I fell in with Nanjala in a yoga class. It was my first yoga class. I never went back for another class but I made friends. I made a new pal. A 34 year old pulchritudinous woman, with a British infused Kenyan accent and a beautiful teenage girl as her screensaver. She was a woman- with a conditioned, deep educated voice, a big league job and a kick ass company. She owned a company that provided women with an efficient solution to kickstarting their careers and businesses. She also had the greatest love life, she mentioned her husband 6 times in the 40 minute conversation that we had after the session. He was supposed to pick her up an hour after the class, they needed to find places for hiking. I suggested Morop Hills to her, I have been there before. They had taken a sabbatical to enjoy each other’s company and it clearly gave Nanjala the radiant face she held high.
“Do you drink?” She asked me, as we walked towards the gate after the session. She waved at a man, in a dark grey t-shirt and quite fancy glasses. He waved back and got out of the car. A man that opens doors? I thought to myself… Well, that is the rare kind! Lucky girl she is, I thought as I tried to count in my head the number of women I have met and known that get doors opened for.
Her ride was already awaiting. A Captiva Chevrolet. Black, beautiful – the kind that I would want to have but I am more of a Land Rover kind of woman.
“Irish,” I answered. She stopped, looked at me and skipped away to the car as she told me, “you look like a Jack Daniels person to me. I will take your number from the Yoga instructor, as feminists; we have tons to talk about over a few drinks.”
Nanjala gave me a call a week later. She used the words ping, pin and message to mean ring, google maps and text.
“You left out the bit where myth has it that one has to climb Morop Hill twice for blessings,” she told me, as soon as I got to her place. I smiled, smirked in mischief actually. I just needed someone to do a 2nd hike with. She pointed at my crocs and frowned. “Typical,” she said as she motioned me to follow her. I smiled, the crocs was a sell out, it always is.
We drank. She whisky, me wine. At 10 A.M in the morninng! She spent half of her time talking about Ben, her husband and Mariah – her husband’s daughter with his ex wife. The girl on her screensaver. We talked about the ex wife and she explained to me how she had passed on from a car accident and we got into the lengthy talk on the pros and cons of raising children. “Children are nice, until you become a parent then they become everything, your life.” She told me. She kept gazing off, smiling and looking at her phone. The conversation made me uncomfortable. I had no children, I didn’t understand what she meant.
Sitting in her wildly exorbitant house, were 2 women. One, recently a girl and one- expensively and dangerously independent. Nanjala was adopted by her family friends after her parents died at a really young age. They are all she had. No siblings. Her parents, both biological and adopted had one child- her. She once mentioned that growing up, she wished for a sibling. She was planning on trying to have a baby. She wanted her daughter to have a sibling. She also felt like she was ready to have a bigger family. A boy, she often told me. I want a son.
Nanjala S, was living the dream- my dream. I wanted to be as great and lucky as she was when I turned 30. *S was her adopted parent’s name, she told me. She lived and studied in a British school, the same school from pre-school all through high school and later on left for college in the UK. Years later, she was married to a single dad, an architect. Ben came in hours later with their child and Nanjala called a cab for me. She wouldn’t wait to get rid of me and spend time with her prince charming, I imagined. Lucky woman!
I met Nanjala so many times after that. She had a month left before she got back to work. We talked about phenomenal women, men, career and our ideologies as women that advocated for gender equity and equality. We always had something to talk about; a 34 year old and a 22 year old. Strange and insane but as weird as it seems, we did. We had a few drinks each time we met, I met her 14 year old and watched soap operas. We watched it in mockery and laughed about it. “Life, is not black and white.” She told me once, after slipping in the bathroom. She had just come from the doctor and had a sore eye and the fall cracked her lips as well. She smiled through the clearly hidden pain. “I will replace the tiles,” she told me. She did. She got new tiles the following week. Brown tiles, and got rid of the blue tiles she had before. “You will replace a lot of tiles at this rate, ” I once joked about it, the 2nd time she fell.
She always scolded me for not being in a relationship. It was always a way of making sure that we do not talk about her clumsy ways in length. She always said, “to be a better woman, you need men to push you to be. Go love some young boy and make him happy” She always told me how she didn’t believe in true love until she met Ben. How could she? He was a gentleman that opened doors and took her to adventures. She was the clumsy woman that always fell, burned and bruised herself yet still got her doors held for and opened for in Public! She tripped so many times, I joked on how she needed a helmet. She narrated to me vividly how she had met Ben during a random camping trip with her fellow alums. She knew and understood that fate had favored her. Ben, in the few times I met him always asked her if she was feeling okay, every time she fell. He was concerned. He would look at her with such passion as she nodded and smiled. This was a life most dream of, but it never comes true, I thought to myself one day as he dressed her cracked lips.
I didn’t hear from Nanjala in a while after she left. She didn’t call me back and I wondered for the longest time if she ever came back. Perhaps I was just an immature crowd, I thought. Today, last year I got a call about Nanjala. A strange number came to my screen and I picked up. It wasn’t her. It was the Yoga instructor I asked to never contact me after she tried to persuade me to come back and do some yoga. Nanjala slipped and fell again. She wouldn’t be able to hike Morop Hills with me a second time. Clumsy typical Nanjala. She fell hard.
This time, she couldn’t replace the tiles. The dead can’t replace tiles or talk or smile. The dead do not drink Scotch or Irish or Bourbon. For a while, I refused to accept and interpret that Ben was always the tiles she physically replaced in denial everytime. There was no tiles all along and I never saw it! He, Ben- wasn’t as replaceable as she made it seem with the tiles. After all, a smile covers the wound better than a tear because salt stings the wound. In the #16DaysofActivismAgainstGBV coming up, I will speak about WOMEN LIKE Nanjala so that I do not lose another friend and neither should you! You can read more about preventing and responding to GBV here. Let’s voice for ourselves and one another. Share, sensitize and educate. Let’s talk about GBV.
“It was much easier to explain the veil than to answer questions about the wounds”.- Pawan Mishra, Coinman: An Untold Conspiracy