(Remember my novel The Realm of Humanity is now available for purchase here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751536
So I moved into this new neighborhood further away from the city because, well, a guy’s got to keep moving. That was before I heard a quote from a Denzel Washington motivation speech which mentioned that “just because you’re moving doesn’t mean you’re progressing.”
But what am I supposed to do? Not move?
Back in my campus days I was an addict. Nope I was not addicted to cocaine mom. What? No! I wasn’t addicted to sex either. Jesus Christ mother, are you smoking that shit you and dad get high on when I am not around?
I was addicted to movies, OK? Well, it is not a dramatic addiction like yours, but an addiction is an addiction so give me a break.
Anyway, so one day I am watching a series. I don’t remember what it was called. No my brain cells aren’t dying. Would you listen to my story? Can you just sit there, shut up and listen please? Yeah? Cool. Thank you mom.
In one episode, this bunch of friends gathers at a bar for a turtle race. Yes. Turtles. You know, those cute little lazy ugly ass shits? Yeah those ones. No I don’t know if we have them in Kenya mom. And what did I say about interrupting?
So the turtles are on the table. A table that they have made to look like a pitch. Complete with a finish line. Guys are standing around the table, beers and pool sticks in hand, women in tiny skirts and heels, cigarettes on almost every lip in the bar, and the turtle race is a go.
But then, as I earlier mentioned, turtles are a lazy breed. They just won’t move! And guys are screaming. Move! Come on damn it! Move your ass! Move you son of a … well, let’s just say they are using the b word that you hate so much mom.
The turtles are just seated there on the table. Three ugly turtles that you would be forgiven for thinking they are dead, hadn’t they been moving their heads around, staring at this mistake of creation called the human species, wondering why they are screaming.
Then one guy yells, “Oh! Mine moved!”
And his friend replies, “Yeah. Backwards!”
I guess this is where that Denzel Washington’s quote rings true. Just because you are moving doesn’t mean you’re progressing. But I guess time will tell whether this move to the new neighborhood, in pursuit of change and something new, will prove to be progress, or just a step in the backward direction.
But one thing this new place of mine has is a rooftop with a killer view. Well, as killer a view as you can find just twelve kilometers from Nairobi City.
So I am currently on the rooftop where I came to hang my laundry. It is going on 22:00h and there is a night breeze, gently caressing every pore on my skin with the casualness of a placid pat. There is nothing more comforting than being on this rooftop at 22:00h. With the breeze going.
Now mom, I know you always said that I have the soul of a poet, but I will say this one more time so we can guillotine this topic once and for all. I don’t have the soul of a poet. And if I am anything like you, well, I simply don’t have a soul. Period.
What? A low blow? Are you kidding me right now mom? That isn’t a low blow. That doesn’t even come close to being a low… you know what? Just sit there, keep quiet, and listen to my story. OK? Can you do that for me, please? Thank you! You want a cigarette? Of course you have your own. I don’t even know why I try being so nice to you when obviously you have everything figured out.
Where was I? Uh. Yes.
Rooftop at night with a breeze going. There are lights all around me, but what I see is life. This building is eight stories high. If one were to accidentally take a leap from up here, well, there wouldn’t be much left of them on the ground to bury.
Hey, did you ever watch that South Korean movie called “Oldboy”? Phew! Good movie. If you don’t mind subtitles. Anyway, so the main character (don’t even know whether to call him the protagonist or the antagonist…it’s complicated) goes to a rooftop to chill and finds this other guy there, gearing up for a suicide.
This dude is standing at the edge, tears cascading down his cheeks, sniffling, mucus blocking his nose…the entire pathetic ‘I’m done with this life’ shebang. And he is crying and edging real close to the edge, ready to jump.
The main character spots him and goes like, ‘hey, wait a minute, will you?’
And so the potential jumper chills. And the main character tells him his story. Oh, sijui I have been in prison for fifteen years and I don’t even know why. Oh I don’t even know what crime I committed. Oh sijui do you know how hard it is to be imprisoned for fifteen years and you don’t even know why? Blah blah freaking blah! So he unwinds to the potential jumper who cries even more.
Once our main character is done bearing his soul to this potential suicide case, he leaves the rooftop after telling the guy, “Oh well, now you have heard my story. Phew! There is nothing more therapeutic than sharing your story, is there? Well, gotta go bruh. You go ahead and do your jumping thing. See you on the other side, yeah? Alright, cool mate.” Well, I am paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist.
Main character takes the lift to the ground floor like twelve stories below and as he is walking out of the building, the jumper’s body crashes on a car behind him damn near bending the poor cheap Toyota in half. Main character doesn’t even look back. He continues walking away like, “Oh well, overpopulation is a problem anyway.”
I am watching that scene and I’m thinking, “He had to fall on a car? A car? Do you know how expensive a car is? What, he couldn’t have just fallen on the ground like a normal person?”
Anyway, why did I digress again? Ah yes. Soul of a poet. It is very hard for people to stand at the edge of a rooftop and not think, “Damn, it is a long way down from here, isn’t it?” Well, I don’t know about you, but it is very hard for me.
And for everyone I know actually. When people are on a rooftop, they must go to the edge, look down and think about how bad falling off would be for their health. Then they step back. At least the normal do. Idiots like me who find the thrill in edges, linger on for a minute. We look down and flirt with death. We sit at the very edge of the rooftop. We swing one leg over the edge. We swing the other leg. And we look down. And think, “Falling off this place doesn’t feel like a good idea. Must be why I’m thinking about it too long.”
Here is the irony. I have a phobia for heights. I can’t climb a tree without every bit of me shaking and thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to die! Don’t look down! Don’t look down! Shit shit, my knees are so wobbly right now! Have to climb down. Gotta go! Gotta go!”
I can flirt with death at the edge of a rooftop, but I can’t climb a tree. Go figure.
So I lean against the short wall that prevents people from falling to their death from the rooftop and feel the breeze on my face. It is a warm breeze. Reminds me of being on the beach in Malindi in the evening. There is a breeze yes, but it is warm. Like a blanket. Only lighter.
There are drunks down below singing Nonini’s “Keroro”. They must be really old guys. People don’t sing “Keroro” anymore. Heck, people don’t even call liquor “Keroro” anymore. At least not anybody I know. These guys look like dots from up here. They must be singing really loudly for their voices to be audible to me.
And they are staggering from one end of the dimly lit estate street to the other, arms around each other’s shoulders, singing, “Niko gauge, niko maji joh! Niko Ke.Ro.Roooooooooo!” I can’t help but envy them right now. They seem so carefree. I almost think they are little babies, with nothing to worry about other than that unfinished mathematics homework.
At another part of the street below are a bunch of bodaboda riders, lying prostate on their bikes, waiting for work. They look bored. In an anticipating kind of way. I wonder what it feels like to be them. To just spend your entire life waiting. Waiting for the next client. Not knowing if and when they are going to come, but waiting nonetheless.
My patience level is at zero. And that is worrisome. I can’t wait. I am always in a hurry to get things done. Always in a hurry to seal that deal. I can be annoyingly straightforward. “This is what I want. Am I going to get it or not? If yeah, let’s do it already. If not, say so right now so I can move on to the next thing.” So no, I can’t be a bodaboda rider. I can’t be anything that requires patience as a virtue.
I don’t know when I light up. Sometimes I do that. Sometimes my mind gets away from the rest of me. I create worlds, characters, entire lives in my head and next thing I know, I am standing somewhere with a cigarette burning my lips. I have smoked it all the way down to the filter without even knowing it.
I could have continued building a world with waiting riders and singing drunks and warm evening breezes that feel like a blanket only lighter, hadn’t a gentle touch landed on my shoulder, bringing me to the present.
“Hey.” I love her voice. The voice that sits somewhere between the naiveté of an innocent little girl and the confidence of a grown woman, who knows exactly what she wants and what she has to do to get it.
I turn around and there she stands. First thing I notice about her are the dreadlocks. Thin. Dyed brown. Carefully held together at the back of her head. Then the eyes. Huge. Round. When they say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, they must have her eyes in mind. Not eyes like mine. Mine are windows to nowhere good.
I have these deep-set eyes that seem or feel, I have been told, interrogatory. Like you look into my eyes and cringe wondering what it is I am trying to read from your face now. Do those feel like windows at all? I don’t think so.
She is tall. Well, almost as tall as me. That isn’t really tall considering I am five seven, but a woman almost my height, is considered tall. Must be one of those double standards things the modern society hasn’t gotten around to setting right yet. Because what I am saying here is that if a dude is five seven, he isn’t tall. But if a woman is five seven, well, that’s tall.
Next conspicuous thing about her are the lips. She has these tiny circular lips that don’t in any way scream, “Kiss me please.” Like, at all. I have seen “Kiss me” lips. They are fuller. Meatier. Like Scarlette Johansson’s. They are overtly seducing. They don’t even hide the fact that they are talking you into kissing them. They are just seated there on the woman’s face saying to you in a sonorous voice, “Are you going to lean over and kiss me or are you just going to stand there and pretend like you aren’t thinking of leaning over and kissing me?”
But not hers. Hers are there to be seen and smiled at. They give her an innocent appearance like she doesn’t know anything about the virilities of this evil world we live in. An innocent “O” shaped source of innocence planted on her face by an innocent creator.
“Your lips don’t resemble any part of your face.”
That mom, believe it or not, is the first thing I say to her. Not “hi”. Not “hello”. And not, “It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?” Nope. Just a direct comment on what I think of her lips.
Her: (Eyebrows raised with surprise) And what kind of lips are supposed to be attached to my face?
Me: I don’t know. Something kissier.
Her: Wow. Are you saying that my lips aren’t kissy?
Me: I am saying that your eyes want me to cuddle you. Your cheeks appear to be begging my palms to cup them. Your neck is long. Straight. No extra flesh on it. Kind of like it begs my lips to embrace it. But your lips don’t concur with any of the vibe I get from the rest of what I can see of you.
Her: So you’re saying my lips aren’t kissy.
Me: No. (I put a deep emphasis on my voice now because I don’t want this to shoot out of control) I am saying while the rest of your face demands reckless attention, your lips demand caution. Tact. A smile.
Her: As opposed to a kiss.
Me: A smile then a kiss.
Her: So you’re saying that my lips aren’t as sexy as the rest of me?
Me: Oh my God. How about we introduce ourselves like normal people, and then delve into our first fight after we’re more acquainted. (She smiles as I stretch my hand) Hi. My name is Riria.
Her: Hello Riria (She takes my hand with a firm, compact grip and shakes it.) Emali.
Me: Emali. That is a unique name.
Her: I get that a lot. (We let go of each other’s hands.) Now, what is that you were saying about my lips being ugly?
The breeze shows up again and the clothes on the hanging lines dance along to the windy rhythm. I lean against the ledge again and look into what would be the horizon wasn’t my view being blocked by other buildings.
Me: You are never going to let me forget that one, are you?
Her: You say that like you and I have some sort of a future.
Me: I say that because I don’t share my name with people who I won’t meet again tomorrow or the day after.
Her: And why not? Your name’s too special?
Me: Not my name. But my time.
Her: Don’t waste time on frivolities, do you?
Me: Frivolities? What’re you, a lawyer?
Her: I like “advocate” better.
My eyes swing off the “horizon” and I face her with a smile. She has joined me on the ledge and is looking down at the street below.
Me: Well advocate Emali, do you waste your time on frivolities?
Her: Not if I can help it.
Me: You know, I have met an advocate or two. Don’t know why they can’t help but say over the phone, ‘Good morning. This is Emali, advocate, calling to ask about a file I had…’
Her: Rhymes with the purpose for which I called, no?
Me: OK. Imagine I am the Madame at the local Escort Service Company or group or whatever they call themselves, right? Now imagine one of the escorts forgot her panties or bag of cocaine or whatever in a client’s room. What will the Madame, or the escort say? (I put my right hand over my ear in a pretend phone call.) Good morning. This is Emali, escort, calling to ask about a thong I left in your bathroom next to that bag of cocaine we dug into last night….
She laughs and I think of a glass shattering on the floor. That’s what her laughter sounds like.
Her: Why did you use my name?
Me: Used your name of the Advocate example. Only fair to use it on the escort example too, no?
I place my back against the wall and light up another cigarette. This time consciously. Only when I light up do I remember that not everybody in the world is a smoker.
Me: Don’t mind if I poison both our lungs, do you?
Her: Don’t people normally ask that before lighting up?
Me: Do I look like I do “normally” a lot?
Her: Considering you made a negative comment about my lips even before you asked my name says you’re everything but normal.
Me: Well Emali advocate (I say as I blow a thick smoke cloud into the air) normal, with all its safety, drives me crazy.
Her: That is weird. Considering you are into meaningful relationships.
Me: Whoa. Did I say that?
Her: You don’t waste your time on frivolities. Any relationship which isn’t meaningful, is frivolous, no?
Me: Wow Sherlock Holmes. Did you just employ deductive reasoning into the kind of relationships I’m into?
Her: Wouldn’t be much of an Advocate if I couldn’t connect the dots.
One corner of my lips rises up in what’s supposed to be a smile. Then slowly, I sink on to the floor. I am waiting to see what she’ll do. If she follows me on the floor, then I can take this conversation to another level. If she doesn’t, then I will keep this conversation light, cheap and well, frivolous. Considering I lack the patience for anything light, cheap and frivolous, this conversation will be done in ten minutes tops.
Her: (Running her hand through her dreadlocks) Wow. You’re just going to bait me into sitting on the floor with you, aren’t you?
Me: It’s a free nation Emali Advocate. I’m not baiting you into doing anything.
Her: This is a power game to you. (She can see right through me) If I sit with you, you will graduate this from a chance meeting at the rooftop, to (she pauses) what exactly are you looking for? Control?
Me: Stop thinking too much and sit down, OK?
She sits down as she releases an “I can’t believe I am doing this” kind of a sigh.
Her: What name do they give to this kind of a moon again?
She is looking up, her long thin neck a sight to behold. I don’t know what that means mom. Yeah yeah I know a neck is a neck. What do I mean ‘her neck is a sight to behold’ I don’t know OK? Stop asking questions. I like her neck. What do you want from me? Am I going to tell my story or not?
Me: (Looking up at the huge moon above) Crescent I think. Or Gideon.
She chuckles and I pull another drag, this time letting the smoke play around my lips.
Her: I haven’t dusted my science books in about a decade and a half, but I know Gideon was some dude in the Old Testament who killed three hundred people. All in God’s name of course. With God’s help in fact.
Me: Was that the dude who God kept the day going for?
Her: No. I think that was Joshua. (She shrugs) I don’t know. Let’s roll with Joshua. Gideon killed the three hundred near a river. At least that’s what the comic book of a bible I owned as a kid showed.
She pauses. I exhale. I take another drag. I exhale.
Me: Feels like you haven’t pushed the dust of most of your books for a while now.
Her: Don’t need those books anymore.
Me: What books do you need now?
Her: I don’t know. Boring Government Printers books. Acts, Cases, blah blah…
Me: Kenya Law Reports shit?
She raises her eyebrows with surprise again and smiles widely. Her lips might be small but they widen when she smiles. That’s good.
Her: Yeah. Yeah. How do you know that?
Me: Dated an Advocate once.
Her: Oh, how did that go?
Me: Oh, she was married.
I say very quickly and look at the moon again.
Me: Gibbous! That’s the name of the moon. Gibbous.
I am very quickly trying to move on to another subject but she puts her hand up in protest
Her: Whoa! Whoa! Hang on a minute. She was married?
Me: Yeah. (I brush the point away with a wave of the hand in the air) You know, normal relationship complications. Not a big deal.
Her: She was married?!
And I laugh
And stretch my hand again to her for shaking with a hint of sarcasm attached.
Me: Hello. My name is Riria. I wreck homes. How about you? What do you do?
She slaps my hand away
Her: I defend people like you.
Me: Feels like fate has brought us together.
Her: Is that why you come up here most nights and smoke alone as you stare into the void?
Me: Have you been watching me, Emali Advocate?
Her: Hard not to notice you. Up here. (She looks around) Smoking way after midnight. Most times I wonder what you think about.
Me: So is that why you are up here with me? Because you pity me?
Her: Not really. I am up here with you because I wonder what lies inside that mind of yours.
Me: Nothing good. Nothing safe. Nothing you’d want to get involved with.
Her: I don’t do safe very well.
Me: Yeah? How so? Or are you here talking tough just to keep me interested?
She chuckles and slowly takes the cigarette from my fingers. She puts it on her lips and the end lights up as she takes in a slight drag. She blows the smoke away almost immediately and crashes the cigarette out on the floor. She might not like smoking, but she has smoked once or twice before. I can tell from how she is handling it.
Me: On a quest to spare my lungs, are you?
Her: Nah. On a quest to spare mine.
She throws the butt away and it rolls on the floor, driven by the breeze. We watch it until it finally rests against a wall.
Her: R vs. MNK (She says dreamily.)
Her: (Gazing steely at the cigarette butt a few meters away) Republic vs. MNK
Me: A criminal case against a child?
Her: Yeah. A murder case.
Me: Phew. Sounds serious. What did he do? Kill his evil step mom in her sleep?
Her: Nope. She didn’t do anything. That was the problem.
Me: It’s a girl? Children get tried for murder for not doing anything these days? Jesus. What’s the world coming to?
Her: Well, she found her father committing suicide behind their house. He was there, hanging from a tree, his legs swaying all over the place because he couldn’t breathe and he was freaking out and she just stood there and watched.
Me: Are you kidding?
Me: Maybe she froze.
Her: That is what everybody thought too. Until she went to the police station and reported the whole thing. She told the police, “I saw him hanging. I could have saved him, but I just didn’t want to.” And they asked why not and she shrugged and said, “He beat my mom when he drunk. I didn’t like that very much.”
Me: And so they charged her with murder?
Her: Yeah. At first I wanted to convince the court that she was temporarily insane but the doctors said she wasn’t. That she was fine as Whiskey when she watched him die. So I threw in provocation as a defence.
Me: Yeah? How did that work out?
Her: It worked out great. Do you know what they finally convicted her with the next time she walked into a police station with a confession?
I sit up watching her with upheld interest.
Me: OK, let me get this straight. She kills her father by omission to defend her mother, then she kills her mother? Why?
Her: For not protecting her from her father when he got violent.
Me: That’s… does that kind of thing even happen?
Her: Too late to ask now. She is sitting in a cell somewhere waiting for the verdict.
Me: Did you cite provocation for the second murder too?
Her: What no? I didn’t represent her. Figured if she is going around clocking off people she likes, I don’t want her liking me. People sometimes get attached to people who get them out of trouble. I didn’t want her getting attached to me.
Me: She seems like an interesting friend to have.
Her: She’s cool. Until she comes for you.
Me: So what’s the point?
Her: Of what?
Me: Of you sharing that case with me?
Her: I am just showing you that I don’t do safe very well.
Me: But you do. Or you would have represented her the second time around.
Her: Well, I do safe until I don’t.
Me: So what happens when I am no longer a mystery? Will you move along to another aspect of life in need of demystification?
Her: Someone has abandonment issues.
Me: You can call them that. I just don’t like it when people fly into my life, get in my head, figure out what goes on in there, realize it ain’t too different from what goes on in their own heads, and then disappear. Leaves me feeling used.
Her: So someone does have abandonment issues.
Me: Doesn’t everybody?
I fish out another cigarette from my pocket and light up.
Her: In love with your cancer sticks, huh?
Me: Nothing in the world brings out the healing power of nicotine than a midnight smoke at your rooftop.
Her: The healing power of nicotine, huh? I should use that some time. Sounds like the name of a book I’d want to read.
Me: Then you should probably write it.
Her: Can’t write for shit though.
Me: You are a lawyer. Lawyers are good with words. Especially untruthful words.
Her: Is that bitterness I sense in your voice?
Me: What? No. Jesus! Me? Bitter? About what?
Her: Who are you trying to convince that you’re not bitter? Me or you?
Me: Alright Emali Advocate. What do I have to be bitter about?
Her: Your married ex who is an advocate.
Me: OK, first of all, she is not my ex.
Her: Did you shag her?
Me: Yes but…
Her: Did you have feelings for her?
Me: Yeah but…
Her: And are you guys together now?
Me: No but…
Her: If you have shagged it, and you have feelings for it and you are no longer together with it, then it is your ex.
Me: Did you just cross examine me?
Her: Sorry. (Her voice doesn’t sound sorry. Not when she says it like that and accompanies it with a self important shrug) If you sit with a lawyer, you get a cross examination.
Me: More like if you lie with the bitches you wake up with the fleas.
Her: Fair enough. You look like a smart dude. Or introspective at the very least. Did you seriously think she would leave her husband for you?
Me: Yes. (I release an ‘I’m so stupid’ chuckle) Yes I did.
Her: Maybe you’re not as smart as you look.
Me: No I am not. Amare et sapere vix deo conceditur.
Her: What is that?
Me: For a lawyer, your Latin needs Latin.
Her: Is that what you think law is all about? Dropping a little Latin here and there so as to sound smart?
Me: Is that how you measure intelligence? By one’s grasp of Latin?
Her: Just tell me what it means. God, you’re complicated!
Me: And we haven’t even shagged yet.
Her: Wait, what? What makes you think I’d shag you?
Me: I’m the dude who comes to smoke at the rooftop every night and you’ve been watching me. And I have a sob story that left me heartbroken. And you like me. So all that makes me conclude that there will be a pity shag somewhere in this story of you and me.
Her: Well Riria, a pity shag is a frivolous shag. And you don’t do frivolities, remember?
Me: A shag is the exception to the general rule.
Her: (She laughs) Nice try dude. But I’m not shagging you.
Me: Can’t blame a dude for trying.
Her: Are you going to tell me what that Latin thing means or should I drop it?
Me: Why? So you can hurl it across the dinner table to show your friends how smart you are?
Her: You think very highly of me, huh? Tsk tsk tsk… Looks like you really need that pity shag.
Me: And just like that, I don’t want it anymore.
Me: Fine! No shagging!
Pouting, she draws an imaginary circle around her
Her: This is a no shagging zone right here!
I move closer to her, entering her imaginary circle
Me: And now I am in the no shagging zone with you. You and me are the no-shaggers!
Her: (She laughs again) Sounds like a lousy rock band name. “I present to you, The No-Shaggers!”
Me: Wait. So there will be no pity shag because it is frivolous. And frivolous is a no go zone for me. Does that mean you would be open to something that isn’t frivolous? (My voice softens with hope) Like a shag which isn’t a pity shag?
Her: What does that Latin thing mean, you smug little shit?
Me: Even a god finds it hard to love and be wise at the same time.
Her: Yeah. Yeah. That is true. (Her eyes narrow up in thought) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…blah blah blah… That doesn’t sound very wise, does it?
Her: Putting your son on the suffering block for people to torture and kill him just because you love them so much. Not smart. Not smart at all. Cute yes, but not smart.
Me: Wisdom and love. Don’t go hand in hand. No wonder Solomon had a thousand women. He was the wisest man alive and he obviously wasn’t in love with anybody. Or he wouldn’t have added 999 women on top of her.
Her: Wisdom and love don’t go hand in hand. Is that your excuse for acting so stupid?
Me: Excuse? Nope. Reason, definitely.
Her: She broke your heart?
Me: What do you think?
Her: But if she came back, would you take her in?
Me: No! Hell no!
Her: What if you were to go back in time to the day you two met. Knowing fully that she’ll break your heart, would you change anything?
Me: Yeah. I would see her across the room and I would leave that room immediately.
Her: So from now on you’ll choose wisdom over love?
Me: Any day.
Her: Sounds like a stupid way to live.
Me: Maybe. But I have to start looking out for me. I can’t walk around exposing myself to hurt like that. It is very stupid.
Her: Stupid if you love. Stupid if you don’t. What would you rather be? Stupid with somebody or stupid alone?
Me: The problem here is, just because you love somebody doesn’t mean you’re with them. So you can be in love, which is stupid, and be alone, which is less stupid but stupid nonetheless. Which is a stupid state of affairs. Alone and in love. That is stupid to the point of being pathetic.
Her: Is that how you see yourself now? In love but alone?
Me: Oi! Are you a lawyer or a psychologist? What’s your story anyway? Why are you always watching me smoke at the rooftop alone at night? Nobody keeping your bed warm but you?
Her: Well if you must know, if I am going to let someone into my life, they are in for the long haul or I just don’t have time for them.
Me: So you don’t do frivolities either.
Her: I don’t let someone in unless we can commit to each other 100%.
Me: I can see how that would be a problem. The only thing people fear more than committing to others 100% is being committed to 100%.
Her: I unleash my commitment without holding back.
Me: And you expect the same in return.
Me: Poor you
Her: Poor me.
Me: You just might die alone
Her: Small price to pay. I would rather die alone than spend my life waiting for somebody to commit to me 100%
Me: Has that always been your approach, or did some lousy dude turn you into this ‘all or nothing’ type of person?
Her: Oh, he committed. He really did. I will never say he didn’t give it his all. But it just didn’t work.
Me: Weren’t you committed?
Her: I was
Me: So you were committed to him 100% and he was committed to you 100% and it still didn’t work. Forgive me for being so slow, but what the hell Emali? How’s that possible?
Her: Dude, sometimes love just isn’t enough. Awesome relationships end and not even the people in those relationships know how they ended. One day you wake up, your relationship is on its death bed, you look at each other, hurting to the eyes, you can’t feel anything but the pain, and you ask each other, “Baby I love you and you love me; how did it get to this?”
Me: Yeah. I don’t get it either.
Her: (She signs and lifts her knees closer to her face) Well, we met in our early twenties, right? And we fell. Hard. In the words of one of our mutual friends, we were bound at the hip. We went everywhere together. Did everything together. We liked the same things. Had the same friends. Loved the same music. Read the same books. And with time passing, people started saying we look alike. Year one passed. Year two passed and it still felt like we were on our honeymoon. Year three passed and we had gotten so used to living together, being together every day, that it felt like we were one. I don’t know if you have ever felt that way with anybody, but it gets there when you have allowed each other into your space for a long long time. But then there are always these little fights. These little insecurities. Oh baby who was that you were talking to over the phone? Oh baby you have been hanging out with that someone so much these days. Baby why do you raise your voice at me so much these days? I can’t do anything right by you now. You are always angry about something. Am I not enough for you anymore? Baby I love you. Please talk to me. What is going on? Are you not happy anymore? I love you I swear to God, but maybe we need to take a break from each other. We are fighting way too much and we don’t even know why. You don’t look at me like you used to. Do I disappoint you? You are the one who didn’t want to have kids. That’s because we were twenty three years old!!! What would we have done with a baby at twenty three? My mama would have raised it? Oh, your mama would have raised our kid? That same mama who thinks I am the wrong guy for you? Who thinks I am too young for you? My mama thinks you’re OK. Yeah right. You know what? It’s not like your mother likes me too much either! Wait. When did we stop talking about the kid we can’t have yet to our mothers who don’t like us very much? Next thing you know, “I love you” feels hollow. Inadequate. It can’t make up for all the pain you are causing each other. And let me tell you something about hurt. It doesn’t matter if you love the person hurting you to death. But the more they hurt you, the more you put your guard up. And the more you hurt them, the more they put their guard up too. And when you have to put your guard up with the person you love most in this world, it means only one thing which people don’t stop to notice. That you don’t trust them anymore. So you have to protect yourself from them. And that is when the relationship takes a position on the deathbed. Preparing itself for its inevitable and often bitter demise.
Me: So when your friends ask what happened to the relationship, how come it ended and you guys were so good with each other, you don’t know how to tell them, “I don’t know. I don’t know how it ended.”
Her: Exactly. And it is not like we didn’t try. We tried. We really did. Both of us. Because we couldn’t imagine a world without each other. We were each other. There was no me without him and there was no him without me. We were together eight years. And right before the relationship ended, we even visited a marriage counselor. We were desperate to save ourselves. So we entered that office hand in hand and we highlighted all those crazy little things that kept driving us mad. Oh she is prideful. Oh he is an ass. Oh she doesn’t respect me anymore. Oh he has a temper. Oh she lets her parents have an opinion on our relationship. Oh he is lazy. Small things which we had let take control of us. And since we were on the verge of fighting again in that office, the counselor said she would hear us out one at a time. I went first. He waited outside. And the counselor shared her story with me.
Me: She had a story too?
Her: Everyone has a story. Hers just made me even sadder. She had been married thirty two years. Thirty two! It made me feel like my eight year long relationship was a one night stand. And they had three grown children. Last born was in her early twenties. Then suddenly he left with a younger woman, just like that. (She snaps her fingers) So I asked her why she wasn’t filing for divorce and she said, ‘same reason why you are both here, trying to save your relationship.’ She just couldn’t let him go. So she was waiting and she said she would wait until he came back or until she died. Whichever came first. While he was out there, whiling away his old age with a younger, firmer breasted woman, she would wait for him to come back. She would put a pillow on that cold space in their matrimonial bed where her husband was supposed to be, and she would wait. She would spend the rest of her life waiting. And just then I knew. I wouldn’t wait for our relationship to be OK again because from where I sat, she was the saddest human being in the world. And I was done with sadness. So the next time my man and I had a fight over the phone about something I can’t even remember, I broke up with him.
Me: And so ended the eight year-old relationship with your best friend.
Her: And so ended my eight year-old relationship with my best friend.
Me: Poor you
Her: Poor me.
Me: Need a cigarette?
Her: Yeah sure. (She chuckles almost sadly) Why the hell not. Even a god can’t love and be wise at the same time, no?
I light one cigarette and pass it to her and then I light one up for myself. We take our respective drags, exhale clouds in the air which are quickly pushed away by the night breeze and I smile. I stretch my cigarette to her and propose a toast –
Me: To the healing power of nicotine.
Her: (She chuckles and passes me an “Are you serious right now?” look then she taps her cigarette against mine) To the healing power of nicotine.
We take other drags in silence and let our eyes linger on the bright star filled sky. The gibbous moon dominates with exuding confidence. In a buoyant declaration of its predominance over the night-sky. “I am the moon! And this sky is my bitch!” I can almost hear its declaration in my head.
Her: What time is it?
Me: Why? Do you have a matter tomorrow?
Her: Tomorrow is Sunday.
Me: Oh. I left my phone in the house. Was supposed to be back there hours ago.
Her: Have a naked lady warming your bed?
Me: You know I don’t, or you wouldn’t be up here with me.
Her: Don’t do bullshit, do you?
Me: Never quite mastered the art.
Her: The Flamboyant Art of Bullshitting. It is an art that every lawyer is supposed to master.
Me: That is what they teach you in law school?
Her: Yeah. But they don’t say it so bluntly. Instead they tell you, “Advocacy is an art. Remember, how you tell your narrative in court is just as important as the narrative itself.” That means in layman terms, “Remember, your ability to bullshit your way around the case is as important as the case itself. The better bullshitter wins.”
Me: I can almost hear the lecturer telling the students, “Remember ladies and gentlemen, bullshit matters! Repeat after me, “BULLSHIT MATTERS!”
Her: (Screaming) BULLSHIT MATTERS!
We laugh and then descend into silence. Some uncomfortable silence during which one can almost hear the question ‘what do we talk about now?’ lazing around with the night breeze.
Me: I am in film production.
Her: As what? Director? Writer? Producer?
Me: Writing and directing.
Her: And you had to wait four hours into our conversation to mention that?
Me: Well, had to wait for you to finish making it clear to me that you are a lawyer. Erm, forgive me. An Advocate!
She punches me playfully on the shoulder
Her: You are an ass!
I bow slightly.
Me: Thank you. Thank you. Nothing satisfies a man of my caliber more than being accordingly addressed.
Her: So how did you end up with a married advocate?
Me: Well, she was the legal consultant on this legal drama movie I was making. So during my research, we got to talking. I was also the scriptwriter for the movie, meaning I had to get the law on point. So I would call her to consult and we would also meet up on set, at coffee lounges, at hotels and then one day I asked if she could come to my place and she said yes.
Her: (Singing) Smooooooooooth operator!
Me: Shut up. To be clear, she said that she was married and I said that nothing would happen between us.
Her: That was bullshit. And both of you knew that.
Me: Exactly. I mean, we would talk for hours! On the phone, on our meetings.
Her: And the husband never suspected?
Me: Well, he did notice that she was spending more time consulting for the movie than at home. And since he is a reasonable dude, he figured it’s all for work and he would sound like an ass if he raised the issue. He married an independent lady who works. Might be a problem if he now starts raising hell because she works too much.
Her: The sex was good?
Me: The sex was amazing!
Her: It’d better be. Or there wouldn’t be much good coming out of eating from another man’s plate.
Me: Then one night we said it.
Her: Said what?
Me: I love you.
She looks at me like I have just said the most stupid thing in the world.
Her: You what?
Me: Yeah. Yeah we totally did.
Her: Well, that’s incredibly dumb! Like, calling that ‘stupid’ is an insult to ‘stupid’.
Me: I know, OK? I know. But what do you want from me? I developed feelings for her. And she led me to believe that she developed feelings for me too.
Her: Let me guess. She went on and on about how boring her life at home was. How she wasn’t happy. How everything, including the sex was totally predictable, uninteresting…how she only feels alive when she’s with you
Me: I feel like you were there, watching the whole thing.
Her: That is because I have heard that story a million times.
Me: It was real, OK? And it felt real to me. It even felt right. Like we were rightfully together. Like her husband, her marriage was some mistake in the past. And she even tried leaving, but he wouldn’t let it go. They had been together too long. Had all these things they were planning on doing. Have a life together. Grow old together. Who was he supposed to be without her? What was he supposed to do now, he asked. What would be the point of his life now that she was leaving? But she left anyway. And he lost the appetite for work. Started bailing on the office. Started picking fights. Started drinking. Became kind of bitter…
Her: Yeah I can imagine.
Me: Look, I never once said that I am a good guy, OK?
Her: Did I say something?
Me: I can hear the judgment in your voice.
Her: No judgments here dude. Only person judging you is you.
Me: So she went back to him. Called our relationship a mistake. That it shouldn’t have happened. That our feelings for each other didn’t matter. Fuck love. There are things bigger than that in the world. And I was like, ‘What? What can be bigger than love in the world? It is what the world runs on. Nothing in the world matters if there is no love.” You know, I got embarrassingly philosophical, begged her to stay. “Please don’t go” I groveled like a little bitch.
Her: Whoa you are so angry with yourself right now.
Me: Yes I am! I mean, what was I thinking? That me and her could ever work? Who was I kidding? But I loved her with everything. I really did. I opened myself up to her; let her in in ways I had never let anybody else in before. Made myself vulnerable to her and so when she went back to him, it just crashed me. It did. It really did.
Her: But seriously dude, what were you thinking?
Me: I wasn’t thinking. I was too busy loving to think. And love and thinking don’t exactly go hand in hand.
Her: I know, dude. I know. But still, what were you thinking?
Me: Anyway, after that I made the best short film I have ever made.
Her: Have I ever heard of it?
Me: You should have. It hits the theater in two days.
Her: What is it called?
Her: Aww. (There is actual sympathy on her face right now.) It’s about you and her, isn’t it?
Her: What do you mean indirectly?
Me: Well, it is about this dude who robs a bank but the cops arrive before he can leave so it becomes a hostage situation. And one of the hostages asks him how he thinks the robbery and the hostage situation will end and he says, “At this moment, I don’t care about my life. Meaning I don’t care about your lives either. Were I to die today, there would be nobody in the world left to mourn me. I have pushed away everybody who ever cared about me, I have made mistakes, I have found myself in a hole and instead of climbing out, I have only dug deeper.” And he spreads his hands out in the banking hall with his AK47 rifle in hand and screams at the world, “So here I stand before you ladies and gentlemen unwanted, unneeded, UNLOVED! Do you seriously think I care?”
She cringes and smiles widely.
Her: Damn! That’s really good! It gave me goose bumps. I must watch it now. How does it end?
Me: You are a smart lady. How do you think?
Her: Is she a smart lady too?
Me: Last I checked, yeah.
Her: In your world, her marriage is the bank. She is the money the character in your movie has stolen and the character is you. The hostages are her husband, their plans, the life they were to have together and the police outside, who are they?
Me: The condemnation. The society. I wrecked a home. Destroyed plans. I came between two people joined together in Holy Matrimony. All of that represents the police.
Her: And the police get the robber in the end. They have to. That is why in your head, the relationship ended. Because her conscience got to her, she felt guilty and right now as you sit here with me, you feel the burden of wrecking a home. The police have gotten you.
Me: The police have gotten me yeah
Her: If she is as smart as you say, she’ll figure it out.
Me: Her husband won’t.
Her: You care what he thinks?
Her: It is 2017 dude. I don’t know about you but in this day and age, if a married man and I fell in love, I wouldn’t fail to pursue it just because they are married. Marriages come with an off switch. This whole divorce thing. It caters for situations like that. I would feel guilty, but I am too selfish to let that kill a relationship for me. And you know what; I can yell that from the rooftop. Because a loveless marriage is tomb. It’s not even a prison. It’s a tomb. Only dead souls exist in them. I would do everything possible within the law of course, to get the person I love from a tomb.
Me: Unless of course they want to stay in that tomb.
Her: Poor them.
Me: Like you said, sometimes love just isn’t enough.
Her: Hey dude
Me: Yeah what’s up?
Her: You know you can come chill up here with a book or something, right?
Me: A book? In this dim night light?
Her: An eBook. Like on your phone or something. As opposed to a cigarette.
Me: I don’t know. Can a book heal like nicotine can?
Her: You addicted to nicotine?
Me: Nope. I’m too proud to be addicted to anything.
Her: Except a married woman of course.
Me: Low blow sweetheart
Her: I’m sorry. (That shrug again that she does when she says she is sorry and she isn’t) Couldn’t help myself.
Me: Can I tell you a useless fact?
Her: Yeah sure.
Me: The first anti smoking campaign in the whole world was started by Adolf Hitler. He felt that cigarettes would undermine the purity of the Aryan blood so he told them not to smoke. With that, he saved tens of thousands of lives.
Her: And took millions of lives right after that.
Me: Like I said, useless fact.
Her: (Her eyes narrow in thought) Are you calling me Hitler because I’ve asked you to stop smoking?
Me: (Laughing involuntarily) Just had to make it all about you, huh?
Her: This movie of yours, does it have a trailer on YouTube?
Her: Do you have internet in the house?
Her: Let’s go watch it.
Me: (I smile) Perfect! Can I hope for a pity shag?
I am on my feet now stretching. She gives me her hand which I take and pull her up.
Her: When we shag, it won’t be out of pity.
As we climb down the stairs towards my house at night, I say;
Me: You said when.
Me: You said ‘when’ we shag, not ‘if’ we shag.
Her: Do you want me to correct that?
Me: No! No! I like it just the way it is.
Her: Good. (God she has a beautiful smile!) Me too.
Me: (As an afterthought) You aren’t married by any chance, are you?
Her: You’re a smart dude. What do you think?