hours, I was able to shift my thoughts from Christine.
I arrived in class to find students huddled in groups trying to absorb everything they could in the few remaining minutes. As usual, Raj sat by himself immersed in whatever it was in his phone, probably the latest celebrity gossip in town.
“What has Kim Kardashian done this time round?” I joked as I settled in the seat beside his.
“Haha! It’s always about Kim and her bum, huh?” He joked acknowledging my presence with a fist bump.
“Well, what else if not her?” I asked.
“Van Gaal, obviously” He noted with a grin.
“Tell me he’s been sacked!” I beamed.
“Dude, it’s all over, how on earth did you miss this?” He asked genuinely surprised.
“I was a little busy and my phone ran out of data” I lied.
He rolled his eyes and shrugged, making it obvious that he was not convinced.
We went on and on until Pat, a classmate, came over.
“You guys have totally lost it. You’re discussing football and the paper is due shortly!” She exclaimed.
“There’s nothing you can possibly learn now that you haven’t in the last six weeks.” Raj responded, echoing my sentiments.
“Whatever, Edwin can I have your MIS notebook, now that you’re not using it.” She said
I fished it out of my bag and handed it over. She thanked me and hurriedly proceeded to her desk as she flipped the pages. We looked at her pitifully.
Just like Raj, I detested reading for an exam when it’s due in a short time. Everything suddenly seems relevant at that moment yet you do not have the time to absorb it all. It is actually more confusing. Therefore, I would rather immerse myself in casual banter or anything apart from reading for the paper.
The lecturer walked in with the exams and started dishing out answer booklets as everyone scampered back to their seats. The exam began shortly after and proceeded quietly but not without the usual whispering, shuffling, and rustle of papers. The lecturer walked out briefly and all hell broke loose. Seats moving, guys shouting at their would-be saviors, and others throwing bits of paper. I was tempted to ask for help from Raj on some difficult question but he looked too engrossed and I thought better of it. Turns out I made the right call; the lecturer walked in unexpectedly and caught some students with contraband red-handed. He wrote down what I believed to be their registration numbers on his notebook and proceeded to walk around the class with a smug look on his face.
I pitied the victims, they had to sweat it out, unsure whether their result for the current paper or the entire exam would be cancelled.
About an hour later, Raj handed over his booklet and walked out. I immediately followed suit as I was also already done but was just waiting for someone else to break the ice. Outside the class, Raj told me he had some engagements to take care of and he excused himself. On my way to the hostels, I bumped into Christine, who conveniently sidestepped as I was about to say hi and walked on as if I was a stranger. I stood still for a moment and looked back to confirm it was really her. Embarrassed and hurt at the same time, I walked on absent-mindedly. I kept wondering whether it was worth it pursuing romantic interest with someone who was not ready to even get my side of the story.
The vengeful side of me persuaded me to give Sonia a call, at least to lift my spirits.
“Hello there, how are you?” I started the moment she picked up.
“Heey you! Am good, how about you?” She beamed.
“Am fine, done with today’s paper and thought to say hi” I went on.
“Aaaaw, so sweet of you. How was it…the paper?” She inquired.
“It was okay.”
“Yea, not too hard not too easy.”
“If you say so. Plans for the afternoon?” she asked.
“None in particular, just chilling…and you?”
“None too” she responded.
“If that’s the case, how about we grab a coffee later in the evening?” I ventured
“Ummm…I don’t mind. I hope it’s not in your room…” She added jokingly.
“No, The Milk Bar, a cozy establishment straddling parklands and Ngara” I pointed out.
“Oh, I actually know the place and I love it. What time?”
“Is five pm okay with you?” I offered.
“Five is perfect!” She said, sounding excited.
“Okay, see you then. Bye.”
“See you. Bye bye.”
Sonia was ever punctual, one of the things I liked about her. I had arrived about 3 minutes earlier expecting to wait for her only to see her on the foyer fiddling with her phone. Probably trying to call me. She noticed me approach and smiled.
“Hey, you’re good at keeping time I see” She said as I embraced her gently.
“I try, though you beat me to it.” I said as I gestured her inside. There was an empty table at a corner facing the road. I led her to it, pulled out a chair for her, and settled in the opposite seat as she mouthed a ‘thank you.’ We ordered for coffee and dived into small talk as we waited to be served. With her usual witty humor, the waiter’s delay was barely noticeable. The waiter served us piping hot coffee, which was quite welcome considering how freezing it was getting. The dim lights and soft music only helped to make the ambience in the café romantic.
I was now getting bored with the small talk and so tried to venture into delicate ground.
“What do you think of dating outside your race?” I asked, carefully looking into her eyes.
“Well, it’s no biggie for me personally.” She answered looking surprised.
“But?” I prodded.
“My older relatives frown at it. So there would be a lot of pressure. Why ask?” She posed.
“I just wanted to get your opinion”
“Okay, and what do you think of dating outside your race?” she countered.
“It’s no big deal, I guess. Though some of my folks may be uneasy at first.” I replied.
“Won’t that pressure negatively affect the relationship?”
“Not very much, Africans are pretty welcoming and accommodative.”
“Why are you looking at me like that, it’s making me uneasy” She said blushing.
I had not realized I was staring at her. Her big round black eyes stood out of her face beautifully. The heavy dark eyebrows and eyelashes framed them emphatically. I was tempted to reach out and brush a wayward strand of hair beside her eyes but thought better of it. Damn! The romance in the air was getting the better of me and I could not hold back any longer.
“You look lovely.” I muttered.
She seemed taken aback but she recovered quickly and started fiddling with the pendant on her neck. “Thank you.” She said softly.
“Sonia, I really like you and would love to get to know you more.” I stated.
She did not utter a word for what seemed like an eternity. Then she gently put her coffee cup back on the table and stared at it.
“Well?” I tried getting her back to the present.
“What exactly are you implying?” She inquired.
“I love you Sonia.” I stated candidly.
I could tell it somewhat surprised her, for she raised an eyebrow and opened her mouth as if to say something but changed her mind. Instead, she turned her dainty wrist and looked at the watch on it.
“It’s getting late, Dad’s about to get home.”
What the…I looked at her in bewilderment. Here I was pouring my heart out to a lady and the best response she could give was about getting late. I inhaled and exhaled audibly, trying to keep my emotions under check.
“Sorry for keeping you too late.” I stated sarcastically as I rose, making sure to leave some notes under the sugar dish to cover the bill.
I escorted her to the bus stop just outside the café , the air laden with palpable tension.
A Matatu came by almost immediately and screeched to a halt. Some passengers filed out and others started getting in. She turned to me, hesitated momentarily before opening her arms for a hug. I reached to her and mechanically wrapped my arms around her. I was about to let go when she tiptoed and placed a timid peck on my cheek. I was taken aback and before I could recover, she had already disappeared into the Matatu, which sped off leaving a small cloud of dust in its wake.
I stared at it until it disappeared around a corner. Confused yet smiling, I tuned back and made my way towards the hostels wondering what the mixed signals meant.