Of all the places people could meet, they met at a coliseum. He had always imagined that he would meet his future wife at some get-together event or at a hang out in a place like Chaka Ranch. But all love stories are not the same. There are people who meet at bars and kick it off immediately like a ninety minute football match right through to the end. There are others who get to know one another at book reading events. You know like those events that the author organizes where he gives his readers the gist of what his book is all about. Some of these events are fun while others are ‘not so fun.’ It all depends on who the host author is. The ‘not so fun’ ones usually have two or more people dozing off mid-session. People got guts out here. They can wake up in the morning, brush their teeth, put on their A-game clothes then go doze off at such an event. But who am I to judge? Personally, I have dozed off in unimaginable places like in my high school assembly ground while standing.
Anyway, there are also those people who meet at Uchumi Supermarket. You don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either till I heard my sister talk about a friend of hers who was planning an anniversary shopping with the husband at the only surviving Uchumi Supermarket in Kisumu. So not only was that love founded in the supermarket but they also honor their union by doing anniversary shoppings at the place yearly. What a kicker that relationship is! Who said love at first shopping doesn’t exist?
The point here is that one can never know the place or the hour when the gods of love would shine their magnificent light of passion on them. It can be at the most unexpected of places. It could be at a bar in Bungoma or a highway in Minnesota or at a museum in Finland or a beach in Lagos or even in a College of Humanities and Social Sciences at a ‘world class university’ in Kenya. For Dennis Oburu, however, it was at a coliseum at the city in Western Kenya. He had gone to the theatre because it was a Friday evening and that was his trademark way of spending all Friday evenings. Had he been a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church he would probably have gone for prayers like most SDAs do at such times. But he was not.
He went there for the love of art. He loved plays, poems, spoken word and generally any kind of art. When he made entrance into the place, things looked unusually different as compared to the other days. Turns out there was an ongoing Jewish dance that evening. Now that was quite enthusing to him since in all his visits to the place, not even once was there anything related to the Jews except the fact that there had been some Jesus-related plays occasionally before. So here was Dennis looking at a couple of people dancing. It was a special one that only a few people could do.
On stage were three people: a man with a dark complexion and two ladies. One of the ladies was African while the other was Jewish. Now there are some things that are rare but people hardly take notice of. Like a Jewish lady dancing at a theatre in Kisumu. That is as rare as finding two Kisii men arguing on a subway train from Paris to Nice. So here they were, the three of them, conquering the little known Jewish Dance. This kind of dance is very emotive and represents much heritage since it dates back to the biblical times. The man made slow moves as he swung his arms swiftly from time to time while reaching out for the two ladies. The ladies, on the other hand, obliged and responded to the courtesy with broad smiles and repeated curtsies in between. Could there be any dance out there more methodical than this one? It looked perfect. It looked planned. It seemed as if the trio had taken a whole two years making preparations before unleashing the brilliant performance right there on stage that evening. It’s possible they did so. Just like the CIA did their meticulous planning before finally dropping down Osama Bin Laden at Abbottabad in Pakistan.
When they left the stage, the audience gave them a standing ovation. Not like any of these common, fake and ordinary ovations jealously accorded nowadays. They gave them a real one. A befitting one for the exceptional performance they just concluded. The Jewish lady then came and sat in the empty seat right next to Dennis. As expected Dennis became unusually nervous as any guy in such a situation would. The lady was a beautiful one. Her eyes were emerald and she had a long-range smile that is rare to find these days.
“It’s not like there are any ugly Jewish ladies out there. Seems to me that God gave them unquestionable beauty.” Dennis narrates to me as short waiter of Tebs View Court emerges with drinks on both hands. My salted caramel tastes heavenly. The inventor of the drink must have had my taste buds in mind. To date, I still revel the mystery of that drink.
Thirty minutes after the lady sat beside him, he somehow gathered the courage to say hello to her. When she spoke, it’s like a torrential wind came by the place and carried him away. He was swept off his feet. Unknown to him, that feeling heralded the beginning of something grand. He was headed into romance. And he was headed with his whole existence. It’s not like he was a complete stranger in romance. He had fallen in love with a couple of girls before but those never worked. He says that they didn’t work out because the first lady drunk too much while the second lady seemed to be always unsure of herself. The third lady, on the other hand, was highly unpredictable. There were days when he thought that he meant everything to her but then she’d be hostile all of a sudden. She could transform from a sweet person into a wild, unpredictable, entitled, reserved and insensitive human being in a span of hours. Nothing hurt him more like that this last breakup. Her name Anne with an E at the end. He swore afterwards that he would never date an Anne with an E at the end.
“It’s not like there is an Anne with a Z at the end” I poke him while staring far away at a boat sailing towards the North. I wonder to myself where someone could be headed to in such a small boat on a Friday evening.
He chuckles, like he is used to, trying to downplay the statement. He is a tall guy Dennis. Probably one of the tallest people I have ever met in my life. We’ve been friends for a while now. He is a procurement officer. So this story is about a procurement officer who madly fell for a Jewish lady. Her name was Adinah. At least that’s what she told him that night after the dance in the theatre. Dennis sips his passion juice as he pours me the details of how it all went down.
After theatre that night, they liked one another in the most natural way possible. He, like all guys would be, was so much fascinated by the idea of meeting such a lady in such a faraway land. I mean have you ever looked at the world map and seen the distance between Israel and Kisumu? At first, he didn’t want to ask how she ended up in Kisumu all the way from Jerusalem. He figured that’d be too inquisitive of him and might spoil his chances greatly. He was at that stage where men are usually cautious in every move they make. They try to do everything by the book (of course there’s no book. It’s just what people say). They use just the right words and dig up old jokes that have been lying idle in their joke banks. They do all that to box a lady then change swiftly like a chameleon does when obscuring itself from a predator. Don’t they? Ladies in the house do you agree? Men are trash? No. I don’t agree. Not all men do that. There are good men out here who do things like cleaning the road for Prophet Owuor or doing dishes for their wives or being among the few fathers who go to their children’s Academic Days at school.
Adinah lived next to the airport on the slopes of Riat hills. She had been living in Kisumu for five years by the time she met Dennis. She had no family. She was born in Nairobi in the early 90s in Parklands. After the death of her parents in a road accident, her uncle took her in and they moved to Kisumu where they lived a peaceful life till the uncle’s demise to cancer. Alone, she survived. She learnt bits of Luo. I have heard Luhyias speaking Luo in their accent. I have also heard Kambas struggle with pronouncing Luo words. Never in my life did I imagine a Jew doing the same for obvious geographical reasons till I met Dennis who apparently ended up marrying one.
Dennis’ father is a rich traditional man who is very skeptical about inter-tribal, inter-clan and even inter-racial marriages. He told his son as early in the relationship with Adinah that they had to break up because he would never endorse or support their marriage. Some parents are like that. They get too much involved. They want to their children to do everything they say whenever they say them. That is the character of the old man. When Dennis insisted that he was not going to wreck the relationship, a conflict ensued between him and his father. Strong words were uttered, curses were made by the father and things that shouldn’t have been said were said. The father loathed being disobeyed. He even told Dennis that he would receive none of his inheritance but the lad remained defiant. He was so determined to prove a point to the overbearing old man to the extent he decided to move out.
They tied a knot at the Attorney General’s office. She turned up for it in a deep blue dress. She wore blue because of its unique place in Jewish history. Blue is the royal color of King David she said. He wore dark khaki pants with a maroon blazer. It was just the two of them against the world. The only witnesses to the wedding were the officials at the AG’s office. When the world is against you, people don’t even agree to be witnesses to your marriage. They don’t want to associate with you. They turn their backs on you and walk away. But that never bothered Dennis. Being the only child, like he is, comes with lessons. One of them is getting used to solitude to the extent of not being able to feel desertion.
There was no honeymoon. Everything was just as normal as they wanted it. In the first days, they walked on empty streets on late nights and talked about their wishes. They played games at various highways on Thursday nights and listened to country music at their rented apartment on Friday mornings. They could go on boat rides occasionally and have a feel at the coolest breeze in the world. They ate at tiny restaurants some days. Some days they could just go to the big restaurants and order Chinese take outs. That was their life. It was unscripted and that’s what made them addicted to each other. They didn’t live life by the book. They were the most random couple in the universe. They did things on their own terms. Their apartment at Pearl Marina was full of vibrancy back then. It had walls with pictures of animals like hedgehog and guinea pigs.
They had inbuilt art fittings that could compete favorably in any art auction around the world. And how can I forget! They had plans. They had dreams. They dreamt about visiting countries like Singapore during spring when everyone is in school and the weather is cool and the parks are free. They also dreamt about buying a house in Boston, Massachusetts where they could plant red maples and bur oaks and yellow woods around and breed honey locusts that would disappear during winter. They dreamt about painting that house white and raising eleven kids inside it and enrolling them to Harvard University which is just nearby. In those dreams, they also saw their kids play among themselves on the lawns as they watched while sipping Romanesco juice or Cherimoya or Pummelo or whatever weird juices people who lived in Boston sipped during summer.
But this was not to be. Adinah’s curiosity about her past skyrocketed. It had always been there. It was just suppressed. They could be lying down in bed and she just asks something about her past, out of the blues. This continued for some time till Dennis realized that something was troubling her. She was wrestling with her identity. There are days he could come back home from his demanding procurement job only to find Adinah so beat up and sad and moody. It was clear soon enough that she was really wrestling with her identity. Something within drove her towards unearthing her family history and going back to Israel to meet some of her relatives back there. Her uncle had always told her, in his last days, that there was a whole string of family members she had back in Jerusalem. She always dreamed of tracing her roots and getting to know where her home actually was. It’s a desire that grew and grew. It was never going to be quelled in any way.
Dennis came home on the evening of 23rd July 2017 to find her gone. Not dead. As in left. When he opened the door using his keys, he could feel it. He was greeted by a void that was last seen during the time of creation. On her favorite couch was a letter in a blue envelope. This lady really loved blue. That was all Dennis could think of. She stuck by blue even in departure. The letter was kissed on the outside leaving a red beautiful outline of Jewish lips. This is what it read.
I will be back. Don’t marry another woman. I am going to Israel to find my roots. I don’t know how long it may take. It may be a year, two years or even ten. But I will be back. Be sure of that. There are so many things that I have been unsure of in my life, there are others that I am still unsure off but one thing that I am absolutely certain of is that this is not the end of our story.
Your Jewish Jewel,
He couldn’t cry. He held the letter in his arms for quite a while before taking it to his study. Inside the bedroom, Adinah had left a number of her clothes. Dennis remained so much conflicted within. He had mixed feelings of emptiness, loneliness and hope at the same time. In the following months, he ate dinner alone and prepared his own breakfast. Food lost taste. But he chose to remain hopeful. And as we sit at the balcony of Tebs View Court this Friday, he is still hopeful. He doesn’t have much regret because he knows he enjoyed every single moment he had with Adinah. He will wait.