Chapter Twelve: Maureen

“You can take the children for a while and spend time with them,” said Maureen.

“I live in a one bedroom apartment. You’ve seen it and it is not the kind of place they would enjoy playing around and all that.”

“They are kids. They only care about the attention you give them besides, you will get this job and that means you’ll have a better place if you so wish.”


“Belinda, can I ask you something?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Have you thought of going back to your house?”

“You mean the house?”

“Yes, I am talking about the house where Jeff and your kids live in. It’s the house you left and haven’t been sleeping in for the past one month. It’s the house that your kids call home and where their school bus knows to stop every morning and evening. Do you need me to clarify some more?”

“No, I know what you are talking about. I am not ready to go there.”

“What about Jeff?”

“I am not ready to talk to him. I know I was hard on you at first about Michelle, but there are many more women like her out there. It’s Michelle this time but there have been others and the more I act like a fool, the more I feel hurt. Look, if there is one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that there’s more to life than playing the perfect wife. I always thought that if I took care of everything at home then it will be great. It was for a while and then he started acting different and I started asking myself questions. I got what I was looking for and now…just don’t get into something and forget yourself Mesh, no one’s ever worth all that loss and pain.”

“You need to sort things out with Jeff.”

“Wait, are you telling me that I should forgive and forget?”

Ehe! Yes, that’s what I am saying. Before you start lecturing me again, hear me out. Listen, you need to iron things out with your husband. You chose to stay away from him and it’s reminded you that you can always get up when you fall down. You did not take his money or live under his shelter but you managed and he knows that, in fact, it probably scares him that you could walk away. All, I am saying is that you need to talk to him, yell at him or something, just to get everything off your chest and after that, you can decide what course of action to take.”

“Where is this sudden enlightenment coming from?”

“I have been reading this book by some woman in America. You know the divorce rate is pretty high there and their courts make more money settling divorce cases and all that. She talks about ‘the hurt you give’ in one of her many chapters about healing. I just tried it out on you and it seems to have worked.”

“Can I read the book once you’re done?”

“I can send it to you via whatsapp!”

“It’s a pirated book! Mesh, now you are hurting the woman’s efforts, just give me the title of the book and I will go and look for it.”

“I forgot I was talking to Saint Belinda. You need to go out, get drunk and wake up with a hangover or something.”

“There’s no way I’m going out with you Mesh. I’m too old for the club scene.”

“I know this rich friend of mine who knows how to have a good time. I’ll call her and make plans this Friday, and while we are talking about going out. Okwan is not invited. I like her, but she’s way too off in my squad.”

“You’re mean. How about we invite her and let her decide whether she’d love to come or not?”

“If she comes, she’s your headache, not mine.”


6:00 o’clock.

He found his way home at 6:00 o’clock in the morning. He went straight to the bathroom, turned on the shower and stayed there until he heard the front door being shut.

It was the eighth time he’d done just that.

She was not counting, but who knew that every time he did it, her heart broke, a dimming of a light that wanted to shine bright. She would get to work, put on her smile and attend to clients all day. He would text once or call sometime towards the evening, “I’ll be working late.”

She would ask herself, “Working on who?” but would simply text back or answer “It’s okay love.”

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

She said it for every time he came home late…she would say it to herself, not to him, he did not deserve to see her break.

When she asked her friends for advice, some shook their head and then continued chatting on their phones and taking selfies. Some friends pitied her while others told her to hang in there. He was going through something and if she butted in, he would not resolve it. “If your man wants space, give it to him, or else you’ll lose him.”

So, she sat on her desk, called the florist outside their office building and asked him to wrap two roses…in brown wrapping and deliver them to his office…

One last time.


You + I=


and around…it’s how we go.

You + I=….


‘I was told,’

‘My boys saw you.’

Round and around we go…

You and I.

‘Would you like to go out with me?’

‘Would you work on this with me?’

You and I.

‘Where were you at noon today?’

‘I was told you were with some guy,

laughing, blushing…where were you?’

Round and around we go…

You + I = …


Nicole’s idea of lunch was a full plate of chips, 1/2 deep fried chicken, and a litre of Coke.

I had a serving of bhajia and bottle of water. She looked at my tray and scrunched up her nose. She reached out for a piece of bhajia and dunked it in the pepper I had. I pushed the pepper towards her. She dipped her index finger in it and licked it like mama Josephine’s brown cat. “You can have the pilipili if you want.”

“Ai, no, I will use my tomato sauce and chilli, but that bhajia pilipili is fine! You know like the hot young kids who cannot even spell Curriculum Vitae! And aki you won’t believe me when I tell you the things we go through trying to recruit people for these people who drive Range Rovers and write cheques like someone sending an sms!”

“What do you go through? Is it as worse as PR? Where I have to find out which buttons to push to seal corporate deals and the like, and worse off write statements or sweet talk journalists not to print or publish some nasty pictures that could lead to divorce or worse off death of the big guys?”

“But at least you can bribe people! You get rid of the problem. We have to prevent the problem from getting into the company. It’s like trying to prevent a virus from shutting down your computer, now if those IT guys can take years to do it, imagine a mere girl like me from Ukambani, with skinny legs and a great skin trying to say, ‘dear’ instead of ‘ndear,’it is a crime I tell you! People should not suffer like this.”

“Ghai, pole! You have to work though, no one forced you to study human resources.”

“Ouch! If I wanted an exorcism I would have called my Mother, now nipe hiyo pilipili before you take away my appetite. So, how are you with Martin?”

“I have not spoken to him and I don’t want to.”

“Aki, it’s that bad?”

“It is what it is. Tell me what should I do, from the HR angle.”

“You can file a complaint so we can give him a warning, or you can ask for a refresher training course on his job description, but let’s be honest Marjorie, what if there is more to this than meets the eye?”

Raindrops and Roses

I made something of myself.

You called yesterday.

It was a rainy day.

I made something of myself,

You wanted me all to yourself.

‘Congratulations, always knew you could do it.’

The phone was in my ear,

It’s been two years.

I made something of myself,

and you wanted me all to yourself.

How’s your wife?

How is your business?

Let’s talk about your career, hard work puts food on the table not words on paper.

Who wants to read about love when they are hungry?

Get a real job, use the education you have.

I made something of myself.

Now you want me all to yourself.

No thanks, I still write. These words will one day host a party,

like raindrops on roses.

Niko kwa jam, nacome.

Ruth knew the flats looked good but she would have worn the converse instead. It was cold and wet as she made her way to Pizza Inn before one.
She couldn’t believe they were finally meeting.
It was too much too soon but she wanted to know. Her mother always told her she thought with her feet while her brain was still wearing shoes gearing to work.
There was nothing special about Walter.
He was a man.
He was working like  most men in Nairobi.
He knew the streets, and knew how to use his words and smile. She had often wondered how easy it was for women to smile. If they thought of something they smiled. If they were complimented they smiled. Men on the other hand, reserved their smile for a goal. They unleashed it like a Canon ball to get what they wanted.
She walked to the counter and ordered a milkshake.
It was ten minutes past one.
She paid for her milkshake, secured a seat and then pulled out her phone to call Walter.
“Hey, are you already there?”
“Yes, and you?”
“Stuck in traffic, give me ten minutes, I will be there.”
Walter alighted at Muthurwa and made his way past lots of people to Kencom. He realized he was sweating when he brushed past a woman as he was crossing the road which made him stop for a minute to catch his breath. He looked around and then straightened himself and slowed down as he walked into Pizza Inn.
He pulled out his phone from his pocket and dialled Ruth’s number.
“Where are you seated?”
“I’m upstairs.”
“Sure,will be getting there. What can I get you?”
“Am good, maybe a vanilla milkshake.”
Walter approached the counter and placed his order and then paid the lady. He made his way upstairs looking around hoping to spot Ruth before she spotted him but luck was not on his side. She smiled and rose when he approached her table.
He gave her order and she placed it on the table and reached out for a  hug.
“You look great Walter. Ulikuwa wapi?”
“Imagine kwa jam, when you called I was hapo Muthurwa thinking, I should just walk, so I was like nacome.”

Madam 07…

My day has been delightful because I was approached by two suitors and let me tell you nothing beats being proposed to while sitting in the boot of a Probox leaning against sacks of dried fish!
I made my first visit to Nyatike today and had to proceed to Sori and Muhuru Bay to visit a few schools.
I loved Muhuru Bay and took a shot of this:


On our way back I was granted my wish of sitting in the boot. See, I thought that I would sit there all alone with enough leg room to listen to that new song by One Direction, Perfect,see I like something light and once you throw in a word like rendezvous then am sold! So, there I am sitting and setting up my earphones for a great one hour ride when the vehicle stops and the driver picks up two guys.
They are offered seats in the boot and I sit there looking at two men thinking, “please say no.”

But they cozy up on one side and suddenly there’s nowhere to look at.

See, I learned that sitting in the boot of a Probox is not as great as I made it out to be because there’s nowhere to look at but where you’ve come from, and with unwanted company the view gets blurry if not completely unappealing.
So, before I plug in my earphones for a One Direction experience, the guy in green shoes says, “Madam, si you give me your 07 ijaber!
I thanked him and told him I was not willing to give him my phone number because I was in a relationship. He smiled and said it was all right, and then we started talking about Migori and his friend joined the conversation.

When  we got to a place called Masara, one woman seated at the front shouted at us to remind us not to step on her dried fish. I was leaning against a sack and the stench of it had become a great friend, just like the one who farts doesn’t smell the stink of his/her fart.

But the other gentleman who was with us decided to try his luck too, and he said,  “Madam, you have turned down my friend here, but listen to me, I am very light, ratong’ and in Black Beauty si together we can make very chocolate or ango’wa cha? Yes, caramer babies, what do you say Mami?”
The driver slowed down and the women laughed saying that I should accept his proposal. He looked at me waiting for an answer, but all I could think of was the smell of dried fish  that had become one with my skin erasing the cherry bodysplash I had.

My Probox adventures continue…

The Restaurant: Waiting on Tables

Walter walked into The Grill as the guard opened the doors.

He had the Daily Nation newspaper with him. It was a Friday and the only reason he bought the paper was because of the many jobs that were advertised then. He was not a sports fan. He hated the pieces written on music and he didn’t care much about the lifestyle section.

He knew all about lifestyle by being a Waiter.

He had been waiting on tables for three years.

He had also dreamed of opening his own pastry shop in those three years, just as much as he had promised God and his mother that he would quit smoking. The good news was that he now brushed his teeth and washed his hands after he had smoked.

He went into the changing room and sat on the bench in the middle of the room and opened the “Jobs” section of the paper. He went through the adverts writing down those that interested him. After he had written three adverts, he folded the paper and put it in his bag and changed, ready to do his job and earn some tips. There were days he earned five hundred shillings and those that he earned nothing. Maureen, his colleague, often said that people in Nairobi were stingy with their money. She would scrunch up her nose and say that even bartenders earned more than they did- yet they served alcohol. Walter laughed whenever she said this because Maureen could put any heavy drinker to shame whenever she set out to drink.

He had seen her drink more than the group they were with at 1824- and still walk into the night as though she’d not tasted a drop of liquor. On the other hand, she never understood how he could smoke but could not stand the taste of alcohol.

Walter would smile and say “everyone chooses their poison.”

It was a lie though because he stopped drinking when he was in campus and received a call at four in the morning that his father was found dead in a trench. He was holding a bottle of whisky when the police found him. According to the police they saw it best to call him since he had his phone and he was the last person the man had called. He never told his mom or his girlfriend then, but he did not want to die in a trench covered with filth and dirt all in the name of alcohol.

He made his way around the restaurant setting the tables before attending the daily staff meeting with Saddam.

The doors were opened at quarter past seven and the customers started trickling in for breakfast. Walter worked but his mind was on Ruth. He hoped she would visit. She had not made it to the restaurant the whole week and he wanted to see her again, and maybe get her that glass of cold mango juice “on the house,” just to say thank you.

After his mid-morning break, he made his way to the Nakumatt supermarket to get some serviettes and tomato paste. Saddam was in one of his moods because their supplier was not answering his calls and had failed to deliver as he had promised. Walter was relieved to be running the errand because he wanted to smoke again. He had the feeling that she would show up today and he would not get the chance to talk to her.

Ruth walked into The Grill with two of her best friends, Nancy and Belinda. They sat down to catch up, as they waited to be served. She looked around but could not see Walter. Nancy ordered pilau rice and Belinda went through every item on the menu before settling for Nancy’s order and smiling at the lady who was serving them.

Ruth looked at the waitress and tried to read her name tag, but the writing was not clear, “what’s your name?”


“Thank you Maureen, I would like to know if Walter is around.”

“He will be here shortly. He is with the Manager.”

“Great, if he comes please let him know that his friend Ruth would like to say hi, and you can get me some chicken and rice while you are at it.”

“Okay.” They watched her walk back to the counter before Nancy leaned in and asked, “so you are friends with the waiter here? Is that why you dragged us here instead of Java?”

“You should see that guy. I know it sounds off, but I have the feeling that we have met.”

“Feeling ni wewe! You met him here and don’t go talking to us about dejavu because we know you…so, is he hot ama he’s kawa?”

“He’s hot! I wanted you to…you know, see him and tell me if he’s okay or not.”

“You just want us to tell you if he’s okay or you want us to be okay with you liking a Waiter?”

“That is rude Belinda, Waiters are people too.”

“Yes, that’s what you said about Steve, if I recall it was “Bartenders are people too,” and then when you found out he was serving other women too you could not stop crying about it, what is it with you and people who take orders and tips?”

“You will see him and then you will…gosh! He’s coming here, don’t look, act natural.” Walter smiled as he approached Ruth’s table grateful that he hadn’t given in to the urge to smoke because it might put her off. He could tell they had been talking about him because the other girls looked at him and then smiled back at Ruth as though giving their consent.

“It is good to see you again Ruth.”

“You too Walter. How are you today?”

“I’m fine thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you Nancy and Belinda. Enjoy your lunch.”

He left the restaurant after wishing them well and lit a cigarette.


The Girl with the Golden Smile 6

A concert of their own

Ben invited Nancy to lunch on his  unluckiest day.
His immediate boss had uttered a long list of reasons why he was being monitored. The conclusion of that list had been on word “underperformance.”
Daniel, the employee of the month, had sold three homes worth ten million. He on the other hand had sold one apartment and secured ten tenants. This was not good according to his boss. In his words, “we expect the best and this is not the best Benjamin. Your colleagues bring in investments greater than you and yet you earn the same basic salary. You need to do something about this. Consider it your first warning.”
He’d walked out of that office smiling.
No one was to see him frowning or sad about being lectured. If they knew he’d remind them that their commission depended on their sales. The employee of the month was proof of mismanagement of funds. He earned his commission and splashed it on his Mark Two car that never seemed to glide over a bump without a scrape.

So when he received Nancy’s text that she was busy, his heart went out to Njuguna’s pub right across the street from his house.
He sent her another text: it’s okay, later love.

He sat down and went to back work. He had a list of clients in his database that he would follow up on to gauge their commitment to the organization. He pulled out his calculator and keyed in the figures of his sales. He calculated his commission and sank in his chair. How could he have stayed here this long? He had wanted to start his own Real Estate Organization and resume school but somewhere between young single friends, readily available pubs and single women, his dream had faded into the background.
He was looking forward to having dinner instead with Nancy. They had been dating since January. In that time he’d learned that if she sent him a text he had to reply in under two minutes. If she talked about salon or somebody’s dress or perfume or weave he had to look at her and nod just like he did in his Comm skills class!

He also accepted that she was the mistress of disguise every time she visited the salon. His new skills included naming weaves, so far he knew Daniella, Isabella, and Sophia.

He left work an hour early to prepare for dinner. He dropped by The Green Restaurant and bought the best of their fried chicken curry and vegetable rice before stopping by Uchumi supermarket for some wine. Nancy loved the Four Cousins and he did not hesitate to get that.
He got home in time to pay Mama Flo for cleaning and dusting the place.

He then started setting up the house for that dinner taking his time because she’d be delayed due to the traffic.

Nancy knocked on his door at seven o’clock still in her grey office attire. She wore nothing but exhaustion and before Ben could speak she told him about the stupid traffic police who made the driver pullover and ignored them for thirty minutes. She couldn’t alight because the conductor could not return their money. The woman seated beside her chewed loudly. The driver turned on Classic FM and the station lived on repeating the same songs.
When she stopped she turned to him and asked, “I’m sorry, my day has been pathetic, how was your day?”
“My day was good love. I’m glad you’re here.”
“So, what are we having for supper?”
“Close your eyes for a minute, I know you are tired but tafadhali I promise it won’t take long.”

She closed her eyes and he turned on the lights and his music player. He walked to the middle of the room praying that she would believe in him because he did not at that moment. He was shaking when he said, “open your eyes Nancy.”
“Ben is that Mozart?”
“Yes, I know your dream is to attend one in New York, and I swear you are the only person I know who loves this kind of music, so I thought why not have our own concert here and now, just the two of us, and ask, will you marry me Nancy?”

“What? Ben, yes! Yes! I will marry you, and now I feel so stupid. I was all about my day but you had this prepared for me. Thank you sweetie, I love you. Wait till I show my friends!”
“Let’s eat then, so you really don’t mind this?”
“How many people listen to Mozart through their home theater system in Nairobi? Don’t you like how it fills the house?”
He didn’t but she did and in that moment, Ben and Nancy loved each other in their own little concert.

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For those about to rock, We salute you

You know Steve, right?


So, you have that lunch that you’ve been talking about with your friends for years. You pick a restaurant that has free WiFi, yes- it is important to share those pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

You notice that someone has lost weight, another has gained some (but you won’t speak of it, if she asks, you say she is beautiful) and another is growing this bump that she cannot stop talking about. She is the mother to be and then all eyes settle on you, “So when are you getting married?”

And you shrug off your shoulders like, “God’s timing is best,” even though you know that you have had some suitors but are just not interested. So they  look at you like you are crazy but say, “yeah, but no worries, you will meet the right guy at the appointed time.”

And you immediately say “Amen!” and look at the menu like an English teacher would mark an essay. They giggle a little and you do not bother to ask because that’s an inside joke among the engaged and married people. The waiter approaches your table and you say, “I will have the mango juice and chips masala.” The one with the bump looks at you and asks, “how do you keep fit with all that junk?”

You smile and say, “I do not eat chips during the week, so why not treat myself today, besides I hear their masala chips is to die for.” She nods and orders the same. The others place their orders and the waiter leaves you in the company of three lovely women whom you’ve drawn apart from and free WiFi. Which one would you pick?

Yes, so you go through your emails and check your Facebook wall for those updates and that’s when you see it:

“At __ restaurant with so and so, having a blast!” And you look up with your eye asking, “really?” But you say nothing because that’s the irony of it all. The person who cannot afford bamba 20 is always posting pictures of Jameson, Smirnoff Black Ice, Jack Daniels or standing beside a Range Rover with the hashtag #turntup #lifeisgood

So, you stop being so judgmental and switch off that new android phone you got with an impressive five inch captive screen and turn to the girls for a conversation. You start talking and listening and you realize that the one who has lost weight is Sharon. She used to sit behind you in class. She was index ten and she is frustrated at work because all the policies she creates are accredited to her boss. She knows so much about investments and even gives you a formula for saving and invites you to this chama she’s in.

The one with the bump is Martha. She is staying at home now, while her husband is working. She loves it because she had been in the banking industry for two years and she hated it. She wants to go back to school but they cannot afford it. She is scared that her second baby won’t be an easy pregnancy. She almost had a miscarriage last week.

And finally the one who has put on weight, well, she just got a job two years after graduating from the university. She had been stressed by her family and relatives desire to get her to move out and settle down. She is not dating anyone because her boyfriend had been sleeping around with the other women in her  block. She says that whole “boy next door thing” is so wrong! Those type of guys have a constant supply of women and you all burst laughing. You realize that she is Michelle, and you always chat on twitter even though she goes by a different handle.

They turn to you and you say, you are figuring things out and all will be well. You have had jobs and you have traveled a lot, and most of all you are proud of your family’s support. Then Martha asks you if you are dating anyone. You sigh and say that you were dating this great guy, but you got tired of waiting on him and so now you are single, but not so single…and they laugh.

Just then the waiter comes pushing a trolly and serves you your food and you dig in like the hungry beautiful women that you are! Then Michelle asks Martha how Steve is doing, and she starts, “You know Steve, right? He is working and I do not spend as much time with him as I did before…”

Then you say you have never seen this Steve guy and Martha pulls out her phone. She types in a pin and goes to her Gallery and swipes left for a while until she gets to the picture she wants and then holds the phone in your face, “that’s my Steve!”

“Are you okay?”


“Hey, you look like you have seen him before, do you know him?”

“Um, yes…I think we have met at a training or something…does he work for a CSO?”

“Yes, oh my! It’s a small world!”

You look at your food and feel like someone is out to get you. You keep stuffing your mouth with fries. You know it should not bother you that Steve is the guy! You know?