“You’re the first person that’s insisted tukutane in person…” I started as we settled in.
“It’s because we know each other from way back, I don’t mind seeing a brother again,” he reiterated, roughly slapping my left shoulder from across the table. The morning looked like a funeral, grey and grim, with slight showers covering the city like a dump blanket. Small droplets kept smacking the glass wall from outside, distracting me from the menu that had just been placed before me.
“Ntakunywa kenye utakunywa bro but with doughnuts,” he said just after the waiter brought him another menu. I wasn’t about to complicate things so I ordered tea and doughnuts for the both of us because maybe a doughnut a day brings the dough your way.
“It’s been a while man … how’ve you been?” I asked with my eyes on him, hoping his body language would tell me anything his words couldn’t.
“Good… I’ve been great! Nasurvive at least…”
It had been almost a decade since I last saw him, but he looked nothing like I recalled. His frame looked frail and his back bowed slightly from the weight of his shoulders. Miriam Makeba hummed from the corners of the restaurant, the music stringing through Mwai and for a moment, his troubled soul seemed to find peace.
“It’s funny umeorder doughnuts too because Sharon had just gotten an order to supply doughnuts at this primary school close to our former place…”
“Was that before the accident?”
“Eeh, her bakery was just picking up…”
“Tukiwa karura you told me you met her first wapi…?”
“She had a small bakery in tao so she sold breakfast in the morning… and I happened to work in the same building she had rented her space in…alafu one day her till number wasn’t working so she gave me the doughnuts on credit”
Beautiful. Love at first credit. He took her out later that week as an apology for the doughnuts he did not pay for. And that’s how he got a girlfriend.
“You see those girls you meet and you know immediately you’re with someone special…that was Sharon for me…” he continued, dunking his doughnut whole into his mug and biting it. I know, some people still do that.
“What year was this?”
“Uum, I’d say 3 years ago…2 years and 9 months if I’m not wrong”
It felt weird asking him such questions with other tables so close to us, so we stuck to small talk for a couple of minutes. The waiter then came over and cleared our table, and since Mwai felt a little conscious of himself, I paid and we left. Outside, the streets were coming to life, the wet pavements slowly simmering in the now clear sky.
We strolled for a few minutes, found ourselves in a park where we savoured the scenery for a second, our little privacy now urging Mwai on.
“You know I was silly enough to think the stars had aligned for me…” he chuckled.
“Life was as good as it could get with Sharon… she understood things about me I was sure no one would, ever…”
“Like how you talk in your sleep?” I joked, because that’s all he did in high school.
“Hahaha, no…that freaked the hell out of her…kwanza umenikumbusha the first time she had me talk in my sleep she was so scared I had to set an alarm ndio niamke in the middle of the night just so I don’t talk again…but I did that because I wanted to make her comfortable around me, and I also needed her to see I’d do anything for her…you know”
“Did it work? Setting the alarm?”
“Haha, no…she had to get used to it”
“So you guys moved in together that fast?”
“haha, you’re surprised? I actually wanted her to move in with me but since she actually lived in their family-owned house, she convinced me to leave my place and move in with her…”
“How long was this since you 2 had met?”
“Exactly 1 year since I took her out… it was also around this time that I also quit my job to help her out in the bakery”
Cupid had done a number on these two clearly. I must say I was more surprised by how easy it was for them to blend into each other’s lives than anything else.
“Did any of these feel too good to be true? Or didn’t any of you feel like you had moved too fast?”
“Not really man… I mean, we knew this wasn’t the conventional way for relationships, but we were so deep into it… it was almost as if we were married in another lifetime”
I was beginning to understand why it felt like they were fated by the stars to be together. Must be nice.
“What job were you doing before you quit to work at the bakery?”
“I sold insurance man… good money, but the pressure can also get to you… so working as the marketing strategist for her bakery sounded awesome”
“Good thing you stopped getting late for work…”
“Haha, I know… I couldn’t get late for work… not when I was boning my manager”
“So what really happened bro… how is it that we are here now, and you’re not at work with your manager”
He went quiet for a moment, tried to speak but his voice cracked, so he just stared into space for a while until his eyes were watery, as his fingers fidgeted nervously between his legs.
“I wish there was an easy way to say it…things were really working out for us…. We took out a loan to expand the business because I was killing it…. I was getting new clients all the time, so we needed to import bigger ovens and everything…and that’s when part of our problems began…”
“Make me understand…”
“Our container got delayed over this COVID thing, then most of our clients started closing down…this was like a year ago… so we had the loan to repay, our container was months late, and the few clients we had were struggling to stay open, so most of them cut on their orders drastically and some couldn’t even pay for what they took…”
“I can only imagine man, good thing you didn’t have to pay rent…”
“Ooh, that’s the thing… we had placed the house as security for the loan, so the bank had us by the balls…nakuambia ile stress tulikuwa nayo, wacha tu… until schools opened again and that’s when we got our biggest client… that school I was telling you about…”
Great! At least not everything went down the drain.
“…and that’s when it happened man…you see, we had gotten this kaprivate car that also looked like a van for making all our big deliveries, and Sharon was just learning to drive it… that car got her excited bana… so this one Saturday she goes to clean it before we made a few deliveries, I was still in bed so I’m not even sure how it happened… I just remember hearing the most blood-curdling scream I’ve ever heard and everything after that was a blur…”
Mwai came out to a small crowd at their gate, his heart in hand. Sharon must’ve done a mistake cleaning the interior because those that saw it said the van started moving while she still cleaned it and she fell out while trying to do control it. The van ran her over. She fell through the open driver door and her feet got caught in the tires. The only delivery that was ever done by the van was taking Sharon to the hospital. Mwai woke up 3 days later after he passed out at the scene, the shock was too much for one man. As if that wasn’t enough, the doctors found out Sharon was also pregnant. She wanted to surprise him in a nice, candle-lit dinner, but life had other plans. They lost the baby but managed to save Sharon.
The damage to her spine was irreversible though, so she became paralysed from her neck down. To save his wife, her parents sold their house just so they wouldn’t drown in the hospital bills. Mwai kept having panic attacks randomly, and they worsened when he saw his wife. He also passed out 3 times at the hospital, so he stopped going to see Sharon 2 months ago because that wasn’t good for her either. Her bakery became impossible to run, so they closed it down indefinitely and the bank confiscated most of their things.
He’s a strong one though, it’s been a week since he had his last panic attack, the longest duration since that fateful morning. All he wants is to be with his wife again. They don’t have to build an empire right now, they just need to hold hands and face whatever thing life has to throw at them again, I hope it throws doughnuts this time.