Whispers. Questions. Conversations.
Njambi watched, from behind her desk as Muinde, the obvious new face around, opened a web page and placed an order for a new phone through Jumia. It was the first time that Njambi had called him to her office. Njambi, being the Credit Manager at the bank, was not so adept with the latest stuff in the tech world. So, she figured a young guy like Muinde might know a thing or two about which phone to get. She summoned Muinde and he told him all he knew about phones; but she just let him do all the work for her as she watched. That was the first time she noticed his faint manly scent. With his chest leaning against the desk, beside her, she couldn’t bear to let it seep into her mind. How hard she would find it hard later on to let go of his natural scent.
Muinde, who was still in university, had taken his chances to work at the bank, on a little pay, during the long breaks. He hadn’t wanted to spend weeks at home, watching more and more series, instead of earning some cash in his pocket. His friends were doing it and so he had to apply for the job.
In the weeks that passed, after Njambi got her phone delivered to the office, she would call Muinde, first to open it up, then set it up, then configure it. Muinde would find himself, entering her office more than once a day, to help her do something on her phone, or show her a new feature on the device. There, in the office, the two of them, in that space, made Njambi become fond of Muinde. His small, neat afro. His fitting shirt under his skin. His favorite blue or grey suits. His height, a bit more than hers. His tiny beard, peeping out of his chin. Yet, he himself seemed so detached from it all. The blankness on his face was so raw, so young, so innocent. With his sureness about himself, it was with Muinde that she first fell the hollowness.
Njambi lived in her two-bedroomed apartment in Magana, with her sister, Njoki. They were the despicable duo. Between them, they had no boyfriends. They vowed not to get involved with anyone until they had achieved some level of stability in their lives. And it was working. Njoki and Njambi were consuming themselves with themselves, talking about their work and news, and books, and issues. They listened to podcasts about love, and life, to keep themselves at bay with a world that they thought was not part of theirs. Severally, Njambi and Njoki sat under the moonlight of their balcony, eating ice cream, and laughing about childhood. Njambi reminded her sister about the time a certain boy followed her liked a vulture, and eventually, she let him have his way. The boy was called Mugambi, and little did she know that he would later propose to her.
“I wonder where he is right now?” She said to Njoki as her tooth bit the ice cream in her cup and snaked its way into her bones. The cuddled often. Under a blanket. Gazing at the stars. Dreaming.
In their little space, Njambi found herself crafting lines of rhyme and poetry in her journal. She would scribble endlessly into the night, into her sleep every night. She let it be her salvation. From this world. From the false prophets of the earth. It was her ritual. She tried to share her poetry with the world and she received lots of replies. She got invites to various poetry events and contests. And she became part of another world apart from her work, that filled her with such a sense of fulfillment, that she never doubted.
“I like your taste in African print.” That was the first time she heard Muinde like something about her. “Your bag, its beautiful.” He said. She looked at it and smiled. It was also beautiful, the way he said it. With a sense of trueness in his voice. As she sat in her office, alone, she reached out, from her drawer, a mirror. She, slowly, faced it, and with her eyes firmly hooked to the reflective glass, she stared at herself, at her eyes and face, as the morning sun reflected on her face, making it glow in a golden awe of light. She looked past herself, into the inside of her memories, her thoughts. It was the first time she felt a weight in her heart. That someone would use a small detail in her life to manipulate her like that. She knew she had allowed that compliment to flood her emotions and blind her will. Muinde was trying to break he down, and he was doing it masterfully. She couldn’t allow herself to give in to someone else. Not after…
But she found herself with Muinde, in her office, showing her how to download songs into her phone, playing music into her ears. The sweet melody. He had such a varied taste. When he started singing with her, she wouldn’t stop laughing. And giggling, even after he went back to his desk, at his untuned voice, and although she couldn’t hear what song he was listening to in his earphones as he sang along, she suddenly felt such a lightness with him, that she couldn’t get over the moment.
As weeks passed, they found themselves one day next to each other, against the dusk of the monolithic shadows of the city, waiting for the same bus home. He strode, from behind her, and just stood there, alongside her and whispered a hello. In the bus, they sat next to each other. Njambi paid for her, sometimes, the first time. It only seemed fit that she did so. She felt warm next to Muinde. It became a usual thing that they would leave together.
She read out her poems to her, one day, as she let him sit on her seat at the office, and as she leaned against the wall, pretending he was a crowd watching, telling her how she was saying her pieces. Njambi found a trust in his words, that she invited him to Kwani? Open Mic, the following night, where she would be performing. She really wanted him to see her other world. Muinde, rather kindly, said why he could not go. Because he had to do something else that evening. While she strolled the streets, after the event, she thought of him, his warmth and spontaneous jokes about her hair, or her clothes, or her illiteracy on technology. She hated the fixation on everything in her life. She hated the rigidness in her emotion to turn to him. Next to him, on the bus, under the florescence of the blue light she could feel the vibe, tugging at her. She leaned towards him. Her hair brushing past his face. She didn’t know if he had noticed. He was asleep that time, but she was awake. She looked at his hand, that was splattered over her lap, unknowingly, and she wondered whether to hold it. To feel it. In the office, as they passed each other at times, Njambi bit her lips. They were burning with the urge to push him aside and kiss him. Yet, she wondered if he felt the same way. And for that reason, she didn’t. Because she didn’t understand him. The more he got to know him, the more she found out how complex he was, layered like a firewall.
Njambi is shopping now, and Muinde has gone off back to campus. She wonders what she lost, in those moments with him, because she decided not to care, to let it pass, not to have any expectations. Her doubts have started to form. As she looks outside, all the way home, she sees the lights pass outside her window. What if?