I tuned my car’s stereo and stopped where a saxophonist was playing jazz- sorrowful jazz about a wounded lover. The tone depicted raw love and heartbreak and made me get lost in the track. Traffic from Thika to Nairobi was unusually light being on a weekday so I was doing one twenty kilometers per hour comfortably. The Toyota engine buzzed silently as I pressed the gas pedal to the floor. I was at 130 km/h, Hold me in your arms by Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston was now playing and the day was Valentines. The harmony created was so perfect that I let loose and reflected on my past life and sang along. Then from the blues, at the overpass after Githurai forty five, a man jumped on the highway about three meters from my speeding car. I closed my eyes.
First let me introduce myself. My name is Mandi, not Carole Mandi, but a lady by the same name. My life has always been complicated and hard. I did not get the chance to be brought up in a well off family but against all the odds I made it somehow. I am the third born child and first born daughter of my parents who live past Kilimambogo in Ukambani. The area is dry and productive agriculture is impossible there. We were farmers who reared sheep, goats and cows besides the small scale plant farming my mother practiced and it was by sheer luck and God’s overwhelming grace that I made it to Kyeni Girls High School. That by itself was a community dream come true. The then area Member of Parliament promised to pay for my fees, several other personalities promised to cater for my upkeep but those were only words and soon after we bade goodbye did it become good riddance. Anyway that did not deter my secondary school education as my parents, the chief and neighbors came together and saw me through. I am always indebted. Their gesture was too big to take in for a small girl and to show my gratitude, I vowed to work hard. I got the grades, I got the admissions and scholarships. Before I knew it I was a model for many to emulate. I have given a thousand speeches to girls’ schools, and another thousand to youth organizations up to the date. From campus, where I sat at the top of many organizations, I got a job almost instantly. I worked with Equity (grateful for their wings to fly initiative) before moving to Old Mutual. I took a master’s degree in project management and by twenty seven I was the most sought after fundraiser manager in the market. I sounded successful and genius but I had forgotten to live my life. I was fixated on routine and career progression that I forgot about myself, my inner self was hurting something which I realized at thirty. It was during a mentee’s wedding reception party when the revelation came through. On our shared table were couples; some married, some dating and then on the far end was me and my clutch. At the table nobody discussed career achievements or the next few years, they talked about the last outing at Mara Serena Safari Lodge or the upcoming couples’ retreat and team building at Sagana. A dating couple even held hands and did really childish things. They seemed so normal so alive and before long I faked a call and made it to the ladies. I looked at myself in the mirror, there was loneliness and boredom all over my face. Tears came and I let them flow, I had denied myself and I got it at the reception. I lived my life to appeal those around me. I was thirty, never tried a hand at dating or even taken a sabbatical to just be with myself. That explained the worry on my mother’s face or the grin I received at work.
“Mandi what’s up?” it was the wedding girl, my mentee who was four years my junior.
“I must have choked on something but I am alright,” I had replied to her query, hoping to disguise the truth but she had seen it all.
She opened up her hands and I trying not to be a meanie head went all in for a bear hug. It was me in ruins but I wouldn’t let it spread to her day.
“I am so sorry, I always thought that I was normal. I will do something about it,” I spoke to let it off my chest.
“Come to the dinner party tonight. There will be a lot of potentials.”
I took a one year sabbatical at thirty one and toured the world. It was therapeutic with photographs taken under the moonlight at the Eiffel tower after shopping in Paris, sunset watching in Barcelona, Italy was one of a kind and the Caribbean’s sealed my world tour. I learned a lot about myself during the six months I was away and I thought it would have turned out better with a soul mate. Upon returning to Kenya, I quit employment and started off on my own, I was doing consultancy and freelancing as a project manager. Starting off a new hustle meant interacting a lot with people and my eyes were not blind to suitors too. I have to accede, dating in Kenya is one of the hardest hurdle overcome, I envy the happily married ones. I met frogs and kissed some, I met a knight in shining armor, I got a prince charming but all wanted to have fun first. I was turning thirty three and my biological clock was almost ringing so I compromised on the fun. I bled badly for a husband and babies; babies who would play in the front yard as I washed the dishes. I wanted to see them run to their father when he came home and him throwing them in the sky and holding them as they came down. I wanted a family.
I met a client, he was poor then. He had just been fired from his job after he demanded a pay rise and had not saved much. The reason that led him to my office in Thika is unelaborate up to now; my focus was on consultancy and project management and my clients were mainly microfinance institutions and banks but he came to me as an individual. He was interested in real estate, had no university education at all but I could tell he was the outgoing type. He talked on for an hour and I concluded that he just needed a listening ear but surprisingly I listened on. Before long he was a regular client at my office, I talked less and listened more, he was not stopping at anything until he achieved what he wanted. As a lady who has never known what I want, coming across a man who fought for his goals I developed a soft spot for him. After five months of him seeing me at the office, he invited me over for a field day at the tract of land he was planning to take a loan to buy and develop it.
“I am no realtor but since you never quit I will come over,” I replied.
We had lunch; nyamachoma and mukimo at Kamakis on our way from seeing the land. He was so convincing, witty and single. I had met my mate and the rest was history.
On this particular Valentine’s I was driving to meet him, Justin. It was a surprise venue and all I had to do was to pick him up at six o’clock at Roysambu. It would not be a surprise if he proposed then because if he didn’t, I was.
A suicidal man had jumped from nowhere and I hit and ran over him, two quick bumps and silence ensued. I checked from my driving mirror and saw him, he wasn’t even throwing kicks; he just lay lifeless like a pile of abandoned clothes. I wanted to jump out of the car and rush him to the hospital but I had heard stories of how a mob reacted to a hit and run to rescue driver. I pushed my ever-good conscious aside and sped on but that did not save me from receiving a stone on the rear mirror. From the side mirror I could see a crowd gather around the spot, watching as blood welled around the temple of the man. Whether it was suicidal or accidental, fact remained I had killed a man on Valentine’s Day. He was looking forward to a warm night with a lover but my careless driving cut that short. The lady was waiting for a surprise just like me and more than a surprise she received,” your guy was ran over by a drunk driver.” She would yell and it wouldn’t solve a thing, she would result to crying silently on her floor.
“Justin, I’ve just hit a man and I am driving to Kasarani Police Station to make a statement…” I spat out as soon as he picked up the call.
“God! Meet you there.” I hang up. I feared that the touts at Roysambu had received a message and they would hunt me down but I drove on. The front bumper was either down or bloody from the stance pedestrians gave my car. The image of the man, on the grey tarmac never left my mind and still haunted me as I stepped out of the car at the police station. I avoided looking at the bumper and walked to the reception, praying that they believed me and did something. Justin arrived in a cab as soon as I started recording my statement. He made it easy and the policemen believed me more, not that I cared if they did not.
“I am so sorry,” he said as he led me out and I cried in his arms. Afterwards he accessed the damage on my car, it was way less than the damage inside me. The police did a follow up, took the body to a mortuary and cleared me to go home.
“Mandi,” the woman officer at the reception called me,” it was an accident, the man was careless to attempt to cross the road there. Your speed was slightly above the limits but even at eighty kilometers an hour you would have done nothing. On the bright side, you hit him squarely on the head and he died on spot, no pain and little blood. Inform your insurance agency of the accident and go home.”
It felt like she was congratulating me but I ignored her anyway.
“Where would you love to go?” it was Justin.
“Let’s just go to your house as I sink this in.”
We took a taxi and drove in silence, he held my hand over his lap and allowed me to sob it out. Killing love on its day was hard to take in but at least there was a shoulder to cry on.