By Kemboi Victor
I have been sitting at Barizi Gardens for over an hour waiting for my friend Sam to arrive from the other side of Eldoret town, where he had attended a job interview. We had left our house at Kahoya Estate early in the morning on a job hunt mission; he for the interview, and myself to submit my application letters to some companies I had been called to.
Our agreement was to meet here so we could go back home together after 2pm, a time we expected our businesses in town would have ended. But now I have ended mine earlier, and there is nothing I can do except waiting for Sam to end his.
The weather is changing gradually and I don’t like these gathering clouds which are beginning to hide the sun, meaning it shall soon rain heavily in a few hours time and bring in the cold weather. Yet I can’t board the next matatu to Kahoya because it’s Sam who has the fare, and I cannot walk the 30 minutes ride distance.
I only have to wait. Yes, be patient and wait until he shows up. There are many other people here, most of whom I guess are also waiting. If they are not waiting for someone like I am; they are waiting for time to elapse before they go. Most are seated on the concrete benches and on the ground exchanging stories, while others seem to be taking a nap without caring about the weather that is about to change. There are others, whom are stuck as I am, and are busy with their phones I guess trying to reach someone every now and then.
Finding no words to tell her I feel cornered
A vibration from my phone in my trouser pocket interrupts my observations shortly. There is an incoming message from Sam. He says he would be in town in the next hour or so. It is a long wait but nonetheless, I have learned you must be patient to get things done. What gives me more patience is the lunch he has promised me. I wonder where he got some extra shillings after both of us left our house with only fare in our pockets. In fact I had surrendered all the money we had to him because he was going far and I didn’t want him stuck on the way. Anyway, no matter, I celebrate.
But my celebration runs short and is replaced by surprise when I notice that l have six missed calls from Bella, my fourth year student girlfriend at Moi University. The previous evening I had promised to send her the money she had requested to dress her hair before noon, today. I am certain it is the reason she had phoned and her missed calls whirls anxiety in me. My gods have not smiled on me and I got no money to send to her.
Finding no words to tell her I feel cornered. It would be the fourth time I am failing to honour my promise to her and I am sure she will not take it kindly. If I am not wrong she is already mad thinking I have ignored her. Yet, I had switched my phone to silent mode the moment I had visited Jiinue Savings and Credits Sacco to submit my papers in an aim to avoid ‘unnecessary’ calls while I had a moment with the manager, only to forget to reset it to ring mode afterwards.
Both her request and her missed calls now make me panicky. I can’t find an iota of courage in me to talk to her.
But after sometime, a voice in my mind convinces me to man up and call her back. The phone peeps the first time, and that increases my heart’s throb a thousand times in a second. Then it is received on the second beep as if Bella had been anxiously waiting for it.
What kind of a man are you?
“Why have you been ignoring me since morning Felix?” she asks in an overly angry tone. It is the first time I feel her intensity of anger has quadrupled from all the times she has been angry before. Before I even explain anything she continues to ask—or should I say demand— to be told why I have not sent the money.
“Ooh, I am sorry my dear,” I tell her. “I just came out of office. And I thought I would get something for you before noon. Unfortunately I haven’t succeeded…I am even stuck in town at the moment waiting for Sam to come and take me back to our house.”
“Ooooh … I see…ever having lame excuses of late. I wonder what is happening with you for you have drastically changed to a mean and stingy lover. You don’t even want me to have your money nowadays…okay endelea tu ivo,” she replies, sounding rather disgusted, and leaving me baffled. How I wish she understood.
“But that is the truth my dear. You are not new to me. You know when I have; I give it to you,” I reply.
“And you would want to marry me?” She chuckles. “Like for real? Me? What kind of a man are you?”
“Kwani what is wrong with being broke?” I now ask sounding ridiculous.
“Hahaha…You are a man and you must struggle to get money or you forget me. Real men provide for their wives. Sluggards have no money like you.”
Since I fell in love with Bella she has never been this rude. And did she say wife? Did she threaten to leave too? I wonder if I heard her well. A little anger forms in me but since I don’t want to spoil my afternoon with it, I comfort myself to calm down. I take a deep breath which makes me feel a bit relaxed. Bella is just ignorant and she is not even aware how hard it is to find money when you are jobless. Whoever has corrupted her used-to-be good mind, may he…or she die and forever burn in eternal hell.
Maybe she is sick and needs medical attention
“Anyway my dear, you have to understand that I have no job at the moment. The day I get it soon I…” I say. But she is even getting angrier as I continue to explain to her my case. I can sense dissatisfaction from the tone of her voice and very few seconds later she cuts me off.
“Don’t even sweetheart me when you cannot afford to dress my hair, if you cannot afford that little money, ukiulizwa vitu kubwa sasa? Eeeeh? Nauliza.” she barks, like that dog that is feeding on a piece of meat. I even fear she would have bitten me if I was near her.
“Well, if you cannot understand, then I don’t know what you will…” I say. But before I finish the conversation she hangs on me, again saying I should forget her…
With that my mind goes back to the moments we shared at the campus.
The first time I met her; she was so shy and kind that she would not look at me in my eyes. She was so soft-spoken and people often said she could not even offend a fly. It surprises me that today; she has decided to show me another version of herself, which petrifies me.
For a moment I convince myself that Bella is not in her right senses. Maybe she is sick and she needs medical attention. How come she has changed so drastically just because of fake hair? Yes she has been a bit unappreciative for the past few days but she has never gone to this extent..
I quickly conclude that I have introduced her to so many good things which she now misses. I remember the dates we had enjoyed, the food, partying…and alcohol which we had explored its taste a few months after we had started our relationship and got enlightened: we would never miss the night clubs for some bottles of beer on Friday after classes to end our stressful week.
It is so painful to think of all the lost money
I was lucky that the Higher Education Loans Board never missed to give me loan which became my source of income for my small campus family. And thank goodness she also shared her money with me. But sometimes when it got hard along the way, with me not ready to lose Bella, I would lie to my parents and relatives (without Bella’s knowledge the source of my extra money) to chip in momentarily.
They would innocently send me what I would call tour fee, hand-outs fee, society’s and club’s contribution fee—which actually never existed, but made my life and that of Bella a treasure to preserve. Never did it occur n my mind that one day, when I would be out of campus, I would be broke and she would be a thorn in my eye. I never even imagined that one day I would be sitting at the Jobless Corner thinking about what to do to get out of the web that Bella had put me in, at the same time waiting for a friend to save me with fare and lunch.
I cannot bear the regrets. It is so painful to think of all the lost money, some of which I got through lying to my parents in undeserving situations. More painful is I once lied to my mother while she was sick, that I needed money to pay for my examination card, which she had innocently sent me a cool five thousand shillings, only for me to immediately convert it into pocket money for me and my dear Bella, and using some to drink beer. It even pains me the most that I saved nothing out of it. If I am not wrong, someone had bewitched me…and I feel so stupid now.
Sam arrives in town amidst my mind boggling thoughts. He phones me instantly and suggests that I meet him at the Freshfries Café where we can eat and have a talk. He is so hungry that he might die of hunger while walking to Jobless Corner, or so he says. And unfortunate for him, someone else grabbed the job off him; all because of what our people say is “kujuana”. It makes him angry but anyway, he has no option but to give it up and wait for another chance to come. Someday the sun shall shine on him.
I think she wants me to pull out my teeth and sell them
I arrive at Freshfries minutes later still feeling overwhelmed with Bella’s thoughts. Noting that all is not well with me, Sam asks as soon as we meet, “Kwani you have murdered someone and the police are looking for you?”
“It is Bella…She has started again…I think she wants me to pull my teeth, sell them, and send her money to dress her hair.” I say dramatically, and angrily.
“Hahaha…” Sam laughs. “I have told you severally that a woman is like a cockroach; she cannot live in a place where there is no food. And I have been telling you Bella is not your type and you haven’t heard me even once. She is too hot for you.” And he continues to laugh which increases my pain. I feel like he has stabbed me with a knife deep into my heart and is slowly twisting the knife inside. “Anyway, try calling her several times. All women want to be soothed like small babies who are crying because they want to sleep. Maybe she would listen to you,” he says.
Although Sam is ridiculous, I conclude that he is realistic on his perception for women. Bella lately started to complain, maybe because I have no ‘food’ for her at the moment. But I wonder if she still even remembers that she has parents to depend on. Anyway, I call her again on Sam’s advice but she hangs up again. I give up trying.
My brief stay at Freshfries Café relaxes my mind. It is its peaceful environment that I love. On the first floor in one of the buildings in Eldoret CBD, and unlike many restaurants in town, it is often comfortable despite the weather outside. Everything is often fresh, including the air which I wonder if they fry it too. And because a few people know where it is located at the CBD, you normally cannot find noise due to its ability to host few customers periodically, except during lunch hour when those guys with jobs around would have come to have something fresh for their great stomachs. From inside you can see outside clearly as it is half glass walled: half concreted, with windows that are always left wide open. It tells us that there are drizzles already, outside.
Bella walks in to the hotel mysteriously
Ugali and beef is served to us right away. Silence. After swallowing a few chunks of it, my panic disappears. Even Bella’s haunting thoughts disappear too. I don’t want to be a prisoner for her now. And so I decide to keep off until she gets sober to call me back. At times she feels remorseful and begs to be forgiven. But if she doesn’t, then who cares, women are just as many as the fruits on trees in my country. I am sure I cannot miss to aim at one but as for now, I have to struggle to keep myself on the wheels of life. This time, I have to be serious with life…
After we have finished eating, Bella walks in to the hotel mysteriously and walks directly to our table as if she was around observing us. I wonder where she had been.
“I am sorry, honey, but I only wanted to test your love. It is your friend Sam that planned this. He told me you are so stressed to find a job just for the sake of me and I just wanted to see what you could do at your desperate times. Don’t worry; the sun will shine on you soon. I understand what you are passing through too. But I love you,” she says smiling.
I feel like crashing Sam to pieces. So he was part of this?
“Lunch is on my bill and your fare is mine too,” Bella adds. She knows we are deeply broke.
For a moment I am shocked. I cannot believe all this was just a test: Bella’s surprise. But well, at times God sends a Judas into your life to test your faith and Sam, I confirm, played his game so well. We smile as we leave Freshfries to walk on the veranda to avoid being rained on. There are drizzles outside already. But we quickly hurry to take our bus back home.