M rushes into the small waiting room outside the dance studio, grabs a book of dance photography and settles onto the dusty floor for a few moments before her class starts. This is what she comes to class for, I think, these photos of ballet dancers on the streets of New York. Her dirty Converse runners lie beside her, she licks chocolate from her fingers.
I stand in the middle of the lawn, early evening, feel the rain fall on my head, my face, stream down my back, cloud my glasses. I can hear the wave of the next downpour roar on the tile roof before it reaches me, can taste it, smell it. All these years of watching the rainy season arrive in our yard, I never thought to include my other senses. I stand longer than I mean to, don’t want the soundtastesightsmellfeeling to end. Phil watches from the porch, dry and wondering. When I stand beside him, a puddle forming around me on the tile, I tell him that if I die tomorrow, I would want to have stood in the rain tonight. He understands this. I wipe the water from my glasses.
Today a white-eyed slaty flycatcher sits on our potato tree, the first time we’ve ever seen that bird in Nairobi. I am not home, but Phil takes pictures, sends me texts. Later we’ll pore over his photos, the flycatcher wide eyed at its surroundings, the bee eater mid-flight, wingfeathers blurred.
As I tuck the girls under faded quilts I ask them questions. What made you angry? What do you love? J is angry when kids say mean things about each other’s art, P loves swimming under water. They beg for more questions, more lullabies, but I am tired, trade the magic opportunity for emails and youtube, already regret the decision as I close the door.
J makes pancakes before school, undaunted by narrow time frames. She is careful not to drip batter on the counter, serves her sisters first. They spread homemade loquat syrup over their pancakes, a gift from a weekend guest.