Those were the first words I said to him. I met him in a bookstore. I always knew I would meet him in a bookstore, but when he asked to pay for my books, I refused. He was not one to give up easily, so he insisted and gave me two choices. Pay for my books or buy me coffee.
We went for coffee.
I enjoyed the talk more than the coffee. See, he was a well read man. He loved the classics most. I told him I loved the classics, but that I was enjoying the works of emerging contemporary authors from Africa, which is why I’d gone to the bookstore that morning.
I like to think words brought us together.
We sat for long hours discussing characters we had read in books. Living their lives with them and crying their tears. We loved to read the same book and discuss it later. Discussions that were as heated as they were exciting. He liked to read for me. We would sit in the park. I’d lie on the tired bench, close my eyes and listen to him transport me to another world and another time. He had a baritone that gave every word he pronounced a life of its own. A life that filled every cell on my body.
When he finally invited me to his flat it was just as I expected; straight out of a novel. Compared to my flat it was big. A bedroom, a bathroom and a small extension of the living room made for the kitchen, where he made me lemon pancakes every morning when I visited. There were books by the thousands and they were everywhere. He had coves of shelves into the wall filled with books and crates of books which stood enticingly in one corner. I immediately knew I would love spending time here, and true to this, the spend-overs soon became living-ins.
We would make dinner together, and since he was a fellow foodie, we would hunt the internet for recipes to try out. Often we made food according to the book we were reading. The day we read Elif Shafak’s ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’ we made Etli Sarma for dinner. In the nights when I couldn’t fall asleep, he held me in a tight embrace and with my head on his chest told me stories until I fell asleep. I could tell you most of these stories but they will have no ending. Just like this story.
The day I woke up with a funny feeling in my lower abdomen, he was at work. It is also the day this particular story changed. I went to the bathroom but when the pain persisted, I sent him a message, saying I was heading to the hospital. Even as I walked in to see the doctor I already knew. When I went home that evening I found him seated by the crate of books with a certain look about him and I knew he already knew.
That was a few months ago.
Tomorrow if all goes well, and it will, you will make your first appearance. I will lay on that hospital bed, exhausted and in pain, alone. With a single cry you will make your way into this world and I will look into your pure eyes. I will hold your tender hands in mine. I will hug you to me tightly. I will listen to your heart beat against mine. At that moment my heart will commune with yours and tears will gather in my eyes. I will let them flow and watch them fall on the small of your head. When the doctors ask me for a name I will look into your heart and I will call you Hawa; the beginning of a love story.
When you come of age I will take you to school where you will get your first formal lessons in education. It is from school that you will come to me one day with a confused heart and ask me ‘Where is my father?’ With a heavy heart I will lift you to me, hug you to myself and carry you to the locked room upstairs. With a lot of effort, I will let us in. I will hesitate before putting the light on, and for a flicker of a moment, I will move back to another room in another time.
Your soft voice will bring me back. I will put the light on Illuminate thousands of books. And in a whisper I will answer you.
‘Here is your father.’
© Judyannet Muchiri