when i got here god asked me, “what did you do with your life?” i answered: i stole a thousand sunsets. i said a million prayers. i drunk tea by the veranda. i lost my eyesight to the unending road. i knew what it meant to hope, even on days when i felt like i had none. i listened to big drums talk and little church bells chorus. i saw rains come and go. i watched stray dogs cross over the gravel road ahead of our house. i saw eagles soar in the bluest sky. i heard owls sing at night. i saw wolves try to pass through our gate. i heard hyenas circling our compound. through it all, i did not waver or fear. in truth, i could not hear or see anything besides the loneliness of the dirt road that curves right before it gets to the market. i enjoyed listening to nothing more than its whispers about its journey and where it was headed – quite a fascinating tale, i might add. many times, i watched my man take steps away from me on the very same road. i had no doubt that he would come back to me. i had no doubt he would come back to my heart – where he belongs. but you called me up – and the years turned.

***

your old radio ran out of batteries and i became too overwhelmed to buy new batteries. but i did. i bought new batteries. i kept the radio on because when i get there we’d need to dance. and we’d need the music for something else but first – we shall dance. i love how you dance. we used to dance like our feet were on the sun. you – jazz and jam. remember the name i gave you? you’re both smooth and sweet. you danced right into my heart. danced right to the beat of it. in your absence, my heart still beats. my heart still beats with your smooth steps and the loud pounding of your feet. my heart still gets electrified like the day you serenaded me with marvin gaye’s “you’re all i need to get by.”[1] i laugh. 

***

the day you left earth my heart sank. how is it that you could leave earth without my being there? i remember looking at the road as if it had betrayed me. they think i’m a fool to think you’ll come back. they’ve talked about me until they couldn’t. said i’m a fool to keep on hoping. that hard judgement eventually turned to a soft sympathy. poor man, they’d say while they shake their heads … the news of your passing made it here fast and left quick. but in our house, i pickled it in a jar and saved it in my kitchen cabinet. i stowed some in the clay pot with drinking water by the stove. i stashed it with some of our best memories on the top shelf of our closet. when grief dragged me to sleep earlier i thought it was you with me in bed only to find i have slept next to the talk of your never coming home to me in heaven. treacherous and painful – i know you’d disagree with my loss of hope and my madness when you get here. i always thought you were too happy and too positive until i realized the world needed more love and hope than it did judgment and hate – until i realized there’s really nobody else i’d rather be with … they told me to remarry when you left earth. they told me to mourn when you passed. i couldn’t find it in me to. we’ve had moments of intimacy – moments when our souls consummated their love and gave birth to us. i cannot explain this enough to them. after such an act, there’s never been a you or me. there has only been an us … ever since i got here this us makes me rush from the market because i want to get dinner started before you get home. then i realize you’re still over there. though i eat alone, i don’t feel alone. this us makes it hard for my soul to yearn for anyone but you. they say my leaving you on earth made me lose my mind. yet others do say no great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness and they go on to say it is the mark of an intelligent mind to entertain a thought without accepting it. i let them vent their sentiments in between our sips of tea and scones or when they pass by the passage by the house and i so happen to be by the fence. i let them talk about me in my absence too. 

***

it’s the night of the day you passed, and i dreamt of you. i am taking down the washing from the fence. the omega radio, with its aerial pointing to earth, is by the veranda on top of the garden table joseph made for me. as i return to the fence, i see a frame at the corner post, right where there are some dresses and petticoats shining in the presence of the sun. i walk over. he takes his hat off as i get nearer. my feet carry me toward the fence. your eyes meet mine. i have forgotten the clothes on the fence. we take slow uncertain steps towards the gate. until we are only separated by the fence – a fence i put up to keep others out. gabriel said god doesn’t allow fences here, i told him to wait until he meets you. we take steps forward. steps we have taken together before with better limber and with youthful carelessness. now the steps we take are … we take steps again and again and again and again. nothing sounds but the beat of our hearts. nothing else is worth seeing but our eyes. we want to blink but we both know a blink could be a lifetime as far as you and i are concerned. i hear your breathing which sounds like the flapping of owl wings and you hear mine. it smells like guavas. they’re your favorite and they are in season. my hands grip loosely and territorially at the fence as i take each step. i wish i had on something better than my overall dress and flip flops. i wish i had undone my head-scarf and did my hair just the way you like it. but all these thoughts don’t deter my or your steps. i berated myself for thinking that for i know, to you, the only important thing is me. by the time we get to the small gate, we stand before each other. my tears pour and yours moisten your face. you’ve changed so much and you’ve stayed the same. oh, that mischievous smile. i want to say as an apology for the times we’ve been apart physically but does it matter when now my chest touches yours? does it matter when you take me into your arms and twirl with me? does it matter when you have that mischievous smile on your face? a cry, a laugh, a dance. i don’t ever want to let go of you. we stay in each other’s arms for a moment. as if we’re reintroducing our souls. as if dusting out an old photo and remembering the time it was taken … that’s when your knock woke me.

            “you’re just in time for our afternoon tea.”

            “i know. i brought biscuits. your favorite.”

a few days ago, a friend of mine passed by to offer her commiserations on the passing of my dad. we wrote a collection of short stories together, so she has an idea of what my parents shared through my depiction of their lives together in some of the stories in that volume. as we talked, we thought it would be nice to write a piece that captures the love my parents shared, and how they will feel when they meet again. this story is the result of that brainstorm. thanks wame gwafila for the inspiration.

[1] Gaye, Marvin. (1968). You’re All I Need To Get By. You’re All I Need. Tamla. This was my parents’ favorite song. I heard it so many times, by the time I was six I knew the lyrics by heart.

wame gwafila & fkregie 2017.