I am standing in front of a makeshift book stand with The Kite Runner, a novel by Khaled Hosseini, in my hands. The traffic and the typical noisy confusion of Tom Mboya street is receding as my mind’s faulty sacrifice-reward evaluator engages. This is the book I have longed to read, all year round. I had come across its soft copy, but some books I consider too holy to be read while straining on the tiny screen that emits uncomfortable bright light, making me conscious of the shiny tip of my nose. Here in my hands is a guaranteed adventure.

I imagine a moment of lunacy: I flash out almost all the amount I have with me, the five hundred shillings I have budgeted with, and hand it over to the guy in charge. The tall middle-age man in brown checked shirt, black baggy jeans and a tight leather belt fasten slightly above the waist. From the dark dry lips, I deduce he is a smoker. He will crack a smile, revealing discolored teeth and then mechanically say, ‘Thank you, young man. You are going to find more than the worth of your money between those pages.” After the exchange, I suppose, I will momentarily flip through the pages, no doubt in dilemma whether the sale was reasonable. Are the papers and the writings within worth starvation?

I don’t want to answer the question. If my shopping history is anything to go by, I am a heavy spendthrift. I have tried the technique of evaluating my priorities on several window-shopping occasions and it has always failed. I don’t regret anything, and I am not proud of the habit either. I know eventually I will buy the book. In the current economic state, I’m certain I will never get a second chance to buy a good book.

“Let me check the synopsis and the prologue.”

“Take your time.” The fella replies nonchalantly. Perhaps he is not used to customers who study the cover of books. Perhaps he is not used to customers at all.

I turn to the prologue and put on a studious expression. Today is my birthday. Last month I had scribbled to detail in my infrequently used diary how this day ought to unfold. The day before yesterday I should have arrived in Kilifi, welcomed with madafu. After learning through an embarrassing encounter with a coastal beauty that madafu is not a type of madazi, I have always wanted to taste the locally prepared. Not the sun-brewed ones they sell in the streets of Nairobi. In this very hour, the journal records, I should be in one of the sandy sunny beaches. Not swimming, life is short to tease death, but riding a horse.

Lack of money limits even the noblest of wishes. And for an extravagant person like me, I only realized at the eleventh hour that my elaborate birthday plans were bound to remain on paper. The calls I made were received with the cheerful “merry Christmas” pleasantries, but after explaining my predicament, “Sorry, I wish I could help” were hurriedly mumbled and then, call ended. That is the downside of sharing birthday with Christ, everyone has it that you will enjoy and be full to the brim from the Christmas celebrations, and hopefully forget your own birthday. Overtime I have gotten used to the disappointments and made it my duty to gift myself.

But if I buy this book then I will have to endure almost a one-month financial crisis, something I had prepared to experience from somewhere in mid-January. Perhaps on this birthday I should simply be contented with the pride of being a Capricorn. Perhaps.

“Oyah! This is a very interesting book. I will pass by and pick it in the evening. Kindly keep it safe for me.” I tell the fella confidently.

“Sure, just put it down there.” He replies with a tone which seems to suggest, ‘don’t worry, I am used to your kind.’ I place the book down and as I lift my head, there it was.

Three books from where I am standing lies Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece, The Alchemist. The slight specs of dust on its orange covers glitters, or I think they do, in the warm noon’s sun. If there is anything that I have observed attracts my soul and I can’t resist, are pages soaked in wisdom and careful poetically woven tales. These I will choose over even hot coastal ladies without hesitation.

“What about this?” I inquire, picking the book and dusting it off.

“Same price.” He replies, his tone full of boredom.

“Here’s the money.”  

“Oh, you had money!” Surprise is evident on his face. He grins widely as he receives the money, and indeed his teeth are colored.

Somethings in life I can’t put a price on; family, true friends, adventures and great books. My birthday plans might have gone to the gutters but, knowing that The Alchemist is in my backpack as I walk away lifts off all the disappointments. After twenty-four hours, the whatsapp status, squeezed between smiley merry faces accompanied with pride stained captions, purportedly to celebrate my birthday will come down. Only Paulo Coelho wisdom will remain with me.

Happy Birthday to me! One day these dreams that excites my heart will come true…

©writerdismas.

Written on 26th December, 2018.

To commemorate my Birthday.

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