You sit across each other. You on the worn out sofa, her on the sturdy stool. Two of your little ones are playing, while the two older ones are arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Outside the cows moo, the neighbours quarrel, the dog barks lazily. You make another attempt at a joke. Only this time it is delivered in undertones, and then you look at her hoping to draw out a laugh or a song from her eyes. Just like in the old days.
Instead she looks through you, forces a weak smile then her eyes fall back to the potatoes she is mashing for dinner. With that, your eyes fall to your heart. So you sit in a sad silence. The silence you have come to share. The silence in which you communicate.
You look at her now as she bends by the fire. She blows a breath of life into it, her face transforms into a piece of art cast by the golden hues from the flame she has created. The image and takes you back in time.
You are walking home one evening from yet another bad day at work. The boss has, yet again, threatened to fire you; a threat you secretly hope he makes good. You walk with a lot of effort because you’ve been on your feet since five in the morning. If you could, you’d sleep right there in the ditch by the road.
But you don’t.
Many things happen to men sleeping in ditches by the road in your village. You walk on muttering to yourself, cursing intermittently, in between struggles to catch your breath…and that’s when you see her from afar. She is standing by the roadside to your left in a jungle green skirt that sits awkwardly on her and a dark brown oversized sweater.
As you walk nearer you wonder what on earth she is doing standing there, instead of hurrying on home like you are trying to do. A few steps closer, your question is answered by her eyes. You follow her gaze and that’s when you notice the horizons coloured in a dark shade of orange, the sun kissing the skies goodbye; magic.
You are dead tired. You should walk on home. But you don’t. You walk up to where she is and stand next to her. You do two things you’ve never done; you notice the sunset and you stop to watch it with a stranger. You wonder at what the villagers passing by must think of you; two mad people.
It may have been three or five minutes or hours but when the sun finally sets she turns. With the very same eyes that communed with the sunset she looks at you and for the second time that day, you see magic. The very magic that she brings to your life.
Her name is Selina.
You quit work shortly after and, inspired by Selina, move into private practice doing what you loved most. Creating homes for people, building houses that aren’t just structures. Selina breathed her magic into your life and you breathed the same into those houses you build.
After long tiring days at building sites you came home to hot meals. Selina sat you by the fireplace and fed you. Meals you longed to come home to. After dinner she made you sweet tea brewed with just the right amount of sugar, milk and love. Tea that laced your conversations as you sat side by side by the fire.
You told her stories; funny bits stolen from work, sad bits from your life, embarrasing bits from your childhood and watched her laugh. That laughter that started in soft spurts then, into full hearty laughter. It is that laughter that you fell asleep to.
On Sundays you took a break from work. This became your day. You christened it Selina Day.
So on Selina days you woke up with the birds, packed a picnic into an old kiondo and headed to the woods. You had a special place in the woods where you spread that blanket she gifted you on your wedding day and sat down to raise the sun. With the first rays of the sun, you kissed and made love. You spent the whole day on that blanket, talking, playing Scrabble, dreaming, nibbling at your snacks. Because she adored berries you wander into the nearby bushes to pluck her some which you’d later watch her gobble.
With the sun at its peak you go for a swim in the nearby river. You both strip and dive in. You do less of the swimming and more of the watching. You watch her skin glow in the water and in one take you scoop her out and make wet love on the blanket again.
Later you lie on your back and listen as Selina sings for you. Her voice fills the woods. The trees and the bushes stand attention in awe. You know for sure if you aren’t the happiest man on earth, then you are definitely the happiest man in the woods. As evening approached, you both become still, the woods grow quiet, and you all bow in reverence.
Today there are no Selina Days.
You no longer raise the sun. The sun no longer sets as you watch it together. The magic has died. You are looking for the guy who broke that spell. You like to think it all went with the woods. Where majestic trees and proud bushes once stood, is now cleared. Now you see houses, crops and people. The few remaining trees are sad. They stand in fear awaiting their date with the axe.
Your Selina no longer sings. She walks in labored steps. She cooks, feeds you and your four children. She goes to the farm, breaks her back tilling. She comes back in the evening tired and gets into the kitchen to make you dinner. At night the puts the children to bed and sits for long hours by the fire.
Some days you sit with her, try to make conversation, try to look for your Selina but you don’t find her. Only sad eyes look back at you and the silence. So with a sigh you rise up. You want to kiss her goodnight, better still, you want to scoop her up and carry her to your bedroom. But times have changed and you can’t find your Selina. You just shuffle to bed confused.
As you watch her bend by that fire, her face illuminated by the flames you know you have to find the magic again. When the little ones finally fall asleep tonight, you will take Selina’s hand and lead her out into the amorous night of February 14th .
Under the moonlight you’ll sit her on the old tattered blanket. You will not have a red wine. You will not have wild berries, and you will not have chia bread sandwiches. Only memories and a round metal dotted with sparkling diamonds. On that blanket, under the stars you’ll hold her and tell her stories. Bits from when you met and fell in love with a stranger watching the sunset by the roadside.
She will smile. You will smile. Then she will look into your eyes and break into song. The stars and the moon will bow in awe and you will lay there in awe knowing that you’ve found your magic again.
And its name is Selina.
© Judyanne Muchiri
Photo Credit: Dims Photography