Short Stories, Tale Africa

Waiting

By Emmeline Bisiikwa, Uganda:

It's been three months since I last saw you but it feels longer. The days roll over side by side and lose themselves in sums of numbers, hours, minutes. I keep telling myself I should not count the time spent apart from you but I can't help it. Every bone in my body believes it should be with you and so they rebel against my efforts to guide my feet forward. I am walking to The Source, the café where we first met. It's in the center of Jinja and favored by tourists. You used to like sitting there and being surrounded by the whites, it gave you a feeling that you were part of something big. I spend most of my days there now, losing myself in memories of our dates and conversations. Time flies by and I know I can wait one more day, another week to see you.

I was a know-it-all pessimist when we met, I thought I had seen all the disappointment life had to offer and so didn't expect any sunshine to come my way. You were a starry eyed 30 year old Ugandan writer, believing in love and muses and being discovered. I pitied you. You stayed up late and wrote manuscript after manuscript, romantic novel after another and waited to be discovered. Couldn't you see that the world had bigger problems than if Bella and Edward ended up together? I despised what you did and surprised myself by expressing more than a mild interest in you. I wanted to be with you as you wrote about love and lust. I liked to watch you scribble furiously in your notebook in the middle of conversation. You liked to capture your ideas before they disappeared. The two of us were an improbable couple, me who didn't believe in your work and you who looked on me as a likely convert.

Like everything unexpected, we moved in together amidst protests from your loving family who felt I wasn't supportive enough.

'She doesn't even believe in what you do.'

'She won't give you children.'

'What happens when she gets bored?'

You ignored them and took the plunge with me. I was happy that I had won, I really did want to be with you. I remember that first night when we moved in with my two brightly colored odd matched sofas and your 21' Inch television – we were excited. We talked about what colors to paint the house walls, I didn't want the bland cream it had and you rejected my lime green choice as too bright. We planned to get floor rugs because I hated the cold from the grey floor tiles and you wanted to humor me. I wanted a bigger wardrobe, you argued that I had too many clothes. You tried to fit your jeans and shirts amongst my dresses, skirts, jeans and shirts. You remarked on feeling like a visitor in your own bedroom. That night was spent wrapped around each other, with my back to your chest, the back of my thighs molded to the front of yours and your arms around my waist.

The last time I saw you descended on me with no warning. We were having dinner and you reached across the table and held my wrist.

'I love you Natukunda. This year together has brought me good fortune. I have had my first story published and it sold more than I ever dreamed possible. I could not have done it without you. Marry me please.'

I had expected you to ask me for a while and I avoided thinking about it because I wasn't sure I wanted to be married. I knew there would be no one else for me and that no one else would understand what I needed, or even put up with my unorthodox behavior. I knew I wanted to be with you Tony Mwanika. But I just could not bring myself to say yes yet.

I let go of pessimism a little too early and she taunted me with jabs in my head. You knew it would not last Natukunda. You don't even believe in love. Why did you think it would be different this time round? I sank myself in a sea of denial, holding on to a raft of hope.

You aren't dead. You cannot be dead. Not when I had just decided that I would marry you. I haven't told you how much I want your children to call me mom. I wait for your phone call, for you to tell me you had missed that fated flight. I can't bear the agony of life without Tony. I haunt our café and sit at our table. I am waiting for Tony to come back to me.

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