Chapter Seven: Okwan

Okwan rolled off her bed into the restaurant.

She had sent Joshua to the slaughterhouse to get fresh matumbo and some maini for the day. On Wednesdays were her worst days; everyone loved matumbo but she hated the process of preparing them. The customers sat down to eat holding the belief that she could deliver on what they paid for. Some days, like today, she felt like pulling out her dreadlocks as one would pluck a chicken. She’d been living in this city for ten years.

The first five involved running for her dear life and the next five setting up a restaurant.

The thought of making her way to the peace of mind she had, made it harder for her to deal with Belinda. There was something about the woman that reminded her of a dead cat by the road. Belinda had soft smooth skin, like the ones she saw on women plastered on billboards. Her face was adorned by a smile that when revealed, lit up her brown eyes. There was also the way she dressed, as though the clothes were privileged to grace her body. It was this last fact, or better yet, that she had hips that everyone at Winmart felt was appropriate for the ideal woman, that made Okwan loathe her. How she came into Okwan’s world and started reigning resulted in sleepless nights. In the dark of the night, Okwan would wake up, go to the kitchen, open the fridge and pour some Viceroy in a cup and drink it while seated on the floor. She would brush her teeth immediately after, trying to mask that scent with some peppermint, but the liquor burned her throat so bad, she would wake up, her voice coarse.

Okwan did not expect to be entertained as soon as lunch time, but when the customers arrived and asked for Belinda, she had the feeling that they were not after her food. She called Belinda and asked the men to sit down and wait. She walked to the corner, which was two steps away from the kitchen door and watched as Belinda approached the men.

“So, it is true Besh, you work here.”

“Hello Jeff and who are your friends?”

“It doesn’t matter Besh, I just wanted to see it with my own eyes. Are you happy doing this?”

“I love working here Jeff.”

“That’s not what I mean and you know it! Why? I mean, are you trying to get back at me for something I did? I don’t know whatever it is but I am sorry, just forget this place and come home.”

“Would you like to order something? We have the ugali-matumbo for lunch today and it’s really tasty.”

“Do you have kienyeji?” asked one of the men.

“Yes we do, may I get you some?”

“Please, I’d love that and then be sure to bring some pepper too, teargas.”

“You’re most welcome.” She walked back to the kitchen and went about serving the men and returned with their meals. She also set a plate of food in front of Jeff and whispered in his ear, “lunch is on me,” before going back to the kitchen. Okwan sank into the plastic chair at the corner waiting, pretending not to care, but she knew the signs all too well.

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