The professor’s voice was a drone. A flowery scent had been wafting toward her despite the open window. Someone giggled, the high pitched sound like nails across a chalkboard. She needed a drink.
“Thank you.” The professor said as she handed him a paper.
It was all background noise. She left the campus and walked to her building. If she did not feel exhausted, she would have run. The boda boda bikers were laughing about something. Meat sizzled on a grill and bottles clinked against each other in a popular eatery she went to. Dust rose up from the road. It was just a different kind of noise, chaos.
There were tears in her eyes and it felt like something would start leaking out of her ears. She took the stairs to her 2nd floor studio apartment 2 at a time. The scotch stayed in a drawer on her reading table. The curtains were drawn . Her bed and reading table were just shadows.
She got a glass from the kitchen because he always drank straight from the bottle. Her hands were shaking as she lifted the tumbler to her lips.
Half a bottle of whisky later, she rose from the floor, put the bottle back in and smiled in the silence that enveloped her. Her eyes saw nothing, her ears heard nothing, and there was only a faint hint of bleach in the air.
She took a long shower. Completed her term paper and read 6 chapters for her international law class. Functioning alcoholic did not even begin to cover it. Unlike her father, she knew that she was sick, she knew why she was sick, and she realized that her kind of sick did not have a cure. She could tolerate this knowledge because she was sure that unlike him she could live with it.
After her shower, she left the house and took a matatu to Gigiri. The grave yard’s care taker was there. They exchanged greetings and she even smiled at him. Her father had been a counter. So she had had to get the right spot. 10 lots from the left where there would be no expansion and 10 lots down. She had decided not to plant any flowers but his neighbor’s roses were encroaching on him.
“I had a bad day. Not too bad. I didn’t get lost.” She said.
When she was younger, her father and her had played hide and seek. When he was close to finding her, he would whisper, ‘I hope I haven’t lost you.” Later, when he saw his illness in her, they would tell it to each other all the time.
She stood at the grave for a little while longer. She only went out of a sense of duty and maybe a little resentment. She was documenting her fall for him.
Back home, the door next to hers opened before she had a chance to get into her apartment. Jamal stepped out, he looked a little surprised to see her.
“Hey neighbor, how have you been?” He smiled. She held her door slightly open.
“I’ve been fine.” She said.
“I haven’t seen you around lately. Well, I never see you around… I’m going town to Café Biba, you want to come?” He asked.
“No thanks. I have to finish some work.” He shrugged and was saying something as she got into her apartment and locked the door behind her.
Every time she went to see him, she had the same dream. They found her father’s car wrapped around a tree on the side of the highway. All the paramedics, police officers, and witnesses had to say was that he reeked of alcohol. In the dream she would look into the car, moments after it crashed. It was her in the driver’s seat.
Her mother called in the morning. She made another request for her to be a bridesmaid. She made her promise that she would come to the wedding, again. She asked about school and life. Her mother wanted to ask about the depression and stuff, the noise, but she did not.
“Will you come with anyone?” She spoke like a woman who had no problems. She was happy. And that was why Benta saw her dead father more often than she saw her mother. “We are making seating arrangements. Rogers is coming.”
“I will bring someone.” She said. Roger was loud, so noisy he left his own personal echo.
“That is good. Who is he?” Her mother said.
“I have to go mama. See you next week.”
She went for her tumbler right before she left the apartment but decided against it. There was a sliver of pride in herself until she remembered that sooner or later, she would be having that drink.
Jamal’s door was slightly ajar. It was quiet inside, it made her feel better. She knocked twice. He looked surprised at seeing her, like the classmates who heard her speak for the first time when they were assigned groups. He smiled down at her. She realized that for the first time, she was not trying to get away from him.
“Willyoucomewithmetomymum’swedding?” She said looking straight at him without really seeing him. He laughed and for a few horrible moments, she thought that he was laughing at her.
“Do I have to wear a suit?” He asked.
“No, I don’t think so.” She said, “Will you come?”
“Will you run off when I try to speak to you?” She laughed.
“Yes, I’ll come.”