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Wednesday, 18 September 2013 14:17

Berbera

By 
It is a Friday. You know you have to get going before it rains or the clock reads 5pm because whichever of these two happens first you will be damned and stuck in the unmoving logjams of Nairobi. So you gather your things in the office. You know you won’t be back in a while. Come Sunday you will catch a flight to Hargeisa Nasahablood, Somalia/Somaliland (depending on where you stand on the clan line).
 
You mumble a goodbye to the flat ass you admire most in your office and she in turn tells you never to forget to wear sunscreen. Not that you are light or Albino but that the Somali sun has a tanning effect on your smooth metrosexual Nivea-fed skin. Bag in hand you run down the stairs. You know you are forgetting something important but you are too getmeoutofhere to care. It really has been a long week. What with the so many questions from so many people in this creepy place. Writing proposals and budgets and rewriting them and revising them. Sending and resending and revising some more and resending. You are just happy the pain and anguish is over, at least for now.
 
Eastleigh is a bitch but at least on a good Friday night like tonight she is better. She is welcoming and less domineering. Tonight she feels nostalgic. Like she knows you are tired of this unrequited love you feel for her. She knows she cannot love you ever; not even a little, let alone like you love her. The thought of your love for her pains her so much. She wishes there were a better ending. But she knows this was always coming. An inevitable fate. But tonight she wants you to meet a few more people before you say bye. For she can never be too sure you will return. It is life. No one is promised tomorrow.
 
You call your friend and ask him if he can foot the bill for the sitting tonight. You have to blow off some steam. Lucky for you he can just provide the much you need and more: Company.
You jump into the shower. You refresh yourself and put on a new set of clothes. It is your last night here and you know you have to give Eastleigh the best you got. Show her what she is to say bye to in a little over 30 hours' time. She should miss you. At least that much you deserve after how she treated you all these years you have been faithful and loving.
 
Jana kuliendaje? You have no idea what happened last night. All you remember was being with your friends blowing off steam after a long goddamn week in the office. At least you remember the opening scene. Ruux, Fuur, Laaq, Tuuf and You were sitting in a well-lit room with a TV set showing the opening March of Group A of the Euro 2012 football championships. The rest is a little hazy. You just woke up now but you are too undecided to leave the bed. It is a few minutes to 5pm. It has been whole day since you last remember there was ever a thing you gave a rat’s ass about.  If it were not for your early morning flight tomorrow you would stay in bed. But you need to get your rags from the Dhobi before he closes for the day. Or else you will turn up at the airport with no luggage. You gather yourself like mercury spilt on a flat surface from the bed. You head for the loo. At least you are not constipated today, unlike most days when you have to call on your ancestral spirits to help you push down all the garbage you took last night in the name of having fun and letting loose.
 
You are happy to find the Dhobi still open by the time you hit 11th Street where he is located. You collect all he has under your name and take it to your other room. The one you share with your brothers on this same street. Then you run to the Kinyozi in the hope of finding your favorite barber so that he can give your hair a new fresh look. You know that for you to curry favor with the fat asses on the street of Hargeisa you mustn’t only sound foreign but you must look unreal too. Like an old guy trying to fake youth by dying his hair black. Unreal because it is what burns their fantasy. No one wants anything real anymore. At least that much you now know. You are disappointed. Your barber will always fail you. He must be a cousin of the bitch called Eastleigh. He ain’t faithful to you either. He tells you there are two more people before you. You are not in the mindset to wait that long. You head to your favorite eating place, Tasneem. You eat your fill.
 
Before long you find yourself alone in the house with nothing much to do and a little anxious. You look at the walls prodding them for company. But they are tired of your lazy and rude stares. There is something universal about unreciprocated warmth. Give it when someone else needs yours and you will receive when it is your turn to have some. You guess you have gone without showing love or warmth to these walls forever and now that you need some they ain’t giving any.
 
You start watching something on your laptop to kill the time and before you know it it's 1am and your friends are sitting in the living room doing God-knows-what. You decide it is too late for you to get enough sleep between now and 3.30am when you are due to take your taxi to the airport. You decide to watch another movie, certain that by the time the movie is over the remaining time will be dead.
 
It is 4.20 am and you are on time to check in for your UNHAS flight to Hargeisa via Berbera. You just have no idea what the journey has in store for you. For once you don’t know the flight path. There is some adventure in not knowing everything. But that will turn out to be a good mistake.

Somalis are everywhere these days. At every turn there is a buxom mama pulling a thousand kids by the hands and filling all the space, moving around like she owns the place, or a slim tall man is clearing his throat and threatening to spit on the floor. You just pray that he doesn’t. To add to that they are loud. Very, very loud. It must have something to do with their nomadic lifestyle. Shouting to each other instructions from the distant shacks they are known to live in, in the bush.
 
The Kwani?06 African fiction omnibus you are carrying for the journey starts to taste stale and dry on your tongue. With no in-flight refreshments to boost your energy levels and revitalize you, you soon doze off for what seems like eternity. You wake up mid-flight. And you are still a good hour away from the port city where you expect to transit for 4 hours as you wait for a connecting flight to Hargeisa.

Tall, light and dangerous aptly describes the beauty sitting in the second last row to the right of the waiting area. Maybe you are hungover and too tired to tell the difference between her and the shadows of Beerlula lurking in your head from the constant fantasy the song Baladweyne has put you in since you first fell in love with it.
 
A dollar here buys you a cup of Somali tea and 2 Samosas. You can put in your tea as much sugar as you like. At least that much credit you can give these tall, loud nomads. They ain’t like Java or other fancy coffee shops in Nairobi where they ration the sugar indirectly by putting it in a container with a small opening so that getting the sugar from it is so much hassle you might as well forget about drinking tea. 

You take a seat behind her and to the right. You have a good view of her face. You can see her animated gestures as she makes small talk with her friend. You hate it when you cheat on your books. You like to be faithful to them at least when you are in their company. You love giving your undivided attention to them. But that is a hard act to pull today. The 1st law of Newton is in force. The motion of your eyes towards the pages you were so much enjoying reading is redirected by the glitter of an external force. You keep stealing glances of her and soon she notices. Maybe her skin itches from your intermittent stares.
 
You make way to the tea shop to burn another dollar on the sugary syrup they call Somali tea and Samosas. And fair lady follows you closely to the shop. As if daring you to a duel. As if saying dare make a pass at me if you are a real man. You turn. And she is right in front of your nose. A chill runs down your spine and you are out of your wits. Where the hell are your smooth lines when you need them?

You curse yourself and your hangover. You go back to sit and really pretend that you are seriously reading the book. Meanwhile you are consoling yourself that maybe she was too tall for your taste. You like tall women but not taller than you. Just your shoulder height. Or maybe it was the high heels she was wearing and if she were to remove them she would be a perfect inch shorter. You would not need to stand on your toes to kiss her. Or maybe she is tall. Or even a Somali knife has mutilated her and she is just there with nothing to bring to the matrimonial bed, if at all you were lucky enough to take her there. You just can’t decide. You just keep telling yourself whatever makes you feel less guilty for being not man enough to even say hello to her.
 
She is back on her seat. She is playing this game too. She steals as many glances at you as you steal at her. Heck! she even stands up and makes a threatening walk towards you as if she will make the first move. She stops 3 steps from your seat. You are too scared to keep your eyes locked on hers, which are already focused on you. You look away. Back to your book. You know today you are too hungover even to take a chance to win such a fair lady. You can’t think up anything to start a conversation. After a couple of minutes she returns to her seat. Satisfied that she did all a girl could do to show her interest in a guy. But today that guy is you and you have run out of your wits.

Your brain is half dead in sleep and half deciding on what to do next when the announcer calls on the passengers to Sharjah for their connecting flight. You look up to see if she is one of them. And disturbingly she is among them. She walks away from her seat to the door as if knowing that your eyes will be waiting when she turns to take a final look at you. And true enough she turns and your eyes meet and she has the kind of look that seems to say: there goes your chance, in flight.
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