Dressed in a dark suit, complete with a darker trench coat and with a briefcase in hand, Mswati was a pair of sunglasses away from a Men in Black cast member. It was 5 am in Rongai and he stood in the morning cold waiting for the first bus to town as he did every morning. It was difficult to tell whether he was really that passionate about his work as a librarian or running away from the shoulder tap at 6 am by his wife of 4 years. Or was it?

The shoulder tap , in case you are having trouble following, is the reflex movement by which one member of the Bedroom Alliance communicates to the other member that the collection jar is empty and could use a refill.

Things were not always that way. 4 years ago, the shoulder tap had not yet found its way to his bedroom. 4 years ago, they actually spoke.4 years ago, he left the house at 7 am. He chuckled as he recalled how wild those mornings were. He wouldn’t have thought that he would have to run away from it , ever. Yet, here he was. Standing in the morning cold. Alone.

He checked his watch. 5:02 am. It was going to be at least 28 minutes before the first bus came. His mind wandered off, into the past, as it often did when he was waiting on the bus. He remembered how he had met Mereba while in the university and how taken by her he had been. He was an usher during one of the many book review sessions the Faculty of Education held on campus grounds. She had arrived late and she had lost her badge. He saw her rummaging through her purse twice in quick succession before performing a full body search on herself. He smirked. She still did that to this day. She would pat herself down even when looking for something she obviously couldn’t carry such as a cooking stick. Or his phone. He remembered approaching her, smiling, determined to go out of his way to be a good usher.

” Hello, can I help you?”
“No..yes…I mean.. it’s…Yes, yes please”
” It’s alright. What seems to be the matter?”
“Oh My God. I feel so stupid… “
” Hey..hey..It’s okay. Just calm down. ” He took her hand and led her to a nearby bench. “Now, slowly explain to me what the problem is. She explained how she had lost her badge in the morning traffic and began crying as she explained how without a tag, she wouldn’t be in a position to attend the session yet the particular book meant so much to her. He had smiled that smile that would eventually prove too much for Mereba in the end.

” Here , you could use mine. It should get you past security”
” Excuse me?”
” Look, it’s fine. I am an usher. I don’t need the name tag.”
” You want me to use your name?”
” Yes. It will literally open doors for you “
They both laughed lightly. She reached into her purse and took out a piece of tissue paper and dabbed softly at the area around her eyes.
“Thank you, ” She said softly and her eyes spoke of gratitude and Mswati looked at her , somewhat confused. He no longer saw a damsel in distress. He saw a damsel who left him in distress. She stood up and moonwalked to the door. At least according to Mswati.

5: 10 am.
The cold was biting and Mswati buttoned up his trench coat. He clenched his teeth together and wished he had waited for Mereba’s breakfast. His stomach agreed heartily, especially when he remembered just how well she could cook. His mind went back to when they went out on their first date. He should have known as early as then that Mereba was no ordinary girl. Halfway into the meal, she had declared it unfit for human consumption and the price a form of robbery without violence. That’s how they ended up at his apartment, where she had to go shopping before they could eat. He smirked again. She was always so aggressive with everything she set her mind to. Which is why they sometimes argued.

Sometimes? Who was he kidding? They argued almost daily. Things had gotten bad especially since she lost her pregnancy after refusing to attend pre-natal clinic. He unbuttoned his trench coat. The memory still gave him episodes of rage and fury even he didn’t know he was capable of. He blamed her. In the months that followed, he developed this habit of leaving the house very early and returning very late. Every time he looked at her , he saw his dead child. All she had to do was go for the damn clinic. Her aggressiveness usually paid back in handsome dividends, such as when she convinced him to apply for the job of Librarian of the State house Library. She still had to convince him to wear a suit every morning, but he had actually grown to love the suits.

5:20 am
The bus would be here soon. He would be on his way to work in a few minutes and he wouldn’t have to think about it anymore, he told himself. Then something strange happened. He started to cry. He didn’t throw himself on the ground or yell or even make a sound. He stood transfixed on the ground and the tears rolled down his cheeks softly, slowly, until they disappeared into the corners of his mouth. He wiped them with one graceful movement of his left, unoccupied hand.
He realized, standing here in the morning cold, that he had never asked Mereba why she didn’t go for the pre-natal clinic. Mereba had seen how he had taken the news and she never brought it up. The miscarriage was a no go zone in as far as their conversations went. He suddenly felt uneasy. The truth had sank and he needed a minute to let it become clear. It was obvious to him what he needed to do.

The bus came to a stop at the Rongai pick up stage. It was still early and the passengers boarded the bus in orderly fashion. The bus continued it’s journey and was soon out of Rongai and approaching town. Mswati was supposed to alight. He was supposed to go and catch another bus to work.

There were many things he was supposed to do.
Mswati got off the vehicle and practically ran up the stairs. He didn’t knock on the door and he dropped his briefcase at the door. Standing with her back to the door, there she was, ironing his suits, fresh from the line. He stood there and looked at her, knowing he needed to let it go. He needed to hold her , to tell her he was angry. He was angry that they had lost a child. That he was sorry he had blamed her for it and as a result he had almost lost a wife as well. That he understood now that she had also lost a child and his behavior had rubbed it in. She turned around and for a minute, they stood there looking at each other. The clock above Mereba was all of a sudden too loud.

Tick tock, it went. It was almost as if time had been frozen and they stood there like two sculptured beings, afraid to even breathe loudly.
She was very confused. It was 5: 40 in the morning. What was Mswati doing back in the house?

Mswati made the first move. He moved slowly until he was less than 30 cm away from her. He tried to talk but no words came out. Just inaudible gasps which gave way to tears. His forehead was burrowed and his eyes lost their fire and turned grey. The grey of regret. She quickly took him in her arms and they sobbed on each other’s back. She grabbed his coat and held on tightly and he held her so strongly that he almost lifted her off the ground. They stayed that way for a couple of more minutes before Mswati whisked her off her feet and into the alliance territory. There was only one way to put the miscarriage behind them. Mswati didn’t know how he would ever forget but he knew where to start.

Fortunately for both Mswati and Mereba, it didn’t involve a shoulder tap or dark suits. It took standing in the morning cold to remind Mswati of the warmth of a happy home. He didn’t have to be a librarian to know that life hack that writers so often refer to.

He knew it because he lived it. He knew it because he was part of it. Happiness was more of people than places and it was 5 am in Rongai when Mswati remembered.

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