I have always loved girls with smoky eyes. Not thick thighs, just the eyes. I never quite understood why. Perhaps it’s because my best friend’s ex had those sort of eyes. And I always wanted to lay her.
She had thick thighs that one. And the sort of eyes that asked you to throw a friendship into the muck. For just one chance to bed her. I never did though, not because I am a particularly good man…the opportunity never came.
She always had these black locks with brown edges. And she wore it in that style that reminds you of a pineapple …a fine apple that one. Then her lipstick, goodness. That dark red that smelt like Jezebel digging her lips in blood. I loved it.
We buried him yesterday, and I am sorely tempted to call her today. Is there an acceptable period before you can call a friends former flame? No…? Are you sure?
It has been some 5 years since we all left campus. And life came at us with all it had. You know the way you thought you had life all figured out. You were going to get that degree in 3 years. Because 4 year degrees are for people who don’t know what they are doing with life. It would be in a discipline your mama was proud of and your dad would literally keep telling his buddies about it. The devil all this time was smiling. Your results come out and you are lucky to get a degree in the Arts. You finish campus and apparently no one wants to employ an anthropology major. You live in mum’s extra room for the next 2 years. You do odd jobs when you can get them. You think of going back to shagz to run your dad’s farm. But the mzee points out that there is little difference between your arms and twigs. Plus, your complexion is not in line with the Job Description for a farm manager. So you take on the third internship since you left school. You are glad to be doing something in the corporate world as you wait for your big break. You log on Instagram, and your crash, your best friend’s girl is pregnant. They seem so happy in that picture. The captions is “We are pregnant,” because your buddy Rotich has always been a feminist. You can see he bought her a car some months earlier. She looks so beautiful in that picture. You wonder what she sees in him that she did not find in you…But you already know. Poverty does not make men look handsome. Life has been generous to them, you happily comment what a beautiful couple they are and log off before your Safaricom internet bundles get finished!
You seat there on your bed, in your mother’s house, wearing the clothes that she bought you. And for the first time in your short life, you notice how the overhead fan would make a good anchor for a noose. You wonder how it would look like, when they found your body. Your tongue out of your mouth, saliva long gone 6 hours after your neck broke. The eyes wide open almost falling out of their sockets. The room having a pungent scent courtesy of your bowels having emptied. You would probably put the suicide note on the table. Better for everyone if they don’t have to touch the body to find it. Then you wonder if the randy cousin who lives with you would take photos. You hope not. There is no dignity even in death these days. You start to think of how thick and fast the condolence messages would come in. Perhaps even Sara, your buddy’s girl would send one. Or they would send one as a family. You would hate that. You look around for things that might make a good noose…but your mama calls you. You are 26 years old but you respond as if you are 12. Your mama is not above putting a belt to your backside just because you are grown.
She is cooking chapati. She is happy. You can see why your father chose her today. Most days, she is a demon slaying dragon that will call heavenly fire on whatsoever displeases her. And because God listens to mothers, her track record scares everyone. She tells you to sit, and you sit next to her. She cuts half the dough and places it in front of you and tells you to start kneading. You get to it, your fingers have had years of experience at this. Mama never believed in that nonsense that men should not know how to cook. Bless her heart. She will never know how much her training has been utilized in other areas of your life. Which is why your ex lets you hit it once in a while. She says you lack many things, but the ability to fondle National Security regions of the female anatomy, is not included. Mama is happy. She is beaming but you know women. You do not ask. When she is ready, she will speak. So for an hour you knead the dough and cut it into small balls. Mama then rolls them into a circular shape. She puts the pan on the cooker and you start to make the chapatis. She is singing, as she always does when happy. But mama is an African feminist so her music is decidedly fierce, think “Kokpa” by Dobet Gnahoré.
She’s got you a job. You will report tomorrow. You will resign your current internship respectfully via email. Because this town is small, and you never know where you will meet those people. She does not ask if you want the job. Your preferences are not necessary to the conversation.
You report in the morning. You love it. They give you a good desk with a view over Uhuru Park. You can see the CBD as you sip your coffee. The money is really good. It is as if they are paying you for being jobless for 2 years. You work hard, harder than anyone else. Because you know you need this job. When the others criticize the boss. You shut up, and do the work. Because you promised mama you would not embarrass her. Your mzee is so proud of you when he drops you off the first time, he hugs you. And for 17 microseconds your world is at peace. The salary checks in end month. You take it all to your mother. She smiles and says no. It is your money after all. So you buy her a new set of cooking pots. The ones she has are getting old. The mzee gets a fancy new suit and wallet. He will wear that suit to tatters. And years later, when he dies, he will ask that you bury him in it. The villagers will complain that you are burying your father poorly, only you and mama will understand.
You call your best friend, Rotich, ask him to come to town for a drink. How else will he know you now have money? He arrives, without girlfriend in tow. You assume she is taking care of the kids. You buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. You tip the waitress Ksh. 500 for just bringing the bottle and you settle in for a good evening. You of course, must get home before 10. It is still your mother’s house. You will not disrespect her. That night you are a little too loud in the club. Money does that, increasing the volume of your voice by a few decibels. You are excited to tell him about your life. He listens patiently. The mark of a man long used to living with a woman, he listens. You do not notice that he does not drink much. When you ask about home, he says everything is fine. You believe him. You are so happy talking about you. You never notice his silence. 9 pm arrives and you both leave the club. You carry your bottle of Johhny Walker black. It would be a shame to leave a half full bottle. Your father will also enjoy it. He calls an Uber, and when it arrives you ask him if he wants a peck. He laughs, you laugh more. It wasn’t really funny, but goodness the alcohol has got to you. You pass by the butchery and get a nice steak for mama at home. A man does not walk in late empty handed.
You will repeat this situation 37 times in the next 2 years. You talking, him listening. He will grow thinner and will only say it is work that it pushing him. You will believe it. The pictures of him and the wife will disappear from Instagram. He will say he is making his life more private. You will not believe it. You will push him for answers he will give none. You will notice the scratches on his neck. The type that look like a cat did a number on you. You will ask him what kinky shit he is into. He will deny it. You will ask him to bring his wife over for a drink. He will be evasive. You will push him, he will cry and tell you the wife left him. You will ask why, he will cry some more. The waitress you gave 500 bob years earlier will remember your kindness. She will drop a box of serviettes for you. And the music will grow a little louder. You will be grateful. He will cry some more. The type of crying that men cry when they have nothing else to be hopeful for. You will not know how to help him. You will cry with him.
The call will come in at 11:37am. Sara will be on the line. You lost her number. She never had yours. She never needed it. You will know the voice before she introduces herself. Your heart will be a little joyful, okay a lot. He died in his sleep. Alcohol poisoning. She will tell you why she left him. He loved the bottle a little too hard. More than he loved her or their child. You will finally understand why he did not drink much when with you. He was hiding it. You will bury him in his village, the one neighboring yours. His people will lay his head at his father’s feet.
You will come back to the city. You will work hard. You still need the job. Sometimes, you will drop off milk and bread with his wife and kid. She will be grateful. And one day she will tell you how good of a man you are. You will believe it. You will move in, slowly at first. A toothbrush here, a shoe brush there and finally a hair brush. Then your suitcase, TV and then even your roaches. You will love her. And she will love you.
But your insecurities will be with you as well. No one ever taught you how to deal with your insecurities. That maybe she still loves him. Maybe you are not enough. Maybe just maybe she is with you for your money. Why did she love him first? You will forget that you have little money. It will eat at you, especially at night. When you sleep in his bed, on his side with his woman.
On a lonely afternoon, in your bedroom, the one that used to be his. You will tie your tie in the shape of a noose. You will put your neck through it. You will mentally prepare to kick the stool. You will steel yourself ready to do it. Your eyes closed, listening to the last sounds of earth. You will smell the chapatis the maid is cooking, and you will remember mama’s chapatis. You smile.
You did not close the door. The boy will come in and you will feel his presence before he speaks. “Uncle, hiyo ni game gani tucheze?” You will untie the noose and hug him. You will cry, and he will cry. Right there in what used to be his father’s room. Your mama will call. She saw a darkness over you today, she prayed and God lifted it. You cry some more.
Sara will come in later. She will hug you. Tell you she loves you…You will cry again. You will promise to love her some more. All of you will cry.
And life will continue.
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