NOTE: In case you missed the first and second stories :
It’s been getting hotter and hotter and that’s how I know we are only a few minutes away from Mtito Andei. I had to take off my jumper a while back and along with it, the hood covering my bald head. That got the kids staring at me.
I looked at them, and the boy, evading my gaze, turned to his sister and whispered something. The girl looked at her brother then up at my eyes and quickly covered her temple-smiling and looking the other way in shyness.
I smiled a little at this and idly wondered whether they’d wanted to touch it- like some stranger did one day at the campus swimming pool. That was a weird and annoying experience and even though kids are allowed to stare, bald head-touching is not something I will offer out of the goodness of my heart.
Regardless, I indulge their curious stares as I have not been in a particularly bad mood. Part of the reason is because their mother has been out of my hair (weird I know) since she’s asleep; has been since about two more phone calls from the last one. That got her really agitated, and now that I am tired of reading my novel, I start to wonder why.
Who could she have been talking to? Her husband maybe? She had mentioned Mombasa severally. Hmm… did she leave her hubby at home? Oh shit! Did she run away with her kids or something?!
I am getting excited as I look down at the kids again. They have lost interest in my bald head and the elder one is making up false outrageous claims about Mombasa being covered by the ocean and how we will all get out of the bus and jump onto a huge ship! I want to laugh at the look of wonder in the girl’s face. This will probably be their first time in Mombasa.
Nevertheless, these kids don’t look like they have been kidnapped or anything. Their mother, let’s start there, doesn’t look like the type who would like to escape with these kids to whom she talks in a constant irritated tone. It’s pretty obvious she finds the kids a bother, but then, you never know with some mothers. One moment they are abusing their children and the next, they claim it was all out of love. Parental love can be weird.
My thoughts are cut short as the bus slows down and drives into the large dusty, parking lot beyond which there is a restaurant where all buses en-route stop for passengers to replenish or refresh. There are countless other buses including the much coveted Oxygen Modern Coast which I hear offers chips and chicken on board. Chicken! I have chicken in my bag!
I start up with sudden glee and motivation as I take a quick look at the kids. I could go out and eat in peace now! Their mommy has been awoken by the sudden jolt of the stopping bus and the rest of the passengers have already begun milling along the aisle to go out and get a bite or respond to a call of nature.
I need to take a piss too but as I wait for the woman to stand up and walk out, I notice she is merely staring out the window, right past my shoulder like she’s seeing someone who is intriguing. I follow her gaze and it lands on a shriveled white man donning a khaki hat and smoking outside the bus next to us.
Whoa! Does she have the hots for white meat?! She said something about mzungu * over the phone, now that I recall! Does she have a white guy in Mombasa as her side dish? Is that where she’s going. Oh my! I could totally stalk this woman paparazzi style once we get to Mombasa.
Suddenly as though she heard my stalker thoughts, the woman is up and taking her shiny bag with her without a second glance behind. The kids stare after her confusedly as they wonder whether to follow her or not. It’s obvious they want to, so I nudge them to move and they go after their mummy. I check my money pouch for assurance and prep to leave before realizing that there are no longer needy, innocent eyes to ogle at my chicken or chocolate! I could totally eat my food in peace right here!
I stand to peek towards the door and I see the kids at the front of the bus, just standing. I guess their mummy is somewhere next to them, out of my line of sight.
I sit back down debating. The urge to piss is getting strong but stronger is the urge to eat some crunchy… well it must be soggy by now; but it’s chicken and Sizzling have the best chicken in Nairobi. The decision is made and I quickly take out the black paper bag holding the chicken. I feel like a little zombie hiding and munching at human meat and bones that I hoarded. The image makes me laugh inside.
Cold and soggy regardless, I deeply enjoy my chewy drumsticks to the end. It’s not much but it does satisfy the craving I have had for quite a while. With the bones now in the black paper bag, I am reminded of the earlier urge to piss. Plus I finished my water- there’s no way I’ll make it till Mombasa without another bottle.
So I leave my heavy novel behind and walk out of the bus. As I walk towards the bus door, I can see the front of the bus and beyond the windscreen, I no longer see the kids. They probably found their mummy- and they’re probably eating chips and chicken…
Yap! I see the kids at a table- with no mommy in sight.
Oh well. I hurriedly walk toward the toilet which is usually filthy but that’s the least of my worries because I find a queue. I resort to wiggling as I stand in line and wait for one of the four toilets that serve all stoppers-by. I wait for a few minutes and at last, I get my turn and its heavenly bliss till halfway through the long piss when I realize that I need to go for the big one.
And this is not funny considering there are still more people waiting for this toilet. On top of that, buses stop for only fifteen minutes. I must have spent more than five of those greedily eating my chicken in the bus. Will I have time? And can I really inconvenience these people? I mean, I can hold it in… well, try to…
It hits me that we have four more hours till Mombasa and I go for it with no second thought.
People keep knocking at my door and I knock back. It’s when someone tells me to hurry up that I decide to be bitchy and say I am sick and they should just use another fucking toilet!
That stops the knocking and minutes later when I am out (jazzed and all) there are about three to four people left in the ladies. Panicking, I quickly rush outside expecting to find my bus gone.
Thankfully it’s still there, but I think it’s the one honking for all passengers to go back in so that the journey can continue. I rush to the little shop area and get a bottle of water which is triple priced since they know we must be desperate to need water at this stop. Bastards!
Water in hand I walk towards my bus and in the process, spot the two kids at the same table I last saw them. They still look a little lost and with good reason once again ; their mom is still nowhere to be seen. So I beckon them and they gladly jump out of their seats and follow like I am their aunt or something.
Shit! Does their mom know kids get kidnapped by strangers? The kids walk ahead of me and get on the already filling bus. The driver is still honking at passengers who are still outside, e.g. the mother of these two and where the fuck is she?
I take my seat as do the kids next to me and some three more people enter the bus after us. The bus door closes and I feel us reversing when I raise the alarm that there is one more person to wait for. The conductor hits the car severally to stop the driver from driving. He enquires about the missing party and I mention that the mother of the kids next to me is not yet in.
The conductor opens the door and looks towards the restaurant. There is no sign of the woman. She was not in the toilet, that’s for sure. I saw the last people in the toilet.
And neither is she at the dusty, sun beaten parking area which now looks open and almost deserted, since most of the buses before us have already left.
So I turn to the young boy and ask him where mum is. He shrugs and his sister gives me a blank almost fearful stare as she fiddles with her fingers. Of course she’s nervous that her mom is not around. Poor kiddo. I reassure her that mommy will be back then look out my window for any sign of her.
The driver is getting irritable and so are some of the passengers in the bus. The conductor takes it upon himself to go check for her at restaurant area just for confirmation. I ask the kids when last they saw mom and where she was. The girl says, “She got on a car.”
The woman behind me speaks up, “Yes I saw her too. She was walking out of this bus when I walked in.”
The young boy vigorously shakes his head, “Not this car…” Then he puts his finger on his chin as though he wanted to say more but was stopping himself.
I want to stare out my window to weigh the possibilities when I notice something different about the novel I had left in the small pouch in front of me. A small piece of paper now peeks out from it. It looks out of place and I pluck it out.
More passengers are getting agitated, angry even, at being delayed but I hardly hear them as I stare at small piece of paper. It is a torn piece of one of my novel’s back pages and there are two things scrawled down as though in a hurry but the message is pretty clear.
There is a phone number and below the number, in caps, are the words “BABA YAO” meaning “Their Father.”
It takes me a few seconds to think it out but when the conductor steps back in the bus after a failed search, the message sinks in pretty deep. Of course the mother is nowhere to be seen. The bitch left her kids!
*mzungu- Swahili word for a white person