Grab yourself a copy of my novel here; https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/751536
You hadn’t expected her to call. But now your phone is ringing and caller ID says “Nia”. Nia. She shortened it from Petunia which is what her parents named her. So her birth certificate read Petunia Sophie Kiya but her national ID declared her to be Nia Sophie Kiya.
You don’t know why you are thinking about her name instead of picking up the phone and answering it. And when you finally answer the call shortly before it would have surely gone unanswered, you don’t know why your hands are shaking so much. Or why your heart is hammering so hard against your chest.
A chest she always liked. A chest she always ran her long slender fingers over and said, “I never thought I would end up with a man with hair on his chest.” And you would smile and say, “Never always was a long time gorgeous.”
Gorgeous. Your lips twirl up with a tiny smile as you say, “Hello.”
“Hello.” Comes her small voice from the other side. As small as you remember it. You hear her shrill laughter in your head and see her teeth, milk white teeth, filling that mouth of hers. “Am I speaking with Timmie?”
“Yes.” You clear your throat. “Yes. This is Timmie. It’s been a long time Nia.”
You feel bad that she had to ask whether it is Timmie on the line. But you remember that you changed your number after the breakup. You got tired of friends and relatives calling to ask when the wedding was going to take place. Also, you figure the uncertainty in her voice is because she suspects that the Timmie she knew and the Timmie she is talking to right now, are two different people. She is right.
“When are we coming to eat rice?” they would ask as if they were somehow entitled to be in the loop about the goings on in your life.
“Yes.” Nia says. “But that’s the idea of a breakup, is it not, Timmie?” you like how she calls you Timmie. Everyone else calls you Timothy. In fact, no one else has ever called you Timmie in your entire life.
You remember the walks you two had, way back during those long, hot university afternoons. Those afternoons when you two would skip boring Law of Evidence classes because the lecturer would come to class hangover and tell girls that their breasts weren’t large enough to hide papers between them and smuggle them into the exam room. So they would have to study hard instead.
She would tell you about her father. A docile man. That was how she described him. A true gentleman whose place in his home was anywhere. He was as comfortable in the kitchen cooking his family breakfast, just as he was comfortable in the living room with his feet on the table watching TV.
You would not tell her about your father because there wasn’t much to tell. He was just that. Your father. There. Not there. There. Not there again. He was like the monarchy in England. Ceremonial. But you didn’t tell her this because you were afraid of creating a bad name for him to her.
And that is when you realized that you cared about what she thought of your father.
Without even knowing it, she made you despise your own father. Because you weren’t proud of him, you couldn’t proudly introduce her to him. You couldn’t take her home and tell him, “Dad, this is my lady Nia. She and I aim to be married.”
You didn’t want her to meet your father because she was so good and he was so bad.
Then one evening she said it. She texted it rather. You were alone in your single room. The tiny thing you called a house. Your house. You had just gotten home from an evening out with her. It was on a Wednesday and you vowed to never forget it because it meant so much to you.
With your last eight hundred shillings in the whole world, you took her to Lifestyle in uptown Nairobi for a burger and milkshake. That cost you six hundred and twenty shillings and you hoped she wouldn’t order anything else to spare you some economic embarrassment. And thank God it was Wednesday because that’s when they had that buy one burger get one free offer.
Instead, she showered you with stories about her church. She was religious when she met you. She told you about how active she was at her church choir. So active in fact that she had just recently returned to the country from a church sponsored trip in Memphis.
“Where is Memphis?” You asked and she threw her head back laughing like you had just tickled her funny bone in the most creative way.
“It’s in Tennessee. In the US.”
It didn’t hurt when she laughed at you. In fact it felt good. Like she wasn’t really laughing at you because you didn’t know where Memphis was, she was just laughing because she found it so cute that Memphis and Jupiter just might be in the same neighborhood as far as you’re concerned.
You watched her laugh. It made you happy that she laughed so hard.
She told you about those couples in Memphis. And their funny accents. And how angry it made her when they asked if they could touch her hair. You could stick a pen in it and it wouldn’t fall. That was what the Memphis couples said of her hair right before asking if they could touch it.
She let them even though she hated herself for it. But she never was one to offend people. Nia. Sweet old Nia. You don’t remember when exactly you fell so hard for her, but you remember liking the fact that you opened your eyes and found yourself mad over her. And you liked it.
That Wednesday evening, she went back to the hostels at campus and you went home. To that single room shack of yours. Your head on the pillow, a smile on your lips, your tiny speaker bringing the bass to Shania Twain’s “Still The One” and your light bulb out, she texted.
“I love you Timmie.” The text read and your heart took you through emotions you couldn’t explain even if someone put a bomb in your private parts and said they’d blow you up if you didn’t.
And you were Timmie from that Wednesday onwards.
You smiled more often. When she placed her hands on your shoulder as she tried on shoes she wanted to buy from the streets, you smiled at the hawker selling them. And the hawkers asked, “Why are you so happy bro?” you said to him, “Napenda huyu dame.” (I love this woman.)
And the hawker said, “Basi si umnunulie viatu kama tatu hivi.” (Then buy her three pairs of shoes or so.) And Nia told him, “Wewe wacha kumharass.” (Stop harassing him.) And your smile widened.
Then time came for your attachment and you both found yourselves at Nakuru Law Courts. For two months. Just the two of you. Away from school. The idea was to go to court every weekday of those two months. That simply never happened.
You crashed at your brother’s place. He was conveniently out of town for those two months so you had the house to yourself. And it wasn’t a single room shack either.
One day she knocked on the door. You opened. She smiled and you smiled back. That was all the “hello” that was needed. The glint in her eye when she smiled communicated a whole lot more than you thought you could read on one face.
You kissed her. She kissed you back. You carried her to the bed. You made love. You made love again. She told you she loved you. She said it again. And again. She cried.
And you went to the bathroom a little scared. Wondering if you could handle the amount of love she had for you. Wondering if you were worth it. You could see it in her eyes. All that care seated there unreserved. Undefended. You dared not hurt her because you were sure it would crash her. And you loved her too.
And now, eight long years later, long after the breakup, she is on the phone with you, saying how long it has been. Her English has a little bit of twang now. She has become a permanent resident of Memphis, Tennessee.
“I found your missed call the other day but I haven’t been in a position to call you back until now.” She says and you try to breathe. Try hard to cool your nerves. Make your hands a little steadier.
“Yeah. Well, like I said in that audio message I sent you on WhatsApp, I just wanted to say that I realize I was wrong. The way you and I ended was my fault and I realize that now.”
“It’s been two years Timmie.” There isn’t any fury in her voice. Fury that you had gotten used to hearing in her voice whenever she talked to you. “It took you two years to make this call.” She phrases it like a statement, but it feels like a question. There are many things to apologize for. Many more than you could ever remember or realize.
You remember that time in Nakuru during one of those days you decided you wouldn’t go to court. The morning had started as any other Nakuru morning in June. With bright sunrays shining through the window.
She made you breakfast. Tea and bananas just like those children you read about in your junior primary school English books. Tom and Mary, the siblings whose father was a bus driver. She ironed your shirt as you took another one of your slow showers.
Your father always told you that your showers were as lazy as his mother’s. And when you told him one day that now he could stop wondering where you got your laziness from, he didn’t know whether to laugh or smack you. You could see it in his eyes.
“Should I wear my brown low heel shoes or my black high heels?” she asked as you stepped out of the bathroom with your towel wrapped around your waist.
“Which blouse are you wearing?” you asked
“The white one. The cotton one which you said makes me look like a little girl.” She blushed as she said that.
“And the skirt? I suppose you will be wearing the grey one with the stripes?”
“Uh huh. Wow am I so predictable?”
“Not at all.” You said and planted a little kiss on her lips. “I’m just observant. Wear the black shoes. The heels really bring out those legs when you wear them with that skirt.”
At the breakfast table, you complimented her hair. It was long. Held at the back of her head with a tiny elastic band. She squeezed her lips together and smiled.
“You’re beautiful.” You said; your eyes fixed on her smile, your lips pulled back with a small smile.
“Hurry up!” she snapped playfully. “We’ll be late for court. Again!”
Breakfast was done. You put on your shoes. She had earlier on polished them for you and you promised yourself that you would do everything for her tomorrow. You would iron her clothes, dust her shoes – the brown ones this time – make breakfast and…You were at the door, looking around for the keys.
“Babe, have you seen the keys?”
“No.” she shouted from the bathroom where she had rushed for last minute relief. She always did that. Always rushed to the bathroom right at the minute when you were leaving for some place. “Have you checked your pockets?”
You checked your pockets. The keys were there. She stepped out of the bathroom and hurried for the door. “Did you find the keys?”
“No.” you said, fighting to keep a straight face.
“Yes you did.” She was smiling now. “I can see it in your eyes. You’re messing with me. Are they in your pocket?”
She reached for your pockets. Dipped her hands in them. Found the keys and laughed. But she was standing so close now. Your eyes met hers. Your lips met hers.
In court they would arraign petty offenders from 9 in the morning at court number 3. Senior Principal Magistrate W. Asega would open files. Charges would be read. Drunk and disorderly mostly. They would all plead guilty and the magistrate would fine them all two hundred shillings each.
Later in the day, cases would come up for mention. A distant further mention date would be set after lengthy consultations with the diary. The magistrate would also continually squint at the triangular calendar in front of him before scribbling something down.
Another case would be mentioned. A trial date three months in the future would be set.
Then even later in the day, cases coming up for trial would start. It would always be the same game. A case whose date for trial was here would be called out. Witnesses in the matter would be asked by the prosecutor with the large buttocks to leave the courtroom.
One of your fellow law students would nudge at you with her elbow, point at the prosecutor’s protruding hind quarters with her lips and whisper, “Look at him and his huge ass. He must have inherited it from his mother.” And you would both chuckle and pretend to be scribbling something in your notebooks.
Then after kicking witnesses from the courtroom, the prosecutor would explain to the court that he was not ready to proceed because a witness was missing. And the court would frown and ask why he kicked the witnesses out then.
The defence lawyer would stand and whine about how witnesses in this case keep missing. He would lament about how continuous postponement of his client’s trial was unjust and unfair an abuse of the client’s human rights, blah blah blah and the prosecution would be granted the last adjournment.
“If you are not ready to proceed in two weeks,” the court would warn, “then this court will have no choice but to acquit the accused.”
The file would be closed. Another would be open. The prosecutor would face someone and ask them if they had sex with their neighbor’s sheep. The accused would say no. A witness would be called to the dock and she would point at the accused accusingly at some point during the exam-in-chief and she would scream, “Nilikuona! Nilikuona ukitomba kondoo ya mathee!!” (I saw you! I saw you having sex with my mother’s sheep.)
And everybody in the courtroom including the prosecutor (with the exception of the magistrate) would laugh. As if saying you saw somebody screwing a sheep was so hilarious.
That’s what you’d miss when you didn’t attend court you and Nia.
Because you would still be back at the house where your lips were meeting hers. Your hands were cupping her breasts. Her hands were on the back of your head, pulling you close, reciprocating your kisses with hers. Hers softer and gentler than yours.
And you would crash on the couch on top of her and the neighbors would reduce the volume of their stereos. A car that was starting so that the owner could drive to work would be switched off and the driver would bring down his window. Everybody would freeze and listen.
Listen to the moans as you two made love.
Later, you would be in bed playing. You would lift her from one end of the bed to the other. She would tickle you. You would grind her nipple with your teeth gently and she would hold her breast playfully and sing “Nyonya mtoto nyonya…” (Suckle baby, suckle) and you would stop and she would try and force the nipple into your mouth and you would run away laughing and she would chase you still holding her breast saying, “You’ll make my milk pour on the floor.”
And one time you grabbed her and dropped her on the bed. She fell awkwardly, head first and twisted her neck at an uncomfortable angle. You were terrified thinking about how close you came to breaking her neck.
You wondered for a second, what you would have done if in fact her neck had broken and she had died. She would have died naked on that bed. What would you have done? Would you have called the cops? Would you have dressed her before the cops came?
But she only laughed when you apologized profusely. Your hands were shaking. She punched you on the shoulder playfully and asked you to relax. Her smile never disappeared from her lips. She kissed you. You suggested a movie. She hugged you. You let yourself disappear in her hug and you slept in each other’s arms.
Now she is on the phone and you are saying that you are sorry.
“I’m sorry about that time I almost broke your neck.” You say.
“When was that?” you don’t know how to feel about her not remembering. You even wonder if she is messing with you. “That time in Naks when we skipped court and…”
“We skipped court many times Timmie.” She says and pauses. “Besides, it doesn’t matter now. Everything between us happened so long ago.”
“I know.” You say and repeat as if for emphasis. “I know. But I have been thinking about it a lot these days. About you and me. About the friendship we had before we started dating. About it all, you know? I shouldn’t have ended it the way I did.”
“But you did Timmie!” and the sharpness in her voice is back. “You did! We were gonna get married in case you’ve forgotten and you just ended it like it was nothing! And my friends and relatives still call asking when you and I will get married. Or what happened between you and me and I still don’t know what to tell them.”
“Wait. People still call about us?”
“It’s been two years.”
“Well, if they don’t know that you and I are over two years down the line, then they ain’t really your friends, are they?”
“Yeah. I guess you have a point there.”
“Nia, you can’t let people put you down like that. You can’t let people get through to you like that. They don’t matter, OK?”
Suddenly, it is just like it was when the both of you were dating. Like that time when a friend asked her what she was doing with you. A beautiful girl like her. Tall. Dark. Beautiful. In law school. With a figure like hers. Someone who could model for any of the biggest brands. What was she doing with a broke boy like yourself?
She cried about it. Cried on your chest. Her shoulders heaving. Her cheeks drenched with yet another fall of her tears. She cried as she spoke.
“She…she…she ha…hates you and she doesn’t even know you.” She cried and cried. And you rubbed her back and rubbed it again. She looked you. “Why do they judge you so much Timmie? They don’t know you like I do.”
They didn’t know you like she did.
She defended you. She always defended you. Like she did that time when that hawker asked you to buy her three pairs of shoes for her just because you said you loved her. She told him off. Or that time in class when a couple of your classmates laughed because she had a nice, round African ass and they wondered with she was doing with a small small dude like yourself. And she told them, “Do you see me complaining?”
Oh, you walked on clouds that day.
She had eyes for no other but you.
And that other day when your desk mate wouldn’t stop talking to you during that Intellectual Property Law class. And the lecturer went all out on you saying, “Timothy, why do you like whispering sweet nothings to you beautiful classmate when she is busy trying to listen to me teach? Will you marry her when she fails her exams and doesn’t become a layer because of you?”
The entire class laughed. You looked at Nia seated two desks behind you and you wrote her a text. “I wasn’t even whispering at her. Do you believe me?”
Her reply was immediate. “I always believe you Timme. I always will.”
Then she moved into your tiny shack and at first you were scared. What would you do with her there? It would get so hot inside that room that your neighbors used to joke that if you left an egg in the morning, you would find a chick in your house in the evening when you got home from class.
But as it turned out, it wasn’t anything to worry about. Your relationship was so effortless. So smooth. Everything came so naturally to the both of you that nobody paused to wonder, “What are we doing?”
Mornings came and you would wake up. You would make breakfast. One of you would do dishes while the other did laundry. Then you would shower from the communal bathroom in turns and walk to class hand in hand.
You would spend the day together because now you were not only roommates; you were also desk-mates in class. You mastered her handwriting because you always read her notes. You were too lazy to write your own. She mastered your handwriting because you were always passing notes to her.
On Sundays, she stopped going to church. That was your effect on her. Instead, she spent the day with you watching movies and making love and laughing.
Then you stopped going to school altogether. You spent the days in your shack, shacked up in there naked because it was too hot and you were so horny for each other. When you weren’t clasped up in a hug as you made intense tear-jerking love, you were lying beside each other watching yet another movie.
Every day you confessed your love for each other. You made promises. And she said again and again, “Timmie, you are very bright. You are the brightest person I know. One day you will be a great person. When that day comes, I hope you won’t leave me for a younger girl.”
And every time she said it, it broke your heart. You knew that no matter what, you would never leave her and she would never leave you. It always was you and her against the world. Nia and Timmie against everything and everybody else.
You spent so much time together, made love so many times that you both started getting remarks that you look like each other. Even from complete strangers. Someone would be introduced to you by a mutual friend and they would say, “You guys look so much alike. Are you brother and sister?”
And you would be tempted to reply, “No, we just screw that much.” But you knew Nia would never approve, so you would force a kind smile instead.
Then word reached her parents that she had met someone. Someone with whom she spent so much time. Someone who would take her away from her destined path and lure her into dungeons of wickedness and pregnancies untold. What horrors that someone would bring to their daughter.
You were “that person” to them. That person who presented a threat to their daughter.
So she came home and cried on your chest again. Her hot tears sipped through your shirt and soaked your skin. She cried long and hard and said it again. “Why do they judge you? They don’t know you like I do.”
Her brother rented a house nearby and Nia was instructed to live with him. Orders from above. You felt like her parents were royalty, seated on a throne in an episode of Game of Thrones. Whatever they said was law. And who were you to fight them? And so she packed up her belongings and left home.
You felt her absence sharply. That empty space in your bed where she used to lie. The fact that you had gone back to eating straight from the sufuria. The lack of feminine clothes in your place. Those purple earrings that you had gotten used to seeing lying on the table. The heels under the bed. The panties…those special pairs of panties she used to wear whenever she was on her period, you missed all of them.
She resorted to crying. Crying about how much she hated living with her brother. How he never cleaned up after himself. How his shoes stank. How he would just come home from work and ask, “What have you cooked?” as if he had married her.
Then he was transferred to Eldama Ravine and you felt like you could seek out his boss and make out with her. She was like a god, answering your heartfelt prayers. He would come to Nairobi on Friday nights so as to attend classes at Kenyatta University on Saturday where he was pursuing a Master’s degree, and then he would leave for Eldama Ravine on Sunday and come back on Friday night.
Nia got back to cohabiting with you every Sunday to Thursday and in her words, Friday evenings felt dark. Because she would not be with you for the next two nights.
Eventually, that too wasn’t a problem anymore because the brother found it hard to attend classes and work and so he called off a few semesters so as to concentrate on work. And Nia went back to living with you full time.
That was also about the time when you started writing songs. You would put down a few stanzas then sing them to her and she would chuckle and say using that high pitched voice of hers, that you actually were good for a beginner.
Exam time would be here again and you would both go to school for the first time in a long time. You would seek out your respective friends and photocopy their notes at the photocopy room. Then you would go back home, armed with your notes which weren’t really your notes and you would cram together.
You would throw quizzes each other’s way and you would always emerge as the better crammer. And she would exclaim, “Gosh you’re so smart!”
Even three years into your relationship, you still couldn’t do anything wrong in her eyes. She still loved you unreservedly. Gave her heart to you completely, utterly and unashamedly. Friends started calling her, “Mrs. Timmie” and she started answering, “Yes my name.”
And every day, you still told her you loved her and she still said she loved you back. Not once, not twice, not thrice… every day, uncountable times.
Then one day she came home saying she had taken a job at a supermarket because she needed some money for something.
“For what?” you asked.
“I’m a girl.” She said playfully and blinked multiple times the way she did when she was trying to be mischievous. “A girl’s got to have a few secrets, right?”
You smiled and said that it was cool. You didn’t understand why she needed to work at a supermarket when she could just as easily tell her parents that she needed something. And they would just as easily send her the money.
And when she left for her first job, you spent the day in the house watching Prison Break. At first you felt free. Like you had just been released from an underground prison. The air felt fresher even. But only for a couple of hours before you felt disgustingly lonely.
You called her. You wanted to tell her that you missed her so much and could she please come back home as fast as possible? But she didn’t pick up the phone. And you remembered that she had to leave the phone in the cloakroom while she was working.
So you grabbed a pen and paper and instead wrote down your feelings in what later came to be a song.
I know I’m complicated sometimes,
But I’m not complicated now.
I’ll be good again baby just come home.
I can’t handle these staring walls,
The hole beside me in bed,
The hole in my chest,
This house without you,
Is my Titanic doomed to sink.
Steer, steer, steer me away,
From the iceberg of loneliness.
I never knew I had grown so close to you until today,
When I woke up and you were gone.
Come home baby,
Please come home.
Who am I without you,
But a lost cause?
You called the song, “Lost Cause.”
That was the longest day of your life. When she came home in the evening you sang her the song and she asked, “Why are you mourning me when I’m not dead?”
“What do you mean?” You wondered.
“The only way I’m leaving you is if I’m dead.” She hugged you. You kissed her. She looked tired so you made her lie on the bed as you gave her an amateurish massage that you’re sure hurt her more than it helped.
“What do you need the money for?” You asked over dinner later that night.
“Just trust me, OK Timmie?” So you did. You trusted her even though you itched to know what she needed it for.
A month later, she woke you up early. Saying that she needed you to take her some place.
“Where?” you asked, rubbing your eyes. She kissed you and you smelled your breathe. It didn’t feel like it stank. “What time is it?”
“Come on baby, just get up. Take a shower, let’s go!” you noticed the excitement in her eyes. She had woken up earlier than you, fixed breakfast and even taken out the jeans and t-shirt and shoes that you would wear that day.
“Where are we going? What’s happening?”
Later, you went to town. She took you to a basement in a building in River Road, downtown Nairobi. It was a music recording studio.
Some dude seated behind a mixer saw her, smiled, stood up and hugged her. Then he turned to you and asked her, “Is this the guy?”
“This is the guy.” Nia said, still smiling. She was looking at you with so much pride in her eyes. So much pride on her face. It didn’t appear like she wanted to be anywhere else in the world other than here with you.
“Nia here says you’re a singer.” The guy said as he stuck his hand out for you to shake. “I’m Shaka. I produce music.”
You shook his hand. He had a loose handshake. You didn’t like that, but you were more concerned with what was happening right at that moment.
“Baby what’s going on?”
“We’re here to make you famous sweetheart.” She said, leaning on your shoulder and pecking you on the cheek. “Come on. Get in that booth. Sing your heart out!”
You could see it now. Her toiling away all those hours in the supermarket for you. She had paid for your studio time and you hadn’t visited her at her work place, not even once.
Right now as she breathes heavily on the other side of the line, you say to her, “I’m sorry for all those times I wasn’t there for you. I can’t remember a time when you weren’t there for me Nia but I was never there for you. Even when you needed me to be.”
“Stop it Timmie.” She says. “All that happened years ago. We were kids, OK? We didn’t know any better. And it doesn’t matter now.”
You close your eyes and flashback to those years; that Saturday morning when she paid for your studio time. You went to the other side of the glass and put the headphones in place.
The producer had a beat ready and Nia, who knew all the lyrics to everyone of your songs by heart, had briefed him on what every song was about. They had been in communication for weeks and when Nia got her heart into something, nothing could get her out. She had gotten her heart into your music and she had loved it even more than you had.
You see yourself in that booth singing your heart out just as she had asked. Your heart was bursting with pride. When you got around to recording “Lost Cause”, she jumped around in the studio with excitement. It was by far, her favorite song.
“Sing it baby! Sing it!”
She stood on the other side of the glass, behind the producer and watched you, mouth hanging open, as you spit those lines. She watched the strained veins of your throat, the huge vein on your forehead, she watched your eyes tear and your face drench and when you were done, but before the beat could cut, she said, “I love you too baby!”
When the producer played the song back, you heard her voice in the song saying, “Sing it baby! Sing it!” and “I love you too baby!”
The producer asked if he should cut it from the song and she said yes. You said no. That it would be your song. Lost Cause. By Timmie ft. Nia. It was the best day of your life.
You recorded three songs that day and the producer asked for a week to be able to finalize on everything and put it all down for you in a CD. You were happy. He was happy. She was happy. What could possibly go wrong?
Having achieved the goal for which she had taken the supermarket job, Nia quit and told you that she wanted to rekindle her modeling dreams. She had the complexion for it. She had the height for it. She more than had the figure for it. She even had the cheekbones for it.
“I don’t get why you’ve never pursued this before.” You said, completely dismayed that she already had harbored modeling dreams. Yes it had been flung her way.
“You are really beautiful and your figure girl, damn, you should be on a runway in Paris instead of toiling away with law books in campus.” Someone would say and this would be complimented by, “Hey, do you model?”
“No.” Nia would reply, the answer rolling off her tongue smoothly because she was used to saying it.
“I don’t know.” She would chuckle. “I don’t see a future where I’m an Advocate who models.”
“Yeah. Me neither.” She would be told. “But I do see a bright future where you are a model who is not an Advocate. Trust me sweetheart when I say this; you were born for the runway.”
Sometimes a girl comes across a man who with a little support really builds her. That wasn’t the kind of man who Nia’s ex was. Sometimes a girl comes across a man who, with the wrong word a day, really crumbles her. That was the quintessence of Nia’s ex.
“Do you think I can do this Timmie?” She asked you and your eyes popped wide open with surprise. “Yes! Jesus, do you even have to ask?”
“It’s just, my ex; well I know you don’t like it when I talk about him but…”
“Hey gorgeous…” you cupped her cheeks in your palms and made her look at you. She did but then her eyes strayed to her fingers which she suddenly noticed needed a little playing with. She reminded you of a little child. “Hey baby, look at me.”
She looked at you, an eager look around her.
“I am not your ex.” Your voice sounded confidently reassuring even to yourself. “You and me, we are going to do this. Just you and me. I promise, OK?”
“OK.” She nodded. She smiled. She cried. She hugged you. And the modeling began.
You both bought clothes. And borrowed those which you couldn’t afford. Dinner wear. That was an elegant dinner dress she borrowed from a friend. African wear. This was one of those dresses you see in Nigerian movies complete with a matching headgear. She borrowed that from someone too.
This was where you got a little confused. At “beach wear.” You, being the little crap that you have always been, spent months thinking that they meant “bitch wear.”
“What do you mean bitch wear?” you asked
“Well, it’s more like a bikini.” She explained, moving her head from side to side, casting you that, ‘babe, what’s so confusing about this?’ look. “You know; a bra and matching panties. Beach wear.”
“Yeah. No wonder they call it bitch wear.” There was still a small potato stuck in your throat. “Men. Always finding an excuse to make girls walk naked in front of them.”
“They can look.” She said, her warm palm on your cheek. “But only you can touch.”
You took her to Gikomba to buy the b(it)each wear and found a very cute little blue bra with white stripes and matching panties. Even you admired how she looked when she put them on later for you. A part of you wanted the whole world to see how sexy your lady was. A part of you wanted to keep all this to yourself. Even make her wear a burka or something. But everything in you wanted her to have a great modeling exercise. That part won.
On the evening of the beauty pageant, you swung by a friend’s to grab a little gossip and a beer. The pageant was set to commence at 21:00h.
Half a bottle of vodka later, you staggered into the pageant compound, already seeing double. It was going on 22:45h. The friend had kept saying, “This is Africa. If they say something is set to start at 9. P.M., they mean 11. P.M. Chill. Have another shot.”
After five shots or so, you hadn’t needed further convincing.
When you staggered into the compound, her best friend met you at the gate.
“Timothy!” she always called you Timothy with iron in her voice like she was your mother or something. “Where the hell have you been? Nia has been asking around for you.”
“I’m here now.” Though your voice sounded confident, panic was already creeping in. “Where is she?”
“She has already done official wear and African wear.” She grabbed your hand and started pulling you towards backstage where Nia was. “She’ll be doing the beach wear soon.”
“Oh great.” The nonchalance was just oozing effortlessly out of you. “I made it in time for bitch wear.”
Backstage. Nia was there with a bunch of other models, all rocking their b(it)each wear. Your drunk eyes could hardly stay off that nice pair of breasts or those other hips over there.
Nia took one look at you, rolled her eyes and flung her hands in the air with frustration. “You are drunk Timmie! Wow!”
That wasn’t the kind of “wow” that meant anything good.
“Babe…” you tried, heading for her but she put her hand up in the air and turned to her friend.
“Get him out of here, please.”
The best friend took your hand as you mumbled, “I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry…” it was barely audible to you let alone to Nia. Even in that state, you couldn’t resist the full blown panic. You knew that you had not only let her down, you had also completely betrayed her.
Her friend didn’t talk to you for the rest of the night. And you being you, met another friend. She pulled you to the bar and asked, “Have you ever had Old Monk?”
“Old Who?” your tongue was getting heavier by the second.
“Old Monk. It tastes like a toilet, but nothing brings on a high like the Monk. It’s almost spiritual. You should have a shot.” She turned to the barman. “Hit us both with double shots of Old Monk please.”
As you let the drink burn its way down, you knew you had already messed up for the night. Couldn’t get worse than this. Behind you on the runway, Nia rocked her beach wear and your friend tapped you on the shoulder saying, “Your girlfriend is really hot! She’ll win this thing hands down.”
You faced the runway. There were two Nias. You blinked. She became one again but only for a second before she multiplied into three.
You don’t remember seeing her on the runway again because you spent most of the rest of the evening in the washroom puking your intestines out and taking more shots and puking and trying to grab some fresh air. You were too busy focusing on not dying to see exactly how she became Second Runner’s up in that year’s beauty pageant.
She carried you home that night. Nia did. She put your arm across her shoulder, put hers around you and made you lean on her body. You staggered from one end of the road to the other. The full moon in the night sky made sure you saw the road clearly. The alcohol made sure that road kept becoming three roads.
You kept saying, “Hey gorgeous, I’m sorry.”
She kept saying, “It’s OK.”
You remembered all that time she had spent rehearsing. The trainer had kept saying, “You’re too shy Nia! You’re too shy. You need a lot more charm. Modeling is more than a great face, a great body and cat-walking. We need to see that grrrrr from you. And right now sweetheart, all I see from you is a shy little virgin on her way to the river in the village. Show me some grit Nia, or you’re out!”
And Nia would cry and cry. And you’d assure her that it’s all good. That she wanted this. That she wasn’t alone. You would put in the work with her. You would put in the time with her. That y’all were a team. And now here she was, on the big night, carrying you home because you were too drunk to even walk.
In the morning, in the company of a splitting headache, you apologized again. And she said, “You said we would do this together Timmie. But you let me do it alone. Why did you let me do it alone?”
You wanted to say another “I’m sorry” but it felt too hollow even for you. So you took the pain and vowed to yourself that you’d never again do that to her.
The next time she had a pageant, you overcompensated. You showed up two hours early and you sat in the cold waiting. You even brought a couple of friends with you to help with the cheerleading. And you cheered. And cheered. She wasn’t number one, but the judges said that she had the most supportive crowd.
She didn’t remind you about that time you showed up drunk. She didn’t need to. She might have forgiven you, but even today as she tells you that all that was a long time ago, that you were both kids who didn’t know any better, you still feel a tinge of guilt for showing up drunk at her first ever beauty pageant.
Your music was ready. It was good. Hell, it was great. And the both of you started looking for ways “to put it out there.” You both tarmacked. From radio station to radio station, but all you got was, ‘we’ll see.” You never saw.
And all that time, even when you despaired, she would hug you and say, “One day you will be big and famous and everybody will know your name. And you will leave me for a younger person.”
And you swore heaven and earth that that would never happen. “It’s you and me. We are a team. You are my family.”
Then you both completed university and for lack of a job, her parents demanded that she goes back home. “What are you doing in Nairobi anyway?” they asked.
She cried and cried but the orders had come from above. So she went.
And you resorted to lengthy calls and continuous texting. People who had spent almost every day of the last three years together, doing everything together, were now only seeing each other once in two or three months.
And she said, “I don’t have the fare to come all the way down to Nairobi. But I could scrape enough to make it to Voi. Maybe you could put a little something aside and meet me there?”
She was in Mombasa. Voi was the “meet me halfway” town.
Your reply was, “I don’t have money baby.”
True you didn’t have money, but now as she talks to you over the phone two years after the breakup, you know, inside you you know that you could have found a way to come up with the money. You could have lied to your mother. You could have taken a job at the supermarket like she did. You could have done something, anything. But you didn’t.
And she would say, “It’s OK baby, I understand. Are you still writing music?”
Another day she would text. It would sound desperate. “Baby I miss you so much. Please come and get me. Come and rescue me from this place. I need you Timmie, I need you right now.”
And your insides would curl up with helplessness. And you would text back, “I miss you too. You know I do. And I want nothing more than to see you. I would rescue you in a heartbeat if I could, but I can’t. I love you so much it hurts.”
And you wrote another song, and another and another. And you tarmacked alone now, from station to station, from recording house to recording house. Club to club. But they wouldn’t get back to you as they promised that they would. You dropped CDs all over Nairobi. Demos everywhere and smiles and “we’ll call you” promises were all you got in return.
Finally you hurled your CDs across the room, smashed them against the wall and asked God, “Why did you give me talent if you won’t let me share it with anybody?”
And when you ranted to Nia over the phone, her comforting voice told you, “It’s OK baby. They will listen to you one day. One day it will be them who’ll be coming to you. You wait and see. Just don’t give up, OK?”
“But I don’t get it Nia. I don’t get it.” There was something choking you right now. “People sing really stupid songs in this city and they make it. They sing about alcohol and buttocks and they make it big. They get played all over the place. You would think that they would grab great music with both hands if they came across it.”
“Timmie, Timmie sweetheart, you have to relax. Your music is deeper. More mature, OK? Don’t give up on us. We are a team, you and I, remember? We’re a family. We’ll make it.”
Then the helplessness of the situation began to get to you. The “come rescue me” texts began to make you angry. “Meet me halfway” started feeling like a slap to your face. You were continually presented with a situation that you couldn’t handle so your reply was to get angry.
Your CDs started gathering dust in your house until one day a friend came to you with a suggestion.
“Timothy, you have great music. All you’ve got to do is organize a show and I’ll invite a few DJs who will definitely like your stuff. And they’ll start playing you in clubs and that’s how you’ll make it.”
“But I don’t have…”
“Money? That’s OK. Just look for 50% and I’ll come up with the other 50% and we’ll do this, yeah?”
You took a loan from your mother. Nia told you that that didn’t sound like too good an idea. “It’s not ideal Timmie. What if you don’t get picked up? What if it’s all in vain and you waste your money?”
“What if I get picked up gorgeous?” You won.
This gave her the excuse to ask her parents to allow her to come to Nairobi. A friend of hers was hosting a music event and she needed to support her.
She came. You made fierce love.
At the university, graduation was postponed for a year. University politics that you couldn’t have cared less about. You were too busy pursuing your dreams. Building your empire. Or lack thereof.
You had to leave for rehearsals every evening and sometimes Nia felt sour about being left behind. “Just stay home with me only for today baby. I haven’t seen you in so long. We should spend as much time together as possible.”
Your response was of anger. “I’m trying to do something great here, OK? Why can’t you see that?”
She let you go.
One day she came to the rehearsal space and saw the dancers. Girls with wild hair, tiny clothes, girls who talked and leaned on you. Girls who stood too close to you as they talked to you. Girls whose hugs lasted a couple of seconds too long.
“Do you and her have a thing?” she resorted to asking about the light skin with thick legs.
“What’s happening between you and her?” she asked about the girl with the purple braids.
You laughed. You assured her that there was nothing there. That you hadn’t even noticed that there was anything unbecoming about the whole thing. You asked her to trust you.
On the day of the performance, she unleashed her complete support. She made sure everything went smoothly. Everyone had a seat. Everyone was comfortable. She was the super manager and the show was as perfect as anybody would have ever thought.
You even got a review in the Pulse Magazine of the Standard Newspaper. A very very good review.
But still nobody picked you up. You were too unknown. You weren’t economically viable. And just like that, you washed your hands and Nia’s heart broke a little bit.
“Maybe you should get a job baby.” She resorted to saying. “You know, as you keep singing, you will still have a source of income.”
Conversations became more serious now. “You can even support a family when you have an income, you know? We won’t be young forever Timmie. We need a safe and secure future.”
You were twenty three years old. You weren’t exactly thinking about the safe and secure future that she had gotten to talking about so much lately.
And she started dropping lines like, “We have been dating for three years now and my parents don’t even know who you are. How’s that supposed to make you feel?”
That cold July, and with the little money you had left from the show you put up, you visited her parents in Mombasa. They were nice to you. Her father said that you looked like a respectable chap. Her mother held her tongue and instead expressed her affection through actions. She put a larger plate of food in front you.
And when it was time to leave, she packed mahamri and sea food for you. Much more sea food than you could ever finish alone in a week.
They prayed for you both. They asked that you maintain your decency. Respect came first. Everything else a distant second. Their way of telling you, “Try not to put a baby inside her until you have married her, OK?”
Nia looked at you with new found respect in her eyes after that. If initially you had been a boy, now you were a man. You had put your money where your mouth was.
Then she saw texts from Purity. Purity was a singer like you. The struggling type whose music nobody wanted to play. Not even in clubs to drunks who couldn’t care less. You two got to talking. A lot. Over the phone. And also text a lot, but it was all platonic.
But Nia went through your messages, mostly art stuff, upcoming shows where you could maybe perform even for free… and words like ‘dear’ and ‘sweetheart’ had found their way into the conversations.
“Are you cheating on me with this Purity chic?”
You denied. You laughed. You told her that she had lost trust for you because your relationship was a little long distance these days. You assured her that you hadn’t had sex with Purity.
“Just because you haven’t had sex with her doesn’t mean you aren’t cheating on me with her.” Nia asserted.
She said that she was done. You threw your hands up. You were done too. You reminded her of that time when she accused you of having a thing with your dancers; “What did you imagine in that head of yours? That we would all congregate somewhere after the rehearsals for a steamy orgy? What is wrong with you?”
She left. And you played your music a little louder. You grew your beard a little ragged. You placed your foot on the table as you laced your shoes. It all felt like you were demonstrating just how much you were enjoying your new found freedom.
And then she knocked on the door. “I’m sorry” she said. “I’m just so scared of losing you, I love you so much, and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“It’s OK Timmie.” She says now over the phone. Your hands are steady, your voice calm. You feel like you’re in control. “Maybe we were never meant to be, you know?”
“I just feel like I betrayed not just the love we confessed for each other, but also the underlying friendship. You remember those days when we used to walk around campus holding hands? We did everything together. You walked me home every evening after class, but you would never enter my house. I feel like I betrayed those kids, you know?”
“We promised each other.” Her voice is calm over the phone. And you feel like it has matured a little more since the last time you both talked over one year ago. “You told me that you would always be with me. That we’d always be together, but you left.”
“I know I apologized a gazillion times when we were dating and after we broke up, but now I called to say that over the last two years, I have evaluated my actions during and after our relationship, I am more mature now, I see things differently, and I called to say that I see now just how wrong I was back then.”
“You don’t need to Timmie. We had a good thing going. It ended. Good things end too. I hold no grudges. You know that.”
You close your eyes and go back three years into the past. You had finally graduated with your degrees in law but none of you had made it to Kenya School of Law yet. Nia came home one evening and said to you, “I’m going back to Memphis for a couple of years.”
“I’m going back to Memphis for a couple of years.”
“Yeah yeah I heard you.”
“I’ll be teaching music to these kids over there and…”
“Don’t go.” A voice which sounded exactly like yours said. Even before you could stop it. “Don’t go OK? Please.”
“I have to.” You could hear it in her voice. She didn’t want to go, but she had to. “I have no money for KSL (Kenya School of Law) and my parents can’t afford it at the moment. I need money for me and for you too baby.”
“No no, I can, I will support myself.”
“With what? You refuse to get a job, you just want to chill and watch movies and wait for manna from heaven and…”
It turned into a thing. What should have been good news turned into a fight. About how you were a couch potato who always waited on handouts. You took offence to that but even as you flung a piercing rebuttal, meant not to make a point but to hurt; you knew she had a point.
You broke up again and she went to Mombasa.
On the day she left the country, she called you. Could you please join her parents and siblings and friends at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)? Please be there?
And just like that, it was as if you hadn’t broken up. You met at JKIA at 8. P.M. Her flight would be departing at 11. P.M. but she needed to spend a little time with you before leaving.
“My friend” she chuckled as you walked hand in hand around the terminals, “she told me that ‘Timmie isn’t the kind of guy that you dump. One day he’ll be famous and then you’ll be wondering why you dumped him.’”
She asked about your music. You told her that you were still writing. You told her about that YouTube channel you had going and that you had uploaded a couple of tracks including “Lost Cause.”
“When did you shoot the video?” she asked frowning
“I didn’t.” You said, squeezing her hand reassuringly. You didn’t want her feeling left out because music was always your thing. Both of yours. “I just uploaded an official audio.”
“Yeah? How many views does that have?”
“Last I checked; thirty seven views. No likes, but no dislikes either. That’s got to be a good thing, right?”
“Wow. You’re really famous, aren’t you?”
“That’s me.” You chuckled, enjoying her rare moments of sarcasm. “I’m Kanye West right now.”
You walked around in silence. She was in a classy yellow dress that reached all the way to her ankles. It even managed to cover her high heel shoes. Those six inch heels that made her a little taller than you. Her hand was warm in yours.
“You know, I used to be scared that I’d lose you to someone else Timmie.”
“Nothing.” She smiled. “I still am.”
“You shouldn’t. It’s not like there are chics just elbowing each other out of the way to be with me.”
“It’s just now mister. You wait till you’re famous. And you know you will be. You will hardly throw a stone without it hitting some groupie who’ll be dying to shag you.”
“And when that day dawns, you will be by my side.”
You took selfies. And when time came for her to disappear through the International Departures gate, a gate through which security wouldn’t let non-travelers through, you missed her immensely already.
In those days, they hadn’t covered the glass around the International Departures lobby with opaque paper like they have now. It was just transparent glass. She came to it from inside the lobby and knocked on it. You saw her and smiled. She said something which you couldn’t hear, so you typed a message and sent it to her. “Have you changed your mind about leaving?”
She read the message and her eyes shone with unshed tears. She shook her head no and squeezed her lips together in a bid to keep the tears from flowing. She placed her hand on the glass and you placed yours there too.
You looked into each other’s eyes and you mouthed “I love you.” She mouthed it back and the tears flowed. She placed her forehead on the glass and you placed yours there too. Mist formed on either side of the glass as you both breathed hard.
“I’m sorry” she mouthed and you shook your head vigorously. This wasn’t a moment of sorries. “I’ll be back.” She texted. “I promise.”
And she came back three months later, but only for a week. You were afraid that she would be like other people who you knew had left for America promising to come back but never fulfilling those promises. America to you was like a greedy monster which kept swallowing people up without ever spitting them back out.
But Nia was different. She visited as soon as she could, sometimes even twice every month, even if it was only for a weekend. She made so that you never felt like she practically lived in the US.
Having all but given up completely on music, you had started getting jobs with NGOs as a rapporteur and as a researcher. They were well paying gigs and it was with the money from one of those jobs that you suddenly decided to buy Nia a ring.
You didn’t even think about it. You just did it. You walked into a jewellery shop, pointed at the first ring that caught your eye and asked, “How much for that one?”
“Oh that one?” The Indian’s head bobbed from side to side with a permanent smile plastered on his face and said, “Six thousand. And before you complain,” he picked it from its folder and put it on the glass counter between you two, “I want to assure you that this is real silver…”
And he talked and talked and you pretended to listen. You had already made up your mind. You could already see the ring on her finger. You bought it and walked all the way home with a bounce.
It was on one of those weekends that Nia was in the country. She said something about it being time for you to now move out of your campus single room and into a bigger place. A place for the both of you. It would officially be your home. That was an idea you liked but a part of you was afraid. What if you broke up again? What then?
You planned to take her out to dinner, go down on one knee and ask her to marry you. You had an entire Hollywood movie proposal scene well planned out in mind. Dinner, proposal, music…maybe happy teary sex later. If she said yes. But interestingly, no part of you thought that she could ever say no. Not in a million years.
Turned out though that sex came first. The ring, in a blue velvety box, was under the pillow on which her head lay. She was on the verge of an orgasm when you had another one of those ‘just do it without even thinking’ moments.
You stopped. She writhed saying, “no no no no don’t stop, don’t stop now…” she opened her eyes. Searching. What is it?
You started shaking. Every inch of you shook like you had Malaria. You shook and shook and she hugged you tightly, rubbing your back. “Shh. Shh. Calm down Timmie. You’re scaring me. Is everything OK?”
You took a deep breath. You shook a little less. Your fingers felt for the box. You pulled it out and she brought her eyebrows closer together. But there was a little hint of a smile in those eyes. You had known her too long already to miss any sign on her face or in her eyes.
“Nia Sophie Kiya” you were now seated on her thighs, straddling them, your penis shriveling fast in front of you. The box was now open in your shaking hand exposing the well polished and shining silver ring therein. “When you came into my life, I was nothing but a boy. A little boy who knew nothing of love, of care, of attention, of commitment. But you came into my life and loved me unconditionally anyway. You singlehandedly turned me from a confused and selfish little boy, into the happiest man in the world. Baby, will you please marry me?”
Even before you were done, she was fighting tears. She managed to say, “It’ll be my honor” before pulling you down on the bed in a tight hug that lasted minutes. She cried on your shoulder. Then she gave you her finger to put the ring on it.
That night you travelled to your home and delivered the news to your mother.
On the way there, she asked you, “So what will we tell people if they ask how you proposed?”
“Well” you cleared your throat and spoke using her voice, “He was screwing my brains out, right? And then right when I was about to come…” She laughed and punched you on the shoulder. Her eyes hardly leaving the ring.
“We are NOT telling them that! We’ll tell them that we were in the park taking a walk or something. And you showed me a bird on a tree and I turned to look. And then when I turned to look at you, you were on your knee with the ring in your hand.”
“Aww. That’s cute.” You mocked playfully. “And so devastatingly boring.”
“We’re not looking to thrill our friends. Cute will work just fine, thank you very much.” She kissed you and looked at the ring again. You had never seen anyone so happy in the whole world.
But thing about proposing, is that now, plans for a wedding have to be laid out. And since you had bought the ring without thinking things through, since you had proposed without thinking things through, now it was time to man up and get cracking.
You visited your sister because she kept asking you to visit her. It was over one of those weekends when Nia couldn’t manage to visit. You weren’t sad. You weren’t depressed. You weren’t angry, but something just didn’t feel right.
You texted her. Nia. “Hi Gorgeous. How is going? So I just wanted to check up on you, find out how things are on the Tennessee side of life. I miss you. Can’t wait to talk to you. Love you Nia. Always have, always will.”
She didn’t text back. It felt like one of those fat Japanese wrestlers had suddenly sat on your chest.
That night you called. You never called her because the rates were just insane. She always did the calling since things were cheaper for her. Sometimes you doubted that because since getting the job in Memphis, she had taken to taking care of the bills. She didn’t pick up.
You didn’t talk that night. This was hard because you had talked literally every day since you became friends, almost six years back. And now that you had been dating four years, you had talked almost thirty minutes every day over the phone when you weren’t in the same city. So when you didn’t talk that night, the fat Japanese wrestler seated on your chest was joined by another one who sat on your stomach.
You couldn’t breathe. You didn’t eat that evening and you didn’t sleep that night. Not even for a second.
You sent messages all night. “Baby are you OK?” “Hey, what’s up? Is everything OK?” “I’m getting worried now. Please contact me as soon as you get this.” “OK. Now I’m getting both worried and pissed off. What the hell is going on? Come on talk to me.”
You sent texts by the tens. And you called and called. You recorded audio message after audio message on WhatsApp. By morning, there were six fat Japanese wrestlers all over your body. Including one who was seated on your face so you couldn’t even talk or eat breakfast.
She called in the course of the day. Her voice was distant. When you saw her calling, you entire body shook. Your hands could hardly answer the phone.
Your “Hi babe” was forced. It felt like an unnecessary preamble. Something to make it seem like even though your world was ending, it really wasn’t. Like everything was OK.
“I have been looking for you. Are you OK?” you struggled to keep your voice calm.
“Yeah.” She said. Curtly. In enigmatic monosyllables.
“Where have you been? What’s going on?”
“I can’t talk right now.”
“Yes you can. Just open your mouth and let the words come out.”
“Let’s talk later Timothy.”
And right there was when the seventh to the tenth fat Japanese wrestler sat on each other on your body. She had just called you Timothy. Big problem.
“Look.” You now made no attempt to hide the trembling of your voice. “You tell me what is going on and you tell me right now!”
“Nothing!” She snapped.
“You’re lying lady. Spit it out.”
“I met someone, OK?”
Another fat Japanese wrestler joined his colleagues in their Operation Suffocate Timmie.
“W-what does that mean?” You knew exactly what that meant. But you just couldn’t allow yourself to even think of accepting it. “L-like o-o-on the r-road or something? L-like a-at the m-mall?”
“No.” A deep breath. “We were at the swimming pool me and a bunch of friends and he and his friends came over. We talked and later we had a couple of drinks. Then last night I went to his place and…”
She stopped. No no no no. You can’t stop there.
“And what Nia? And what?”
“I don’t know how it happened. We kissed and we took our clothes off…” you stopped breathing at this juncture. “…well, he took all his clothes off and I just took off my top and bra and we made out.”
“W-what do you m-mean y-y-you made out?”
“He sucked my boobs, touched me and I put his penis in my mouth…”
“Did you have sex with him?” Your voice was suddenly and inexplicably calm.
“No.” she said. “I was on my period.”
What you heard was, No, because I was on my period. Hadn’t I been on my period, well I wouldn’t have minded an orgasm or two from him.
“OK.” You said; your voice now normal and your body calm. Even your hands had stopped shaking and you were breathing freely. All the fat Japanese wrestlers seated on you vanished. The storm you had been waiting for had come and had hit you hard. But the waiting was done. The waiting is always the hardest part.
“I just thought that, you know, because we were together and all, that we would be faithful to each other. I must have missed the memo informing me that ours had turned into an open relationship.” You shut your eyes for a second and saw her on her knees with a penis in her mouth. A penis that wasn’t yours. Your eyes had never snapped open that fast before.
“I’m sorry Timmie. I know what this means to our relationship.”
It took you months to get rid of that image of her on her knees with some random dude’s penis in her mouth in your mind. You couldn’t even look at her picture without seeing that penis plastered on her lips. Without seeing one side of her cheek bulging as she gave him proper proper service.
You had dreams, bad dreams for months after that. Dreams in which she was having sex with random people in clubs, taking pictures of the whole thing and sending them to you. You didn’t know who you were and who to be after that. This whole thing simply damaged you in ways that not even you could fully comprehend.
But you, after a few weeks, managed to put up a strong face for her. You started thinking along the lines of, if you’re feeling so horrible about it, imagine how badly she must be feeling’. So even though images of her and that stranger tormented you for months, you still looked her in the eye when she visited and you still kissed her.
Even though the dreams kept waking you up with night sweats every night for months, you still kissed her and smiled at her and assured her that everything was OK. That everything was forgiven. Yes it was forgiven, but forgetting was way too hard.
Once during sex, she asked if you thought about her with a stranger and you looked her right in the eye and told her no. That all that was water under the bridge. That it was just a stupid drunk mistake and it was all in the past. You lied.
You didn’t tell her of all those times when you visited the internet searching for answers on how to get rid of that image of your fiancé’s mouth full of another man’s cock in your mind. You read hundreds and hundreds of stories of how couples had survived cheating.
Women’s reactions had been different from men’s. Women had cried, packed and left. Others had sued, others had gone for counseling with their men, but they had all survived it. Men’s reactions, from the stories you read online, were different.
Men had carried the pain in their hearts for months, years and some even decades. They had put up a strong face just like you were doing. They had smiled at their cheating spouses and assured them that everything was OK. Forgiven and forgotten. Then one day they had taken a gun and blown their own brains out without leaving a suicide letter explaining why. You read of men who had bottled their pain for years and one day had hang themselves in the basement and the police had had to pry their daughters from their dangling bodies, daughters who were still screaming, “Why daddy, why” long after the police and the neighbors had taken them away from the scene.
But even after that, you still looked at Nia with a smile and said everything was OK. Even when sometimes you could smell his balls on her lips when you kissed her, you still cupped her cheeks and assured her of your undying love for her. Because that was all you had to offer. Undying love.
You did not tell her of that night when you fought. You had gone to a party in a friend’s house. At around 2. A.M. You and Nia got into a totally random fight about something which you currently couldn’t recall.
You had shouted at her and she had shushed you down. Saying that you were drunk and that your temper was uncontainable when you were drunk. You told her that you were fine and that she should stop treating you like a baby who couldn’t handle his liquor.
She just sat on that couch and calmly watched as you ripped at your hair and went on a monologue.
“You just sit there and watch me like you don’t feel nothing. With that look in your eyes like I am some piece of fecal matter that has just found its way into your warm cup of milk. Do I embarrass now? Is that it? Do you find me pathetic? Because I am looking at you right now lady and I don’t even recognize you. I don’t know who the hell you are and I am done, you hear me, DONE, trying to figure you out! The other day you coerced me into going to your home to see your mother even though I have told you time and again that where I come from, guys don’t simply wander all over their woman’s mother’s compound. It is not the way things are done! But hey, because me in my foolish love for you will do anything you ask, I went. I went. Time and again I went to your mother’s house even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to. And when my own parents called to ask where I was, I lied to them because they would frown upon what I was doing and I hated bringing them into the affairs of my relationship. Then I asked that you call my mother and guess what, you’re too cool for that crap. Well guess what lady, I’m done! You and me, this nonsense we call a relationship, oooooh baby, it is so freaking done! Done! Damn it!”
You turned and punched the wall startling her.
And at two in the morning, in a city where you knew nobody, you opened the door and walked out into the night. She followed you. You thought she was going to stop you. Shock. She instead peeled the ring off her finger and placed it at your feet.
You have never hated anybody as much as you hated her at that moment. After she had gone back into the house and closed the door behind her, you never told her that you climbed over the banister rail. You were on the sixth floor. You didn’t tell her that you swung your feet over the rail and supported yourself only with your hands.
That you dangled your body from the sixth floor and looked down into the distant darkness below, contemplating on letting go and ending it all, once and for all. You never told her that you let one hand go and dangled sideways from the sixth floor.
You never told her that you looked down and now that your eyes were properly accustomed to the darkness, you saw the stone wall fence lined with barbed wire. You knew that if you let go, your body would land on the barbed wire and even though you thought of the pain you would feel as the barbed wire tore into your flesh as it broke your fall, that didn’t stop you from contemplating letting the other hand go and going on a freefall to the end of the pain in your life that was in the shape and form of Nia.
And as you dangled there, the midnight breeze beating on your body, your hand getting tired fast, your phone rang in your pocket. You wondered who it was that was calling at that hour. You were sure that Nia, now covered wholly in her cloak of pride, would never be the one calling. In your head, you could already see her standing over your corpse, collecting phlegm all around her mouth and delivering a generous spit on your body.
Out of sheer curiosity, you climbed back up onto the corridor. With shaking hands, you fished the phone out of your pocket and hurriedly answered your mother’s call. You felt guilty that as you dangled from the sixth floor feeling like the only person who had your whole heart didn’t give a hoot about you, you hadn’t even thought about your own mother.
“Did I wake you up?”
“No. Is everything OK?”
“I am not feeling well. I need to come to Nairobi tomorrow. Will you take me to the hospital?”
“Yes mom.” You already knew what was ailing her. This wasn’t the first time she would need to be rushed to the hospital. “I’ll be there for you.”
When you went back to the house, you skipped the part where you contemplated ending your life and went straight to your mother’s call.
You made up. You had insane makeup sex. It felt like everything else in the relationship was now dead. Everything but the sex.
You fought about her being on the phone while you only wanted to hang out with her.
You fought about your drinking.
You fought about your temper
You fought about your not looking for a job
You fought about her thinking that you don’t trust her, that you never forgave her for the cheating episode.
You fought about her not visiting your home
You fought about you visiting her home too much
You promised each other that you’d never say goodbye, that your relationship would remain intact no matter what. That you were a team.
On the days when you were good, you were really good. You went shopping, you made love, you went for dinners, you made love, you watched movies, you made love, you laughed, you made love… five years now into the relationship and you still never grew tired of each other’s company.
You were both desperate for each other. You are the only ones in the world who could hurt each other the way you did but you were the only ones in the world who could make each other feel so good. You were each other’s worst enemy and each other’s best friend at the same time. When the two of you were good, you were great! When the two of you were bad, whoa, even the Second World War had nothing on you. There were no lukewarm moments in your relationship. The highs were soaring, the lows were purgatory.
You stuck together even when you got so angry with her that to steer yourself away from doing something you might regret, you ripped your t-shirt, a t-shirt you loved dearly, from your body and with your bare hands, you tore it into tiny little pieces and stayed shirtless.
You stuck together even when she told you that she hated you.
You stuck together even when you told her that you didn’t like her so much after a fight.
You stuck together even when she said that all you did in a relationship was sit, watch movies and f***.
When she cried, she howled. It was no longer the desperate cry of a broken heart that she used to have four or five years ago. It was the howl of a widow on her husband’s burial. A howl containing unspoken pain, promises unfulfilled, a heart broken too many times…
Sometimes you looked at her and wondered if she felt trapped in that relationship. Trapped by the sheer love she felt for you. Love and nothing else. Love that she used to feel good about but now resented because it was the chain that bound her to you. An emotion that glued her so desperately to you even though she wanted nothing to do with you.
One weekend she visited. You made love. Good love. Great love. Even after all else felt dark, sex still felt so damn good.
Christmas was around the corner. Would she make it home? She would look into it. You spent the cold weekend in bed naked with her. Talking. Whispering heartfelt sweet nothings to each other. You both visited the internet and checked out wedding gowns and tuxedos. You decided on what gown she would wear.
She wanted a white one that had a mermaid feel to it. You wanted a cream colored one which would make her look like a princess.
“Cream?” she asked. “Why? Because I’m not a virgin?”
You felt a stab in your chest. These days you hurt too easy. She had pointed it out recently. “Timmie, you’re too sensitive nowadays.”
So you let it slide and said, “No, I hadn’t even thought about it that way. The cream one really appeals to me because I think you’d look so beautiful in it. I didn’t think color meant anything. Cream or white feels the same to me.”
She laughed. You thought there was mockery in that laughter. That pang in your chest went deeper. Like you had been insulted. You swallowed it and smiled. A smile which you hoped would cover up the pain.
“The white one looks cute.” The confidence in your voice didn’t feel forced. Even though it was. “Let’s roll with it.”
You decided that the bridesmaids would wear emerald green. It looked so beautiful on those girls you saw wearing it online. You shut your eyes and imagined the wedding. You had never really been a wedding person but now that it was crystallizing right in front of your eyes, now that you could see it, you warmed up to it. It soothed the pain in your chest.
You pulled Nia close. You hugged her. She smiled. I love yous were exchanged. You slept in each other’s arms, with the bridesmaids in their emerald green dresses still smiling on the computer screen.
Less than forty-eight hours after that, you called off the engagement. You called it off in the very way you had proposed. Without thinking about it.
It was in the middle of yet another terrible fight.
Today, two years since that breakup, she is on the phone with you and you’re telling her, “I don’t even remember what we were fighting about.”
“Me neither.” She says.
“Was it about you calling my mom?”
“I called your mom. I did Timmie.” She sounds a little defensive. Like two years after you’re no longer together, she owes you an explanation. You let her talk. “There was a misunderstanding. She flashed me and I called her back.”
“I know you did. She told me.”
“You broke off our engagement via a text message. We had promised each other that we’d never break up. That we’d always be there for each other no matter what. But you broke it off via text Timmie. Like it was nothing.”
It was in the middle of that fight. The one which now none of you remember what it was about. All you remember is a blanket of anger, disillusionment and frustration covering you like a thick fog. And you remember typing, “You know what, I’m done. We’re done. Take off my engagement ring and never put it back on again. This thing is over.”
And you hit send, hurled the phone away from you, collapsed on your mattress and took a huge breath. Everything felt right in the world. For a second. Before the “Oh, crap! What did I just do?” feeling crept in with a vengeance.
A blanket of hopelessness thickened around your life for the next four months. Nothing felt right. You wrote music. Dark music. About demons creeping through windows and stealing you away. The finality of the end really kicked in and even the liquor didn’t soothe you anymore.
Today as you speak to her on the phone, she is asking, “Why now? Why has it taken you two years to make this call?”
You don’t tell her about the alcohol. You don’t tell her that four months after the breakup, you finally took a job. A 9 to 5 that kept you busy. It was either that or dying of depression. That your job got you on a plane like her and traveled widely. That you met people of all races. That you drunk alcohol from various parts of the world with people from all over the world.
You don’t tell her about the women. The women who suddenly seemed to come too easy. With a smile, a hello and an hour of conversation. That your way with words was finally working for you. Just not in a healthy way that she’d approve.
You don’t tell her about how you crept deeper and deeper inside bottles and panties in a bid to fill that hole she left behind.
You don’t tell her about the music. How you made one song, one song about you and her, and uploaded it on your YouTube channel expecting it to get the usual two hundred views at best. You don’t tell her how that song suddenly catapulted you to fame. How with its millions and millions of views, it brought music producers knocking on your door with mouthwatering deals.
You remember what Nia said so many years ago before the fights and the suicide contemplations and the depression. “Don’t give up. One day it is they who will be coming to you.”
Neither of you talk about the song, even though you both know that it was about your relationship. You know she knows about it. You know she has listened to it a million times. But she doesn’t bring it up and neither do you.
She says, “We promised that we would never let go. That we’d be together always and forever. But you dumped me Timmie. You left me. Again.”
You remember what she used to say. That one day you will be big and famous and you will leave her for a younger woman. You don’t say that you didn’t leave her for anybody. That you just left. She doesn’t say it either.
You know she knows about your music success. That all those dreams she had for you, dreams of hope and success and fame, you know she knows that they have all come true and that she is not with you now; that she is not enjoying the fruits of something she invested in just as much as you did. But she doesn’t mention it. And neither do you. What’s the point?
“I met someone.” You tell her now over the phone. “I didn’t want her to begin a relationship with a guy who ended his last relationship with a text.”
“So you’ve moved on?” It’s the way she asks it that makes you put your guards up a little. You proceed with caution as if you are a police officer approaching an armed suspect. “It’s complicated. But I’m working on it.”
Your response doesn’t bring you any peace so you add, “But I know you moved on a long time ago. I saw the pictures of you and your new boyfriend online.”
“Yeah.” She says, her voice shrouded in mystery.
“I am truly sorry about the large part I played in the end of you and me. I am older now and I know that sounds cheesy. And I am wiser. I know now that I could have handled things differently but I didn’t and for that Nia, I am completely and utterly sorry. Please forgive me.”
“It’s OK Timmie.” She pauses. “You know, I think this is exactly the kind of closure I needed. Granted I’m still taking anti depressants because of what the breakup did to me, but this is good. Thank you.”
She had to take all kinds of pills after the breakup. And she, more than you, had to answer questions from people. The “when’s the wedding happening?” and “when’s the baby coming?” kind of questions. You never much cared to answer people’s questions in that regard.
They’d ask, “What happened between you and Nia?”
“We broke up.” You’d say
“Oh. When? What happened?”
“Some time ago.” You would reply noncommittally. “Life happened.”
They would press for details and you’d close up on them saying, “We just broke up. People break up all the time. Anyway, how are you? I heard that you failed six exams at KSL. How are the re-sits coming along?”
“I am glad you called Timmie.” Nia says and you can imagine her smiling on the other side.
“I am glad I called. We should have done this a long time ago.”
“We weren’t ready a long time ago.”
“Touché.” You say and proceed, “Hey Nia.”
“Those people still buggering you about you and me, tell me to sod off and find another place to put their noses in. You don’t owe them a thing. Not a damn thing.”
“And you take care of yourself, yeah?”
“Alright then. Goodbye Nia.”
She pauses before replying, her voice small like the little girl’s she was when you two started dating what now feels like ages ago.
“Take care of yourself too Timmie. And goodbye.”