FROM WHERE HE IS SEATED, at the rooftop of Petley’s Inn, the low, cold breeze ruffles his long, straight blond hair and flushes his puffy cheeks. Down below, on the small concrete pavement at the seafront, hurried pattering footsteps of men running to the mosque to answer the call of the muezzin to prayers. Only three days here and he is able to know, without glancing at the Apple Watch on his wrist, that the incessant prolonged braying of the donkeys tell what time it is. He is able too, by twitching his aquiline nose towards where the wind blows, to distinguish the smells of the mahamri, vitumbua, mandazi and the other delicacies fried by the Swahili women when dusk leaps upon the island. The wind blows again—colder this time—and he hears the ocean whisper a soulful melancholic tune, interspersed with the roaring of the speedboats as they split the waters to ferry passengers to and from Manda Island or Shela Island.
“Oh fuck!” He finds himself jumping from his seat and as a result, spills his glass of Tusker on the table. The glass, now empty, rolls off the table and shatters into a hundred or more tiny pieces. His lips tremble as he fumbles an apology to no one in particular. He does feel stupid. A single text message from her and he is wreaking havoc. He leaves a crisp thousand shillings note on the table, hoping it makes up for the trouble, then leaps out of the bar, down the steep staircase, and disappears into the dimly lit alleyways.
Until two days ago, he did not know she existed. And, however much he tries to conjure the memory of meeting her, nothing but a haziness in his mind, seems to provoke remembrance. He has tried, without much success, to retrace his steps on this small piece of rock with ancient buildings sprouting from everywhere and the endless corridors that leads you everywhere but nowhere, just so he is able to remember where he met her. It’s not at the town square. Neither is it at the Museum. Nor at the donkey sanctuary. Where then?
Her name, she told him on their first night together, is Ze’ena or Zuena; that too, he cannot seem to recollect clearly. It is something towards those
lines though. Her silky hair feels like water through his bony fingers. Her scent, a delicious strawberry and maple syrup concoction, is the perfume that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille sought to gift mankind.
And tonight, as the cheese-blue light of the moon seeps into their hotel room, he stares longingly into Ze’ena or Zuena’s eyes and tells her that he wants her. She whispers, in her voice which is a guitar string about to snap into two, that she has never been with a mzungu (or any man for that matter). He tells her they don’t have to do it if she’s uncomfortable, but she leans closer, her pointy breasts that part in the middle like in disagreement, rubbing against his clean-shaven face. The tip of his index finger trails the ridge between them down to her navel and further. Their lips lock and then she pulls away, grabs his hand and stares at his red face.
“Not there. Papa says that’s for Hakeem when he comes back from Mogadishu.”
Kneeling on the bed, staring at her round and supple butt raised towards him, he wonders who the fuck Hakeem is and why she gets to keep the best part for him.
About the Author:
Troy Onyango is a Kenyan writer and Lawyer. His fiction has appeared in various journals and magazines including Transition Magazine’s Issue 121, for which his short story, “The Transfiguration,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short story, “For What Are Butterflies Without Their Wings?” won the fiction inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival Prize. He has been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship. Currently, he is the managing editor of Enkare Review.
Troy Onyango’s “A Lamu Affair” first appeared in Love Stories from Africa, a Brittle Paper-published anthology of flash fiction edited by Nonso Anyanwu and with an Introduction by Helon Habila.