It has been a long day and he is just about to settle down for a boring evening. Watch a movie, read a book, work out maybe, stand in front of the mirror shirtless and employ the use of his imaginary magnifying glass to look for a hint of a six-pack on his stomach and if there is any justice in the world, fall asleep before two in the morning.
Earlier today he bumped into his brother’s ex-girlfriend. Normally, he doesn’t hate on anyone’s exes because what happens between a man and where his puts his junk at night is none of his business but this one messed his brother’s life up so much that he couldn’t help but want to smash his fist into her face.
Her: Hi Stranger
Her: Last I checked, yeah. You look good. Have you been working out?
Him: I thought I told you I never want to see you again.
Her: Oh come on. Grudges are for little boys.
Him: If avoiding you like the healthy dose of leprosy you are is a sign of immaturity, then baby I’ll wear the title of “little boy” with pride.
Her: It wasn’t my fault that things turned out the way they did, alright?
Him: Nothing is ever your fault. Look, you are spoiling my already spoilt day. Goodbye.
Her: You know, you might ride around on your high horse because you like to come off as “brutally honest”, but all you manage to do is come off as an insufferable asshole.
Him: An insufferable asshole who can’t stand you. What does that say about you?
He hurries away, so as to get away with the pleasure having had the last word. He can feel her eyes digging holes into his back and he wonders if there is enough swag in his walking style to connote just how few fucks he gives about her.
His phone vibrates in his pocket. It’s an old friend calling. One of those old friends he has but doesn’t exactly understand her role in his life.
Her: Oh come on. Don’t act like you ain’t babe.
Him: Believe me, I am not acting. What’s up?
Her: Where are you?
Her: In the house?
Him: I am walking there now. First thing I’ll do when I get there is take a scalding hot shower to hopefully burn out the memories of some bitch off my mind and body and soul.
Her: She broke your heart?
Him: She might have, if I hadn’t lost it way before meeting her.
Her: Oh, you are so good with words. You are like a genius.
Him: What business is it of yours where I am anyway?
Her: Well, I am around your neighborhood. I was hoping I’d swing by. Hang out. I’m going through some issues and I could use the distraction.
Him: I have always wondered what my role is in your life. I don’t know whether I like being the distraction though. It doesn’t sound so flattering.
Her: You are the smartest person I know. Would you want me to insult your intelligence by lying to you?
Her: Tell you what babe, why don’t you send me your pin location and I’ll see you in a few.
Yeah. She has never been to his house, not for his lack of trying.
How he Tried and Failed to get her to Come to his House
They met in a stripper club, which is probably the worst place to meet a friend. Or whatever it is that they are to each other. They were both too drunk to remember who exactly started talking to whom or who kissed whom first, but they both remember that as soon as their lips touched, she bent over and vomited all over his shoes.
“Great!” he thought. “That must have been the most disgusting kiss of her life.”
He has never remembered how they exchanged numbers, but he remembers a call two days later when the last webs of hangover were cat-walking their way out of his head. His phone said that it was “Bianca” calling, but he couldn’t remember having ever met a Bianca in his life.
She shrieked and his brow shot up with surprise
Him: Do I have a girlfriend that I have completely forgotten about?
Her: Oh, you are so funny! Anyway, I was just calling to say thanks for the other night. That was so much fun.
Him: Oh! That was you??
Her: Don’t tell me you forgot already.
Him: How could I? You owe me a pair of shoes
Her: Well, you called an Uber using my phone then refused to pay the driver. He was so angry with me and I had to pay him.
Him: I did that?
Her: You don’t remember much, do you?
Him: I remember the untimely demise of my shoes.
Her: That’s a shame. But I didn’t like those shoes anyway. They made you look like a big baby.
Him: Hey, why don’t we skip past the drinks and the conversations and go right to the sex?
Her: Where is the fun in that?
Him: We both know that we’ll end up having sex, so why waste time going through the motions?
Her: Let me think about it.
She thought about it. A week passed. A fortnight. A month. Time during which they met for coffee and too much liquor for anyone’s comfort.
Him: Are we going home together?
Her: No babe, I have to go home.
Him: You know, I don’t feel like my investment in this venture is paying off.
Her: Oh, you are so honest.
He lost interest during the second month. Her calls went unanswered and her messages went un-replied. Finally, she took the hint and stopped calling.
Until she found herself in his neighborhood, thought of him so much it hurt and decided to try and reach him again. And by some miracle, or curse depending on which side of the wall one is standing on, he answered.
Maybe it is the edge in her voice. That heavy tone that comes with a voice that is holding onto an emotional boulder up a hill, and with one wrong move, the boulder will come tumbling down the hill and crashing into the village that is the heart below.
Him: What’s wrong?
Her: Are you home?
Her: I am in your neighborhood
Him: Then I am home.
Outside, the rain pours. Torrents upon torrents of vengeful raindrops, pouring upon the earth as if on a mission from an angry god.
“You have a beautiful place,” she says, her eyes tearing down every picture on the wall, every painting, every sticky note. “I love houses with an open kitchen.”
He is seated on a wooden chair in the middle of the room, watching as she catwalks around the place, looking at things, touching things, owning the house with her sheer presence. She is in a sleeveless black dress which fits her just right and her hair is cropped close to her skull.
“Tell me,” she says, speaking to him over her shoulder. “How are you so goddamn smart?”
“You know what I really want to do right now?”
“No,” she says, staring at a painting on the wall. “What do you want?”
“An evening free of bullshit. An evening of pure, unadulterated honesty with you. No games, no nonsense, no acting cool, just pure honesty. Can I have that?”
“I need a drink sweetheart.” She says, slowly lowering her well crafted body into the nearest couch. “I need a lot of wine. Hook a sister up?”
He goes downstairs for a bottle and when he comes back up, she is in the middle of a phone call.
Her: Listen up Bob… No, I’m done. I am telling you, I am done with this bullshit, alright?… You’re lying! You’re lying to me! Why are you such a fucking liar?…. No! No! I don’t believe… Uh huh… Uh huh…. But… Would you let me talk? You know what…
She wants to say something more but Bob, whoever that is, won’t let her talk. So she hangs up, dumps the phone away and tucks her feet under her on the couch.
Him: Boys, huh?
Her: (Scoffs) Oh, you have no idea. (Smiles at the bottle of wine) Oh, nothing drowns horseshit like a cheap bottle of wine.
Her phone rings. She grabs it like it is the primary source of misery in her life, stares at it fixedly for a minute until it rings out, then she places it gently beside her, only to pick it up again when it rings a second later.
Her: (Snaps) I don’t want to talk to you Bob
Bob on the other side says something that makes her voice a little cuddly –
Her: I don’t know how to believe you…
Her: But you are always lying to me. How am I supposed to trust you now?
Bob says the wrong thing that hardens her voice
Her: That’s bullshit!
And the screaming begins again.
In the meantime, he sits back on his wooden chair and pours himself a generous amount of wine, watching patiently as her voice and face changes from angry to cuddly to sweet to grossly manipulative in the course of the five-minute phone conversation with Bob.
“Who is Bob?” He asks after the call is done, or rather after she hangs up on him again.
“Argh,” she groans. Not a good sign. “It’s just some guy.”
Him: Doesn’t sound like just some guy to me.
Her: What do you want me to tell you? You are a smart guy. What do you think?
Him: He’s just some guy you’re fucking.
Her: Keep going
Him: But you are more than just fucking him. You like him.
Her: Uh huh.
Him: Which really pisses you off because you feel like he doesn’t like you as much as you like him.
She has these short and thick fingers which are heavily jeweled. She holds her wine glass in them and pours the entire glassful down her throat.
Him: I guess I am right.
She fills her glass up, gets off the couch and sits on his lap, stroking his cheek with one hand and holding the glass in the other.
Her: What should I do?
Him: You are asking me?
Her: Is there anyone else in this house with us?
Him: I should hope not.
Her: Then I guess I am asking you.
Him: Then I guess you are an idiot.
Her: Don’t be an ass.
Him: Then don’t be an idiot. You are on my lap, asking me what you should do about some guy you are fucking, who you have fallen in love with and now you’re sour because he isn’t quite as much into you. What do you think you should do?
Her: Leave him?
Him: Are you asking or are you saying?
Her: I am saying.
Him: But you won’t leave him, will you?
Her: I have to.
Him: Yeah. Eventually. But not yet. You know why? For the same reason people stick around violent marriages. You don’t feel like you’ve had enough yet. You still hold on to the hope of a better future.
Her: But he’s been so horrible to me.
Him: Don’t you have a boyfriend?
Her: I do.
Him: A boyfriend you ain’t fucking?
Her: Uh huh
Him: A boyfriend you keep saying you don’t love?
Her: What’s with the cross examination?
Him: I am not cross examining you. I am just here, judging you like the asshole I am.
Her: Oh, wow.
This is not the kind of “wow” that means anything good. Just the kind that women offer when they are rolling their eyes because they can’t believe what a beyond-saving douche-bag they are having a conversation with.
Him: No! Bitch, you don’t get to go all “oh wow” on me. You have a boyfriend who you are stringing along because he’s a good and safe guy but you don’t love him in spite of his qualities. Then you have Bob who you are screwing because you are into him even though he treats you like a piece of shit. So don’t sit on my lap and say “oh wow” to me. Figure your shit out and get off me.
When he gets all mean, his lips get smaller. They sort of reduce into a small circle and his eyes reduce to slits. Also the meaner he gets, the softer his voice grows such that at his meanest, he looks and sounds very calm.
As he speaks, she watches his eyes and lips and as soon as he is done, she gets off his lap, walks to the couch, grabs the phone and scrolls it quietly. She finds what she was looking for and brings the phone back to him.
There is a close-up picture of a guy’s face on the screen. First thing he thinks when he sees the picture is, “Alright. That’s a good looking devil.”
Her: (Soft voice) You look exactly like him.
The guy is neither light skinned nor dark skinned. He is sort of right there in the middle, trying to figure out which side to go. He is a calm looking guy, with tight set lips, a beard running down his cheeks and round his chin and sharp eyes looking right into the camera.
Him: Who is that?
She looks at him then at the picture and repeats the procedure a few more times. “Oh my God,” she sighs. “You are him.”
Him: You are drunk.
Her: Ah come on. I have only had a glass of wine. Just one.
She sets the now half full glass of wine of the table, dips her hands into her dress and a few seconds later, her bra comes out. She tosses it on his lap and winks at him.
Him: Is this supposed to make me think of having sex with you?
Her: Some people are no fun. You want to listen to some music?
Ah yes, the music. That bit of the night when they wake up the neighbors with the beats, the singing and the dragging of furniture as they try to dance around drunkenly.
The song playing is Otile Brown’s Niseme Nawe, and a few seconds after it starts, she hurls her hands up in the air offering the “I love this fucking song” exclaim, pushes him on to the couch and gives him a lap dance.
There is a place in the song that goes like, “…attention, attention, baby can I have your attention. Sina ubaya, sina ubaya, I just want to give you love and affection…” a place at which she faces him, holds the back of his head, brings his face closer to her body and really gyrates against him.
… baby can I have your attention…
“Oh, you have my attention.” He thinks, maintaining steely eye contact with her, but making sure to keep his lips off his mouth. He doesn’t want to give himself away like that.
He makes as if to touch her though, but she hisses, “Don’t touch me!” so he retracts his hands like she is a hot stove and lets her do her thing on his laps.
She goes off to the music system and selects another song for them. As she dances her way back to him, she lifts her dress up to the waist and says hoarsely, “By the way, I don’t like panties.”
His eyes drop for a second to catch the sight of her recently shaved private area, small goose-bump resembling pimples having developed all around it and says nonchalantly, “I can see that.”
Her: That’s it?
Him: That’s what?
Her: I show you my pussy and all you have to say is, “I can see that?”
Him: You sound disappointed.
Her: Are you gay?
Him: Not that I have noticed.
Her: Then what’s wrong with you?
Him: It’s just a vagina sweetheart. It’s not like yours comes with gold bars attached. Surely you weren’t expecting me to crawl on all fours, stick my tongue out, wag my tail and beg you for a fuck just because you have shown me your pussy, were you?
Her: You are weird.
Him: You are an idiot.
Her: You are an asshole.
Him: I know.
Her: Gosh, you look so much like him. Every time you act so mean, you look so much like him.
Him: You like playing games, don’t you?
Him: That’s why Bob has you all riled up because you can’t control him. And that’s why you have your boyfriend tied around your little finger because him, you can control.
Her: I am not like that.
Him: Yes you are.
Her: I am just a tease, OK?
Him: Probably that’s what you call it. But all I see is someone trying to play a game.
Her: Would you stop being a psychologist for a fucking second?
Him: Look at me
She doesn’t look at him.
Him: Come on, look at me.
She doesn’t, so he gently takes her chin and makes her look at him.
Him: Do you know why I hate games? It’s because other than them being insufferably boring and a shallow time wasting activity, I have seen them all. I used to know someone. She liked being the center of attention. So she’d jump into your life, act all nice, kiss you on the cheek, make you think she’s really interested in you, give you just enough to stick around but not enough to make you stop chasing her for more and just when you are helplessly into her, she would lose interest in you and find another poor sap to wrap around her fingers. It was all a game to her, to have guys chasing her all over town, burning up her battery with endless calls, sending her kiss-ass messages…and her being oh so suddenly unavailable. It was her source of power, all a game to her. You get what I’m saying?
Her: Is that what you think I am doing?
Him: I hope not because games are all so distasteful when you look at them from outside. They reduce to little desperate acts played by little desperate and insecure people. People who prefer to play games rather than just strip themselves down to the bone, be utterly honest with themselves and with the world and live their lives. That’s why I told you, all I want is honesty.
Her: I don’t know what to do.
Him: About your boyfriend or about Bob?
Her: About them all. About you…
Him: You don’t have to do anything about me because I am not in the picture.
Her: OK. Coz I already have two complications in my life. I can’t have a third.
Him: Dump your boyfriend. Stop wasting his time.
Her: I can’t.
Him: Then be with him.
Her: You didn’t miss the part where I said I don’t love him, did you?
Him: Well figure your shit out and don’t call me or text me or come see me until you do.
Her: Stop acting mean. I know bad boys when I meet them and you are not one of them. You are a good person.
Him: I might be good, but I am not nice. Can I ask you a question?
Him: What do you want from me?
Her: I don’t get you.
Him: Sure you do.
Her: No I don’t, I swear.
Him: Lately, I have embarked on a garbage disposal mission. A month ago I was fat with people. I had all these people in my life who were sort of just there. You know what I’m saying? You hang out, you have a drink, you laugh, you drive around, talk and just be. Then one day I just didn’t know what they were all for. All we did was waste time and money and our youth and I guess I just started walking out on one after the other. You know, sort of like disposing the garbage in your bin. I would call someone at ten in the evening and go like….
The Evening Calls
He isn’t kidding about this part. He did make those calls. Here is how a call between him and one girl went –
Her: Oh my gosh, it’s been so long. I’ve missed you. How are you?
Him: Good. Better by the end of this call I hope.
Her: Why? What’s wrong dear?
Him: Have I ever told you I don’t like it when people call me dear?
Her: Aww. Sorry. You are so touchy sometimes.
Him: Can I ask you something?
Her: Anything. You know that.
Him: What’s the point of this thing we do?
Her: What thing? What are you talking about?
Him: Who am I to you?
Her: Oh sweetie, are you having one of your dark moments?
Him: I guess so.
Her: I’m sorry.
Him: It’s OK.
Her: If I was there I’d give you a hug.
Him: That’s OK. I have a bottle of vodka for that.
Her: You are so funny!
Him: (Dry laugh) Hahaha. So, what is the point?
Her: Of what?
Him: This thing we do, you and me?
Her: What do we do?
Him: Exactly. What do we do? What are we?
Her: I don’t know what you are asking me! (She is shrieking, a little scared that she doesn’t understand what’s happening and a little upset that it is happening at all) What do you mean?
Him: It’s a simple question. What am I to you?
Her: My friend!
Him: We’ve known each other eight months. And I don’t know anything about you.
Her: You are lying. You know everything.
Him: No. I don’t.
Her: What do you want to know? Ask me anything.
Him: See, I can’t because friendship isn’t a series of interviews. All I know about you right now is that you like going out, you hate paying for your own damn uber even though you have a job and you are afraid of real conversations.
Her: You know what, I’m going to bed.
Him: That’s what I thought. Run because you don’t want to be real. Look, whatever this little mess is, I don’t want any part of it anymore. I’m out and you know what, I doubt you’ll notice my absence in your life at all, because quite honestly, I doubt I mean shit to you.
Her: Hey asshole, can I ask you a question?
Him: Might as well.
Her: Where do you draw the line between being honest and being a jerk?
Him: Right where you draw the line between being nice and being a coward.
And they haven’t spoken since. That had been the first of the many calls he had made that week, trying to figure out exactly which actually were friendships and which were a time and money wasting shenanigans.
Back to tonight
Her: You didn’t just wake up and decide to do all that. Something must have happened to prompt it.
Him: Yeah. Something happened.
Him: I realized that you might invest in people who don’t give a flying crap about you and one day they wash their hands off of you like you’re nothing. That’s the scariest thing in my life right now.
Her: What happened?
Him: Well, I met this girl I liked, right? We were doing great and I thought there could be something there. It was one of those things you feel could have a future even without really knowing that you’re feeling it. Then of course we had a small fight like people do when they get close to each other and that’s all it took for her to bolt. She was like, “You and I will have fights like this in the future and I can’t have that.” And of course me and my pride were like, “Yeah well, fuck off to that perfect someone with whom you’ll never have a fight, you fucking idiot.” And she was like, “Why are you being such a dick?” And I was like, “Because you are being such a cunt.”
Her: Well that was a low blow.
Him: I know. But I learned something from that. Just because you are a faithful friend who is into meaningful and hopefully long-term relationships doesn’t mean everyone around you is like that. Sometimes people just don’t give a fuck whether you are a good or a horrible person. That’s your problem. If shit goes sideways, you’ll be royally fucked. You will wake up in a puddle of your own mess and ask yourself, “Why is my life so silent? Where did everyone go?” Ask Louis Otieno.
Her: So you cutting people off is based on your own fears to bring people close in case they hurt you.
Him: Yes, that is correct. I am a very scared person right now because the last thing I want to do is invest in someone who honestly doesn’t appear to see much in me and could walk away from me with the snap of a finger. If I don’t mean shit to you, I give you a chance to tell me so straight-up over a simple phone call. “Hello, do I mean shit to you? Yes or no. Tell me right now so we don’t waste each other’s time. Simple.”
Her: But that’s a phone call that might make you lose a real friend, don’t you think?
Him: If it’s a friend, I doubt I’ll lose them. I am done trying to figure people out. I want straight answers. Yes or no. Baas. No games, no bullshit, just cold hard truth. Hey, did I ever tell you about those Christmas calls I made last year?
Her: Which ones?
Last Christmas Calls
Her: Heeeey, how have you been?
Him: Good. You?
Her: OK I guess. I’m just preparing to go to church. Something you should start doing by the way.
Him: Always a good person you were.
Her: Not good enough for you apparently.
Him: I’m sorry.
Her: You just dodged my calls and texts like I didn’t mean anything to you.
Him: I am sorry.
Her: I mean, how do you do that?
Him: I was young and stupid.
Her: And now?
Him: Still am.
Her: Such a waste. Why did you call?
Him: Hey, remember that time we had sex and the condom sort of broke?
Her: It didn’t break. You said it was getting between you and your game.
Him: Let’s not get caught up in the details, yeah?
Her: Well, I remember that time. Why?
Him: You wouldn’t happen to have my kid now, would you?
She gasps. A very loud gasp, clearly audible over the phone.
Him: Are you there?
Her: What’s gotten into you?
Him: We had raw sex, I didn’t step outside for the big conclusion, so it is only prudent for me to call and ask if you have my kid.
Her: Are you dying?
Him: In maybe sixty or seventy years if there is any goodness left in the world. Why?
Her: No. I don’t have your kid. Thank God.
Him: Hey, don’t be mean.
Her: I’m not. Just saying. If you were me, would you want to have a kid with you?
Him: Well, thanks for your honesty.
Her: What are people-who-used-to-have-sex-but-don’t-anymore-because-the-guy-suddenly-became-a-dick for?
And of course he didn’t stop there. He called anyone with whom he might have had it raw and failed to step out for the big conclusion and popped the big question.
Her: Why would you make such calls?
Him: Well, I was drunk.
Her: And none of them had your kid?
Her: Dude, you must be the most infertile player there is.
Him: Thanks. Really needed the honesty.
Her: You are welcome.
Him: Sarcastic piece of shit.
Her: Now you are just being mean.
She calls an uber after having said “I need to go” for over two hours now.
As they stagger down the stairs for the parking lot where the driver awaits, she falls into his arms and he steadies her, during which their faces come real close.
Her: We can’t do this.
Him: Do what?
They look into each other’s eyes then down at each other’s lips.
Him: You left your bra on my couch.
Her: I know
Him: That’s not you marking a territory, is it?
Her: We can’t do this.
Their lips brush against each other and they pull away, just a bit.
Him: For the first time this night you have come close to turning me on.
Her: (Chuckles) Come close? Your jeans are almost coming apart at the zip.
Him: Well, let’s not get caught up in the words.
Her: You and I would be horrible for each other.
Her: I’m a horrible person.
They stagger and he pushes her gently against the wall, then stands so close to her, almost every inch of their bodies touch. They are about the same height and this time, when their lips touch, they don’t pull away.
Her: (Gasps) We can’t do this
She feels the warm softness of his lips against hers and returns the kiss gently.
Her: We can’t do this.
She whispers, her voice shaking in the dead of the night. Then she pulls away and he backs up. In the dim security lights, she sees him in Bob and Bob in him and a gentle cry falls out of her. “Oh my God,” she taps her lips with her fingers, “You are him.”
“Then stay away from me,” he says. “Run on home. Your uber awaits.”
She carefully walks down the rest of the stairs, her dress hugging every bit of her tall self, the shape of her legs exacerbated by her heels and her short hair giving her an aura of a woman in authority.
He sits on the stairs and watches her go down and finally, finally, lets his lips disappear into his mouth. At the bottom of the flight of stairs, she looks over her shoulder and smiles,
Her: We are going to see each other again, aren’t we?
Him: I hope not
Her: Look who’s playing games now.
Him: I want to see you again. But not before you figure your shit out. I don’t have time to waste chasing you while you are busy swimming in all that mess you are currently in.
Her: You need to work on your “will you be my woman?” lines boy.
Him: I will when I see a woman, girl.
She waves him a small goodbye and heads off to the waiting uber, her heels clacking against the floor.
Him: It’s beautiful.
Her: What is?
Since they are about twenty meters from each other now down at the basement parking lot, they have raised their voices a bit and these voices are carried around in the echoes of the otherwise silent night.
Him: Your vagina!
Her: SHHHHH! SHHHH! You idiot!
Laughing, he gets on his feet, brushes the dust off his back and turns to head back upstairs. She calls out –
Her: When I come knocking for my bra, don’t keep me waiting at the door.
Him: Just as long as it’ll be you and you alone. Don’t want some boyfriend and Bob drama in my life.
Her: Don’t worry. Might take a minute, but I’m coming for that bra. I sort of like it.
Him: What happens when you knock and find me gone?
Her: I can’t think about that right now, or I will come sooner than i need to, bringing all the drama with me.
Him: I guess we’ll just say goodbye for now then.
Her: Goodbye. For now.