Love is blind. And deaf, dumb and stupid. Now a woman in love is all of these things. She sees what she wants, hears what is not said and speaks to an imaginary being. No one can tell her otherwise, no one can advise her.
She must just go through the process and get knocked by the truth that was in her face all along. Real love for self and others requires that you see a person for what and who they are. These three women are about to find out.
She was young and carefree when they met. A daddy’s girl. Very naive for a city girl. Nikki’s family was from the suburbs of Nairobi. She had lived a relatively sheltered childhood. Her father did ‘father things’ like go to work, pay bills, drove them around on Sundays, had dinner every night with his family and he asked them about their school work and aspirations.
Nikki’s mother also did ‘mother things’. She cooked tasty meals, she sewed and crocheted, she went to the salon and bible study, she wore beautiful dresses and pointy heels and every evening, she prayed with her children before they went to bed.
Her school life was like her home life. Uneventful and average. She did what she was supposed to do when she was supposed to.Nikki was a good girl.
This is why when she announced she was getting married everyone was shocked. She had just turned twenty two and no one could figure out where she could have met a man, let alone where she had got the time to know a man long enough to marry. Her days were spent at home or at church. She had not decided what exactly she wanted to do with her life and her parents did not see the need to push her. After all she had gone through her teenage years without much fuss, they could accord her the luxury of starting her university education late.
J.J was a thirty year old musician. No one knew what the acronym stood for because his real name was Sylvestor Mbazi. He wore what looked like uncomfortably tight trousers, pointed shoes, a black mesh like vest and an old leather jacket. It was not clear if he had many of these same items of clothing or he wore the same thing daily.
His hair looked over processed and lathered with some cheap hair gel that smelled like toilet freshener. He had a pretty small head for a man, sunken cheeks,pointy ears and protruding front teeth. He reminded you of a rodent. He had long thin fingers and his fingernails were strangely grey. His skin was a bit ashy, scaly. Like he had scabies. His eyes were round and very white. He had a stunned look about him and his thin frame was hunched over.
They met when J.J had come to her church to see his cousin who played the keyboard for the youth choir. He had wanted to borrow a mixer for his ‘big’ concert. As soon as he saw Nikki, he forgot what took him to the church.
“Excuse me,” He said to her. “You look like my wife!”
Nikki giggled. He walked her home and invited her to his ‘big’ concert at some hole in the wall establishment over on the east side. She had never been to that part of town. That was definitely not going to stop her from going.
Nikki found the establishment on concert day. She used public means. She got lost a few times but managed to get to the place. Being a Saturday afternoon, the parking was already full. Cars we parked haphazardly. There were young men busy washing some cars while an old watchman struggled to help a woman park. She could hear the boom boom of the music from outside.
J.J was on stage when she got in.The establishment was a cozy place.There was hardly any space between the tables. The small space that was reserved for the dance floor was full of women gyrating their hips to J.J’s song. She felt a pang of jealousy. The jealousy was quickly replaced by pride when J.J acknowledged her presence in the middle of his number.
She found a chair at a corner but she had to share the table with two women who were busy snickering at the band.
Nikki thought J.J looked handsome. Despite the fact that his clothes were the same ones he wore when she first met him. She did not seem to notice. On his last set, J.J removed his leather jacket revealing his thin arms and walked over to Nikki. He gave her the leather jacket. He then walked back to the stage, She felt so special to be trusted with his prized possession. She held it as if she were holding a delicate bouquet of flowers.
J.J dedicated the song to her and then went on to sing and dance like a crazed animal. His chest hairs that were too long peeped out of the holes in the mesh he wore as a vest. His under arms were so bushy he looked like he was hiding hedgehogs under each armpit.
When his set was over, he spent another hour chatting with different groups of people. Mostly women. The ladies who were seated next to her stood up and approached him. Unlike the other women, they were aggressive with J.J. She could not hear what they were saying. There was a lot of pointing, head shakes and hip holding. Nikki looked down at her watch, it was almost 9 pm. Her parents would be worried. She was never this late. She would need to get to a payphone to call home.
When J.J finally finished with everyone and got to where she was seated, she was so excited the plan to look for a payphone was forgotten.
“Have you had anything to eat or drink?” He asked as he sat down.
“No.” She shook her head.
“No one has served you? I am so sorry.” He apologised as he signalled to the waitress.
“What will you have?” He asked as the waitress approached.
“Just a soda”.
“You can’t have just a soda!”
“Yes?” The waitress with no eyebrows asked as she chewed her gum loudly.
“Njeri,” he started,” Can we have two Guinness, baridi!”
“We have already given you all your free drinks allocated to you today. Boss said you should not be given more than four. You will have to pay for these two. Cash first!”
“Njeri, I have a visitor, why are you talking loosely. Just bring the drinks.” He replied softly.
Njeri walked towards the counter. Presumably to bring the drinks.
“I’m sorry about that. She is new here, she must not know the arrangement I have here.” He said as he moved his chair closer to hers. Nikki’s heart literally missed a beat.
Njeri came back with only one bottle of Guinness.
“Boss said you pay for this one first!” She said as she slammed the bottle on the table.
“Ok, bring two glasses!” He said as he grabbed the bottle and hit it against the side of the table at an angle to open it.
“Oh no, I don't drink alcohol. I can buy my own soda.” Nikki offered.
“Rubbish! You are my woman. You can’t buy yourself a drink when I am here!” He boasted.
She was his woman. Nikki could not help but smile. His woman, she kept saying to herself.
He poured the drink equally into both glasses then lifted his glass and gestured at her to lift hers.
“To our happily ever after. One day you will be my wife so help me God!”
The drink was bitter, hard for her to take in without squeezing her eyes shut. After a few sips, she felt as if her knees had dislodged from the rest of her leg and started floating.
J.J on the other hand finished his drink rather fast. He excused himself saying he was going to the bathroom.
Njeri came back to the table, “I add you?” she asked in between her gum chewing.
“Yes.” She answered timidly.
“Money!” She half yelled as she stretched out her hand to Nikki.
Nikki handed her a one thousand shilling note.
“How many?” She asked.
“Two, baridi” Nikiki had gained some confidence. She was J.J’s woman she beamed.
J.J showed up as Njeri was reaching the bar counter.
Their drinks were soon served and J.J feigned surprise as they were set on the table. Nikki felt very good about herself. Njeri slammed her change on the table.
“I deducted plus the first one.” She said as she chewed her now famous gum and scratched her head.
“Thanks love,” J.J said as he kissed her cheek. “I will pay it back baby”
By the time they finished the drinks, Nikki was visibly drunk.
He took her to his house. They staggered there.She was too drunk to figure out how long they had walked in the night.
When she woke up the next morning, she was still fully clothed. Her head was pounding. She tried to get acquainted with her surroundings.
J.J’s whole house was one room. She wondered where his bathroom was. She could only see one door. His kitchen was one corner of the room. It had a paraffin stove and a few utensils. The room was stuffy. There was a wooden window that was shut.
Just as she tried to get up, the door swung open. It was J.J, she had not even noticed that he was not in the room.
“Good morning dear!” he said musically. I bought us breakfast.
He laid the breakfast on the bed. There were some chips in chilli sauce, a kebab and two green gram samosas. To drink they had a half litre soda, fanta, to share. Nikki surprisingly enjoyed it. It seemed to settle her hangover. She looked at her watch.It was almost noon. Her family would still be in church. She wanted to go home before they got back, she knew her mother would hit the roof. J.J convinced her to stay the afternoon. She was already in trouble, she thought, a few more hours would not make it worse. She decided to enjoy herself.
They washed dishes in a small basin under the communal tap outside. After drying them and leaving them in the same basin, they walked over to a Kibanda for late lunch. It was all so thrilling. She could not wait to be his wife. She was going to sew new curtains for the room. She knew she would be able to get a small rug from home to make the place more cozy. It was going to be wonderful, she thought.
Time does fly when you are having fun.Evening came by fast. Nikki had to go home and face the wrath of her family. She was not afraid though, she would use the opportunity to announce her impending nuptials. She really believed she had found the love of her life.
As soon as she opened the front door, her mother was already asking where she was from. She did not lie. She said she was out with her boyfriend. Her mother screamed and called her a prostitute and threatened to throw her out of the house. Nikki said she would happily leave the house. Baba Nikki was silent through the exchange that lasted about an hour. When he had had and heard enough, he sent Nikki to her room so that her mother could cool off. Nikki did not come down for supper.
The next day in the morning at breakfast, Nikki announced that she would be getting married to this mysterious boyfriend. Her mother burst into tears but her father looked unmoved.
Baba Nikki instead made a deal with Nikki. He asked her to take a three month trip to Cape town to visit his sister. If she still wanted to get married when she came back they would support her. Nikki agreed. In her head she believed that their love of a few days could stand the test of time. For a twenty two year old NIkki had the ideals of a seven year old girl.
Her travel was quickly arranged. Nikki found time to sneak away to inform J.J of her travel plans. He promised that he would wait for her. He looked so sad and frail on that particular day. He even had a nasty cough. She put it down to the concert. Singing for hours in the cold was bound to give anyone a sore throat.
While Nikki was away, she wrote J.J many emails. He did not always respond, but she understood he may not have had money to go to a cyber cafe to access his emails. When he did write though, his emails were very brief. She did not read much into it, cyber cafes charged by the minute. She had the luxury of using her aunt's laptop in the comfort of her home.
Nikki was very frugal with the pocket money her father had given her. She had planned on doing some small shopping for J.J’s one room home which would soon be theirs.
J.J stopped responding to emails completely. In the last month that she was in Capetown she must have written him one hundred emails. He did not respond to any.
The plane touched down at Jomo Kenyatta airport at almost five in the evening, she thought J.J might come to receive her. As she finished with customs and walked out, her neck was stretched out, hoping to sport J.J’s leather jacket. She was instead met by her parents. She was happy to see them but disappointed J.J was not there.
The night was long, she could not wait for morning to reach so that she could go look for J.J. Nikki hardly slept. She kept imagining how great their reunion would be.
She could not get to J.J’s fast enough. Nikki had left her house by 6:30am. When she finally got to the door, she stood for a second to catch her breath. She then knocked the door softly. Nothing. She knocked again, harder.
She heard fiddling with keys then the door opened slowly. Nikki stood still. It was not J.J. It was a woman. She looked familiar. She was one of the ladies she had shared a table with the night she had gone to watch J.J.
“Yes?” She was still half asleep. She had not even bothered to put on something on top of her see through nightdress.
“J.J..” Nikki was barely audible.
“Oh my God, I remember you!” The woman said rather loudly. “J.J died, we are just back from the village from the funeral. We buried him four days ago.”
She said it so easily like she was talking about the weather.
Nikki felt her head tighten. Her ears were hot and tears just started streaming down her face.
“What…. What happened?” she finally managed to ask.
“You, tell that girl the truth!” It was another voice from inside the room. Another woman appeared from behind the door. It was the second woman she had shared the table with that day.
“Listen,’ she started off, “We are J.J’s sisters. J.J died of AIDs.”
Read part three of this series tomorrow exclusively on the Star website