It’s 11 PM, I’m parked under a tree on a nippy night akin to the cold fraught dusk in the deserts. I’m in the fringes of a plush neighbourhood, teeming with maisonettes and well-manicured lawns. The type of lawns you’d want to lie on and take a breather. I’ll get me one of those bad boys soon, a lawn. From the tree’s leaves, beads of dew drop on the car’s roof, interspersed regularly. Save for the whistling from the branches of the trees here, it’s eerily quiet, I like silence but this is a tad too silent. An ominous tune intrusively plays in my head, I try to stave it off by thinking of trivia like the lifespan of a bee (5 months tops by the way). And even that is vain. The quietude is deafening, I can hear my heart race. I’m one diabolic chortle from starring in a horror movie. Isn’t that how horror movies unfurl, silence first and hell unveils.
I’m jittery, apprehensive, hell, I’m petrified. My right foot taps on the floorboard frantically, filling the void with sound. My left hand is stretched to the shotgun seat, palm draped over the headrest. It’s a quarter to midnight now and she’s not here. She ought to meet me by 11 on the mark. How inconsequential is time to her that it doesn’t earn reverence. What could she be doing to be 45 minutes tardy. Worst case scenario, our planbhad been foiled and someone could be on his way here to finish me off. My optimism roars on with a verve, this is my way out of everything. 8 Million in cash sitting in a duffle bag in the backseat. Cash I had swindled from my former boss, the knucklehead had it coming. Beside it, a ski-mask.
I flinch as clanks rattle on the opposite window. I roll it down, it’s her. Surprisingly, she has the stealth of a wild cat, didn’t crunch of a leaf. Scared the shit out of me. I unlock the door and she hops in. She dressed in an Ink black sweatshirt, that i had shoplifted off a stall in town (of course she doesn’t know that), her bosom traces under it. She has on complementary black joggers, hugging her curves. Her feet are bedecked in trainers, I can’t glean the distinct colour. My ability to discern colours is in the gutter. We hug fervently and briefly kiss. She gazes at the bag. Darts at my now animated face. Back to the bag and shifts her sight back at me. I get the cue and nod in acknowledgement. She burns with excitement, her left hand cusps over her mouth. She leans and hugs me, tighter than the first time, a little more press and I’ll squash like an orange.
“Wild guess, what is it? Like 3 million in here?” she asks whispering.
“Let’s say we double that and throw in a decent car on top of it,” I quip and wink.
She subtly purses her kips and blows out air, fanning her neck with her fingers as if trying to cool off, yet the cold lingers. It’s enough money to make her temperature rise. Mine had risen, ebbed and was now rising again. Adrenaline thrusting its current through my veins.
She’s not mine, at least not officially. When we’re not together, she wears a dandy ring on her ring finger. She’s married to some guy she’s never liked. A narcissistic wanderlust that comes home as much as Christmas comes in a year. He could be married to someone else for all I know. She married him because she felt like she was running out of time, the angst. Like time had pitted her in a ring against age as it hurtled down the years. She didn’t want to be 35 and unmarried, so she exchanged nuptials with the next guy that showed interest and delved into this realm called marriage. I know, I’m shit, for eloping with someone’s wife. I held myself in disdain too, for a while but then the heart wants what it wants. Her.
I rev the engine. Into the main road and hit the highway. Give or take the trailers galloping down the road – their drivers, with paunchs and pudgy fingers, there aren’t much personal cars. Many a person aren’t fancied by driving past midnight, they leave the darkness to the devil and her emissaries to dwell in. We zoom on, the landscape running against us being swallowed by the distance and eventually by the guts of the night. The plan is to cross the Namanga border by sunrise. And blend into the confines of Tanzania, and its convoluted Kiswahili.
“I hope you carried your passport,” I quiz.
“Yeah, I carried it and more,” she retorts.
“More? Like three passports?”
“This more,” she croons, grazing the back of her hand over her torso down to her legs.
I let out a supressed laugh. Our torrid affair was on its way to the next level. We were Bonnie and Clyde, only we didn’t kill and she didn’t drag one leg on the floor. My bladder stings, I need to go. I pull to the side of the road for a leak. The cold is stinging and it’s working against my bladder. I spot a scrawny bush and pour my wrath on it. Poor bush, sprouted with high hopes. Possibly thinking one day it will grow to be a tree, to beautify the earth. Only for some wife snatcher to come and take a piss on it. To douse its frugal dignity with uric acid.
She brings a cigarette to her lips as she leans on the car, flicks the lighter and takes a deep drag. Filling her lungs with… Wait, that’s not a cigarette. That’s weed, its distinct smell. Personally, weed smells far much better than cigarettes. It’s not pleasant but it’s tolerable. She reminds me of a movie scene; a silhouette of the protagonist taking a smoke against a car after a successful mission. If she had a hat on, it would be utter bad-ass. I shuffle and lean beside her, my hand over her full shoulders. Two millionaires with a fondness between them.
“We should hit the road again or maybe…,” I say, staring into the depths of her eyes. My left hand moving to her heinie for a grab.
“Huh, good idea. But that can wait, I hear it’s better in Tanzania,”
We titter, heartily like innocuous lovers, only not.
“Let me drive this time”
I shrug, acquiescing. She is high, but I let her drive. That’s one of many stupid things you can do when your existence is clouded by this thing called love. I ride shotgun. She drives pretty good with weed in her system. I don’t smoke. The first time I tried weed, I almost coughed my bowels out, hence, I don’t know the high it yields. Hopefully she doesn’t sleep on the wheel and we come to, a handful of Maasais standing over us, poking our sides with their sticks to see if we can move. The wreckage of our car in the background.
We pass a small town, the kind of towns where everyone knows everyone and blokes shoot the breeze in the only bar in the area.
“Shit, oh shit,” I say.
A road block is ahead of us. A troop of cops on the side. A waif cop flags us down, doom. A waif cop is no good news. Stocky ones are more congenial, they can make small talk. The gaunt ones on the other hand are feisty, dismissive. Ready to banish the next person into the cold souls of jail. Trying to prove a point. Not relenting for nobody. Their bones are a pain to drivers, even worse miscreants like me.
She seems nonchalant for a traffic stop, with a load of cash sitting at the backseat. She’s mastered the art of tranquillity. The car stops and the windows roll down. Harsh light pries into the car’s interior from the cop’s torch. I squint to see.
“Nini hio?” he quizzes.
“Just a bag,” she says.
“No. Boss. Nini hio”
The light illuminates the ski mask. I forgot to stash it under the upholstery. My words run dry. My voice box fails, I need water. She looks down. We’re fucked.
“Get out of the vehicle sir, hands over your head,” he exclaims. Sir? I step out trying not to manifest my fear. I’m a shake away from pissing my pants. Something the bush would find appeasing.
A black SUV is parked to the side of the road. An Audi I figure. Could be another guy like me, facing the wrath of a skinny cop. There’s nothing a couple of thousands can’t fix. I knew this would be over in no time after I had found my bearing. A silhouette saunters from the side of the SUV. Slowly coming closer, like a prey in the prowl.
“You’ve had a pretty good run,” he says.
I know that voice. I’ve heard it for two years, running a cyber hacking syndicate. My legs relent, I plonk to the parched earth. Defeated. Done and dusted. It’s my boss, well, former boss. The guy I had ripped off.
She peers from the window, her eyes a little rheumy. Let out a sigh and said, “I am sorry” then drove off. Dust engulfing the space my car took. Did she? She was in on this?
The archetypal betrayal; a bitter dose of reality. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Boy falls in love. Girl takes off, with everything, heart in hand. This could be the last words I hear from her. ‘I am sorry’…
(I’ll continue. For now take a breather. Not weed. A breather)