Patrick sat on his bed holding his cup of black tea staring at it as if it were
a puzzle. His mind was recalling a dream he had had a few hours earlier
in which he was chasing a creature with a human body but an animal
head that was holding a piece of gold. The creature had suddenly turned
around and started to chase him. It then stopped and handed him the piece
of gold peacefully. What was this creature? Why was it so indecisive
and how… His thoughts were interrupted by a feeble knock at the door.
As he put his cup of black tea on the table to go and open the door, it was
pushed opened and there she was standing at the entrance staring at him.
She wore a red skirt that reached her knees. The upper most two buttons
of her white blouse were unbuttoned exposing her golden chain. A red and
black kerchief tug around her long black hair. Her face was reddened by
what seamed to him an emotional mixture of hatred, anger, love and a felling
of despair. Her small brown eyes looked dark with tears threatening
to fall anytime.
Without uttering a word, she rushed to where he was and embraced him
tightly as if she would never let go. He could feel the pain inside her. He
knew that her heart had been broken and was bleeding. He wished he could
kiss it all away and reassure her of his love. She finally let go but quickly
held his hand as though if she didn’t he’d run away from her. As she
sat on the bed, her eyes travelled around the room.
It was a wooden house too small to be considered anybody’s home but
big enough for his few belongings. On the left side was the bed with a
long thin sponge for a mattress and a single blanket. He slept on it during
the night and it served as a chair during the day. On the opposite side was
on old wooden table on which lay two cups one with his black tea, a plate,
three spoons, a knife and a pan, which were all the utensils, he owned.
Next to the table were a small stove and a tin lump.
“I’m going to Mombassa for three years”, she finally said. Her voice was
full of tears.
He felt like a red-hot iron had been placed on his skin. He wanted to ask
questions but couldn’t find the words so he just looked at her questioningly.
“My father hired a detective and he knows everything about us”, she continued.
“He said that no daughter of his will have a relationship with a…”,
she paused and looked down.
“Poor illiterate good for nothing social climber”. Her tears now flowed
He felt like he had been stabbed. He hated being blamed for no faults of
his own but he couldn’t let her see his pain. He hugged her and assured
her that their love would pass the test of time.
“I must go”. She said still looking devastated but feeling a little better.
“I’m sure that the detective’s eyes and ears are on me. I fear what dad might
do to you but remember no matter how far apart we shall be, you will always
be in my heart”.
At the door he kissed her goodbye and she left, his eyes followed her. He
thought of that as the last talk, the last kiss and perhaps the last time he’d
see her. He watched her until she disappeared, out of sight but certainly
not out of mind. He could still remember vividly how they had met eighteen
months ago as if it had just been yesterday.
He had woken up bright and early that Thursday morning and gone to Imani
Children’s home. It was a hot dry sunny windless day typical December
weather in central Kenya. The short rains had subsided but their effects
could still be felt. The grass had grown tall and the flower garden
was weedy. The festive season was fast approaching and many people were
becoming more and more mindful of the welfare of the less fortunate.
Some brought clothes, others foodstuffs, few gave balls and other playing
equipments, many donated money but for those who didn’t have much
like Patrick, their energy was all they could give and they gave it whole
He had put his best foot forward and had done an excellent job with the
flower garden. It could never be said of him that he was not a hard worker.
He was now cutting the grass his eyes and mind fixed on his job such
that he didn’t realize her coming.
“Hello”, she greeted him. “My name is Clare”.
“Hello Clare”, he replied turning around to see a pretty girl in her early
twenties smiling at him but her eyes betraying her smile and showing her
loneliness “My name is Patrick”.
“Are you the one who weeded the flower garden?”, she enquired. “I was
here yesterday and I looked like a bush”.
“Yes”, he replied flatly. She was clearly impressed.
“Is this your first time here?”
“No. He found himself explaining to her that this home had fathered and
mothered him for the first sixteen years of his life. His mother had given
birth to him and died, a river having run it’s course. He was among the
pioneer children of this home at a time when they only offered food, clothes
and shelter but not education.
She left but told him that she’d like them to meet on Saturday and get
to know each other. Her parents would be away and she could give the
house help an afternoon off. She told her the exact place she’d have liked
them to meet.
On Friday time seamed to move painfully slow. He thought about her and
was worried that she only wanted to talk to someone that day and would
not turn up. He was even worried that she might turn up but the joy of
seeing her could be outweighed by the shame of rejection by her parents
if they learned of his poverty.
He had no problems locating her at their meeting place on Saturday afternoon
and she took him home. At the gate was a flower garden with red
roses, green China grass, yellowish green verte, hybrid hibiscus that yielded
purple, orange and white flowers and a variety of other flowers he
didn’t know. He was sure that in his twenty-seven years of life, he had
never seen such a beautiful sight.
The house was a massive stone mansion with red carpet on the sitting room
floor. There were four different sets of sofa sets with a golden yellow
polished, mahogany oak made table at the centre of the room. Most of
the electronic goods in this room were foreign to his eyes. On the frames
were valuable stone and woodcarvings that demonstrated the economic
stability and financial ability of this home’s occupants.
She talked of her loneliness and for that he offered her his unconditional
friendship. He talked of his poverty and she was to find him a job
as a driver and gardener in a nearby school. From that day theirs grew
from a casual friendship of suiting each other to a steady strong deep
love but which was kept a secret, only known to them and so it was that
Patrick had never met Clare’s parents.
Patrick closed the door of his room and left for Hekima School absent mindedly.
He was contemplating on Clare’s departure and the creature in his
dream. He began to water the flowers which was his first task. It did not take
a genius to figure out that his work that day left a lot to be desired. The
school’s principal called him late that afternoon and asked him to take three
students who were complaining of abdominal pains to the hospital.
Being the second largest hospital in the district, Kikuyu hospital has various
units; the eye unit, the general unit and a funeral home. In a small
room with a single window that looked like a kiosk, Patrick paid three
hundred shilling as card fee for the students and they were ushered into
the waiting room. The waiting room was a long hallway with wards numbered
1 to 5 on one side and 6 to 11 on the other. When they entered the
waiting room a nurse and a desperate looking woman whose name Patrick
came to realize later was Mrs. Anderson, were making a desperate
plea, not to the patients but to those who had accompanied them. Their
plea however seemed to be landing on deaf ears.
“We have a patient who is in urgent need of blood type B-. If he doesn’t
have a transfusion sooner than later, he’s going to die. If you have
this blood type and you can find it in your heart to, please donate”. The
nurse was saying.
“Please help my husband. Think of him as your brother, your son, your
father or your husband, I’m sure you’d lend a helping hand. Remember
that the hand that gives is the same hand that receives”, Mrs Anderson
Patrick had donated blood before and knew he had blood type B-. He saw
this as an opportunity to give back to the community. And volunteered to
donate. Mrs Andreson’s face now shone with joy as she shook Patrick’s
hand and told him countless thank you. She felt an overweening love for
the young man and wished she could power it out on him. What Patrick
didn’t know was that that woman was Clare’s mother. He was assured that
the students would be treated and taken back to school as he went to the
blood laboratory with the nurse and Mrs. Anderson went to give her husband
the good news.
Mr. Anderson lay on the bed looking weak but his mind still active. He
thought of his enormous wealth, his big house, his thousands acres of
land, his fat bank account, his new expensive car and thought it ironic
that his wealth couldn’t help him now. He thought of the many things
that money couldn’t buy health, kindness, generosity blood and love.
He thought of love. He had sent his one and only daughter to Mombasa
to separate her from the man she loved and get a chance to wipe him
out of existence. Now with death staring at him and knocking on his door,
he wished regretfully that he could see her and give her his blessings
but knew it was too late as the water would spill anytime. He wondered
what kind of a person he was. On one hand he went to church and
gave money to his wife and daughter to donate to the less fortunate in
society while on the other hand he had planned to kill his daughter’s boy
friend. He thought of a Cameroon that changes it’s colour in different
environments to suit itself. He was just like it.
“Honey, we’ve found a donor”, said Mrs. Anderson optimistically. She
always called him honey and had stood by his side through thick and thin.
His joy was her joy and his tears were hers, always offering him a shoulder
to lean on. The doctor entered and asked her to leave and come the
following morning just, as he had asked Patrick after donating.
Patrick arrived the following morning a few minutes after Mrs. Anderson
and went straight to Mr. Anderson’s room. He looked much stronger and
more enthusiastic to live.
“Honey, this is the nice man who donated blood”. Mrs Anderson introduced
Patrick to her husband.
In a second Mr. Anderson scanned Patrick from head to toe and saw not
his poverty portrayed by the clothes he wore but his inner wealth outlined
by his generosity even to strangers. He stretched his hand and held
Patrick’s arm firmly.
“You truly have a heart of gold”. He had begun speaking from the inner
most part of his heart. “You helped me in my greatest time of need. To a
man who is dying of thirst, a glass of water is worth much more than gold.
Anything that you want ask and I will move heaven and earth if I have
to, to give it to you”.
Outside, Clare had just arrived by plane and the nurse had allowed her to
enter the room informing her that the only people who were in were her
parents and the man who had helped her father win the battle for his life.
“I don’t want anything from you Sir”, Patrick said. “I only…”.
The door was opened violently. “Dad, Patrick, Mum”, Clare called out
loudly as she closed the door behind her, went to her Dad’s bedside, knelt
on one knee and kissed him them rose up and embraced Patrick and her
mother. It dawned on them on what their relationships were. Their faces
told of their surprise and disbelief.
The moon shone brightly. A still wind blew softly as if singing a sweet
song of joy and victory to Clare. Standing close to the gate, she could now
see the beauty of the flower garden that so many people had talked about
but her eyes had remained blind to even in broad daylight. She smiled at
the flowers, not the smile of loneliness she once had, no loneliness was
now a part of her history just like poverty was a part of Patrick’s history.
She looked at the countless stars in the sky and the countless people who
had come to be with her this night. Tomorrow she is getting married.