She said she wouldn’t unless he did. So he grabbed the glass and downed the stuff. Three seconds flat from floor to gut. It burned so bad he screamed out loud and ran for the sink. They were ten years old.
As she stuck her head into the freezer, scraping ice chips off the bottom to help cool his throat before mom got back, she swore she would never touch the stuff again. Adults are crazy to enjoy anything that would bring Canaan to tears. Canaan never cried. Ever. Except now. The crooked chalk-like tracks still ran clear through to his lips.
She thought back to this moment now as he collapsed on the seat beside her- pupils large and glistening, like his forehead. As if his eyes were sweating too. He reached for his drink and raised it to her then downed it, Canaan fashion- 3 seconds flat.
She smiled back with her lips but inwardly frowned. How on earth did she get stuck here? She’d sworn. It was not meant to end this way, she thought as she lifted her own drink to her lips.
“I’d like to go home now,” she said evenly, barely audible over the music.
“You always want to go home.”
“Well, let’s stay half an hour longer”
“No Canaan, that’s what you said an hour ago,” She said, frowning at him for real this time.
“Aaaaaaw Saaaraaaaahh” he said, staring pitifully, but she was having none of it. Already halfway to the door and headed out to the car park- there must be a cab somewhere here…
Here eyesight slightly fuzzy from standing up too fast after a Canaan night. She tried to remember where her glasses were. Nothing. Behind her she could hear him making the necessary goodbye noises: kisses, talk laters and see you next weeks. None of which were meant, none of which were taken seriously.
One of those new electric cars frew up to her and the paseenger side window slid down, “Mpaka wapi madamme?” said the driver of the glorified vitz.
“Mada ndani” She answered
She nodded and stepped into the car just as Canaan stepped out onto the street. Looking at him, she couldn’t help but think back to that day.
After about a minute of sucking on ice chips, his eyes had lit up and a crooked smile replaced quivering lips. “Let’s do it again,” he said.
And now she was curious, so it was her turn. Tentatively she sipped. Then she sipped again. It did feel rather nice running down her chest and to her tummy. A bit like nyanya’s special lemon uji, but much lighter.
She smiled at him and he giggled.
Same way he was giggling now. A laugh that once filled her with joy but now more tinged with sadness. There really wasn’t anything more to this than a magical moment over a decade ago and several years in between of trying to recreate the magic. Of course there had been all sorts of breaks: high school, college, masters, I’m seeing someone else breaks but the always ended up here- drunk and together.
She looked at him and say comfort. Not happiness, not security but the safety of old emptiness that has just the exact amount of despair and familiar aches that one can own and sometimes thrive on.
He kissed her noisily through the still open window then jumped into the back seat.
As Chege ( he must have been Chege) sped off she thought, “There’s got to be something better out there…”