I am my mother’s only son; he tells me. It is a chilly evening, and it doesn’t help that we are both petite and drinking cold shakes from those long, thick straws. The straws that an index finger could easily fit; and one’s lips are not overworked from sipping. He sips his chocolate shake; I look at him and wait before I taste mine because his reaction will determine my move- to either wait or go for it. It’s not that cold, he assures, so I drink my vanilla shake, then put my glass down on the small square table before us.

We are seated at Java stealing glances at wazungus sauntering along the mall’s corridors. Garden City is a fairly nice looking mall, so why not. Some are walking their dogs (wazungus and their love for dogs), couples holding hands and staring inside shops, as others stop to pose for selfies. Don’t you find it appalling that people go to malls to feast eyes and that even wazungus are into this kind of thing? I thought it was our Kenyan thing. But each to his own.

“Have you ever met anyone from the group yet apart from Clare?” he asks.

A few of us agreed to keep our writing fire burning after completing a writing Master class together. But since the class last year November, we have not had the chance to meet one on one, all seven of us. And we have mutually agreed to blame it on Covid-19.

“Yes. I have met Njagi, Divine (Oh banange!), and of course you. I am yet to meet MK and Hafswa but hopefully soon,” I tell him.

Githinji Mburu is that guy that every group must have to stay alive. If you are in any group and you don’t have a Githinji, please look for one before your group dies. The guy who makes sure before the end of any sentence or paragraph, people are laughing.

The guy who feels it’s his job to keep matters neutral among peers; when temperatures rise (we have witnessed no high temperatures in our group yet) he steps in to cool everyone with some bit of wittiness. The guy who is unafraid to show his scars, and perhaps that’s where his writing skill comes from. But he is also the guy with Kenyan names only. He thinks not having an English name is the epitome of being a true African man and so he drops it. He is also the guy so layered like an onion. When you think you have him figured out, he surprises you.

There is a story behind every kind of that guy. It is said that there are things a woman can’t teach her son. A boy will always need a father in some parts of his life. How can a mother talk to her son about girl issues, for example? Or how does a young boy tell his mother about changes he is experiencing in his body as he grows older? But what can a boy do if he has an absentee father? Life has to move on and mama has to play both the mother and father.

Githinji would have wanted nothing more than to grow up knowing his dad, but his younger self could do nothing to keep his parents together. And such is life. The inevitable happens and you soldier on.

“Do you think your life could have turned out differently if your dad was still in your life?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Who knows,” he shrugs his shoulders.

Githinji is a high-spirited man; he hardly resents people, including his father whom he hasn’t seen or spoken to for the last 10 years. There is no telling if his fathers’ absence may have a corollary on some parts of his life. He thinks it might be a 50-50 situation.

“If you were to change anything, what would it be?”

“I would have a sister. I wish I had one. Someone, I could look out for. Grow up together with and kill my childhood boredom. Play big brother and scare off boyfriends who would come looking for her. It would have been nice to have her call while in school and ask me for money. Then as a brother, I’d be like, ‘you sure the money is for a school trip?’ when she wants the money to go out. And of course, I would hassle her with questions before sending her the money.”

Githinji currently sits behind a desk doing calculations and balancing sheets. He is an accountant, but his first love is writing. Since his school years, he has always enjoyed writing. So good were his Compositions and Inshas that his language teachers had him read them out to the class. Some fire is sparked in someone when they do what they like. And for Githinji, we see this in his blog stories. It amazes his colleagues when they read his stories too.

On his third anniversary at the company he works at, Githinji sent out an email to his colleagues appreciating their support. His boss was impressed and encouraged him to keep writing. And that’s what he does when he is not wearing his accountant hat.

“What would you tell your father if you met him today?”

“We would just have a father-son conversation over some cold beer and just catch up on life. But I hope to meet him soon. 10 years is too long without having spoken to him. He is still my father that will never change. I would ask him about my other siblings from his second family. And hopefully, meet them as well.”

“When you finally meet him, ask him what he thinks about you dropping your English name,” I say to Githinji and we both laugh, staring at our now empty glasses.

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