The American Embassy in Nairobi is one of the most dreaded buildings in the country. The inside looks like a banking hall but now replace the cubicles with gas chambers and finally, you get the picture. It’s a place where dreams are made or broken.
At the age of eighteen I sat outside one of cubicles and waited for my turn. My palms were sweaty and a thin perspiration trickled down my forehead. An expensively dressed man stood in front of me with an open briefcase and a nice stack of paperwork: big money bank statements and references from politicians.
“I’m sorry sir, your visa application has been denied,” the white lady on the other side of the window told him.
“But I have all the paperwork?”
“I’m sorry sir, you will have to try again sometime. Next!” It was judgment day for the rich man. I watched the man gather his belongings. His paperwork was no longer neat; his suit didn’t look as nice on his slumped shoulders and his walk faltered all the way to the exit. I felt sorry for him before I remembered that ‘next’ meant that it was my turn.
“Why do you want to go to America young man?” the lady asked me. Her skin was so white, her lipsticks pink, her eyes penetrating.
“I want to go and get an education and come back and make Africa a better place to live in.” I had practiced the answer in front of the bathroom mirror a thousand times.
“And why can’t you do that here in Africa?”
“We don’t have enough universities and scholarships in Africa,” I said with a shaking voice.
The lady kept looking at me. I had been warned about this. America was founded on ideals and beliefs and not documents. Honesty, integrity, dignity and respect: these virtues were huge in America.
“Congratulations Mr. Kaluu, I hope you enjoy your stay in America,” the white lady finally arbitrated.
I felt the heavens open and the angels sing. Finally, I could reposition my life to a point where I could rebuild and be someone. I was ready. Not really. Almost. There was one more thing I had to do.
Her name was Koko, and we had grown up together and attended the same high School. We lived in the same village: stole apples, played and laughed together. I loved her, but I had never told her for the fear of ruining what we had. But now I needed to know before I left for America.
The only person who knew about my improbable American trip was my mum and I met Koko at a restaurant in downtown with the intention of sharing the news with her.
“Hi Kaluu,” Koko greeted as we sat at a table in the corner. Her black hair was tied in a simple ponytail and she wore no makeup. She was pretty. “You said that you had something important to tell me?”
“Yes Koko,” I said. Then I went on to talk about a whole lot of rubbish before she stopped me. “Kaluu?” she said. “You are stalling.”
And then I blurted it out.
“I love you Koko.”
She laughed. “I love you too Kaluu.” I knew what she meant.
I took a deep breath. “I mean, I really love you Koko,” I said again and she saw the look in my eye.
She was quiet for a long time. “You mean, like boyfriend and girlfriend kind of thing?”
I nodded as the air was sucked out of the room. Suddenly, there was a tension between us that I had never before experienced. And I knew what was about to happen before it happened.
“I’m sorry Kaluu, I don’t love you like that- “
I gawked at her as though I hadn’t expected the answer. And then emotions took over: disbelieve, anger, hurt. I jumped up and ran for the exit. Sunlight hit my face and before long I was lost amongst the hundreds of faces on the street. The tears came and burned my eyes. I cried like a baby and for the first time understood the pain of a broken heart.
* * *
One week later, Koko walked into Kaluu’s home and found his mother outside washing clothes.
“Hi Koko,” mum greeted.
“Halo mum, where is Kaluu? He hasn’t been answering my phone calls.”
Kaluu’s mum stopped what she was doing and turned to look at her. “Didn’t he tell you? He left for America a few days ago.”
Life stopped for Koko and for a long time she stood frozen. Her mind blitzed a million thoughts and replayed the restaurant scene over and over, and over again. She rushed inside the house and into Kaluu’s bedroom. It was true. The bedroom was empty. Disbelieve turned into panic and eventually regret. And she finally understood what had happened at the restaurant.
She sat down on Kaluu’s bed and stared into the empty space. She knew that it was too late. The tears came and she sobbed. “I’m sorry Kaluu.” And for the first time in her life, she felt the pain of a broken heart.
Note: Towards the end of our mortal life, we will ask ourselves. Did we love enough? Did we do enough in the name of love?
Off to AFRICA
My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.
The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen
Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...