Saturday night I drain the last of my White Cap and duck into the night. As I back out of my parking spot, I hear a crunching sound at the back. The parking lot is tarmacked and there’s no reason for any crunching sound unless… I jump out and circle to the back to investigate.
The watchies who so enthusiastically pointed me to this parking spot have conveniently vamoosed. There’s no one to explain who broke my tail light and just drove off! There’s no car in sight and I’m just now noticing a sign that says ‘Vehicles parked at owner’s risk’.
Argh. I really shouldn’t have come tonight.
I look around, feel the energy of the place and the people and wonder why I even come to these places. Sometimes when you cling onto something that’s not right for you the universe expels you forcefully. The level of annoyance I am feeling tonight tells me this is it. I’m done. I could be drinking whiskey under the warmth of my wife’s feet. She could be complaining about Daisy tipping over the trashcan again and that would still be better than this plastic in motion.
Earlier at lunch, we talked about politics, the economy, and the new routes introduced at work – tasteful conversation for when our spouses are present. Later the girls went to the kitchen to do the dishes. There was hushed talk and giggling, and then Olivia said, “Don’t you guys have somewhere to be? It’s Saturday evening, and I want some alone time with Njambi. Girl talk.”
Actually we did. The WhatsApp group chat was lit with plans for unbridled debauchery now that Christmas leave started. A bunch of captains, first officers, one guy from ground crew that everyone likes and a few birds from cabin crew were going out.
It’s a good day when your wife asks you to leave the house. If you come back at 4:00 AM, she might still clang dishes the next morning, but you’ll both know she has no right to be pissed and there’ll be no finger wagging accusations.
Since I haven’t dipped into the whiskey in my car, I am stark sober when we get to the rendezvous. The air is tangy and the music shrill, but the joint is alive with conversation and I’m sure I’ll get into it once I have a drink in me. There are kids running around in their father’s 2001 Land Rover Discovery who won’t let anyone breathe and catch a polite one because spending somebody else’s money is not a grounding experience. They just yap their mouths off for hours, manhandle their girls and talk about, “This place is dead, let’s go to space,” when Biggie is playing. They’re probably the ones who watched Despacito five billion times.
I watch these unremarkable women chugging Jägerbombs. Women who earlier in the night egged each other on to wear dresses they have no business wearing. Later, when the night is worn and the liqueur has gone to their hearts, the ugliness spills out. One of them says something unseemly about the other’s dress. Birds are flipped. They get in each other’s faces. The bouncers inch closer. A bearded fella on the next table who came here solely to pick up girls steps in. One of the women goes home with a stranger and the others let her. Cockblocking pacts made when their judgement was still sound be damned. I wonder how long that will go on until one of them finds some sense and leaves the pack.
There’s the one guy who sticks out like a sore thumb. The strip of his cowboy hat is cutting his double chin into three. I can’t help thinking he should be home yelling at his kids to change the channel when somebody starts split twerking on Live TV. Instead, he’s here throwing drinks at some young thing with a nose ring the size of a horseshoe. I pray aliens start landing in Africa before I turn into that guy.
On my way to the gents, I pass some poor lad accosting women who just want to go pee, asking them if they can call out for Kiki. She’s been in there a while and he’s not sure if she’s passed out on the toilet seat. Shoulders hunched, he apologizes for bothering women who look at him like a creep skulking outside the women’s bathroom. Others have no time of night to spare him. They just breeze past him as if his ‘excuse-me’s are the annoying sounds of a buzzing mosquito. Who needs to watch Mean Girls when you can see it in real life outside this bathroom?
I feel sorry for him because he probably thinks it’s cute that Kiki can’t hold her liquor past 10 PM, that it must be a sign that she is cut from the special cloth God reserves just for wives. When I pass him on my way back, he nods as if to say, “You know how it is.”
I don’t. I’m just not even-tempered enough to allow my girl such indulgences. I like my women mettlesome. If she sits down to have a whiskey with me she best hold it, else she shouldn’t be drinking it.
Then there is the guy who reads the Washington post for conversational material and won’t stop talking about Trump and gun control in America until your ears bleed or he feels that he’s exhausted the value of his dollar subscription – whichever comes first.
Then there’s the hustler, deals wheels on the side and knows where to grab discounts, like the Jumia Home Makeover going down this week. If you make eye contact he’ll try to sell you a blender, a steam iron for mama, all right all right, a meat grinder then.
There are the overly emotional sports fans who want to goad you into an unnecessary standoff. Mouth-breathers you just want to tell to put a sock in it.
“I’m not a fan of cricket.”
“Just pick a side.”
“I’m really not a fan.”
“You’re just afraid you’ll lose.”
“Hey, do you mind switching seats before I punch this guy in the face?”
Without Mel here, I am crabby. Everything’s different. I don’t want to be here, I don’t belong. For a split second, I consider going over to her house, if only to sit in the driveway for a moment and see her light on. I map out the route in my head – Ngong Road then down Valley Road, Uhuru Highway and branch off to Wangari Maathai Road. I can be there in twenty minutes.
Sigh. Momentary relapse. Shake it off.
Mwai turns to me and asks why I’m being a wet blanket.
“You’ve gone serious on me,” I say. The words tumble out of my mouth unchecked. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’m tipsy and sour that he rushes off to investment meetings the minute he learns Olivia’s pregnant, when throughout my seven years of marriage he’s been derailer numero uno, pandering to my ego and coming between Njambi and I.
“Would’ve a long time ago too if it weren’t for –”
He waves me off.
“If it weren’t for what?”
“If it weren’t for you wanting all the good girls for yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
He says I swept Melissa from right under him. That I was married and what a waste it was because he could’ve made something of it.
“But you just had to move in on her you greedy ass m –”
I tell him that he killed that one all on his own going on and on about Karen and she was bored and ready to bail.
“I’m not the cause of your problems. You drink too much and your choice of women is astounding to tell you the truth. I don’t know why you must go for these spoiled, daddy’s princess types who walk all over you and have no respect for anything that isn’t a platinum card.”
“Nah, you just took advantage of the situation and swooped in. You can’t stand anyone else having a good thing in their lives. You’ve got to have it all, and one has to wonder what for because you take them all for granted and it’s a wonder your wife hasn’t left you yet.”
That’s it. The straw that breaks the camel’s back. We have words – more words. Collars are creased and then I storm off.
When I get home it’s 11:53 PM. PM! I’m home after a night out in the PM. Well in, Kagwe. Well in.
Olivia took an Uber home and Njambi is still up watching a goofy pilot show. I lay my head on her lap and she strokes my hair in silence.
She says, “Olivia’s nice. She doesn’t know what she’s getting into, but if anyone can keep Mwai focused, it’s her.”
“Right? I can’t believe he dragged me to an investment seminar on our leave.”
She laughs. “He’s just freaked out. But it’s good for him I suppose.”
A comfortable silence settles between us for a minute. Look at us, gossiping like a couple again. On TV, two captains are fighting over an international route and my interest is piqued. Real flying is hardly that eventful but it’s nice to see a show that makes light of it. I wonder why no one has recommended it on the group chat.
“I’m sorry I took you for granted. I was a fool,” I say.
I hate to admit it, more so because it took Mwai calling me out for me to see it. But I was a fool. I was a fool for thinking that I ever had anything to offer Mel, when this woman right here has everything of true significance I’ve ever had to give. I was selfish and I feel oh so guilty.
“I forgot just how blessed I am to have you and the life we’ve built together.”
“And you remember now?”
“Vividly. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“That’s more I’m ‘sorry’s than you have said in seven years of marriage.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” I say.
I don’t know how, but she has cleaved my chest open and reached depths of me no one else could. I feel as though there is a river flowing right through me. To cede power to her in this way, to allow her to see me in my weakness, I could never do that before. I have always known, even though I have never admitted it, that she was stronger than I am. What could I possibly offer her that she didn’t already have? I have been afraid that she would find me inadequate, that she would see me for the fraud that I am and be disappointed. I have been teetering on the edge of this fear since the first day I heard her laugh outside an old hangar at Wilson Airport. What a terrible way to live it has been.
She’s crying now, tears of joy I think, and she starts to cry even more when I sit up and fish the black leather box out of my pocket. I go down on one knee, hold up the rings to her and ask, plead, that we be a family again.
I didn’t go down on one knee when I asked her to marry me. I didn’t want to do anything sappy and over-the-top so I brought it to her on a breakfast tray one morning and asked her, “How would you like to spend the rest of the day as my fiancé?”
Tsk. The folly of youth. The yellow of the sun hit the ring just right and she spotted it.
I said, “Marry me,” right as she started hyperventilating and fanning herself.
She pretend-swooned and then she said yes and I don’t recall feeling as content as I did on that day.
Now here I am on one knee, Njambi crying so much she can only nod and I feel the tears coming on myself, and I say, “Well? Is that a yes?”
I can barely get it out with my stomach is so tight. I am afraid. Lately, that’s all I am. I am subdued with fright because I am vulnerable, exposed, and this is my best effort at getting her back. If she rejects me, I’ve got nothing else. I won’t be able to fix it. If I lose her…God above if I lose her…
YES! She said yes!
Njambi & Kagwe’s world continues next week.24