Paving Paths

It was well after midnight when Maria made it home. The clubs in Utawala were still going strong, and though it was January, the clubs were packed. All the tables on the sidewalks were packed. In some places the crowds spilled out into the street, and she had to slow almost to a crawl to avoid pedestrians the last few blocks before turning into her driveway. She’d grown up on the quiet streets of Utawala, so adjusting to the much more active nightlife that it became had been difficult at first, but now she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Coming home always made her smile, never mind that she was staying at her parents’ servant’s quarters.

Sam, her neighbor, was on his porch, drinking a beer. He waved and called out, “Congrats, Maria”. Her mother had probably already spread the good news, never took her long to feed the gossip mill. She had just won herself a UN sponsorship courtesy of her brilliant writing. Finally, decades later, she had bestowed any sense of pride in her parents. “Thanks, Sam.” She should stop and talk for a few minutes, but she was exhausted, her head was pounding, and her jaws ached from all the smiling she had to do with virtual strangers. She’d felt like a performing monkey in a circus.

The difference a couple of weeks had made. Her life had taken such a turning, for the better. She hadn’t even known she could write, leave alone that she would make a prospering career out of it. It had taken hitting rock bottom for her to actively fight her depression and seek her elusive pot of gold. But it had not always been milk and honey. Some would argue that considering her apparent self-centeredness, she deserved all the evil that had happened, that she had it coming. In fact her father had flat out told her repeatedly, “You are such a disgrace to my household. If only your mother had given me a boy…”

She only had to close her eyes and the thoughts of dejection she had fought, willed themselves. How the entire neighborhood had jeered and sneered at her following the incident. Depression had hit her like a brick. Tomorrow would mark 5 months since the ground had given away from beneath her;

Maina, her husband, had puffed and proclaimed, ‘Nimewarudishia msichana.’

‘‘What?’’ Mother and daughter shrieked loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. Even baba Maria had now manifested.

‘’No offense’’, when does anybody never take offense following that phrase. He went on to proceed, ‘’She is an embarrassment. It is either you take her back or I continue beating the submission into her! She refuses to give me a baby and she does absolutely nothing in the house that I paid for. Simtaki kwangu mpaka afunzwe kuwa bibi.’’ Then he pointedly addressed Maria, ‘’For your own good, do not come back. I will not be as nice’’.

That had been the last she had seen of her beloved.

Every breath of the night air Maria took felt like glass cutting into her lungs as she made her way inside her quarters. She felt drained from bouncing from emotion to emotion, but oddly electrified at the same time. It was almost disturbing. She couldn’t wait to get to her laptop for she finally had the courage to share her story. She was glad she hadn’t gone reclusive and she wasn’t dead, not for lack of trying on her part. Her journey was only beginning.

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