|Free as a bird.
Today is the first of August and it’s my birthday.
I was led to believe that being
born on the first of any month made you feel as if you had a silver spoon in your mouth. But, why do I feel as though I was
born on the first of April? And yet I am smiling. Why, you ask? C’mon man! We had sex. I and my partner did, and boy
was it mad. Ours always is, and it’s never planned, just happens after we’ve had an argument, which is a lot of
times, and the funny part is, my partner always wins, always!
Like yesterday? It all started with my partner coming in
late, as usual, quarter past midnight, and when I brought out the food, she started complaining that the food is cold (Sometimes
she says that she’s not hungry in her made up European accent though we all know that she comes from the slopes of mount
Kenya, somewhere in the Nithi district). I then asked her why she’s late and she said that it was none of my business,
as usual, and I told her that I am worried because I care for her, that I don’t like her coming in late and went on
to explain to her that I love her and that’s where the quarrelling started. She started yelling, asking me what do I
know about love and then she pounced on me, pinning me up against the wall and started chocking me, and tried to deep-kiss
me and I resisted her. Why, again you ask? Her hot breath was a mixture of tobacco and malted barley, and then, her talons
were still on my neck. Tell me, how is a man to enjoy this simple _expression of love in such a compromising situation? And
mind you, all this while the bitch was screaming her lungs out as if she was the one being attacked!
I was flung onto
the leathered couch. She then got on top of me and as they say the rest is history. Truth is, I don’t think I
can take it no more.
Darn! I can feel a strange wetness bruising my cheek now. Is that a tear? It is indeed a tear!
Double darn. My dad—may the lord rest his soul in eternal peace– must now be turning inside his grave. He’d
always give us a thrashing whenever he saw us crying, for he always said that crying should be left to the womenfolk and babies,
and not men, most of all not for 25 year olds like me.
I raise my left hand, which is holding the cream taffeta
cloth, close to my beady eyes and then I remember that it’s supposed to wipe the forks and knives and cups and plates
which are lying lifeless on the water filled silver sink in front of me and not the chocolate-brown toned, and the somewhat
chubby cheeked features that make up my face. This must be how my mum felt whenever dad hit her, so dejected, and now the
tables have turned and it’s me who’s repaying for my dad’s sins.
I move towards the kitchen windows and
pull aside the blinds. The blue sky remains silent yet shows some signs of sadness, maybe in reflection to my heart, while
from behind the tall, oak wood trees, the sun peaks brightly, ready to start a new day.
The rays are free. So are the
birds which are singing gently by my window as if they want me to join in their fun. The fowls too are clucking with happiness
and pecking away on the kales which are growing on the small shamba right outside our kitchen window. My God, even the dog
is happy. I can see it leaping up to the gardener and trying to lick his face. Why not me? Why can’t I be happy? Today
I’ll be gone. I’ll be free of her. I’ll be free to roam the streets.
Two years ago I and a friend of
mine, Father Agostino Tonnuchi —an Italian missionary— had walked through the ‘Monte Carlo’ clubs’
double doors and into a room lighted with Pink and blue neon spotlights which were lined on the ceiling perimeter, and had
later settled ourselves on one of the round tables and chairs under the ceiling fan which had been whirring furiously against
the day’s heat. This was a day after I had been thrown out of the monastery by the Father in charge after he had found
me masturbating in the confession booth.
Well, they say that everyone should fall in love at least once a year, or more
accurately put , ‘tumble into an infatuation’ which they say is healthy in that it clears the blood vessels and
makes the blood flow with ease, that it also clears the skin and makes the hair grow. I don’t know how true that is
but I must admit it has a ring of truth to it ‘cause that’s how I felt when I saw her 5' 8" frame leaning at the
bar counter with her ample butt jutting out. She had long, flowing hair —which I later came to realize was a weave—,
olive skin and had the figure that always stayed in the gym. My blood had raced and my hair had stood on edge,
and as for my skin, I don’t know if it was glowing. Maybe that’s what had made her notice me ‘cause no sooner
had we finished our first bottle, the waiter had come with our second round –though we had not ordered for it—and
handed us a slip of paper in which was written, “I am dressed in red and I am standing at the counter and I want to
speak to you”, in a secretarial looking handwriting.
After debating with my friend about who the request might be
meant for we had settled on me and I had moved closer to her. It was indeed me she wanted. You’ll have to understand
the state I was in, especially once you had looked at her hazel eyes; they were large and in-charge, and every time I had
looked into them I had felt like I had fallen in love a thousand times over.
That night we had ended up in a motel room
situated just above this pub. As soon as we had passed through its door I discovered she was even more sex starved than I.
She wrestled me to the bed and got on top of me and every time I tried to bring her under me she was always resisting it.
—When we were in school we used to talk about girls and stuff and one was about a girl’s behavior whenever you
are having sex. That if a girl always wanted to be on top whenever you were in the act, it meant that she’s the demanding
type. But, I had always dismissed it as mere bullshit but now it all seemed a realistic, credible bullshit.
By the time
we were through, rather, she was through with me; she rolled off me and slept snoring.
At first I dismissed this first
night’s experience as an urgent need on her side, but the more they became frequent the more I felt my ego being bruised.
I now hold my still aching throat. Yester night she had come home with a man whom she’d told me was her boss and that
they had been out celebrating the winning of a case against another firm, but I could smell masculine cologne other than her
normal “Channel” perfume. Plus, I had seen them kissing goodnight in a provocative manner under the moonlit
sky. I had switched on the light at the front porch to let them know that I was awake, and when I later confronted her about
it she had started accusing me of being a peeping Tom. Imagine that! Honestly, isn’t a person supposed to know what
lands in his front porch?
I now slap the sink using the cloth and I stare out the window. I can see the pink dressed young
girl through her window; now that’s another reason why I wanna leave this bitch. I mean, that gal is fly, makes my heart
give out sparks like wild fire, especially whenever I see her all dressed up in her see-through nighty, and everyday I have
to watch her through her netted curtains undressing and I think, I must whisper my sweet nothings to her ears one of this
days, that is if the security guy at the gates will disobey the orders of my forty five year old partner and allow me to go
Ten o’clock and am done with the dishes. Soon she’ll be home for lunch.
I can hear the
phone ringing in the living room. Must be her. Do I ignore it? To be honest, I don’t have many friends … honest.
Where do I get to see them while I am always locked up? And, I have never given out this number to anyone, ever. So it must
The phone rings again and I switch on the quiescent monitor, which is mounted on the wall and I stare at it without
blinking, wishing it would stop. As if to spite me, the shrill sound goes on and on. I groan at it and before the damn thing
can ring once more, I reach for the receiver. The sooner I find out who is so determined to disturb me, the sooner I will
return to my grief.
“What are you doing now?” It’s my partner. And I can hear
some background noises. She must be in a pub or something.
“Ati what? Can’t hear
you.” She interrupts me. “I am coming home for lunch, do prepare something nice for me darling.” She
croons at the word ‘darling’ and then laughs and the phone goes dead.
I curl my hand into a tight fist.
“Who does she think she is? Who!?” I rumble and bang at the table. She must not find me here. But where do
I go? I have no money of my own and where we live at is a far off place. Still I must go.
I climb the stairway and end
up in front of a white door –our bedroom. I push at it and it opens with a resounding echo that seems to fill the house.
To my left is a white-tiled bathroom, little more but a sink, a shower and a toilet, separated from the rest of the room
by about six feet of solid white wall which seems to be there only for static reasons, and that’s where I’ll make
my first steps towards freedom —by having a shower.
After showering I move over to our enormous bed, boy will it
become too big for her come tonight. But she called me ‘darling’, maybe she’s coming to reconcile. I cringe
at the thought.
I dry myself and move over to the two short sofas and I reach from underneath them and take out a small
blue briefcase which houses my clothes. On top of it is my name written in white, a briefcase which has been with me since
my school days, my only true possession.
Two hours later and I can hear a car driving up, and it would be an understatement
to say that I have my doubts if that’s her car. I rush towards the living room. If it is indeed true that the bloke
whom she says is her boss will be with her, then I’ll have to react. I’ll cause so much chaos that the watchman
will just have to leave the gate open for me to leave.
Though peeping was what had started the fight last night, I must
admit that I am far too curious not to peep. This is my partner we are talking about, and so I move over to the window.
first thing I note about the bloke when they come out of the car is his youthfulness. He’s putting on tight fitting,
black, jeans trousers and a white shirt which is starched, almost shining and fits tight into his barn of a frame, he is a
little taller than me, and his head is shaven bald. He sees my face framed on the front porch’s window and stares at
me like I were a ghost.
I am a bit intimidated as their footsteps tap closer and closer and I can feel my stomach muscles
tighten. My whole body is shaking with rage and I place my Sweat chilled palms onto the brown Formica that’s on top
of the small table where the phone is, which is near the door and my palm prints remain on the surface. I must remain calm.
I try to distribute my weight between both my feet which are now planted firmly onto the rich, white cashmere rug on the floor.
There is a slight push at the door and in they wiggle across the room and towards me, her velvety, light brown, long flowing
dress with a low neckline rustling against her skin. Her hands are clasped tight on her friend’s hairy arms and I can
sense her nervousness too as her lips jerk into a stiff smile and she says, “I’d like to introduce you to my chef,”
while pointing at me but the bloke doesn’t offer his hand.
I stare hard at them between my slit eyes and
I feel a muscle in my jaw tick. Imagine! Me, a chef?
“And this here is… O…ti… Oti, right?”
she adds, rubbing his sinewy hand and the fool nods his head in agreement.
“Oti … Oti … I love the sound
of your name… ” She calls his name over and over with a drunken but sexy voice as they walk away from me and head
towards the dining room, and I begin to feel bile filling my nerves.
I remain immobile for a while and soon I hear her
voice call. “Mugambi! Where’s the food? We haven’t got all day you know?” And she laughs that laconic
laugh of hers.
She later clears her throat as I bring in the food and orders, “Sit!” and I obey.
removes a cigarette and a lighter from her purse and lights it.
“What did you do today?” She asks after a short
draw on it and then looks around the room as if seeing it for the first time. “Did you clean the windows, and the silverware?”
I can answer she continues. “Oh! Do remember to dust the cobwebs off all the corners of this house, and under the stairway,
Always the obedient puppy, I nod in agreement. It seems the safe thing to do right now. And obviously the
right thing, too, for she leans back and stares at the smoke painting lazy circles into the air and nods her head in content.
“And don’t forget to put out the garbage.”
I nod again and before I can begin serving the food, the bloke’s
hand is already on the serving spoon and one cannot fail to understand why he’s so big.
“Enough of the orders
dear…” His baritone voice now says. “…Lets concentrate on the food first and then you can show me
around the house.” Then nudges her hand and she laughs and pauses to put out her cigarette in the small metal ashtray
lying lifeless on the table and then points towards her plate. I stop serving mine and I attend to hers.
have you been working for Agneta?” The bloke asks.
My anger has been swelling up from my chest since they entered
this house, threatening to choke me with bitterness and now at least I have been given an opportunity to open my mouth. I
stare hard at the home wrecker that is Oti and my partner, who are seated across me and I think, okay, let’s play on.
“From June 2003 I have been the loyal and faithful servant to Madame Miranda Agneta Atieno. Isn’t that right
Agneta? And oh, so loyal I have been. Isn’t that right Agneta?” I bite out, wanting desperately to smash my fist
into the sides of both their heads but I restrain myself. This bloke might squash me.
She grins and says, “That’s
right,” as if reading my thoughts.
He nudges her shoulder using his left arm and says. “So she must be so good
to you then mmhh?” then lets out a short, bellowing, laugh.
“Yep, so good that in fact I can’t take it
no more.” I say and stand up.
Anita stands up too and glares at me, then scratches her head, and twirls at
her long ‘hair’ then breathes in and out a few times, sighs and says, “Is it… is it… because
of the… pay? I will double it… no problems… now sit down … and eat...” And she points towards
a seat but I don’t and instead stare at them like a madman. Oti now leans forward so that his head is over the rising
steam from the stew and he munches away at the meat balls and the mashed potatoes and the salad without speaking. Bury your
head in the sand fool, just like the overgrown ostrich that you are, I scorn inwardly.
My jaws are tight as I take off
my apron, and I flash my eyes at her then the words erupt from my mouth, more like a hiss. “Many a months I have been
a loyal servant to you, a partner—” And I note her face distort but I continue. “—And what have you
been? A she devil, demanding, impatient, loud, and all round unpleasant. If it’s not arguing about this; must be about
that, if not about the food being too cold, must be about the spices being not enough, or them being too much. When did you
ever prepare a proper cooked meal? All you ever did was to make all our lives a living hell. Not the gardener, not me…
a living hell. And oh no! We wouldn’t want to ruin your reputation, now, would we? You, an astounding lawyer,
an influential lady, all bullshit! And dammit, telling the truth! I loved you despite your pretences.”
is through with his meal and he now stands up, towering above me, but remains speechless and I get that sinking feeling again,
half expecting him to smash me, but he doesn’t.
Fool. How can he be so calm while everything else is crumbling?
He must be a pro at his break-ups job.
I step away from the table. “God, how I admired you before, you self-worshipping
bitch. Now I don’t.” I conclude and begin to move towards the stairs.
“And I am going too.” The
man announces and now all this seems to bring the pot to the boil.
Agneta stands up and yells. “What! Because of
him? Let him leave. He’s nothing to me anyway…” but already the man is on his way to the door.
words make me pause and I turn towards her. “I am nothing … RIGHT!?” I bark, and I raise my hands as if
to hit her –I know that’s what she’s waiting for, since she flinches but doesn’t shield her face.
Though she has destroyed my last hopes of Love, and I feel like murdering her, I still can’t raise my hands to her,
I had promised my late mum never to hit a lady, and I won’t, so I whisper, “I am nothing… thanks for reminding
me.” And then turn round and begin to walk up the stairway.
She follows me. “Where are you going? Not to my
bedroom I hope.” Her voice is raised but I still walk on.
She later pauses at the top of the stairs and looks down,
as if still undecided on whether to follow Oti or me. Soon we hear the gates being opened and Oti’s car driving off.
She speaks now. “You are not leaving me too … are you?” her voice soft.
She’s got the
nerves this woman, I think. How can she ask that when she can see that I am already holding my briefcase? I don’t know
what I’m gonna do after this, where I’m gonna go, but right now, the door would be a good option, so I look at
her for the last time and march past her, avoiding her outstretched hand.
“Go! Leave! All men are the same. GO! Coward!”
she hisses behind me, full of hatred. “What man can stand up to fair competition from a woman? Leave! Of what use are
you anyway? I work in town; you work at home — if that is all you are complaining about—where is the big deal
in it? Go! You ungrateful little bitch of a man!” —I flinch at this and pause near an armchair and place my bag
on top of it. Should I react?
She then moves over to the bed. “My whole life I had been a servant to my poor excuse
of a husband! For eight… e-i-g-h-t years I had been his slave. And just because he was paying for my college education
he’d always thought that he could enslave me—” A sob escapes her. “—I was always there for him…
and how did he ever thank me? Nothing! And wanna know what he left me with? A son, and a goddamn spitting image of him! All
men are cowards. You too can leave. I’ll manage!” And she turns away from me, her hands on her eyes.
is now a feint echo of, “LEAVE…” behind me and I pause. Should I console her? But I must leave. It’s
now or never.
Soon as I’m out of the room and just as my left foot has landed on the first stair I hear something
whiz past me and it later bursts in front of me, down at the stair’s landing. A mess of reds and greens and whites and
browns now litters the rug.
I let go of my briefcase in shock and it clatters on its way down. Before I can turn round
I get a heavy shove on my back and soon the impact at the foot of the stairs is hard as my head bumps into the broken flower
vase which, a while ago, would have scattered my brains.
A sticky warmth of blood is soaking into my shirt now. I can’t
move. I try again but this time a dark veil of darkness sets into my world and the last thing I hear is her screaming, “Help!
Help! He wants to kill me!” in a shrill voice.