Archive for October, 2016

“Hi my name is Stellah and I survived.”

“Hi Stellah!” came the chorus reply that seemed to echo endlessly in the dim-lit basement hall.

This was the first time I actually stood up to share. I would come every Monday of every week, sit in the corner of the back row and listen as people gave horrific stories of abuse; years of physical, emotional and psychological torture. I would cry and ache for them but I wasn’t like them. He didn’t force me to do anything. He only ever slapped me once. Even after he did he came crawling and I mean literally on his knees slapping his own face over and over screaming “I was wrong!” “I was wrong!”

I had had others before him, I wasn’t naive. I had heard the stories, I had friends who had suffered in the hands of their abusers.  Some survived; if going through life feeling like a broken empty shell is what you would call surviving. Others were not so lucky but maybe they are the ones we should be jealous of; at least they found peace in death.

I knew how to protect myself so I did not know what abuse really looked like as I had never experienced it. Maybe if I had I would have seen this coming. Maybe I would have sensed that that’s what it was even though it did not follow the typical pattern, even though I didn’t have the scars on my body as they had, both self-inflicted and others to remind me that I was being abused.

When I first met him, he wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t promise me the world, he didn’t promise to love me forever, he just wanted to know me. I didn’t have much either but I was comfortable. He asked me out on dates a few times. At first it was just for coffee. He liked his black, no sugar. That soon turned to lunches, then dinners. You know the drill. Sometimes he’d pay, other times I would, most times we’d go dutch.  It was two-way at least it felt like it was. How was I to know he wasn’t showing me the whole hand?

He didn’t treat me extra special; he didn’t make me feel like a queen in that sense. He didn’t treat me like trash either.  He was just normal I guess. Maybe that’s what threw me off because I expected the extreme, I was experienced in the extremes but not this. He simply slid so smoothly into my life that by the time I thought I needed to leave I still wasn’t sure why.

He started accidentally leaving stuff at my place; a tie, cuff links, a watch, documents he’d need for work. It was cute so I let him. He’d always remember to pick them up the next time he was over. I must admit he put the time in. He never asked for anything but I gave him everything anyway, not all at once, just drops at a time really so I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. See everyone seemed to know what he wanted from me but less was said and known about what I wanted from him. I’m a simple person. I rarely ever demand for anything.  I get comfortable very quickly.  Some of my friends joke that I come pre-domesticated. I would be offended by that if it wasn’t completely true. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted from him, not really.  I was comfortable but he knew what he wanted from me, knew how to get it without asking, and because he didn’t ask, I didn’t know what I was giving.

He came over one night, we watched a few movies, I fell asleep on his lap, and he carried me to bed, tucked me in and slept on the couch. Next morning, he made me breakfast, we had it in the dining room. I found his toothbrush next to mine; “How did he know he was going to stay over?”

He said goodbye after breakfast, he was running late for work.

A couple of weeks later he came over again. We had dinner which he made, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed, tucked me in and went to sleep on the couch again. I got up, watched him toss and turn on the couch, I slid in next to him. Next morning, I made him breakfast and asked if he was coming over again that night. He said he would.

I cleared out a drawer on my dresser for him.’

At that point of my sharing I knew most of the people in the room were wondering why I was there. Why I was claiming to be a survivor yet I had the proverbial (mythical) ‘perfect man’. That’s why I had never spoken up; there were no scars to prove it. It was the same look they gave me at the hospital after they pumped my stomach. They asked me why I took all those pills, why I slit my wrists and I couldn’t explain.

‘I had a big project coming up, one I had been passed over for about sometime before, actually around the exact time I met him. I only figured out that particular connection later. It was worth millions. The guy they had put in charge had scammed the company and ran off, but they needed it done. I had a spotless record so I was chosen. I was ecstatic that night and couldn’t wait to share the news with him. I blocked out a few details but told him everything else. He didn’t ask any questions, he told me I was the best for the job. He made dinner, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed and as he was walking away to go sleep on the couch, I pulled him back and showed him his side of my bed. He slid in next to me. It felt right. Next morning I made us breakfast and asked him to move in.

He said he needed some kind of guarantor so he could still keep his old place; maybe rent it out, more income for us. I signed the documents. I didn’t read anything.

He changed his forwarding address to mine. I received a few packages for him, my signature on all of them. I didn’t open them, I wouldn’t. He didn’t ask me much so I didn’t ask him much either, that would be rude.

I talked to him about my big project, he offered advice, and every time I followed it, it worked out so well I asked for more and more advice. I even showed him a few of the plans, just to get a few pointers really.

He asked me to marry him, I said yes. Two months later he was gone. He didn’t take anything with him, not his clothes, not his shoes, not the espresso machine he had bought; nothing. He just disappeared.

Just days after he left, I was dropped from my project; the company found someone better who knew a more efficient way of doing it. That was the official story.

Turns out he had developed the same project only better in another country and patented the license.  He then somehow  blackmailed the company that hired me into letting him take over and so it would be kept quiet I was offered a handsome severance package but the company blacklisted me, I would never be able to find a job in that industry anywhere in the continent.

I have no physical scars to prove it, not even a dented bank account. I met a woman a few months ago, she has a son, 8 years old, we became friends somehow but she told me it wasn’t by chance, she had been tracking the man for 4 years now and the trail led her to me. We weren’t the only ones either. We don’t know how many are out there or how many there are still to be.

The bouts of uncontrollable rage started coming later, when it finally sank in. I’d have panic attacks every night just before bed and every morning like clockwork. I spent those moments sprawled on the cold bathroom floor, unable to move, clutching at my chest unable to catch my breathe. Sometimes I’d sing to calm myself, most times I’d just cry, cry until the moment passed. I wasn’t able to keep anything down in those moments, any food I’d try to eat would come right back out. It felt like my tummy was permanently stuck on a roller coaster. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family or my closest friends.  What would I say? How would I prove the damage? I thought I was losing my mind, that I had dreamt it all but he was real, it was real.  I willingly gave him everything so I honestly felt like I had no one to blame. You can blame a rapist, a burglar, a kidnapper, a serial killer, a wife-beater, an emotionally abusive friend. They take, by force, with devastating consequences for their victims. But how do you blame someone you loved and who seemed to have loved you back. Someone who gave you five beautiful years. The heavy drinking came soon after and eventually the suicide attempt. That brings us to now.

I have a son too, he is 4 years old and he looks exactly like him.”

 

 

 

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“Argh! It feels like this is going to go on forever!” She cursed.

“Am counting on it,” came his reply. She looked up at him surprised that he would want it to continue pouring cats and dogs but when she caught his gaze  on her she  quickly realized he was in a world of his own and wasn’t in the least bit, concerned about the weather. He had barely taken his eyes off of her since the second they had met for their date that day.

“You are such a weirdo you know,” she joked and playfully nudged him.

“Well don’t blame me, I’m helpless when it comes to you; everything about you is enchanting, I can’t get enough,” He answered rather seriously.

He was in a weird mood today; he kept feeling like he should make a mental note of everything. Everything about her; everything about the day. ‘Must be the weather,’ he thought to himself and shrugged it off.

He had to get home, it was getting late. The buses seemed to have stalled in traffic because there was no sign of any buses going to his place. He’d have to go all the way to Muthurwa, another bus terminus on the immediate outskirts of the city centre to get a matatu instead. It was a bit of a long walk.

“I hate the rain!” he said out loud as he looked down at his now wet and slightly mud-stained white jacket.

“Serves you right for wearing that on a rainy day,” she jested while pointing at his jacket.

“I’m dating the most beautiful girl this side of the pacific, I have to impress,” he joked back.

“Sweetheart, you could dress in a sack and I wouldn’t notice any other man in this town,” she said as she pulled him down by his tie and planted a big one on his lips.

He was sure he lost the feeling to his legs for a second. If they kept this up, neither of them would get home that night. He had to be the man, ensure she got into a mat ok and then had home himself.

A No.108 matatu pulled in followed by two others, the line of commuters they were on moved swiftly till it was her turn to get on.

“I love you so much, you know that right?” he said to her putting more emphasis than usual.

‘What was going on with him today?’ She thought and felt urge to assure him she loved him too.

“I know honey and I love you with all my heart, my soul, from the top of my head to the little beauty spot at the bottom of my foot, always remember that ok?” she smiled up at him as she gently brushed his cheek.

His legs went off again.

“What are you smiling about?” she asked him.

“Nothing, you better get on, that old guy behind you is giving me this angry look, I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?  And the day after and that and the day after that and, well you catch my drift.”

“Shhh…..you talk too much sometimes you know,” she said as she put her finger on his lips and immediately replaced it with her own. She got on the Matatu and off she went leaving him with her sweet scent and beautiful memories of the day. Muthurwa was a long walk off.  It started drizzling again. He had to hurry.

The streets were bustling with hundreds of people trying to get home at the same time. Hawkers packing up their wares on seeing that not so many commuters were interested in buying today. A few were still shouting their offers, trying to persuade that last buyer with the “Bei ya jioni” offer, others still with the desperate look of still trying to find their first buyer while inwardly admitting they might have to go home empty handed yet again. There were a lot of women carrying bags of shopping as is characteristic of the first week of the month. Stress lines on their faces knowing that that won’t be enough for the month and yet no more money was forth coming. Some had the plastic bags wrapped around their heads. He stopped for a moment to shade himself just outside a bank. There were a few other people there too. He overheard a couple of men cursing at the government. Something about receiving an already small pay cheque, seeing the tax cuts and various other deductions, thinking of the due and long overdue bills plus a nagging wife awaiting them at home. Yet still having to dodge potholes and scramble in crammed streets as matatus and pedestrians both fight over the same tiny pavements; wondering about the government that promised 8-lane superhighways, new bus terminals and state-of-the art stalls for hawkers at market places. Of course that was during their campaigning period before they actually get into power. I mean, can we really hold them to their promises after they come into power? You’d just have to wait for the next campaigning period.

This was Tomboya Street, one of the oldest in the city. Right across from it was Moi Avenue which looked like some alternate reality version of Tomboya. Same Kenyan people yet they were seated comfortably in posh coffee houses, sipping espressos and eating fancy-name cakes that were worth as much as a family across the street had to survive on for a week. There was no scrambling here, as the patrons slowly drank coffee and waited for the rain to let up so that they can get into their big cars and drive to this club and that club for a night of partying. They did not curse at the government. Sometimes they would laugh at how some politician messed up his speech by mispronouncing all the words or struggling to even construct a proper sentence. Oh such silly politicians we have, they would say, but mostly they would talk of the latest I-phone model, Lupita Nyongo’s dress at the Oscars and Beyonce’s latest album surprise release on I-tunes. But such is the irony of life, two babies would be born the same way, naked and wailing yet they would live totally different lives but both will be buried in the same earth six feet under.

He was fast approaching the bus station; he just had to cross the road. There was a flyover though it had long been unofficially declared redundant. Two reasons; One; No one who after having to walk all the way from the CBD to get a matatu at Muthurwa would want to waste even more precious minutes going up and down a flyover that looked like it was being held together by chewing gum. Two; there had been several brutal muggings that had taken place up there. He’d have to cross the highway; yet another death trap though luckily, there wasn’t much traffic at that time. So there was nothing to worry about except for that one oncoming bus that seemed to be precariously moving really close to the pavement. There was a crowd of people around him all waiting to cross the road so he couldn’t move back. The bus was getting close, the driver kept swerving left then right each time driving closer and closer to the pavement. ‘Was no one else seeing this?’he wondered. He needed to move back but still couldn’t. It was noisy, the rain had gotten worse but no one budged, instead they kept pushing forward.

Suddenly it was like everyone noticed the speeding manyanga at the same time! The sudden screams confused him and for a moment, he didn’t really know which side to move. A bulky man pushed him from behind and he almost fell forward but managed to find his footing in a pothole; now turned puddle. The bus headlights flashed several times and the horn was deafening. He needed to move back now! But just as he did he realized his foot was stuck, he had stepped into a drain and his leg was caught. He tried pulling it out, pushing and tugging several times but it didn’t budge. All kinds of screams emanated from the crowd around him, some were shouting for him to get out of the way, others were calling out to their gods and praying for the poor boy’s soul. It was useless, the more he tried to pull, the deeper his foot went. He couldn’t believe this was how it would all end. He closed his eyes. Everything happened so fast in the seconds after then it was all over.

“White was a really bad choice today huh?” One of the men helping to get his foot out of the drain said. He opened his eyes and looked down at himself half expecting to see only half his torso. He was ok, just much wetter than before.

“Haha,” he chuckled. “You are the second person to say that today”, he said to the bulky man and thanked him for helping. His foot felt a bit sore but he was more than grateful that that was all he had to worry about. The manyanga was now firmly secured in a ditch just a few feet away with a few good Samaritans helping to get the passengers out. They looked shaken up but it didn’t seem like anyone was injured.

“Looks like a lot of people will be thanking God for getting home in one piece today,” he said to no one in particular as he stepped into the road to cross.

“Hey, thanks again for….”

“AHHHH!!!Oh my God!!!AHHH!!!,” he was interrupted by a gut wrenching, ear piercing scream and the excruciating pain that shot up his spine a second after and then darkness.

Mbugua hadn’t even seen the man get on the road as he drove up Muthurwa Lane that late evening on his way back home. It had stopped feeling like home and more like a prison to him for some time now. A ten-acre lavish jail cell; imported bricks, imported marble tiles, imported carpet grass, even the water that ran in the state of the art eternity pool was imported. But this house was cold, it had been for six years but it wasn’t always this way.

Mbugua’s wife was a beautiful woman, the envy of many her age and even younger. But even with her stunning natural beauty she had to make sure everyone noticed that she, Mrs. Sheila Mbugua now lived the life of a queen and would never go back to the mud and mabati shanties they had once called home. That she was now above the flying toilets and scavenging for scraps of leftover food from big hotels and lining up for hand outs from NGOs. That place was far behind her. Now she dined and wined in the same big hotels and they called her ‘Madam’. Nothing was going to ruin this life. Sheila had worked hard to get here, even her husband’s constant nagging about having children fell on deaf ears. She was not going to be tied down with children.

But Mbugua loved his wife with very fiber of his being, lavished her with all things shiny and beautiful. But he wanted children.  She said pregnancy would make her fat and ugly and she wasn’t about to ruin her figure for some little brats. He suggested that she at least get a job then so she wouldn’t stay home all day calling hair dressers and stylists and her loud-mouthed friends who only came to gossip; she accused him of wanting too much from her. He asked her why she didn’t love him anymore and wasn’t willing to satisfy him as a man; she accused him of having an affair and swore to strangle any woman who so much as breathed near him. He stormed out, got into his two month old metallic-black Chrysler and drove off, drowning out her screams and accusations with his favorite tunes from George Michaels.

By the time Mbugua heard the scream it was too late. The man flew onto the hood of the Chrysler and hit the windshield hard almost going through then got thrown back onto the road. Mbugua panicked, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see or hear anything for a few seconds but knew he had to get himself together. He prayed aloud to anyone listening that the man’s life be miraculously saved but even he knew it wasn’t likely that the man had survived the impact. He opened the car door and ran out to where the man lay.

Her chest tightened as the matatu passed by the accident site, everyone peered out of the windows to see. The rain was down to a drizzle. A small crowd was slowly gathering around the scene though most people just passed quickly, shaking their heads but still rushing to get home. There was a manyanga few feet away from the crowd in a ditch. A metallic black Chrysler was parked in the middle of the road with the driver’s door wide open and a man with a sharp suit was walking toward the man on the ground in the middle or a small crowd. He looked distraught.

Then she saw it and realized why her gut was wrenching yet she was safe, seated in a matatu. The white jacket! She only caught but a glimpse of it, but she was sure. It was him!

She couldn’t breathe, all sounds around her faded like whispers into the background. She got off the matatu not really knowing how her legs were moving. She felt like a zombie staggering toward a light only she was running.

Cars honked and edged through as some crazy woman ran into the road.

The light in his head kept going on and off like a torch running out of power. ‘Why was everyone screaming?’ he wondered. ‘And why is there a man in a sharp suit leaning over me telling me he’s so sorry but that everything will be ok?’ But the thing that puzzled her the most was her. What was she doing there and why was she crying? And that’s when it all came flooding back; the manyanga, his foot in a drain, the bulky man and the posh car.

He wasn’t sure what to think or say. He looked up at her. Maybe she would know.

He remembered how they first met, it wasn’t the fairy tale love at first sight kind of meeting but they had both felt the connection. He remembered when she first spoke to him. It wasn’t ‘Hi, my name is…’ or ‘You look familiar, have we met before?’ She had just asked him to help her carry some speakers to the concert venue and that is how their journey had begun.

She remembered when he first gazed into her eyes and knew there was something there. He remembered when she looked up at him one time, smiled and he knew if he didn’t say something he would explode!

They did the craziest things together, one time they just cooked dinner, packed it in containers and went to the flyover at the university’s gate, sat on the steps and ate. It wasn’t a candle-lit dinner but they both admitted later that it was one of the most romantic nights of their lives. She remembered how one time he came, picked her up at her dorm, they took a long walk which was usual for them as they could stay up till five in the morning sometimes just talking. Anyway that night they just lay down in the middle of one of the streets in the school compound at around 2:00am and just gazed at the stars. He remembered how they would write letters to each other and to their future selves depicting their dreams for each other. She remembered how they had started writing a story together taking turns and now it was almost as long as a Lord of the Rings novel and they were still writing.

He remembered each time she laughed, each time she cried, and each time she jumped into his arms when they met.

“Aaaaargh…,” he moaned as a surge of pain brought him back to reality. He heard the sound of a siren, she heard it too but in their minds they had very different endings to this story.

She knew he was pretty banged up both inside and outside but she held on the the last strand of hope that he would make it through this.

He too knew he was pretty banged up. He felt the blood trickle down his forehead from where his head had hit the windshield. Every time he tried to move there was pain everywhere and he could barely feel the lower half of his body. He felt his organs slowly giving in to the numbness that was creeping up from his toes. He knew he was broken but as he looked up at her, seeing her desperate tears and that glimmer of hope in her eyes he couldn’t help but pray for a miracle.

“The ambulance is here,” Mbugua spoke his first words. He also saw that the young man was pretty banged up and it made his insides churn knowing he was responsible. Someone gripped his hand from below.

“It’s not your fault,” the young man said to Mbugua. “I’ll be fine,” he finished. And even though both men knew the last part of that statement wasn’t true, both held onto the slim chance that it could be.

“I’ll go with him,” she said, her tears now running freely down her already wet cheeks. The rain had started up again.

“I’ll follow you in my car,” Mbugua said as he tried with all his might to give the young man a reassuring look as he let go of his hand and the paramedics lifted him into the ambulance. Life had never felt shorter to him. He knew then that he was not going back to that jail cell he called a house tonight or any other night. He had seen what true love was and his marriage to Sheila was so far from it.

Inside the ambulance, the love shared between the two was so heavy. It seemed to transcend all the pain he felt and dispel all the helplessness she felt.

“His blood pressure is dropping fast! We are losing him!” the paramedic called out as he went through the motions of trying to save the young man.

All the while, the two in love just gazed into each other’s eyes so intently, so endlessly you would think they were reading each other’s minds; maybe they were. His grip on her hand loosened, his heartbeat on the monitor slowed down. She didn’t want to lose him but she knew she would have to let go.

“Amy,” he muttered in a whisper so low only she heard him.

“Steve,” she muttered back in an even lower whisper.

Thunder roared a flash of lightning and it was over. The rain stopped and the sky cleared and the two in love let go.

Matatu- 14 seater public service vehicle

Manyanga- 25 seater mini bus

Bei ya jioni- a price discount hawkers normally give in the evening when they are about to close business

Mabati- steel sheets used to build houses

 

 

You’ve been eyeing this person for some time now. They’ve caught you stealing glances. It got awkward a few times because you can’t put on a poker face to save your life. That shy smile; like the one a child makes when they are caught stealing sugar, has become your face’ default setting.

You have stalked them mildly (read a lot) on FaceBook, Twitter,Instagram, Snapchat; even Google docs. You know they had frozen yoghurt yesterday at Sarit Centre and they didn’t like the melon flavor. You know they went out last night and ‘yolo-ed’ till 4am. You have wondered how you would keep up with all the partying because you and your bed have a long-standing agreement of a 1am sleep time curfew. You also know you cannot yolo two nights in a row. You are not superman or even superman’s sidekick. If you were to even try that you would be a zombie the rest of the week and have moments of regret on the hour every hour. Still, that doesn’t make the fantasies any less frequent. You still try to convince yourself of how you would be willing to give up your best-friend (sleep) for them.

You fantasise about how it would feel if one day they walked up to you out of nowhere (a fairytale storybook maybe) , reached out, grabbed you, pulled you close, so close you could see the pores on their face and (sucked the breathe out of you) kissed you. But you tell yourself it’s not going to happen. That is how hopeless romantics like you get through stuff like that. You tell yourself it’s not going to happen then obsess over the possibility of it actually happening. You are such a weirdo.

One day , out of literally nowhere, they actually (in reality) come up and hug you from behind. They hold your waist, their hands lock in at the front and they squeeze. You feel them breath on your neck. They whisper something softly which you obviously don’t hear because you have already moved in to your castle on cloud nine and you are never coming down. They slowly turn you around, one hand still on your waist and the other lightly teasing (caressing) your ear. They brush your locs back  lightly. It’s not like they were on your face or anything, they just know how to turn your insides inside out. Have they been light stalking you too; maybe?

Your eyes lock and both of you smile. They say something that makes you laugh out loud and you almost roll on the floor with laughter. You realize too late that their  joke was desert-dry and extremely cheesy yet you laughed so hard, you may have peed just a little. Dang it! Your dignity brakes are on the fritz and you are now running on flirt-mode full throttle. That  definitely escalated quickly. Luckily, they do not have x-ray vision so you are in the clear. By now you are in it for the win so your hand goes on their waist and runs up their spinal-ridge (dip?) right up their back. Your ‘not-so-long’ nails (your nails never grow to claw-height luckily) dig in just to their back  little. One of your g-spots is somewhere on that ridge too but they haven’t discovered it yet otherwise your legs would have been as stable as cooked spaghetti by now.

You have gotten to that awkward point where you aren’t sure whether you should lean in for the kiss or say you need to pee. You really don’t need another addiction do you? Your ears are hot. Your jaws ache a little because you have had that silly half-smile, half-laugh plastered on your face for the last 6 minutes. There’s a deep tickle in your tummy. That is when you know you have reached the point of no return. The point when you know that if you don’t kiss this person, you will spend the rest of the night wondering what it would have felt like if you  had.

You hear a car door bang shut and that’s when you suddenly remember you are standing in a parking lot. Your partner doesn’t seem fazed by it because they are still glued to you. PDA is really not your style. You actually  low-key despise people who have the audacity to (suck face)  make out  in public and with tongue no less. You are all for romance but eish, not in public please.

It’s a little chilly. You are outside a restaurant. It’s a slow night so there are not too many cars in the parking lot. You are from a dinner with friends. With all the glances you had been stealing all night; the kiss had obviously already happened in your head; quite a few times actually. Talk about jumping the gun. There are a lot of trees around that area so the air is very fresh. There is this earthy scent in the air, like the one just before it rains. That, combined with their scent is almost intoxicating. You didn’t really expect this moment to feel so surreal. It’s  like Mother Nature had been planning it too.

Your faces are really close now. You wonder how they can be that close and still maintain eye contact the whole time. You giggle. You didn’t plan to, it just came out. They smile. You feel their hand at the back of your head, their fingers run through your locs. It’s so slight and so smooth. It feels so gentle but it sends chills everywhere.

You never thought someone could shiver on the inside but you just did. You start thinking about the dumbest stuff  like ; would your glasses be in the way if you kissed and if you should remove them but that if you take a few seconds to do that, would that then kill the moment altogether? You decide not to risk it, you keep them on. Suddenly your eyes close by instinct because her lips just touched yours…

 

NB: It was an honour having this piece featured in a monologue event last weekend (poster below). It was a first for me but definitely not a last.

whos-your-daddy-poster

Her name was Sally. She took long walks on the beach, on the rocks. She didn’t like to go in the water. Too many unknown creatures in there, she would say. But she loved the sound of the waves coming in and going out, washing away the sand and bringing it back fresh. New.  She liked watching the younger couples; walking hand in hand, gazing into each other’s eyes like the world revolved around them. Splashing water on each other playfully. She also liked watching the older couples sitting in silence, comfortable in each other’s quiet presence. She wasn’t sure if she liked watching the breakups. The girl would be crying inconsolably, the man standing there with one hand in his pocket, gazing blankly at someone he once promised to never leave, then he’d walk away and leave her. The girl would pull at the necklace he gave her, the one with his name and ‘forever’ engraved on it. She would snatch it roughly from her own neck leaving a slight bruise and toss it into the ocean, then she would run as fast as her legs would carry her, in the opposite direction. The girl would trip; fall to the sand and just sit there willing the pain away, grasping at the gaping hole where her heart used to be. She would turn, her mascara dripping, dissolved in her now black tears. She would watch him disappear into the sunset without even a glance back. Break ups were funny like that, people get hurt the same; they just show it differently.

Sally would sit on the rocks as high up as she could climb. Sometimes she would find a spot where it was flat and smooth and she would lie there on her back, her knees folded up a little, the shoelaces of her converse sneakers undone. She just loved to listen. The sound of the waves, the chuckles and giggles of the couples and children playing, sometimes a crab would sneak past her unknowingly, and she’d hear the whisper of its tiny legs as it scurried past.

If you ever saw her walking on the beach, you would think she didn’t have a care in the world. She had a big smile for everyone, even the beach boys, crude as they sometimes could be especially if you ignored their catcalls. Hey beautiful woman with the beautiful behind! They would call out to Sally as she walked past. Hey!, she would reply and wave back with a shy smile. Just walking on the beach alone with your sexy self huh?, they would continue. Yeah, Sally would reply. Next time I’m walking with you!, the one with the longest locs would say. Sure, why not; Sally would reply. That was the extent of their conversations each time and everyone would go back to their business; the beach boys scouring the beach for tourists and Sally taking her daily think-stroll. Every day was just as ordinary as the next.

So as she gazed at the knife in her side and watched as the thick red fluid oozed slowly from the wound, she wondered if she had missed the signs during that day. He kept saying it was his fault. That he never should have loved her. That she had turned him into someone different. It was confusing for Sally to say the least. The steak knife that was now embedded in her side was for the steak she had specially grilled for him. Soft, juicy, spicy, medium-rare; exactly how he liked it. She didn’t even put coriander in the mashed potatoes this time because he didn’t like coriander but she loved it. The carrots and French beans on the side were perfectly done; stir-fried for under a minute so they were still crunchy. He had complained before that she would overcook them. Vegetables are supposed to be firm and crunchy, never soggy, he would always say. He wasn’t a chef but like everything else, he liked his food perfect. He was a perfectionist almost on an OCD level. Sally wasn’t even close to being perfect. Sometimes she left socks in her shoes when she came into the house and the next morning she’d see them in the laundry basket neatly folded.  When she was too tired to do dishes at night, she’d leave them in the sink to deal with the next day. In the morning, she’d find no dishes in the sink and none drying on the dish rack. She would then open the kitchen cupboards and find all utensils in their place, clean and dry. She didn’t like washing clothes so she’d call a cleaning lady to do the laundry every week. When he came back home, he would get his clothes from the hanging lines and rewash all of them. He never complained once. He just smiled. Sorry love, I just like things a certain way, he would say and peck her on the cheek.

Now there is a man who would kill you in your sleep, her friends would say when Sally told them some of these stories. Then they would all high-five each other and laugh hysterically in the crowded coffee shop. Everyone would stare at the loud women in the corner booth but they didn’t care. With demanding jobs and husbands and children and co-habiting partners; they could only afford to meet a couple of times a month so they made the best of every time. Her friends liked him. He didn’t talk much, not even about how accomplished he was as most men even half as accomplished would. If they were out together and he wanted to go home but Sally wanted to stay with her friends he would leave her his platinum card and ask her to be safe. He was a good man. A loving man.

Sally wondered why she was thinking about her friends while bleeding all over their beige suede L-couch. Maybe that is what people mean when they say your life flashes in front of you when you are about to die. He was pacing now, phone in one hand while the other hand struggled frantically to get the blood stain from his white shirt. He looked like a crazy person and the pacing was making Sally dizzy or was it the loss of blood? She wasn’t bleeding that much though because the knife was still inside. She had read somewhere or maybe seen it on TV that if you happen to be stabbed, you should never pull the knife out. She never imagined she would need that information in real life.

She wondered why she wasn’t feeling any pain. Shock, maybe? She had read/heard that too, somewhere. Maybe you should call for help, she told him.

“I won’t say anything; you don’t even have to be here when they come; I’ll take care of everything, I promise,” Sally begged.

“I’m sorry, baby I’m so sorry, I just can’t, I just can’t. They said to…but I can’t” he said as he put on his navy blue suit jacket. He took her phone from the coffee table, dialed a number and gave the phone to her.

“Hello, what is your emergency?” It was a lady’s voice. It was very calm, soothing actually. That helped.

Sally told her she was bleeding all over the couch and that she should send an ambulance quick. The lady said to stay calm. Sally told her she has never been this calm in her life actually which was weird considering she was probably dying. The lady asked for the address. Sally told her; it’s the last mansionette on that street and that security was tight (leafy suburb things) so the ambulance guys would have to say they were coming to house number 56, the one with a big lime green gate at the end of Loresho drive.

“Is there anyone there with you?” the nice lady asked.

“No, it’s just me,” Sally answered as she watched him walk past her with a black Samsonite suitcase.

It seemed heavy. It was most likely the prepacked one he had at the corner of their walk in closet. She had asked him once why he had a prepacked suitcase. For emergencies of course, he had said. Like an alien invasion? She had joked and they both laughed. She had learnt to love him with his little quirks. She liked weird because she always felt she was a little odd herself. She wasn’t even sure what kind of ‘business man’ he was. They had a safe in their bedroom. Well almost every house on their block came with a pre-fitted titanium safe. She didn’t know the password though, only he did. She didn’t really need to know. Most of her jewelry was hand made locally and brass. She never liked the shiny stuff. All her cash, she kept in a bank account and all her work she left at the office. She didn’t need to use the safe.

He talked in his sleep a lot. She was a light sleeper and liked watching him sleep when she couldn’t. Sometimes he would say weird stuff. He’d babble about deals gone bad or some boss not being happy or about something big coming. She paid no mind because most of it sounded like it was from an action movie. He liked watching those before bed. She figured if there was something to be told, that he would eventually tell her when he felt he could.

He was now standing at the door and looking back at her. There were tears dangling dangerously in his eyes. She had never seen him cry, ever. Her heart broke for him in that moment. That was Sally for you. Here she was literally dying yet still feeling like the pain written on his face was somehow far worse than the physical pain she was feeling from him stabbing her.

You should go, they will be here any minute now, she told him.

“I can’t Sally. I can’t leave you,” he said.

“Go!! You idiot! Go! Or I’ll pull this freaking knife out myself!” Sally yelled and threw a pillow at him then shrieked and winced at the pain that that movement awakened.

He picked up the suitcase and walked out. She heard the car start and drive off. A minute or so later she heard sirens. Ambulance sirens.

She was lying on her back now on the couch, staring at the ceiling. National Geographic was on on the TV. They were talking about some kind of crab or something. Someone entered the house and came up to her. He asked her if she was in pain. She wasn’t sure. She was thinking about the crab on the beach scurrying past her as she lay on the rocks. She was exhausted. She wanted to close her eyes and sleep just for a bit as she listened to the waves coming in and going out but this guy kept telling her to stay awake for some reason. She didn’t know him so what was he doing at the beach with her? Weird.

There was a song or rather part of a song playing in her mind as she watched the crab walking across the sand and go into its hole and as the strange man in uniform put gauze around the steak knife in her side. She loved that song but it was strange she would be thinking about it at that moment instead of panicking that she was dying…

‘…Baby I’m not made of stone, it hurts

Loving you, the way I do, it hurts

When all that’s left to do is watch it burn

Baby I’m not made of stone, it hurts….’

(Hurts; Emeli Sande)

Ok so that may be a bit over the top a warning considering one only has so much power against getting sick anywhere in the world and then you have China with the pollution, second hand smoke, the ever mutating H7N9 (or whatever the scientists are calling it now) and all other usual risk factors, there’s only so much you can do unless you can afford the luxury of living in a bubble or walking around with your own oxygen tank.

This is part three of my China experience series..

I, thank God, never got seriously ill while there except for the common cold and I have my own natural treatments straight-from-my-mama, God bless her soul so I can avoid hospitals. I literally do not step into a hospital unless I truly feel like I’m dying and even then my sister or BFF has to literally beg me to (BFF Duties 101). This was a sentiment my roommate then and I shared. You can imagine the panic when one day I walk into our room and find her writhing in extreme abdominal pain. I was just from a short trip so I was exhausted and just planned to curl up in my bed and call it a night but fate had other plans. Another friend was with her at the time trying to figure out what to do next. There was a Chinese dude too who really helped actually…he just got on the floor where my roomie was and started poking and prodding, next thing you know my roomie (let’s call her Amani for the sake of this story) is up and rushing to the bathroom to puke. Later he explained it was some form of acupuncture and honestly it was a huge help as it de-congested Amani’s tummy. Chinese peeps with their magic hands ey.

So we got a shifu (taxi-guy), that we had met previously and made friends with and now I thank heaven we did. He lived very close to our school. I would actually advice every foreigner to have one of these if you don’t have a car of your own that is. I called the guy up, he arrived in 5 minutes and off we went to the nearest hospital, because that’s what you do when someone falls seriously sick right?; first aid then dash to the nearest hospital? We got to the hospital; picture four ladies; one in so much pain she could barely walk, two trying to help her walk and me armed with only one year of Chinese language, never having experienced a real rush-a-friend-to-a-Chinese-hospital saga. So you can imagine my panic when the doctor said she could not be treated there and that we should take her to another hospital that is bigger and has more specialized doctors. I thought all doctors are specialized in MEDICINE!?!?!?!So the guy explains that because of language barriers there is risk of misdiagnosis or something like that; note, I could only get the general meaning of what he was saying. They don’t teach you doctor-speak in your first year. Have you ever regretted showing off that you could order chicken without chilli in a foreign language and then a real emergency comes up and everyone looks to you because you are the  self-declared ‘language expert’.  But I knew there was no way we were leaving that hospital without treatment. So on the brink of tears I begged the good doctor to look at how much pain Amani was in and have mercy on us. Finally he agreed but reluctantly. Aren’t we all lucky that I am an emotional blob and my tears live at the edge of my eyelashes?

At first we all thought it was food poisoning but after we did the regular blood and stool tests, they couldn’t find anything aside from a few deficiencies in the blood so he referred us to another doctor after ordering an ultrasound. Oh and you have to pay at every step so I have no idea how many trips I had to make to the doctor’s office then the cashier and then the treatment rooms and all the way back again. Amani was all the while complaining I was being too slow and almost punching the doctor demanding to be prescribed morphine! Amani, if you are reading this please don’t kill me. Seriously though, one time she had her hand on the doctor’s thigh and I could have sworn I saw a scared look on the poor guy’s face like she was going to grab his balls and squeeze till they popped if he didn’t do something.  I kept reminding myself to ‘Keep Calm, She’s in pain’, and the many prayers I made that night was the only thing that kept me sane. There were a few moments that tempers flared. We were all scared and exhausted; Amani was still in tremendous pain and no one knew what it was. It was understandable.

They finally discovered she had gallstones. We had to spend the night in hospital as she got medication intravenously; I have never seen drips go that slow. Felt like one drop in 5 minutes. The first doctor came to check on us a few times that night, he still had a panicked look in his eyes as if he was willing Amani to not die; not on his watch anyway. He kept suggesting we go to a bigger hospital with English speaking doctors; I kept ignoring that bit of our conversations. My friend was getting treatment; I couldn’t care less what hospital we were in.

I’ve never spent that much time in an emergency room aside from watching ER, Grey’s anatomy and Hawthorne on T.V from the comfort of my couch. I love medical dramas I just never thought I would live one.  I saw one guy coding and being revived by our doctor (suffice to say my confidence in him shot up after I watched him save a life). The outpatient ward was a choir of snoring through the night. I saw drunks who had had too much and were sleeping it off.  Sweet old couples taking care of their sick partners, busted heads, other people in unexplainable pain, seemingly overexerted doctors mobbed by patients and patients’ relatives yet still managing to keep calm. The nurses were really nice and helpful. As the shifts changed in the morning for the nurses and doctors we heard weeping and wailing from a room close to us. I said a little prayer for the lost soul. A very rude woman sleeping in the bed next to Amani’s kept saying in Chinese; “What’s with all the crying? If the guy is dead, he’s dead, that’s it”. I was too exhausted to give her a dirty look.

Thankfully Amani was pain free by around 10am, we went back to see the doctor, he suggested she come back later for another round of treatment and that we may need to consider surgery in the very near future. I could finally breathe easy. Once my head hit the pillow that afternoon, I was gone, passed out till we had to go back to the hospital in the evening.

Amani had to go on this crazy ‘gall-stone diet’ for some time but there was no more pain, just discomfort and exhaustion at the beginning. I never want to go through that again though. I already carry my heart on my sleeve and that day it moved to my fingertips. I was freaked out but at the same time I had someone depending on me so I couldn’t afford to freak out. I kept second guessing myself because of language barriers, wondering if maybe there was something life-threatening/saving that I didn’t understand and that if anything happened to Amani I’d always wonder if it was partly my fault. Sheesh, talk about being between a rock and an even bigger rock!

 

P.S: China for me was a ‘you live and you learn’ experience. I had loads of amazing adventures; most of which were non-life-threatening I promise. Haha! All worthwhile though. Have you been there? I’d love to hear your story. Look out for more posts on my experience in China!

I don’t run; well maybe just from fights but nothing else. For instance:

  • When aliens invade and take over the planet. I’ll probably be one of the idiots who go out to meet them with a ‘welcome to earth’ placard. You know, the idiots who get incinerated by the huge fire-hose thingy that all aliens have. At least it will be quick and painless though. Aliens have very effective technology.
  • When our smart homes and smart homes and future robot nannies suddenly grow a conscience and turn on us. I’d probably get locked in my smart home and attacked by my smart microwave while taking a nice warm bubble bath in my smart bath tub. Of course this will happen like a week before peeps discover that the computers are taking over. So at my funeral talk will be of why the heck she had her microwave on so close to the tub and what a terrible way to go; naked, electrocuted and drowned.
  • When overzealous scientists “accidentally” create a super virus that can wipe out half the population in a matter of days. Me and my hug-loving behind would probably end up hugging patient zero and have the maniac virus melt my insides in a matter of hours before peeps even realize there is a break out.
  • When the earth decides it wants to go on another tectonic plate shift trip and all the volcanoes wake up and explode at the same time and tsunamis visit every coast line and earthquakes become a common occurrence. I’ll probably be the first to fall into a fault line or decide to go hiking on Mt. Kenya on the same day she decides to come back  to life and erupt. Or maybe I’ll be on holiday at the coast renting a beach house on the same day the ocean decides to become a wall moving at 970km/hr and take a walk along the beach.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m just as afraid of death as the next guy. If some random terrorist/bank robber person was to hold a gun to my head, I would definitely pee a little (read a lot). I would then proceed to make the worst hostage because I would skip through the begging for mercy, or planning a strategic 007 escape and go straight to the fainting.

My point is; there are things out here to run away from. We are all born with an instinct-fueled will to survive. It’s a reflex that all living things are equipped with. That’s how creation survives through the ages.

So, run, run from death when you can. Run like the wind. But don’t run from life and all that comes with it.

I don’t run so I will not let you run either. I won’t let you run from the anger  that makes you want to punch through a wall. Or from the pain that, makes you want to sit in a dark corner, curl up into a tiny ball and wish it away. Or from the hopelessness and stress that kept you awake last night and won’t let you get out of bed in the morning .Or from the scary excitement of love. You know the love that your big, mushy heart keeps running into. Love that tells you it’s perfect logic to use your one month salary to rent a hot air balloon so you could share one perfect sunset with someone. Love that gives you googly eyes and slurry speech and rents your tummy out to a colony of butterflies that never sleep.  Love is weird.

I won’t let you run form the bad stuff either; the stuff you can’t control. Sickness, family drama that just won’t go away, sudden lay-offs at work, the ‘broke-weeks’ that never seem to end, accidents; pretty much whatever sucky thing  this side of life decides to throw at you. I won’t let you run from the darkness inside you either; the skeletons in your closet, the ghosts under your bed. All those have to go. You can thank me later.

I have a sort of secret (not anymore) , selfish agenda for making sure you stay put. You really should have read the fine print when you signed up to be my BFF (Best Friend Forever). I told you the part about how we’ll be friends forever right? How we’ll be sitting on rocking chairs at the nursing home all old, grey, wrinkly and cranky (mostly you because I will be an absolute delight). How our grandkids will come to visit and we’d tell them about the good old days for the umpteenth time till they know all the stories by heart. How we’d hit on the hot nurses and attendants and when they’d fall for it we’d laugh our dentures off. And how I’d tell you later that that wasn’t nice and we’d have to apologise only to do it all over again the next day.

What I may have not told you is that you may have to save me from myself one day:

  • That when the aliens come and you see me making a ‘welcome to earth’ placard, you will have to take the damn thing and hit me over the head with it.
  • That you’d have to cancel my coastal vacation when the weatherman says it’s cloudy with a chance of tsunami because you know I rarely ever watch the news.
  • That when smart homes and robot nannies are all the rage, you would have to insist we leave our homes manual, our nannies human and maybe also insist we not get chipped.
  • You’d have to figure out how to save me from the super virus though. That’s a tough one.

In conclusion; I don’t run but if ever a time comes when we will have to; you my friend will have to make this goof-ball friend of yours run!

P.S: I hope you didn’t read this piece trying to figure out the science or logic behind it; there is none. Tell me about the fine print in your BFF agreements. The crazy/weird stuff your BFF (s) have to do with/for you. I would love to read your story.