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The Interluder

It was late evening when I returned to the familiar, warm scent of my house. I could tell Mundia had just got in as well by the stillness in the living room. The TV was off but the kitchen light was on. I dropped my travel bag in the laundry area and headed for the fridge. Mundia was at the sink doing what looked like two days’ worth of dishes.

“Oh, you’re home?” he jumped. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

He shifted his weight to his right foot, blocking my view of the sink. I knew he stacked dishes in the sink for days when I was away; it didn’t bother me as long as he cleared them before I got back. That wasn’t what he was hiding, though. Unfortunately for him, I had already caught sight of the crime scene – two large dinner plates, the kind we only use when we have company over, and two wine flutes sitting soaped up on the counter.

I took a bottle of soda out of the fridge and reached for a glass out of the dish rack.

“You had wine while I was gone?”


“In two glasses?”

“Yes. I had one glass for dinner yesterday and one for lunch.”


“Yeah, I worked from home today,” he lied. His car was warm when I came in, I could smell the exhaust. Furthermore, he was wearing work clothes – not a suit, he only dressed formally during auctions. Still, these were clothes he only ever wore to work. Had he stayed home, he would’ve worn sweats and a t-shirt. But if I make that argument, I will lose so I stick with the glasses.

“Why didn’t you just wash the one you used before?”

“You know how I am with dishes.”

I opened the cabinet where we kept the wine glasses and took one out. I ran my finger on the inside of the rim to confirm what I already knew; they were dusty. He would’ve had to wash the fresh glass as well, which could only mean that he had used two because he had company. It can’t have been for lunch either, otherwise he would’ve washed away the evidence before I got home.

More likely, it was for dinner. Perhaps they stayed up late and he thought he’d have time to do it after work, before I arrived. Only I got back too early. I don’t usually make it back in time for dinner after a circuit. There are always airport transfers or hotel drop-offs but on this particular trip, my guests chartered a plane back to Nairobi so Mark and I drove home alone.

I had always suspected, but now I had confirmation that he engineered these silences to buy himself time and space away from me. While I sat fuming and ruminating, he was wining, dining and unperturbed.

I leaned on the kitchen door jamb as I sipped the soda. Usually, it took me a long time to figure things out. Being so alienated from myself, I tended to think about what I should feel rather than rely on the sensations in my body. Should I feel betrayed? Appalled? Disrespected? Then I thought about how I should react – yell? Snoop? Withhold? Whichever path I took ended in a tension headache and resentment like a hot iron.

But since I started inhabiting my body again, I’d started to feel things. In my bones, I knew that he was lying. I didn’t need to pummel him with evidence or extract his confession for the truth; it was enough that I knew.  

“It’s okay if you have people over. You don’t have to lie about it.”

“I’m not lying,” he said, more alarmed than defensive.

“The miniature garden is wet,” I said, draining the glass and adding it to the pile.

The miniature garden is part of an orchestra of items we salvaged from Mundia’s auctions to decorate our home. The floors are covered in rugs that I keep just for how they feel under my toes. There is a collage of antique chests and cabinets in the living room where rich folk once displayed their china cups, and on top of them is Mundia’s collection of decorative sailing boats. In the hallway, we have one of those optical illusion wall hangings that change between a silver mare and a field of lilies depending on the angle one views it from. It’s not high art but it’s interesting.

Also interesting is a floating faucet fountain that empties into a miniature landscaped garden. That one always draws an audience. Guests try to figure out if the water is real, (it is), and whether the faucet is suspended mid-air, (it is not).  Whenever we have people over, we turn it on because it makes for a good ice breaker. So when I said that the miniature garden was wet, Mundia knew that I’d caught him.

Only the question of how to communicate that I wouldn’t stand for it remained — and by communicate I mean punish. As long as I was being calm, he would continue to brazenly test my boundaries. So calmness would not do. Mundia only understood the language of explosive temper and acrid spite.

Should I take his laptop for a swim in the bathtub? Empty the garden hose into the fuel tank of his car? Practice my origami with his treasured documents?

Then I remembered the bird bath I had decided to get for Nazir and smiled. I didn’t care enough to throw a fit anymore. Another woman in our house was the kind of thing that was supposed to cause outrage, jealousy, hurt even, but all I felt was wavering curiosity about this interluder. For vain reasons, mainly. Was she prettier? More accomplished? Or perhaps more servile? No one is above vanity in such circumstances. But also because she was someone he wanted to impress when he’d never worked a day in his life to impress me.

It was both grating and comical that he’d brought out the fancy dinner plates and wine flutes I bought in service of this. I didn’t know whether to scream or laugh. He could’ve taken her to an expensive restaurant, but he brought her to the house. If that told me anything, it was that he wanted to project refinement as a personal attribute, rather than a thing he had access to.

He was posturing. He was posturing for her, that poor woman. Not having a clue what she’s in for. Pfft! I almost felt sorry for them both. That’s the thing about knowing someone a long time. You know when they’re putting it on, you know the vulnerabilities behind the act and you know that sooner or later, they’ll be found out.

Maybe I’ll just let things unfold as they will.

As soon as I surrendered myself to the tides of fate, I realized that no confrontation was necessary and peace like I had never known before trickled through my body.


To be continued…