Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Roselyn Odera
It did not feel right. The ambience at the restaurant was divine. Soft music in the background, attentive staff and though I had not started eating yet, the plates I could see on the surrounding tables looked great. Thinking back to that Thursday, I should have known right from when I woke up 30 minutes after the alarm went off and rushed into the shower to find a dry tap that it was not going to be a good day.
I stumbled and almost fell several times as I rushed through getting water, taking a very quick bath, doing my hair and make-up and choosing an appropriate outfit. The outfit had to be just right. Not too dressed-up or I would look too excited; not to casual or the risk of coming across as not serious was apparent; not too tight or revealing or my intentions would be misinterpreted. This was the day of the DATE and everything had to be just right.
Apart from getting caught in the horrendous jam characteristic of most Nairobi roads on weekday mornings, the rest of the day went well. I got so busy that I did not notice that my date for that evening had not called or e-mailed to confirm the reservations he said he had made for dinner. I did not think too much of it but that is the first time doubt and uncertainty set in, I had not been on a date for a while for the simple reason that I had become disillusioned and jaded after making what I considered too many false starts and wrong decisions relationship wise. I had let my sisters and my best friend Kristina convince me otherwise and for a couple of months prior to the Date, they had thrown themselves into project ‘Hook Rosalia up’. A suitable candidate had been identified, zeroed-in on and tonight he would be sitting across from me at a table in a restaurant we had both agreed on and we would be talking about whatever it was people on first dates talk about.
At 4:00 pm. 30 minutes before it would be time for me to leave the office, a client showed up with a case that just had to be attended to. It involved going out of the city-centre and pointing out a disputed boundary. To get to the site, some walking in red soil had to be done. Needless to say, I was hot and dusty when I got back to the office still wondering if the promised confirmation of reservations had been done. A beeping sound from my cell phone distracted me as I logged-on to my e-mail account but I paid it no attention as I had seen the message I wanted. At the reservation was for 8:00 pm, this gave me enough time to freshen-up and compose myself. The agreement was to call when I got to the restaurant.
I took my time in the ladies room getting my feet clean and generally getting fresh in readiness for my date. Without the distraction of work, nervousness and doubt set in. It seemed to bother me that Ray, that is my date’s name had offered no apologies for sending the confirmation late. I thought it was a bit insensitive. Personally, I would have called to pass on such details seeing as it was a first date, something about his choice of communication bothered me. Back from the freshening-up session I discovered my cellphone battery was completely flat. As luck would have it, I did not have the battery charger with me and most people had left the building. I did not have Ray’s number anywhere else. The way I saw it, I had two choices: I could just go and wait outside the restaurant and hope he would show up after I got there and not before OR I could just forget it and explain to my friend and siblings how a flat battery messed-up my date. I decided I was not going to quit, not after the preparations I had made and anyway I wanted to get this over and done with so I made a mad dash out of the city centre to get to the restaurant on time.
Close to 8:00 I made my way to the entrance of the restaurant. Fortunately for me, the hostess was very eager to help and she provided me with very vital information – the table number that Ray had reserved. To make matters even better she said I could wait at the table until my date showed-up. I hesitated for a moment, wouldn’t this make me seem too eager? Arrived and already seated? No way, I was not going to do it. I settled for a seat at the bar in what looked to me as a discreet corner, and asked the hostess to inform me when the gentleman who made the reservation showed.
Lost in the amazing beauty of the restaurant’s décor I did not realize that 20 minutes had gone by. Just as I was beginning to heat up behind the collar, when a waiter came and told me my date had arrived. I had to take a few minutes to compose myself because in my state of mind at the time, I was definitely going to start an argument. My composure was almost lost again when I got to the table and found Ray bent over a laptop with a heap of papers in front of him on the table.
He looked-up and asked in a tone that got me really irritated if it was alright for him to finish a really important document before we ate – or did I mind going ahead and eating as he finished… Right there and then, I wanted to leave. I was suddenly very very tired and I just wanted my big old comfortable seat at the corner of the living room and to kick off my shoes and relax with a sitcom on the tube.
About 30 minutes later I regretted not having opted to eat while my date finished his work. I was just about to get up and tell him we could maybe do this another time when he snapped his laptop shut and tucked away his papers into a folder indicating that he was done. When the waiter got to our table, Ray snatched away the menu from me and told the waiter to bring the ‘special’ – I of course was on the verge of flying off my handle but decided once again to compose myself and give this whole ‘date thing’ a serious try. While waiting for the ‘special’ my date made light conversation about nothing in particular. When the ‘special’ came Ray again proceeded to take matters into his own hands and liberally slathered my plate with tomato ketchup; whatever that was about, I was not going to take another minute of it. I told him, as politely as I could, that I could choose my own food and make additions to it, I was after all a grown woman! He apologized, muttering something about always wanting to take care of people and always being in charge and saying I could order whatever I wanted. By this time, I was not even willing to be on that date for another minute.
Two rowdy men who turned out to be Ray’s friends turned up and came to sit with us. They proceeded to discuss me as if I was not in the room congratulating Ray on the ‘piece’ he had ‘dug-up’. He told them he had to meet me because he also needed to do his part for society and spend some time with lonely hearts who could not find dates! That was more than I could take and I got up to leave, as I walked away from the table, Ray demanded in a loud voice that I pay for the ‘special’ he had drowned in ketchup because, it was ordered for me. I took a deep breath, turned around, reached into my bag and threw some notes at the table. Dashing out of the restaurant, I was too upset to notice the steps leading from the dining area to the lounge and I tripped and fell flat on my face and as luck would have it, my arm landed on a sharp piece of metal that was part of the décor in the restaurant.
The bleeding is what caught the hostess’ attention after I got up to continue to the entrance; it was also what landed me in hospital because the injury turned out to be serious. Ray and his friends did not even get up to find out what was going on; this of course made me feel even worse.
Kristina has never stopped apologizing for that incident and has vowed to try and only plan dates for me with people she knows very well. I do not think she should bother because I have resolved to shelf all matters related to dating – it is a jungle out there for sure.