Celebrating East African Writing!
Tales from My Sad Love Life
I bumped into him, accidentally, as I scuffed to the Mama Mboga kiosk a few meters from the three storey flats where I lived. It was one of those laid back Saturday afternoons-the laundry was done, the house was spic and span, a bunch of boring classic repeats on the TV, and the only thing to do was get some fruits from the green grocer for a chance to soak in the January sun along the way.
A clear sky, light traffic on the estate street, some kids rode their bikes and played in the open field as I crossed the road to the kiosk.
“Beryl”, a deep voice called.
“Mark”, surprise was written all over my face as I turned; saw and replied.
“Hi”, Mark said as he walked towards me, grinning the same way he always did letting the world see his set of white teeth that contrasted his dark skin.
In my dreams, he had always made me sweat my bed sheets wet imagining what would happen if I was his, his girlfriend. In reality, he was a former workmate. He had been in the IT department, and I had developed an instant liking for calculus and programming the moment one of my girlfriends, in his department, introduced me to him.
The rest, as they say was history. He would pop at my workstation every morning, and I would pop at his later in the day with the classic ‘I just wanted to know how you are doing’.
But nothing happened beyond that and when he transferred, needless to say I lost more than a few kilos- my thirst for all things IT left. But when I saw him that Saturday afternoon, it brought back memories and the desire to ignite what both of us failed to do when we were still working together.
“You haven’t changed”, Mark went on
“Thank you. Neither have you”, I blushed like a sixteen year old.
“Am glad I saw you today. It has been a while you know”.
“Yah, two years”
“So where do you live?”
“Over there. Maybe you can come over for a cup of something”. I couldn’t believe how blatant I was with him.
“Wouldn’t it be too much trouble with such short notice?”
“Not at all”
“Alright, I will pass by later”.
That’s how my date happened. I did not buy fruits; I bought meat, potatoes and cabbage. It had to be perfect. I had to set the right mood for that meal so that we could discuss this and that. So, a few minutes to six that evening, the meat stew, coleslaw salad and wedged potatoes were ready. The years of watching Martha Stewart would finally pay off.
My one shoulder red peplum dress that ruffled around my hips was perfect because it defined by petite body and left my legs for Mark’s pleasure.
He showed up at six. I was about to spray some air freshener for the umpteenth time when I heard a soft tap on the door. But, when I opened, I froze. I tried to say something but couldn’t. Finally, my eyes moved. I looked at Mark, went a few inches down to look at the female friend next to him, and lower to a toddler who tagged at the female’s skirt.
“Hi, am I on time?” Mark broke the silence
“Yah…I mean no…Come in”, the proverbial ground should have opened and swallowed me up.
Moments later, Mark and his entourage sat on the large sofa while I slumped in the opposite seat. He must have been married to her for ages because they looked alike already. And the child was a copy and paste version of his father. The eerie silence made me wish I had not invited him. I thought it was my last shot at happiness, but I had poked the devil and he was out to get me.
“Ah, Beryl, this is my wife, Sharon”, Mark begun. “She was visiting her sister in the neighborhood and I had come to get them so I told her we pass by your place. I hope its no bother?”
Of course it was not a bother, it was a crisis. How could I dress up in the ill fitting dress to impress a family man? But, I kept all that inside and instead gave them one of my very plastic smiles. They thought it was a cue to begin a conversation, and soon enough the air was filled with laughter as they talked, finished each other’s sentences, rubbed each other’s hands, talked about how they met in his new workplace, how they got married, the child… I lost count of the many times I restrained myself from throwing them out. I tugged the ruffles of my dress to relive the heartache that was chocking me. I looked at Mark to establish a connection with him so that he could answer zillions of questions I had, but he was caught up in the reverie with his wife.
The chit chat was broken severally asSharoncalled her mischievous son who was taking books from the shelf and lining them on the floor. At seven that evening, I was fed up.
“Can I offer you guys some food?” I stood up and walked to the kitchen.
“You cooked something?” Mark jumped in. “You shouldn’t have. We ate a while back?”
Was he serious? Did he have the faintest idea how much time I had spent begging the meat to soften and the potatoes to roast evenly?Sharonnoted my disappointment.
“No honey. It would be rude if we don’t eat”, she said.
Throughout the evening, I got used to sweet nothings and all their cousins. It was darling this, honey that, love this, sweetie that…But their spoilt toddler was a master piece. He grabbed a spoon, heaped beef stew in it, steered it to his tiny mouth, and ran the spoon over the white seat cover while making some unprintable engine sounds. The gross stain followed his tiny hand as he moved his ‘car’ from one ‘road’ to the other, all on my sofa.
“So Beryl, when is your big day, or its top secret?” Mark asked.
“Which big day. What are you talking about?” I asked
“Honey, you are embarrassing her”,Sharonquipped.
“When are we giving you away?” Mark went on
“You are confusing me”, what was he getting at?
“You know…your wedding…we have to give our sister in style”.
Those words broke my heart. He thought of me as his sister? Yet I had been fooling myself for years that there was a little spark somewhere that would ignite one day. Those words seared my heart, and I sat, and ate in silence for the rest of the evening. I didn’t lift my eyes off my plate because I was embarrassed. And to think I had mistaken his concern for love and his kindness for feelings.
I don’t know what else happened that hour because I was in my own world counting what I had lost. I gave a few smiles here and there in response to their laughter. When I looked up to see empty plates and bowls, I stood to clear the table.
“No”,Sharonsaid standing up. “Let me do that”.
She made several trips to the kitchen swaying her hour glass shape like her life depended on it. What did she have that I didn’t? She was light; I was something between black and purple. She was curvy and tall; I was petite and short. But was she a good lover?
I wanted them out of my house, but I had to play the part of a kind hostess perfectly so I offered them some tea. On my way into the living room, laden with a tray- some tea mugs on it, sugar, teabags and muffins, my eyes caught their son unplugging the electric cable, and walking across from the wall to the sofa. I sensed he was up to no good. He looked at me with his button eyes and a saliva drooping smile as if he was saying’ Uta-do?’(What will you do?).
“Baba wacha, utachapwa na auntie”. (Baba, that’s enough Auntie will cane you).Sharonscolded him in a begging tone that I even wondered who the parent was.
But, it was too late. My ankle got caught in the electric cord that their son had tied around the sofa’s leg and the wall unit. In a second, several things were airborne; my legs, the tray, cups and muffins. In a flash, everything came crushing down-me, flask, mugs, muffins, and the tea bags took their time before the metallic tray stopped spinning on my head. There was no need to cry, I rose and scurried into the bedroom. I wished I had no ounce of feeling for him because I would throw him out in a snap.
When my anger subsided, I walked back into the living room still in the red peplum dress whose ruffles had turned into a tail from my butt to the floor. I did not look at the trio. But they had it coming because Mark opened the door and led his wife out before they said something about being sorry and they had cleaned up the mess. All I knew was 12 cups of hot milk and water had scalded my body, and Mark had broken my heart for ever. It was not just a date from hell; it had Lucifer’s seal on it.