Straight And Narrow

image credit: Mutua Matheka

Why is life all crazy like this? “Bhuta ia, dewa ia.” Man is a demon, man is a god. Both true. – Ketut Liyer, Eat Pray Love

She is very happy when they first meet. She thinks he will be the one who will turn her around. You know, keep her on the straight and narrow path. She is drinking alcohol and smoking shisha sparsely now and she no longer flirts with everything that wears a pair of trousers like she used to. Her lust had been so undressed and raw that if she could, she would have asked for the numbers of those plastic mannequins modeling men’s clothes in boutiques. They have been dating for over six months now and she has been very patient with him. He’s always running out of money and she’s always bailing him out with soft loans. Loans that soon turn into gifts.

She doesn’t earn tons of money but she’s willing to help George out till he can get out of the rump that he’s in. George, a tall, slender, born-again, church-going chap working as a hotelier in Nairobi. “Sous-chef, that’s what I do,” she remembers him chirping and remembers getting attracted to the idea of a man that could cook for her.

Friday, 18th July 2014

They sometimes meet in town, not where he works but in a nice place with a gorgeous panorama. A place where they have ketchup and Tabasco on the table. The kind of restaurant where they bring the cutlery before the food arrives. She will sit with her chin resting on her interlocked fingers, her chipped nails with fading paint exposed, looking at him while he bows his head for prayer. Taking almost fifteen minutes thanking God for the meal they’re about to have and for his generous girlfriend, before going off on a tangent and starting to pray for his workplace and family members. She will cough to get him out of his prayers which she now finds tedious.

“Would it kill you to just say grace?”

“Everybody says Grace.”


“You want to be everybody?”

“If it means I won’t have to eat cold food.”

He will stab her with a cold look, then look at the bill that the waiter has placed on the table with the food then look at her again, this time pleadingly.

“I don’t mind, we can go Dutch.”

“Ahm, it’s just that, my Indian boss has not yet paid….”

“It’s okay I will pay.”

He will look at her festively and wonder how she can spend such an amount of money on food. That’s at least two weeks of what he spends on fare and meals. That’s when he’s not crashing at her house, which is rare. He will stop worrying after remembering he’s not the one picking the tab and watch her bridle on her chair then sit up and smooth the wrinkles on her cocktail dress. That same dress that is making her uncomfortable because it keeps climbing up her thighs but she wore it anyway because she wanted to look good for him. She looks at him and wonders why she even tries.

Sunday, 20th July 2014

George never misses church even when she’s crashing at his girlfriend’s house. He will implore her to go with him but she will refuse and say she doesn’t need church because her god lives in her heart not in a cage with a cross.

He will walk on the wet grass heading for the morning service and he will see his deacon, a middle-aged, stocky man in a baggy suit the size of a marquee with a bushy beard. He will try to avoid him like he always does because he has heard whispers that he has his way with little boys. He has also heard murmurs that God shows him visions and he doesn’t want to be the subject of those visions, especially because, lately all he’s been doing is fornicating with his girlfriend.


“Good morning, Deacon.”

“It’s you.”

“Me?” He will point at himself, dazed.

“You were the boy in a black trouser, wearing a disturbed look in my dream.”

He’s in a black trouser, brown official shoes and a grey sweater.

“In the dream you were praying for a new job. You don’t like it where you are right now do you?”

He will lower his head in reverence and look at him from his lowered eyelids. His face which has small pimples that he sometimes conceals with light foundation now lit up. He has been praying for a new job and has only told his mom. His mom who is not with him because she attends the main service. A single mother in her early forties who likes wearing vitenges but somehow manages to look youthful in a retro sort of way.

“I saw you in the corner office of a high-rise building in Nairobi.”

“Praise God.” The phrase will escape his mouth involuntarily.

“Praise God again.” The deacon will go stiff as a stick and start doing a jig as if going into a seizure, his tone assuming a sharp cadence, putting emphasis in all his s’s. “Yes, your dreams had come true. You were signing heavy cheques and making big decisions.”


He will sit in his girlfriend’s house after cooking her lunch. It’s something he likes doing, even though he will say it’s the least he can do since she picked up the tab the other day and he is the ‘chef’ in the relationship after all. He will put the watery dish of meat, cabbages and rice that he just made on the table then say in a pretentious, chi-chi way, “If there were strawberries I would have made you a sorbet.” And she will scratch her hair which is done in a small, tidy bob with a henna hue, look at him with confused eyes and crave a cigarette. He will wonder whether he should tell her. Tell her that he will soon be a big corporate. He will wonder if he will still continue with this relationship when he’s up there with the big boys. He will think for a moment and agree that he deserves a better woman. Someone equal to his newly acquired status.

If she can’t have her cigarette she might as well have her boyfriend. She will move close to him but he will pull away. He won’t fornicate today, he will tell himself, afraid that his deacon will see a vision of it. He has an appointment with him in his house this evening, something about blessing his miracle.

“I’m going to church for prayer.”

“Again, haven’t you just been from church?”

“I’m going for prayer.”

“I heard you the first time.” There will be a heavy silence, a silence that can be touched. “Why don’t you pray here?”

“Here? It’s not the same.”

“Isn’t God everywhere?” She will say her tone raised, and she will wonder if she’s angry because George refused her advances or if it’s something more? If he were a product she would have already returned him to the shop for a refund. “Even the people in bars can pray and God will still hear them, that’s why the curtain was torn into two or did you miss that Sunday school lesson?”

He will be exacerbated by the mention of a pub in the same sentence with God. He will think it might take away his miracle. Even when he knows in his gut that there’s no miracle and the deacons vision is nothing more but information from a third party.  “Don’t wait up,” he will smirk, grab his phone and melt into the evening leaving her to her own devices. She will probably text Kim or call Kama? Or run to her Shisha hookah. What is that they say about leopards never changing their spots?


Editor credit: Shiku Ngigi

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