Maybe it was the taste of yesterday’s party lingering on his tongue, maybe it was the smell on the clothes he still had on, but something was pushing him to take a long walk. Not just any walk, the kind that leads to no good. he smiled inwardly, not sure why, but it just felt right. And at that precise moment, the idea hit him. The railway. he could walk along it and get somewhere. Anywhere. He was not particularly drawn to anything at the end.
“Just follow it and get somewhere”, he thought. “It’s daytime, nobody cares who you are. They’ll all be too hot and bothered to pay any attention to me.”
So he dressed down, put on something he thought people wore when they made potentially bad decisions. Long discarded flip flops and t-shirts with faded print. And track pants. Yes, the track pants he used to wear when he still went for basketball practice, before they ruined his knee, before everything really.
Satisfied that he looked quite ordinary, he set out to leave the house when his phone started ringing. It was the boys. They wanted to know (or rather their girlfriends had made them ask) if he’d gotten home ok, that the previous night was wild and they should do it again soon. He said he was fine, though it didn’t sound particularly honest, being as they were the same clowns who put him in trouble in the first place.
Feeling through his pockets as he walked, he found a slip of paper. Folded neatly and then crumpled up. It had been in the wash, so some of the ink was faded, but the pain he felt was not. Even though it was torn in half, he remembered all it said.
…don’t like the way things are going.
I am sorry about everything, about leading you on.
But you weren’t what I expected. I know guys have issues, but sheesh.
Get over yourself. Lose my number. Sorry it had to end like this.
As soon as he got to the tracks, he had a sense of purpose. Not sure how or why, but he knew he had to get to the end as a matter of urgency.
Walking, past the cheap plastic sandals and the stacks of tomatoes, the men high on busaa and the repair shops that promised to fix everything, even broken eggs…
It didn’t help that he stuck out, despite his best efforts. Or maybe that was just in his head. They were all looking at him, wondering why he left his perfectly good, loving home, walk all this way when he most likely had a car to play around with for the week, wreck and get a new one just like that.
But that was when he realized, he was thinking for them. They were going about their things, oblivious of his intrusion, oblivious of the fact that the pain from the scars on his wrist was starting to ease, even though they had healed a long time ago. Oblivious of the fact that he had, at some point the night before, gotten into a fight and bruised his fist over some girl whose name he couldn’t remember.
He turned around every so often, but nobody was staring. Nobody would remember he was there. Nobody would mark his passing. It was a feeling he craved. To be anonymous, to be unrecognized. To be ‘one of those people’…
And then he saw her. She literally filled his field of view, plain white dress billowing in the slight breeze. She was buying vegetables, tucking her purchases into an old supermarket bag. He had forgotten he was still walking, and the moment he realized he was still moving, he tripped on a rail and fell at her feet, sending a debe of potatoes rolling away.
Shamefaced, he got up, made a motion of collecting the potatoes to the sharp rebuke of the mama mboga, and turned to go away and forget everything, but at that precise moment, he asked her what her name was. This was completely out of character, he explained to her, but he just had to have her name.
‘Atsango’, she replied, showing an ever so slight gap in her front teeth.