‘When you look at me I see what you want, you don’t hide it in sweet nothings. You want to be with me, you want to get to know me. You saw something in me the first time we met and since then you just want to see me.’     

                                                                                                                                               – Awinja

I was too lost in my blissful thoughts to hear the first shot but the second one broke through. I felt something, a pang of pain then something warm trickled down my side. The panic climbed up from my toes yet my eyes remained fixed on the road. ‘What you don’t know won’t kill you right?’ I thought to myself. ‘Well except if it just happens to be a bullet’. I can’t believe I found that funny at the time. He was panicked, covering me from all sides like he had eight arms or something. I didn’t want to tell him what I suspected, I hadn’t even told myself either, I hadn’t looked. There were people running all over the place like headless chicken, I couldn’t hear their screams, but I could see their mouths moving. It was strange; it was all in slow motion.

“Dee!!!” he shouted while shaking me to reality. I heard him, though his face had become blurry.

“Don’t panic,” I told him as I slowly went to touch my side, his eyes followed my hand and it was  the look on his face that made me realize what I already knew; ‘I was in trouble’.

The vendor we had just bought gum from was hiding behind his stand, it was made of mesh. He looked so afraid. There was a woman on the pavement; she was dragging herself forward toward the pillar. She left a lot of blood on her trail. ‘Should I go help her?’ I thought.

A Black Toyota VX with tinted windows was driving on the wrong side of the road, slowing down. There was a man running ahead of it. He was limping; there was blood on his cream khaki pants. He was crying out ‘Don’t kill me! Please! I have a family! I’ll do anything!”

A masked man on the passenger side of the Toyota poked his head out of the window, a big gun followed…

“Dee!!” he shouted again calling my attention from the man on the street and back to him as he pushed me to the ground. Everything was blurry now. “Hold on please, please hold on,” he said over and over. He lay on top of me, his hand firmly pressing down on my side. It hurt worse than anything I have ever felt but it felt like I was feeling someone else’s pain, like I was looking at me from afar yet I felt the same measure of pain. ‘I was dying wasn’t I?’ I hoped I hadn’t said that aloud. I didn’t want to tempt the universe or to add to his panic.

Two other gun shots rang out. The man who was limping away from the black Toyota, they had shot him again. He fell not too far from us and lay still. ‘Was he dead?’ The car sped past the man, made a sharp U-turn at the intersection, sped right back past us and it was gone. He was the one they were after. The rest of us, just casualties of a war we were not even aware of.

He got off me, his hand still on my side. “Dee, stay with me, please, stay with me.” He touched my face with his other hand. He was crying. This was bad. I was really in and out at this point alternating between excruciating pain and sleep. ‘Probably best to stay awake, to stay with him,’ I thought.  I saw beauty in his eyes even as the tears flowed. He cared more about me than he did about himself. He wanted to switch places; he wanted to carry my pain. He was screaming at the people around us, asking them for help I guess. A few people came.

“Babe, this is going to hurt like hell but we need to get you up, ok?”He said. He wasn’t wrong. The pain shot up from my toes and seemed to explode in my brain. I was out like a light.

Floating in space must be weird. The weightlessness. The fear that you may run out of oxygen and your last sight would be of the most incredible view of the earth and the moon. Wondering where you would go after or if your soul will remain floating in a vacuum for eternity, trapped. I think that’s what being unconscious felt like or was it. Or maybe I was just half in and half out because you shouldn’t feel anything when you are blacked out should you? But I could hear him pray. I heard a woman sigh and say ‘I don’t think she will make it.’ I heard the doctor calling out for two bags of O neg blood or was it pints or packs or litres. “Prepare the OR, we have to operate now or we lose her.” I knew they were talking about me but I couldn’t understand why. I wasn’t in pain anymore.

I heard him pray the same thing over and over. “God, Save her please, or take me instead.” I made my own counter prayer; “Don’t you dare take him, you gave him to me and I’m keeping him.” It must have been the morphine talking. I don’t usually talk to God that way. And out I was again.

It smelt like clean sheets and antiseptic. I didn’t think I was in heaven when I saw all white around me. I tried to lift my head to get a better view; but the pain warned me not to try anything smart so I lay back down. He was asleep on a seat beside my bed covered in a blanket. His head was tilted back, his mouth slightly open. He looked amazing. Weird right? I didn’t want to wake him, he was probably exhausted. I just stared at him for a bit. He scratched his nose slightly then let his hand fall back down. He mumbled something incomprehensible, smiled, got into a more comfortable position and fell right back asleep. His eyes were closed the whole time. Just watching him sent chills up my spine. ‘I’m I in love?’ We hadn’t known each other that long, maybe just a few months. That night we were on our third date. There were issues, not with his integrity or his willingness to commit to us, just things he had in his past and some that were still tied to his present and future. The kind of things that had the potential to go very bad very fast. I pride myself in living a drama free life. I always tell people, my life is not a soap opera and neither is it a cupboard to hides skeletons in. Yet here was a man who had a way of sweeping me off my feet in spite of his ‘complications’. He made me want to be mature enough to handle it, to handle him, his past, his present, our future. Maybe. Imagine, me, mature. “Ha-ha!”I covered my mouth to muffle the laugh but it was too late. He woke up in a panic like he had heard a bomb explode.

“Dee!” he freaked.

“It’s ok, it’s ok, am ok,” I quickly reassured him.

He jumped off his seat, threw the blanket on the floor and sprinted the two steps to my bed then stopped and just looked at me like he had forgotten what he was going to say. I watched him stare at me. Chills.

“Hey,” he whispered as he gently caressed my face. It tickled. I giggled.

“I missed you,” we said.

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