Whenever we meet, she always has a book with her. The first time we met was at News Café, Sarit. She was wearing all black, beside her the Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. When I got to her table her eyes lifted to take up my person. They were brown and warm. I meet a lot of new people so I have gotten really good at breaking the ice but that skill was unnecessary because she felt like a friend.
“How do you find dating in Nairobi?” I asked after niceties.
“It’s a hustle.”
“Do you feel it’s more about sex than knowing the person?”
“Yeah, it’s always sex first then knowing the person second, if it ever gets to that.”
This was before I knew the weight of the story she was carrying on her shoulders. We spoke for three hours or so and afterwards I couldn’t shake the taste of pain out of my mouth.
I penned ‘Eight Years of Toxic Love‘ in about a week. It took me about three days to move the three hour recording to word and another four days to work on the structure. Every time I sat down to prune it my belly clenched and it felt as if someone was dragging a knife in my heart. After the third draft, before it touched my editor’s eyes I sent it to her—on a Sunday at around noon. She texted later in the evening.
“I have just finished reading my story and I’m feeling so many different things, none of them pleasant. I don’t want to be selfish but could you hold off on posting it for a while? I thought I was ready to face all this but I’m really not.”
“Hey I know but think about the women it could help. It could also take the power away from a lot of men who abuse women and think they can get away with it.”
“I know but I have bottled this up for such a long time and now I feel as if it’s coming out all at once and I’m not emotionally ready for it.”
“Alright. I understand and try and be strong.” I said feeling horrible for imposing the weight of saving the world on her shoulders. I shelved the story in my drafts and tried to forget about it. A week later she texted.
“I’m ready to share my story.”
The second time we met was after the story dropped. On a sunny Thursday at Valley Shake, Yala towers. She was in a short skirt, colorful top, shoes polished to a sparkle with her lips puckered around a straw dipped in a blood red cocktail juice, on her right hand was a book. This was before the story trended on Twitter but even then we had received dozens of help and we had a lead on two therapists.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m not sure but I’m okay.”
“Have you decided what you want to do? Are you still thinking of co-parenting?”
“I certainly want to co-parent.”
“Do you think it’s safe being around him?”
“I’m thinking of having the meetings in an open place with my brother in tow.”
Before saying our goodbyes we talked about the therapists that had reached out. She was set to meet one on Saturday afternoon. After that I frequently sent her the encouraging messages that were coming in. It started becoming exceedingly clear that there was no healthy arrangement where she could co-parent with her ex. The next time we spoke was after her story detonated on social media like a nuclear warhead.
“How are you?”
“Won’t lie I’m not quite alright, I’m trying my hardest to get by. I had panic attacks the other day. My ex read the story and I thought for sure he was going to come after me. I think it started with people reaching out to me, people I haven’t talked to in a while. Plus I went through the comments and it’s just been overwhelming. I knew the story would get far but I wasn’t prepared for how far its reached. It’s making my head buzz and I don’t know how to stop it. Now I have become insomniac and sad and anxious but mostly depressed. It doesn’t help that after my day is done I’m on my own and I feel like I need emotional support because it’s all too much for me to handle it on my own.”
“Listen to what your therapist has to say and don’t pay too much attention to opinions. They are just that, opinions.” I replied. “They don’t walk in your shoes and they don’t know your situation.”
“I know, I’m trying to block out opinions.”
“What did your ex say?”
“I haven’t spoken to him. I blocked his number.”
I honestly did a small dance after that text. “Tell me if you need more contacts from women with similar stories that are reaching out. And when you have the panic attacks feel free to text me.”
“Just keep me posted on the progress or lack thereof. When I’m in town I’ll make a point to call.”
Special thanks to Mukiri, the masters in psychology student at Kenyatta University who volunteered to take the case pro-bono and Nduta for paying for five of her sessions at Amani Counselling Centre. May the man upstairs keep adding to your baskets. I also want to thank the rest of you for all the concern, love and help that keeps pouring in every day. Shukran.
This blog’s readership has increased by almost tenfold. I was so used to my couple of hundred reads per day, now I’m logging in to thousands. Karibuni. On a good week I put a new post up every Wednesday. You can also read more of my work and get updates and a glimpse of the behind the scenes of my humdrum life on my Instagram page.
To the old readers here, the music is still the same all that’s changed is the number of listeners, and they need you. Would you be so kind as to hold the monos hands and take them through the orientation process? Thank you. The about of the blog would be a great place to start. Happy new month.
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image credit: mutua matheka
EIGHT YEARS OF TOXIC LOVE brought me here some weeks back after trending on twitter now I find myself here everyday. Keep that fire hot.