Boys had come and gone. There was Chris, you met in the supermarket and he slipped his number in your cart. He was cute, so you called him and you guys would talk through the night but rarely met because he was ever busy. There was Dennis, you met in church. He was a tall athletic boy with thick eyebrows. You thought he was the one. You even introduced him to your family. He was a charmer. He somehow got along with everyone but then got a job in Eldoret and your communication fizzled. You were a young girl of twenty four. You had just gotten your first job selling insurance. You had overhauled your wardrobe with your first check and stopped wearing those oversized dresses and carrying those shiny handbags your mom bought you and started wearing knee-high fitting skirts that accentuated your wide hips and bottleneck waist. You started drinking water more and smiling often.
Fantasies of the kind of man you wanted to settle with were there but they came in fleeting flashes. Sometimes you thought you wanted a screen-perfect, tall, masculine man who you would keep simply for the sexual pleasure he gave you. Other times you wanted a smart man. Someone who knew his way around the world. Someone who could hold a conversation. Someone who could sip high tea with the aristocrats and play draft with vijana wa mtaa. But other times you just wanted a man. Those were the times you logged into your Facebook and saw pictures of your age-mates flaunting their wedding and baby bump photos. You would get bursts of jealousy and wish for a man, any man. Someone to keep you company, someone to be something with.
You met him at a family friend’s wedding. He was a familiar face. Both your parents were acquaintances. He was older than you by five years, maybe more, but he had never noticed you before because you were a tot then and when you started flowering into a woman, you were masked by oversized garments and uninspired ornaments that your mom got you on her regular shopping sprees at the flea market. “I thought this would look good on you,” she would say while pulling a sun yellow sweater from her kiondoo and you would smile awkwardly and say thank you because something bought by a mother is priceless, regardless of how lame you find it. The guy was called Francis. A mountain of a man who could pass for a bodyguard, a few more pounds and he could be a sumo wrestler. He could see you now, in your emerald green, thigh-high dress, black heels, chandelier earrings and new hair which flowed past the nape of your neck. The mud from his eyes was washed clean and he could now behold you entirely.
You talked and started hanging out together a lot. He would tease you and tell you things like, “I have known you since childhood, so you shouldn’t be unsettled if I asked you to come and live with me.” And you would tee-hee and curl up further in his arm. You started buying scented candles, having bikini waxes, dolling up in your best bib and tucker and running to his house to drop your knickers. Not his house but an extension of their family house. That should have stopped you. You should have known that a man over thirty living in an extension of his family’s house is no man at all but you pressed on, lechery consuming you. There was a night you went back home late and your mother slapped you frozen and told you to leave boys alone, “Tigana na ihii onaitangikinyia nyama mukuha.” But you didn’t listen and you couldn’t have because you were young and you thought you were madly in love. You were sure this would end in a ring and a white dress.
You got pregnant after the fourth month of your relationship. He started coming to your house for dowry negotiations. He was the kind of guy who only looked wise when his mouth was closed. When he opened it he could only talk in long sentences of football banter and short sentences of his knife collection and your dad’s ears almost went deaf listening to him. Your dad moved his body forward and clasped his hands on his knees in a concerned manner and asked you, “Uyu ni we wenda?” And you said yes and he heaved a sigh and fell back to the couch because he was old enough to know that the more you came in between something the more it was bound to happen.
Francis always had ideas. He often went on with glib about how he wanted to start a carwash. Start a boutique. Buy a lorry and pick up trash around the neighborhood. He had all these ideas that did not have an execution strategy. Ideas that managed to convince you to leave your job and move in with him. At first it was rosy. You would watch TV, cook and do laundry together but things started getting pungent as time wore on and your stomach became bigger and your body got globe-shaped. Going out stopped. There were weekends he didn’t come home and you would be forced to go to the main house for food. It could have been easier if your mother-in-law wasn’t a woman of vinegar aspect who got testy whenever you were around.
The carcass that was your relationship started smelling. It was after your delivery. You were stick thin – a bag of bones. He came to your hospital bed and because you didn’t have an appetite, he volunteered to eat your food for you in the full blaze of your family’s eyes. It got worse, he got aloof: Going outside to receive his calls, protecting his phone, being hostile and threatening to beat you up when you questioned him. You persevered because you had grown up believing that, that was the place of a woman. When things got tough you toughened up. When your man was out in the wee hours of the night doing God knows what, you stayed behind and held the family together.
You were exhausted. You wanted a break. You called your friend. She got someone who would look after your baby. And the both of you went out. You wanted to breathe in clean air, to be in another environment other than the suffocating walls of your man’s extension. You got back home at 7pm and Francis was sprawled on the couch boiling. You said hello and he didn’t respond. You put the baby down and asked him what was wrong?
“Who told you to go out without asking me?” he barked, his log of a foot connecting with your chin sending a million shards of pain spreading across your face. You fell and broke the coffee table and he picked you up and punched you thrice making your entire face go numb, “You come home in darkness and break my furniture. Hii si nyumba ya umalaya.” He thundered and kicked you in the stomach with his Timberland boots. The same boots you bought him as a birthday gift before you left your job.
After having enough, he left. The baby was crying her tiny lungs out and you stayed in the corner of the house in a squatting posture: frightened, shivering and aching. You cried softly while touching the black, hideous residuum that had formed around your left eye. You got up slowly, wondering why nobody from the main house came to check what the hue and cry was about. All the strength to toughen up had drained from you now. You went to the bathroom, took a wet cloth and tried to wipe the big sticky bruise on your upper arm. You tried to clean your swollen lower lip but the more you dubbed it the bigger it seemed to became. You spat out the blood in your mouth and it came gushing out with a tooth. All the strength to put your family together was ebbing out with your tears now. You wanted to have a bath but thought against it. You picked up your baby and headed back home. Back home with a blessing, a scar and lessons.
PS: Thanks to the guys who come to the e-crib and make a foofaraw (Thought this word slid out the tongue nicely, if it was a person it would wear a Dashiki and remember anniversaries). Mr Kennedy I just might take you up on the Luo mentorship offer you made, what’s your price, a nyaber, two nyaber’s, three? Haha. Sophia Macharia and Muiyuro Rose thanks for sharing almost every post. If we ever have a soiree you guys will cut the cake. Salut!
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