Short Stories, Tale Africa


By Victor Karuga, Uganda:

My heart was pounding, so hard I could hear it over the pressure cooker. I tried to tell myself that it was because of the silence: I had turned off the radio so that I could hear her knock over the din of my next-door neighbour’s incessant lingala music. Nice, considerate Congolese neighbours I had! I wiped my bony, cold, and now sweaty fingers on the apron and headed to the kitchen to check on the food.

I was still stirring the meat stew, and debating on the wisdom of storming B6 and asking Lubulu to stop his beloved Mbilia Bel playlist, played at full-blast, or I’d give my uncle at Immigrations a call and have him check the validity of his alien's pass, when the knock came. And so did a hundred, unheralded questions; “what if she didn't like the food, or the wine, or the music, or the flowers?” “What if it wasn't even her?” I picked up the air-freshener, and I pressed it like I was a Marshall fighting a blaze. I checked my face using the mirror, for food stains. The second knock was heavier, and it came as I gurgled on some salt water, and I swore to the mirror that I had to buy some mouthwash next month. And then with bated breath, I opened the door.

I was never a big fan of Facebook. It took me a while to come around to the idea of writing on walls, sharing your innermost feelings with a bunch of strangers and that poking thing really got on my nerves. It therefore took a pleading Makena, my girlfriend, and best friend of three years, to convince me to open an account with Mr.Zuckeberg's invention. A relationship request later, I was hooked on the thing, splitting my time between in-boxing Makena and uploading photos. Sadly, one female friend request too many and a couple of raunchy threads in my inbox later, we ended it with Makena. But due to the ease with which I got to physically meet my new found friends, it so happened that I missed Makena my best friend more than I missed Makena my girlfriend, and when the fanfare died down, a whole three months later, having also realised the mistake I had made by losing the love of my young life, I vowed to deactivate my account. However, it was easier said than done.

Starting college to get my degree in Medicine, I had immersed myself in all the activities that campus had to offer; from Model United Nations to Environmental Conservation, all in the hope that by being engrossed in work, and more work, I would eventually forget that the beautiful, tall, light-skinned law student was no longer mine and that Kayla and Annete, her two childhood friends, had called me un-printables for breaking their friends heart. They also said something about Karma being a female dog and circumnavigation

I had the habit of discarding physically and mentally blocking, anything that reminded me of my exes, but white being Makena's favourite colour, it was as if every detail in my life made a mockery

of my valiant efforts to obliterate her memory from mine. From the plates I owned to my lab coat, I was constantly reminded of how much I had to have her back. My efforts to seek audience were all in futility, as my calls went unanswered and my inboxes ‘marked as read’. But I couldn't hide my delight in Prof. Magoha’s Anatomy class when a whatsapp message said that Kayla would meet me at my hostel for dinner, and hear me out. Even though the Professor sent me out, I only saw it as more time to tidy up for the meeting. I couldn't afford to see the glass as half empty, considering I had thought of paying the Karen residence a visit if my calls continued going unanswered

Either Kayla was not used to going to boys' hostels, or mine had a haunted past only she knew about. She returned my greeting with a lifeless stare, as if she was a Jew about to get into a gas chamber in Hitler's Germany. I motioned for her to come in. Seated on the couch that served as a library during exam time, she cut a forlorn figure. I cursed that I didn't have a fridge stacked with ice cream that I could share with her. I did, however, have a letter, with splashes of her favourite scent, and a bouquet of white flowers to hand to the girl that only I knew had gloss phobia – the fear of public speaking. I sighed, took a deep breath, smiled and asked her if she’d like the pasta and stew now or later. “Actually, I’ll not be long,” she bit her lip and lowered her gaze. My heart sunk with her next words. “Please Imma, Makena, she…ummmh she was wondering whether it would still be safe to remove a three-month old unwanted pregnancy… you being a doctor and all?” I must have looked like the Jew in a gas chamber. I could only croak out “not if she wants to live”. She looked at me with those large, brown eyes of hers, “Please Imma, don't ask her, she doesn't know I’m here and she was too scared to ask you, I have to go, Mike’s waiting for me downstairs.” I slumped on the couch. I could smell the pasta burning; feel the life drain out of my body, Mbilia Bel crooning next door, but the loudest thing I could hear, the clearest, even if it was now four years ago, was Makena's unmistakable voice, “I can't wait to have your kids, our kids”.

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