Abdi looked down all the time. Peeping at people once in a while to check if they had noticed him. The place was somehow stifled as people did not shout like they did in Nairobi, Business was quiet. It was about the afternoon and the sun was blazing. The lack of vegetation made it all the more worse. As Abdi approached the stall, about thirty metres from his house, he looked at the fruits and vegetables and saw only a few choices. The woman who stood next to the stall seemed curious about him. Abdi stole a peek at her face. She was thin, and short, and on her head, she covered her hair with a bandana. Her light skin and lack of a buibui meant seemed queer since all the women he had seen looked Somali. And the community around were all Somali.
“Unataka nini customer?” She asked Abdi finally. Her voice shocked him, as it was smooth and fluid, Abdi had heard the other women speak before and she sounded nothing like them. He wondered if she was an outsider like him. He looked at her again before mumbling to her something that sounded like he was drowning.
“Ati?” The woman asked out loudly.
Abdi gathered his senses and ordered some veggies before producing the money and quickly trotting off. The woman, stunned by how quickly Abdi left the scene, followed Abdi until she could see him enter his house. She couldn’t help but look think of him. He seemed so different. From how he sneaked looks at her. From the way he looked unsure at himself around her.
Abdi didn’t know how to cook. So, he didn’t even know what to do with what he had just bought once he returned home. He closed the door behind him and looked at what he had purchased… some cabbage and carrots and tomatoes. He wasn’t really sure what to do with them, so he dumped the cabbage and tomatoes on the table in the little room that was supposed to be a kitchen and decided that he would just eat the carrots for his supper. At least he knew that he could eat them raw and that he wouldn’t go through any difficulty trying to cook for himself. He had never cooked before. Because he simply didn’t know how.
As the day waned, Abdi started making his house look more like a home. He went through the stuff, arranging the chairs, and the TV in the living room; placing the clothes in the wardrobe and everything else where it was supposed to be, or where he thought they should be. It was then that he discovered that gun. It felt like a large metal pipe when he first touched it, from under his bed. It was wrapped up in gazettes, but its weight was unmistakable. When he pulled it out, he at first didn’t know what it was. Then, he just tore the gazettes covering it up away and he saw up close, how it looked menacing. He hadn’t before held a gun in hand. So, it intrigued him. He felt the steel metal send chill through his veins. It was cold. He touched the trigger and imagined how it was pressed. When he looked at the interior, the thing was full of bullets. He didn’t know what to do with it. It was until someone knocked at the door that he pushed the thing back under the bed, and with his cheap shorts and vest, he went to open the door.
The sun was dimming and so, he couldn’t see clearly the woman who stood at his door.
“Customer, ulisahau nyanya zako…” It was the woman he had bought from fruits earlier. He looked at her, and this time, couldn’t quite determine more details on her face coz it was getting dark. He felt a bit embarrassed before her in shorts. And so, he whispered a thank you before closing the door on her face. He sighed now that he got rid of her. But he was surprised when she turned up the next day in front of her door, asking him to take some onions. Abdi was even more speechless when she offered to cook for him.
That was the first time they talked, when she discovered that he never cooked and had left the groceries to go stale, when she discovered that he wasn’t good in cooking and when she welcomed herself to his kitchen.
“I’m Mina btw…” She said when she noticed that he was staring at her as she cut the onions. Then she let him look at her, thinking about what he was thinking. She smiled to herself. That night, Abdi ate the best food he had eaten in days. Mina, Abdi came to know, was a remixed version of Amina, a name that she had adopted since she came here. She didn’t tell him her real name. It was Mina who told him that he was in some place close to the border of Somalia. The place didn’t have a name. It wasn’t named because names have ghosts that follow them on their backs. She told him how here everyone knew everyone. It was easy to establish that it was possible that the whole place was occupied by just one clan because they were so close. But mostly, the people here were sijuis- people who don’t know home because they left home a very long time ago and lost connections with family.
“I also have no family…” Abdi told her… And she called him a sijui. But it is possible that you can live with someone as your neighbor and they are your brother or sister. She told him that the Somali is so closely knit that most probably he could find family if he asked well enough. That was the first time that Abdi thought of his family. And he decided that he would try.
Mina, who now offered to come daily to cook for him, wondered. About him. About that empty house. It was so wrong to live in a house all alone. One night when they sat together exchanging stories, Mina touched Abdi’s hand. Abdi jerked his hand away. It was strange, and terrifying for Abdi. He had never felt such warmness. And he had never known the gripping feeling that he had at that moment. Mina looked away and apologized. She continued eating. But then, Abdi also stretched his arm to Mina’s fingers, and they smiled at each other.
Later, Mina would ask to sleep on her bed, next to him. And it felt all the more warmer to Abdi. Mina felt Abdi haunt her thoughts in her sleep, deeply and much more sharply. She woke up next to Abdi, all sweaty and insomniac. It was then that she tried to look for her slippers that she felt the gun herself. She touched it as it was on the floor, caressing it softly at first before lifting it up above her head.
In the morning when Abdi woke up, she joked to Abdi, “You have a good gun…” And Abdi said nothing,” Don’t worry… everyone here has one…” Mina paused a little, smiling at herself as she enjoyed the awkwardness that she made him feel. “Guns help… especially when the shiftas come…” Somehow, Abdi was glad that she had seen it before he had to show her. Then, he was sure that he wouldn’t kill her accidentally while doing this. Deep down, she knew that Abdi was healing from something, something dark, some secret.
They both knew they were crazy. Crazy to accept to be with each other. And it was terrifying, and strange, and beautiful. How would Abdi move on from his past? It was Mina who showed him how to do this, it was Mina who showed him how to touch, it was her who showed him hope, and peace.
(This peace is an excerpt of a larger piece. To read it Click the link here)