The Holmes gene
The ocean wavered, transferring its energy through gentle crests which crushed against the coral below us. The sound of the crushing waves fused with the cheerful laughter from my friends harmoniously. I zoned back in to the energy of my friends as they cheerfully tell stories, sipping away at their gahwa beneath the residential storey buildings shading us from the setting sun. The buildings gave way to a cemented patio that stood just at the edge of the corals with a railed ending; this made up the coffee joint. I loved my gahwa as sweet as they come.
It was our favourite spot in Kibokoni where we’d have coffee after parkour practise runs near Fort Jesus every Friday evening. We made considerable progress that week so the coffee and visheti were super sweet. We just about filled the joint, whiling away the time with snacks and stories complimented with a view of the ocean. The eye-catching English Point Resort gazed at us from the other side of the ocean. The stories kept us there even after our cups were dry. They were good stories.
“Nisave na hiyo kikombe bro,” a lanky, light-skinned guy around my age said, pointing at my empty cup. He had sharp cheek bones, brown-framed, thick lens glasses which he kept pushing above his nose and messy, black hair.
I smiled as I handed it to him but he never looked at my face. He put it in the small bucket half-full of water by his side and begun arranging the other cups to create more space for the rest. As he sorted away a few etres beside me in the rather quite packed joint, I glanced at the notifications on my phone and realized it was time for Maghreb prayers. I bid my friends goodbye and headed for Baluchi mosque. Listening to the imam’s beautiful voice leading the prayers was a superb way of ending an equally beautiful day
Approaching the main road, I heard someone calling behind me. Initially I thought that it wasn’t meant for me but the urgency in the call made me turn around. I turned to see the lanky guy from the coffee joint running in slow wide steps as he struggled to hold his oversize pants to his waist while pushing his thick glasses back to their place.
I grabbed my track pockets to see if I had dropped my phone but it was there. He finally got to me and bent over to catch his breath for a few seconds.
“Asalaam aleykum bro!” he said, still panting.
“Waaleykum salaam warahmatullah,” I answered.
“I just wanted to ask if by any chance you practice parkour and free running,” he continued.
“Yeah, ata we’re from training just a while ago hapo Fort Jesus,” I said
“Oh maa shaa Allah this is so great!” A wide smile came over his narrow face and he continued, “I’ve been practising a little pia but I never had anyone to practice with.”
“Sucks, right?” I said. “We’ll be here for practice tomorrow. Feel free to join us,” I added.
“That would be awesome wallah bro. What time?”
“Usually tunaanza after Asr prayers but you can come earlier nione how good you are then tuanzie hapo.”
“How’s 3 pm?” he asked.
“Yeah, that’ll do great,” I said, feeling like an accomplished athlete.
“Ajeeb bro,” he said gleefully. “Can I have your number?”
We exchanged our numbers and I gave him my names. He started walking back to the joint and I announced, “And what should I save you name as?”
“Twariif!” He yelled back as he back-peddled. I smiled at the thought of being a teacher of my favourite sport for the first time.
The adhan sounded from all over Kibokoni and so I started again for Baluchi. I wanted to make it to the first row in salaah and get every rakaah.
I didn’t want to be late for my first lesson so by half past two in the afternoon, I was in the matatu waiting for the driver and conductor to be satisfied by the scarcity of passengers on a Saturday afternoon. It was one of the slowest matatu rides I’ve ever heard in my life especially since I was determined to break my known reputation of coming late to important events. I was so anxious to make sure I don’t keep my first student waiting. Looking back at it now, I wish I had the time to savour the full tide ocean as we crossed the bridge into town.
After multiple stops and waits, we finally arrived at my stop and I started for Fort Jesus on foot. What started as a pacing walk turned into a slow jog after I realized it was five minutes to three. On the way there I thought of the beginner moves he might have known already and which moves we’d train that day. My first student, I thought, smiling. I caught sight of a homeless man staring at me with a smirk on his face. I nodded backed at him as if to tell him that I respect him for all he’s been through and I sympathize with him; even though I couldn’t assist with his situation.
I jogged past the last corner to the park just in time, expecting to see him waiting in anxiously. He wasn’t there. I put down my string bag and warmed up as I waited for him. Good thing there weren’t a lot of people on site so the weird stretching had no attraction value at this historical site.
I collapsed on the grass after trying to go for a leg split. What in the world was I thinking, I thought silently laughing away the transcending pain. My breath slowly steadied as I marvelled at the humongous blue sight of the sky, extending its signature convex nature to the edges of my view, its glassy depth emanating from the heights as it settles in still beauty, its majesty so pronounceable yet never seeking the attention of anyone or anything. Just existing in its own natural beauty. It was peaceful.
I slide my phone from my pocket and switched my view to its screen,
Nineteen minutes past three.
I opened my contact list as I sat up and selected Twariif’s name for a message.
“HEY, WHERE ARE YOU AT? WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES TO STICK THE LANDINGS.”
My gaze fell back at the ocean which never ceased to amaze me in its beauty. Stray thoughts cut at my fabric of sanity with questions about who I was, what I meant for people and what my purpose, my calling was in this broad world of digital dementia, stereotypes and identity crisis. This was the curse of a wondering mind; the unravelling of nothing but the harsh realities that surround every border and will of our dreams and the definition of our lives that vary everyday like the combinations one can use to solve the Rubin’s Cube.
I wasn’t ready for that roller coaster today. I put my phone in my string bag and set it aside. Let’s start flying, I thought. Parkour is my second love- those single moments when you execute a vault perfectly and you feel the air moving alongside the adrenaline coursing through your veins as you float for just a fraction of a second in the air as the crows glide around you, clueless in their search for food, totally unmoved by your poor attempt at flight. There and then, it is just me and my world…
I was sweating reasonably from my short workout and I pulled out my phone to check for replies.
It was forty-two minutes past three.
“4 NEW MESSAGES FROM…” It was a new number. I huffed curiously at first but figured it might have been Twariif with another number.
I double-tapped on it as I took a seat back at my spot on the grass. I was right.
“HELP PLEASE! (3:28 pm)”
“IT’S TWARIIF (3:28 pm)”
“I’M IN DEEP TROUBLE (3:34 pm)”
“PLEASE! (3:37 pm)”
“HELP! (3:39 pm)”
My heart sank to my stomach and every sweat cascading down my skin turn cold as every muscle tensed me into place. I couldn’t believe what I read. I redialled that number and waited as the call in tune called for the first time, then the second and then the third…
What’s up man, I thought to myself, running every possible scenario in my head of what might have happened to him.
“CAN’T TALK (3:45 pm)”
“WATANISKIA (3:45 pm)”
“COME OPPOSITE FORODHANI (3:46 pm)”
“ITS HAPPENING (3:48 pm)”
“HURRY! (3:48 pm)”
I threw my phone back into my thread bag instinctively heading towards Forodhani. All manner of questions were going through my mind; what was happening to Twariif, a seemingly simple coffee seller? Why did he choose to text me yet we barely know each other? Should I alert the police? Should I just assume I didn’t see his texts? It was then I realized I was hurtling down the street and running out of breath. I slowed down a bit, trying to organize my thoughts amidst the sounds of adhan all over Kibokoni.
I stopped in front of the Resort, looking at its subtly curved wall-art after its name as I caught my breath. I then noticed the vibration oscillating in my bag. I pulled out my phone and saw the recent missed call and one message,
“BEHIND YOU (3:57 pm)”
I turned around to see Twariif standing at the entry on an alley wearing an amber yellow t-shirt that complemented his light skin, a dark brown trench coat that went just below his waist belt and deep black pants that extended to a pair of dark brown open leather shoes that resembled a boot but with narrow slits running across its fore side. He looked smart.
He signalled me to follow him as he walked briskly into the alley, hands sunken into the side pockets of his trench coat as its bottom end whipped back with the same urgency as his steps. I followed him confused as I harboured the butterflies taking flight in my stomach and the feeling of my throat drying up.
“Hey!” I called out.
He kept walking.
“Hey!” I repeated as I started to jog towards him. “Twarrif!” I finally said, raging out as I caught his shoulder, turning him to face me. He didn’t resist. He turned having placed a finger on his lip and looked at me intently, his cheekbones pronounced more by the upped collar of his trench coat and narrow dark eyes and messy black hair. He didn’t have the thick lens glasses this time.
“We’re here,” he whispered, glancing around
I looked at him blankly, my throat now drier than before.
“I need your help,” he continued.
My heart beat was in my ears as I kept looking around for any possible danger.
“I’ll explain later but right now I need your expertise,” he added “Something is happening over this wall and I need you to get to the top and take a peek.”
“Allahu Akbar!” the imam at the neighbouring mosque begun Asr prayers.
Now, aside from the fact that he made me wait, run and worry like a mad person, he was now asking me to get over a wall with no explanation. He noticed my confusion as I stared fiercely at him.
“Please. A kid might die if you don’t,” he added
I calmed a little. “Even if I was to help you, how am I supposed to get on top of this wall? It’s at least three meters high,” I said, looking up the wall.
“Using that,” he pointed at one of the support beams holding up a wooden balcony of the neighbouring storey house that extended below the wall.
“But these beams are ages old. A little excessive hurdle could bring the whole balcony down.”
“Not today. The county government made sure of it 3 years ago with their urban development plan to reinforce the Old Town and its structures. They are as safe as a rail bar can be,” he said, confidently.
“Come-on, we haven’t much time,” he added. “Your soft sole loafer shoes won’t make much noise when you make the run.”
I looked at him reluctantly and knew he was right. I sighed and took a few steps back to face the wall. I then jolted in quick wide strides running up to the wall, put one foot on it and pushed myself up, transferring my momentum upwards towards the support beam. I reached out at my peak height and grabbed the end of the beam, reinforcing my grip with my other hand as I adjusted myself into a cat grab position with both feet on the wall. I flew again, I thought, and smirked. I then set myself for the final leap to the wall ledge and pushed off the wall upwards to grab the corner ledge of the three metre wall. I finally pulled my chest onto the wall and pushed my upper body above it with my arms then sat on the ledge.
A strong concoction of bhang fumes hit my nostrils unbelievably hard as I took my seat almost knocking me off.
Twariif signalled from below to inquire of what I had seen.me from below of what I see. Looking down into that side, I saw a couple of boys seated in a circle at the corner side of the wall and storey house passing around a single strip of bhang to each other. A laughing young boy with properly groomed hair stood out from the rest with the level of neatness he carried compared with the others.
Just then, one of the boys made a slight bob to raise his head towards the wall ledge and I quickly moved back to the cat grab position on the wall, listening intently whether he had noticed anything.
“Asalaam aleykum warahmatullah” The imam finalized the Asr prayers in the neighbouring mosque as I savoured my short relief.
I leaped from the wall, landing softly near Twariif.
“Did you see a boy with a Persian cat’s fur for hair?” he asked.
“You mean neat? Yes I did,” I said, wiping the dust off my palms. “What’s he got to do with any of this?”
“Just a moment,” he said, retrieving his phone to do a quick text about something to someone.
“Come,” he said, sliding his phone back to his coat pocket. “Walk with me. I know you have a lot of questions to ask.”
“Who was that boy, and why did you say someone’s going to die?” I asked as I complied with his request.
A group of people holding walking canes led by a smartly dressed man with a white beard walked by us, disappearing behind the alley whose wall I had just scaled. They all looked bound by the same mission..
“You see that old man?” Twariif said, pointing to the smartly dressed one. “He’s that boy’s father. He is a successful businessman here in Mombasa. Nothing much about him, really. As for the boy, he ran away from home almost a week ago and I was tasked with finding him. I just texted him the whereabouts of his son.”
“What do you mean you were tasked with…wait. Who are you man?” I asked, studying him like I was seeing him for the first time.
“I am a consulting detective here in Mombasa, and no,” he chuckled. “It’s not in an official capacity as government agent. Working this way keeps me away from getting swallowed in the rampant corruption.”
I scratched my jaw, not knowing how to respond.
“I know, I get that a lot. I assume you want to know why you’re involved in all this,” he said, motioning for us to move away from the wall.
We had reached the end of the alley when the boy’s screams rent the air.
He signalled a tuktuk to stop and he hopped in. instinctively, knowing that he was a detective, I jumped in too. The boy continued screaming. I remained silent as I tried to process my thoughts, imagining what my role in this sudden adventure was.
“Baluchi mosque, please,” he instructed the tuktuk driver.
“After scoping out the place the boy hangs out, I knew that direct confrontation was out of the question because I’d be out-numbered by the boy’s smoking buddies and, the mateja here have a habit of revenging with grave consequences. The other option was the wall and clearly I wasn’t agile enough to get up there. I needed someone with gymnastic abilities,” he said, glancing at me.
“I see,” I said,
“I knew that the only probable place local acrobatics would be training here in town would be Fort Jesus beach and since it’s easy to form groups at the beach when your sport is similar, yallah.”
“I chose the coffee joint because it’s the cheapest place for groupies to hang out during the evening especially on Fridays and Saturdays because it signifies a mild version of a boy’s night out. I took the cup collecting job for the day at the joint for a tiny wage and observed the people who came by and you and your group were among them.”
“But how did you single me out from the lot?” I inquired.
“Simple really. I observed. In sports, runners have a more developed shin muscle build than others. With you I noticed bigger left shin muscles than the right which is a sign of injury, especially knee related ones. You use less of you injured leg. And I didn’t notice any scars of surgery which meant you got the injury recently around the introduction of arthroscopic surgery where they use tiny equipment and a camera to operate for efficiency and accuracy. It was either surgery or limping of which the latter was ruled out during our exchange of numbers.”
“Impressive,” I said, thinking to myself that he might as well be a surgeon too,
“The grains of sand on your head and back too, a result of frequent rolling, and the major giveaway was when you unlocked your phone to check the time. There was an Instagram notification with a username, ‘parkourho’ which openly suggested that you practiced parkour.”
”The devil is in the details, huh?” I said, chuckling. “Still, why me?” I asked as the tuktuk pulled by Baluchi mosque.
“Rather simple, again” he said. “You smiled and contributed more to the group. You seemed to admire nature more and you seemed almost one with it, which are both signs of an introverted personality and one of the qualities of such people is they are good listeners. So I had a higher probability of convincing you compared to other members of your group. Zoning out from a sports group is also not a common thing unless you’re undergoing mental illnesses like stress or depression. So preventing you from being alone afterwards was a good win for both you and the case. Besides, I do know the feeling.”
“So you took a job and dressed up as someone else completely to play detective for a case?”
“The art of disguises is one I love to explore. And the cases are a distraction for my wondering mind.”
“This is just….just.. Incredible!” I remarked.
“Huh, that’s not what other people usually say.” he said, subtly impressed.
“Oh, wanasema?” I asked with a chuckle.
“Suffice it to say they are ideally not as positive as you,” he responded as I stepped out of the tuktuk. I expected him to get out too but he remained glued to his seat busy typing something on his phone.
“You’re not getting out?” I asked, bending slightly to get a better look at him.
“No,” he answered. “Ntawahi Asr baadaye hapo Aga Khan mosque. Baluchi pray at half past four so you’ll have time for your training with you group,” he said not looking up from his phone.
I stood there not sure whether to thank him or expect gratitude from him. He then stopped typing and looked up at me with a smirk
“What do you say we do this again sometime?” he said, winking at me.
“I’d say, hell yes!” I said, smiling broadly.
“See you around, champ” he said as the tuktuk readied to go.
“Wait!” I called. “Is your name really Twariif?”
“Yes. Allah azza wa Jal made sure it spelled out my destiny,” he said. “Look it up!” He added as the tuktuk sped away.
I removed my phone while I looked at the disappearing tuktuk and typed in the meaning of his name on Google search. It came back,‘Twariif meaning Curious’
I smiled as I put my phone away. The Adhan sounded from the minaret above me, signalling time for Asr prayers.