Stone-pressed trousers ballooned under an accidental quarter length sleeve dress shirt.

The same cool white washed through the top and pants alike.

The very best of "mtumba" (resold donated clothing), my heart shone towards you now. What could break a heart better than matched and cardboard stiff menswear? I knew you chose something special and prepared and ironed it the evening before.

And I’m sure you ironed it yourself and I’m sure you must have grinned when you picked that out and my heart cries when I think of that.

Later I learned that to get to the meetings you cross a river which floods in the rainy season and hides slimy crocodiles along the banks. This is one of those crazy yearbook experiences which seem ambiguous and faraway. I suppose you are both of those things.

Someone drew a caricature of you on an old receipt during a meeting one time.

You were a frog, hunched forward over a wide, toothless mouth.

Never has a frog looked so smashing as you did just then.

So there you sat and soon you stood, and when you dedicated yourself before all in the audience, I tried not to cry as it would look so strange. But inside I was touched.

You see, when you talk, it’s so charming and bright. Like marbles, your mouth moves around your toothless gaps and utters speech half English and half Swahili. When I offer my ‘Shikamoo’ and say only a few words in your mother tongue, you laugh and still, you try to test me further. But the tests are never too hard, and your graceless chuckles are always surprised and impressed.

And there’s something about your laugh that is especially infectious. Your head leans sideways when you shake my hand; then when you laugh, off-center with the rest of your body, you try to lick your laughter back in before it escapes mid-breath.

So as I sat watching you stand at the front of the auditorium, looking at least 80, and collecting your little black plastic bag with shorts for baptism, I was just melting for your story inside.

The best dressed little frog, ready for the most important moment in his life, and standing alone; no family there to watch, no family that I even know of; there you were.

Later, when I offered my “hongera” and “karibu”, you pointed to Gurvinder, your 30 year old Indian Bible teacher, and said, “My Spiritual Father”.

Of course, your shoulders hunched forward and your wrinkled dimples curled into such a laugh, hot on the heels of your words.

When someone is so human it breaks my heart in such a state.

Hongera Ndugu Nduka, Karibu Sana!

 


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