From time to time, I catch myself. It feels like walking, lost in thought, then suddenly realizing that my feet are moving, that I am several streets away from the last place I remember but can’t figure out what streets I took, if I stopped before crossing the road, if I gave money to a beggar. I have fleeting moments of consciousness, where I see people pointing at me, talking to each other, waiting for something to happen so that they have a story to tell at home, a story to tell the news crew. I drift back into my thoughts.
When you meet someone at a training, when you have a light chat during the coffee break, and later, even more chats across each other in restaurants, when you love everything you learn about her, when you feel good because you have beauty standing by your side, calling you ‘my love’ and ‘my king’, when you want to save intimacy for marriage but then you can’t resist that touch, that kiss, that shedding of clothes, that suppression of ‘I’m sinning. God, I’m sinning’ thoughts, that making of love like every thrust melts your bodies, blends them into one; when you feel it in your bones that you have found ‘the one’, you do not imagine that one day, you will loathe that person. You will loathe with venom. You will find that face pudgy, you will find those words childish, you will find that voice pathetic, you will find that walk diffident. You will cringe at each brush of your bodies in bed, snap at every hint of dissatisfaction. You will want to be alone. You will find solitude a better attraction than commitment, because of what use is a partner when you feel more alone?
Then, you will start to be indifferent. The messages saying you’ll be home late stop, and no questions will follow. The house will run, but words will become an unnecessary effort, like opening the mouth and making guttural noises shaped into words is a monumental task not to be wasted on anyone not deserving of the effort. So you will chat with the gate man and the waiter and the shopkeeper and the neighbour and your colleagues and your friends, until all that is left of your partner is nothing but ‘hi’.
And thoughts will cross your mind. Thoughts like what demon blinded you so much you could not see the ugliness beneath the beauty, like why your lives are so different, like why your partner is not as sharp as your lady friends, like how superficial she is, like how annoying she is. Like how Sheila is cute and nice and everything you’ve ever wanted in a woman. And you will start paying Sheila harmless compliments, and you will start making them heavier, and you will start flirting, and she will respond, and you will have sex -like every thrust melts your body, blends them into one- and Mercy will know about it but will say nothing because you will know about her affair with a colleague.
Then you will drift further apart. There will be nights either of you will spend in another person’s bed. You will stop accompanying each other to family gatherings. You will sleep in separate rooms, which will be hard at first because it feels like divorce, and you are not ready to go through the process because you have family to deal with.
But in the end, Mercy will move out with only her clothes -in with her colleague- and you will feel the enormity of the situation. Because even in silence, physical presence tells you that you are not alone, that someone is there with you. You will invite Sheila, but she will decline to move in with you because she has been thinking of quitting the affair because she needs to get her life in order so she might be settling with her boss.
You will hate women. You will look for some on social media, but they will ask you to send money, which they won’t use to come see you. You will hate women more. You will want to have angry sex with someone, anyone, but no one will want you. You will go to Koinange at 2a.m. and drive through, shining your headlights into nudity, imagining what it would feel like to have your choice of woman, like choosing a car at the showroom. Imagining what it feels like to have a woman do as you please, a woman who will sex you properly because that is her job so she must be good at it.
You will stop your car and watch them run over. To you. It will feel good, to have women croon and call you handsome and strong and ask how you want it. You will be quiet. Looking. Picking. Pointing at one who looks a little decent in a short, yellow dress and high heels and fewer words to market herself. She will slide into your car and greet you in perfect English. Speak to you throughout in perfect English, speaking about social issues in great depth. Like a person with tertiary education and access to information. You will be impressed. You will take her home, to Mercy’s bed, and you will lie down and command her to please you. And she will. And your condom will tear in the middle of your angry sex and you will not know until it’s over. And she will say she is clean, but you won’t believe her. Not when a few weeks later you go to hospital and find you have syphilis. Not when a few months later you discover you have HIV.
And still, nobody wants you.
Some people are built of hope; they can never lose it. Even at the worst of times, they will always smile and be cheerful and push on.
I am not one of those people.
I am the person that climbs to the roof of a building and sits there, legs dangling over the edge, thinking, drifting in between moments of thought and consciousness, looking at people pointing up at me, waiting for something to happen so that they have a story to tell at home, or to news crews. I am the person that waits for a strong wind to push me over, or for sleep to come and make me lean forward into nothing.
Maybe I am scared to push myself over the edge. Maybe I want to die in my sleep, dreaming I’m a bird.
My phone rings. It startles me. I take it out of my shirt pocket. It is my mother. She is not a woman to be ignored. I fumble to receive the call. The phone slips out of my hand. Instinctively, I reach out to grab it before it falls to the ground. I lean forward and slip. Into air.