Lavington – Nairobi
August 10, 2018
Three people sit at a gazebo, liters of coffee between them. The only lady among them – Prisca – leans back on her chair and smiles at the youngest in the group. A young man going by the name Chuck. Well, he does not go by the name Chuck, his name is Chuck.
Prisca: Well Chuck, I have to say, I was not particularly impressed by your latest story.
Chuck: Which latest story?
Her: The one that you wrote last. Isn’t that the traditional definition of ‘latest’?
Him: I have not written any stories in two months.
Her: Did you not write about the psychology of rape the other day?
Him: I did.
Her: Well, I was not impressed by that.
Him: That was not a story.
Her: Well, whatever the fuck it was, I fucking hated it.
Chuck takes a deep breath and to hide the frowns converging on his face, he lifts his mug and takes a sip of coffee. He also takes the five seconds it takes him to sip the coffee, to think of a comeback.
Him: Prisca, can I call you Prisca?
Her: Call me whatever the hell you want, as long as you bring me good stories I can publish.
Him: Prisca, I write whatever I want. I believe where you come from, people like me are called ‘arrogant little pricks’. Well, a week ago I wanted to write about the psychology of rape and so I wrote about the psychology of fucking rape. I did not bring it to your attention because it is not a topic I want to gain financially from. So I published online for free. Do you see why I have a problem comprehending the exact nature of your concern here?
Her: Well, you arrogant little prick, allow me to enlighten you. You are my writer. A brand I have created from the ground up. When you publish thoughts like, “Everything in life is about sex except sex; sex is about power… and so is rape” online, without my permission, this kind of thing hurts your image.
Him: So your problem is that I did not come kissing your ring before publishing?
Her: My problem is, DO NOT fuck with me like this, or in any way from here on out. Got it?
He cups his mug in both hands and gives it a gentle squeeze, working hard not to splash the coffee all over her face.
Him: Can I be excused?
Her: No! We are not done here.
Him: I really need to go take a shit. Is that OK with you?
As he says this, he is already pushing his chair back and standing up. At this point, the third person in the meeting, the person who has been silent all along, speaks up. His name is Bryan.
Bryan: Let him go Prisca.
Chuck does not need to answer to a lengthy call of nature, because nature has not called him today. Nature has in fact, been giving him the silent treatment this last few days, something he attributes to waiting for this week’s meeting with his German publisher, Prisca.
Back at the gazebo, Bryan is telling Prisca;
Bryan: He is just a kid. Sometimes his blood runs hot. Makes him feel rebellious.
Prisca: Well, you are his agent. Pour some water on his blood. Or take him to a whorehouse or something. Get him laid, then get him working again.
Bryan: It has only been two months since his last sto…
Prisca: This is Chuck we are talking about. He never goes two weeks without writing anything. So when he takes two months to feed me, well, my intestines get all twisted up.
Bryan: Isn’t it the nature of intestines to be all twisted up?
Prisca: Don’t be a smartass with me Bryan.
Bryan: He was just paraphrasing Oscar Wilde.
Prisca: Yeah. And look what happened to that freak.
In the toilet, Chuck sits on the toilet bowl, his pants still on and stares at the paper on the wall that reads, “If your sprinkle trickles on the bowl, and you leave it there, I will find you and I will shove a live grenade up your arse!”
He found this kind of thing funny when he first entered the toilet fourteen months ago. He has since gotten acclimated to the dark humor around this particular publishing house. Even become a part of it.
He fumbles his pockets, finds what he was looking for and fishes it out. A packet of cigarettes. But try as he does, he simply doesn’t find his lighter.
On his way back to the bitter meeting, he comes across the punching bag hanging under one of the many trees and without putting on the gloves hanging beside it, he goes to town on it. He punches and punches. When his hands start to hurt, the skin on his knuckles peeling back, he does not stop. When he starts leaving blood streaks on the bag, he does not stop.
Finally, panting and sweating, he gets back to the meeting.
Prisca: Was it such a rough call of nature that you had to come back sweating like that?
Chuck: Hey Bryan, let’s go.
Bryan: Is everything OK buddy?
Prisca: This meeting is far from over.
But they have to talk to his back because he is halfway across the compound, heading back to the car, his hands stinging and bleeding. In the car, Bryan is seated behind the wheel but hasn’t started the engine.
Bryan: What the fuck as that Chuck?
Chuck: What the fuck was what?
Bryan: You going off on Prisca like that.
Chuck: I’m sorry man. I just couldn’t put up with her today.
His hands are trembling and the blood is tricking down to his palms.
Bryan: Hold sh… what happened to your hands?
Chuck looks at his hands as if seeing them for them first time, then reaches for the box of Kleenex nearby.
Chuck: I saw a punching bag, so I punched.
Bryan: What, the gloves were on their annual leave or something?
He slowly wipes the blood and Bryan hisses when he sees just how peeled the skin on the young writer’s knuckles is.
Bryan: Is this something you can talk to your girlfriend about?
Chuck: Let’s go to the hub. Grab a drink or something.
Karen – Nairobi
They are having pork chops with accompanying wine – Bryan keeps glancing at Chuck’s hands and finally when he cannot hold in his thoughts, he says,
Bryan: Maybe we should get those bandaged up.
Chuck: Nah. They will be fine.
Bryan: Is it writer’s block?
Bryan: What’s bothering you? Is it the writer’s block?
Chuck: Do I look like the kind of guy who suffers writer’s block?
Bryan: Don’t be arrogant with me. We are on a no bullshit relationship, dude.
Chuck: (Sigh) Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. No. I have no writer’s block.
B: So what’s your fucking problem? I’m worried. First you don’t give me anything in eight weeks, then you write that colossal goatfuck of an article about rape, and now you are into self-harm? What the fuck?
C: Could you not curse so much?
B: You like cursing.
C: Not when you do it.
B: Why can’t I curse?
C: I don’t know.
B: You guys are so complicated.
C: Us guys?
B: Yeah. Writers and singers. It’s just God created you with talents then pushed all these weird characters into your systems. You all get these crazy mood swings, it’s hard to have a relationship of any kind with any of you.
C: Are you quitting?
B: No. Of course not. I am trying to be a friend.
C: I have been writing.
Chuck: Well, I have written this book, it is a young adult novel.
Several beats –
Bryan: Yeah, and? (He seats on the edge of his seat and puts his elbows on the table) Are you going to tell me more or do you want my throat perched from begging?
C: I haven’t told anyone about it. Not even Carol.
B: You have written an entire fucking book and you haven’t told your girlfriend about it?
C: Stop cursing.
B: I haven’t cursed.
C: Yes you have.
B: No I haven’t!
C: Yeah I haven’t written an entire fucking book and I haven’t told her.
B: Why the fuck not?
C: Because we don’t talk about feelings.
B: But this is a book. What does a book have to do with feelings?
C: Well, it is very close to my heart. I wouldn’t tell her about it without erupting into a volcano of emotions and that would make her uncomfortable.
B: Wait. What? How are you in a relationship with someone who you can’t share feelings with? You are a fucking creative. All you do is feel. Why do you think so many creatives are into fucking drugs and toxic relationships?
Two women sit at a table not so far from them – behind Bryan. Chuck can see them, but Bryan cannot. His eyes are glued to the shorter one of the two, but she is in dark glasses so he feels like he is seeing her without exactly seeing her.
Chuck: There is a girl on my one o’clock. If she takes off her glasses and I like her eyes, I am going to talk to her.
Bryan takes a few seconds then causally, ever so casually looks over his shoulder to the girl who is placing her handbag on a chair so she can take a seat. She is in a flowery dress, a denim jacket and her hair is cropped close to her skull.
B: I thought you don’t like girls with short hair.
C: I don’t know what I like anymore.
B: I thought I liked Italians. So I married an Italian. That didn’t end well. Then I thought I liked French girls. Then I married one.
C: Yet you are single today.
B: Twice divorced.
C: Moral lesson?
B: The sooner you realize you don’t have a type, the better.
C: I seem sorted on that front.
B: You are dating a robot. Dude, you are not sorted.
Chuck stands up slowly. The girl has taken off her glasses and it appears he likes her eyes.
B: What are you going to tell her?
C: I don’t know.
Without second thought, afraid that if he starts thinking he will end up over-thinking and then won’t make a move, he approaches the girl.
She looks up at him, her face set to default serious mode.
Chuck: I go by Chuck.
He clears his throat and adds quickly;
Chuck: I don’t go by Chuck. My name is Chuck.
Girl: What can I do for you Chuck?
Him: I don’t know. This is one of those stupid moments when a guy sees a woman he wants to talk to at a restaurant then talks to her.
Her: OK. Talk about what?
Him: Can I sit? I promise not to take too much of your time.
Her: I could tell you that I am waiting for someone just to get rid of you, but I am not. Instead, I will just tell you the truth. I am not comfortable with any of this.
Him: So I can’t sit?
Her: No you can’t.
Him: Then allow me to say what I want on my feet.
Her: Sure. Keep it short.
Him: I will. I do this a lot. See a girl I want to talk to, whose number I would like to have, then go and ask for it.
Her: Does that work for you?
Him: Nope. (Chuckles) No it does not.
Her: So why do you keep doing it?
Him: Well, there was a time I didn’t do it and I hated the regret I felt afterwards. I kept saying to myself, ‘what if I had asked and she had said yes?’
Her: Guess now you will never know.
Him: Yeah. It’s not a mistake I would want to repeat.
Her: What do you want from me?
Him: In an ideal world? I want you to blow off your plans for an hour, at least, and share a meal with me.
Her: That will not happen.
Him: Right. Because this is not an ideal world. So in the real world, give me your number and then when you have a few minutes every now and then, we can talk. See how things go from there.
Him: Because I like having real conversations and right now, I don’t have anybody I can have those with.
Him: I understand.
Her: You are looking for an emotional anchor. I cannot be that for you.
Him: Well, thank you.
Her: For what?
Him: For giving me your attention. Even if it was for three minutes and seventeen seconds, I really appreciate it.
Her: You are welcome.
Having failed to acquire the objectives of this impromptu mission, Chuck heads back to Bryan.
B: How did that go?
C: Not really.
B: It’s what you were expecting, isn’t it?
C: Yeah. Sometimes rejection makes me feel alive.
B: (Deep sigh) Told you. Writers and singers man. You guys are weird.
C: So this book I was telling you about….
B: Uh huh
C: I won’t be publishing it with Prisca.
B: Oh fuck. That will put me in a very precarious position.
C: Is that something you can handle or should I call her and fire her myself?
B: Can I ask why?
C: Why she is getting fired?
B: No. Why you don’t want to involve her in this project.
C: Because this is strictly business for her. And for me, it is more…
B: Personal. Still, we have a contract with her. She will sue if you do this.
C: Get a lawyer on it. Please. But there is no way in hell this book is coming out under her name as the publisher. Besides, she will want me to change things in there that I don’t want to change.
B: When do you plan on publishing?
C: You watch Netflix, right?
B: Uh huh.
C: There is this movie, The Cloverfield Paradox. Nobody knew the movie was coming out. You know what Netflix did?
B: You know movies are your thing. Not mine.
C: Then why did you say you follow Netflix?
B: I have sons. Can you get to the point?
C: Well, because it is Netflix, they released the trailer and the movie at the same time. It would have been a brilliant marketing strategy, hadn’t the movie been such a piece of shit.
B: I imagine you want to adopt the same strategy with your book. A strategy borrowed from a shitty movie’s release.
C: My book is brilliant.
B: And you are an arrogant piece of shit.
C: And I am an arrogant piece of shit. To answer your question, the book comes out on Friday, August 24th. That’s…
B: Fourteen days from now.
C: You really need to stop finishing my sentences man.
B: Why not?
C: It makes me feel like we are married.
B: Suck my dick.
C: See what I mean. I will announce the book release on the same day it comes out. Whether this is good or bad depends on how people receive the book.
B: This is dumb.
C: I don’t care. Just get Prisca out of my way by then.
He does not see the girl to whom he talked earlier stand up. Neither does he see her walk to their table. He only sees her when she is standing beside him, placing her card on the table. He is rarely surprised, but this drops his jaw.
Girl: Unlike you, I don’t do this a lot. Don’t waste my effort.
And she is gone way before he can say a thing. He takes the card, puts it in his pocket.
Parklands – Nairobi
He gets home to find the front door open. Carol is home. She is the one who leaves the door open, to let some air in. he doesn’t get that. The place feels aerated enough with the door shut. Her shoes are placed carefully beside each other and he enters to the sweet smell of a home cooked meal.
Carol calls out from the kitchen;
Carol: Chuck, is that you?
Who else could it be?
Chuck: Yes baby it’s me.
He bites his lip. He shouldn’t have called her that. Though she has never told him that she hates those sweet nothing names, he can tell from her reaction every time it accidentally falls from his lips.
Carol: How was your day?
Like you care.
Chuck: It was good. Yours?
I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t care, but since you are only going to give me a bullshit, ‘it was good’, I don’t know why I bother asking.
Carol: It was good.
He wants to tell her about his decision to publish his book alone, independent of any publishing house, but this is a conversation that requires him to bear his soul to her – something he learned a long time ago, the hard way, not to do.
Here is how that went –
One Year, Two Months, Two Weeks, Five Days, Thirteen Minutes, Forty Eight Seconds Ago
Kangemi – Nairobi
He has just gotten home from a meeting – this is their third month in what he thinks is a relationship.
Carol: Hey Chuck, how was the meeting?
Chuck: It didn’t go as I’d hoped.
Carol: What happened?
Chuck: Well, I got to the meeting and this guy, the one who I am supposed to enter into a publishing deal with, was unkind to the waiter. So I felt like I shouldn’t go into business with him.
Chuck: I know, right! I mean, the guy spilled tea all over the table, then when the waiter didn’t get there fast enough to clean it, he was like, ‘What the fuck are you doing? Where were you? You are supposed to wait on me, so fucking wait on me!”
Carol: And then?
Chuck: I excused myself and left.
Carol: Why did you do that?
Chuck: Would you do business with someone like that?
Her: I’m trying to understand why you left.
Him: I just didn’t feel like I could do business with him.
Her: You didn’t feel, like you could do bus… what does that even mean? Is that how we do things now?
That was the first time he noticed they were not in the same book, let alone page.
Him: Look, if he was that mean to a stranger, imagine what…
Her: Wait… wait… I am missing something here. You are looking for a publisher, right?
Her: And then you get one who is willing to publish your work enough to hunt you down, then when you meet him you walk out on the meeting because, you didn’t FEEL like you could do business with him?
Him: Yeah. I don’t do business with people I don’t feel like doing business with.
Her: What do feelings have to do with money? The point is to make money together, not marry your publisher.
Him: It’s just how I am.
Her: That doesn’t make an iota of sense!
Him: Why are you screaming?
Her: Because I am angry with you.
Her: How are we supposed to build a future based on feelings?
Him: Wait, what?
Her: I don’t get this right now! How could you blow this because you didn’t feel like working with the person? What the fuck does that mean you didn’t feel like it?
The more he tries to explain, the deeper the hole he is in gets. And the conversation ends with her giving him Prisca’s number. Prisca who he absolutely loathes working with, but to keep the peace at home, he tells himself he doesn’t have to like her or working with her. He just has to write and she publishes. Clear. Simple.
Parklands – Nairobi
Carol: So what did you do today?
I have been writing a novel and I finished it a couple of weeks ago. Today I decided I wouldn’t publish with Prisca. I don’t even want to ever see her again because I don’t feel like it; not like that’s something you’d understand. And the book will hit the market in two weeks and you won’t even know it exists until you hear it on social media like everyone else. At which time you will ask why I kept this from you, why I fired Prisca without telling you along with many other why’s. And the answer will simply be, ‘we don’t talk about feelings because that is not what this relationship is built upon; and I didn’t tell you because I didn’t feel like telling you.” At which point we will fight about feelings and at which time I will break up with you. Oh, and I asked a girl for her number at the mall today and she gave it to me. I might call and what we have will be a complete disaster but she looks like the kind that doesn’t shy away from emotions. She looks human not a robot. And that counts.
Chuck smiles at her and lies;
Him: I took a walk.
I know you think that’s a waste of time.
Her: What else?
Yeah, because taking a walk isn’t enough.
Him: I thought about this story I want to write. I feel like it will be a good one.
Her: Good. When do you start? You haven’t written in a long time and your relevance as a writer is waning.
It’s only been eight weeks.
Her: How soon? Have you laid out a timeline?
You know, most people would ask what the story is about, but not you. You just delve right into the timelines because you don’t really care about the writing. The art doesn’t mean jack shit to you. All that matters is when does the money from this story trickle in?
Him: I guess I will start immediately.
Her: Oh. Good. Why haven’t you written anything lately though? Is there a problem?
I have been writing. Matter of fact, I have written an entire novel about you – this machine I am dating. Not the kind of thing I want to share with you.
Him: No. I will start writing again. Right away.
Her: And you will get it to Prisca once you are done?
Him: Yes. I won’t publish this one online for free if that’s what you are asking.
Her: Look Chuck, I know it feels like I push you too hard sometimes…
Her: But it is for the good of the both of us. I bring money to the table and so do you. I like the idea of us being rich together.
So you are my manager; not girlfriend?
Her: How is Bryan?
Him: He is doing his job.
Her: Good. I don’t know why you chose him to be your agent. He is too soft if you ask me. Too weak. He cannot do what it takes because…
Him: He is my friend.
Ah shit. He shouldn’t have said that and he knows it.
Her: And therein lies the problem. I think you should get rid of him. What happened to your hands?
He hides the bruised knuckles.
Her: Have you been punching things again?
Him: Only way to get your knuckles bruised, right?
Her: I thought you took a walk.
Him: I did.
Her: And punched things as you walked?
Him: Pretty much.
Her: Chuck, why are you lying to me?
Uh oh. Here we go!
Him: I am not!
Her: Why did you punch whatever it is that you punched?
Him: I punched a bag.
Him: At Prisca’s office.
Her: I didn’t know you were meeting her today.
Him: She is getting worried about my brand. Didn’t like the psychology of rape article.
Her: Yeah. Me neither.
I bet if I had sold it, you would have loved it very much.
Her: That does not explain the punching.
Ah, fuck it. I guess we will have to talk about feelings.
Him: I don’t want to talk about it.
Her: Why not?
Him: I don’t feel like…
Her: Ah ah. That is not how we deal with things. We don’t base our reasoning on feelings.
Him: Can I go write?
Her: After we have finished talking about why you punched the bag, Chuck!
Him: I don’t want to talk about it!
Her: Why not?
Him: I just don’t!
Her: That doesn’t make any sense!
Him: It doesn’t have to! I just don’t want to talk about it, because I don’t FEEL like talking about it!!! (He has lost his cool and his voice is right up there with the clouds) Can we leave it at that, or does this have to graduate into a huge motherfucking fight, coz god knows I am ready to go all the way to the bloody end. Right. Fucking. Now!!!
Whilst he is there breathing fire like a dragon, she is seated, completely calm, legs tucked under her on the couch, wondering, ‘What was that about?’
He leaves the room and enters the bedroom where he bangs the door shut after him and as he crashes on the bed, he hears her calling after him;
Her: I still don’t get why we can’t talk about it.
He asks himself time and again why he is still in this relationship. Then he remembers the many times he has tried ending it. And the conversations always have the following ring to them;
Her: What is it Chuck?
Him: I don’t think I can do this anymore.
Her: You don’t think you can do what anymore?
Him: Be in this relationship.
Her: What relationship?
Her: What relationship?
Him: This relationship we have together.
Her: Oh. OK. Why is that?
Him: Wait. What are we doing? Are we in a relationship?
Her: We are a team.
Him: I don’t want to be part of this team anymore.
Her: Why not?
Him: I am not happy.
Her: What does that have to do with me?
Him: Everything. Nothing. I don’t know. I just want out.
Him: Coz I am tired of this thing. This team. It’s not working out for me.
Her: Why not? This is about your feelings again, isn’t it?
Her: I know a good shrink. You can go talk to her.
Him: I don’t want to talk to a shrink. I want to talk to you.
Her: Look, I don’t know how to handle people’s feelings. You have a problem I can see, I will help you take care of it. The whole feelings front isn’t my gig.
Him: I am dumping you.
Him: Because I don’t want to be with you anymore.
Her: Why? Because I don’t mother you? You want to go, go. But you will never meet another effective person like me.
Every time he leaves, a few days pass and she knocks on the door to his new place.
Her: I am here. Tell me about your feelings.
He starts telling her about the said feelings and every time she dozes off in the middle of it all. She simply cannot stay awake long enough for any of it.
He is up on the rooftop, his phone pressed against his ear, his eyes on the stars above, his hand shaking a bit. He is at this moment, questioning his sanity. Then he hears her voice on the other side –
Her: Ah, it is you. I was wondering when you would call.
Him: When? Not if?
Her: I didn’t take you for the kind that does things halfway. Like getting a girl’s number and not calling.
Him: I probably am that guy.
Her: Probably? You are not sure of yourself?
Him: Is anyone ever?
Her: I am.
Him: I think certainty; absolute certainty, is an illusion.
Her: How so?
Him: When we are children, we think, we believe we can achieve anything. But as we grow up, we are told that we cannot do this, or that, or that other thing. And we are told that even the things we can do have to be a struggle. We see our parents struggling, our friends, our kin…
Her: That is the real world.
Him: We are told that that is the real world.
Her: You disagree?
Him: I believe ‘the real world’ is what you make it. If your life looks like a fantasy to somebody else, somebody who lives in the ‘real world’ that is because you have made your real world to look like a fantasy.
Her: You have struggled to give your real world the illusion of a fantasy. Big difference.
Him: It is only a struggle if you hate it.
Her: I cannot argue with that. Much as I want to. Tell me though, what is your real world like?
Him: I am a writer. And I absolutely love it. Even when I am having a hard time with it, I love every second of it.
Him: What makes you think there is a but?
Her: The edge in your voice.
Him: You have known for literally two minutes and you think you know when there is an edge in my voice?
Her: When you approached me at the mall, you didn’t seem so sure that I would give you my number, or even talk to you for that matter. So even though you were taking the risk to talk to me anyway, you kept your walls up. You were guarded because you expected me to reject you.
Him: What changed?
Her: I decided ‘why not?’
Him: And here we are.
Her: Yes. So can we get to the part where you tell me why there is an edge to your voice when you talk about the love of your life?
Him: Well, I love writing. I just don’t feel the same about the team I have surrounded myself with.
Her: You seemed to get along just fine with the guy you were in the mall with.
Him: What makes you think he’s a part of that team?
Her: He looked too old to be your friend. And he’s not Kenyan, so he is not related to you by blood. So I figured you two have to have something in common. The basis on which your friendship is built. When you told me you are a writer, it all fell into place. He’s part of the team. Manager?
Him: I am freaking out about your deduction capabilities right now. Hey, do you believe in something you can’t measure?
Her: Like what? Whether or not God exists?
Him: I was thinking more along the line of love, but yeah. Sure. That too.
Her: Answering that question right now will leave me naked to you.
Him: How so?
Her: You bring out a higher sense of understanding in me; like on a higher, almost spiritual level, just by conversing with me. That means, you have something in you that sees me in a way I don’t feel comfortable being seen at the moment.
Him: By me?
Him: I will strip for you too then. I will be as naked as you. Fair enough?
Her: yeah, sure. Why not.
Her: Why did you ask me that?
Why he asked her that
2016 – on a specific date he has worked hard to and successfully has forgotten, the poor bastard.
They are in bed after having a very mechanical love making session. Incidentally, this was initiated by Carol who said;
Carol: Let’s have sex.
She pulled down her panties, pulled her skirt around her waist, looked away from him, bent over and said;
Carol: Enter me now, please.
Chuck: Shouldn’t we kiss first?
Carol: You have been cranky these past few days. I hear men are cranky for lack of sex. So, have sex with me.
She stood up and faced him.
Carol: Would you rather I took off all my clothes, laid on the bed as I looked up and parted my legs? That way it will feel more intimate and less territory marking?
Chuck: I don’t get why we have to act like sex is something artificial.
Carol: I understand the necessity of sex. That is why I want it for you.
Chuck: I will pass.
Carol: In that case, I will take my clothes off and stay that way until you can’t help yourself anymore.
She proceed to take her clothes off and sat with her laps parted.
Carol: What is it about breasts that turn people on?
Chuck: They are breasts, it’s their job.
Carol: Well, animals aren’t turned on by their females’ breasts. It is a peculiar characteristic reserved only for humans.
Chuck: I don’t know.
Carol: Do mine turn you on?
He looked at them. They were firm. Easy on the eye. He found his space getting tight around the boxers.
Chuck: Hmm (Shrugged.)
And finally, she had risen up, walked to him, took his hand and placed it on her chest. That was all the prompting that was needed.
After his toes curled, his body tightened, a groan escaped him and all his life’s burdens exited through his smaller head, he collapsed beside her, giggling like an idiot. She on the other hand remained beside him, facing the ceiling, utterly underwhelmed.
Chuck: I love you.
Carol: How do you measure love?
Chuck: That is a very peculiar reaction to my… uh, forget it.
Carol: Love is like cocaine. It gets you high. It is an illusion that blinds you to the facts of life.
Chuck: And what facts are those?
Carol: That love is the excuse people use to treat each other like shit and to depend on each other emotionally. Do you know what the difference between being in love and being addicted to cocaine is?
Chuck: Yes. None.
Carol: Wrong. When you are addicted to cocaine, everyone will tell you you are in the wrong. When you are in love, society will commend you. Love, same as cocaine, has been known to lead to death. And they are both a shameful colossal waste of time.
Chuck: You know what, you are right.
Carol: You don’t think so. You are just saying that because you think it’s what I want to hear.
She got on all fours and looked at him.
Carol: I would like for you to take me from behind now.
Back to the present phone call.
Her: She said that?
Her: Dude! You are dating a…
Him: A robot. I know.
Her: No! Robots are better. You can programme it to fake emotions. You are dating a bone. Something that has been dead for eons.
Him: Well, thank you. For accusing me of necrophilia.
Her: Now you are woke, my brother.
Him: Did you just bro-zone me?
Her: You have a girlfriend.
Him: Does it sound like I have a girlfriend?
Her: Yes. A dead one, but a girlfriend nonetheless.
Him: So do you believe in love or not?
Her: I do. But I believe that in the modern society, love has been turned into something toxic. An excuse for emotional dependency and the reason why people treat each other like shit.
Him: So you agree with her?
Her: Yes. But I believe in a love that is based on honesty and trust. One that is crafted from the conception of a friendship, one which takes time to grow. It is nurtured like a baby. It is not to be used as an escape from day to day rigors of life. Love is about giving and giving without feeling the need to take back in return. Remember, just because you love the taste of chicken doesn’t mean you love chicken. It means…
Him: You love how chicken tastes.
Her: Exactly. Loving the taste of something doesn’t mean you love it.
Him: Are you in bed?
Her: Are you going to ask me what I am wearing next?
Him: Do you want me to?
Him: Then I won’t.
Her: Yes I am. You?
Him: I am up at the rooftop.
Her: Of course. Your girlfriend is in bed?
Her: Fix it or leave. Don’t waste her time or yours.
Him: Do you know what happened the last time I tried leaving?
Her: Not sure I am ready to hear that part, but I am bored. Entertain me.
What happened the last time he tried to leave –
Chuck: I’m leaving you.
Carol: No you are not.
Chuck: Bye Caroline.
He is heading for the door, dragging a suitcase behind him. She stands between him and the door.
Carol: Leaving doesn’t make mathematical sense.
Chuck: Excuse me?
Carol: I am twenty nine years old. You are thirty one. We have been together as friends and as lovers, for five years, eight months, three weeks, two days and… (consults the wall clock) eighteen hours. I am not sure I have that mastered down the minute. My point is, neither you nor I can afford to start over with somebody new.
Chuck: Speak for yourself.
Carol: I have given you ideas over that time that have amounted to one point two-five million shillings. If you leave, you will owe me at least a quarter of that.
Chuck: So, three hundred and twelve thousand, five hundred shillings?
Carol: If you leave, I will sue for half a million. And even if I don’t get it, I will make your life hell. And I won’t even feel anything over it because you have all the feelings. I just have all the craziness.
Chuck: You will trap me into staying with you?
Chuck: I will treat you like shit.
Carol: I am more talented in treating people like shit than you are. Are you sure you want to try me?
Chuck: But we are not even married.
Carol: We have been together long enough, lived together long enough like man and wife for there to be a presumption of marriage. Or for a lawyer to make a similar argument. I don’t believe in breakups.
Her: Do you believe her?
Him: I do.
Her: So what are you going to do?
Him: I have a plan.
Her: Think it’ll work?
Him: It has to.
Her: How long can we have these late night conversations without this getting complicated?
Him: define complicated.
Her: Meeting for coffee and such.
Him: I thought sex complicates all things.
Her: Do you expect that we will have sex at some point?
Him: Expect? No. Hopeful? Yes.
Her: Then this has already gotten complicated.
Him: Are you going to run?
Her: I want to.
Him: You don’t seem like the kind of girl who runs before she sees what’s at the end of the rainbow.
Her: There is nothing at the end of the rainbow because the rainbow is circular so there is no end of the rainbow.
Him: You just burst my bubble there.
Her: You seem to me like the kind of guy who’d know Santa doesn’t exist.
Him: Doesn’t stop me from hoping for my pot of gold.
Her: (Laughs) You know how they say sex begins in the mind?
Him: Uh huh.
Her: I hope I never have sex with you.
Him: If you were looking to commit a murder tonight, congratulations. You are a murderer.
Her: Who did I kill? Just so I can know how to best mount a defense.
Him: My boner.
Her: Oh. In that case, I will gladly sit on the electric chair.
Him: Oh, that’s cold.
Her: (Deeper laugh) Careful. You will have me praying for that cup of coffee.
Him: What say you we put the pin back in this grenade for a moment.
Her: Way to dry up a girl’s lady parts man.
Him: I need to handle some business first before anything else.
Her: Next time I see your name on my screen, you will have something for me?
Him: If I have nothing for you, you won’t see me calling.
Her: A bittersweet ending to this night then.
Him: Sometimes that is all there is.
Her: I love a little idealism in my pragmatism.
Him: Does that happen in the real world?
Her: The real world is what you make it, remember?
Him: I will keep that in mind.
Her: Goodnight Chuck.
Him: Goodnight Neema.
Two Weeks Later
August 24, 2018
Wasomi TV Studios
Mombasa Road – Nairobi
This is the largest TV station for readers in Africa. Anyone who calls themselves a reader watch this station for when they want to get caught up on the latest books in the continent and beyond and what writers are up to these days and anything and everything revolving around books.
It is for readers, what E! News is for whoever watches E! News
The camera pans to the middle aged lady holding a tablet in the studio; looking majestic in her heels and purple dress. She smiles lovingly into it and says;
TV Host: Welcome back to Wasomi TV and in studio with me tonight is a very special guest. You all know him as Chuck Jambo, he of the sensational novel ‘Murder, Here We Come’ published a couple of years ago. And tonight, we will be talking about something nobody in Africa and the world over, nobody knows anything about!
Carol is home trying to call Chuck, but he isn’t answering the phone. Her phone rings and it is Prisca the publisher calling.
Carol: Hello Prisca.
Prisca: Are you home?
Carol: As peculiar as I find that question, I will answer affirmatively and ask why you would ask me that.
Prisca: Is your TV tuned to Wasomi TV?
Carol: No. Is Chuck with you?
Prisca: No! He is on the fucking telly! You mind telling me what the fuck he is doing there?
Carol is already flipping through the channels, hurrying her way to Wasomi.
Carol: You know how they say only intelligent people curse?
Prisca: I don’t have time for this.
Carol: People who curse sound irredeemably stupid, don’t you think?
Prisca: Just tell me what the little cunt has been cooking behind my back.
Carol: All cunts are little. But if yours isn’t, then you are the exception. Don’t call me again unless it is to address me with civility. Goodbye Prisca.
She hangs up and glues her eyes on the telly where Chuck is smiling at the cultured TV host.
Wasomi TV Studios
TV Host: So, Chuck, what have you been up to? Why have you been so silent?
Chuck: Well, I have been working on a new novel.
TV Host: Tell me more about it.
Chuck picks up a book from the table in front of him and shows it to the camera which zooms in for the world to catch the book title. “Caroline; The Art of F*cking A Monster and Living to Write About It.”
TV Host: Well, that is a different title.
Chuck: I was hoping you’d say interesting.
TV Host: (Laughs) Trust me, different is good. What is it about?
Chuck: It is about the art of surviving passionless relationships and marriages.
TV Host: Chuck, you are known for your dark narratives and characters. Is this one as dark as “Murder, Here We Come”?
Chuck: Not as dark as, but it has its moments. This time I was going for dark comedy.
TV Host: Why the darkness though?
Chuck: I believe there is darkness to every human being. That side of us we like to keep well hidden beneath the smile, the expensive cologne, the beautiful houses, the clothes… I like to strip my characters naked and line them up in the streets. I am more comfortable taking them through their darkest moments and staying around with and for them until the bitter end.
TV Host: Part of why “Murder Here We Come” was such a success is because the Prisca & Heigel Publishers were involved in the marketing and distribution. Do you think “Caroline; The Art of F*cking A Monster and Living to Write About It” will face the same reception without them?
Chuck: Murder Here We Come was a success because it was a good story. This one is even better. I give you my word.
TV Host: So why did you and Prisca&Heigel part ways?
Chuck: You know how they say only mountains never meet? Same thing could be said of parting ways. I mean, that which meets can also part, right?
TV Host: Chuck, what is you deepest fear as a writer?
Chuck: For some writers, it is writer’s block. For others, it is fear of losing relevance. For me, I am scared that there might not be a big fundamental difference between me and my characters. Some of my worst villains keep me awake because I am afraid I am them. I keep asking myself, what if I am capable of the exact thing my characters do?
TV Host: Whoa! That is a huge fear to have.
Chuck: Tell me about it.
TV Host: (To the camera) Well, you heard it here first readers, the second novel you have been waiting for from the mega talented Chuck Jambo! It is stocked in the bookshop near you and also available on Kindle; happy reading people. (To Chuck) Chuck, I can’t thank you enough for gracing our studios with your disarming smile, hope you will autograph my copy on your way out.
Chuck: Oh, for such an audaciously charming lady, autographing your copy will be my singular pleasure tonight.
TV Host: You’re a charmer! (Back to the camera) We will now take a short break and come back with news from…
Bryan is waiting for Chuck in the lobby when he sees Prisca’s call.
Him: Hello darling.
Her: Don’t darling me you big Norwegian piece of shit!
Him: You really need to work on your insults there love. They are embarrassingly clichéd.
Her: You’re embarrassingly clichéd! What the fuck is this I’m watching on TV?
Him: I don’t know. What are you watching on TV?
Her: Don’t jerk me off Bryan!
Him: Do you have an actual question for me or are you going to scream into the phone all night?
Her: Why is Chuck publishing a book without me?
Him: He isn’t publishing. He has published already.
Her: Listen to me you bald headed pig fuck! I will sue him and you for everything and when you think I have taken everything from you, I will shove my big hands inside you and yank out your intestines!
Him: Now you just sound dumb. When you do buy yourself a copy from the nearby bookshop, you will see that he has co-authored the book with his girlfriend Caroline. All the proceeds of the book will be going to her. Since this was a project he was working on with a third party, he wasn’t entitled to publishing with you. You want to be mad at somebody, why don’t you direct your cheap insults her way.
Later in the parking lot, Chuck joins him.
Bryan: Still pains me that you won’t be making a cent from this new book.
Chuck: I love my peace of mind. And neither Prisca nor Carol was allowing me any space for that.
Bryan: I see how you pay off Carol with the proceeds of the book to make her go away. How about Prisca?
Chuck: My contract with her expires in two months. I won’t be renewing. Next time we have to choose between money and peace of mind, remember, peace of mind doesn’t feed me, but I still prefer it to money.
Bryan: Not my fault that you got into a relationship with a stone.
His phone rings. It’s Carol calling.
Him: Hello ex-girlfriend?
Her: Chuck, come home.
Her: Why not?
Him: I don’t feel like coming home to you.
Her: You didn’t tell me you were writing.
Him: Hard to tell you I was writing when I was writing about you. And how weird you have been to me.
Her: You should’ve just given me the money you used to publish.
Him: (a) That wouldn’t have been much fun; (b) I used way less than half a mill to publish. Writing about you was fun because you are an asshole and you basically get paid from sales of a book about you. You have your money, I get out of the relationship and I have fun while doing it. Everybody goes home happy.
Her: This makes sense. Not the fun part, but the rest of it.
Him: In that case, sayonara.
He hangs up and calls Neema.
Her: I have heard people say that artists have no head for business.
Her: They’re right. That book will make more than half a million. And you won’t have a taste of it.
Him: There are more stories where that came from.
Her: You said you wouldn’t call unless you had something for me.
Him: I did.
Her: And do you?
Him: I do.
Her: Something like what?
Him: A series of bad ideas that lead to sex.
Her: And feelings.
Him: And feelings.
Her: What’s the first bad idea?
Him: I feel like having a cone of ice cream under a tree at Uhuru Park.
Her: That is not a bad idea. Just cheap.
Him: Is that a no?
Her: I will buy the ice cream. You will pay for the boat ride thereafter.
Him: Who knows; maybe we can go home with the boat after punching our way out of the park later.
Her: Ah. Now we are talking. I will bring my running shoes.
Him: And I will bring my brass knuckles. Tomorrow?
Him: Goodnight Neema.
Her: (Giggles) Goodnight Chuck.
He hangs up the phone as Bryan drives into Mombasa Road, into the light evening traffic. Chuck holds a smile that Bryan hasn’t seen in a long time. An infectious smile that carries them all the way back home, to a new chapter of both their lives.