They are three.
Two are seated on one side of the table. She is seated opposite us(the two and I). She is telling them about Rwanda!
“Even their slums are so organized and clean. Cleaner than some European countries I’ve been to. And Kenya is shit. We need to style up and also our customer service feels like rotten banana peels.”
Okay, you guys must be grinning like goats or you look some type of way, people have nightmares.
She has a twang and has picked a few dictionary worth words for her girls. The goddess of travel though looks like she last did her hair during the death of Christ. She must still be mourning.
Anyway, I think I have an Eve’s dropping problem. If you hear of a support group that you feel is good, please sign up and attend on my behalf.
I’m waiting for Jeff. It’s 5.01pm. He is a minute late. I’m starting to look at my phone, watch and the clock simultaneously. He can’t keep a lady waiting!
“ Look at this pic. This dress was bought by my help in absentia and she dressed my daughter this way to a neighbors birthday party! What an embarrassment. I don’t dress my girl in dresses longer than their knees! She should have just waited till I fly back.”
Jeff is here. Aaargh. He could have come a week later. At least I’d overhear more stories.
“Jeff you are late! Seven minutes late! That’s disrespectful! Nice to meet you though!” I say.
“Don’t be mad. I’m sorry,” he calmly says.
I laugh because for a second I felt like he came way too early. I’d do with a few more minutes of listening to the trotter.
“Aargh! Scare not! Easy! It’s never that serious!” I say.
I ask if we could move to another table. Clearly if I sat here I’d not listen to Jeff.
The twang girl pulls the menu and loudly asks the girls if they knew or have ever done a sandwich! Jeff looks at her, them, me then affirms moving of tables.
He is tall, lean, bald with a bushy beard. He wanted to be a pastor so that he could never go broke-tithe and offering. He is an illustrator. Those people who draw cartoons.
But these cartoons are serious business. They pay his bills so he has to befriend them. Ask them if they need pampers or nappies, or if they feel violated that he drew too big a head.
He is just from attending an international art week! He still looks fatigued but could be the weight of his beards and the lice in there.
“Had it been once, we’d never think about it too much. But she appeared and disappeared severally then became an absentee,” he says.
He orders 3 Heineken beers and I, an Americano coffee.
Okay, so like any other couple, Jeff’s parents argued once in a while. You know like one would call the other a cow and the other would say even those kids weren’t’t his…those things you say when you argue.
One night, after an argument, she walked out and this was the beginning of an absentee mother.
She didn’t break a cup or plate because they used plastic but she didn’t try to kill herself or any of them. She just walked out.
“You guys didn’t’t stop her?” I ask.
“Nop. We prolly thought she’d be back like she always did.”
“Aargh, you didn’t even hold her feet, her dress, remove your clothes, crawl…”
“Nop. We knew she’d be back. So we cried a bit and had dinner that she had cooked.”
A girl passes by. She is on phone. Trying to locate her date maybe? Her armpits though! Those hairs are grayish and long. I have all kinds of thoughts in mind but I’m not the goddess of shaved armpits and no one said shaved armpits pass for heaven with an avocado, so to each their own.
“Like any other family, we wished we’d have both parents present. We were meant to be a perfect family but she went missing.”
He turns and faces the window. He is trying to hide his tears.
“Aren’t you better off with a dead parent than a living one who never bothers about her children?” He adds.
The mood is fowl! I’m uncertain about how to go on. I want to tell him that the president is in Jamaica and needs help knowing that his wife’s brother’s mother is still his wife’s mother.
“Jeff, do you like women who wash their bras?” I ask.
“You mean there are those who don’t? But when you sniff them you can’t tell that they are dirty. How come?”
“ You sniff bra’s for the smell of the skin that you are used to. Not to tell when it was last washed…but do this, go boil milk and put in that black or blue bra. If the milk becomes tea, sieve and drink.”
He laughs and tells me I’m silly. I know I am. Heck! I tell him that it’s important that we build a relationship even for a few minutes so both of us feel comfortable so I’ll go off a bit and come back to reality.
“Speaking of relationships. I remember my mom visiting once at school and I refused to go see her. I technically didn’t’t know her. We didn’t’t have a connecting factor. I didn’t’t bother. I think she sensed after a long wait and left.”
I’m confused. I gulp my coffee and order another. I thought he’d be excited!
“What was she coming to do? I never fit in because I didn’t have both parents. My peers laughed at me. They ridiculed me. Where was she then?”
“Look Jeff, she tried, she made effort, she…”
“Tatu stop!” He yells.
Silence engulfs us. I’m no longer certain I want to talk about anyone’s absentee mother. I apologize for being shit. He orders another Heineken.
I excuse myself and walk to the ends of the cafe. I take my camera and take a few shots of nothing in particular. I look at people, cars, buildings. I pull out my phone and play one level of Solitaire then walk back.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t’t control myself,” he says calmly.
“It’s okay. I kind of expected that or worse. It’s fine. Just calm down.”
I hold his arm, look into his eyes and say nothing for a minute.
“Whenever you are ready,” I then say.
“I was lucky to be a boy, I had a father. My sisters? Did they have a mother? I wonder how many times they cried in front of a mirror or in their beds till they slept or in the shower! .”
He breathes heavily. He is angry and I can see it. He is angry that his sisters had no mother figure when they needed one most. That during their teenage years, they had no one to confide in or to tell their girly stuff. They never got to express themselves wholly and he thinks that they’d be less embarrassed about some issues if their mom stuck around…
“ One time when I was older, she came again. With kids that looked like her. She probably had gotten remarried or had gotten herself into something. By this time, my dad had married another woman. I don’t know what their discussion was like but when she left, she never came back. They didn’t argue.”
His step mother was a kind woman. She took care of them as if they were her own children but it was short-lived. She died in a car accident.
After a while the dad brought in another woman but she treated them badly and when their dad realized, he kicked her out.
“My dad must have been lonely and raising us on his own might have scared him. It wasn’t’t something he had done before so I think he felt the need to have a woman at home but fate.”
He looks a bit disturbed. I want to tell him we can stop there. That it’s okay to do this another day.
“My dad never painted a bad picture about my mom. We cannot pin down any negative thing about her. We just don’t know what happened.”
“Your dad must be going to heaven on a yellow chariot full of avocados. Upon separation, very few partners say good about the other. There’s always a devil of a partner who has one eye, two teeth and big ears! It’s always ugly’”I say.
“Not to say that my dad is perfect. No man is, and I absolve him of any wrong but he kept under wraps what happened between them and focused on raising us the best way he could.”
For a minute, I think his dad is great! He is what civilized grownups should be after break up. Right? I’d gift him a bra to hold his steel balls! A black one!
My phone rings. It’s a hospital. Thanks to True-caller. My mind goes on a trip. I cannot afford a sick person or a dead one. I make the sign of the cross, excuse myself and pick up.
“Tatu speaking how may I help you?”
“I’m calling from hospital abc. We have free prostrate cancer screening starting next week and vasectomy at 35% normal rates. The offers end in exactly 7days.”
“Okay…”I say as I look at my phone and shake my head.
“Shall I book you in?” she asks.
“Sure. I can have mine on Tuesday afternoon. Say 2 pm?” I continue.
“Okay. Your full name please?”
“Tatu. Tatu Reginaldah”
“Thank you so much.”
“Tuesday 2pm…and you are welcome.”
I hang up.
I must have been moved to Jupiter without consent. I need a lawyer!
“Jeff, I’ve just confirmed a vasectomy booking for myself next Tuesday at 2pm.”
“Uuhhhm wait. Are you…” He starts.
“Nop. Female. 100%. I confirm presence of a vagina only. The hospital didn’t sort their data well or their staff is high till further notice.”
We both laugh. I imagine the look I’ll get when I walk in with hair held back, red lip pie, heels and a skirt that just ends above the knee and request to see the doctor for my vasectomy appointment!
I want to excuse myself to the washroom to check if I’m still female, but I’ve walked around too much already so I slide my hands in my pockets and tactically touch self to just be sure that vasectomy wasn’t mine.
We laugh again.
“ If my mom ever showed up again, I’d simply ask her to do her. We cannot have a relationship. How do we start? Where do we start from?”
For the 1st time, I’m not sure what to think or feel. I just let him talk. I sip my coffee and look at him.
“I’d want my kids to have both parents. I’d do whatever it takes to make it work.”
I want to tell him that many people have that in mind when they start cooking tea but one look to pick a sieve and the whole tea pours on the cooker. But they always want it to work.
I want to tell him that even cleaning that spill is messy.
His phone beeps. His sister wants to know if they can spare the weekend and trace their mother for closure.
He looks at the message again then deletes it. His eyes are tearing.
“Can I uuhhm give you a hug? Hold your hand? Rub your back? …you know” I ask.
He looks at me and tears flow. He tries to look at the ceiling. Probably to control the flow? But damage has been done already.
I hold his hand and say nothing for about a minute.
His phone beeps again.
“Shall we? Don’t you think it’s about time?” Asks his sister.
He starts typing, clears it and deletes the message.
He then calmly puts the phone down.