” I don’t have a lighter.I have never owned one and I don’t think I will ever.” He said looking away from the woman.
She stood by a pole. She looked like she stood a distance away from the pole but if you were keen enough you’d would know it’s because her left hip pushed the rest of her body away.She had approached him in a bench asking for a lighter.She wanted to smoke.The night is a cold place to be in.It is even colder when your thighs and they acres of them, are all out there talking to that cold in French.Okay not really talking but making alliances with the cold because that is how you trade.Those are your wares.They are the window display that tells customers you sell thermos flasks or transistor radios and if they buy two flasks, you add them a nail clipper. Discount in trade is a confusing thing to clients.You never get to understand how they picked a nail clipper as your discount commodity for buying two flasks.
The street was empty-nay, it wasn’t. It was empty for people who knew nothing about it.But it was full of human life for those who knew.It was a hooker street after all.Not everyone gets to know stuff about a hooker street.Unless of course you are a hooker or you want one.She found a lighter and came back to where he was. A ciggy planted between her lips.The kind of lips men lust for.The kind that make grown men wave at women on Facebook messenger. She stood against the pole that was just holding the bench they sat on by the shoulder.
“Are you a size 42?” He asked her.
“How do you know sizes?” She dismounted her cigarette from her red lips as she spoke back. I guess she was wearing what they now call Matte lipstick.It is was what women with access to Instagram use these days.
“I like my women big around the waist. ”
She seemed flattered by his words. So much so she giggled and swung a little. He marveled at this.
“I am not size forty two. That is way too small for a girl my size.”
“So what size are you?”
“I haven’t hugged a tape measure lately.When I do I will maybe leave you a text or call you but I have to warn you I only call late into the night.”
“No worries, I’d only want a woman as beautiful as you to call me those non-government hours.”
“Are you flirting with a hooker stranger?And, what hours are those?”
“Those are hours only you my lady are allowed to call me.”
“Ha-ha.Well played man.Well played.”
The air became thick, only in temperature maybe.She lit another stick.It smelled different. Paul had never smoked weed.Not with his left ventricle.He was brought up in church,he went for catechism classes in Nyeri. His mother insisted that those classes be attended in full and in a boarding facility during the school holiday. So, he would close school and his mother would get him a small bag, a small tab of vaseline and leg warmers and at times gloves.His kid friends used to tickle his soles by calling him “Pastor” and this always opened his can of nerves.This was not too much to expect from his mother, if she had her way, Paul would have joined a seminary right after his weaning. But we know the drill. Weaned babies cannot make good priests.Please don’t even doubt me.I know a good priest even in my sleep and weaned babies are not in my list. Okay let me fill you in.I have a small list of people that can become priests.I keep it in my wallet.It is really small.But doesn’t the good book also say that the path to paradise is thin? That list is thin also.He started wearing a rosary while in his mother’s belly.Okay that is me exaggerating shit but please walk with me. But also, I have a feeling if that was possible he would have come out holding one. After all he was named after a Pope. Turns out he did not come out with one.Sad.So his mother had to ensure that he wears one everyday of his life.
Paul was frozen in his knuckles, they felt like they had been dipped in ice.Or like they had mowed a lawn on a chilly morning-bare hand. He was trembling.The cold kind of trembling. He was in a light shirt.This is not a place his mother would even dream finding him.If his mother knew he was there at that hour.She would have said a prayer to saint Peter and both Paul and the hooker would catch hernias and seizures at the same time.And they would die in that cold of the night.And the hooker with her belt of a dress would die twice. They had come for a school trip.And his friends decided to walk in town.He was in Uni in Kisumu. His final year.He was pushing a course in economics.His family wanted him to clear his studies and send him to a seminary somewhere in Burundi. The plan had been delayed earlier by some things he says were unavoidable.In about a decade he would be on an altar anointing and baptizing babies and kissing them on the forehead.This had seem like a plan.But in his third year, he had felt like his life was much more than telling delinquent humans ‘peace be with you’ he had felt a sharp conviction with his fingers that he wanted to experience a life outside the church setup. Only that this is something his mother would not have taken silently. She would have said several prayers and Paul would have been sent to the seminary either way.
So, on that stroll in town, his friends went drinking.Drinking things that Paul was not allowed to imagine.Things that make people speak like their tongues want to quit and start working elsewhere as watchmen instead of working as tongues to ungrateful humans.Paul knew he could never join them.So he offered to wait for them as the good brother and keeper he is. That is how he ended up on a bench next to a hooker standing next to a pole.She wasn’t there when he came, she only found him and started the small chat above there.And now Paul was working his brain overtime to not look at her above her knees. She offered him a showl. And that is how a friendship began.
Paul sat there in that cold.The lady would get clients and come back there to find him.He was not leaving.He felt the urge to wait for his friends because he knew they would behave badly in their drunk selves and this would lead to trouble.So he wanted to be there for his friends.He has always been the one doing things for people.Either to please them or to help them.After all he was a priest in waiting and this was building his biceps for then task ahead.
“Do you smoke weed?”
“Weed?No.Not me.I don’t and I can never smoke anything.”
The woman laughs.
“Why?Are you afraid your mom will spunk your behind?”
“That is something she would do.I can’t rule it out.But it is more of choice of faith.”
“Tell me more man.”
“My body is the temple…..”
“Stop right there.I know how this goes.You are here to convert me to your stupid faith and your stupid judgmental system of belief.I have seen your loser types many times, none succeeded. So please,collect your misinformed self and leave my space.”
For the first time Paul wanted to look at the woman that had moved from being friendly to being a pregnant buffalo.Those ones are extremely irritable. If you breathe in twice, they charge at you.And they will kill you.And on judgment day as others narrate their sorrowful deaths, your will be tongue tied trying to explain to the whole of the chosen few how you were killed by a pregnant buffalo.Apostle Peter will be disturbed by your story.Not because it is a sorry story, but because it is a stupid way to die.
Where were we?
Ah, Paul looks at her in the eyes.He can’t see clearly because it is dark and people don’t see clearly in darkness-I know this something you know.
“I am sorry lady.I did not mean to offend you.I was just saying I can’t smoke and I have never smoked.I am soon joining a seminary to study theology and become a priest.So I have to remain pure.I am here because I could not join my friends in their drinking.I am set apart.”
“What does set apart mean?”
“Like I am chosen to be a priest.”
“Chosen by who?”
“By God madam.”
“And who talked to God ?”
“My mother.She talks to Him daily.Like they converse.All mothers talk to God”
“Wait, God talks to people?”
“Yes, He does.Especially mothers.If you are good enough, He can talk to you at least three times a week like my mother.”
“And has God ever talked to you?”
“No.He hasn’t. When He wants to talk to me, He sends my mother.”
“So, God wants you to be a priest and instead of talking to you He talks to your mother?”
“It is not that way madam.”
“Explain it to me then.”
“Madam it is hard to explain but….”
“Save the trouble I am coming back..”
The lady rushes across the street.A car has pulled over.A number of women surround the car.Three of them are allowed to get in.They drive off. Paul remains seated on the bench.He can’t leave now even if he wanted to.He has to wait for the lady to give back her showl and maybe thank her for her kindness and also explain why God has to go through his mother and not him directly..It is something me and you will not do but a priest must do.She comes a little over an hour later. He only sees a silhouette and notices it’s her when she gets to the bench.
“You are still here?”
“Yes.I was waiting for you to come back.I did not want to leave with your showl and I also wanted to say thank you.”
“Ah, you are a good man.”
“My name is Paul.”
“My name in Melon.”
“Melon, like a fruit?”
“Yes, only that what you see is what you get.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I don’t put up face like a water melon.My inside and out are an open book.You flip the pages as you want.”
“Oh.I get you.”
He checks his phone.He wants to call his friends to tell them it is time they went back to their hotel.None of them picks his calls.He keeps trying.Eventually, Jaymo picks.He is talking like his tongue has just had a car accident and it is about to die. Very little makes sense.He asks them if he could come for them in the club.He says, they are all asleep in their hotel.What a waste.Paul is still a good human.He asks if all of them made it to their hotel. Jaymo says yes and falls asleep.
“Your friends left you?” she asks.
“Yes they did.”
“You are going to follow after them?”
“Of course.That is what is expected of me.”
“Is that what you want?”
He is taken aback by this question.
“What do you mean?”She asked him further.
“I am a priest in waiting.One day maybe, I’ll become a Pope.I don’t do what I want.I do what is expected of me. ”
“You don’t think that is a dangerous life you live?”
“I have never been harmed pursuing it.”
“That is not what I mean.What I mean is this, if you live your whole life ignoring what you want over what is expected of you,when will you live your life?”
“There is a reward in heaven.That is all I know.”
“I don’t know about your heaven.But I make mine here everyday.I have made bad choices,my kind of work requires that you have the nerve to make a series of those,but I am not waiting to experience freedom in the after life.I will live here and enjoy this life and deal with the consequences later.That is reckless in some view.But if my choices do not hurt anyone and they don’t offend the law, that to me is heaven. ”
“Nice way of looking at it. ”
“So is that what you want?” she pestles him more.
“I don’t know. I have recently been feeling like this priesthood thing is not my type of thing.Like I am not cut for this kind of wool.I am not complaining about faith or venting about it.I am saying, I can’t trade my faith even for my own life, but I have been thinking it is not a must I become a priest.So, I want to quit this whole thing.But My mother.That woman will kill me.I can explain to my father, he is more of pro-choice.But my mother will be hard.”
“I am no person to talk to you on anything about family relations and even choices.My life is a series of bad of both of those.My family left me the day they found out I work in the streets.I have not been to church now for six years. So, listening to me would be a bad thing to do.But I can say a thing or two about this thing of choice. I believe in choice and living by their consequences.I believe in people living their best versions because they were bold enough to choose.They were bold enough to step up for those that thought they shouldn’t have made those choices.At the end of it all even your faith seems to suggest that everyone will give an account of THEIR lives.Nobody will say they were twisted into the things they did. So, before you go,think about choice.Think about what consequence those choices will bring and then be bold enough to choose those you can live with.Life is more about boldness than it is about other things.Embrace this thing called boldness, you will never be confused about the choices you should make.”
“Well thank you.I only wish my mother would think like you.But I guess she chose to think the other way.”
Melon stands to leave.She is done for the night.She has made enough to warrant her some good sleep.The baby kind of sleep.On most nights, she works until darkness sheds off the shyness and shows up to the office.People call that thing ‘morning’ Melon calls it the end of her day. She tells Paul that she needs to leave. Paul gives her her showl. She wraps it around her shoulders.
“So, how exactly do you love women with big behinds?You should be a priest man?”
“I chose to.”
A hearty laughter is heard.It echoes. It comes back to them like a bad memory.
“I should get a taxi, this is not a safe time to walk around, I suggest you also get one.”Melon tells him.
“I am not even sure those drunk men will open the door for me.We are sharing a triple.I might as well sleep on the floor, but I know it is safer there than it is here.”
They begin to walk towards a taxi bay. He is holding her by the shoulder, she is holding him by the small of his back. How fast some unions are made.Not long after a police lorry pulls over. Melon climbs down her high heels, runs for safety. Paul is left on a street he barely knows with a pair of red high heels. He is arrested and thrown into that lorry.Several drunk people are there.He is in company of the same drunk people he avoided earlier on the night.How interesting life can get.
The next morning,who brings him TEA? You guessed right. Melon.She only knows one name, and because she is a regular here she knows who to talk to to be allowed to go right into the cell to look for Paul herself. They have a small chat.
“How did you find me?” He asks her.
“I know these streets too well.I knew they’d bring you here.”
“And why did you leave me?”
“That was not the plan.But also, If I did not leave you who would come for you here in the morning?”
“What do you mean your mom?”
“I called her yesterday.I told her to come see me in the morning.They are on their way with my father.”
“Oh okay.” She resigns as she looks away.
“I am happy you came.But I was not sure you would.So I had to call someone responsible.”
“No qualms.I am okay with that.They are your parents you had to tell them.”
“I guess I should leave after you finish your TEA.”
“Is that what you want?” He asks her.
She smiles.The kind of smile that pegs affection to a face.The kind that says, I like you.He smiles back.
“I’d want to stay.But I have to catch some sleep.I work in the evening.So, I have to sleep.Plus this is a police station not a public park”
He gives her his number.
The two are telling me this story as we sit of a grass patch. We had gone for a charity walk.And they were some of the organizers.They are married now and looking forward to getting their second born.
“So, how did you tell your mother about your choice of quiting this priestly call?” I ask him.
“That day at the station, she asked me why I had been arrested.I did not leave anything out.I even told her the part where Melon offered me weed.”
“Did she get shocked?”
“She had to sit down.I feared that her blood pressure would act up.They even left me at the station.She had to be taken to hospital to be checked.”
“Ha-ha.You almost killed your mother?”
“Not sure man.But if she died,I wouldn’t have forgiven myself.”
“You and Melon….?”
“Ah, she called.” They argue a bit about who called first and why.She doesn’t believe she called first.
“She called first.I did not even have her number.So, she called.We started talking.At times she did not even work so that we could talk.”
“What were you telling a hooker that was so interesting for her to leave work.”
“I was telling her I liked her.”
“Man, you liked a hooker knowing she was a hooker and she probably was in the streets waiting for business?”
“Ndugu, the thing about love is that it doesn’t choose.So, it would make me feel bad that she was there swinging those hips for other men to see.But I couldn’t do anything.”
“Did you ever get tempted to go to the street again to find her maybe?”
“All our dates were during the day and in open spaces.I kept myself for her.”
I burst our into a mirth.This is the mother of all mothers of Irony.That he was keeping himself waiting to get married to a hooker.
“Are you for real man?”
“Yes, ask her.I came into this relationship without experience like an intern..ha ha.”
She glances at him.The eyes spell affection and love in bold letters.You can even hear it.Loud.
“How did you tell your mother you wanted to marry a hooker?”
“After the incidence at the station,she began accepting that this priest thing was not going to be achieved through me.So she made peace with that and I am happy she did.My father also accepted though for him it was not a task.So, an year after campus, Melon quit the streets.”
“Did you ask her to?”
“I wanted to but I did not.”
“Melon, what made you quit?” I ask her.
“I think choice,and I was tired of that dark side.So one day I told him,I was going to start a small business.I had saved some money.I only needed to start.He really helped me.He is the brains in our relationship.The smart ass.He will crack economy formulas and explain theories in Italian. I knew zilch about anything business.So, he helped me start and even register a company eventually.”
“And the weed?”
“What about the weed?”
“Do you still smoke weed?”
“I quit smoking and drinking while in the streets.I arrived into this relationship clean.”
“Paul, did you ever think about her health?”
“Many times.Many many times. But we got tested in almost all hospitals in this city for all kinds of things.”
“Did she take that offensively?”
“At first yes, but I was willing to be in the relationship even if things went the other way.You see, she was like a soldier in a battle field,if she got injured, that could not mean she quit the force.The force in this case is our love.So we made arrangements and did a small wedding.Just family and a few friends.”
“And the trip?”
“Which trip Ndugu?”
“The trip that brought you together?”
“Ah, that one, my friends laughed at me a bad one.They said I was made a total man through that arrest.”
“Do you think all hookers have chances like yours?” I ask Melon.
“Everyone has a chance to become a better person,better their current self.They only need to choose.Not out of pressure. I go to the streets and talk to them.I have seen some leave the street and gone to do other things and that is a good thing.”
See, I did not write last week. I was feeling like my fingers had been rained on.I was not feeling myself.I have been struggling with something.So I am sorry for not giving you the powers to read.But we are back? Yes.Please share.Please tell your people to read.Please tell them your favorite writer is back with fingers that have basked in the sun.Happy holiday if you read this from Kenya.