In April, for the celebration of last Easter, that was when Hiwot brings out all these buna things for use. The dust on them is many months old now. As Hiwot asked me on the phone, I take all them out and put them on the dining table so she can clean them later. Still I try to puzzle what happened to Enat. Oh, don’t ask me about Enat. That was what Hiwot said. What happened to Enat, you don’t want to know.
Yes, maybe I don’t want to know but I have to want to know – this is how it works with Hiwot and me. As I am putting out the eighteen dusty sini, and the one dusty rekebot, and the one dusty buna carpet (the edges of it so tangled it remind me of Hiwot and the other girls blond afro-hair after a night in the clubs), and the dusty mekuya roasting the coffee, and the dusty long iron stick for moving the beans around on the dish, and the dusty mesob for the incense, and the dusty mukecha with the dead insets inside the bowl where the coffee would be beaten into powder. Our little table holds them all, and this I see is big problem for the future business – we will need two three times more supplies.
“Yes, so much more we will need,” Hiwot says, when she has returned from her shift, and together we are standing looking at this sad collection. She smelling like muffins. “And bigger,” she says, “More bigger of everything!”
Did I talk in my sleep? No, because from excitement at my new business idea, I did not sleep at all. As I wait for her to come home in the afternoon, as I am making and feeding myself breakfast, I am thinking thinking. So she is in my head, that must be how. How else she can know about the idea if I did not tell her and if I did not in my sleep talk all about it and she is there to listen?
I ask, “What else we need? Is this everything?” For me, this is safest way of asking about her special jebena Enat without asking about it direct. Even a blind can tell you the one thing that is necessary for this collection to complete is a jebena.
Hiwot is looking not at me. She is looking at the table. “You want to know what happened to Enat? She ran away.”
“From my hand she ran away.”
“You dropped her?”
“No she jumped to her death. Of course. Stupid. You want to say it like that then yes I dropped her. Say what you want.”
Now you, listening to our conversation, will maybe say ‘so what, you get a new jebena, what’s the big deal?’ Maybe you are not habesha, that is why you will say this. But the relationship between a woman, even a normal one and not just Hiwot, and her jebena is very special. So between Hiwot and her Enat, the relationship is even more special.
You see, Enat is not made from any common clay, by any common labourer, and sold in any common market. Enat was made special for Hiwot by her own grandmother, from the clay that is in the ground of the exact village of her childhood before she traveled to the capital as a young woman. To her it is as precious as my blue stone on a string around my neck. The clay of Enat is the same clay Hiwot learned to crawl and to walk on, and mashed with her little friends as they were growing up together. The clay of Enat is more in Hiwot’s blood than her blood itself. Even when she left Ethiopia, only that jebena rolled in two gabi did Hiwot carry in her one bag that she could take on the plane with her.
“Where are the broken parts?” I say. I know that she will not sweep them up and throw them away like some nothing thing from dollar store, like everything else in here that we use. Her jebena is not like my Venti cup that I press into a ball and throw into garbage. “Maybe if the pieces are not very small, we can stick them together. I will do it.”
“There is no sticking them together. I must grind them, and wet them and mash them again, and make Enat all over again.”
She goes to sink, plugs the sink hole, and opens the tap to fill it with water and soap. I think she will begin to clean the coffee things collected on the table. But the dirty pot with old-dried kik wot is also in the sink.
“And how will you do all this?”
A real question it is not, but she answers like it is. “Maybe I’ll use the mukecha. Make the pieces all into a powder.”
So now I pull a chair and sit. This like a bad time it looks to introduce the idea of my business. It is true what they say about the full moon. This looks like better time to check on the health my friend’s mind, even when my mind is spinning a little from hunger. The sad breakfast I prepared for myself, is as if I never ate anything. The food you have to cook for yourself is never so satisfying, and it is always so little.
“Ok,” I say, “Then you can add the hot water and we can drink the mix, like children. Eshi.”
“I add the water, yes, but to make the paste to shape into a new jebena.”
“Now jebena maker you are? Just take all your things and go back home and go into jebena-making industry.” And I add, like the nechoch like to say, “Sounds like a plan.”
“You think I am joking?”
“Do you hear my laughter?”
I hear hers. She laughs hard like her stomach will burst, so hard that the tears come out of her eyes. When her breathing comes back, “Isn’t this more fun than your chicks rotation?” she says. Now from so much laughing she is hiccupping.
I begin to take off my shoes. Maybe now the best thing is sleep, and after I rest I can handle running after and trying to catch up with her confusing mind. Just one hour early I come home, just one evening shift I don’t call her until late, and this insane-ness is what follows? What I should have done from the moment I enter is go to sleep like normal, as soon as I entered. So I decide this is what I will do. I take off one shoe. Great ideas and tarik can wait until after rest.
“No, no, what are you doing?” she says, “Put your shoe back. We have to go out. Let me clean these buna things first. Then we have to go out to the habesha store. Enat is in storage now. She is safe. We need a new big big jebena. Because at one time I should be able to make coffee enough for thirty people at least.”
“What thirty people? The thirty people where?”
“The thirty times thirty times thirty times times people all over this city. All the people you pick up and drop off all night. For those people.”
She blink at me. I blink at her. We’re blinking thinking is she in my head is he in my head. And the water tap of the sink is going going. Only when we hear the soap and kik-wot mixed water overflow and fall down the side of the cupboard under sink like waterfall and splash the ground like rainstorm, only then when I am rushing to close the tap and she is rushing to find a cloth in all this running to stop the flood, two voices say, “I have an idea!” I hear it in my voice first, but she says it was from her voice first. This is the problem when two people to each other don’t listen.
That is no matter now. The important is now the idea has come out suddenly like the water with nothing to hold it, so it must happen in reality. The first thing to do is find a jumbo version of Enat.