You look at the wall. Photos of your wife. One with her parents, several on her graduation day, another two of the wedding day. It’s funny she doesn’t bother to pitch yours there. Not that it matters, but this is still Africa, and the king of the jungle must be made omnipresent in all subtle manifestations of life. It is called protocol and protocol is not subordinate.
Looking at these photos of her, there is nothing one can see if not an angel. Eve is beautiful. But it is her smile that people get slayed by. The three years of marriage have only removed the dents and refined her as the queen of all times. There is a way a smile breaks through her skin and glows to the world, calling, begging, commanding not to be missed out. Her look is soft and there is a way every small pose displays her as a vulnerable thing that must be woman-sat and shielded from the world’s evil.
Yet she is not the angel people see.
Eve is evil. A devil. A serpent.
Sometimes you sit and wonder why the gone Africans sat down and ruled that everyone must be bounded. Did they know you’d meet Eve? Could they have seen people like Eve but still gone ahead to prescribe the same bondage so that none is spared of life’s absurdities? An African ancestor should do better than that.
You turn onto your back just in time for the incoming message. It’s the girl.
“No, you can’t understand,” you reply.
“Juz tel me. U r makin me navaz,” comes the answer almost immediately.
You know you are chatting with your girlfriend’s boyfriend but you can’t stop. Your life is a holloid and this is the only way to feel complete. She is not even your girlfriend. She is a drunk whom you crushed on while on college attachment in Mombasa and you were happy that you were both from Nairobi. Now you are insulated by the distance and the night and so you feel it can be done. And it can be done if not for this idiot impersonating the hope of your darkness.
“This is something different. I’ll sort it out,” you text.
“Is it abt lst wknd? I knw it’s abt lst wknd!” You are yet to figure out what she does with the extra time she saves from abbreviating words.
You spent the whole of last weekend feeling lonely and horny and tried in not so few words to tell her to come over. Every word of hers was punctuated by typos and a million requests for cash. So you gave up and didn’t answer her calls.
“No. This has nothing to do with anything away from myself.”
“Thn lemme cm ovr. I’m horny. U at ua hse?
But God, what’s wrong with me? Why all this?
Eve ran away because she thought you were being promiscuous. Over a month after she left you try casting your nets wide but you catch nothing. Then when you are in no need of a catch, a whole school comes your way. Why?
Every evening Eve picked a quarrel with you. Today it is about a spoon, tomorrow it is about your smile. Then about where you put your socks. Quarrel sources continue like that until they start recycling themselves. And the end of every quarrel, after the socks or the smile, there will come the accusation of promiscuity. Eve was greater than life. At least what she thought.
Your house is your house. You can misplace your socks. You can misplace the house itself. The only thing you should never misplace in your house is the role you play in your house. Eve forgot that and now she will live like a widow unless an unlucky man bumps into her somewhere. As for now, problems are how to fix your debts and try to secure a future where you are central.
You are a cursed man. Everything you touch you lose. Your gambling career has been going south and today alone you lost 10k. Your presidential candidate lost last week. Your English team has been hammered 4 nil. The only thing that seems to be on your side is your shadow and a ruthless assembly of debts. Lots of debts. But people believe you are happy and, ask village standards, rich. Two cousins have put you on their wedding committees. The father to one of them wants you to talk to a younger son on how to make it in life.
They see your car and your 3BR house and know you are up there. The same thing you’d believe if life went four years back. A decent job with an NGO was your dream for greatness. But time can never stop, leave alone moving back four ugly years for the loser you are. And since this is the bed you made, none else will sleep in it.
You must complete servicing the car loan. Then rent is there, humiliating you but you can’t go to a cheaper house because they will talk.
“Yeah. I’m at home.”
“Cm pik me in twn.”
“The car is faulty.”
“Cm pik me wth a ma3 then.”
“I told you how I am.”
“Thn if u cnt wlk snd me 3k 4 Uber. N giv me drctns to ua hse. Am cmng nw nw.”
You don’t remember when you began losing it with Eve. All you know is that at one point she was an angel, the undisputed queen of slayery, and now she is what she is. Whatever happened in between, the devil knows.
You’ve tried to apply advice in your life. Advice from friends, advice from parents, from your friends’ friends, from neighbours here, secretly from a counselor in Chile whom you met on Facebook in 2009 and have been promising to meet one day, from social media friends, from a colleague at work who promised she has the best advice to keep one sailing, from the pub. None has ever worked.
“No, don’t come I’m okay. I’ll call you tomorrow morning then we see how it goes.”
As less woman-savvy as you might be, you know the end of this plot so well.
“Miss you babe. Gd 9t,” she texts.
You feel flattered with that. At least someone misses you, even if it is plastic. Right now it will work just fine until the government bans all plastic products. Or until she knows that you don’t have any money, which is what she is missing. God, it’s not even a she! This is a bastard with a beard and an amazing appetite for other people’s money. He’s probably sitting in his single room in Kibera drinking chang’aa with friends and waiting for his girlfriend to come back from the shop with more cigarettes and condoms. Maybe he is a serial killer working overtime to buy new weapons yet he is broke. He could even be at some maximum security prison waiting for government beans and porridge tomorrow morning. Whatever.
Your watch reads 10.37pm. Tomorrow is Monday, and the thought of you reporting at work cuts sharply through your spine. Your boss is not a very wonderful human being. Apart from the miserable life you lead, you are also tired of his black colonial bossiness. Every working day you wake up worried and feeling like a criminal and walk to work like you are going to court. And at night when you should be worrying about your girlfriend’s boyfriend you are still thinking of that same damned creature. Boss.
“Hey, you are late.”
“What do you mean yes?”
What do people mean yes? “I’m late sir.”
“Just like that?”
“Look, Brittle Publishers is not your company. If you can’t work, just tell us. Another day you come late you will meet your congratulations letter at the gate.”
“You have a science with understatements Bwana. Where did you learn them?”
“I’m not your Bwana. I might not be anything big but keep in mind that your future here is in my hands. It’s just that I’ve not decided to send you home.”
“Thank you, savior.”
“And I’ll thank you not to make fun of me.”
People forget quickly. This is the same idiot who was caught stealing before he was fired at the insurance company. Everybody here has heard that story. The first day he was arraigned the judge had to allow him to go pee three times, and some say his pants were still wet when the case was adjourned. Then he was jailed. Then a thieving uncle got him out, secured him his current job and now he can come shout at people who are late by only three minutes.
What is three minutes? Even Elen saves lots of minutes in your chatting and she has not bought a cup of tea with them.
When you completed college your prayer was to get at least a four-figure job in an office where they allowed people to put on ties and nice suits. You landed a six-figure. Of course wow! – in a lady’s voice. Your prayer was to get a well educated woman for a wife. Eve came and you couldn’t ask for more. At the time. A beautiful woman, a decent house and a secure 8-5 affair in a rotating chair was not bad. But now you sit at that desk from morning to evening, looking at your computer, and you feel there can be nothing more humiliating than that same madness.
Where is happiness?
You spend whole days going through manuscripts written so poorly you don’t want to read. People write bad stories and want them published. Without apology and with no bribe. Who does that? At least the satisfying bit of it is that you hide behind your screen and wait to ambush them. Then when they least expect you go through their gibberish and cut out chunks of mental waste, sadistically, seeking satisfaction in revenge. Satisfaction eludes you and every evening as you go home, you go with the hope that perhaps that deserved satisfaction will follow you back home. Or will chance upon your sorry soul tomorrow.
Your phone rings.
“Bro, how’s it?”
“Long time. You forgot us or what?”
“How’s college? And did you change your number?”
“No. My phone was stolen today morning and I just borrowed this. And you know we miss you lovely bro, eh?”
“If it’s money you want, I’m broke.”
“Don’t be like that. Can’t one call a brother to say he loves him?”
“I’d also like to see that. Especially when so much is on the neck of brothers these days. How’s your boring girlfriend?”
“Edy is not boring.”
“When is she aborting again?”
“She’s here. Talk to her.”
Silence as the phone changes hands. “Halloo big bro. What are you saying?”
“I was just worried that you guys don’t call me these days. What did I do to you?”
“Really! We shall be coming to Nairobi soon. How’s Eve?”
“You are coming to Nairobi? When?”
“Next month, maybe. And….” Phone goes silent. Should be their airtime. The best thing network operators have done is reducing the number of minutes you talk to broke and boring humans.
The phone rings after five minutes.
“It’s not Edy. It’s me. She finished my airtime talking to you and you couldn’t call back.”
“I was through with whatever I wanted to say.”
“And by the way, have you talked to Eve?”
“What has she told you?”
“I think she called mum yesterday. You guys need to….”
“Talk? Say it! We need to talk, right?”
“Don’t be harsh. I was only delivering a message.”
“Wait till you marry your dull woman and then you can deliver all those messages you have.”
“Don’t brood at me. You know I am a decent person.”
At the end:
“Bro I’m in a ditch. Edy wants to go to the salon tomorrow ahead of her birthday and I’m really down. Swing me some 5k I’ll tell mum to refund you.”
“5k you said?”
“I don’t have.”
“Don’t be like that. It’s just….”
You cut the call. Then you switch the phone off and throw the sim card under the bed.
You might not be the best marriage advisor this side of the Sahara but you know when a man begins to become the idiot in a relationship. And you want to be miles away from that abomination when it strikes your home.
It is 2.40am. Maybe when sleep comes you will sleep. But right now you are not sure whether to start preparing for work or nurse your eyes.
You look at the photos on the wall. Eve smiles back.