The Rain Falls - Gloria Mwaniga

The Rain falls – Gloria Mwaniga

The rain falls. And the woman in a blue frock with white dots is forced to hurry her feet and take shelter at the Mulina General Store on Mumias road. She hadn’t plan to stop here. If it was up to her she would never stop here but then, what is she to do when the drizzle has begun? So, she swallows the sweet potato of shame in her throat and stands outside the shop front. But she doesn’t look inside because you see, they don’t talk, she and the woman who owns the shop. They don’t talk because she said that Wilhelmina is a common idol worshipping catholic. And someone carried the stinging words to Wilhelmina and the quarrel that ensued, wah, just leave words.
The rain falls and the wind blows so that the bougainvillea blossoms tremble and their pink and white coats fall to the ground soundlessly, footfalls on thick grass. And the sky is the colour of bad weather. And the burrowing animals run for shelter, cribbed and cabined by the rain.
The rain falls and the woman in a white and blue frock sits her huge buttocks on a low wooden bench. She is hugging her bag tightly. And both women stare at the way the rain floods the kegondi grass in front of the shop. One is watching from behind a veil of wire mesh, from inside the shop window. The other is watching with her naked eyes, sitting on the veranda that is roofed by planks of wood and feeling her ngoma rubber shoes soaking in the water that splashes on the ground.
A gush of wind sprays rain droplets into their eyes and both women flutter their eyelids. But it is the woman in a blue and white dress who says ‘Arrggh.’, who wipes her eyes with the back of her left hand. The rain falls even though it is Sunday evening and the lady in the blue and white frock written at the breast Ejinja Friends Mothers Union is just coming back from a fellowship meeting where she was elected the new Mama Assembly. The wind blows the scented olive oil used to anoint her forehead and she mutters,’ ‘‘now how will I prove to those pagan children of mine that I was anointed?’’ And the woman in a yellow khanga sucks in her teeth from behind the duka counter because honestly, she doesn’t care. She sucks in her teeth because she remembers what the lady in the blue frock said to the other members of the mothers’ union, that she is a common idol worshipping catholic.
She walks the length of the shop to the wooden door then reaches out her child’s thigh sized arm and flicks the white plastic switch so that the duka is filled with the fluorescent light from a 100 watts Philips bulb. Hand on the plastic switch, she stands there a moment, wondering whether to bolt the door and keep the cold and that woman outside. Yet she doesn’t have to wonder long, for the wind bangs it closed, relieves her of the unpleasant duty of shutting out another human. ‘Oh, this storm,’’ she cries a little too loudly for the benefit of the one outside.
The storm rages. Both women watch the tea coloured rivulets collecting into the trenches and forming a brown river of tea that prickles the throat of the one outside but she can do nothing about it. It too prickles the throat of the one who can do something about it and she calls out ‘‘Kadogo,’’ to a little girl of eleven who skips into the room and is promptly handed a packet of long-lasting Tuzo milk from the shelf and discharged to go make ‘short tea.’
Outside, the chickens run and huddle under the dog’s kennel. Outside, the rain which has wind in it makes the silvery strands to slant and fall on the inside wall of the veranda. Outside, the wind bends the leaves of the maize crops that were just forming ears.
Inside, the kettle hisses and sings along to the little girl’s I went to a china shop-shop-shop. Outside, the woman in a blue and white frock edges closer to the wall, buttons up her sweater, rocks herself back and forth as the borders of her black cotton petticoat drink from the chalice of heaven and she cries, ‘‘This rain, my God!’’ Then moves to the shop window and asks, ‘‘Wilhelmina, do you sell umbrellas?’’ Silence.
And a tap-tap-tapping on the mabati of the duka. And Wilhemina closing her bad eye so as to see well. ‘‘Come inside before you catch something that is not the holy spirit.’’ A tap-tap-tapping on the floor. And the turning of a latch. Outside, the rain falls and the wind blows so hard the mabati roof rattles and rain pours into the shop through some holes in the roof. Then there is lightning and a thunder that tears the white sheet of paper that is the sky into a thousand tiny shards. Inside the short tea brews and the storm brews as Wilhemina narrows her eyes at her adversary’s face in the glare of the 100 watts Philips bulb. And Anastacia, whom she hasn’t seen in four months since the quarrel, looks down at her shea-butter coloured hands and is about to say something but there is a power cut and the two women are plunged in darkness.
That is when the memory comes, tender as rain and the awful afternoon is upon them, clear and coloured as the rainbow. It sits between them, like a third person and the air gets so tense it could be cut with a knife. Fiona straightens her frock out of habit and calls out, ‘‘I am sorry.’’ Wilhemina says nothing because there is nothing to say. She lights her Nokia 3310 phone and in its dim glow, feels her way past the cartons stacked with goods and into the inner chamber.
The rain is lighter now and they no longer have to shout to hear. Wilhemina comes back holding a lantern with a huge lit wick which casts a yellow light on a thermos flask whose colour Anastacia cannot make out in the dark. But it the eleven-year-old girl, the one Anastacia whispered was a haram and illegitimate that is handing her a melamine cup overflowing with hot tea. She stretches her hand to take the cup, too willingly for she knows she is being watched. She smiles but the little girl looks as if she is staring at something beyond her.
Silence. Traded accusations. Unanswered questions in the air then. ‘‘In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit amen.’’ Then, elongated slurping of tea from melamine teacup. The radio can now be heard and it croons an old catholic tune and against her longstanding beliefs, Anastacia taps her protestant feet to the catholic tune. Wilhelmina stares at her, watching for hidden judgement. Trying to wash down the sweet potato of anger that is stuck in her throat with the hot tea.