Photo courtesy of Eunniah Mbabazi

” Mornings are not the best time to cry, because no one wishes to be seen by the world at their lowest. No one wishes to go around with a heavy heart, or with the sting of tears in their eyes.” This is what I want to type to her when my father calls out for me. So I curse under my breath as the call comes a second time knowing that if i don’t show up, voices are going to be raised. Tempers are going to flare, and maybe, just maybe, feet will be stomped. 

But I get back in time to finish her forth letter, her third, her second, then her first. You’d think that these said letters were meant for me, addressed to me, for I have reread each one of them. Not because of how beautifully the words blend into eachother to form the most mesmerizing letters I’ve come across, but because they have poked at wounds I’d long forgotten about. Wounds I thought had healed, scabbed over and were well on their way to fading into scars. 

That is what her writing has done to me, reminding me that I have undealt issues, that I have pent-up emotions. And that there’s no other way to deal with them except facing them; expressing them in the best way I know how. 

I have found myself rooting through her site the way chicken scratch the earth. Looking for particular stories. Stories that remind me of loss, of pain, of rock bottom. Stories that are like reflections of my very own self. And I cannot describe the relief upon finding them. The warmth that reverberates through my being the moment I’ve sat up in bed in the dark of the night, phone in hand, starvingly poring over them like an addict’s first fix after a bout of withdrawal. Sniffing silently into the night, fighting back tears, I have thanked the stars for having crossed our paths. 

Before we met, a close friend had sent me a link to her work with the caption “your writing reminds me of her. Ebu read her. She’s amazing!” I remember my eyes catching her name and my first thought being ” What a strange yet beautiful-sounding name!” 

I meet her one sweltering Saturday afternoon at Alliance Francaise for her book read. Detachedly, I watch her engage the crowd in a manner that makes me wonder how she does it. For she makes it sound so easy! This woman infront of me. Except for the warmth in her eyes, her face remains expressionless. I do not dwell on that but I decide that a smile would look good on her. 

When we finally get to have a moment, I fight the urge to speak my mind; To ask how she is managing because surely, that dress must be heavy. It looks heavy. It is one of Ijakaa’s designs, a beautiful golden brocade with cold shoulder bell sleeves. With its cinched waist, the dress flares out and stops just above her knees. She wears this with a pair of black heels, a statement that makes her hair the more noticeable. It is fistfuls of locs held away from her face. Ten locs have been left to dangle down her forehead like bangs.  

 Within the next two minutes, I tell her the words am sure she has heard too many times, that I love her writing so much I had to come to her book reading. That I resonate deeply with it. That I have read every single story she has written. And that it deeply tugs at my heart. I do not feel the characteristic anxiety that comes with first encounters. The ice quickly thaws we end up swapping numbers. 

When there is a book launch a week later, I want to bail out on our rendezvous when she texts and says ” najua utasema huna ankara, kuja ntakubebea.” Having no choice but to go along, I can’t help but marvel at our budding friendship. That evening on our way back, we talk about life in the city, about books and I find out about her love for African literature. A bookclub idea is born to which she invites me to join. It is a small, close-knit community of readers. 

Seven months later, when a friend sends me a surprise present and it turns out to be a copy of her recently published poetry collection If my Bones could Speak, I am lost for words. I have taken to reading it slowly, page by page, trying to savour the words therein. I will them to seep into my heart and soul. To speak to me. To purge me. To fix me. To build me. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be able to offer the most fitting appreciation for this work of art. For If my Bones could Speak, they would certainly say more than thank you. 

A gifted writer and a highly competent editor, Eunniah Mbabazi has authored; Breaking Down( An anthology of short stories), co-authired; KasKazi (A novel) and the latest Nairobian sensation, When A Stranger Called ( A short story collection). 

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