As told by Jonathan
When I land at JKIA on Wednesday afternoon I’m pumped. I’m finally where I want to be in my career and I’ve got a girl waiting for me at home. A beautiful, fun, puzzling girl that’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met. It feels surreal. When I see her waiting for me at the terminal, circling my car key in her finger, I have to hold her tight to believe I’m not watching someone else’s life unfold. It’s mine; she’s mine.
My boy Bob started blowing up my phone with drinking plans way before I landed. To make it worse he says heads up, Medusa will be there.
WTF!? I text Bob.
Medusa is this friend of Bob’s who’s been obsessed with me forever – and I don’t use the word obsessed lightly. She’s volatile, territorial and a self-inserter. She comes along even when she knows she’s not wanted. The kind of girl who’ll show up at your doorstep unannounced if you have the misfortune of letting her know where you live – which I do.
Every time I’ve brought a female friend or girl along for a drink she loses it. The night will usually start out well, she’ll act like she’s cool with it and even start to get chatty with my company, but just wait till she has two drinks in her. Then it’s all, “What are you looking at? You think you’re better than me? Huh? You think you have something I don’t?”
Then she’ll turn to me all weepy. “What does she have that I don’t?”
When we first started calling her that she had this crazy hairstyle, like what The Weeknd had before he chopped it off. Then we started seeing the crazy in her eyes when she was in one of her drunken rages and the name stuck. Her real name is … what’s her real name? I forget. It’s something sweet that doesn’t suit her at all.
I keep asking Bob why he tags her along and he says, “Don’t ask. She’s not a bad person. She just has problems.”
That’s all well and good but I’m not bringing Mel around her. I don’t want to have to explain to Mel why I won’t take her. For one, the situation is chock full of potential to get out of hand and it would make me sound vain. If it were up to me I would stay in with Mel, but I can’t bail out of a party in my honor. It’s easier if I just go and get done with it.
This is what I intend to do when I leave the house, but you know how you start something with the best of intentions and then somewhere along the way things take a turn? Then suddenly you’re hurtling down a slippery slope with no end in sight? That’s how this night turns into a pub crawl. We’re a disjointed party of about nine wild weirdos. Three of my friends including Bob, two of their girlfriends (or friends depending on who you ask), three of their girlfriends’ friends, and the loose wheel, Medusa.
We start with a live Jazz show in Westy, but only because the food there is great and comes in fair portions. The show ends some minutes to midnight. Everyone’s warmed up and ready to rave so we head to Ngong Road, to a club on the rooftop of a new office block. It is deserted for a WCW, but the girl who pitched it swears it’s usually a riot on Friday. Anyway it bums, so we end up at a backstreet local on Mombasa road that I dislike. There is always the sure chance of meeting someone from work there and all those fellas do is gossip and engage in pissing contests.
But we’re here, in a haze of artificial fog and red and blue neon lights, so I might as have one drink before I leave. There are repeat formula one races on the big screens. The DJ is playing pop from a dim-lit booth at the corner of the stage. It’s a little past one o’clock when we check in. The way the club is fashioned, you have to go through a steel door to get to a hallway that stretches into a narrow centipede of stairs, which is the way in and out. On the side of this hallway are two doors leading to the loos. I’ve been drinking lots of water all night to kill my high since I’m driving home, and I’ve gotten to the point where I need to pee every half hour.
I’m told this is how it goes down because I’m in the bathroom when it happens. One of the fools in my party spots a large portrait of Bob Marley with a blunt between his lips in the hallway and gets inspired. So drunkenly so that they pull out a spliff right there in the booth and pass it around. It doesn’t even get to the fifth person before the bouncers show them the door. Tsk! One of them, I don’t know who but I bet it’s Medusa, has the mind to mouth off and escalate a simple situation to a big rumpus. True to my thoughts, when I emerge from the bathroom into this hallway with the Bob Marley portrait, I ran into Captain Henry. He’s there with a few of the usual suspects. Apparently they are the ones who talk the bouncers down from calling the cops.
I’m left without company, but I’m relieved I wasn’t caught up in the melee. I decide to linger up there because if I know Bob, he’s going to get into something else and whatever it is, I’m not touching it with a ten-foot-pole. I’m going home.
I’m planning my escape when the Captain claps me on the shoulder and says, “Ah Congratulations bana. I hear you’ve made captain.”
“Thanks,” I say returning the clap.
“And fatherhood too…You’re taking off. Pewa mbili, on me.”
Am I drunk or did he say? “What?”
A couple opens the door and stumbles out laughing. Along with them pours out thudding music so that we momentarily can’t hear one another. The girl is hammered, can’t walk straight in her heels. The dude is trying to pass off cupping her sideboob as holding her up to walk. Obviously, he’s sober. They’re a spectacle that disappears when they turn a corner down the stairs. The steel door closes slowly. It’s one of those doors with a door closer to keep it from banging. The music is muzzled back to where it came from. A relative quiet returns.
He shifts his weight onto his left foot.
“I thought…I saw that you’re not with her and I thought – never mind,” he says, and turns to open the door but I intercept him.
“Not with who?”
“What do you know about me and Melissa?” He shifts his weight onto his right foot. “You two talk?”
“I saw her this morning at the doctor’s. It’s coming off to me like this is the first you’re hearing of it. Aren’t you two..?”
“I just got back from training this afternoon.”
“And now you’re here,” he squares his shoulders and I feel the power dynamics changing.
He’s stepping up to me. Where does he get off judging me for being here without her? Any other time I wouldn’t care. I did spend time with her, I had good reason not to tag her along, and what does he know anyway? She’s at my house right now, sitting on the couch in my t-shirt, watching a show on my laptop, not that it’s any of his business. But somehow, he seems to know something about her that I don’t, which gives him the advantage over me.
What the hell Melissa. Why would she not tell me? And why would she call him? Him! This puts me on shaky ground, in my own territory. Now I seem like I’m not on top of things. Look at his smug face. I can’t believe our first fight is going to be this guy!
“What doctor’s office? What are you talking about?”
“You should call her.”
“What doctor’s office?”
“Just call her, all right? It’s not my place.”
And tell her what? That I heard abcd about her and can she confirm? I’m not gonna do that. “No. What. Doctor’s. Office?
He gives me a long, hard look that softens as he relents. “Let me buy you that drink,” he says opening the door and letting the music out so that I can’t intercept him again.
I have pride swelling in my Adam’s apple, choking any semblance of decency out of me. I am this close to acting a fool but I bite it back. Grown men don’t pout. I follow him to a counter on the balcony that no one wants to sit at on account of the cold. We order a round and manage to talk the bartender into turning on the outdoor gas heater.
“She was at a gyno’s, in Upperhill. I was there with my wife for an ultrasound and I bumped into her.”
I don’t understand. “You’re saying…your wife is pregnant?”
“And Melissa is…”
He nods again, but I suppose he sees how my brain has turned to wax because he clears it up for me.
“She’s pregnant,” he says, then takes a sip of his whiskey. To his credit he allows me the silence to process the news.
What does this mean for me? What does this mean for us?
When I finally look up, he’s downing the last of his two fingers. He asks, “Will you take that drink now?”
I’m not a whiskey person, but if what I’m hearing is right, I’m going to need a stiffer drink and he knows it. “I’ll take one on the rocks.”
He signals the bartender, who pours the drinks as we watch. After the first sip burns the roof of my mouth and settles warmly at the pit of my stomach, I take a deep breath and feel some of the tension melt away. It is then that I remember myself.
“So your wife is pregnant too? Congratulations,” I raise a glass to him.
“Thanks.” He cracks his fingers. “Four months.”
“Second.” He sets the old-fashioned glass back on a napkin.
I’ve flown with him several times now and I’ll admit he’s one of the more easy-going Captains. Some of the others are rigid. They bark at the crew and condescend the first officers, but not him. He lets me fly certain sectors and he’s conversational. When I’m on a long, boring flight where the sun is scorching and my body is threatening to succumb to sleep, this is an asset. I knew he was married on account of his black wedding band, but he’s never mentioned a kid.
“Oh, I didn’t know you had a kid.”
“The operative word here being ‘had’,” he says coolly and returns to his drink.
Oh. Well now I feel like an ass.
I don’t know what else to do but offer to pay for the next two rounds. Even though I feel ill-tempered, I can tell it was a good-natured congratulation. He just jumped the gun and here we are.
“Another time,” he says. “I have to be home in twenty. But I’ll hold you to it.”
I ought to be going too, so we leave together and head out, each to their own.
I have trouble placing him. I know Melissa doesn’t have any brothers and her dad passed away when she was young. I thought I only had to win over her mom and her sister and she assured me the stepdad had little say in the matter. Now it feels like I have to get through him too. I don’t want to have to prove myself to him. Why should I have to? Who is he and why does he feel that sort of entitlement with her? That’s what I want to know.
He’s possessive over her, for reasons I don’t understand. I get that they were friends before I came along but I still think he’s overstepping. Even if they were more than that, and I don’t see how given that he’s been married for as long as I’ve known him, they must be exes now. Which means her love life is no longer his purview; he’s interfering.
As I think about it in the car, it occurs to me that perhaps he’s not being possessive. He’s being protective. Whatever the case, my role in her life is no longer transient and I won’t accept anything but alpha in that area.
When I get home someone has parked in my spot, a new tenant upsetting the status quo. I park elsewhere and sit in the car. I don’t want to go in just yet as I’m still feeling numb about my night and I need a moment. Besides, my padlock has a boisterous personality; it must clang and announce to the neighbors how late I get home and I don’t want to wake Mel.
The night out there is dark and biting cold. I suppose that’s why Wekesa, the night watchman, shuffles towards my car holding a flask of tea.
“Mkubwa,” he salutes me. “Umerudi?”
“Eeh nimerudi,” I say cracking a slit through my window, big enough for him to see me but too small to lean into.
“Habari ya jioni?”
“Sasa nilikuwa nauliza kama unaeza niachia ya macho?” he says slyly.
“Wekesa bana, nimefika saii. Ya macho ni ya kazi gani?”
He laughs sheepishly. “Apana, unajua mkubwa –”
“Tena umeacha yule jamaa wa 3F apark kwa parking yangu. Weh wacha maneno yako. Kesho.” I roll up my window.
Argh. He’s going to hound me all week now.
I feel myself getting worked up so I abandon my plan to sit in the car. Instead I go up to the house and microwave leftover slices of pizza. It’s quiet in the bedroom, so I must not have woken Melissa. The couch where I’m planking smells like her – warm, flowery and safe, like a mother’s bosom. And now she’s going to be a mother – the mother of my child. I feel both consternation and glee. I am unhappy about being blindsided. I hate that she thinks so little of me that she was afraid to tell me. There was enough time earlier for her to do so. What? Did she think I would bail? But I’m glad for the news. More good news. When it rains, it pours. We’ll have to celebrate.
But first, I have to lay down the law. There will be order in my house.
Side Note: One of my goals this year was to post a story every Thursday. Not just a story, a well-crafted story free of kinks, typos and other writing crimes I hop and skip over every week to deliver a quality product of writing. For this reason I have been ignoring the soft knock of writer’s fatigue on my door that has now turned into a pounding. I’m running on fumes folks, have been for a few weeks now. So 16 stories in, I’m going on a series break. Taste of Mel will continue when we resume. Thank you for staying with us.20