Guns N' Roses and a Glass of Merlot
Our romance blossomed amid a bloody terrorist attack.
“I have never been a fan of wine clubs,” he declared in his slow, drawling voice, pushing back that errant lock of hair that had acquired the irresistible habit of falling over his twinkling green eyes.
“But the people at Bright Cellars sure know their job. Their magical algorithm perfectly gets my evolving wine tastes right every time and their choices are impeccable,” he said as he passed on a glass of Merlot from Bright Cellars’ Wandering Giants Merlot. It had flavors of tart cherry, vanilla, and violet and was the perfect choice for our first date.
It was our first date 36 hours after a bloody terrorist attack in the bustling city of Nairobi that left 40 killed,200 injured, and massive destruction of a bustling shopping mall. I still had ugly purple welts of bruises on my forehead and his one arm was in a sling, injured when a bullet grazed his forehand. We were in pain, but it was an occasion to celebrate and kickstart our first date.
And he had invited me to his house and was cooking for me. There was this candlelit dinner table all set with red roses and scented candles, the rustic notes of Guns N' Roses, This I Love playing softly in the background, the heavenly smell of roast turkey wafting all around, and a slightly ajar bedroom door showing flowers sprinkled on a spotless bed. My first date with him surely had all the trappings of an interesting night of passion and love.
As I nursed my glass of Merlot, sitting on the kitchen stand, watching him effortlessly cut a big chunk of bokchoy with his good hand, my thoughts raced back 36 hours ago when I first met him as yet another hostage like me, held by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in a Nairobi mall
The attack on the mall
The attack happened on a Saturday evening when al-Shabab (an offshoot of al-Qaida) extremists stormed the mall from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians. Confusion, mayhem, and death ruled supreme as hundreds of people were injured and suffocated by the toxic fumes of grenades and incessant gunfire.
But most of the people managed to escape except the unlucky ones trapped inside the mall's Nakumatt supermarket, one of Kenya's biggest chains. And we both were part of the 40 unlucky ones who were held hostage by brutal masked gunmen who would shoot at even the faintest smell of a rebellion.
10 long hours went by. There was no water, no food, and only fear. Any such requests were treated with merciless, vicious kicking on the groin and stomach. The spattering of blood, the eerie silence, and the brutal gunmen guarding us were nothing less than a scene from the darkest hell that ever existed.
But I was not a person who can be quelled and kept quiet. I was angry and terribly angry as I muttered to myself.
“Shame on me!! Such a celebrated judo instructor and I am bundled helpless like this like a wimpy porcupine.”
The man next to me spoke.
“You are right. I am also feeling exactly the same despite being a karate kid myself. Why don’t we come in together and do something about it?” he asked, his green eyes twinkling, in a concoction of humor, determination, and anger.
I looked at him. I hardly knew him, but I really don’t know what made me say yes to his crazy plan. Whether it was his twinkling eyes or the anger boiling within me, I cannot say but I found myself agreeing with him to escape out of the building and seek help. If everyone must live, somebody must fight these crazy bastards and it must be us.
What followed next was the stuff, superheroes are made of.
I gradually wriggled myself behind a gondola loaded with drinks while he moved stealthily towards the rear door. The gunmen were bored, and their guards were down. This was the element of surprise we were looking for,
We got lucky. I knocked two of them cold through Seoi Nage (one-hand shoulder throw) while his lightning karate chops knocked the wind out of the other two. We were free and were running towards the exit of the mall in the next 20 seconds. That we were exhilarated by our bravery would be an understatement.
But then danger struck us in the form of a brutal brute of a man at the last 100 meters towards the exit. He caught us in his iron grip as his massive hands were pelting blows all over our bodies. We struggled as we felt our lives slowly ebbing out of us.
It took a massive superhuman effort from both of us to pin him finally as my fingers pierced his eyeballs. He yelped in pain as he released his grip while my companion knocked him down senseless and cold. But the brute was not down yet as he again regained consciousness and fired his gun at us.
The bullet missed me but grazed my companion’s forehand before he incapacitated the brute with a karate Yama zuki (mountain punch) once and for all.
What happened next was a blur. We reached the gates wounded and half-dead. The security forces stormed the mall and finally the hostages were released. Fortunately for us. our injuries were minor and 36 hours later we were at his place celebrating our first date ever.
Our first date and our destiny
“A penny for your thoughts, what are you thinking so deeply?” he asked in his trademark twinkling smile as he refilled my empty glass of Merlot.
I smiled. Our eyes, the pain we suffered together, our resilience said it all as the wonderful date night slipped gently into the wee hours of the morning. There was no “I love you”, no “darling”, no “sweetheart” stuff even once in our conversations as we realized that we are destined to be with each other for the next seven lifetimes.
Love is indeed strange as you can find it at the unlikeliest of places and the melodious music of Guns N' Roses reiterated its immense power once again while our exhausted bodies intertwined into one another.
So, if she’s somewhere near me
I hope to God she hears me
There’s no one else
Could ever make me feel
I’m so alive
I hoped she’d never leave me
Please God you must believe me
I’ve searched the universe
And found myself
Within’ her eyes
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed and learned something new from this article. If so, leave a like and a tip if you super-liked what you have read just now. See you - Mythili