Celebrating East African Writing!

Mortifying Mona Lisa by Gideon Chumo

i. flattery dripping flirt!

‘Many times I have found myself on the Road to Damascus; many times I have been struck down and changed by the miraculous voice.’ In the beginning were those words. Those words were with my Facebook Profile. Those words were my Status Update.

Those words became my sentence, and ensnared me into a quest in a literary Damascus only to be struck down many a time like Paul, but unlike the Good old Roman bachelor, a romantic escapade was the reason why I was criss-crossing this lonely stretch. The expedition was as melodramatic as my update that day—if you had cared to notice—but with scandals overtaking me, announcing me a public enemy—to be despised by the majority—one of the few times in my life when I became fleetingly important for this to happen to me.

Since I juggle with words, many a doubting Thomas would put their best foot forward to create an impression that my stories are only sophisticated scheme of saying something simple, that fiction is a distraction in which writers obscure their semantics under artillery of words. At this, let’s quite gladly impose a short-term curfew of disbelief that amounts to pedestrian loyalty. Just suspend for a moment your poetic faith for you don’t need a miraculous voice to stop hunting with cupid arrows—or in my case, haunted—if a story would do the same trick.

May be stories are illusory stuff et al, or next of kin, stuff that came to pass, in real life or in factual imaginings and dreams. But to presume that unusual events are the only truths, is a stain of misleading cupidity, as Hamlet said, ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt in your philosophy.’ Peripheral phenomena encompass their own restricted reality, but there are superior realities beyond, and occasionally, spotted enigmatically in the trances of ordinary men, but more manifestly in the revelations of poets, writers, sages, and prophets.

From a juggler to a prophet—much for a noble title—that compels me to stand in moral Ararat and prophesise through my writing instead of just locking up these concerns in the custody of my mind. Let me digress a little—I assure you these ramblings bring as much boredom to me as it does to you—we’ll return to the story for we haven’t left home yet. A prophet is a fish that won’t keep his mouth shut and ends up in somebody’s throat even if its mouth is smelly like a king’s. A king would say ‘the buck stops here’ while words start with the writer.

If you won’t give a ‘damn’ for stories—I’d understand—the human race is full of self-appointed nobility and charlatans who take advantage of their own insignificance to imagine the earliest illustrious name that pop into their thick skull. But take it from me, you see, keeping quiet over some issue doesn’t work. Even for mortals like you, when you have a stalemate issue decaying in your thick skull or obscuring your mind’s eye, laws of silence won’t work, that is similar to putting up the shutters and locking the door in a house on fire in anticipation that you’d stop thinking that the house is smouldering. Silence about an intriguing idea—whose time has come—amplifies it. It nurtures and cultivates steadily in silence, becoming malevolent like the still waters that run in bottomless depths.

In fact, quietness in itself is the grandma of remorse. She is a badge of infamy. Silence borders intimately with scandal as it is done in secret ‘inquititude’. That’s what our society is full of—mortified folks! Guilty individuals! People full of buried skeletons, full of gnawing pangs of conscience. Afraid that their transgressions and misdemeanours will pave the way to hidden scruples and depraved infatuation of the past. People who have hefty personality enticements and refinements, but have nose-dived deep, however, into ghastly tendency to silence, having, as GBS explained once, whispered everything that they had to yell before they were thirty.

Back to the story—and I have to warn you again to expect more digressions in the future—because as a travelling man in this lonely terrain, my company is my own thoughts. Besides, I am going to write without airs, raw and unedited content from the heart. And every such writing, envisaged and written with vehemence, is a story of the author, not of the reader. You are simply the slip-up, the circumstance. It is not they who are exposed by the writer who, on the pages of the book, makes themselves unwrapped. The raison d’être in hesitating to go straight into the story is that I’m afraid that I will let you see in it, the under wraps and dirty garments of my own soul. I don’t like pitting myself against stories nor in scenes except on the shielded comfort zone of the theatre—where you can visibly see my plastic masquerade.

Back on the Road to Damascus—and take heed the thundering embrace of lightning anytime now—before I miscarried or was branded a hated scandalmonger by a group of other gifted scandalmongers, I had never chewed words, even as a talented wordmonger, nor used them as if they were debasing works of a cynical miser. I drip with fatty poisoned misanthropy, yes, but when these women descended on my Facebook Status Update like the subtle serpent of disbelief and transgression that emerged out of the blissful Garden of Eden, I was as guilty as charged as Adam.

Words from lips of flattery plotted successfully and I was undone; words beguiled a man who had summed up and assessed the civilisation of centuries in his mind. A man who discerns that all pretty girls were a trap, a pretty trap, and admonished other men to expect them to be. I never suspected their laid snare until it was too late and I was deep inside their disposable WC. They knew I hated all their lot. It was obvious from reading my countless stories that I hated the female characters instinctively and detested them by intuition. My leading bigotries and chauvinist heroes that I fashioned in my stories frequently intimated to the ‘weaker sex’ the remarkable rebuffs in the poetry of Jesus; ‘woman, what have I to do with thee?’ and disparaged them impetuously at every prospect, reflecting that possibly even God Himself hadn’t been pleased with the meticulous bit of labour!

You get a lucid impression from Van Gogh’s painting of that child made twelve times unclean. Or from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa’s bald-faced plastic smile. For me, she lured and ensnared the first man and still carry on her spellbinding craft—a pathetic mortal, treacherous, strangely disconcerting. What more? Her demonic fecund body camouflages a hollow ambushing soul. In my estimation, God must have created her only to coax man and entice him. That’s why man had no better option in safeguarding himself but advance her with stealthy vigilance—if he were constantly terrified of surprise attacks.

Her body is, in fact, even created like a trap, what with her arms unmitigated and her lips parted for man? I am lenient only to old grandmothers, made innocuous by their invariable retiring senility and burdened incessantly by constant childbirths and childrearing. But still watch out because I am aware that, within their hearts, are humbled serpents reclining in the rock bottom of their abashed bodies—those tigresses so docile—is that eternal yearning in my mother, my sister or my aunt, which still blush sexually for me even if we are related by blood like Oedipus to her mother. I feel it in their alluring gaze—ever present innuendo in their eye than that of my father, my brother or my uncle—and that makes my blood boil because it is still woman’s love, carnal love. I experience it—this depraved craving—even in their submissiveness, in the charm of their chatty-chatty mouths, in their inferior eyes, and in their crocodile tears when I repulse them boorishly.

But when it comes to flattery and smooth talk, the most shrewd of men are the most easily betrayed, and anyone can be swayed to gulp down anything, even if it’s incongruous and outrageous, as long as it is flavoured with acclamation. Such experience may scratch one’s honour, but if one has need of people, one must be diplomatically immunised to have room for them, and if there’s no way of attaining support, well, then, the irresponsibility lies more with the flatterers than with those who want to be flattered. I think that is the only way I can explain and justify how I—an assorted, extensively read, urbane academic, who had nurtured and cultivated his brains with many philosophical droppings—could find myself beguiled by these self-same lesser creatures of romance and poetry. Listen to the wisdom of Berta;

“I am woman,

I am spirit,

I am me.

I am the scapegoat for society.

I am the flesh for the vulture,

That devours the death of my culture.

I am the darkness that embraces the night.

I am the nightmare that brings you fright.

I am the gypsy upon life’s path.

I am the cauldron to men’s wrath.

I am the roar of the ocean’s tide.

I am the poet with pride.

I am the passion of a burning fire.

I am the whore you desire.

I am this and so much more.

I am a divine creation at eternity’s shore.”

She became society’s scapegoat for her lead-supporting role in reducing man to rubble, and not a guiltless one, but a villain ornately worthy of any misery man decided subsequently to upload her. That is the image deeply embedded in my edifying worldview, and so to imagine her as anything less than a devil is above all impudent—especially in the jaws of the one who holds the female sex in disdain.

I have rebuked my heart about the pretty trap, but it will not pay attention. I have squabbled with my heartbeat, but I get trampled in every other argument for love is unreasonable; I think mine is wedged in some blind organ below my neck—and with a head—without a brain, too. That’s why I deal with my hydraulic temptations by yielding to them. I will never understand the words of my grandfather when he wondered aloud at my cousin’s beautiful face: ‘Look at you’ he had quipped, ‘such a precious little thing! You are going to break a whole lot of hearts.’

Now I know why the daughter of Eve first broke my heart when I was still a toddler—poor me, toddling in my childhood woods when every night—she’d come into my room looking for ways of breaking precious little hearts, unconsciously or used by the devil himself to ensnare me into playing a game called Mr. Fadduh meets Miss. Muddah, thereby opening my ‘eyes’ to sensual pleasures. But when I found the hapless lass kissing my elder brother another night, I felt a string in my heart snap, threw a tantrum and sobbed the night away. You’d never imagine that ice would melt on her innocent mouth during the day, but at night, she was the combination of an alluring Eve, Delilah the flirt and a true Jezebel. Perhaps God had made for her such dark nights to shroud the love of men with ideal beauty she had during the day.

These days when I remind her of those ungodly nights, she giggles, but when I acknowledge her as the first creature to break my heart, she kisses me passionately on both cheeks, embracing me in her bosom, while I try impulsively to flee this grip. Even so, I still get a tang of sweet pleasure, stirring deep inside me, those affectionate inclinations, which snooze in every man.

You didn’t notice that I had digressed yet again—got you! Back to the Status Update, I read an ensnaring comment after I had posted my Update. It proclaimed to the whole Facebook world to see. And when I saw whose face that was, I wondered aloud like my grandfather. ‘Doesn’t she look cute? With a dolly-face like Fair Portia and no wonder, the voice of Juliet and her words as soothing and placid as the petals of roses in spring. But her heart? I wonder what that looked like.’

Can you guess? Well, you are not good at guesswork. You don’t have the invention of a cockroach. So, I’ll spare you the assignment.

‘I have a reception for you in my Damascus Villa,’ she had replied, ‘I can arrange for you a sweet-warm vanilla bath in the bubbles after you’ve made such a brave expedition (sic) xoxo.’

‘Your villa???’ I asked after her comment.

‘Yes, a private villa,’ she answered. ‘I have a bed laid, prepared with Egyptian linen (and I might mention too that my husband is gone ;-))’

Her modus operandi was steadfast in alluring me to play Mr. Fadduh meets Mrs. Muddah with her. She never hid behind the polite protocol of female etiquette. She was as straight as an A. Being wide-awake to the scene she was about to create in my Profile, I deleted the outrageous remark and went straight to sending a message in her inbox.

‘That was gross, Dr. Cherrie,’ she went by the name of Doctor Cherrie White-Sugar, ‘you want to tell me what that was all about?’

‘I am so sorry Mr. RoundSquare.’ She began in her reply. ‘I am a big fan of your writing. You write with such a passion that dazzles me. I wrote that comment because that’s the least I would have done if I were living in Damascus and an entourage of a charming prince like yours happened to pass by. It would be my heart’s desire to have just a kiss from you.’

I was now sure that she was a psycho, a stalker or a flirt. To test her, I used my entreating formula of trapping a flirt.

‘My treasured brilliant lady,’ I ensnared, ‘may the drizzling airs of heaven conceive in you sweet happiness?’

‘Ahh! What an unusual wish! Fill me with airs? Is that for me?’ she pretended to have missed the boat by a river.

‘It is to you, my lady and to your own most pregnant ear, if it’s not engaged.’ I went on.

‘Conceive, pregnant and engaged? Am I getting all the three already?’ She was going to play hard-to-get. So, I dropped the discomfited formalities—that I’m sure you find them too tedium—and confronted her head on. ‘If you are my biggest fan, Dr, then you probably must have read ‘The Sniff of Nanny-Goat.’ The ‘Sniff’ is my short story admonishing the nannies not to sniff out the billy goats. I was trying to reverse the situation she had created by her suggestive invitation.

‘Yeah, RoundSquare, I’ve read every word.’

‘So why the ‘indecent proposal?’ I accused.

‘You see how foolish we women are? I shouldn’t have let my mouth ramble. Who would be true to us, when we are so false to ourselves? I can’t sniff you out even if I worship you—nonetheless, I fancy myself a Billy, or that, we nannies have the Billy’s advantage, of speaking first. Lol, let me apprehend my tongue, for in this ecstasy I shall definitely repent what I’d blubber.’

The new development was getting interesting. I had to be very careful responding to flirtatious words brewed from the lips of the devil herself, spewing from eyes of lust and carnal infatuation. I was not going to savour some kind of easy virtue because she’d lead me astray into the trap of her ‘Egyptian linen lair’. She meant that her husband was gone out into the moonshine and bread would be sweeter if eaten in secret!

‘Oh! Are you flattering me?’ asked I.

‘Flattering you ^..^?’ That type of punctuation meant she was offended.

‘I’ shall pretend to understand that you can compliment a man like me with your embroidered statement—and that’s what I suppose is what’s known as flattery.’ Said I.

‘Where the hell did you learn to make speeches like that? You must have been to the theatre a lot, right?’ Well, that was what I called mother of flattery, and I wasn’t backing off just yet. I intended to humour her silliness before pissing her off.

‘That’s right. And travelled a lot too.’ You may notice the situation was reversing. I was the one now pulling the strings. She had dropped her poisonous bait and I was busy chewing and swallowing it. I should have stopped the conversation before it got too far. But here I was getting deep and deeper. And with every pull, was my downward movement into an abysmal trap. I was responding to her insinuations and solicitations like daisies planted on a compost mound. Wasn’t that the best way to beat temptation—yielding to it?

The next day I found myself Facebook-chatting with her. ‘You are so absurd and strange, you know. Your writing style is a cocktail of crazy and wild ideas.’ She prodded.

‘Perhaps I am, but so are you. For that matter, everything is absurd and meaningless. Life, human beings, women especially and everything, is just froth spewing about in the stream until it sinks and sinks—down and down into an endless sea of dreadful depression.’

‘May be. So, about our unfinished Damascus business, a kiss is in order!’

‘Depends with where you wish me to plant my lips.’ Said I.

‘You may want to start with my hand first.’

‘Okay dokay, I warn you though, I’ll not be responsible for my actions.’


‘Why? Are you still a babe at twenty-five? Are you familiar that it’s risky to play with fire?’

‘Not for me. I have full insurance cover.’

‘No, your heart can’t be fire-proof. And even if you were, my tepid squeeze here that can still kindle a flame.’

‘Have you been in love?’

‘Well, don’t put it like that, but I’ve passed by quite a few girls. Occasionally, I became dumbstruck when my gaze fell upon one lass. Dumbstruck, I mean, like those fairy princes in the English Castles that couldn’t eat nor drink for love.’

‘Who was this lass?’

I typed ‘WTF**’, but hesitated to press the ENTER button, ‘If you are dazzled by a woman,’ I wanted to write, ‘try to gain her; but if that is not viable, well, don’t hassle, drop her. A forest is not made of up of only one tree!’

‘Who was she?’ she persisted when she sensed my dilly-dallied answer. I deleted ‘WTF’, instead wrote ‘You can’t force me to tell you’, and pressed the button.

‘I inquire as an equal, I ask as a friend. Who was she?’

‘My cousin. ; -)’

‘How strange. :P’


ii. Know Thyself

Before you could say Miss Muddah and Mr Fadduh, my ‘activities’ with Cherrie increased generously to statistical levels. Quote after quote, and epigrams woven in witticism adorned my profile wall. Some, clever and humorous, especially when I tagged her in an amorous poem: ‘Your intelligence inspires my humour that I end up lavishing generously in your wall.’ She’d say and my quick reply would be: ‘if you squander word for word with me, I shall suck all your sense of humour dry.’ Some, embroidered, especially when I sent her a daffodil: ‘How like a dream is this I see and hear! May fortitude bequeath on me the serenity to savour its climax as long as it lasts!’

And some ‘innocent’ comments should have alerted me with their foregrounding tomblike avowals because it was just after a week of knowing each other and she was already talking of death. She confessed in my wall: ‘Do I finally have you, oh, my celestial crystal? Why? Now I may die, for I have lived long enough. It’s my heart’s desire, a dream come true. Oh, this blessed hour!’ Mind you, that was the same suggestive discourse between Eve and the insidious Snake. She was dazzling me to her lair and enthralling my head quicker than a jugular vein.

My closest friends noticed my changing relationship landscape—I was ignoring them, apparently—and so they summoned me. Mojo was cynical as usual. Mojo and I shared the same noble school of thought—that women were evil—and couldn’t explain my sudden turnabout.

‘Who is this star that you worship so spiritually?’ he attacked.

‘Ah! The Queen of Stars,’ and I attached Sweetie’s smile-like-an-angel shot, ‘and isn’t she a divine creature?’

‘No,’ that was typical of Mojo, ‘but an earthly archetype, shoddier replica of a planet.’

‘Christen her celestial.’ I pleaded.

‘I wouldn’t flatter her.’

‘Oh, flatter me, commend me because love enchants in sweet-talk.’

‘When I was love-struck, you prescribed bitter herbs; I must honour you with similar dosage.’ He eluded.

‘Just admit it Mojo, that if she’s not a celestial star, then at least acknowledge her as a prototype comet to all heavenly bodies.’ I said but sensed nothing good was forthcoming.

There was a time—once upon—that my cousin had played fast and loose Miss Muddah with Mojo and spellbound those docile passions in his heart—as he did mine—and had succeeded because he had asked me to try and hook her up. But I told him that it was impossible and advised him not to bother but to drop her. ‘A forest was not made of up of only one tree.’ I tried pulling that soothing solace on him. That must have hurt poor Mojo for he grew even more misanthropic after that.

But then to mend fences, I suggested—as an afterthought—that he could still win my cousin’s heart with gifts if she respected no words. That had been so careless of me and must have been one of those ‘now-forgotten-happy-moments’—very mean of me to give rogue advice, which I had more than the devil had sinners! It cost him his fortunes to sniff my cousin. On the surface, dull gems, often in their quiet brand, accelerates a woman’s heart faster than flattery does her mind.’ But that proved an expensive business because Mojo depleted his bank account moving the lass—with a broken heart into the bargain!

Skylark, one of the only two females I hang out with and have allowed into my inner circle of friends—the other being my cousin—was concerned more with protectiveness. Just a small digression about Skylark. She says she’s protecting me from myself. A polite formula that her suggestive eye is wandering in my direction. She believes she owns me—like a pet—because she knows, that with my ridiculous attitude, no other female can possibly get into any sober commitment with me.

‘So…, I know you never Don Juan with a Plain Juliet. What’s this? An experiment on social interaction?’ She teased, a week into my romantic voyage.

‘I am making an exception, Skylark, like I made one to accommodate you. Besides, this is no ordinary Juliet. She’s a French doctor and besides talk shows, I’m told there’s a lot of money-spinning in this career.’

‘Francaise! Quel romantique! Is your night nurse pretty?’ Skylark’s worldview was always in black and white.

‘She hasn’t refuted that compliment yet.’

‘Most French women think they are charming. It’s how they lure our young men.’

‘Thanks for the observation. Is that an aye for me?’

‘If they’d only stay in their own country? Why do they declare that it is the seventh heaven for women-a true Garden of Eden in Arabia the Blest?’ I could tell she wasn’t amused by the turn of events.

‘That’s true, and the reason why, like Eve, they are so terribly uneasy with Eden phobia and have that nagging craving to take off.’

‘Remind me again, Monsieur RoundNuts, what is it that she possesses that I don’t. Is it because she is white and I’m black?’

‘This is not about race, Skylark.’

‘Then why, has your sonnet in honour of my good looks, taken you so long to draft.’

‘You mean which of your dismembered appendages I first fell in love with? Come on big girl, you still lie awake at nights calculating ways to injure my ‘gigolos’ without being found out? Get over it! Cherrie could finally operate on that head of yours and remove the menacing jealousy tumour.’

‘I am not your gigolo, and definitely don’t want to know about your ‘discarded’ gigolos. That so you Roundnuts—always are longing to kiss new frogs and give a cold shoulder to the old ones. Hope you are not sending me back to the cold ponds.’

Meanwhile, our entanglement steadily blossomed. She edited her privacy settings to enable me view her private hidden photos. Her profile photos were no match in charm to those hidden. They were fabulous to admire. But, of course, the pessimist in me, thought that there was nothing neither exclusive nor exceptional about them. They were the usual stuff you’d see in a day in the life of a doctor—hospital, ambulance and a Flying Doctor plane. There were dioramas and sketches of human anatomy, as well as some astrophysical picture of a newly discovered planet. I commented on them mechanically which I think she must have realized because her comments after me were trivializing of my views.

‘You commented on those pictures merely out of courtesy,’ she doubted, ‘they bore you stiff, I can tell. Why don’t you come online, and then we can argue about anything….’

I signed in to MSN and found her in there already, in waiting. ‘How should our argument go?’ I asked

‘Anything you desire, but just so you know, I’m a vicious adversary.


‘Yes I am.’

‘You, brutal? Excuse you ; )’

‘Is that disquieting? Why?’

‘It’s disturbing for as far as I can tell, your poise seems cool, collected and calm. Squabbling demands a jumpy disposition. But thanks for the heads up.’

‘How can you hastily sum me up? For starters, I’m very adamant and persistent, and emotional as well.’

‘Bite me. So, an argument—all right then—your wish is my desire. I was exploring the astrophysical sketches of planet Mongo in your album, and you observed that they were of scientific importance, outside my artistic interests. You meant perhaps I posses no scientific sense—yes, I really have none. But don’t you think they could have fascinated me from an imaginative angle, as in the mythology of planet formation?’

‘You can check that out in folklore, as an artist, or Google the Wikipedia on researched work on the subject, as a substitute for my sketches.’

‘A picture reflects what it takes a poet some ten-page verbal diarrhoea to express it.’

‘It’s amusing to find you too, are an ordinary mortal with no ounce of pragmatic aptitude in your intelligence? How can you do without it?’

‘And may I find out the urgency of possessing it?’

‘Could enhance your banal knowledge in understanding people’s characters and behaviour in a scientific sense.’

‘Oh yeah? But I thought experience meets those demands!! Besides, there’s no big deal in individual study of the mind because all men have similar bodies and souls; every one has something between their ears, a kidney, a liver and identical pair of lungs; and the supposed ethical virtues ascribed to us are the same in all; slight discrepancy simply demonstrate the exception. An individual specimen meets sufficiently a basis for summing up all the rest. People are like drunkards in a drinking den; no psychologist would imagine of studying each sponge in detail.

‘The drunkards in a bar? Hahaha!! JJ😉 Then, in your wisdom, there’s no disparity between a fool and an intelligent man, between a superior and an inferior man?’

‘Yes, sometimes an intelligent man is forced to get drunk so that he can spend time with his fools!’

‘Oh yes? Ha ha ha ha!’ There was general laughter from Cherrie. She was amused by the dry metaphor.

‘Look at it this way’, I went on unheedingly, ‘it’s similar to the difference between having kidney stones and not having. The invalid’s kidneys, even if it’s formed like ours, are dysfunctional and ailing. Further, we know that bacteria is the causative agent of the physical ailments. but you see, the invalid institutions and flawed educational systems inculcated by society, provokes ethical sickness by all sort of nonsense which is the convention in all civilized society to drum up in people’s minds with more rubbish, by the gobbledegook state of events in society-in short, if the social order is set straight, then these ailments will dissipate.’

I was sweating from the effort of having to explain—and I was not her game—to a ‘lesser mortal’ the intricacies of artistic imagination. I felt like patting myself in the back for all that hot air of thinking. But I went on pumping inconceivable facts to my indifferent ‘scholar’.

‘It’s all the half-empty-half-full glass business. Doesn’t make much difference to me.’

‘You imagine that if the social order is put right, we’ll have no more pedestrian thinkers or mediocre people left?’

‘In a flawlessly working social order, it wouldn’t matter if a man were daft or decorous, dignified or degenerate.’

‘Yes I understand. It would be impossible to distinguish their identical gall bladders. JJJ

The direction, which we headed, seemed to liberate some curious spirit previously contained within me; something that wrestled in there like the ‘Genius’ in the bottle found by the Syrian fisherman. I would find myself browsing her page for hours on end, searching for signs and ‘bottles’ that she was not real. Searching for that incriminating evidence that would restore my beliefs that women, no matter their status, had the quality of evil about them.

For Cherrie apparently, it was either, a case of harmless babe serpent or had subtly learnt the art of sophistry. I perused and scrutinized through all her Facebook profile pages, information, boxes and wall, friend’s list, and all those links, to smoke out the phantom boyfriend or the hideous livelihood hidden in there. None was forthcoming. Creepy clouds of suspicion surrounded my skies even though her relationship status proclaimed that she had been single as long as she had been alive.

In addition to never having seen a movie—time to digress again—her activities on her Facebook Profile announced proudly that she had never: owned a puppy, sung in a mass choir, been in a camp, read anything (except funny medical papers and the Bible), worn Swedish panties, bling-bling and make-up, been proposed to, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry pup go hungry.

Then there were a few things she had done, does do: signed petition to stop the killing of French Coast sea gulls, certified time of death (after the court orderlies administered lethal injection to a serial killer), masturbated (secretly), tame a mockingbird (just try it) till they balance on her finger, watch horror movie (we both believe in ghosts) so spine-chilling they freak you in summer, talk to herself in sleep (sometimes she sleeps in her talk), cry in the rain, cultivates Aloe Vera, and the herbal jojoba.

That kind of puny information surrounds her profile like an element but I decide  to pretend to like it—although it’s not more than an eye sore among other eyesores of plain Jane’s– and an insult to the outrageous overstatement of the weighty and heavy several pages of information that I have in my profile. Outstanding achievements, which had made me an ‘interest’ in her own words and ever updated (to reflect the life of a committed author and secretly to ‘impress’ her.)

Yes, it did the trick. My profile made a deep impression in her mind because she, too, would find an excuse to argue and reason with me while I took every opportunity trying to understand her, often pretending to care for her, but beneath my flirtatious comments and notes, were my cautious alertness. She got me sometimes—the sniffing business—and I would fall into her interrogation. Like my so-called ‘busy writing life’, as if to see if it was for real.

‘So, Mr. Roundsquare, how’s your writing? When is your next book hitting the shelves?’ she’d ask.

‘In next to no time,’ I’d pretend to be engrossed, ‘soon and very soon.’ Soon and very soon in my part of eternity meant it would come out when it comes out!

‘What’s it going to be about?’

‘The Connubial Civilisation of the Grand Nyabhingi Empire—now extinct—in the Middle Ages.’

‘Lol! The things you know about!’

‘Mind you, it could be some time before I actually get down to writing it. But, trust me, I’ve made these very extensive notes, and I’ve got to file and index them first.’ I added.

Then there was this preposterous rationalization to our relationship. That before the creation of the world, God had all souls stacked in one place. Some souls connected while others crossed paths. That’s why people—even those that had never met—right away loved or hated each other. Not that they had never got together—but it’s their souls meeting in body form and instantly recognizing each other. That was  a bizarre and an unfathomable language of the spirit. But it made me tone down my mistrust of her—but just for a moment—when I felt safe to have my doubts that she could as well be real and having missed any tangible evidence to the contrary.

This followed a moment (so I had a suspension of poetic beliefs too?) when my vulgar aloofness and contempt for the ‘weaker sex’ became makeshift buoyancy. I was a becoming a rare cock; not a typical rooster. My crudity for women was wearing away and replaced by a resilience, which seemed to have been as taxing as the old tenacity. I was becoming the proverbial fool who erected his crib on a jerky sandy precipice on the verge of a gulf, already destabilized by invisible forces, and the cliff and the foundations all crumble to wee-wee bits and pieces along with him, and he is plunged into the roaring billows of wretchedness from which there is no flight.

I started perceiving her—together with Skylark, and my cousin—with a sure-footed mutual faith—albeit wavering, as a hen is in no doubt, that is, with no shrewd knowledge about it. I was jeopardising my manhood and deserved the void inside for I let the ‘Genius’ escape from the bottle of my heart. I was a terrible impostor, silently and anxiously bustling with an uneasy ado, and laying my traps and nursing the qualms in a kind of restless dream that still was full of sureness. I would braggingly cackle and pretend to be the one calling her sun out of bed. Yes, I wished for detestation and adoration at the same time—the paradox of trying to fit a square ball into a round hole. That revealed my catch-22 entangling me—frayed between masculine dominance and masculine yearning for the ensnaring pretty creatures of romance and poetry.

And when you are dazzled by the combination of poetry and romance, how life turns out to be as a dream. How things appear so spanking new. Oh, how mesmerizing it was! How I wobbled under a heart painted red! How I loved going online, signing in to Facebook, sitting there, chatting on IM all night and day on end, watching things slither past. Not caring what people said or did. Like a book that you read slowly so as not to get to the final page! Like a man who dreams slowly for fear of waking up!

Yes, it was like drama. It was exactly a play. You would agree strongly that was a prompter behind some curtain. Or, that my Profile Wall was the painted backdrop. But it wasn’t until a little inconsistent ‘prompter’ showed up on my Profile Wall glumly and then reluctantly ambled off, like a little ‘theatre’ cat, a little cat that was on valium, that I first suspected that there were more principal actors and actresses than just Cherrie and I as the leading dramatis personae in the play. This ‘prompter’ wasn’t just reminding us our lines, but was actually pulling the strings of her two performing masquerades.

We were on the theatre. We weren’t only the audience, not only watching; We were performing. Even the ‘prompter’ had her part and came every Sunday. I swear, someone would have noted if the ‘prompter’ had been absent; the ‘prompter’ was part of the performance after all. How strange I never saw it that way before. And yet it explained why Cherrie ensured that she availed herself just the same time each day—so as not to be late for the rehearsal—and it also explained why I had benefit of doubts as to tell my friends how I spent my free hours—chatting online with Cherrie. I laugh loudly at myself when I come to think of how I was enacting the stage for my own ruin.

They say all lovers pledge more performance than they can deliver, and swearing an oath with a capacity that they can’t act upon. Promising to rehearse ten acts of more than the combined excellence of ten, but are only able to discharge less than the tenth part of an act. They that growl in the accents of tigers but whimper in the dialects of hares, are they not misshapen hunchbacks? There was no language the notes and messages I posted to her wall could express the new changes in my heart.

Not even in this way. No, no! Hear what was coming out of my lips: ‘To tell you the truth (and I blushed even to reveal deep seated secrets of my soul) and from today as that moment I first saw you, I have been thinking about you all the time. Yes, we were made for each other before the foundation of the world. Our souls connected in heaven.’ Just listen to myself? It’s unbelievable how the fleeting human heart ebbs like seasons. Indeed men are spring when they woo, and winter when they wed. Women are summer when they are maids, but the sky changes when they are wives.

‘Really?’ she seemed sceptical, or surprised—or both.

‘Yes. Tell me more, my mind’s eye open wider at every word you say. You know how to say things so nicely. I don’t understand how, I could have been so deaf, so dumb. I only hated women because I never listened to the language of my soul.’

‘Oh, yeah? You now believe that our souls were together even before we had been created in body? I’m so proud of you my soul mate.’

‘Yes, yes. That’s how I’ve felt about it all my life! I just wasn’t able to see it, let alone say it so beautifully!’ I could hardly understand what I was saying. The temptress was winning. Of course, I had never thought of it that way and I was merely saying with a kind of sincere intensity that seemed not to belong to me.

‘Oh, I love you so very much J xxxoxo! You see how clear and simple love is! I adore how you think about everything so…so, well, in your own way somehow, differently from the way most people usually talk about it, and how deeply you feel all those things!’ she seemed too engrossed in her own fiendish way.

‘I don’t think I’ll ever forget this evening. I have a feeling that I’m becoming a new person every minute I’m with you. Please forgive me for saying it so openly, but it’s as if something were radiating from inside of you that—I don’t understand how I could have walked by you so indifferently before—it’s simply that I’ve never felt anything like this before… you know, that heavens predestined us on that quiet morning yet on creation day…before the beginning of time and space…’ she couldn’t allow me to finish my rapturous declarations, as if she were afraid I’d change my mind in the next phrase.

‘How lovely! Isn’t in the still, quiet places that things do happen? I imagine that when God embarked on creating the world—on that early morning, the first day of January—you might have peeped out of your balcony and perhaps listened to the plaster and mud splattering from His trowel as He erected up the everlasting hills. What became of the noisiest undertaking in the world?’

‘The Eiffel Tower?’ I was losing her.

‘I mean the construction of the Tower of Babel? Well, there is a footnote in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and one can stumble on it in Google Search when those clattering men tried to challenge the plans of God.’

‘Of course,’ said I, ‘human nature is universally similar. It’s just cultural difference that conditions us, but there is more passion—er—more comedy and parody and –er—romance in some places than in others…’ I was no longer following her; it was more of a chase, for she was prodding me into a verbal hogwash while at the same time taking advantage of my complete lack of interest.

I only caught up with her when I saw on the MSN screen LLLL. She was in a monsoon of tears, sobbing and crying. That was my other issue with her and other women—they were like that—always dripping wet with sentimentality. She wanted us to dance to that. For the new found happiness and undying friendship. Soul mates for life! We were to declare to the Facebook world of our changed Relationship Status, that we were officially ‘In a Relationship’.

Somehow, I accepted her invitation although it was a pity I’d never danced before in real life—my ‘default’ attitude forbade it—and laughed off any suggestions of being a ‘robot’ at parties especially if you were with charming girls whose calculated dance moves made your groin itch. Yes, it was a pity, besides; I was that exception to every rule. That, a young man should be mortified of not being able to dance! I’m not hinting this out of bigotry; I don’t in the least presuppose that your intelligence should be in your feet—thank God, the thinking organ is still not below the neck—but my attitude is ludicrous now—It’s just that how do you dance with the devil without getting entwined in his clench?


iii. A curious engagement

Two months into our relationship, we announced an engagement. It was a very simple ritual. An agreement of undying union of love, confirmed by shared strong infatuation yawning in our hearts, pointing towards the hallowed belief and mutual admiration, cemented by the swapping of our rings—we exchanged our rings through Fedex—and a few other ceremonial formalities necessary for the condensed sacrament, blessed with our joint signatures, sealed by our mutual declarations, attested by.. bla bla bla. You see? It wasn’t a full-size convention as I am making it out!

Friends and close relations discharged their due shower of goodwill messages—wishing us many happy returns on our intriguing ‘serious’ commitment. With that spirit, I introduced her to my family and off-line friends, who like my cousin, had their reservations and raised eyebrows. These following comments baptised my changed Relationship Status:

‘We disapprove of her name.’ That was my brother Kleo on Twitter. I did remind him though—and whatever ‘we’ meant—that there was no deliberation to gratify his narrowed bigotry when Cherrie Whitesugar was christened.

‘What’s her figure?’ My modelling sister CS asked. ‘Don’t matter, as longs as she can reach my heart.’ I dismissed her. I was just full of pretty answers because I had anticipated all comportments of questions to be flung at me. I could as well have been betrothed to Shylock’s daughter Jessica and conned her out of her precious Jewess ducats.

‘Who’s the unlucky lass?’ Pitied Bunny the 5th.

There were, of course, the conformists. My cousin Edd led that camp. The cultural die-hards, whose contemplations were that I would have done better to ‘engage’ a hamlet lass or my own kind because Cherrie, ‘was refined by the wisps of her verbal diarrhoea better than the breezy wiles of their arguments—if it was done in English. I reminded them that she was French.

But they detested such fervent mirages of ‘aristocrats’, such ‘antisocial strangers’, such ‘snobs of lingo’ who pronounced ‘water’ with a voiced ‘r’ instead of the usual ‘t’. They were simply saying they couldn’t understand her because she spoke as if she were chomping a hot potato in her mouth, and miserably had very little spit for the procedure.

‘No no no ! We will embrace the engagement a delusion until it emerges a dream.’ A sceptical cousin quipped.

‘After just two months!?! Better to miss the boat by a river than to leap wildly for it and drownLLL.’ Another update from My Space wondered. That came from cousin Jojj.

Skylark warned in my inbox. ‘Beware soul brother. Her ancestors drove our ancestors out of their prehistoric birthright with one or two signatures on a piece of paper. You are signing away your own soul.’

Mojo was distressed that an African son of soil had turned a patch to be sewn onto a White Woman’s worn miniskirt. To him, I was like the wayward child who when punished at home, tagged along a sympathising stranger off to a foreign land.

I will spare you the other irrelevant Tweets—and ‘Twats’—and dive head-on to what was perhaps monumental in our bid to know our wider families, and our wider families to know us. It was an aggravation, that’s why young people circumvent the torturous process of involving their extended relations. The bottom line, we had to let our close friends know, and had to sway them—stubborn as billy goats on heat—to accept the legitimacy of the affiliation. Further, we had convince ourselves—as a couple—that our various families probably meant well—where all manner of interrogation, speculation and narrow-mindedness spewed forth from all the parties concerned.

And so she went into her genealogy, and established that Adam was barely a fifth cousin in an unstructured splinter of their family—I promised you to dwell on the quintessential elements—yes, Adam of the Garden if you are like ‘WTF!’ Ancestors disposed of; she delved deep into—to my friend’s revulsion—her confidential family secrets. She verified that her maternal grandmother boasted her ancestry back to Eve, (and even kept, as tradition, the skin of that insidious snake that beguiled her) but obstinately refuted any potential hearsay that her relations still lived in the Land of Nod, where Cain, the banished son of Adam and Eve, exchanged the first marital vows in yet-to-be-recorded-history.

Her relations were Gnostics, or KNOWERS Of THE GREAT LIFE. They adorned long robes of white clothing and believed in continual water baptism—but only through immersion! DAS ILLUMNUS—their Holy Book—is in vernacular language of the Vikings—mind you it’s all written in CAPITAL LETTERS. Their speculations of DARKNESS and LIGHT border around those of Zoroastrianism and they call all rivers YARDAN. Their long-dreadlocked hair and weird dress code is tailored to preserve their allegations that they are the CHOSEN PEOPLE Of LIGHT. Most of my friends thought that she was just another Normandy star worshipper with primordial pagan inclinations.

I wouldn’t covet to examine mystical hullabaloo or cross the threshold of polemic arguments. I have condensed all superfluous spiritual gymnastics and stashed them outside my span. My inadequate version of this sacred subject is ‘roughly literal’ and you can hardly suppose it would furnish you a tint of full inspirations of truth-seeking philosophy, which has been portrayed by sages as ‘that incomparable masterpiece, the very resonance of which stir men to rapture and bliss.’ An endeavour to arrest a stroke of that concerto in a different language is not possible. Someone has to make the attempt though—I will be audacious in that challenge. But you won’t hold responsible an actor who tries to seize in his dialogue something of the magnificent mime of cherubim up yonder cloud nine.

Academic and emotive enthusiasm, psychologists reassure us, are seldom synchronized; and most of us, no matter what opinions we hear, choose to stick to our default blueprint of thinking. For this reason, few people amend their faith and many carry on with what George Orwell christened ‘double think’. So, when a person changes their beliefs, we ravenously hunger to savour what the attendant circumstances were—as well as the arguments behind the metamorphosis. For me therefore, you must be dying to know why I even contemplated changing my beliefs for hers.

I wasn’t as pious as my siblings—was the black sheep—and I classified myself in the background thickets of the ‘enlightened thinkers’ but believed the ghost of religion lingered around me, nevertheless, in an apparition of moderate humanism or some such slogan. For me, God was pretty much the entire earth, or rather the complete cosmos, along with the clear-cut conventions it seem conditioned to, possibly kick-started us off when he lay down the foundations and then left every man for himself in a hands-free mode or must be some kind of Newtonian clockwork God.

I was born the eldest of four children in a family that was neither rich nor poor. At school, we perfected the art of conceit and malice. We exercised snobbery to upset other students with malevolent comments and to parade a sophisticated face of superiority and apathy. Attitude approved our associations with other students. We would malign, taunt and contempt teachers throughout school day, or showed our indifference to authority through imaginary superiority.

After school, if you did not fool around in games for the indulgence of the self-image, you would dart home to watch overcooked gibberish of Mexican Soaps or weary yourself in coquetry with the opposite sex in the street and surrounding areas. We looked forward to weekends because we’d inexorably be alone at home and invite other young people of both sexes for a roguish revelry, where the perverted beastly passions set the standards.

At school, if you performed well in scholastic tests, the thumb rule for peer approval required that you justified a pretext for academic brilliance, high performance being a trademark symptom of weakness, of unwarranted reverence to ‘established’ authority. In my youth, my forlorn familiarity with religion was in the fogs of futile, perfunctory recitations of the Bible at morning drills in school parades, or other odd incidents. Religious chitchats were proscribed and God was mentioned with embarrassment only.

We clenched all religious convictions as a credulous crutch and every ‘intellectual’ ignored the ‘garbage’ of God. It became an accepted wisdom and our parents, teachers and elders allowed it. My grandfather was once a cleric, but still had butterflies mentioning God with honesty. During meals, he would vomit out the Grace like an android and never did he implore me even to rummage around for religion nor did he relate religion to our day-to-day lives.

At the university, I ventured discreetly with the bravery to probe these beliefs, and to expose and put across suspicions, which I had hazily felt, but had timidly even buried profoundly from myself. I respected the character and the philosophy of Jesus, but was rationally perturbed regarding the whole tale of a ‘vicarious sacrifice’ being crucial for God to sanction us to have salvation. Also it seemed to me to be impertinent to blaspheme this way, but even so I mused over it; if Jesus knew he was immortal, how could the crucifixion be as enormous a sacrifice be as immense a sacrifice as that made by any of the mortal men who died similarly for their brethren?

The crucifixion of Peter in Rome—poor Peter with his moments of human trepidation that had made him even fleetingly deny the Christ—a down to earth bloke for whom heaven was an affair of belief only, seemed more genuinely poignant to me. It was all incredibly baffling to me. Then I read ‘The Golden Bough’, and marvelled just how much of Christian values had become knotted with pagan fertility festivals—there it all was: the vicarious sacrifice of the god-man. Many students proclaimed themselves agnostics, conceding Jesus only as a mortal being, a mortal being fond of his fellow mortal beings, like Gandhi or Mandela.

When I got together with Cherrie, I was considerate to her Gnosticism, but not persuaded. I assumed that they had their own sort of insularity as Christians had theirs, and I sought for a universally oriented faith. I was not yet liberal from obstinate academic illusions about occidental religions and Gnosticism, and possibly some of the Gnostics I met had their delusions too. Naturally, when we were engaged, there was compassion between us on this essential ethical issue, but I did not like the indecent proposal of embracing another belief without full conviction, or the idea of espousing it for purposes of conflict of interest.

I joined the Gnostics, not as a member, but as a spectator, amused and marvelling at how their ideology and philosophy were more whimsical and far from consistent. As a humanist and philanthropist, I always suffered pangs of distraught at the notion that of all the children, whom their mothers give birth to after nine months of labour, and bring up with much trouble, not a single one of them is liberated from sin, according to the Gnostic dogma. Hence, every person who comes to this world is born in sin; subsist in their existence as a wretched sinner, and perishes in sin. Their deliverance is dependant on the mortal priests whose purity itself is doubtful.

My scruples could not accept as true this ridiculous wisdom, but I was constrained to consider them as a Gnostic, all the same, I craved to disembark from these manacles and on this ground; I set off to study other major religions of this world. While probing Hinduism and Buddhism, I found out that both these religions advocate the doctrine of reincarnation and of the soul’s comeback into this world in different bodies owing to sin, and thus they also believe in the intrinsic sinfulness of human life. They could not eliminate my fears nor ruffle my dilemma.

I pondered profoundly in the observation of Ozymandias; his reflection fluctuates infinitely according to the vantage point of the spectator even if Ozymandias is rooted to the same spot. But if Ozymandias himself showed even a slight discrepancy, there is a binary fusion of divergence in the observation. It was why I leaned towards the progressive interpretation, as groundwork for understanding and amplifying spiritual matters from diverse perspective.

It’s like a dance; if you sought after satiating your admiration the most, then you were obliged to ogle from a variety of jugular poses. The worries that afflict me may not be similar to those that harass you or tackle another. The concerns that our age encounter don’t match wiht those that bamboozled primordial brainpower of the Middle Ages. That’s why it wasn’t in my interest and advantage to cuddle far-reaching lifelines slouched for my antediluvians ‘cousins’ when my soul howls out in dearth and imperative pacification in the Twenty-First Century.

So, when Skylark asked Cherrie whether or not Gnosticism wasn’t yet another limping religion, it multiplied strain to my million trepidations. Who, indeed, was worthy to be the herald for this wisdom? Was it mortal man inebriated with droll expression and obscurity? Mortal men whom poli-tricks had depraved or despotism cowed? Mortal men whose sophistication would genially defunct in iniquity? Who saw nature only through demijohns of pale ink and gigantic books that threaten to crush their balls or simulated vanity? Or in the doldrums which implant suppleness? Lassitude? or opulence? who swagger about love and integrity, but exalted, squalid egotism between class and class, sex and sex, condition and condition? and had deformed their tongues, once upon a time, redolent with elegance, into gibberish of bare erudition and wasted vanity?

Cherrie’s answer was witty in pacifying us. That, as the testimony of mortal men were flawed, and the memory wobbly, the identities of numerous heralds were known in one place and not in another. Or among one people and not among others. And some of this names of some harbingers may have become outright mouldy in mortal men’s mementos. But their message is integral, intact and indissoluble, even if time may have elapsed, or perverted by factual error, slip-ups, false perception or intractable delusions, or misconstrued in the blinding radiance of time or tormenting occurrences.

Others lived in obscurity, further than the contacts of history; others it delighted LUMNUS—that was the name of God—to dispatch as messengers, preaching, working, in the muted dusk of times past, where mortal men embossed mythology to ensemble their own hearts and faintly peered for a remote luminosity, far-flung from their lives.

My Cousin plagued Cherrie further: about Africa’s past civilization, puzzled in her own narrow way, if it was but Whites alone the only creatures of LUMNUS. There were messengers in Africa too, that Europeans drove away branding them savage monsters whose ancestor worship slay the spiritual growth of Africans. And to other revelations, if she held, with magic and philosophy and falsehoods, the doctrines and creed, which was parallel to logic and nature, and the inner light which was now fanned into flame by the will of LUMNUS?

Cherrie, now familiar with my cousin’s discomfiture, even addressed her as dear cousin—from Adam and Eve descended! Man is universal, doesn’t matter what his colour or language. It’s an issue of learning to let your heartbeat pound to the pulse of the cosmos! A question of conforming that there shall come an occasion where superficial peripheries shall be displaced and all amalgamated in one majestic discourse.

Mojo observed: Religion is very bigoted as an ideology. Man in his failing is seldom as forbearing as his religion may beseech him to be, but you Gnostics seem to have a healthier historic testimony than the Christians do. There’s great deal of disparity in the elegance of the Moorish civilization in Spain with the terror of the Spanish subjugation. The Jews, wronged by the Christians in Medieval time, relished freedom of worship under Gnostic rule. Toleration is the fecund womb that nurses a blooming human union.’

Cherrie was getting converts and her feedback was with a sigh of alas! ‘The extent of Gnostic’s non-violent approach and benevolence is so extensive that it does not advocate on any action even against those who scornfully sneer at it and have aggressive malevolence against it. Gnostics consider them as facet of human race and bequests all shared and communal liberties and concession to them and saddle the liability for the safeguard of their pious rituals and customs, even if the Gnostics deems them immoral.’

This is an incomparable example of acceptance and sociability, absent in church history. Compassion and tolerance showers Christianity, and its adherents admonished that if a man smacks them on their right cheek, they should turn to him the other also. Gnosticism does not issue such impracticable parables, but is confident with human dignity and self-respect that the internalized knowledge of peace and reconciliation that it edifies are matchless.

Finally, Cherrie addressed the question of woman, and the place of woman to her female ‘cousins’ as the major impulsion that even made me study Gnosticism and almost converted. It confounded all my chauvinist ideology and abashed my macho supremacy for the ‘weaker sex’ for she savours an immense eminence—I think it’s the earliest religion that predetermined the liberty of woman and safeguarded that autonomy. This religion celebrates woman and all her endeavours. It secures all her privileges. It venerates her as a mother, a wife, a sister and as a daughter. What else would any woman be? She posed to my chauvinist consternation.

‘Prior to the dawn of Gnostics,’ there was no stopping Cherrie, ‘the position of woman was dismal. In china, woman was prized with utter condescension. She plunged into puberty playing hide and seek with cultural impediments lest anybody—here she meant men—should catch a glimpse of her ‘stained’ face; in India, Manu teachings pronounced woman as evil incarnate. She had no rights at all and she was classified with eyesore elements and effects of her father, husband or her children.

The Greeks entirely secluded woman, she was in cultural bondage and her chief function was to replicate and nurse children. The Jewish man would supplicate to God in a formula contemptible to the woman. Thank God for you did not create me a dog, a Gentile and a woman, under the Romans, woman were so much debased that her husband was at liberty to arbitrate and castigate her as his whim desires; he would even exterminate her if he deemed it fit to do so.

Gnosticism has reinstated her independence and all such blunders, credos have been dispelled, and woman sprawls comfortably in an exceptional and reputable position. Gnostics estimates woman as equal to men and each of the two sexes harmonizes each other.

We hear of the squabbling for women rights, and the homosexuals, and the same sex couples—and the defeat of the holy matrimonial state. In Gnostics, woman has privileges and autonomy. Her alliance with man is based purely on mutual consent and prudent convention. The laws of the Gnostics were made for mortal beings, not for seraphs. Hullabaloo, fiasco, secret fornication and the unmarried mother are ‘nuisances’ unheard of here.

Then Cherrie, later on, inboxed me on the question of women and their ‘hussy’ rights. The cheek of it: ‘On the surface,’ she went on unheedingly, ‘I have toured many times around the world in my golden zeppelin drifting on two wings (that’s what she called the Flying Doctor). I have witnessed (in one of my castle-in-the-air excursions) the Mullah of Persia strangulate with a bowstring (and with his bare hands) one of his wives who had exposed her face in the open. I have seen a man in Venice rip up his Concerto tickets because his wife was going out with her face covered—with face powder.

In Tehran, I’ve witnessed a German reporter lashed in public for putting on tight jeans in the privacy of her own guest room. In Montreal, there was this Pakistani girl immersed leisurely, at a snail’s pace, in blistering brake fluid to compel her to promise she’d never meet her African-American boyfriend again. She yielded only when the liquefied fluid was two feet below her lower trunk. At a Halloween festivity in BC, I saw Gwen Brooks dismembered by three of her classmates and lifetime friends because she had married a Pizza delivery boy.

If no argument has convinced you yet, perhaps the parity of Gnostics must hold the ultimate sway. Czar and the Kulak have equal privileges on the temple’s ground, on their knees in humbled adulation. There are neither rented pews nor unique booked seats. The Gnostics recognize no circuitous man as a religious attaché linking them to God. You cross the brink non-stop to the Imperceptible Source of creation and existence, God devoid of dependence on rescue procedure of penitence of sins and conviction in the sway of a diplomat to stamp your deliverance.

I loved its democratic moral fibre. But its equality isn’t the equality of Marxism or Bolshevism, which desires to obliterate the ‘haves’ for the ‘have-nots’. It is not the equality of the Christians, where the African-American was roasted ‘whole’ and his balls sliced in ‘garlic’ for staring too long at a White Woman, or where members of the congregation worship their God in sit in specially designated chairs.

That was briefly. My friends and I only wondered why her side of family never said anything. Surely, there was some boiling brouhaha from that end of eternity—or so—now you must be raising your eyebrows too, over this curious engagement.


iv. Shocking Revelations.

There was a rational explanation to that anomaly—her family not consenting nor cursing our engagement. And this happened no sooner had we swapped our account passwords for both Facebook and regular email out of goodwill and trust. We were one in body and soul, and being soul mates; there were no more secrets between us. She was the first to importune for my password for she suspected there were some phantom secrets tucked away in my inbox. She was losing sleep in her anxious desirous world over the imaginary flock of lovers that I might have been keeping.

Of course, there were, but only those (too shameful to lose) I was prepared and inclined to share with her alone. Then there were those (too alarming to keep) that would offend her—from the jealousies of Skylark to the misapprehensions of my cousin and Mojo’s vilifications. I took a few ‘hours’ to whitewash my inbox clean before I granted her exclusive access to sit in the arm-chair of my ‘secret’ soul.

Cracks in Cherry’s ordered existence surfaced straight away and restored my traumatized confidence in Manu’s philosophy that women were, and still are, a reincarnation of evil. She was, after all, like all the other frogs—lay flat on her belly—no gynaecologist could tell between the constipated and the one heavy with ‘tadpoles’. I discovered a continent of lies faster than Columbus did the West Indies. She was full to the brim with them more than the devil had sinners.

Her inner sanctum Sanctus unveiled in her inbox, and to my consternation, I started judging others by herself, I began believing in ‘looks is deceiving’ maxim, and concluded that the genuine, the only charming life of every creature, is nurtured beneath the sheathes of dark hours, secretly. The life of each creature orbited around mystery, and plausibly that is the mother of all ‘WHYs’ all ‘civilised’ citizens insisted stubbornly on the reverence due to their personal secrets.

To attest just how stunted sincere truth thrives in the human race and how often even where it is likely to be found, behind all the peripheral balderdash of integrity, behind closed doors of secrecy and in the deepest recesses, evil is seated at the steering wheel. For this reason, virtuous men and humanity of the better kind would rather be deprived of human company for the companionship of the four-legged creatures, to be in no doubt, for how are they to find respite from the incessant mock-ups, manipulations and mischief of humankind, if there were no pets into whose ingenuous expressions they can look and admire with no mistrust?

For what are our sophisticated characters but life-size masquerades? Disgusting disguise, and as a rule, behind the smokescreen you will uncover the self-seeking ogres. Men leaning on the facade of philosophy, and smiling with visors of benevolence, and what I shouldn’t disclose—in my own hypocrisy. Women have a lesser option. By default, they smear themselves with tinges of decency here, reserve there, gentleness on the lips, and timidity on their faces.

It was no shocker therefore to find out from her quarrels with her elder sister that my charming Cherrie had been married twice and had added four children into the population. Neither was she a doctor nor ever been one. Was north of fifty, battling weight, hypertension and diabetes into the bargain. Had intermittent renal failure and sometimes depended on life support machines during these attacks. Descended from a family of albinos, herself recessive, but still the heritage had blessed her with night blindness. Funny thing she would deny these ‘blinking malice planted by her enemies’.

From her mother’s admonitions, it was apparent that her personal life was as interesting as a belching competition: was awake at weird hours, had reverse anorexia and ate ravenously even when she wasn’t hungry; and the mirror at her bathroom was occasionally shaken by her looks; of course, since she almost never noticed it, she was oblivious that the yarns of her interlocking hair needed restraining, that her eyes, fogged up with absent-mindedness, and teeth pongy with mouldy layers of bleeding gums required urgent medical attention, and that the petticoat with missing buttons was a long-awaited candidate for the comfort of the garbage mass. She talked herself passionately—often contradicting her views, like the hesitant Mr. Grinch when deciding whether to go and steal Christmas presents, and the blind man living across the hallway, thought there were two Grinches living as one.

I now believed that evil had pervaded her like a tangible thing—with frequencies, just like echo and sonar energy. Her humble abode acted as an evil transmitter and vibrations of evil reached her because from her deleted messages—mostly squabbles about scandal this and scandal that—I found out what was principally the most devastating evidence of her duplicity. That together with her evil associates, they insinuated in all sorts of insidious falsehood to trap me, rousing each other with ornate communications by way of trickery, and secretly directing her on how to allure me and then retreating, to build her web the more subtle and enthralling.

I found out, to my cost, that she was the envoy bent on accosting and wrecking me of my macho inclinations. One note from Tipsy Daisy declared it all, ‘tame this son of a woman! What does he think he is? A big strapping boy, milk hardly dry on his lips, without a smear of mortification?’ she mused. ‘Break him to bits and pieces!’ another one from Bang Belly declared. I found out what I had been hunting for in my Damascus voyage. She was in a scandal-mongering company—led by Tipsy Daisy, Bang Belly, Chatty Mouth, Big Foot and herself—and I had been trapped into their snares and was about to be dethroned of my masculine prowess. I was just like other men, after all, with carnal feelings and unsaddled passions for women, in spite of my hardliner stance.

I read their messages on ‘strategies’, ‘the art of alluring a man’, ‘best laid traps’ ‘solicitations’ ‘playing hard to get’, and all other feminine hotchpotches and wiles that Cherrie had experimented to drag me into succumbing to her traps. The Columbus’ Realisation hit me; that the earth wasn’t actually flat. How foolish I was! I swore, now like a woman, remembering too late that she had left boiling milk in the cooker. Sour memory, like vomit, clogged my throat. It was hard to swallow the true-to-earth fact for it became as a huge lump of ice lodged in my belly and kept melting leisurely all day long. I bet this is how the ambushed cat felt once he was inside the trap of curiosity.

Each word became a piercing blade, battering my heart. Every word was pungent more than a concoction of salt and vinegar. But I had to erect a war strategy by studying and cramming the notes over and over to drain the very sediments of its acidic connotation. I had to know too, the capabilities of my antagonists from the other side, those who were baying for my blood and I was obliged (for the sake of poetic justice) to hack into their facebook and regular mail accounts. I also needed to justify my course of action to my conscience, which could not condone any form of undercover spying especially to my friends, but you see it was the lesser of the two necessary evils.

It marred my manhood to find that what I was groping to attain wasn’t dazzling and wasn’t genuine, after all. I had been a fool, and had to act as one to spare myself of further aggression. When you found yourself in a hole, you had to stop digging and figure out the best-laid scheme to get out. I was a victim and had to plot how to avenge myself without being found out. You didn’t redress a wrong if you allowed retribution to overtake you or if you failed to infuriate your wrath to the adversary who had done you wrong!

It grieved me to realize what I was struggling to achieve wasn’t sleek and wasn’t lustrous. It hurt to see her fallen so low— far lower than the lowest djinns hanging all day from the rooftops of sorcerers waiting for nightfall to work on the farm. It hurt like the ‘Sick Rose’ that ‘a worm found her bed’ and ‘destroyed her crimson joy’. It hurt like seeing a tender petal of flower ravaged by hailstones and turned into tatters.

As a rule, I didn’t laugh at a person who was down—least of all a woman. You won’t dispute though that there is a certain contentment in discovering that what sparkled wasn’t gold or what dazzled you with glittery magnetism above was just moonshine, that an eagle’s rear was hoary after all, that face powder beamed with the gorgeous cheek, that pedicured nails were sandwiched among mildewed toes, that the handkerchief was loaded with lime mucus but still had whiffs of syrupy aroma.

Still I had to revise our arrangements with the hag even after knowing more in less than six hours than I had known all my life. I wasn’t going to be engaged to leftover gigolos. Men—even sex maniacs—didn’t hanker after women overrun with floppy breasts like worn-out socks. To add salt to my injury, was the approach the insidious haggle had presented herself to me in the slender shape of an innocent mortal, as I had believed from her profile picture, but turned out to be the very subtle creature of evil, who must have obtained the devil’s guarantee to be empress of hell. What a raging hag! What a devil disguised female!

The confusion of that day seemed to have trapped its foot on the door, for before my cousin could say Muddah meets Fadduh, three hundred females had either been deleted or blocked from my friends’ list. ‘They simply had to go!’ that was the lamest excuse I got from her. ‘They don’t anticipate flirting with the man of my life and expect to get away with it. We are engaged darling, remember? I don’t have to invite you to decide between them and me.’

What cheek? What the hell was happening to Mr. Round Square? Was I the same person or had the goddess charmed me into her dreamlike daze? Were men really springs when they sniffed out women and winter when they got married? Were women summers when they were wooed but their sky twisted when they were in the ‘box’? ‘Indeed darling, you don’t need to prompt me about how important you are to me!’ You wouldn’t be surprised if you heard me say that. But, be surprised. I never said it.

‘But my sister, cousins, good friends and even skylark, our mutual friend, is in that blocked list.’ Instead, I wedged my dissent. And had even forgotten what good old Chris Rock advised on his Talk Show the other night, ‘never argue with women’ he had argued with himself. ‘Don’t argue—you cannot win. You cannot beat a woman in an argument—it’s impossible. You will not win because as men, we are handicapped when it comes to arguing, because we have a need to make sense. Women are not going to let a little thing called sense screw-up their argument.’ I am sure he was laughing at me in kind.

I wasn’t neither going to give her the satisfaction to play with my heart nor intending to humour Facebookers with my idiocy about the unfortunate saga. A man had to do what a man had to do. I’d deal her a death blow before her injection of poisonous stings lay me prostrate—and this had to be done undercover. I was ill equipped for another showdown. Our curious engagement was still fresh in the short-term memory, and the amazing publicity attending my initial alliance to her, created a blemish in me, and now this scandal? That would be a mother of a disgrace like that of the schoolgirl whose unwanted pregnancy turned out to be triplets—you will have your empathies but still your inclination would drive you to be dissociated with her situation.

But I was full of surprises. See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. I would pretend never to have seen anything ‘secretive’ in her inbox. I would pretend like every other human—yes! Everyone has an innate disposition, which is positively wicked in their nature. Even the unsurpassed or persons with the most exceptional moral fibres will at times shock us by a sporadic persona of corruption; as if it was to concede humbly their affiliation with humanity, in which treachery laden with betrayal is to be found in identical scale. For it is just in virtue of this depraved nature in me, this necessity to profit from double standards, that identified me as a man among men of similar ilk. And on the same plane, I was guiltless in my universality of evil, for as human, I was simply reverberating in my mirror, the sins of my kith and kin but with sober reflection. As much as I aware what I was undertaking, it was very much like being a devil, only it was horrible, since I was conscious of it.

Hypocrisy sucks big time, yes, but, it is in us to be pretenders. Even if we don’t own it up that we are fraudulent, we still are deceitful. The entire humanity stinks of artificiality—not just those playing religious gymnastics or those juggling dishonest poli-tricks—although they are steering the wheel. Not just women either—although women are notoriously very duplicitous. But YOU are a shrewd charlatan, HE is a scheming fraud, SHE is a manipulative quack, and even I AM A CONNIVING MACHIAVELLIAN!!

Come on now, WE have perfected the art and crafts of hypocrisy. It’s all about acknowledging if or not you are one. If you confess you’re false-hearted, then you might get somewhere in life. The reason people can’t declare that they’re hypocrites is because of their self-images, and for some, they have their self-worth because they imagine that they have interests and causes to preserve.

Yes, that is so accurate. Yet despite all that, the variation in one hypocrite and another is so vast, and sometimes you’d pretend in your own way to be horror-struck to witness your so-called friend following their animal passion as they in fact are. Oh, for the Catos of moral values, and Grundys of prudery, why don’t you open up not only walls and hedges to be transparent for your darlings and fools, but also winch up the shrouds of artificial deception, dissimulated affectation, travesty, charades, and sham, which are spread over, blanketing the mattresses of your inscrutable beddings? Who shall indeed stand in the moral Ararat and chew words of truth when everyone else is so false in their own plastic teeth? You don’t deceive me!

Well, as you reflect on your hypocrisy, I was hacking into private accounts and getting generous information, which conferred upon me colossal authority. More power came more responsibilities. I shot to significance and a ‘man-who-knew-which-cat-was-in-which-bag’ a grieved noisemaker with foot and mouth contamination thus talented of ‘spilling the beans’ to ‘chicks and hens’.

Shrewd with what I knew about so many private citizens and ‘friends’, whom at a conversational level were charming and charismatic, I hatched up a cold stratagem of how their ethical house of cards would come tumbling down on them all—on Tipsy Daisy and her husband as well—if she got caught taking advantage of her gardener. Or on Bang Belly and her gynaecologist boyfriend whose bosom friend was her husband. Or on Big Foot with her false identity, and her hide and seek games with the long arm of the law that had been hunting her for the last seven years—the insidious hags taking sanctuary coiled in the hides of their private inboxes—and now geo-mapped in my long-term memory.

On the exterior—as in all masquerades—lives of the leading actors in my piece of drama rolled on so smoothly that you could hardly stumble nor hear of any unexpected discrepancy. You’d find none even if you were armed with the sharpest eagle eyes. But in your tomfoolery, you’d think that because you had found none, there was none. You’d find no depravity; you’d find no slander, no deceit, no impostors on the surface; you’d find not even an inhalation of gossip. Things would seem well ordered with more decorum even than in the kingdom of heaven.

I subscribed to my backup maxim ‘reculer pour sauter’—to go back in order to leap forward. Let them think they were still in control. Let them think that they had me, ruined or about to have the greatest showdown. Let them sit tight obediently where I had left them, as if they were petite modelling divas waiting for their limos to arrive. They were in for the mother of surprises. I was going to lie in wait so that I could observe to what lengths their effrontery would go and induce my audience to get a full satisfaction of this scandal-mongering clowns.

No wonder it was christened ‘reversal of events’ in the art of war. To take charge of their own information while deluging them with my misinformation; to wipe away the real signals in the track, while demarcating them with red herrings. To take advantage of their own plots and schemes to salvage those of us who were endangered while suffocating those who intimidated me. To carry out my strategy by being my own man buried in the midst of the adversary, indeed, in the very heart of the enemy’s division specially calculated to fight against me!

The nerveless barbarian hags that they were! I was ready to employ any means necessary to prescribe boundaries to their outrageous misdemeanours and wait upon the wrath of heaven to breathe its revenge and obliterate out the tragedy of having trapped me in their soiled embrace. I was going to turn tables by tricking the tricksters. I wasn’t an eclectic and intelligent man for nothing. Didn’t one wait until a crocodile’s tail surfaced out of the water before launching an attack?

With such a spirit, I let a handful of days fall like leaves from the tree of time as I amassed my art-of-war strategy. But as with tragic opera, things got worse after the interval and amazing episodes overtook me—seemed like every step to my dishonourable downfall had been calculated! She accused me of duplicity (what cheek!), changed her ‘Engaged’ status to ‘Single’ and blocked me. She changed her phone number and never answered to emails I sent thus making herself inaccessible. I had no clue how she may have known that I had ‘checked’ her out. Or perhaps she was taking no chances for she must have discovered the testimony of her incriminating ‘sent’ messages and ‘threads’ still lied undeleted in her inbox.

Bang Belly was next. She came online and turned on her webcam. There was a sort of a snooping look in her face and chat messages that I did not like. I don’t know whether Cherrie had told her that I was ‘unpredictable’ only, or unashamedly insolent but I know the hag meant to cross-examine me. I was conscious of myself as we chatted and constantly watched her face on the webcam beaming with a smile, which, as she realised that I wore a stone-face, took effect and melted in her very hollow dimples. I did not give her more time to open her lips. ‘I am so very busy right now, Bang Belly!’ I screeched at the keyboard and gawked at her reproachfully with such an icy decorum that she was very relieved to turn her webcam off as soon as decency permitted and vanished into obscurity for all I cared.

It was apparent that Bang Belly must have banged into Big Foot’s inbox to transmit her of the new development, because the hag came online, as if it were a coincidence, and strove to initiate ridiculous chitchats with me, perhaps to corroborate what Tipsy Daisy had nourished her—for symptoms of impudence or impertinence, I figured out. She must have believed that I was already down and out. I didn’t intend to humour her silliness anyway.

‘What you hags have done to me! No punishment is severe enough!’ I cursed her. ‘You used her to get at me! What cheek! Shame on you!’ I’m not done with you lot!’

Before you could say Muddah meets Fadduh, Chatty Mouth and Tipsy joined Big Foot in the chat. I wanted to block them, but that would have been unmanly. So, I assailed them head on. Four hag-faces staring down at me; come to celebrate their imaginary victories from imaginary battles. I had a bad feeling about the whole business. I had never been in a scandal before. But I put on a strong countenance. I was not blowing my top for the sake of some five foolish hags. I wasn’t going to afford them a satisfaction to provoke my displeasure. They were not worth the satisfaction. I had to put them into the place they belonged

And all the time the duo-core running of my mind unsettled me nearly to the point of insanity. I was continually monitoring myself, my inner self, to stabilise my propriety with my own temperament, staring blankly on my computer, behind that chat window filled with four ogling faces, as I sat impatiently volleying questions against explanations. This was insanity, and even worse, for I was conscious of my lunacy.

It was pointless arguing with them.

ROUND SQUARE: There’s nothing extraordinary about it. If you and your hags are guilty for sowing this unfortunate seed, then I curse you with all my heart. You are evil and I wish to have nothing to do with you.

TIPSY DAISY: You are misplacing your priorities once again! If evil is flesh and blood, then above all, he lives inside us!

ROUND SQUARE: Then you must be his most preferred house!

TIPSY DAISY: You undervalue my worth at least as much as you puffed up yours a while ago.

ROUND SQUARE: Who are you people? To invade into my soul, and break trusts, sending your loyal disciple to corrupt and steal my morals…so ambitious to depose me, you set that witch on me, this devious impostor, this charlatan peddling lies, unfortunate creature sunk low to her advantage— unsound spirit in an unsound bodysick in her dexterity! Why don’t you guard the avenue to her waning soul before brooking for a showdown with me?

TIPSY DAISY: Look at it this way: I am merely a medium who helps fellow mortals stir up or stimulate things that already lived within them even without their help. My support, you see, simply made it easy for you to discern something invigorating in life and thus was more satisfied in yourself.

BIG FOOT: We only live only once. Why then, should we squander those precious few decades assigned to us roasting beneath the swathe of some barbaric scruples? Do you know why you labelled us evil? So that you may swing your own liability out of dread of your own conscience and that things inside you that crush them down—away from your own bigoted ego, into mine, through ‘diffusion’ as psychos call it, or ‘transference’ only to console your scruples!

ROUND SQUARE: That is preposterous, and you know it…

BANG BELLY: Laughable!? And you hoped to bamboozle your own scruples by fiddling with your brand of sophistry!! And by tagging me with that offensive label, you anticipated you’d truly even flatter yourself. And our little trial had no other function than to simplify these little frivolities for your banal chauvinism.

TIPSY DAISY: But you were naïve to think of deceiving the devil without signing away your own soul. Why else do you think she cancelled her ‘engagement’ to you, huh? The party is over bway:(.

ROUND SQUARE: You tell me, dumb ass!! I’m not answering questions like that from you hags.

TIPSY DAISY: Yes, because you know too well that she has had the audacity to be real and live in line with her own standards.

BIG FOOT: And now at last she has done something grandiose!

CHATTY MOUTH: Something exquisite!

BANG BELLY: To seize the gallantry and the vigour to bow out from your fiesta of fantasy so early!

BIG FOOT: And exposing your villainy for the entire world to witness.

ROUND SQUARE: You control her. She is just a pawn in your game. A marionette to be pulled and pulled until she cracks from the long stretches.

TIPSY DAISY: That sting my raw nerves, son, but I’m afraid I am obliged to deprive you of that charismatic fantasy.


TIPSY DAISY: You lack the providence to multiply your idiocy, we are here to make sure of that, besides, and you won’t be permitted to keep it for long, anyway.

ROUND SQUARE: What do you mean?

CHATTY MOUTH: She was engaged to you on her own whims and accords. We had no hand it. We are only more concerned that you outsmarted us in our little inboxes and now you can’t spread propaganda about us.


BANG BELLY: We finally found out how we can stop you from being on Facebook. If your friends and enemies come to learn of what we found out about you today,…

ROUND SQUARE: You can’t blackmail me!!

CHATTY MOUTH: Unless you make a decision by tomorrow that, you are terminally bedridden, that you have to go away for a year or two and sadly have to deactivate your account—Monday morning (and until you bow out honourably) every Status Update will carry your story.

That was what I called reversal of events for lack of better adjective. The hunted hunting the hunter. Killing one bird with two stones—to make sure it was dead. Double-crossing the bridge—just to be certain! Cherrie appeared online shortly to curse me with a mocking denouncement: ‘You’ve crowned my name with tiaras of falsehood. If I must depart from you, eternity, gravity, and mortality do to this body what extremity it can, but the sturdy pedestal and edifice of my love is as the epicentre of the earth, dragging all things, as it is, to it. I am going in to weep for my dishonourable ignominy. Where shall I hide my face?’

She went offline before I had chance to solicit further explanations more than just ‘weep for my dishonourable ignominy’. But she was dead right—for she wept herself blind at our separation—as you will come to know, in the next episode.

© Gideon Chumo 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.


8 comments on “Mortifying Mona Lisa by Gideon Chumo

  1. sino alaly
    December 16, 2009

    what a great piece of work


  2. Maraiyoiyo
    December 17, 2009


    + 0.5 what Sino Alaly said. Great job, roundsquare


  3. Linda Musita
    December 17, 2009

    Genius…as usual!!


  4. Linda Nandwa
    December 17, 2009

    This is indeed the story of the week, great story line, humor, unique piece of writting


  5. Ogaja Wuod Dieto
    December 17, 2009

    10! as in TEN

    this is a Masterpiece.Chumo’s humor cracks me up like Charlie Chaplin flicks!


  6. William Lainsbury
    December 17, 2009

    The off beat humour and unusual content makes this my choice. An intelligent and readable piece of writing.


  7. Naked Soul
    December 18, 2009


    Easy and engagingly delicious read….especially for those who must always be turned on by initial lines before reading further like me…heheee.hmmm….this indeed is a piece of art….


  8. Samir Dave
    December 27, 2009

    As usual, OUTSTANDINGLY BRILLIANT….. Just like a good whisky that leaves a lingering finish egging you for another wee dram…….. Bravo….. Thumbs up…


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