He had been out of the game for a while. It’s hard for a divorcee to trust again. Especially when the reason you are divorced is that your ex-wife had a thing with your cousin. Shameful, ain’t it? People mumble in hush tones at family gatherings, pointing at your direction. They try not to bring it up, but it’s too hot a topic. Someone just goes, ‘So Joe, have you seen Ben’s new car?’. Ben is your cousin. The cousin that stole your wife and now has your dream car. You shake your head and swallow a bitter lump of saliva. You change the topic to your grandma’s cows. They are doing very well, these Fresians. The oldest one has just given birth and is now producing five gallons of milk every day. You promise yourself to carry some milk back to the city because you no longer have someone to take care of your kitchen supplies. Ben stole her.
Ben finally shows up in his new car. A Mercedes 4 Matic. He is received ceremoniously like the millionaire he is. Ben likes this kind of attention. He insists to shake everyone’s hand. He spends a minute longer with others, pretending to remember who they are, not to hurt their feelings. Truth is, he has no clue whether they are family or just grandma’s friendly neighbours. He hugs grandma three times and she spits saliva on her chest as a gesture of blessing. Then he sees you, sitted calmly, sipping your Krest soda. He pauses for a moment wondering whether to bump your fist, shake your hand or give you a brotherly hug. You stare at him waiting to see what decision he’ll make. He goes with, ‘Hi Joe‘. Good choice. You exchange pleasantries and turn your faces away from each other. You can’t stand his presence any longer. You take a glance at your watch and come up with an imaginary emergency that you need to take care of. You drive off back to the city, cursing every motorist on the highway.
You pick up the phone and call the one person who understands you the most.
Wendy is your therapist. She makes 10,000 shillings an hour to listen to you whine about Ben and your ex-wife, among other troubles. She also happens to have some legal background so she doubles as your divorce lawyer. She comes as an expensive package. You have the money and she makes you feel better so it’s a win-win.
‘Joe, I know I said you can call anytime, but it’s 10.00 pm. Are you alright?’
‘Joe? Are you there?’
‘I saw him again’ you gather the courage to say it.
Wendy sighed. She had instructed you to avoid any forms of interaction with Ben in order to fully recover from the shock and heal from this nasty divorce. She called it the Triple-A Matrix. Accept, Avoid and Advance. Accept that Cassie left you for your cousin. Avoid any interactions with Ben, Cassie or anyone who would remind you of them. Advance to the next stage of your personal life by meeting someone new. For six months, Joe has struggled with accepting what had happened. He had constantly waited in the hope that Cassie would realise she had made a grave mistake and come back to him. It pained him that he was ready to forgive her. Wendy had worked with him to make him come to terms with the fact that it was done. When Cassie got pregnant for Ben, he swallowed the bitter pill. Wendy was relieved because that meant that Joe was ready to now move to step two – Avoid. She had instructed Joe to eliminate all forms of contact with Ben and Cassie on social media and by deleting their contacts altogether. It was working. Slowly, Joe was getting there and pretty soon, he could advance to meeting someone new.
Now he had screwed it up by setting his eyes on Ben.
‘Where?’ Wendy asked.
‘Grandma’s Place. A family function’
‘Was Cassie with him?’
‘No, I didn’t see her.’
‘How was it like?’
‘There was some guilt in his eyes. I could see it’
‘And what was in your eyes?’
‘A strong desire to strangle him’
Wendy realised that it was now time to move to the Advance Stage of the matrix. That was the only way she could get to offset that hatred that built over every time Joe met Ben. Since they were family, they were bound to interact once in a while, despite all the efforts either of them made in avoiding it. She figured, if Joe had something of his own, something to own up to and be proud of, he would not feel insufficient when he met Ben. If all went well, it could even make him want to meet Ben more often to prove to him that he really didn’t take his life away. That Joe still had a life of his own. A happier one, maybe.
‘Where are you? I’m coming over.’
‘No need, Wendy. I’ll be fine.’
‘If you were fine, you wouldn’t have called’
‘I just needed…’
‘I’ll be there in a quarter of an hour’
She found him downing his seventh Heineken. She paid the bill and drove him home. That night, basking in the hot coals of the fireplace, they set up a Tinder Account for one Joe Kimani, the first of his name.
Maggie was attending her seventh wedding of the year, and it was just the third week of May. She always got invited because they thought she was a cheerful giver. She would sign fat cheques or offer expensive kitchen appliances as wedding gifts. Word had gotten around and Maggie would always get a VIP Invitation, with the offer of a Plus One. The downside is that she had never shown up at two consequent weddings with the same company. First, it was Jamie the accountant, then Jamal the News Anchor followed by Ezra the Congolese Music Producer and Director. At one wedding she showed up alone and the next after that, she came in a 250 CC Yamaha Sports Bike, courtesy of her Motor Racing friend Karim who rode in in a 300 CC 1950 Honda. None of these men had been in her life long enough to accompany her to a second wedding.
When asked, her response was always something like, ‘He snores too loudly’ , ‘We ended it on a mutual understanding’ or ‘He is always away and long – distance did not work for us’. The truth was, Maggie had developed a very selective mantra around her men since she discovered that the man of her dreams, the man she was just about to marry, was into fellow men. She had always thought Pete was extra but all that had made her like him even more. Pete had white bedsheets, a white towel and spent longer in the bathroom than Maggie. His favourite artiste was P!nk and his favourite Pass time was Karaoke. He had lots of friends, both male and female, and they all adored Maggie. They called him Softie. They were very stylish and money – laden. Pete was a chef at a local hotel and he was the best at it.
The first sign came when she found Chris, one of Pete’s friends, in Pete’s apartment comfortably asleep with no care in the world. Pete was on the night shift and would be back at noon. Chris received Maggie warmly and served her with some fresh natural juice. Hmmm, he even knew where the blender was. When Pete arrived, they all had lunch and Pete escorted Chris out and came back happy as a bee. When Maggie confronted him about the queer scenario, he responded casually saying, ‘Chris is my bro, we’ve come a long way together,’. Maggie left it at that. A few weeks later, she saw photos on Instagram that Pete had been tagged in. Pete, Chris and a man she had never seen were at the beach, barefooted, shirtless and in tight brightly – coloured shorts. The beach attire did not spark an interest in her, as did how they were all wrapped up around each other like small teenage girls. The photo had been posted by the new guy. She scrolled through his profile and something struck her. Out of over 200 Instagram posts, only two or three ladies featured. All the other posts were of him alone or with other men, her boyfriend included.
The final straw came when they were chilling at home, watching random stuff on Netflix. There was a threesome scene and Maggie jokingly asked Pete whether he would want one. Pete responded from the top of his head, with an affirmative yes. He went further to suggest a name. The name was Chris. Maggie was dumbstruck. That was it. She had her answer. But she still could not believe it. She craved for some sort of physical evidence in order to embrace full closure. While Pete was asleep, she set up his WhatsApp account using the Web WhatsApp option. She would now read Pete’s messages without touching his phone as long as he was connected to the internet. For almost a week, there was nothing strange. Until one morning, a WhatsApp Group was created on Pete’s number, titled The Bachelor Party and images were sent to the group. They were images of a bachelor party alright. A very ratchet bachelor party. Men were dancing with each other, holding each other, being intimate with each other and not being camera – shy about it. Pete was right in the middle of it, all smiles and his arms around Chris, the guy from Instagram and dozens of other men.
She downloaded them and sent them to Pete.
He had suspected that she already knew.
He responded with, ‘I’m sorry’ and that was it. They never said a word to each other after that.
It had been a month since Wendy set – up Joe’s Tinder profile.
Joe always tried to catch – up with his messages once in a while but nothing worthwhile had happened ever since.
One evening, as he was watching his favourite NBA Game, a notification popped – up from his phone.
It was a message on his Tinder inbox. ‘I’ve looked through your profile and I like your way with words,’ the text read. Joe looked through her profile. She was a thirty-year-old widow. She was the managing partner at a leading Law firm in the city. She was light-skinned with dark well-manicured dreadlocks. Her favourite movie was The Titanic and her favourite artiste was Westlife. Her favourite book was Think and Grow Rich and her favourite quote was Do unto others what you would do to yourself. She was looking for an older intelligent man interested in something serious.
Her name was Maggie Muiruri.
Joe took a screenshot of the profile and the message and sent it to Wendy. Wendy was tickled pink with the news. She rushed over to Joe’s place and grabbed his phone. ‘There’s more to like bout me, if you wanna find out ;)’ She typed and sent. No response. Two hours went by. Wendy was up and down talking endlessly about the future. She talked about a wedding, kids, relocating to a bigger home. And still, there was no response. Two days later, a response came in from Maggie. ‘Really, like what?’
‘I have a moustache. I’m also a great cook’. Joe copied and pasted what Wendy texted her and sent to Maggie. The conversation lasted a whole day, with Joe in the middle of it, typing Wendy’s words and relaying Maggie’s responses to Wendy. It was kinda fun. There was a vibe and it led to them setting up a date on a Saturday afternoon. Wendy prepped Joe on what to say and how to say it. What not to say and why. What to do and what not to even think of.
She got him a navy blue jacket, a white shirt and grey khaki pants. There was also a black wet – look pair of black leather shoes. She also got him a Chris Adams Deo and Cologne Pack. Later, she took him to the best barber and he got a three-hour-long haircut. All was set for the date. That week, Wendy actually earned her 10,000 an hour wage.
The Chinese cuisine is delicious. The table you have picked is at the corner, with a panoramic view of the city and with copper – brown lighting that makes your toned face shine. Your date is sitting across from you, glamorous and even more beautiful than in her pictures. She can’t stop smiling. She is laughing hysterically at your jokes. You did not even think you could be this funny. She is learning to use chopsticks for the first time and she is learning fast. The jazz music emanating from the speakers above you is romanticising the whole experience. You two are enjoying each other’s company, something neither of you has had the privilege to do with someone else for quite a long time. The night is still young. You order a whole bottle of their best wine. She grabs it and serves you. You toast to a new friendship that may turn into family.
The vibe is becoming steamy like the Chinese pepper on your plate. You forget the rules Wendy wrote down for you and ask her about her ex-boyfriend. She has liked you enough to not care about revealing too much on the first date and spills the beans. She tells you about Pete. She almost cries but holds herself together. You feel sorry for her. What a loss for Pete. She had this all for himself and chose to let it go for another man. Well, the heart loves what it loves, doesn’t it? She asks about your ex-wife. You hear Wendy’s voice screaming at you not to open your mouth but your tongue just can’t stop rolling. You call Ben all sorts of names as she listens attentively, her chin comfortably resting on her right palm, with the elbow firmly placed on the table. You tell her how you found out about Cassie and Ben. She gasps in shock but you go on. You tell her about your miserable and painstaking family gathering experiences. She nods her head in understanding.
It’s been three hours and the restaurant is about to close. The 4 feet tall Chinese Restaurant Manager is your friend so he sits somewhere reading the day’s paper as he waits for you to finish. It’s been long since he saw you with a woman at his restaurant anyway.
‘Do you have a picture of Ben?’ Maggie asks.
‘No, my therapist said I should clear my mind from him completely’. You respond.
Maggie looks disappointed. You don’t want to disappoint this amazing woman on your first date. So you break Wendy’s rules again and say, ‘But let me see if I can find one from the internet’.
Maggie says not to bother but you insist on showing it to her.
You type Ben’s name on your phone’s browser and click on the images button. Lot’s of pictures come up. You scroll through, not finding any and just before you give up, there he is, shirtless on the beach, barefoot and in tight brightly – coloured shorts.
You show it to Maggie.
She looks at it and her face turns upside down.
‘Joe, are you sure this is your cousin?’ Maggie asks.
‘Yeah, I’m sure. Have you fallen for him too or what?’ you joke.
‘No. No. It’s worse.’
‘What?’ you ask, concerned rather than anxious.
‘I’d rather show you.’ Maggie says, pulling out her phone.
She scrolls down to her gallery and pulls out pictures of what seems to be a party. A bachelor party. A very ratchet bachelor party.
You look through the photos and confirm that Ben, the cousin of yours that stole your wife, is kissing another man. He has his arms around Pete, and around Chris and around dozens of other men.
You have never felt this happy and satisfied since Cassie left you.
You look at Maggie and find a coy smile on her face. Your lips begin to part, forming a smile and you cannot hold it any longer. You two bust out into a peal of loud laughter that awakens Chinhua, your short Chinese friend who has since fallen asleep. Then it dawns on you. Having grown up as the only boy in a family of four girls, Ben was the sissy of the family. You remember how during your childhood, Ben spent time playing with his sister’s girlfriends while you and your fellow boys dirtified yourselves in the mud. He grew up to become the clean, stylish and fashinable guy and that what Cassie had fallen for. He had a gang of male friends whose typical outfits were brightly-coloured clothes. He was a goth and had a tattoo of a male horse with a female head. He also had piercings in his ears.
It all added up.
‘Will you tell Cassie or should I?’ Maggie asks, breaking your train of thought.
‘Send me those photos and let us ruin their Christmas’
‘Shèngdàn jié kuàilè’ you say to Chinhua as you leave him a handsome tip.
‘What does that mean?’ Maggie asks.
‘It’s Chinese for Merry Christmas’
‘Acipere Domum’ Maggie says.
You look at her, confused.
‘Take me home – Latin,’ she interprets.
And the three of you walk out into the cold warmth of a Nairobi night.
This story is in no way meant to disrespect the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community.