“Mjango you know I would have been someone’s wife right now!”
I must have said “Pull up selector!” or something that expresses that, just stop right there. Stop and just stop! Let me breathe for a moment. She is what, 22? Almost turning 23 and I couldn’t begin to imagine she was saying as we were speaking at the time, she’d be someone’s wife.
Not because I wouldn’t be happy for her. But, hey not that impromptu without warning like a rectum without muscle breaks. Not because I was expecting she’d hang around for a while so I’d tackle her to the ground, lion-antelope style – a velvet box in hand and a ring in it. Not also because she wasn’t a wife material. Shrug. I mean. Rolling eyes. Anyway that would explain why the man who wanted her hand in marriage so soon couldn’t wait any longer.
Material like that is rare in the men’s market. It’s available then it’s not. The sales officer in heaven would announce that brand of wife material available in stock on market day and before you even make your bid, someone else already beat you to it. So you will have to agree with me that your friend doesn’t just appear from the wilderness of mystery nine or ten months after you last met speaking a wife dialect she had never even whispered about before.
The last time I saw her before the pandemic was in Alfa Cafe. It was probably God’s move because He knew there was a chance the next time I would see her, she would not be in the same league as I am. She will probably have graduated to the “How’s your marriage so far?” club and I would still be in the ‘So truth is, I’m not ready to settle yet’ club. Clubs that don’t even share a street.
She was full of life as she always is. Looking adorable like a butterfly that had just transitioned. In fact, literally like a butterfly because she was exploring the beauty of what it means to be young. I admire the way she has a daring spirit. She never relents just because there is a scent of impossibility in the air. She has done so much at our age that would have a 27 year old thinking just what on earth have I been doing with my life?
Our greatest point of connection is in our grind. We’d share ideas and help keep track of what either of us is venturing into. You know you have to be careful who you share your plans with. That day she talked about her advancements on YouTube. I saw a big dreamer who accompanied action and commitment to her dream.
Then we talked about relationships. Well, what’s a good catching up session without talking about baes who are like bees in our lives. They sting often mercilessly but we still pursue after them to lead us to the sweetness of life. Good vibes and good laughter is the honey buried in the hive of love whether we admit it or not. True happiness comes from sharing. Sharing a bed with a bee. A bee that sure will feed you with honey but their kick hurts like a sting. Or you have never been kicked by your partner in bed while you’re both asleep? Okay you should try it sometime mjango. The sting of love I mean.
Had I found my sting by then when she asked? Maybe. There was a bee who’s honey I had started to love. You know asali ya ukambani don’t taste the same as asali ya Kakamega and sure as hell don’t taste the same as asali ya Kajiado. But you choose your honey and make peace with the sting that comes with it. This bee I had once vowed I didn’t want anything to do with its buzz for six months after our first official meet had recently flown near my yard. I followed the buzz sound to its hive near Pirate’s lounge in Lurambi. Now the honey was slowly but surely becoming my new Sugar. I however knew this sting wouldn’t be an ordinary sting.
“Enough about me, what about you?”
She said she was seeing someone at the time. She had chosen her sting and she was growing to love it. It’s called finding the pleasure in the pain. BDSM comes to mind. How do you even… Never mind. He stayed in Eldoret. He works and is a few years older. Four maybe. I was happy for her.
It dawned on me officially that it must be true. As men, our better halves are or will be three, four or five or seven years younger than us. Ten even kwani? My maths teacher in class eight, Bwana Otieno wherever you are big up yourself – used to tell us our wives were seated in those class one and two classrooms across the premises. We would laugh and accused him for bluffing. For insulting us even.
I didn’t imagine that our next meet up would be bearing different tales. Unbelievable ones even.
The man who made a strong bid, and I must emphasise it was a very vicious bid for this adorable young lady, was seated in a Toyota Hilux parked right next to the same Alfa Café in Kakamega when she made an appearance a meter or two away. It was 4pm thereabout. He must have been tired to his bones after a whole day of overseeing the road construction. Add on top the scorching hot sun that seems to lift its skirts up only towards Kakamega. Lest he fell in exhaustion, his car was the best venue to escape the harshness of his job. A job that always has him on the move and the money moving towards his direction just as well.
She, we will call her Betty, was just from class with her girl friend, Susan. Tired as well from carrying the weight of a university degree on their shoulders every single damn day and the lecturers don’t make it any easier. The destination was one. The house. Throw shoes to whatever corner they’d land and just sleep. Either of the corners according to the topography of a bedsitter could have the bed, a wardrobe if you’re lucky, a suitcase if you’re not, a study table or sufurias which is the kitchen. Yeah so where would your shoes rather land? Note, the other three corners remaining show where your heart lies.
The journey however was interrupted by the meeting of two random elements on the face of the earth. Susan stopped to say hi just around where the vehicle was. The virtues of friendship call for Betty to stop and wait for her friend to finish her social delegations.
[The words in square brackets and italics are mine, the rest is her narration.]
I saw him leave the car and walk over to us. I knew he was walking over to us but I wished he was not. That probably he was just stretching his legs.
“Ah! Wafula, meet these lovely lady friends of mine.” So apparently, Susan’s friend was a colleague. Just great huh.
“Pleased to meet you,” Went the shaking of hands and exchange of platonic smiles.
I cannot say I thought about the new acquaintance again after that day. But there’s a way the universe seems to tip the ball of fate in ways we never literally see. I didn’t get why from that day, we bumped into each other more than I must admit I thought was necessary.
[It’s actually a thing. The universe bows to faith. Confidence about what you cannot see yet. A strong sense of hope. As a guy I make use of it even without realising that I am actually applying faith to hit on a chic. Or even if it’s just being interested in scoring a friendship with a lovely lady who happened to walk my way. I’d hope to see her again. Probably the first time I was not mentally prepared to say hello. So with the strong hope will come a mental rehearsal. From if I’ll say hi, or hello or sasa? To the tone in my voice. Not too rusty and not too void of masculinity. To the degree of smile I’ll spice it all with. And last but not least, the eyes. The juggernaut is in eye contact. It leaves a lasting impression on them. The unmoving faith beckons for favour from the universe. When you least expect, I’d see her walking towards my direction again. The lady would think it’s just a coincidence. What she doesn’t know is that in the heart of the man were serious prayers and unwavering flames of faith to get to meet her again.]
That was around February. In fact probably exactly a year ago. The Bible says that when we make our plans, God laughs. Sounds better in Kiswahili, Mungu anacheka. I bet He laughed so hard that his ribs hurt and he knelt on the golden floors of heaven slapping the floor when we made plans for 2020. The year after the twilight of one decade and the dawn of a new one. The year that introduced our generation to the mother of realities that we’d be married and even become parents in this new decade. We had great resolutions for the year. God was laughing. As He slapped the floor of Heaven laughing, a flu found its way to the lungs of the earth.
[He was also laughing because some of us would become wives, husbands or parents earlier than we thought. Tell us about it Betty.]
That was in the beginning of the year in Asia and Europe. They are just bluffing, we thought. White people problems, we must have said. In March, it hit Kenya. And then it wasn’t funny anymore. Neither on earth nor heaven. It was as much a black people problem as it was to the rest of the world. You hear shit hitting the fan and you think it’s some small crap like chicken crap. Maybe it felt like chicken crap when schools were closed and we were sent home. Then it felt like cow dung in the fan when international travel was cancelled. Cow dung doesn’t hurt, we must have said. We can sweep that and throw it to the garden. The flowers will love it. When a total lockdown was ordered, that was when we realised the one throwing crap on the fan wasn’t kidding. Shit in the hands of a lunatic. Human crap came flying when it was apparent that the economy was shitting it’s pants. Or even shitting on the fan itself.
The lockdown felt like a break from normal life at first. A free holiday in uni. I mean, hallelujah man! I missed my mum and family. A month was more than enough to make me feel like we were now competing for oxygen. That you were only allowed to eat for example, just as much as the oxygen you have contributed to paying for. I had to do something about it.
Mum was already struggling enough to provide food at least. I couldn’t possibly be that foolish to depend on her for my needs even as little or as big as my needs as a girl. The boredom was real needless to say. Trying to sleep so late in hopes to bridge day and night was not helping. In whose house anyway when there is a shamba to be tilled?
“Ushaiona shamba inalimwa lunch time? Ebu nirudi niwapate mmelala!”
Risk putting your hand in a blender but not prolonging sleep when my mum says, “Ebu nirudi niwapate mmelala.”
“Sitaandika watu wa kulima kama mko tu hapa.”
I had to look for a job mjango.
To be honest when she said she had to look for a job, I did not know what to think mjango. But you and I both know what I didn’t want to think. I was disputing the idea in my mind anyway. I know her. She’s a decent girl. She couldn’t possibly have stooped that low. Could she? Can life strongarm her that much? She’s a fighter. Anything else she’d do to get a shilling or two but certainly not that. Neither could being married off be the solution, right? But how many cases during this pandemic have we heard of girls either loosening the grip on their skirts or giving up themselves to marriage just because life proved to be so damn unbearable financially? Should I be surprised to hear that maybe a friend of mine, like other girls in our generation saw opportunity and grabbed it. The end justifying the means?
Sigh. The anxiety was killing me. Too mentally bombarded that I pressed the tomato sauce until it spilt beyond the plate of fries and marinated chicken before me in Morgan’s Coffee House. She insisted that the bill would be on her. So I said I’d have what she’s having.
“Weh huoni vile nimenona?” She said while giggling.
I tried not to further the joke because I learnt weighty jokes are actually not weighty when the one making it is the weighty one.
“This has been like my everyday meal ever since.”
Continues on Friday…
I hope you’re already enjoying your new rooms in the new empire. How’s the view? Are my servants treating you right? Did I just hear someone ask where the pool is in this empire? It’s at the south side of the palace. I hope you’re just asking to know. It has been chilly recently. And as much as we would want to treat you like a royal, we cannot warm the pool for you. That’s why you have a bathtub in your room. Dinner is in a few hours. Hang around in the meantime. Do something. Get to know someone knew. Take a walk around and pluck a flower or two. It still smells like valentines around here. If it escalates too quickly, just make sure to use protection. They are in every bathroom cabinet in every room. I hear this brand that is freely distributed by the government called Sure is the best quality. I kid you not. I heard that from a medic. Anyway, debauchery with caution if you must. Also grab a drink by the bar. Okay okay sawa. Coffee will do for this cold weather. But if you must indulge, who are we to stop you? Incase of emergencies, maybe you were having nightmares. Or a fire emergency. Or stima zimepotea. Or you’ve run out of drinks in your room cabinets. Or protection. (I won’t judge mjango.) For all those things that need my urgent attention, there is an emergency button with a whatsapp icon next to your king size bed in your rooms. It links you up directly to my chambers.
So tell me how you love our new empire. Tell me all about it in the comment section.