Batul was her name. She never told him that. He had heard someone call her from across the road. He never talked to her. He was scared. All that could come out of his mouth were mumbles and awkward stares. That was no way to talk to a Goddess.
She stopped by, once every week, at his place. So he dressed well every Wednesday, wearing his finest black cargo trouser and checked t-shirt he had bought at Kongowea. They were his church clothes. His mum always shouted that they were meant for Sunday. To which he would always say, “God does not need clean clothes, he needs clean hearts”.
His Mum would throw the mwiko at him and shout, “and you think that masala smelling twig will be impressed! She is from money and only looking for money”. He knew mum was right. She was always right. She was a woman after all. But he was a dreamer.
He knew he would never take her to Sammy who served perfectly tender nyama choma with kachumbari and sima in the mtaa. He would never get to buy her juice from Gavana. Nor would he meet her parents or show her off to his church, so that all churchgoers, including the pastor, were jealous, or at least know his name rather than call him Kijana wa Mary.
He was grateful though, that he got to see her smooth caramel skin tone and her long black hair tied and flowing to her shoulders. Her delicate presence quenched his lustful soul.
It was February 10 and he knew Valentines fell on a Sunday this year, so he wouldn’t be able to see her on that day. If he was to make his move, today was the day. There was nothing about him that would have made her pay the slightest attention more than she would have a random stranger walking across the road or a fuel attendant topping up her car. He wasn’t remarkably striking, he didn’t dress well and between him and poverty was a 50 bob note in his pocket. He was an average Joe, with an average job. But that was ok. He was ok with that.
She would come at exactly 5.55PM to pick up his mum’s famous mahamri. He waited. Freshly showered and shirt buttoned up and tucked in. When she came he stood up and handed her a bunch of Fiji flowers he had picked from some mzungus plot on the way to his place. He said nothing. He hoped his flowers would say it all.
She smiled and said “awww”. Put her hand softly on her heart and said, “thank you. How sweet of you”.
His mum watched carefully. He could see her vein popping on her forehead. Oh! would he hear it tonight.
He walked away and left the place. A bit disappointed that she hadn’t fallen madly in love with him or even bothered to learn his name. But a Goddess never needs to know a peasants name.
On her drive home, the car smelt of fresh mahamri and that made Batul’s stomach growl. She still had her smile fixed on her face. She hadn’t smiled like this for long for reasons she tried not to think of while driving. When she reached home she placed the mahamri in the kitchen just as her mum had asked and went to her room with the Fiji’s hidden in her handbag.
She stared at them. They weren’t profound and easily available all around; she had 3 trees of them in the garden. Her mum loved them. But these were hers and hers alone. No one could have any claim on them.
There was something about now knowing that he probably stared at her every time she came there and she never even knew it. It made her feel pretty. She had never even looked further than the plump lady sitting on the stool frying the mahamri. He was sweet. But as her mother said to her sister on many occasions, he was not of her class.
But still she could not get over the fact that a stranger liked her. She was appreciated in her most care free form; where she barely had her make-up on, her hair was messy, her clothes dirty from a long day and she was sure her hair was nothing to be admired.
She was an accountant in her dad’s transport company and had a very small social life outside of her work and home, which lately seemed to feel like one similar thing. Her dad wanted to marry her off to his big-spender client’s son as her time was running out. She didn’t like him. He was arrogant, egotistic and crude. She had spent two painful lunches with him and all they talked about were the best clubs to party. Valentines this year would be no different. Her father had promised his friend that the children would ‘finalize’ the talks on Sunday. She knew they would only talk of more clubs and his legacy there.
The Fiji’s now soft and crumpled on the edges showed her that she desired a nice romantic dinner on Valentines. Nothing at the clubbing scenes. She would go with a down to earth guy, who didn’t need a fancy box of chocolates or the biggest arrangement of flowers. She just needed someone …sweet. Like the strange man who gave her flowers. She played with the flowers and pictured such a man. Oh he was a dream. If only the guy who gave her these flowers was the man of her dreams, hopefully with a good heart.
One hamri hit the door and mum forced him to pick it up, because Pastor Julius said one shall not waste food, when the poor sleep hungry. They were the poor. “You idiot son. Why can’t you just ask Mama Junior for her daughters hand in marriage? Nani! Anaitwa Nani? Ester! Wajua yule msichana anakupenda”.
“I don’t want her.”
“No! The fool you are, you want someone who can’t even remember what you look like. Those flowers mean nothing to that girl. She gets roses. To Ester those flowers would mean the world and she would have your children, my grandchildren right there.”
Mum threw another mahmari and made him pick it up. “And don’t you go having sex before marriage.”
“She must have thrown the flowers out of the window the moment she drove far enough. Idiot.” Mum walked away.
Mum was right.
After dinner, Batul went back to her room and sat on the bed and took the flowers in her hand. They were the first flowers she ever got from someone. Dad never liked when boys showed her affection. She thought about the man who gave them to her. He was sweet. She was sure he would make a good husband to someone someday. She placed the flowers in a kurto top and kept them in her cupboard. She slept smiling. She felt appreciated and loved.
He slept hungry. Mum refused to serve him food. Mum said he doesn’t deserve the food. “Stupid people shouldn’t eat after stupid acts, because like dogs they won’t know they’ve done wrong and the food clogs up the brain nerves.” That’s what the mtaa doctor told her – she claims. He was ok sleeping hungry. He had given his Goddess flowers and even though she must have thrown them, he knew that in that time he held them out to her, she smiled. She smiled at him.
As his dreams caught up to his shut eyelids and the ranting of his mum faded into the background he knew that their worlds would never meet. She may never look at him the way he wanted and that was ok. That would never change who she was to him. She was and would forever be the beautiful Goddess from his dreams. To him it was better to love and hurt than to not love at all.
He slept knowing that maybe the Goddess might dream about him tonight as he did on so many, and when she will, he will hold her hand and show her the world. Their hearts and souls would roam through the night filled with laughter and sweet memories and soon he would pluck another Fiji and put it in their daughter hair as she ran around the garden.