Anticipate the Rains

Kama has a rude face. Or at least that was my first impression of him when we met. He bears a face you would imagine behind a hangman’s mask — the face of a man who would enjoy dragging you to the gallows. If you ask me, he might as well be skilled in making a guillotine.

It must be interesting living behind his face. I bet his debtors always pay on time (Must be some brave chaps to be his debtors in the first place.) But I digress.

I met Kama on a construction site, hard hat and all, literally building a dream into life. In retrospect, I would describe him as the proverbial book that’s not to be judged by the cover. But hey, who doesn’t check the book’s cover before picking it off the shelf?

Well, having cleansed and justified my first impression of Kama, I would say Kama is the center-of-the-party kind of fellow. He is the kind of folk blessed (or cursed?) with a tongue that strikes a conversation with anything or anyone, at any time, seamlessly. It’s a rare skill from my parts of the world. He is an amiable gent — you might dare say.

We sit to a cup of hot tea overlooking his battalion of construction men at work. Men who he forbids from endearing him with any titles. He loves going by his name. And only his name. No titles.

And he loves his tea hot, very hot. I wish I knew this earlier, I think to myself while holding back the tears.

“You must love serving children tea,” I retort, resting my hot tea on the table. Kama gives off a hearty laugh, and then his eyes wander off, contemplating. It’s as if he searches for a distant memory hidden on the horizon.

The mention of children seems to spark a string of thoughts. It’s a bitter-sweet word. He describes his children with a father’s pride, a spark of joy dancing in his eyes. The firstborn is a three-year-old boy — a boy fashioned after him.

“I walked into the labor room, and the nurses and doctors in an instant figured I must be the father,” he recalls, a broad smile stretched on his face. Such memories he notes are his life’s reels. Memories he holds dear.

He has a two-year-old daughter. A daughter they named after his late mother. A daughter he cherishes and adores very much. He refers to her as ‘the key to his heart.’

“She’ll be turning three this year,” he remarks with a somewhat somber tone, “She must have grown taller now.” The dance in his eyes now replaced with a quiet emptiness.

“I had a beautiful and cheerful wedding,” he begins, “Followed by an exciting honeymoon in the rocky mountains of Mount Kinangop. Two weeks later, we came back home. Though, I guess our marriage never found its way out of the rocky mountains. It stayed on there for too long.”

Two beautiful babies later, they couldn’t stand each other. They both went their own separate ways. The kids had to go with their mother as they were still on mama’s milk.

“At the time, it was best for them to stay with their mother.”

A father — used to the cries of his babies welcoming him home. A father — used to the eye bugs that laid claim and marked the first months with their newborn. A father — used to the heart-warming joy from the toothless grin of the small humans as they looked into his eyes. A father — always eager to get home and see his offspring. Though still a father, he is now greeted by the silence in his house. A house he is hesitant to describe as a home. A constant reminder of his kids. He is learning how to warm the home, to embrace the silence, to be a father on his own, very much on his own.

He sometimes gets to talk to the kids via phone and meet up with them. He gets to hear “papa” in the kids’ funny accents. He gets to feel complete and driven again — his energy renewed, joy beaming from his face.

Kama is not a fan of shopping, far from it. He feels overwhelmed by the endless rows of items on the supermarket aisles.

“But when I’m going to meet my kids, nothing beats the pride and excitement of walking out of the supermarket with gifts in hand,” he adds.

He only wishes that they would meet and talk more often. That he would be able to count how many times they have met in a year well beyond his fingers.

“When are you coming home, papa?” The boy sometimes asks.

Kama grew up in the highlands. A son to hardworking farmers. They tilled the land, hoe in hand, in anticipation of the rains. They weeded and pruned their farms. Early in the morning, they woke up and headed to the farm. The farm was all they had, and they tended to it the best way they knew how. The farm blessed them with good harvests, and they would sing and whistle as they loaded their bags. They had food for their bellies and sometimes enough to sell.

Other times, they got nothing but sickly and dried up plants. Under their silent demeanors, they would grieve and sigh, counting their losses. Still, with the hope of future harvests, back to the farm they would go. Hoes on shoulders, to tend to the farm again.

Such is Kama’s view on life. “Life is that farm. Every waking day, you tend to it (or not), whether consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. But in anticipation of the rains, you must always tend to your own life, pruning, weeding, and adding fertilizer. Sooner or later, you will reap a harvest. So, always expect the rains.”

First published on Medium @mbatiawrites

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