Happy New Year, Walter.

It was another Saturday morning spent rolling kneaded dough, dipping pieces in hot oil and tossing and turning and packing delicacies.

His second order involved moving from one end of town to the other to deliver samosas, doughnuts and chapatis for a chama meeting. The pay had been good but now as he rolled the dough and looked at the time he felt as though someone was pouring the hot oil steadily along his spine.

Things had started out great and he had more orders and more time to expand his business, but the food industry as he called it had challenges. On one side was the desire to indulge but on the other the desire to keep fit and stay lean. There were gyms springing up in every neighborhood and the first thing he saw on TV at 5am was a fitness show.

His customers could always eat and then burn the calories, but Maureen had suggested maybe adding a fruit basket to every order just to let people know he cared. It was lame. How could he say, “have a doughnut and some fruit after.” It was like saying yes when you meant no, which had never gone down well with him. Then there was Ruth, the woman had been calling and sending him messages asking how he was and looking to meet him. She was beautiful, but it was just that. She was something to look at, but not everyday and he wanted to focus on his business because the bank had loaned him money and were expecting a deposit every month.

It was a new year to most people but to Walter, it was the first step into either debt or the successful establishment of a dream.


Walking Away

Walter looked at the bag he’d set on the table. It was black and empty. There were three t-shirts and a pair of jeans next to it. There was also a black notebook with cut outs of his favorite recipes sticking out of it. He looked at the wall.

He looked around the room before pushing the clothes inside the bag and zipping it up.

His leave was denied but he knew that going to work would not hurt him. Being home and staring at the blank walls hurt his conscience more. When he was handed his salary and bonus, his mind had gone back to his own pastry shop but it took one call from his mother to render him broke. The Bishop was going to visit her and she had to prepare him fish. Did he know that the best size of fish she wanted cost around a thousand shillings? The Bishop was coming with two Deacons, three Lay Readers and some Church members. It would be a shame if they ate ugali and sukumawiki at her house. She would never show her face at the church after that.

He sent her all the money he’d earned for the month of November.

“Listen, my son, you always embarass me with your kindness, are you coming home this year?”

“I wanted to Mama, but I am working over the holidays. How is everyone doing back home?”

“Everyone is just as they are. Mama Nancy’s cow gave birth to two calves and she cannot stop talking about it. Your Uncle broke his leg again running away from some men he’d stolen from, that man will die running I tell you. Hey, your sister, says she needs some money for tuition.”

“How much does she need?”

“Three thousand two hundred and seventy.”

“Okay, you can use some of the money I have sent you to pay for it.”

“Ai! This money will not be enough to take us through Christmas and if I start spending it on everything, what will my visitors eat? Wallie! You know how I like to treat my visitors.”

“Yes Mama. I will see what I can do and thank you Mama for taking good care of us. God bless you.”

“Wallie, are you okay?”

“I am Mama, why do you ask?”

“You sound different my boy and I know you. Something is bothering you, listen do not worry about your sister’s fees we can always work something out, you work hard and it is more than enough. Listen, I want you to come home soon, we have to sit down as a family my son. Please, tell me you will come.”

“I will come home for the New Year, how does that sound?”

“That’s the boy I gave birth to, Wallie! God bless you my son and do not forget to pray, and give thanks to Him.”

“Goodbye Mama.”

He sat back and checked the time by his phone. It was almost noon when he walked out of his bedsitter and made his way to the Restaurant for the afternoon shift.

Each step he took felt lighter, like he was walking away from something that he couldn’t see. He only knew one thing for sure, this time he was not walking away from his dream, but he was rather running towards it.

The Restaurant

Walter cleaned the windows and watered the plants at The Restaurant that morning. He had received confirmation from Equity Bank regarding his request for a loan. They had even offered to have him attend a workshop on Friday on Financial Management and essentially Book Keeping.

He’d called his Mother to tell her the good news and she had gone on her long prayer sessions forgetting that his airtime was limited to subscriber rates. The line went dead just when she got to the “God bless my Sons…” part, and he really wanted to hear the “even though their Father was a reckless man, what, talk of drinking and sleeping wherever, please save my sons from the devil that is Kenya Breweries.”

They knew her prayer by heart.

He’d heard it more than his siblings because he was the one who looked like their Father and even scrunched his face like the man. He was also the one who hated him the most.

He returned to the store room to find Maureen waiting for him.

“So, how did your date go? You never said.”

“It was okay.”

“Nimekataa hiyo! Hutaniosha na maji chafu nikiwa hapa, tell me, what happened because it’s been a week and I have not seen that woman walk through those doors, na vile wanatip poa, hebu sema kabla sijakuharibia jina!”

“Are you threatening me just for a story?”

“Hapana! Sababu ya Telemundo, kwani? So, what happened?”

“The date was good, we talked, had milkshakes and then that was it.”

“So, how is your mom doing?”

“My mom is much better, thanks for asking.”

“Ehe! So, was she really sick ama you were just pulling a ‘woiye!’ stunt?”

“You ask too many questions and why are you inside the store room? This place stinks and it’s dump! You might catch a cold or worse off get bitten by a spider.”

“I’m watching you Walter, you are up to something because you have never been this quiet…I can feel it, you are doing something big.”

Walter looked at Maureen with the corners of his lips twitching, in readiness for a smile or full blown laugh, but he composed himself as he watched her walk out of the store room whistling. He could not tell her about his business.



It will rain

Walter walked into The Restaurant two hours into his reporting time holding an umbrella. He made his way past the lounge, the kitchen and into the changing rooms. He put his bag down and set his umbrella by the wall leaving drops of water on the floor. He rubbed his palms together and checked his phone for messages before switching it off.

He started to remove his jacket when the Manager walked in. She greeted him and handed him his time sheet. There were two kinds of managers that Walter had worked under in the industry. The first was the one who listened and laughed with you or shared a cigarette only to submit a bad evaluation that got you fired. The second were like Priscah; chubby, round like ball gum, cute like a teddy bear but mean as that kid in class one who took your ice from you and beat you to the ground when you started to cry. The woman had been with them for a year and everyone stood still when they heard her heels announce her presence ‘tock, tock, tock!’
“What time have you written there Walter?” she asked.
“Nine thirty.”
“I see, and what time are you supposed to report here?”
“At seven o’clock.”
“Is there a reason why you are this late Walter? And is it a good one?”
“Yes, Madam, there is.”
“What is it?”
“My Mother was referred to Kenyatta Hospital for treatment, and I had to spend the night by her side. I apologize for being late today. I will see to it that she is taken care of by my cousin so I can be here on time.”
“I am sorry about your Mother Walter, but this is your job and customers cannot wait for you to come from Kenyatta to serve them tea. Get ready and take over from Maureen and Joseph.”
“Thank you, Madam.”

He watched her walk out of the room and released the breath he was holding. He looked around the changing room-they had two closets, one belonged to the men and the other the women.

Everything about the place put him on edge, from the lighting to the pay and the staff. His mother would have killed him for that, but he could not tell her that the reason he was late was because he was working on a proposal for that Equity bank loan he needed.

He had been here for two years and that was two years away from his dream.

It was eighteen minutes to ten o’clock when he walked out for one drag. He lit his cigarette and leaned against the wall for that moment of relief. It was still raining even as he smoked, and his old man came to mind for always saying that “women are like rain, if they decide to pour, you can seek shelter, or run, or try and cover yourself with an umbrella but they’ll still pour.”


Lunch with the Lady.

“It’s okay, I am really glad you agreed to come I know you must be tired having worked like a slave the whole week. I mean, don’t you get tired of being around tables and food and restaurants in general?”

“Sometimes I do, but it’s my job and it pays the bills so I tend to let it be what it is.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. Okay, so what do you want to talk about?”


“Okay, what do you want to know about me?”

“What do you do and what do you like?”

“I am in HR. I have a couple of side gigs and all mainly doing exhibitions. I like dancing and shopping, that’s what I can think of right now, but I also like to meet people get to know them and things like that.”

“Great because I cannot say that I like dancing, or shopping-but since I love to bake I always find time to shop for ingredients and cooking utensils.”

“You bake? Like cake cake?”

“Yes, cake cake.”

“Sheesh! That is great, like I don’t know any guy who bakes, like seriously, do you also cook and stuff?”

“I do stuff, and yes, I cook sometimes. I have never slept hungry with food in the house.”

“You are serious Walter, aren’t you?”

“You find me funny?”

“No, yes. Wait, no, it’s just that…ghai! You love baking, I am impressed!”

“Do I get the job then?”

“What job?”

“It’s just sounded like an interview right there.”

“Now you are being funny! But listen, you know I do exhibitions and events like that, so how about we have some of your stuff for our clients to snack on and things like that, I’m sure it could be great.”

“Thanks, we can work on that.”

“Sure and hey is it cool if I ask you something, I mean, we barely know each other and I don’t want to offend or get in your business or something, but do you smoke?”

Walter looked at Ruth, her brown eyes that had once held him in his place were on her milkshake. She used her straw to swirl the drink around, but in that time she did not meet his eyes.

He thought of Bella, that chick he’d dated in campo, who kissed her anywhere they were. They had been voted best couple the night before they broke up because she felt like he was going to die of cancer and leave her behind. Bella had clearly never watched A Thousand Ways to Die! He looked at Ruth thinking of all the ways he could get past this, but he was done with secrets. If she was into him then he would not pretend.

He pulled out the pack of Embasssy Lights he had in his pocket and pushed it towards her glass. She looked at it and slowly lifted her eyes to meet his.

“Is it a turnoff?” He asked.

“No, I am not sure. I haven’t been around a guy who smokes, it’s just that I saw you some day in town and you were smoking, and it was like…”

“A blow?”

“No, like an hallucination.”


“You are an Embassy Lights kinda guy…okay, but you do know that cigarette smoking is bad for your health and cancer is real and stuff like that.”

“It’s written on the pack. I read it every time I pull out a stick and light it. I hear it in my head when I take my first drag, and when I puff, It’s there in that white cloud of smoke, and it goes on until I step on that stub and continue with my work. I also believe it’s “cigarette smoking is harmful to your health.”

“I’m sorry. I did not mean to piss you off.”

Walter shrugged and took his pack of cigarettes and tucked it neatly into his pocket careful not to mess it up. He wanted to say it was okay, but the words could not make their way past his throat. He could see it happening, being high on love and then down when it went wrong. It was Bella and campo all over again and he was not doing that again.



Niko kwa jam, nacome.

Ruth knew the flats looked good but she would have worn the converse instead. It was cold and wet as she made her way to Pizza Inn before one.
She couldn’t believe they were finally meeting.
It was too much too soon but she wanted to know. Her mother always told her she thought with her feet while her brain was still wearing shoes gearing to work.
There was nothing special about Walter.
He was a man.
He was working like  most men in Nairobi.
He knew the streets, and knew how to use his words and smile. She had often wondered how easy it was for women to smile. If they thought of something they smiled. If they were complimented they smiled. Men on the other hand, reserved their smile for a goal. They unleashed it like a Canon ball to get what they wanted.
She walked to the counter and ordered a milkshake.
It was ten minutes past one.
She paid for her milkshake, secured a seat and then pulled out her phone to call Walter.
“Hey, are you already there?”
“Yes, and you?”
“Stuck in traffic, give me ten minutes, I will be there.”
Walter alighted at Muthurwa and made his way past lots of people to Kencom. He realized he was sweating when he brushed past a woman as he was crossing the road which made him stop for a minute to catch his breath. He looked around and then straightened himself and slowed down as he walked into Pizza Inn.
He pulled out his phone from his pocket and dialled Ruth’s number.
“Where are you seated?”
“I’m upstairs.”
“Sure,will be getting there. What can I get you?”
“Am good, maybe a vanilla milkshake.”
Walter approached the counter and placed his order and then paid the lady. He made his way upstairs looking around hoping to spot Ruth before she spotted him but luck was not on his side. She smiled and rose when he approached her table.
He gave her order and she placed it on the table and reached out for a  hug.
“You look great Walter. Ulikuwa wapi?”
“Imagine kwa jam, when you called I was hapo Muthurwa thinking, I should just walk, so I was like nacome.”


Oh, Walter, what did you do?

Walter arrived at Maureen’s place to find that she had gone out.

He called her and after two rings she answered, her voice barely audible on the other end. She was coming. He had to wait for like three minutes.

He set the boxes of donuts and kaimati on the step outside her bedsitter and pulled out a cigarette. It was eleven o’clock.

At half past eleven, Maureen came dragging her feet bearing the longest lasting grin he had ever seen on her face. He stood and took a step back inhaling the whiff of cheap liquor on her.

“You couldn’t even buy PK? Ama Fresh?”

“Shut up! I was at this cool party in the next court. Free booze and nyam chom! Hebu get my keys from my bag because I swear I think my fingers have tripled in size, aren’t they just fat?”

“You can drink the whole of EABL but your speech can never be slurred, I don’t know how you do it. So, who invited you to this free cheap booze party you went to?”

“Eish! Wacha kucatch feelings, you are not my boyfie.”

“Good! Come in, and have a seat, or maybe just go to bed. I will deliver these to the houses, just give me that list and I will get right on it.”

“Check on the stool, next to that stove in the kitchen.”

“You put a client list next to the stove?”

“It’s on the wall! And go away, I don’t need you judging me and acting like some god, when you are as nasty and the chairman of team mafisi here in Nai! Just go.”


“Don’t Walter. Just take a picture of that list or pull it off the wall, whatever, and leave.”

“Thanks Love.”

“Yeah, whatever!”

He took three pictures careful to zoom in as much as he could to get all the names and their pastry of choice before he left. It was noon and he had to make it to town for his date with Ruth.

Maureen stood as soon as she heard Walter shut the door behind him. She looked at the kitchen and smiled. There were these feelings that she’d summoned and kept locked in her heart when she started working as Walter’s partner. She could look forward to seeing him every Saturday morning with his boxes of pastries smiling at her, but today was different. He was going to see Miss Boss.

That girl had better treat Walter right, or else her friends could make her not drive that posh car of hers again. It was almost one when she got into the shower and took in the cold water as it merged with her tears giving her the warmth she needed.