Ngaahika Ndeenda

My dad wants us to have coffee. Coffee for my dad is code for, “I want you to give me a status update of where your life is heading. I mean, it’s the least you can do. I have invested in you for what, twenty plus years? I need to know if the share price is going up or down.” I have been avoiding the coffee for months till it’s gotten to the point where I can’t push it to the back-burner anymore because it will start raising eyebrows. “I mean, what is he hiding? Has he gone into receivership? Damn it, I knew this was a pyramid scheme.”

I can tell you how that interaction will go down, almost to a T. I will want to have the coffee in a nice restaurant. The kind where the waitresses wear short black skirts and show off their healthy legs while they bring you hot towels to wipe your hands. Mzee won’t stand for this because he imagines such a place will tear a hole in my pocket and maybe hurt the prospects of his nonexistent grandchild going to a good school, so he will suggest a mom-and-pop around the corner. We will buckle in and have our tea in plastic cups and hold our donuts with napkins because guess what this place doesn’t have? Waitresses in short skirts who come carrying plates with hot towels.

In his grey suit, brown sweater and fedora, he will look like a throwback in such a place but he will relish it because he comes from an age of Wazee Hukumbuka so the mom-and-pop will be a welcome detour. He will bite his donut and get comfortable, his paunch showing, saying, ‘Damn it, I have worked long enough to earn good things and who says a paunch is not one of them?’ He will stare at me with bloodshot eyes. Eyes that were white until Embassy Lights and Viceroy came into the picture. Eyes that were white until diabetes and old age knocked on his door.

“What project are you working on?” he will ask after swallowing his donut and considering me for a moment; weighing me on a scale on which he has weighed so many men before, but this weighing scale will come with a father’s love.

“Writing,” I will say effortlessly just to see his face crease as he wonders how writing is a project. I used to resent him for that but now I will relish the confusion on his face. I will look at him and think about ending his misery and narrating fiction about plots in Syokimau that should paint a nice smile of relief on his face. ‘Whoa! I thought my genes were being flushed down the drain for a moment there. Thank God.’

The next thing he will ask is if I have found a good girl to marry. I will curse myself for not picking up that play by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and placing it on the table. What is it called again? Yes, ‘Ngaahika Ndeenda.’ I will tell him I am not ready for marriage and in all honesty I am not. I will tell him I want to travel after I finish writing my three books and I will think about settling down in my late thirties or early forties. ‘I take it back,’ he will be thinking. ‘My genes have truly been flushed down the drain.’ He will adjust his sitting position and look at me in a peculiar fashion. “Travel, huh.” He will try to taste the word in his mouth and he won’t like its bitter taste. “You want your kids to call you grandpa?”

“You know good girls don’t just fall from the sky?” I will be tempted to say but instead I might tell him about my dates. I have been to a couple of late.

“There is this girl I went on a couple of dates with; yellow like the sun. Nice legs. No, great legs and greater beauty, with a brain that could perform neurosurgery at a moment’s notice. She’s in her early twenties and she’s trading Forex and has a car on the road operating as an Uber. Heck, she might even be making more money than I am. She tried to get me to go to church. I went once. It was enough church to last me the whole of 2020. Dad, how do you tell a woman who earns more than you, ‘Stay home and take care of the kids today’?”

“There is this other one, chocolate skin. She has a body like an hourglass. I’m not kidding, her ass literally bursts out of her trousers and damn she can kiss. She has this thing she does when you’re kissing where her teeth massage your tongue—its sorcery. Once your lips touch hers, you see fireworks even though it’s not Diwali. And it’s not just kissing, she has a voice coated with honey. You could give her the world in exchange for a whisper in your ear. But she loves the nightlife way too much. I fear she would outdrink me. I fear I would be the one waiting for her in the wee hours of the night, asking her, with a voice full of bitterness, ‘Aki babe, hii ni masaa gani unaingia kwa nyumba?’ It would be sickening. I would die of an undiagnosed disease.”

At this time my dad will be sitting on the edge of his seat begging for more just like you, dear reader, and at the same time tasting the word travel in his mouth. ‘I will take an ass bursting out of the trousers any day over you wasting your time going around the world. Who do you think you are, Dora the Explorer?’

“There is this other one, student journalist. She has a face you don’t want to stop looking at. She’s slim with big brown eyes that swallow you up. She’s the kind of woman you love at first sight. And the icing on the cake, she’s fascinated about my writing. Dad, do you think if I became a finance man like you wanted me to be, some girl would be fascinated about my accounting? I know, I know, she would be fascinated about the money but I doubt she would be fascinated by finance itself. Taxes, excel sheets, balance sheets. Shit. I’m dozing off just thinking about it. Writing, on the other hand, gets you kisses with fireworks.”

“Looks like you have a home-run with the journalist, so what’s keeping you from giving me my return on investment—grandkids?”

I will stare into space. “She’s a flirt and it irritates me. She loves men way too much, Dad, and they love her, as they should with such a face. I don’t want to be her bodyguard. Or God forbid I look at your grandson one day and think, “Huh! That nose is not part of the Kimuyu family.”

He will laugh. You should see my dad laugh. He laughs from his stomach and when he laughs you want to laugh and he will excuse me from the marriage talk for now. He will then get into spiel about how time moves fast and why I should do things when I still have energy. He will then get to his favorite phrase. When we hang out he repeats it more than twice. “If we die of old age, and I know we will because God loves us, I will die first so you have to be in a position to take care of things.”

He will then lean back and rub his belly, satisfied that he has a sliver of an idea about where my life is headed, and tell me he loves all his kids equally and he is proud of all of us and he is glad that we are all doing something, and I will look at him and think, “I have a pretty good dad. Lose the brown sweater and the marriage talk and he is not half bad.”

*

Hello sexy friends. I have missed coming here every Wednesday to sit around the fire and share stories. I took October off to blow off steam and reorganize my thoughts but now I am back. I have been writing a lot even though I haven’t been posting. Expect at least two books next year. I’m also continuing with the Nairobi Love series. If you have a story you want to share DM me on my Instagram or email me on talk@kisauti.com. Otherwise, how are you holding up?

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image credit: maria ashby

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