Short Stories

On the Prowl
August 20, 2020
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It’s one of those nights where booze and ambient lighting mate and birth an easy, fluid mood. I am here at a friend’s invitation. Well, that’s not strictly true. We’re not on the same page about my friend-zoning him. He thinks he’s chasing me but I’m over on the side sipping Martinis, watching him chase his tail. 

Besides the not-so-small problem of spitting when he talks, he could probably make a good husband. He’s solid. Dependable. But I’m over all this aggrandizement of marriage. This constant talk of ‘marriage is beautiful’ as if we don’t know it’s all snores, farts, and hemorrhoids behind closed doors.

Also, I don’t understand this obsessive need to be owned. Why must I belong to someone else? Why can’t I belong to myself? Is marriage the only avenue I have to be loved and wanted? And must feeling loved and wanted be my only source of validation and fulfilment? I’m sure as hell enjoying ownership of myself. My body, money, and time without the burden of making someone else happy. Someone with such little self-awareness they don’t even know what they need to be happy. I’m just supposed to do a monkey-dance and pull it out of my ass…embly of creative ideas? All right. That’s not all there is to it. I mean, I haven’t even touched on women’s unpaid labour.

You give up everything to be a wife and mother. You kill the woman you were before and forget her. Bury her honorably under a dera, so that there’s no resentment when you’re stuck home on a Friday night while he’s out with his boys till cockcrow. Then one day you find out his corkscrew has been popping curvier bottles and he says it’s because you let yourself go. All that sense and submissiveness? It made you boring. Quashed your sense of humor. But he ‘respects you as the mother of his children’ ha-ha! Guess what? The resentment still finds a crevice to seep through. You can’t win.

It’s the repetitive wear and tear of it that gets my goat. Every time he invalidates your feelings. Every time he pees on the toilet seat, and you think of three ways you can blow his week right out of the water but don’t act on them. And every time you explain why you are mad even though it would be exponentially more satisfying to curse him out.

He’s a grown man!

He can take it.

But most importantly, he knows better.

It leaves callouses on your heart. You become hard out of necessity. In guarding against the pain you also lock out joy. You die slowly inside. Shrink, drown in yourself. You are not surprised to see that vacant look in the mirror. The dark circles under your eyes from all the nights he could fall asleep after a fight he picked, and you couldn’t.

You trade in practised smiles and forced enthusiasm but at home, things are as draughty as a house on a hill. Underneath the surface, you are dying to break through and take a big gulp of air. Feel the sun on your face, let it tingle your skin. Feel your lungs burn so good it reminds you you’re alive. You’re breathing. There’s energy bursting through you. You are a sentient being. But you don’t. You settle for the occasional spray of spit on your face. It’s not that bad. It’s not his fault. Pfft!

Or, if you’re like me, you tread up and make that burning, sputtering exit out of that death trap. And one day not long afterward, you make your way to a shindig much like the one I’m at. Everything you do now is a result of conscious thought with a dash of reckless abandon to the flow of the universe. You are a grown woman. A woman on the prowl.

*

I’m not sure how he comes to be sitting on my left. He’s put some thought into his appearance, but not so much that I suspect he’s vain. I’m not the only one who’s noticed him sitting over there with that big dick energy. Looking at home with himself. Exuding the kind of confidence only men who know where to find the clit have. There are other wasps swarming, waving their big behinds in his face. He tenses and inches away. I make eye contact and smile knowingly. Now we’ve shared a moment in time that only we are aware of. I raise my glass to him and watch for his response. He does a thing with his shirt collar that’s supposed to mask him blushing. Ha-ha! Him. He’s the one I’m taking home tonight. Let the games begin! 

He says, “It’s getting a little wild in here.”

I motion to him that I can’t hear him over the music. I can hear him perfectly fine. I just want him to lean in. He pulls his chair closer and I immediately breach his intimate zone. I rest the side of my elbow on his shoulder and turn my ear to him. It doesn’t alarm him; he doesn’t shrug me off. 

Mmh. He smells…familiar.

“Is that a whiff of shea butter I’m catching from your beard?”

He strokes it proudly. Predictably. “How did you know?”

I shrug. “On a groomed mane like yours…it’s not hard to tell,” I take another sip of my martini. “Also I use it for my hair,” I say untucking some strands from behind my ear and fluffing them.  

Now I have him talking about something he’s proud of. I place my hand on his shoulder and rest my chin on it. Close enough that his beard tingles from interacting with my energy field. Close enough that he smells martinis, mints and lust on my breath. Close enough that he struggles with the thought of tasting me.

I play with the hair on the back of his neck. Rest my open palm on his lap and venture as far as his inner thigh. This is for me, not for him. I need to make an assessment. If he fidgets and doesn’t have to adjust his pants, abort mission! He takes a ragged breath and smooths his pants down at the knees.

There we go. That’s the stuff. Now for the last mile.

I pull away slightly and empty my eyes of anything else so that when he looks at me he sees nothing but presence. He feels seen. I can tell he finds it too intense but he leans into the sensation, believing it to be of his own making.

Eventually, I drift away from the conversation to create a distance he needs to close. A space he feels the need to fill. If I have achieved resonance, he will come to me. If he doesn’t then I don’t want him anyway. The point of this whole dance is to have an enjoyable experience.

*

In the daylight, I get a good look at his house. That’s right. I tapped that.

It’s not half bad. I sense a minimalist theme and that’s not a polite way of saying it looks bare. A sturdy couch that would be punishing to sleep on if he ever got himself in the dog house. A potted palm in the corner, two of lemongrass outside his kitchen window. A shaggy carpet with dirt caked on some parts is the first indication of the absence of a regular woman in the house. There’s no coffee table, which might be a conscious decision. I can see an Xbox console below the mounted TV. There are stools made of glass and woven reeds that he probably bought in traffic though. And a stack of books in the TV stand that briefly excites me. A Steve Jobs biography, Machiavelli’s The Prince, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, and a few other picks a dude would totally take.

“You read?” I nod towards the books.

“Sure.”

“You’ve read all those?”

“Yeah, I’m actually looking for new reads.”

“I always thought it was a shame he never returned to find the Merchant’s daughter,” I say picking up The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. 

He looks confused. “Who again?”

“The girl at the beginning of the book that the protagonist really liked,” I say holding up the book. I skim through the books again. They’re not new exactly, but the Motocross Action magazines next to them are more worn. Those are what he reads. The books are either decorative or sour reminders of failed New Year’s Resolutions.

“Never mind. I go cuckoo for books. It’s…never mind,” I put the book back on the stack and move for a chair he’s pulled out. He’s served breakfast on a two-seater dining table. One slice of family-sized brown bread spread with jam, light enough so there’s no chance of falling into a post-breakfast nap. Eggs that obviously started out as fried and ended up as scrambled (this poor man), and coffee, not tea, to kick start my day right out the door.  

“So what do you have going on today?” He asks sitting down. He’s not listening. He’s thinking about segueing into what his day looks like. How packed it is, just in case I have misconceptions about what this is. It’s not going to be a weekend-long thing. We won’t raid the fridge for last night’s takeout and try for round three. I can’t shower and borrow a t-shirt then hang out and watch a movie. He’s not going to hit the shops for a toothbrush and shower cap.

“Spa day,” I say. “I have a coupon for a hot stone massage. Might get a full body scrub to go with that.”

“Oh. I was just going to hang out with my boys, play Xbox and down a few.” He grabs his phone and scrolls through, chuckling now and then. I cross my legs, lean back in the chair and settle into the silence.

“Don’t mind me, I’m just catching up on WhatsApp chats,” he says without looking up. I refuse to reach for my phone. Silence doesn’t unnerve me, and I certainly won’t be triggered by him ignoring me.

“You should check your messages too,” he adds. “Someone might be looking for you.”

He’s feigning nonchalance, baiting me into revealing more about myself. Possibly his way of figuring out how to make this happen again. I smile and quietly finish breakfast then pick up my phone away from the dining table. He clears the cutlery in that way that men do when they want to be congratulated for doing the bare minimum. I suppose that’s what they teach at Kenya School of Men?

“Let me call you an Uber,” he says picking up his phone.

“No need. I already called one.”

He looks up. The dismissal throws him off. Steals the joy of his conquest. Knocks him off balance. I can see the doubt. The contortions of thought flashing across his face as he resists the realization that I am eager to leave. How dare I? Dismiss him? Him? Ha-ha!

In trying to recover, he unwittingly cedes his position of power and asks if we can do this again.

Oh, honey.

“I’ll ping you. We’ll set something up,” I say.

It hasn’t occurred to him yet, but later he’ll think about it and wonder with bewilderment, ‘Was I chipoed?’ What I wouldn’t give to see the look on his face. Tsk.

Outside the day smells new, like a baby’s hair. As the sun strikes me in yesterday’s dress, shoes in one hand, and my purse in the other, I feel great. Drunk on power. He doesn’t know for sure whether or not I will ping him. He did know for sure where to find my clit though, so I will. But I’ll let him sweat it out first. Next time, he’ll be even more eager to please.


Read Next: The Conquistador’s Woman

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About author

Wanjiru Ndung'u

Wanjiru Ndung'u writes fiction. She is an irretrievable night owl. Loves tea and cats. Devours stories and knits cozy scarves

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  • Mukuhi Eve

    “Don’t mind me, I’m just catching up on WhatsApp chats,” he says without looking up. I refuse to reach for my phone. Silence doesn’t unnerve me, and I certainly won’t be triggered by him ignoring me.
    ooh Wanjiru, how i have missed you!!