In A Western Stalemate
Someone told me that my karma is my memory.
I didn’t agree. Obviously.
What could that even mean? I’ve heard karma is a bitch, so were they saying that my memory is a bitch?
And what kind of bitch? The cute poodle kind or the kind that is spoken to some and leads to palms covering chapped separated lips that know too much lipstick right after the sudden breath of air that seems to originate from somewhere in the back of the throat and ends immediately after?
Was it that my memory is the kind of karma that is commonly referred to as the “B” word?
I let it go. Really. It didn’t even bother me. Not one bit. Not at all.
At least that is what I told myself until I met Mercy and I became a philosopher in my own accord but without the crazy Einstein hair or lab coat and the theory was tested.
I was slaving hard for the man, as I usually do on my attachment where I drag myself to every single weekday morning with eyes as low as the hedgehogs to the earth, when I decided to go get a pack of fries because the stomach knows no hustle.
I had just emailed the day’s story to my supervisor and I had that feeling you get when you use words like ‘amongst’ and ‘whomsoever’ in an essay. Nothing could make the day any better than some fries seasoned with a little bit of salt and made sensational in some dark vinegar.
So I get to the fries place, the mama looks at me and smiles.
She already knows what I want and even before I instinctively say “Ya kawaida”, she is decorating my soon to be plate with delicacies beyond measure and places the kingly meal of chopped potatoes before me.
Some strange woman is now staring at me, probably because she is jealous she had not received the princely greetings I had received from the fries mama.
She gives me another look, and the 5 year-old by her side starts asking for fries. She looks back at me.
My fries? I think not Ms Jealous Lady.
This one must be bonkers. Her head must be screwed on using a couple shank nails.
She doesn’t know that you never come between a Mirriam and her fries.
I look at the kid who has eyes that are so big they play at making him both adorable and a human ostrich. One of the voices now goes… “So now you won’t give him fries? Reaaa….lllly?”
(PS. This voice sounds like Mr Hart)
I stay adamant
She smiles at me. It is a gorgeous smile. One of those infectious ones that has you involuntarily stretching the edges of your lips into an exaggerated curve and has you feeling like a hornbill.
But I don’t smile much, so my curve immediately goes back to default and look down at the heap of happiness on my steaming plate.
Somehow, I feel her still looking at me. Like her eyeballs are slowly dredging two narrow shallow holes at the top of my head. It was disturbing. Almost creepy.
My memory is truly that bitch, always sharpening her nails to dig them into my brain when I really need the use of it.
Maybe she wants to make those two holes by her heat vision and was only looking for the spot to mark X on my humongous mess of a head.
I look up.
We stare at each other as if we are in those Western movies as the cowboys in the hats with the guns and our hands are twitching at our sides to pull so as to become the most eligible bachelorettes in the drought stricken land.
We are at a Western stalemate.
She smiles at me again.
“Mambo mrembo” she coos.
Her voice is smooth and raspy.
An absurd combo if you ask me. It reminds me of the feeling on the buttock when sliding down a hill side on a cardboard box just after the rain had soaked the ground.
“Poa,” I reply before stuffing my already full mouth with more fries.
I look at her closely now.
She seems familiar. But isn’t that what we all see when someone greets us as if we are long lost relatives?
She has one of those faces that looks eerily similar to either one of your childhood playmates or a self proclaimed aunt. Her complexion is not dark enough so she can’t be from my father’s side and I know almost all my relatives from mom’s side.
I have seen this woman before. At least my mind thinks.
She could be the supermarket teller that once suspected me of stealing from the establishment even after I had insisted that she was mistaken. That wretched witch who on the 4th of August, 2012, had pried my bag open to pour its contents to the ground only to find that I only had my belongings in there, but who cares anymore?
Now I am pissed because my fries are going cold and I am not able to enjoy them since i am obsessed with the idea of knowing who this Mambo-Mrembo woman is.
Asking her might sound weird. I can’t even formulate the words in my mouth.
Who the hell are you and what sin did you commit to get such an amazing smile?
“Jana ulinyeshewa?” She purrs.
Now her voice is smooth.
Who in Potter’s name is this? She has gone from crunchy peanut butter to sweet, sweet plum jam.
But that’s not even important.
How did she know that I was drenched by the heavens yesterday? My appetite eludes me.
That’s when I remember.
“Your karma is your memory, Mirrabelle”
I now agree.
It comes as both a blessing and a curse. Like a right side on the wrong bed.
The good part is that I recall a lot of things, usually irrelevant information that I need to have forgotten or details as dark as charcoal painted fingers, or as this generation’s souls.
The other part is this: simple things like people’s names and sometimes even faces escape me.
Sometimes, when someone tells me their name, I have to sing it like I used to sing the items I was sent to the shop when I was 6 just so I might have a pea-sized chance to remember it the next time.
Mercy looks at me again. By now I am used to her eyes on me.
I stare back and try to picture her at court where I was yesterday, at the same fries mama’s place, though I did not come by here and at the offices where I am on attachment.
I can’t place her.
“Naitwa Mercy” she coos again.
Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy.
5 times seems enough.
“Mirriam” I say.
I am bored with my fries for now. Can’t have them when Mercy’s little one has dipped his tiny dirt-tipped fingernails in them when he thought I was not looking.
I get up, say goodbye to Mercy and her little tyrranical pirate thief and get back to slaving for the man, or woman in my case. But I couldn’t shake it until I walked past a cobbler in town and a makeshift beauty parlor and a restaurant and a woman who has been selling dresses since time immemorial, literally, when I see her and remember the times I used to get dresses from Mercy at a different stall across town.