Celebrating East African Writing!
The two women sit on a brown sofa in a darkened living room. A single lamp illuminates them, revealing one woman who glances furtively across the room, and another who rocks back and forth while muttering softly under her breath.
“You know at some point, you will need to move on,” the furtive glancer breaks the silence. Her words seem to hang in the air, before the rocker stops muttering, hesitates, then grunts an inaudible “Mmmh…”, unsure whether anyone understands her pain.
The rocker is not ready to move on. She’s still struggling to understand howen years disappeared in one night. Indeed, every so often, her mind wanders off to that one night that changed her life, the night soon after she had come from Europe. Rocking back and forth on the brown sofa, she conjures up her past.
“I’ll get my PhD soon, don’t worry!” she tells him. “We are going to get married before you know it,” he reassures her in turn, certain that their love would transcend all barriers and deliver them to a shore of perfection; to a moment of complete togetherness.
And so that night, she cooks for him. Well, to be honest, the furtive glancer comes in and cooks everything, but he never discovers that. She adorns a champagne-coloured dress that caresses her figure, along with red heels that complete her look. “This is the night,” she reminds herself.
At 7 o’clock, he comes to her. He scoops her in his arms, and draws her into his manly embrace. And without loosening his grip, he kisses her, letting the taste of his mouth blur her memory of their years apart.
She ushers him into her apartment and watches him look lovingly at the imposing painting set over her dining table. It’s the painting of a couple sitting on a bench by a riverside, surrounded by lush trees and perched birds calling into the morning light. She smiles at the man cupping his hand over his lover’s ear, whispering silent words that make her laugh uncontrollably. She smiles at this metaphor of their love, knowing that he alone can make her laugh without any inhibitions; laugh as if that is all we had to do to live.
Then she sits him down on the brown sofa, letting him breathe in the dizzying aroma of the food. She moves to the kitchen to grab some refreshments before he stops her. “Don’t bother,” he calls out, “I won’t be having any wine tonight.”
“Oh, okay. Would you like champagne instead, or some juice?” she asks, briefly wondering why his routine is broken.
“I’ll be fine. We can go ahead and eat,” he says, even as he rises from the sofa and walks over to the dining table, plopping himself on a seat as he motions her to join him.
By that time, she begins to feel that something special is in store for her. She feels her heart rate rising as all her dreams of their future crystallize in her mind. Then they begin to eat, and he peppers her with compliments like “This tastes great!” and “You must have spent hours preparing this.” And she answers back with a smile and a thank you, silently thanking the furtive glancer for the beef stew and the chapatti.
They quickly finish their food, right before he says: “I have something to tell you, and I pray that you can share in my joy.” Slowly, he sets down his spoon, and pushes his plate slightly forward. Then he rises up from his seat, and takes a few steps towards her. He takes her hand in his, motioning her to rise, before leading her to the brown sofa. He moves as if bending forward to kneel, before gently pushing her to settle on the plushness of the sofa.
“I have decided to work for God,” he says slowly, almost stammering over the vowels. Her heart rate shoots up further, and suddenly, the moment doesn’t feel special anymore, and the comfort that she has accrued from knowing he would propose to her dissipates, in its place the bitter taste of the unknown.
“I know. I also work for God, remember? Our lives are supposed to glorify him, which means we all work for him,” she answers back, hoping that her desperate theology will hold back the words that he seems to want to say, and bring forth the words that she wants to hear.
“The priest has prayed for me, and I feel the calling to enter the priesthood to serve the Lord,” he says hurriedly, as if haste would make the following emotions less painful.
“You need to remain a single man to work for the Lord.”
“You are becoming a priest so that you won’t marry me.”
“You are leaving me for God!”
“No it’s not like that, please under…”
“You became Catholic so you could cheat me! You are leaving me for God!”
She’s already stood up, her voice rising dangerously as she accuses him of leading her on, of using her special night to break the news of their eternal break-up, of using one date to turn her life on its head.
“Get out you…arrgh!
He turns to leave, his mission accomplished. As he stands by the door, he glances back hesitantly. He knows that this is the end, and that he will probably never see her again. “You always said you wanted a man who loved God more than he loved you. I’m sorry I turned out to be your perfect definition.” And then he opens the door and walks out forever.
His last words ring like a din in her ears, but her own voice echoes louder, as her tears cause her to crumple on the brown sofa, rocking her head back and forth, crying, heaving and confirming: “After ten years, you are leaving me for God.”
In the ensuing days, the furtive glancer finds her in this state. She sits rocking back and forth on the brown sofa, replaying her last date over and over, wondering if she should have said something to stop him, if she should have invoked the name of God.
“Let’s fast for forty days. Let’s do it, maybe then he will see the nonsense that he’s gotten into,” she insists suddenly, digging her knuckles into the arms of the brown sofa, before rocking again, fast then slow, as though waves of pain consumed her in an ebb and flow. The furtive glancer looks blankly at her friend’s face, unsure whether her words will offer solace, or whether the scent of another man could replace the stench of the former.
The rocker looks up to her, desperate, her face pockmarked by the tears that he wouldn’t wipe again.
“Ok, let’s do it.”
©Miriam Jerotich http://chakutumaini.blogspot.com/