By Patrick Ngugi
[If you missed Part One, get it HERE]
We went for a long walk with Miriam as catechist accompanied Otish’s mother and the boys to the city to buy them school uniforms, books and other stuff that they would need for their new class.
This was after Miriam and I regained our composure after the initial shock of meeting after so many years.
There was so much to catch up between us, the ex-love birds who had suffered a ‘cruel’ separation almost a decade earlier.
‘’So you are now a priest… at least you realized your dreams,’’ she said nonchalantly, looking ahead, as if she was not speaking to me, her eyes shimmering, reflecting the bright morning that faced us.
‘’Yes, Miriam, it was a calling that I had to heed,’’ I responded in a tone that sounded as if I was being defensive; or justifying the apparently selfish move that had made her eyes cry dry in despair so many years ago.
‘’its okay,’’ she said sniffing, took a handkerchief and blew her nose. There was a brief but heavy silence between us. For some reason, I could not say anything. How could I ask how she had been? The effect of my action a decade ago was walking right here beside me in a sorry state. A prostitute with an illegitimate child, or a bastard as some quarters would like to call it.
As if she had read my mind amid the thick silence, as she said, ‘’Look at what happened to me. I became a pathetic bitch, a whore, a wreck. Someone who cannot even take care of her own child. I fear for him Javan, I need help. I’m almost becoming alcoholic,’’ she said her every word and syllable spelling pain.
I placed my arm around her shoulder to console her, ‘’Do not worry my dear. All is well; I will help you to get back to your feet. See I have already decided to educate Kim and his friend. You should not worry.’’
We then sat on a bench at a far end of the mission school’s football field and she told me her story, reminding me how devastated she was when I told her that we would have to end our relationship since I was going to the seminary and would not be available for her anymore.
I was going to become a man of God and she should look for another man to take my place since the call in me was too strong.
I remember that after her tears, she had looked at me beseechingly and said she would let me go and never think of me again, but only after I granted one wish, which was to spend one last night with me as a final farewell, after which she promised she would never bother me ever again, giving me the much needed time to concentrate in my studies and calling.
As per her request, I smuggled her into my cubicle that night and we had a quality romantic night together. I did not have to worry about smuggling her out the following morning because my parents and only younger sister always left early for work and school, so after breakfast, I escorted Miriam to their gate, two estates away.
Looking over our shoulders we hugged and kissed passionately, and almost tearfully bade each other the last goodbye, or so it seemed.
Somehow, she said, she had managed to move on with her life, despite painful emotions she underwent after our mutually agreed separation. However before she completed her course in accountancy, just about a year after we parted, she was kicked out of the house by her parents when she became pregnant with Kim.
‘’I was just about to complete my course when they kicked me out. I could not continue since I couldn’t pay for the rest of the course and examination fee,’’ she said.
‘’How about the boy… Kim’s dad. Didn’t he take responsibility?’’ I found myself asking.
She looked at me abruptly… Her eyes shining, with a film of tears playing on them. At first I thought the question had embarrassed her, but no. She smiled, and looked away. ‘’Never mind him. He just disappeared, and I’m not even sure how to get him.’’
‘’Why, did he know he had a child? Is that why he disappeared?’’ I asked
‘’Please let’s not go there. It’s all in the past. I chose to let go and move, the moment he disappeared on me,’’ said Miriam as she wiped her eyes with the handkerchief.
I could see the questions were distressing her, and so I decided not to prod further. At least she had a bright and handsome son; all that mattered was to take care of Kim and prepare a good future for him.
Luckily, she said, as she continued with her story, a friend took her in, and helped her when she delivered, taking care of her throughout Kim’s infancy until when he was about two years old, when her friend Betty Kawaru had to relocate, after getting employment in different town.
However helped Miriam settle by stocking a small food kiosk for her and left enough cash for her to pay house rent for at least three months, as she got organized.
Her main wish now was to complete her accountancy course, get a job and take care of her son, but things did not work as she had planned, particularly when Betty stopped sending any more help, and since her kiosk business was not doing well she was kicked out of the house due to unpaid rent.
She to move to Ting’ong’o slum where the rent was cheaper, from where she could also run a new grocery business and charcoal selling. Mama Otis was one of her first friends she made in Ting’ong’o, and also helped her set up a charcoal selling business next to her vegetable kiosk.
‘’Still I could not cope, a male friend one day bought me some drinks at a local pub. One thing led to another. My kiosk business went haywire, and I would regularly seek solace in drinking in order to forget my woes. Since the business was not doing well I found myself seeking another source of income, ‘’ she said.
‘’Yes,’’ she said without blinking, though looking ahead of her.
‘’But I want to stop. I have been trying hard, but without success. Without any other source of income it is difficult, and Kim has to eat,’’ She said trying to put on a brave face, but I could see tears threatening to fall. The handkerchief wiped them off once again.
After consoling her, and promising to try and get her a job, so long as she tried to kick the addiction, she promised she would try hard and do away with prostitution if she could get a decent job.
‘’I will get you a part time job at the mission, only if you promise me one thing,’’ I said.
‘’What is that, Javan?’’ She asked, staring at me with genuine interest, her eyes showing traces of her once beauty.
‘’You have to promise to stop drinking. The best way to do that is to join our Alcoholic Anonymous group, and if you go through the programme, with your training I could help get you a serious job.’’
Her eyes sparkled, and smiled widely, and for a moment I thought she was going to grab me, kiss me and hug me madly. I felt a bit flustered, and looked over my shoulders. I did not want any onlooker get this the wrong way.
‘’Ooh, thank you Javan,‘’ she said, actually using my first name again and hugging me the way I had feared, though somehow this time I liked it. I nervously looked around again.
The following week she was in the AA and Kim and Otish had been enrolled in class One at the Immaculate Conception primary school, and they to love it. They were new cleaner, and seemed to have stolen the fancy of other children in their class, and even the school due to their more experience in the street life.
I followed her attendance at the AA meeting very closely, and the person in charge of the group gave me very positive progress about her. She was regular and she had a desire to stop drinking completely.
She came to see me one day at the office reminding me of my promise to help her get a regular income by assisting her to get a job.
She told me that of late she had been helping mama Otish at her vegetable kiosk, and was thinking of starting her own small business, but lacked capital.
As we spoke, there was a knock on the door.
‘’Come in,’’ I said looking up.
The door opened and standing there was Millicent Angote, the mission primary school’s headmistress. Suddenly I remembered I was to have a meeting with her this morning, regarding the idea of starting a new stream of classes for the less privileged in the society.
‘’Come in Madam Angote,’’ I said, ‘’please sit down.’’ I added.
Madam Angote was not a nun but she loved dressing like one. A light brown full length skirt, complete with a headgear that looked like a nun’s habit. I think in her previous life, she must have been a mother superior, due to her serious demeanor, but which burst into a charming laughter whenever a light joke was cracked.
She was a motherly type and all the kids at the school loved her.
‘’Oh Mama Kim,’’ she said as she recognized Miriam, ‘’how are you?’’
After the two ladies greeted each other, I thought it was the perfect time to act on Miriam’s promise. After a chat with Madam Angote, we managed to get Miriam a part time job at the school kitchen, where she would assist the cook and also the general cleaning.
A few months down the line she managed to complete her accountancy course and was actually hired by Madam Angote as the school bursar, after the previous one resigned.
Two years later a beaming Miriam introduced to a Joachim Kisano, a widowed parent at the school, whom she said had known for the past year. She told me that the man had proposed marriage, and she had accepted.
I was happy for Miriam and Kim, and also for Joachim, who had lost his wife and son in a plane crash some five years earlier. I was happy also to conduct Miriam’s and Joachim’s wedding, in which Kim and his friend Otish acted as page boys.
Joachim happened to be an owner of a multimillion business concern, and so Miriam was absorbed into the business, becoming the financial controller of the vast empire. As I was being transferred to another parish in another part of the country about a year later, the Mr and Mrs Kisano were enjoying a blissful marriage.
My new Gikeno Parish was more challenging than Ting’ong’o, since it was a rural and had no facilities unlike Ting’ong’o, which was more of an urban parish.
Anyhow I delved into the task ahead of saving souls.
With time, I moved to several other parishes where I served as father in charge, meeting different types of people, some who made my mission enjoyable while there were others who made my work challenging if not difficult, but by God’s grace we did manage.
I always wondered what happened to Kim and Mariam and hoped that her marriage to Kisano was healthy. I had once called the Ting’ong’o mission six months earlier asking about them but was told they had relocated to another town five years earlier and no one knew exactly where.
Despite almost two decades having passed, I always remembered Kim and his friend Otish, in and prayed for them, asking God to bless them and give them guidance in whatever field they found themselves in. I also hoped that one day we would meet and reminisce those good old days.
I was relaxing in my study at around 7pm one evening waiting for supper after having conducted the evening mass, when suddenly the door to my office burst open and Jose Kimbunga stood there shaking in terror.
José Kimbunga was our catechist at the current mission in Chulu.
‘’What is it, Jose?’’ I asked half standing.
‘Father… My son. My son is very sick. We need to take him to hospital?
‘’Your son?’’ I knew his family, so I wondered which son he was talking about since he had four of them.
‘’Sylvester… my youngest son. He has very high fever and has just gone unconscious after convulsion. Please father, may I use the mission car to take him to hospital?’’
I had met Kimbunga’s son, Sylvester a few times, since he had been attending catechism class that his father was teaching. He was about 8 years old. Though Jose had used the parish vehicle once in a while in official duties, I felt I could not just let him drive the boy to the hospital, not in this state he was in.
So I decided to drive them; after all I did not have any pressing duties at the mission.
I quickly asked him to bring the boy as I went to get the car out of the garage, and drove it out, parking it near the gate.
‘’In no time Jose came half running to the car, carrying little Sylvester in his arms. Trudging along was Juliana, his wife, who carried a lesso, I think to cover the boy with. As soon as Jose sat down at the back seat after placing the unconscious boy next to him and after he took the lesso from his wife and covered the boy, I drove off the vehicle, and as we left I could see Juliana at the gate, struggling not to cry.
I shot the car into the street hoping to be at the County hospital in the shortest time possible. Then the loud hoot, the bright lights, the screech of brakes, the bang and before I knew what was happening, the car was rolling into the dark bush on the side of the road. Then silence and deep black darkness.
I’m not sure how long I lay on that hospital bed, but the first person I saw when I regained consciousness was Jose. It was visiting hours and he had come to see me, accompanied by Fr Jackson Welima, my assistant Priest, who was seated next to the window.
After the initial excitement about my regaining of consciousness, Fr Jackson and Jose told me that I had been in a coma for the last four days, following the accident that we got as I took Jose and son to the hospital.
I had suffered head injury that sent me into a coma, but paradoxically little Sylvester and Jose himself escaped unscathed in the car that was now a write off. Sylvester had been treated of his high fever and was fit at a fiddle back home. Unfortunately the driver of the truck that hit us died on the spot.
‘’You are lucky, I understand your injury would have been worse thanks for the doctor in charge here. I understand he is a specialist in such cases otherwise you would have turned into a vegetable,’’ joked Fr Jackson.
After we laughed off the joke, I asked; ‘’So how longer am I going to be in hospital?’’
‘’A couple of days may be, but the doctor should be able to tell you,’’ said Fr Jackson, who stood up after looking at his watch. ‘’We have to leave now, its past visiting time. But I shall be back in the afternoon and if they discharge you we shall go back to the mission together,’’
‘’Okay you two… see you later then,’’ I said as I saw the nurse walking towards my bed, with a tray which contained some medicine, so I thought.
She smiled warmly when she saw that I was awake.
‘’Oh Fr Kironjo……. I’m glad to see that you are awake.’’ she said. I smiled back.
‘’How are you feeling now?’’ she asked.
‘’Just tired.’’ I said, then asked, ‘’where is the doctor… I would like to know if I can go home…’’
‘But Father… you have just regained consciousness. We have to observe you for at least a day,’’ she said, feeling my pulse.
‘’But I will telephone the doctor. I’m sure he will be delighted to see you are finally conscious. He was really worried about you.’’
‘’I don’t know, he must be one of your parishioners. Apparently he knows you,’’ the nurse said, as she picked her tray. ‘’Let me go call the doctor and tell him that you are now awake,’’ she said as she left.
As I waited on that bed staring at the ceiling and thanking God for saving my life, I heard sounds of approaching footsteps and I turned. I could see an elderly woman and a young man coming briskly towards my bed. The two seemed anxious about something, though I could pick traces of relieved smiles on their faces.
‘Fr Kironjo. Thank God you are okay,’’ the young man said, and at that instant I recognized them.
Kim and his mother Miriam. I could not contain my joy and surprise at seeing them. It had been over a quarter of a decade since we last saw each other, when Kim was just a school boy.
They literally fell over me as they hugged me as I lay on that bed almost suffocating me.
‘’Miriam, and Kim, Is it you?’’ I managed to say at last.
‘’Yes. We heard about your accident and had to come and see you,’’ Miriam said. She still looked lovely and completely recovered from alcohol dependency. Some silver strands of hair near her ears and temple added a touch of wisdom in her beauty.
‘’How is Kisano?’’ I asked of her husband.
They were doing well in Mwambao, and their business had greatly expanded.
I also learnt that Kim was now an engineer with his own practice and was soon getting married.
After we had exhausted our talk, I asked;
‘’How did you know about the accident?’’
‘’The doctor told us,’’ Kim answered.
‘’The doctor, how come. How did he know about you and me?’’
Just before he answered, the nurse arrived with the doctor coming right behind her. I did not need to look at the doctor twice before I could recognize him.
It was my very old friend Otish. The little guy who would call me Pastor Father, those so many years ago.
He looked so fine with the stethoscope around his neck, and his spectacles making him look very learned.
‘’Pastor father’’, he said jokingly. ‘’I prayed for you so much. Thank God you are out of the coma,’’ he said as he hugged me, with the nurse looking bewildered. Then I remembered how so many years ago he had asked me to pray for his friend Kim.
‘When can I go home Doctor?’’ I asked him after the excitement died down.
‘’Even tomorrow, you are as fit as a fiddle,’’ said Dr Martin Otieno, or Otish as we used to call him then.
After some minutes, Miriam and Kim said they would leave, but Miriam requested a few minutes alone with me as to discuss something important.
As Kim went with Otish to the latter’s office, Miriam came closer to me, pulled a seat and sat down. She looked nervous.
‘’What is it my dear?’’ I asked.
‘’Javan I’d like to tell you something, and I’d like you to forgive me.’’
‘’What is this? A confession?’’ I asked trying to crack a joke. She smiled gently, then put on a serious face.
‘’Yes, you can call it so; it’s something I have kept to myself for a long time, but I after what almost happened… You know, we could have lost you.’’
My heart started beating wildly with anticipation. What is the problem Miriam? I wondered.
‘’I’d like to share some serious information with you. Only I know about it. You will now be the other person.’’
What is this? My heart beat faster.
She took a deep breath. ‘’It’s about Kim.’’
‘’Kim? What about Kim? Anything the matter with him? Is he in trouble with the law or something?’’I asked anxiously.
‘’No Javan. NO’’.
‘’Then tell me what is the matter.’’
She first looked around, then licked her lips.
‘’Kim… Kim is your son… Javan. Your son.’’
‘’WHAT ?’’ I almost screamed.
‘’Yes Javan… He is really your son. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this earlier, she said, patting my shoulder.
I could not say anything for this news had hit me as a sledge hammer. I could not comprehend at first, but then things started falling into place. She reminded the night we spent together before I went to the seminary. She got pregnant then, and since she could not divulge whose pregnancy it was, she was sent away by her parents. One thing led to the other…
I took a deep breath and fell back on the bed. So all this time Kim was my son… was it by divine hand that I had to knock him down and take him to hospital so that I could eventually get him educated and in the meantime save his mother from the clutches of alcohol dependency and prostitution?
That action also enabled Kim’s best friend also to benefit by getting education and becoming one of the best doctors on the land.
As I meditated on this, and as Miriam let it sink into my head, I heard footsteps approaching again. It was Kim and his friend Otish coming back. The best of friends for a lifetime. The doctor and the engineer, my son. A warm feeling spread over my body and smiled at them. My sons, I said under my breath. May God bless you both.