Work finishes early this week so I walk down to Posta, putting something in a letter and sending it back to my grandpa. Each day I chat with the askari from next door; he corrects my Swahili and teaches me something new.
There is purple blossom on the trees and it reminds me of Sitawa’s words a few weeks ago – that, for me, is poetry. And she’s right. In that hot afternoon, I am glad of the light rain on my bare arms, the carpet of purple beginning to form. The path has become familiar to me now: skirting the puddles of still water, greeting the women watering the plants for sale, exhaust fumes from the afternoon traffic. Later, when I wash my face, the water will feel cool and good, will come away soapy brown into the basin.
Mama Betty, her daughters Betty and Mary, and Charro are all barefoot outside my house. They’ve brought me a bowl of boiled maize and two bitter fruits from the garden.
At the railway station in the midday heat, buying my ticket for later that week – an odd double feeling too be leaving this city. At the entrance, the security guy is passed out asleep. It is a beautiful station and its arches and painted trellises make me think suddenly of York, or Paddington – except that it’s almost thirty degrees and the hand painted signs are for MOMBASA, KISUMU, TWICE WEEKLY.
When I wake each day, there is a smell of wood smoke and the sound of Charro’s voice as she leaves for school at seven. She left her school shoes on my step the other day. One, two in step and they’re off. Something about these fragments makes me think of something and I make myself work out what it is. I’m young – maybe only four – and in the early mornings I am up with my mother, the towelling of her dressing gown, the click of the gas stove and burning blue flame, dark still outside. Before we had the dog, our neighbour’s cat would come, slinking around, for a bowl of milk.
I push open the front door to let the morning in, and put a pan of water on to boil.