• Like with Romeo and Juliet, romance is ever so near yet so far for Makini
Back in police college, I had a friend called Muthomi. Like her name, Muthomi ate books for breakfast, lunch and supper. She read so much that I was convinced she’d go mad before we graduated.
One day, she brought to the mess a large book that looked as old as Moses.
“What are you reading now?” I asked before my stupid brain thought wiser.
Lighting up, she set aside her plate of sloppy beans and mashed potatoes. “It’s Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe,” she said, “two young lovers, forbidden to marry because their families loathed each other.
“Still, they whisper their forbidden love through cracks in the wall and decide to escape their families and meet under a certain tree. Thisbe arrives at the tree first and gets attacked by a lion. She escapes, but leaves behind her veil. When Pyramus arrives and finds the blood-soaked veil, he throws himself on his sword, dying instantly. When Thisbe returns to the scene, she finds her lover dead and she, too, kills herself.”
I laughed so hard, mashed potatoes spurted out of my nose.
“What’s funny?” Muthomi asked, unamused.
“You’re such a liar,” I said. “That’s a twisted version of Romeo and Juliet. We read it in high school.”
“You’re half right. This story is presumed to be the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s story.”
This many years later, I find myself reliving the memory of that tale of star-crossed lovers. I’ve heard it said that sometimes life imitates art, instead of vice versa, and I think maybe some people, like my fiancée Sgt Sophia and I, are just not meant to be in love. Every time our affection comes to the brink of maturity, something throws a spanner in the works.
This time round, Sophia’s mother is the fly in our soup. After huffing and puffing into Jiji Ndogo, Mrs Kali proceeded to debase everything in her view, especially yours truly, whom she deems utterly unfit to wed her daughter. In her final act of what Sophia considers ultimate betrayal, we catch Mrs Kali and Inspector Tembo, Sophia’s biological father, doing the naughty in his house. Sophia and Tembo (who had lived all his life not knowing he had a daughter), had only recently began bonding.
“You’ve won, mother,” Sophia declares, stalking off.
I run after her. “What do you mean she’s won?”
Sophia turns and burns me with a stare that could melt steel. “The wedding is off, Makini. That’s mother’s wish, and I’m granting it.”
“But why? You say she’s been mean to you all your life. Now you’re old enough to fight back. Why aren’t you?”
“Because she’ll never stop. She’ll always come up with another scheme to ruin my life.”
I touch her arm. “That maybe so, but she doesn’t have to win. I’m here now, baby. We can fight her together. You and me.”
She shakes off my hand. “Makini, never start a war you can’t win. You know how it’s said Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires?”
“Whatever. My mother is the graveyard of romance, her only daughter’s relationship included.”
“Aren’t you being a little…. judgmental?”
She thrusts her face into mine. “Am I, Makini?”
I take a tentative step back. “All I’m saying is… You know… I mean… What if Inspector Tembo came on to her, and not the other way around?”
She throws her head back and guffaws cruel laughter. “You’re such a naïve soul. You know who’ll be next between mother’s sheets? You, Makini. You!”
“C’mon, Sophia. Even your mother can’t—”
“She can, and she has. Why do you think I broke up with my first fiancé?”