When I roll over and open my eyes on Sunday morning, it takes me a few minutes to orient myself. First of all, all I hear outside is the sound of waves of water lapping on… what sounds like a beach.
And there are birds, too, instead of the usual traffic passing outside on the road that runs just past my apartment. I roll over to gather myself – and realise that I am not, in fact, sleeping in my own bed based on how hard the mattress is below me.
I sit up quickly, trying to figure things out. Have I been kidnapped? Did I sleep-walk my way to this strange place? What is going on? And then a full drummer band makes its way from the depths of my skull, its members locating themselves at each of my temples as they start their furious drumming.
“Oh, lord,” I moan as I feel a wave of nausea make its way through my tummy and up my digestive tract. I lie quickly down and close my eyes for a few minutes, my forehead breaking out in beads of sweat. And then it all starts coming back to me…
Last night… an argument with Mariam… lots of soul-searching conversations with Fatma and Jo… copious amounts of wine in plastic cups… Naivasha…
“Naivasha!” I yelp, sitting up quickly as my eyes adjust to the tent around me.
“Argh, keep quiet, it’s too early in the morning for drama,” says a voice coming from somewhere inside a sleepinerg bag next to me.
“Ai!” I yelp again, scared witless. And then I remember that Jo and I had decided to share a tent while Mariam and Fatma went off to the other one – partly because Mariam and I had gotten into a flaming argument and now neither of us is speaking to the other.
“Oh, I need to throw up,” I say, jumping out of my sleeping bag, and crawling over to unzip the tent and run towards the loo, which is a fair distance away. I spend 10 minutes bent over the loo, wondering how much wine we managed to put away last night to cause me to feel like this. At this point, I don’t know how much worse the pain can get.
It is only when I finish, and when I am feeling rather refreshed, that my mind is alerted to a mild ache somewhere in the region of my heart. And that’s when I remember reading the email that Chris sent me.
‘Liz, I don’t know how to do this,’ the email started, ‘but it is something I must do, nevertheless. I am very sorry. I came to England to see my children, and I have decided to stay here because my children need me. I wish you well with everything. You are a wonderful person and you deserve better than me.’
I remember feeling so gutted that I couldn’t even speak; it was a good thing I was sitting down because otherwise, my knees would have crumbled under me.
“Oh no…” Jo had muttered, seeing the look on my face as she grabbed the phone from my hand and looked at it. “Let me see this.”
And then, after her eyes had flitted back and forth across the screen, she had put the phone away in her handbag and turned to me. “This one night only, you are allowed to get a little silly,” she said. “Here, let me top up your cup.”
It was at that point that Mariam had come back to from making yet another aborted call to her boyfriend.
“He’s not answering at all! I feel like going back to Nairobi right now,” she had said, plopping herself down in her camping chair and picking up her glass, completely oblivious to the somber mood around our camp fire. “I mean, he’s never been like this. He always takes my calls. What is going on? I can’t-,”
“Oh, shut up,” I had waved her concerns away. I was in that instant of fresh pain where all you want to do is hurt someone – and she was the unfortunate target. “You think you have problems? You don’t. You know why? Let me tell you why. Because while you’re here complaining about phone calls, that your toy boy is using your house to entertain his young girls.”
“What?!” Mariam had yelled, standing up. “How dare you!”
And that’s when things escalated.