A Toothache, blind date and other stories


Why do toothaches get worse at night? Do they feel the need to fill up the silence and peace that take over from the day’s madness with their stinging conversations with the nerves? Or it it punishment for all the days we (read I) eat Oreo cookies in bed, then get too lazy to go brush? Needless to say, I did not get an ounce of sleep last night. I stayed up reading ‘Dust,’ by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, listening to the water pump humming the night away and judging (mostly cursing) those wretched neighbors walking in at three and not even trying to be discreet. At dawn’s first light, I ran into the bathroom a tired mess thinking of one person, the dentist.

On another day, I would have double checked the contents of my bag. I would have made sure I had the office keys, wallet, kindle and the lemon and strawberry water. Not today. All I could think of was getting that monster away from me. 

The matatu pulled up and the five of us waiting at the stop scrambled in, never mind that it was literally empty. From my seat behind the driver, I thought about how we had gotten so used to fighting our way through everything that even when a situation needed no force, we felt the need to assert our might. When I was not too preoccupied with the pain, I actually noticed what a beautiful morning it was. The sun’s rays sliced through the thick mist making it quite obvious that a takeover was imminent. Little hands locked into bigger ones as mothers walked their children to school. I felt my mood lift as the air got lighter, until the suited guy next to me motioned me to shut the window. I rolled my eyes and took a few seconds before I slid it shut. I winced as at that very moment, someone let out a series of hollow coughs. A toothache from hell was not enough, I had to get TB too?

The conductor was collecting the fare. I reached into my bag, calmly searching the first compartment for my purse. Then the second. Then panic when I couldn’t find it in the third. I repeated the process, almost emptying the contents of the bag onto my lap. Then I saw it. It was lying casually on my bedside table, oblivious of the trouble I was in because of its position. I sighed and looked helplessly at the conductor, “I think I have left my wallet at home. Do you take M-pesa?” He looked at me as if I was the most annoying thing he had ever come across. “Madam unataka kulipa fifty bob na Mpesa? Aii. Tiga wana weh!” He wasn’t going to let me pay through mobile money transfer. His knuckles knocked on the window alerting the driver to stop. “Shuka utafute Mpesa utoe hiyo doe.” No one flinched as I alighted to look for an Mpesa shop at eight thirty in the morning. I watched the matatu speed away as I took in my surroundings. No Mpesa shops. I wanted to cry, but no tears would come out. I just felt my insides flood. 

I must have been a most awful sight, because a man stopped and asked me if I was alright. He listened as I explained my predicament, eyeballing me for potential con woman qualities (I assumed). I could hardly believe my luck when he offered me some cash, enough to get me to town. When I told him I could refund him immediately through Mpesa, he declined and walked away, wishing me a much better day than the crappy morning I was having. I made a mental note to do a Facebook post later to celebrate this rare species of a human being.

I had no appointment, so I sat at the reception hoping for a miracle. The receptionist had already made it clear that the morning slots were all taken, but I wouldn’t budge. Every now and then, she would remind me that they wouldn’t bend the rules just because my tooth was “giving me a little trouble.” Little trouble? Lately I feel like some of these receptionists need to be given a high five, with a chair, on their faces. Little trouble indeed. There was no one else waiting with me. I preoccupied myself with the interior design, wondering why this had not been placed there and that there. When the doctor finally walked out, I gave him the most pitiful look. He asked what procedure I was there for and I said “This tooth is killing me!” The last couple of days had been terrible, so much so that when I walked out of the operating room an hour and a half later, the relief felt like something foreign; like a holiday in Hawaii after a busy year digging up minerals at a quarry in Homabay.

I was suddenly so upbeat that when a client requested a lunch time meeting, I accepted. I never do impromptu meetings but the new burst of life gave me such a confidence boost. I made my way towards the Yala Mall and settled into the leather seats at the Africana restaurant where we had agreed to meet. I ordered a drink then took to sizing up the place. Ever since the the attack on Westgate happened, I always look for possible escape routes available in and around an establishment. It now comes ever so naturally that I don’t think it unusual that I still live in fear of something that happened a while back. Better safe than sorry, is my mantra. I note only one exit and decide to push the anxiety to the back of my mind and focus instead on the people at the lunch tables. I recall one of my writing mentors telling me, “…stories are everywhere. You just need to look, snoop and spy a little…or a lot!” 

I had never met this client before, so I had no idea how she looked. She had however described what she was wearing so I would recognize her when she walked in. A few minutes later, I stood to receive her as she walked towards me, only for her to walk past me to the table next to mine. Confused, I looked at the text she had sent me and then at her. The description was spot on. I stole glances at her every few seconds then finally decided to go ask her if she was Molyne. 

“Get away from me!” She jumped, instinctively picking up the steak knife. “I have seen the way you have been looking at me. What do want?” 

More than the look of terror on her face was the look on mine, shock.

Are you Molyne?

She was Carol

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