Margaret Jane was feeling very lonely. She wanted to die rather than live in this cruel, heartless, unlucky world. Both her female and male friends had rejected her. Every man she had dated had abandoned her. It was true she had gone overboard. Once she had dated a man for one week, she would ask them to marry her. Her married friends were cold to her since she had asked their husbands to marry her as a second or third wife . Men gossiped as much as women and word had gone round. She had become the laughing stock of Nairobi City, with men teasing each other with the words, “will you marry me?” and laughing loudly wherever she passed. They kept telling her they would get back to her after the proposal. But she never heard from them again. Most of their phones were either switched off or diverted to a woman, laughing cheekily at the other end. Friends and family no longer invited her for functions. Her visits to Pastor Ogjibani prayers at Nyayo Stadium had not yielded any fruits. She was frustrated to a point of no return. What did a man want?
What did they want her to do? She wished they could fit into her shoes to know how she felt. At 50, an MBA degree holder and a financial analyst with a leading bank in the country, she had reached the peak of her career. Yet her posh huge home in Gigiri, her Imprezza, her DSTv and every luxurious item in her home had not filled the yearning in her heart. To have a man to love and to hold. She had met Dan Mara, a young pilot with an international airline while attending a world conferences in the Netherlands. He had shown an interest in her, raising her hopes for a big wedding. The relationship had gone well that week and he had promised to buy her an aeroplane. Dan Mara had promised to come to Kenya in one month. They would take the new found relationship to the next level.
She looked at her four German Shepherd dogs and six Persian cats playing lovingly around her. She had bought them rather expensively and their meals cost her upto Kshs150,000 a month. But this was nothing compared to the Kshs 1.5 million she earned every month.
Initially she had loved her pets and talked to them daily, took them for a walk and ensured they visited the Veterinary Clinic next to the UN offices regularly. But none of her boyfriends had loved her pets and one had complained that she loved one of her cat Doughnut more than she loved him. Doughnut seemed jealous of her boyfriends and would sit on her laps, everytime she had a male guest. Margaret Jane walked around her huge quiet house, desolate. She went into her shoe room and stared at her 200 pairs of shoes. She often went to the shoe room and tried one pair of shoe after the other. It excited her. But today not even trying her new pair of high heels she had bought in the Netherlands brought her any joy. Netherlands had sad memories. She had lost her chance to get a husband at the Schippol Airport. Dan Mara had seen her off to the Departures Lounge and kissed her goodbye, promising to be with her in Kenya after a month. But after the kiss, she raised her voice at Dan Mara and asked him, “will you marry me?” “What?” Dan Mara had stopped dead in his track, surprised at this sudden proposal. “We have only known each other for a week. It would be inappropriate at this point.” Margaret Jane knew she was behaving badly, but something seemed to drive her on. She insisted, her voice getting louder. “Haven’t you heard of love at first sight?” She taunted him. “Why do you need time? Marry me now. Marry me!” Her desperate high pitched voice seemed to attract other passengers who milled around. He had suddenly turned and walked away, never turning back.
Two months had passed since her trip from the Netherlands and not a word from Dan Mara. It was as if he had changed his telephone lines. She had made several inquiries through various agents at the KLM and Kenya Airways offices but no one seemed to have even heard the name. Dan Mara, she had loved him very much, even if she had known him for only one week. Why had he refused to marry her? When Doughnut walked into the room and rubbed herself against her feet, Margaret Jane kicked her so hard that she mewed loudly in a terrified, surprised voice and ran out. After a few minutes, her cat donut was back in the room. She looked at Dan Mara sadly then rubbed her feet against her mistress. Feeling guilty and unfair to the cat, Margaret Jane picked the cat, stroked it lovingly and told Doughnut,” marry me, pussy cat. Humans don’t love me. Marry me!” “Meow.” Doughnut replied, snugging closer to her new ‘husband’ Margaret Jane.
When love comes knocking, it is often so sweet, so gentle, so yummy, like chocolate or candy, so super-duper-turvy but somewhere along the way something happens. Just somwewhere out of the blues, the smell, the colour, the taste of love suddenly changes, like a wind that has lost direction or affection, like unexpected rains that come without a warning; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
It all started with an innocent smile. Whoever thought that a small tiny sideways smile could turn into something so huge? Whoever thought that years later her love would follow him to the grave?
He had died loving, not loving her as she had hoped or expected but he had died, loving another woman. To make matters worse, he had died in the arms of another woman as she waited for him to come home for dinner.
That day, he had called from work telling her he would be home early. “Do not sleep before I get home, he commanded, “I have something important to discuss with you!”
They had not been on good terms of late. They had had frequent quarrels over his love mannerisms, his bad phone manners of always switching off his phone when she most needed him. Calls kept coming in when they were in bed and he would run to receive them in the bathroom. On one on occasion, at midnight, she had tiptoed after him to eavesdrop on his conversation. The sounds were not clear and she was forced to lie on the cold floor and place her ear next to the lower part of door. That was when she heard him say, “darling, don’t worry about her. My wife is harsh but that will not stop me from meeting you tomorrow. If she asks me about you, I will beat her up, send her back to her parents and demand my dowry back. I can even use the same dowry to marry you!” He said chuckling.
That was the day he had beaten her so badly she had thought she would die. By bad luck, he had suddenly walked out of the bathroom and found her sneaking up on him. Without even getting time to get up from the floor, he had stepped on her face several times as if he was killing a snake. “You stupid spy, why are you following me everywhere? Do you want to control me?” He shouted at her as he kicked and rained on her with slaps. He had then packed her things and thrown her out of the house.
She did not go to hospital. They would make her sign some P3 forms and charge him in court with sexual violence. She did not want him jailed. She still loved him so much. She did not want to involve her two young children, so happy with the world, with school. It would have been so fair to disrupt their lives. Thay adored their father and always spoke of him as if he were some super man.
She was still nursing her injuries at her sister’s house in the neighbourhood a week later when he came for her, so remorseful and gentle. Her sister had advised her not to go back to him or pay him any attention and she had sworn that she was through with him. He held her in his arms and apologised profusely as he looked gently into her eyes.
“I am so sorry,” he said as he kissed her and wiped a tear from his face.”I deeply love you. I don’t know what happens to me sometimes, what makes me so stupid. Forgive me for everything. You are the most important thing in my life. I cannot live without you.”
She had melted in his arms, accepted the apology like a good loving wife and sneaked back to their home without informing her sister.
But soon history repeated itself as it very often does and her husband started spending the night out again. So when he had called and said he was coming home early for dinner, she had felt a little excited. When was the last time he had eaten at home? She could not remember. She prepared his favourite dish of chicken stew in boiled potatoes and a huge ugali. She would serve him all the parts he loved; head neck, legs, intestines and his most favourite “Adhiambo S”. She then rushed and changed into an attractive yellow dress and put on some soft Lingala music by Franco. She was psyched for an evening of great romance.
But it was never to be. She sat up with the food until midnight, when the dreadful call came. It was a policeman from Central Police Station asking her to go and identify the body at Chiromo Mortuary. “Madam, are you the wife of Johnson Makutano? He was killed by a Commercial Sex Worker from Koinange Street after he refused to pay her his dues. He died in her arms at a Lodging down River Road. I am sorry!”
“What will you do when your wife discovers that we are having an affair?” She asked. The question came unexpectedly, just out of the blues. She had expected him to spend the night but he had suddenly got up and dressed.”I have to go home, He said abruptly, throwing off the sheets and putting on his socks. I have to sign my daughter’s homework!” He said as he dressed hastily.
She was disappointed again. She had expected that she would spend the night, cuddled and warm in his arms. But here he was, the selfish man returning home to his wife. How selfish, she thought, to use her like that and dump her at midnight. How did you make love to a woman and as she slept in your arms, you just got up and left as if nothing had happened?
“So what will you tell your wife when she discovers that we are having an affair?” She repeated.
“You do not know how stubborn I can be!” He bragged. “She did not realise then that the stubborn streak would later on return to haunt her. Yes. She had sent him over 50 mobile love notes through short text messages but he had not replied to any. Perhaps he was dead. It was astonishing how a love that had once flourished so deeply could suddenly turn so sour, so disturbing.
She was afraid, very afraid. If he had died, then his wife must be holding his phone. Oh! She must be telling everybody about our secret love affair and reading through my romantic messages to her husband.
If only she had listened to her guts immediately the affair started, she would not have gone on to become so foolish. Why was she so depressed? Why did she feel this heavy loss at all? Was there a loss in the first place?
For the nine months they had known each other, the man had not spent a single cent on her. He had not bought her any gift…not even a cup of tea. She was always the one spending, taking him out to dinner, buying him gifts. Even the set of white underwear he wore were a gift from her. He had done her several favours but nothing romantic – purely official business.
Like most men in her past, he had excelled in the art of seduction, drawn her to passionate heights and then dropped her like a hot cake. She had done for him everything he ever wanted hoping he would love her, marry her. But love had let her down.
Taking stock of her foggy past, things now seemed clearer. Was she hurt because he had left her or was it the realisation that she had refused to listen to her inner voice and run away from the beginning?
She looked at the relationship from the start. She would begin her day by sending text messages to the man. He would not respond for several days, until she called. When she called, he would talk briefly and say he would call back. This would take several days.
She remembered sending him a message asking him why he was not responding to her messages, wondering if there was something wrong between them. “There is a problem with my phone. I am not receiving any messages. I am trying to sort it out!” He would say and hang up.
Yet in moments when off guard, he would refer to the same message he said he had not received.
She remembered her mother telling her ,”My dear daughter, you are making the mistake of your life. One, you are moving with a married man and breaking his family. Two, the man will never leave his wife to marry you. That is just a lie the man is using to justify his relationship with you. The man will never leave his eight children for you!”
“But he has promised to leave her, he has sworn to leave her. He hates her. She is ugly and she doesn’t know how to cook. She is also very lazy. He says she was forced to marry her by his parents but I am the one he truly loves! So far he is only tolerating her because of the children!” She insisted, becoming hysterical.
“Let us wait and see.” Her mother said quietly. “Let us wait and see!”
She did not heed her mother’s advice. What could an old woman who had never been to school know about love? This was love and she loved this man deeply. “I think you are jealous of me because I have met a rich man who will take good care of me. This is my chance to get married to a man I love!’ She told her mother. He mother did not reply.
She had become suspicious of his love when he did not call her over Christmas or get in touch in the new year. But she still had some hope. She asked him why he did not get in touch and as usual he casually responded, “What does Christmas and New Year, mean? They mean nothing to me!” She found that response strange but decided to keep quiet.
On Valentine’s Day, she expected at least a call from him but nothing came up. The week before Valentine, she had called him several times begging him to see her but he dodged the visit. He claimed he was in the village visiting his mother only to forget and tell her he was around all along but busy in the office working.
What was it he wanted from her. Was she his guinea pig on an experiment he wanted to carry out on his sexual prowess?
The visits grew less and less. She waited patiently as days turned into months. When she prodded him, he said he could not just visit me like that.”I have been waiting for a specific invitation not an open one,” he said. She felt confused.
She felt frustrated. Two years later, the man had not left his wife as he had promised. She was so frustrated that she asked him to release her from the burden of his love so that she could move on with her life. She knew that one day she would meet “the one”. But this one definitely was not the one! She would rather stay lonely than pretend she was with a man who only pretended to be part of her life but was not, would never be.
By now, she had began to despise him. But she promised herself she would not call him, she found herself scrawling for his number on the phone list. She called him, her heart missing a beat. He picked the call but sounded hostile and patronising. “We cannot continue with this relationship anymore. I think it is about time we broke up,”Justina told him, now truly desperate. “Relationship? What relationship?” He asked roughly, then chuckled. “Have we been in a relation? You know I am a married man, so what relationship are you talking about?” He asked.
“You cheated me you would leave your wife. You wasted my time! You used me!” Justina shouted, now totally out of control. Kizito laughed contemptuously. “You mad woman. Do you think I can leave my wife for you? Do you know how much that woman has done to support me? Have you seen the beautiful children she bore for me? Do you know the sacrifices my wife has made for me all these years? Leave her? Where did you get that idea? Are you really normal?”
“You must leave her now!” She said, trying to control her tears and her shaking voice. I will never call you again!” She threatened. “Thank you and goodbye!” He said calmly and hang up the phone.
Her mother had been right after all. Justina thought she would die after the ugly break up but she never died. As she gathers her wrecked life back to pieces, she prays and hopes that she will survive as she waits to meet “the one”.
When I met Tony White through an internet love-site, I thought I had finally found true love.
True love, they said did not exist in Africa. People approached families with a good name, fertile soil and cultural etiquette – knowing how to knit sweaters for baby and husband, knowing how to spread crochet on the seats, welcoming visitors without a grumble, making boiled maize and beans and cooking a huge ugali. When a woman was ripe for marriage, female relatives, especially aunties would take it upon themselves to get her a husband.
There was nothing like a man whispering sweet nothings in one’s ears and buying chocolate and flowers. Candle-lit dinners between a man and woman was frowned upon. Candles were used to light up the house at night and Catholics used them to drive away evil spirits as they recited their Hail Marys.
At 55, I had not found a husband and had become the laughing stock of the village. “Look at her,” the villagers would whisper contemptuously as I passed, “Her rejected breasts are falling up and down continuously crying to be suckled. The selfish woman has refused to get married and has no child to suckle!”
It was not my fault that at 55 I had no husband. Nobody had ever proposed to me, although I was well educated and well mannered. I had gotten so desperate that I started asking men to marry me. This did not augur well for me and the village became hostile. Women did not invite me to accompany them anywhere and the isolation hurt me deeply. I had never felt so alone, so unloved, so unmarriageable!
When I got a job in the city and learnt the internet, I stumbled into a love-site. And being the adventurous type, I applied for love.
Love came to me a few hours later in the name of Tony White. He said he was a lawyer, 40 and lived with his parents in Antwerpen. He was financially stable, divorced and ready to mingle. He also said he had looked at my picture and he loved me. His dream, he said had always been to marry a tall, dark-skinned, skinny African woman with a warm gap in between her teeth and thick lips that could be kissed for long. Tony White wanted as many children as possible. I cheated him that I was 24 and could give him all the children he wanted – six boys and six girls. We had already given our children names although they were not born.
The love flights began immediately with exchange of e-mail, pictures and phone calls that came every night. We declared our love, so fresh and sweet and I could not sleep just thinking of Tony White. I consulted a few of my lady friends about Tony White and they were so happy for me. “You have picked luck, do not let it go. Grab it with both hands!” My friends told me, rather envious of my luck.
All along I did not know that Tony White was a stroke patient in Hospital who could hardly move and it was the hospital nurse sending him the e-mails as part of his therapy.
Tony White was to come and visit me in Kenya over Christmas. I went to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Christmas Eve to wait for him. I bought him a bunch of red flowers costing KSh1500 and a black Tee-shirt written “Hakuna Matata”. I attended a Dutch Language class at the Anglican Church of Kenya on Bishop’s Road in Community to impress him. I braided my hair at Kenyatta Market in Golf Course for three days to look beautiful for my love. I fixed my artificial teeth to look perfect for him. He never showed up. His phone remained off. The kind lady at the reception informed me that there was no such name in the passengers’ list.
Now I nurse a broken heart after a six-month internet relationship that started nowhere and ended nowhere. Was I a fool to fall in love with Tony White’s picture and voice? Am I fool? Many married men want me but I want a husband of my own. Some married men have promised to buy me an aeroplane but that will be somebody’s wife’s aeroplane. Two married men want me as their second wives but when I told them I am still in love with Tony White, they just laughed at me!
I keep asking myself. What is wrong with me, that I cannot get a man to marry me? Now that love has failed, where do I buy a husband?
I keep looking at the phone, hoping, waiting that Tony White will call me. Today is January 16, 2012 and the sun is about to set. I hope and pray that Tony White will call me. I miss him, this internet husband of mine.
The e-mail finally came a few minutes ago, so short and terse. “Tony White, 73, died this morning. He loved you! Sr Jill.”
Copyright Omwa Ombara, 2012.
I don’t know why my heart started registering second thoughts. I guess I had tried to look for signs of seriousness, of commitment to the friendship but I just was not sure.
True, he had visited me thrice and kissed me thrice. We had also spent lots of hours on the phone at his expense. Perhaps I was just impatient. Perhaps that was his act of commitment.
What did I want? It was true that the guy was busy and hardly had enough time for socialising. What did I want? I guess I had expected to be taken to be taken out dancing or just for a nice candle-lit dinner. At least for a start.
To be fair to the guy, he had responded immediately. I told him I was ill and he brought me medicine late in the night. I asked to pay the bill but he declined, simply asking for a kiss. I think his way of loving was so different from mine.
He told me that he had long stopped home visits and that the real reason was just to come and see me!
On the second visit he had allowed me to slip into his arms and it was really nice. He kissed well and every time he did, I would melt and get confused! “What kind of friendship do you want?” I dared him one of the evenings. He tried to think about it, then I retracted the question.
“I think it is better if we allowed nature to take its course!” I volunteered and he sighed in relief. The kiss was deep and I felt myself breathless and losing control.
“I have my periods,” I burst out. “Oh you are lucky then. You would have not escaped tonight,” he burst out. “Are you sure you are ready for that?” I taunted. He smiled but did not say anything. Then I knew! I knew we were both ready.
He had seduced me slowly, skillfully. I had asked him if he knew my condition and he said it was okay with him. “It’s like if you had Diabetes or High Blood Pressure or Cancer. It would be okay.” He said.
We kissed and hugged tightly and I saw him off to the gate. He called later at night and we talked for almost an hour. “I looked at you today and I just realised how beautiful you are!” He said.”Thanks,” I said and felt good.
Earlier on, I had called him to say how depressed I was and he came and gave me quite some serious counselling. I was angry and I wanted to move out. I sent him a message telling him I really wanted to see him before I left! He came immediately. I told him how angry I was that I had to stay with family and how I needed my own space and independence. “No, he said. Life is about making sacrifices. It is not about pleasing oneself. Calm down and look at the brighter side of life,” he said as he gently stroked my face.
I calmed down and decided to look at the positive side of life, once more. Later, we talked at night and we shared quite a bit. He inquired on my spiritual life and I was a bit nervous. “Are you trying to convert me?” I asked. “No! But I would like you to take your spiritual life seriously.”
“How do I do that?” “I want you to start going to Church!” “Okay!” Did I really want to go to Church? I was not sure! “You used to be saved!” He told me. “No!” I denied vehemently. “It must have been someone else!” No! It was you!” He said. “I know you a lot more than you can imagine!” “Okay!” I confessed meekly. He laughed and his laughter made my heart miss a beat.
When he hinted at sex, sudden thoughts crossed my mind. The day before I went for the review, I had had sinful thoughts. He was examining me on the examination bed, he caressed my breasts and my whole body slowly. Instead of placing the stethoscope on my chest, he slowly moved his hands all over my body and gently caressed me. I went wild with longing.
He called the nurse, sent her for a soda at the canteen. By the time the nurse got back, he was sitting comfortably on his desk prescribing some medicine. He held me tightly on the waist as I left and I felt good – really good. “I would like to see more of you,” he whispered as I left.
It was 10 pm and I did not expect any guests. When his phone rang, I started up! “Hi sleepy head,” he teased. “I am not asleep,” I said. Can I come over? “Sure!” I responded getting excited.” I got up and hugged him when he showed up at the door. We moved to the room and I hugged him again, tightly. His smile, as usual, was terrific. I wanted to hold him forever and ever, but I sobered up. I had to let go.
We chatted and laughed happily for almost an hour. At times we would interrupt our conversation and kiss. It was so natural, so nice. “Don’t you fear? Aren’t you afraid that I could…?” “Infect you?” He finished as if he had read my thoughts, “Yes!” I echoed, always shy yet brave enough to broach the subject of my health.
He lifted from the sofa and kissed me deeply. It was long and sweet. It felt so right. I hugged him tightly and felt his manhood stir. That night I would have surrendered but I didn’t.
“Why didn’t you come to Church?” He asked, changing the subject. I did not answer. He threw back his head and laughed. “So are you holding a grudge against God?” “Not really.” I said, rather defensively. “I think you need to set matters straight. When you hold a grudge against somebody and you sort it out, you tend to feel better!” He advised. “Okay!” I indulged. “I will think about it!”
Last night we made a covenant. We both agreed that I would be answerable to him. “You are my wife, you know!” He declared. “I know,” I responded. “You must not make any decisions without telling me. You must not return to the city.” He ordered. “But I want to. I have only a few days to live. The hospital in the city is much better and I would die in a small clean room with lovely soft soothing music in the background!” I pleaded. “You are not going anywhere,” he said firmly. Somehow, I felt that my fate was sealed. Who was this man, I asked myself, that I cannot resist anything he says? Could he have been an angel sent by God to prepare me for my death?
It has been a sad two days for me. Just when I thought that everything was going so well, my love just went quiet. His absence has however given me time to reflect. I think I had made myself too available and the guy has gotten bored. How could I be so foolish, sending endless love messages to him on my mobile phone without getting any response? I have to change the strategy or simply walk out on him.
We had not discussed any wedding arrangements, no marriage certificate. It was a covenant and the marriage had taken place in our hearts…a wedding of two hearts, madly and foolishly in love. And now as I wait to die, two years have passed and I keep asking myself – have I been building castles in the air? All that talk about going to Church and the Covenant, was my lover preparing me for death? Is it another romance that suddenly went cold.
I really don’t care that he left. He stamped a mark in my heart. A mark of two people, madly in love. Now my heart is married to his heart and I hang on to life or death. Happy, so happy and prepared for whatever may come.