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The East African : March 10th 2014
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE MARCH 8-14,2014 sho≥t sto≥y of Kampala. But Matthew had to fight hard to stop himself from wrapping his arms around the rider’s waist. He thought he would fall off every time the rider leaned the bike to one side taking a corner or going around a vehicle stuck in the evening traffic. Whenever they hit a pothole in the road, he nearly fell off the boda boda. Balikowa was already there, talking to a woman. She recognised him before he remembered her. With a squeal, she jumped up from her blue plastic chair. Ululating in a high pitched voice, she threw herself at him that he had to grab her in an embrace. They greeted each other like a mother and son who had been apart for many years. He was so happy to see her. “Mama Nyeko, you have not changed!” he lied. She stood away from him before she pulled him in another embrace. “You’re a big man now!” she said. She was much thinner now, brittle, like he could break her like a twig if he hugged her too hard. He held the bony hands that had served him beers all his four university years. Mama Nyeko left them. “She owns the place now,” Balikowa said. “The building?” Mathew asked. Balikowa grinned, thanked the waitress greening their table. “Yes, the building.” Matthew whistled, “How many beers did we drink here, again?” Matthew watched the waitress sashay away. Balikowa stopped filling his glass, the foam breathing, “That’s Nyeko’s daughter.” Matthew stared at Balikowa wide- Illustration: John Nyagah Meet you≥ daughte≥ M By David Tumusiime atthew Babinaga was going to say no. He knew this already. But he was going to attend the meeting anyway because Joel Balikowa had been desperate to see him. Balikowa was one of the few friends he still had from his university days, and he did not want to drop him. Balikowa had been trying to meet Mat- thew for two days. They should have met already but Balikowa had been strange; calling for a meeting but evasive. Matthew would have preferred to meet at his house, like they sometimes did. Cold Tuskers in hand, talking. But Balikowa had refused, “The children won’t leave us alone and you know your wife will insist I stay for dinner.” But Balikowa did not want to come to Matthew’s Nakasero office either. Neither did he want to meet over lunch. Matthew had tried to entice him by suggesting that they meet for this lunch at Javas, near Balikowa’s Crested Towers office in Kampala. Balikowa would not have to even drive from his office. He could walk down to Oasis Mall, chuckling to himself at the frowning motorists stuck in lunchtime traffic. Balikowa had turned down meeting at Javas. That would not work for him. “Thirty minutes are not enough for what I need to talk to you about. Lunchtime Javas is not the place for it,” he said. Matthew began to worry, though he tried not to think too much about it. “Did Balikowa want to borrow money?” He did not lend money to friends. He would tell them, “I like you too much to lend you money. Money comes between friends.” His own father, a church accountant, had never lent him a single shilling. Not even when Matthew stood to miss his last commerce paper at the university. His father, unperturbed, polishing his shoes, had said, “Don’t kneel for me, kneel and pray to God to give you the money.” Balikowa called and told him, “Remem- ber that Wandegeya joint we used to hang out at? Let’s meet there.” Matthew tried to get out of the meeting. He did not want to be in a bar on a Monday evening, “The traffic jam on Bombo road is murderous at this time, and I’m driving.” But Balikowa would not let him go. “Don’t worry, I’m driving too. Hop onto eyed, “Little Nyeko had a daughter? Impossible! Unbelievable! When?” Balikowa looked around. The other drinkers were far enough, “Don’t you remember?” Matthew could not lift the bottle to his a motorbike. I will drop you off after the meeting. We will use the Ministry of Public Service route. You need to see this place. It is like it is still 1998 here.” In their circle at university, they used to call it Balikowa’s Place because he had discovered it. Matthew had not been there since they had finished their studies at Makerere University, and he was not sure he wanted to go back. No boda boda rider appeared when he got to the gate, so he chose Peninah Obusingye’s rider. He took her all over town whenever she had to run office errands. Peninah trusted him. “Ride carefully. I want to arrive alive,” Matthew cautioned the rider. The rider was a big man with a reced- ing hairline and a slight paunch like he enjoyed his meals, “Of course, boss,” he replied. “We also don’t want to die under the wheels of a Kampala Benz. Customers are the ones who force us to ride recklessly.” He waited until Matthew was seated comfortably and indicated he was ready. They were off with a jerk. Matthew thought he would hold his breath the entire ride although they were not going fast. Other boda bodas were zipping past them on the Nakasero roads which were smoother than most others tried to get out of the meeting. He did not want to be in a bar on a Monday evening.” ‘‘ Matthew mouth. There had been too many nights a long time ago. Nights of dancing on Deep Blue’s packed dance floor, nights after the dances arms around each other’s waists touching before the last calls for food. Oh yes, dawns in his university room, sweating, urging each other not to scream in case the neighbours heard, but she could not always help herself. There had been nights. “But she did not say anything!” Mathew hissed, looking over his shoulder to see where Mama Nyeko was. “You did not tell me you were going to Stockholm. You were just not there in 1999,” Balikowa said. Matthew swallowed his first gulp of the evening, leaned back. His hands were trembling on the arm rests. “Where is Nyeko? Where is the mother of my daughter?” Balikowa nodded towards the road. Matthew followed his gaze. From across the road, a woman got out of a car and started walking towards them. Nyeko. IX Send in your previously unpublished 1,200word fictional short story to eastafrican@ ke.nationmedia.com with “Magazine Short Story” as the subject.
March 3rd 2014
March 17th 2014