When you’re asking someone you care about out on a date, you plan, probably for days. You lurch and spin in bed thinking about the logistics. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and mumble the location’s name; the location you scout beforehand to make sure it has good character and a menu you can afford. After that it’s up to your date to say yes.
I called my mom during the holidays and asked her out for tea. She has advanced in age; she’ll be sixty one this year. She probably can’t remember the giddy excitement of being asked out by a young chap with a bright future ahead of him (Haha) because the last time that happened was probably with my dad who is swimming somewhere in the rivers of seventy. When she goes out, it is usually with her kids who end up burning holes in her purse and if it’s with her husband they start talking shop and it probably always ends up into gab about their kids. They can’t even order something extravagant like filet mignon because they want to save a little and buy cement and Y12 steel rods to push that mjengo project they have going on in the bowels of Kinoo to cement their kid’s future.
My mum and I talk in kuyo. I call her and ask her, “Mom, are you home?”
“No, I’m not home but your siblings are there so you can still go.”
“No mom, I thought I could take you out. You know, buy you something fancy like tea.”
She lights up and you can feel the sunlight seeping through her entire body through the phone.
“Oh, I will try to wrap up what I’m doing quickly and then I will call you.”
I put aside my phone and start freshening up. The hour hand strikes three pm and still no phone call. It’s ok, she will call. It hits four pm; still nothing. I get a little on edge and wonder if she’s ditched me for better plans or perhaps she has remembered the last time I asked her out for lunch and said no, thank you. I was young and stupid (Haha). I was just experiencing the wonders of the visa card. I went to the ATM and punched in my password and my card got supped into the black-hole. I was frantic. I entered the bank and despair punched me in the gut when I saw the long queues snaking around the bank like badly cooked spaghetti. Long story short, she ended up paying for our date and I have never heard the end of it.
The hour hand strikes five pm and I pick up my phone and punch in her contacts.
“Mom, are we still on?” I say it in a trembling voice, a voice scared to be stood up. A voice that has gotten rain check texts when there was no rain. An insecure voice.
“Yes, there’s a bit of traffic but I’m on my way.”
“Is 5:45 OK?”
5:45 pm and I’m on location waiting for my date, a billow of thoughts going hammer in my mind. Will she like me? (Haha) What will she be wearing? Will the date go well? I cross my fingers and hope it won’t be one of those stale dates that are so dry you clutch on conversations the same way a drowning man clutches at straws. Those dates where the air between the two of you is filled with an awkward, tense silent and the much you can do is stare at the walls and ask questions like, “Do you think the painter used Crown paint or Duracoat and do you think they were given a discount on the paint?” And she stares at you and feels like flying out the window and you look at her and you want to bolt. Only you can’t, because some expensive meal is seated on the table and it can’t go to waste.
I’m broken out of my thoughts by a phone call. My date is here. She dances her way to my table and I can see why my dad is attracted to her – she looks sixty one going on thirty. We exchange niceties and she gets into spiel about how there was an accident on her way to our rendezvous and how she had to get out of the car to see if there was anyone she knew.
I stare into her eyes which are retreating a bit into their sockets but still turbulent and lusty with life. I wonder how a person at such an age sees the world. Would she be bothered if her picture got only five likes on instagram? She’s going on but I’m a trace tense pondering what questions I will ask without coming across as a cop or one of our local journalists. Maybe I should really play the cop card and put my detective badge on the table and go something like,
“Ma’am I’m going to ask you a few questions and it is in your best interest that you be as transparent and straightforward as possible. Do you understand?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Ma’am we can either do this the hard way or the easy way, comprende!”
“What is wrong with you?”
“I guess you have already made your choice ma’am. The wrong choice!” I say while removing my coat revealing the black suspenders underneath and I start folding the sleeves of my shirt.
I grin at the thought and ask her what she will eat. She proceeds to tell me she will have whatever I’m having. When a girl tells you, I will have whatever you’re having, she either means one of three things, A) ‘This is your turf, I trust you completely and I know whatever you pick will be good for us.’ B) ‘I want to see what kind of taste you have.’ C) ‘You might be broke and I don’t want to hurt your pockets.’ You don’t want your girl to mean B nor C you want her to be a straight A student but Judging by the look on my mother’s face she meant all three with more emphasis on C.
I order fries and chicken, and she smiles; nothing like chicken to uplift a girls moods.
“Did dad take you on dates when you were a girl?” A blush blooms on her face and a quick, bright smile cuts across her lips like a lit matchstick.
“Yes, we went on plenty of dates. Do you see where Kempinski is? We used to eat there a lot.”
“Huh, were there vibandas around Kempinski back then?” We both laugh.
“We were not simple – nikii uratuhuthia? We didn’t just frequent vibandas, we used to eat in very good places. Back then I was a tailor and your dad was doing businesses here and there so we had money lying around.”
“So you paid for the dates sometimes, huh mom?” I say with bated breath, waiting for validation.
“Sometimes,” She stares into the distance “But the man should take care of the woman unless he’s going through a rough patch.”
“So, tailoring, is that what you wanted to do? Is that what you loved?”
Her facial expression tightens to a more sober one.
“Tailoring is something I found myself in, but if I had a choice, I would have done nursing. There’s something about taking care of people that I like.”
“Do you regret not doing what you had a passion for?”
“There are days I was depressed, but you always have to find a way to pick yourself up. I want to tell her she might actually be doing what she loves because she’s in her church’s women’s guild but instead, I ask her how they used to communicate with boys seeing that there were no WhatsApp groups and a F-boy could not just slide into your DMs.
“Back then I used to work for a European (kwa muthungu) and he had a landline phone. You found the telephone booths didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I think I did.”
“That’s how your dad used to contact me. Otherwise we would use letters or word of mouth.”
“That had a lag, what if someone changed their minds or got better plans? (in the form of a man with a Nissan Sunny perhaps)”
“Friends don’t get better plans. Friends keep their word.”
She switches and starts talking about my cousin who is my age mate. She tells me he is getting married and they’re going for ruracio this week.
“How was the food mom, and what will you drink?”
“The food was nice but a little too spicy. I will have tea.”
She tells me where the girl my cousin is marrying hails from, she even gets into a bit of her bio and I know where this is heading.
“I should probably buy you bread. Do you guys have bread in the house?”
“We have brown bread so maybe you can buy us white.”
I do a little bit of light shopping for her, she thanks me and we say our goodbyes.
December is a family month. This is the time we sat down and shared a meal with our loved ones. Loved ones that we barely know because most of us choose to spend time fingering our phones, updating our statuses with ridiculous things like, ‘Family is everything.’ Family that we sometimes know nothing about. It’s an oxymoron that we rarely hang out with the people we claim to love, instead we spend time chatting up strangers who care very little about us. So it was nice to know that my mom wanted to be a nurse and had other ambitions besides being our mother. That dad took her out to nice places and still does because charity really does begin at home.
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I like to think of myself as a reader who writes, a Pan-African who thinks with the tips of his fingers, but when I'm not molesting the keyboard I'm usually destroying yogurt (not Frusion) or staring into the vastness of space.