I wasnt here last week. I made a commitment I know but things happen, and as you read this I’m knocking on a tall girl’s door. But more on that later. Now I hand over the mothership’s keys to our usual guest; Mwaniki Nyaga. He wrote this piece amid a short notice and sent it to me on sato. He always forgets to capitalize, this lad. But I like him, he says things. He titled this one: Of Ice And Heat Waves. I’ll be back next week friends.
Of Ice And Heat Waves
By Mwaniki Nyaga.
The air is dry and almost choking. She wants to close the window but it’s intensely hot inside the van. She also needs a distraction – she gets car sick. Far in the horizon, a silhouette of the much revered Sphinx paints itself against the setting sun. She itches to reach for her phone but recalls she hadn’t charged it the previous night. Obviously, it was off now.
“Phones should charge with heat”, she thinks to herself. “I’d place it in the fold behind my knee and cross my legs all the while – a lifetime of charge, what a simple solution!”
She stares into the horizon, taking in the silhouette. Maybe that’s the inspiration she needs to sit down and push the pages on her manuscript that gathering night. But wait, she’s in Egypt for only a few nights. Why waste such a chance behind an electronic screen? No. She will conjure up her power of recall when she gets back home and pen it all down. The plan for now… simply get lost.
“Wake up. Start walking in any direction really, and get lost. Wonder the streets until you’re so terribly weak that you have no choice but to stop at the nearest cafe and order something wonderful to eat…and then set back out and do it all over again.”
Words from her friend Minerva which rang on in her head at the thought of getting lost. “Is that really practical though, getting lost in Cairo?” The voice in her head continues, “The unbearable heat, the gusts of hot dry air, the human-filled streets with nearly no space to interact with your shadow?” Maybe she’ll pass. Maybe it’s better to draw the curtains closed, make a hot cup of peppermint tea, and get lost in her words. Her words that create castles behind a dim-lit screen, words which may one day get noticed, words which may one day change the life of another.
Such are the conflicts that have always plagued her – this closeted writer. She is ever unsure, almost hesitant about the next word she’ll write. Will it tie itself to the previous one? Does it make sense? Does any of it matter? Why not keep all these thoughts to myself? After all, with time, they will fade in memory and leave me in peace. But what is peace? Is this vapid state of idealess wonder, peace? Has the world itself ever been at peace? Aren’t there always wars, community clashes, political conflicts or natural calamities whichever way you turn?
At the back of her mind she thinks, but fails to give voice, to war as an integral part of life. That in an ideal state of no conflict, life as we know it wouldn’t be life. It would be something outside ourselves. It would be utopia. What then would our aspirations be? What would we be left yearning for in a state of peace? Maybe charging phones by heat would finally be actualized. Haha.
Well, this isn’t a commentary about war and peace. It’s an expression of her love for ice and its chill. In this stuffy van, with half the windows unable to be pried open, she thinks back to her time with grandma.
Holding an ice cube in the hand, tenderly at first then in a tight fist, then tenderly once more. It’s quickly turning into liquid – a comfortable kind of cold. She closes her eyes and concentrates on the part of her skin under the ice. “Magnified, is this how death by freezing feels?”, the voice in her head asks itself, “well, that’s a torturous concentrating way to watch life leave you…” It continues on as she lets go of the cube that is now only half its initial size.
She fills the mug a quarter-way with more ice cubes, holding it by its side. She’ never really seen the point of having an ear on a cup. Why not feel the warmth, or lack thereof, of the fluid which either way is headed inside you? She’s always looked forward to this time of year. When, in the afternoon, after playing at the sand pit with her host of friends, the heat would become unbearable and they’d all be forced to run into their homes for a mug of iced water. The first one out would be given the privilege of booking a spot to build her castle first.
Patience was never really her strong suit. Thus, she adds a little lukewarm water to the rest of the mug to speed up the thawing of the ice and to satisfy her fascination with feeling. Closing her eyes, she pictures the ice slowly breaking apart and spreading its chill to the water around it. Holding it with both her arms, bringing it close, almost touching her lips, she savors each gulp as it slowly falls into her stomach, quite like a waterfall.
And quite like a waterfall, she feels water trickle down her face. Her young sister giggles gleefully with that juvenile angst that she can’t help but smile widely. Egypt ,might turn out to hold memories yet to be made.