Celebrating East African Writing!

TELL I HOW DID I STRAY? By Peterson Mutua

Peter was a bright student, even way back in primary school, his teachers had toyed with the idea of making him skip one class and let him compete with the one ahead of him.

One time, the teachers decided to do a small experiment, they decided to let the brightest students in Class Seven do an exam meant for Class Eight. It was a voluntary exercise for the students who felt like they had balls of steel to undertake the task.

Of course, Peter was not to be left behind, he decided to become a specimen in the experiment and he was ranked a modest number 7 out of a class of 50 students! It was a good indication that even if he did his national exams, he would perform above average.

He never let that get into his mind, he was still Peter, a class seven student and that was satisfactory for him. He chose to cross the bridge when he had reached it instead of trying to prove a point to no one in particular. Later in the next year, he finally had his tome to tackle the giant and some 6 weeks later, he was among the top achievers and was rightfully admitted to a national school where he would meet people with the same intellect as himself if not higher.

Four years passed on and the next exam came, he did what was expected him and some four months or so the results were announced. He did not appear among the top performers, the one that get interviewed by the media houses, but he did well enough to enable himself get admitted at the University of Nairobi. It is here that he studied Electrical Engineering, one of the revered courses in the university.

It is here also that he saw her, a cute, nice girl with all aspects of the feminine body, and he decided to try his luck on her. He had to muster all the strength to approach her, he thought about rejection, being laughed at by the girl, losing his composure and sweating his head off at the opportune time….. So many thoughts came up at that time.

He once had read in a book The River and the Source that approaching a woman was harder than facing an army and that was proving to be true.

The girl’s name turned out to be Esther, undertaking a degree in medicine; this was a meeting of two achievers in academics. Many men are scared by high achieving females but Peter looked forward to the challenge, a licit relationship developed and the two slowly but surely became an “item”.

Five years passed by and Peter was out of school, he was immediately
snapped up by a local firm, a year later, Esther became a doctor officially. The two formalised their relationship in a colourful ceremony in which everybody who
mattered to them attended.

It was blissful marriage, for the first year, as most marriages are anyway! Dinners never died down on marriage, they still came once or twice a month. It was a
marriage made in heaven.

But there reaches a time after the falling in love ends and couple is welcomed back to earth. Kids came around; job commitments also meant that they saw each other less often, no time for dinners.  You can’t blame them, though, it was a scenario that is usually replicated in many marriages and so it is perfectly normal.

Years passed by, eventually, Peter was made a senior official in the company. Esther went back to University to study neurology and was now an employee
of an international organization. Life was great, one would think, but their marriage was on the rocks.

The couple being savvy on matters investments decided to take hay while the sun still shone on them they delved in to real estates, stocks and also did well to establish some ventures in line with their careers. They appointed people to run the ventures for them, all they offered were the financial aspects of it until the venture became self sustaining, after that it was a time to reap from their hard work.

Seminars and workshops became the norm of the day for both of them, mostly out of town occasionally out of the country. It is said that everybody has an urge, be it social-spiritual or even physical-that has to be satisfied in one time or the other, and they were not exceptional.

An illicit relationship began to blossom, Peter got a woman whom they always traveled together while Esther was lucky to bag herself a nice dude who, as fate would have it was also in her contingent. Their clandes were both married. These were unions manufactured out of necessity; it was not like they were breaking any homes, these were relationships based on mutual understanding, the “just friends” kind of relationships.

The relationships bloomed and it was easy to maintain the “”just friends” tag and some intimacy was thrown in the mix. At first there was guilt, as always there has to be guilt, but as time went on it became kawaida stuff.

Peter and Esther’s marriage really took a nose dive, they felt distant from each other, and intimacy was none existent. The kids were in boarding schools and so the house, though big felt like a prison, both wanted to question why and how this had happened but no one dared, the guilty ones are always scared.

Not that they never had close moments together, but when those moments happened it was mechanical, no feelings at all.

A campaigned dubbed “chanukeni pamoja” was floated in the press and persisted for sometime and Esther felt that it would be wise to chanuka together with her husband despite the lost love. She felt it was wise to be in the know of her status together with that of her husband so as to know which way forward she would take. She floated the idea to her husband who as many men always do, trashed it out rightly.

Peter too, was concerned about his status but did not have the guts to go to a health centre. What if he had AIDS? What would his wife think of him? And the kids? These questions plagued him all along but the urge to know his status got the better of him.

After one week, they drove together to the health centre; Peter could not remember the last time they had driven together. It was strange but true, it was a tense drive to the health centre the silence was uncomforting, the tension touchable. After what seemed like an eon, they finally arrived at the health centre.

Their legs were weakening, their body temperatures rising.

“Despite what happens, I still love you” was all Peter could say to a blankly staring Esther, who was too deeply engrossed in her own thoughts.

The counselor ushered them to the empty chairs, which came at the opportune time to prevent them from collapsing to the failing strength their legs, Esther had seen the centres many times but never gave any thought of them. She couldn’t be a victim, or so she thought.

They had their blood out and waited. The counselor got on with her job, telling them of how to live positively if you are positive, if you are negative how to prevent yourself from being pos…….

“Just give us the damn results, I want facts, spare me the details, Miss!! I am a
doctor, I know about all this crap” Esther snapped, no longer able to control her nerves.

Peter was speechless glued to the chair unable to even raise his finger.
After what seemed to be forever, the results were out, they were both positive.

Esther passed out; she could not contemplate on the outcome of the result. Peter, who was just like a zombie could not move an inch, contemplated suicide. So terribly affected were they that it took one hour to come to at least utter a few words.

Afterwards, they staggered towards their car, the counselor not sure about their state of mind, decided to hire a driver to send them home.

Denial and blame game is always an accepted reaction to any person diagnosed with the disease and they were no exception. Fighting all night, arguing all day, blaming each for what had befell them and each had perfect excuses why it was the other ones fault.

They blamed their clandes too and wished they would be near so that they tear them apart. Both took a one month sick leave from work to try cool things off, two weeks after the first test, they tested again.

This time Esther, a doctor, wanted to know about the strains, the results were different, which meant that both had acquired the disease from different sources.

Part of the guilt was eased on the revelation that each had strayed at one time or another. It is after this revelation that they resolved to work out on the way forward. That night, Peter took Esther to the same venue they had been going for dinner, in the years long gone. It was here that he told her everything that she needed to know, it was still here that she told him everything he needed to hear.

It was time to reconcile and collect the broken pieces and try to mend the relationship. A month went by, they both reported to work, told their clandes about what had transpired. Word spread fast and they soon were sacked from their places of work.

Luckily, they had invested in the earlier years so they were not badly off. They blessed their gods for being savvy in investments which had grown tremendously. Their former lovers got tested and their fears were confirmed, it turned out to be a web that had entangled a very big crowd.

When the dust had all settled, it left many jobless and trust betrayed and with no one to point as the source of the disease. It turned out that Peter’s former lover was a wife of a former classmate way back in high school, while Esther’s lover was a husband of a former workmate.

Of course, everyone felt betrayed but all were guilty of the same sin so no one
could raise a finger to anyone. Peter remembered a song “in the closet” by one R Kelly and smiled to himself.

Together they resolved to start an awareness programme to warn people not to tread the path they had gone again. They formed an organization “Professionals against AIDS” and registered it as a nongovernmental organization, each chipped in towards its maintenance cost. They somehow solicited for funds from donor organizations, and help did they get in plenty owing to their diverse professions and common goal to tackle the disease.
It’s been ten years down the line; the organization they formed has grown tremendously. It has branches across the East African region and there are plans to expand to the greater eastern African region.

One of the professionals in their organization is a lawyer through whom they have successfully sued for unfair dismissal from work. The respective companies have been ordered to pay for compensation which amounts to millions of shillings.

Peter and Esther still don’t use ARVs because their CD4 count is still above the level required for one to start using the medication, their viral load considerably low. They go out to their dinners once or twice in a month, just like old times. Their kids, though at first in denial on hearing the news, have come to accept the reality.

© Peterson Mutua 2009.

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


2 comments on “TELL I HOW DID I STRAY? By Peterson Mutua

  1. Wairimu
    May 25, 2009



  2. denis
    May 29, 2009

    Slang words like ‘clande’ should be explained for readers not conversant with such. Swahili words in an English language story should be italicised for clarity.
    Anyway it’s an interesting story.

    I vote a 7


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