The impending brutality of departures makes itself known when there are no more safe words to use. The city, cold and grey in the early morning light, flits by, unfeeling, almost relishing in what’s about to happen. I say, “Oh look at that bus darling. Look at the lights. It’s like a Christmas tree.”
He looks gravely at me from the back seat and smiles, “Yes.”
I’m grasping at straws already.
“I know you’re going to feel a little homesick but your school is wonderful. I am so happy that you’re there,” I lie, trying to make things better.
He doesn’t answer me.
“Oh look. There are the aeroplanes.”
They stand like giant tin sausage dogs, queued up outside, branded tails in the air.
A hand tightens over the heart.
There is a queue outside the security gate into International Departures.
I carry his bag. He let’s me.
“Do you want to take the chocolate biscuits?” He chose them yesterday at the Karen Dukkas.
“No thanks, ma. You keep them.”
He clutches The Red Pouch, with his tickets, his passport and his Yellow Fever Book.
“Whatever you do, don’t lose that eh? Then you’ll be stuck…” and I laugh lightly, ruffling his hair.
The line shuffles closer to the gate. The silence descends. There are no more safe words.
I remember to be Queen Elizabeth as my throat starts to clench. For godsake keep it together, woman. Nations are at stake here. It works for now.
I haul his black bag onto the roller, the x ray machine swallowing it up fast. He turns. We daren’t look each other in the eye. He hugs me fiercely. I hold onto him for as long as I can. He pulls himself away, rushes through the gate without looking back and disappears in a blink into the mayhem of Jomo Kenyatta International. It’s so final.
I don’t care that people see my face crumble. I walk blindly out into a pallid, blurry Nairobi morning and cry at the railings. I rummage in my bag to find the lip ice he gave me last night. I was looking for some in the dukkas yesterday but failed. He remembered before he went to bed last night.
“Here ma. Have this one. I don’t need it.”
I know it’s just lip ice but it was the kindness, the thoughtfulness of his action. I find it, put some on and hold it in my hand.
I cry the entire way from Kenya to Tanzania.
Who knew I had this many tears? I could’ve cried a new river for all of Maasailand.
I know everything will be fine in the end. But one thing I know, farewells are, for me anyway, brutal.
Kitchen Board: Sunday 13 Jan 2013 (auspicious or what?)
aaargh. the chickens are restless. they need food. we need eggs. bring on the monday shopping ritual.
toodely toot, y'all. bisous. X.X.X. softly. x j