She picks the list and goes through it. Tomatoes, check. Cabbages, check. Meat, check. Apples…who was to bring apples? She picks another list and goes through it:
She picks her phone and scrolls down until she gets George’s number and dials.
“George wapi apples?”
“Aki imekuwa ngumu, lakini bado natafuta”
“So nizingojee saa ngapi?”
“Tulia, si nakwambia natafuta?”
“George, event ni kesho. Na wewe mwenyewe ndo ulisema utaleta apples. Nazihitaji leo ndo tuzipange”
“Aki leo itakuwa ngumu. Labda niangalie kama nawezaleta kesho asubuhi”
“Hauwezi leta kesho George na event ni kesho. Kuwanga serious”
“Sasa unataka nifanye aje?”
“Wacha tu, nitajua vile nitafanya”
Then she hangs up, irritated. This boy. She then dials another number.
“Habari ya mwaka mpya? Na si umenitupa?”
“Hahaha! Wewe ndo umepotea Rachel. Sema lakini”
“Aki Brayo nahitaji favor”
“Nataka apples. 50 pieces by leo jioni. Unaona kama unaweza niletea?”
“Za ile party yenu?”
“Sawa, nitakuletea kitu 3.30. Si ni hapo kwa Silver Hall?”
“Eh hapo. Aki thanks Brayo,”
Rachel goes through the list again until she is satisfied that everything that is needed is set. That is when she notices her cup of tea on the table. It has gone cold. She warms it in the microwave and sips it slowly. Her mind is totally consumed with the following day’s party. How to arrange the seats and set the tables. The snacks. The Programme. Oh program cards. She picks her phone again.
“James, program cards ziliprintiwa?”
“Eh, ziliprintiwa. Hata zishaletwa”
She finishes her tea silently, then goes to the hall where the party will be held. There are people decorating the place. She stands at the door silently and watches them work.
“I am thinking, why don’t we use the red flowers at the back and the yellow ones at the front? It think it will be more beautiful that way” she says suddenly.
“But that will mean changing the cloths as well” Nancy replies.
“Aaai, si hiyo ni kazi kidogo?”
Nancy does not take that kindly and erupts.
“Rachel, we have spent hours doing this. We cannot start redoing it. I think you should just let us be”
Rachel realizes she has stepped on a raw nerve and backs out.
“Okay. It was just a suggestion”
She watches them for a few more minutes then goes to see how the food stuff is being packed. There is a group putting away the groceries that have just been delivered. Rachel watches in horror as cabbages are placed on top of bananas.
“Aki Phyllis hizo ndizi zitafinywa vibaya” she says. She shows them how to neatly arrange the groceries and then leaves.
“Aki sipendi huyo msichana. Huwa anajifanya sana,” Martha says after Rachel leaves.
“Rachel is just okay. Sidhani huwa anajifanya. Anapenda tu kusaidia” Mary replies.
“Si afanye tu kazi yake. Mbona anajionanga tu yeye ndiye anajua kila kitu”
“Martha wewe uko tu na issues na Rachel”
John and Eric chuckle, but do not say a word. They know Martha is volatile.
“Issues gani. Unaniona na issues gani?”
Mary knows a storm is brewing, so she keeps quiet. Martha rants for several minutes then starts sulking.
Rachel is meanwhile talking to Silas, their leader. Silas is getting agitated because three guests have called to cancel. Rachel is worried too, but she doesn’t show it. She remains calm on the exterior, telling Silas that three is a negligible number that should not worry him. Then she walks back to the room she had been earlier, to rest. It is some sort of a board room that has chairs around a long table. In one corner there are cups, a bowl of sugar, coffee and tea leaves, two flasks and a microwave, all set on a smaller table. This room is empty today, so Rachel prefers to come here when she wants to be alone.
To most people, Rachel is a solid rock. An anchor. She has it all figured out. People who are in relationship trouble come to her. She listens calmly like a mother, and gives advice that is loaded with wisdom. It is easy to forget that she is in her mid-twenties.
But sometimes she does get overwhelmed by people’s expectations. She is often afraid that she will fail those who come to her. That she might say the wrong thing. Because she sometimes feels like people have set such a high standard for her, that she has no margin of error. Outside she is a tough, independent woman. Inside she is still a vulnerable young woman in her mid-twenties. She does cry, but in the secrecy of her room. She wouldn’t want anyone to see her crying and think she is weak. She has often wondered how she will prevent her future husband from seeing her in a broken state.
Talking of which, she has her own issues and fears. Like that boy Jeff who has been on her case wanting to date her. That is not the problem. She has turned many men down with a gentle smile. You know, breaking their hearts gently after applying the anesthesia of kindness. So they don’t feel the pain. Just numbness. But Jeff is different. Because she likes him. But she is afraid. Afraid of the mushiness that comes with dating. See, she is not used to being sentimental. She has also heard too many of her friend’s tales of relationships gone wrong that she has real fear of getting into one.
Worse, there are few people she can talk to. Because most people think she does not have such problems. Maybe Willis. But Willis will just get excited that she is finally falling in love. Or Patricia. Oh yes, she should talk to Patricia. After all, it has been a while since they had a heart to heart.
Her thoughts are interrupted by her phone ringing. It is Silas.
“Rachel, we forgot to buy water. What do we do now?”
“Do we have any money left?”
“Just three hundred bob, and we need about a thousand for water”
“Okay, I’ll deal with that”
She takes her phone and dials.
“Tony aki tunahitaji maji. Utatuendea tao?”
“Sawa Rachel. Pesa iko?”
“Ile boardroom iko nyuma ya hall.”
She gives him 800 shillings from her purse and tells him to collect three hundred from Silas. One hundred is his fare, a thousand for water.
The following day Rachel can be seen running up and down, putting everything in place. She supervises the preparations, and ensures everyone is happy. She does not even enjoy the party herself. But she is happy. Happy that everything went well. But she is super tired. Yet she is the last person to leave. Because she has to ensure that after the party the place is returned to its original state.
*** **** **** ****
This story is fictional, but it is inspired by people I know. People who selflessly serve others. Sometimes we tend to forget they are human too, and often do not appreciate them enough. These people make things happen. I have been a leader a few times so I know their importance. They work mostly from the background, but they are the real engines. They work out the finer details. They coordinate efforts. They work tirelessly to ensure things happen. More often than not, these people are also patient listeners of other people’s problems, but rarely share their own. Except to a few select people. Today I celebrate them. From the top of my head, I will mention Cynthia Nanyokia and Valarie Munagi. Barikiweni wanadada. I have seen you work at PCCU, Focus (Val) and NET (Cynthia).
I am sure we all know people like these in our circles. You can tag the ones you know.
(image courtesy of www.wikihow.com)