A bunch of you want to know what happened to the cake from last week’s story. The damn cake. A woman suffers a serious medical condition, a man loses his arm, his freaking arm, and all you want to hear about is cake. Where did we go wrong as a people? How did we get here, with such sweet teeth? Is this what the end looks like; bleak, trivialised and diabetic? Did you even Google Sjogren’s Syndrome? The truth, you owe me that. You didn’t, did you? Who cares for Sjogren’s Syndrome, all you wanted was the mystery behind a pastry. Someone even asked for the flavour of cake, deciding that that must be the reason someone stole it. Other aspiring Sherlocks claimed the cake story was a diversion, while a professional wedding cake eater sagely advised her fellow sweet tooths that there was no way only a quarter cake can be served to wedding guests. Even my editor here wanted to know the story of the missing cake. And she’s the most pragmatic person I know. What hope is left, then? Why wake up?
Hat in hand, and feeling already chastised, I called the guy up. I could hear that he was driving. I said, do you think we can do a follow up story? Some readers are asking.
“Great,” he said, “about Sjogren’s Syndrome?”
No, about the cake.
Yeah, your wedding cake. Some readers want to know how it got stolen.
There was a brief silence. I know what he was thinking. Actually, he wasn’t thinking, he was confused. I felt bewilderment gulp in all the air through the phone.
Maybe some history on this guy. He had emailed asking to talk about Sjogren’s Syndrome. I had never heard about it. He said his wife had battled it for a while. I asked him if, perhaps, it was better for his wife to talk about it herself. He said his wife was very private and didn’t like drawing attention to herself. Besides, he continued, he was going to talk about it from the perspective of the husband whose sex life had been adversely affected by the auto immune condition. That piqued my curiosity because, what else sells apart from sex and avocados? Google didn’t say anything about the syndrome affecting anyone’s sex life. And besides, when he said “affected” it didn’t necessarily mean in a negative way, perhaps it affected him in a positive way, what did I know? And if that were the case then Sjogren’s Syndrome could actually have a silver lining. So we agreed to meet up.
When we met, he stood up to shake my hand and I immediately noticed that he only had one hand. Rather, he had one and a half hands. Speaking of which, the other day I was at Brew Bistro Westlands having a tipple with two barflies. We all had daughters who had sat for KCPE and passed so we had dropped them off at Westgate’s Strikez Bowling to interact with the evening life so we figured we might as well catch polite drinks as we waited. At the bar, shaking cocktails, opening frothy beers and running the bar, was a cool-headed bartender in black. I noticed that half of his left ear had either been severed or singed off. The scar that had been left in its place looked brutal but also beatific. He looked like he’d been to places where shadows linger longer.
I noticed his half ear, as he poured me a whisky. He didn’t have an earlobe. I wanted to ask him what happened to his ear but he was very busy and the music was too loud. I was fascinated by it, nonetheless, as I am by scars, because all scars come with their own tales. People say scars give us character, whereas scars are the character. And there are no ugly scars. Who was it who said that wounds are where light enters us? And if that’s the case then people who have healed from wounds carry light in them.
Imperfections are sexy. Like stretch marks in the unlikeliest place, like the neck.Or someone with twelve fingers. Or one eye. Or a scar running down a nipple, like it’s weeping. Or a scar on a left buttock cheek. Can you imagine how wild that would be if you met a new girl who had a scar on her bum? You’d ask wait, what happened to your ass? “Oh, I was stabbed. But it was my fault.” What, you reversed into a knife?
Anyway, I noticed our guy’s missing hand almost immediately. Suddenly I wasn’t even interested in Sjogren’s Syndrome, I wanted to know what happened to that hand. Or half of it. Had he left it somewhere as a tip? Was he walking next to a wooden fence and saw a notice next to a hole in the fence: STICK YOUR HAND HERE AND YOU WILL BE RICH and he stuck his hand and something bit it off? I couldn’t believe he’d thought a story about Sjogren’s Syndrome would have been better than his missing fist.
But first there was the pretence, the head-in-the-sand moment. We had to do that dance first. We had to make small talk and pretend not to notice that one of us only had one and a half hands. That between the two of us, at our table, we had a collective of three and a half hands. We had to pretend that this was normal, that the elephant was not in our room.
He held the latte with his full right hand. His left hand was out of sight, under the table. I sat there thinking, this is not the kind of guy I would tell, ‘let me give you a hand.’ [Don’t worry, we made these crass half-ass/hand jokes later]. I just beat about the bush, small talk, asking about work, about life. We talked about Covid and about how we both now don’t wear masks—unless in a plane. How it’s so nice to see people’s mouths again. “You can tell how mean a person is by the shape of their mouths,” I told him. He said, “Also, the thing with masks was that you could be talking to someone without knowing that they actually have a moustache!”
“Yeah, that’s dangerous.” I said. “Especially if it’s a chic.”
We roared with laughter. A couple on the next table turned to look at us. We briefly talked about Veet now that we were on the hair topic. He said that he knew someone who applied Veet on a dog’s tail when he was growing up. I told him that it reminded me of the expression ‘hair of the dog.’ Eventually, after I had exhausted all the jabber, there was no better moment or way to ask the burning [or amputated] question, so I just blurted, “So, what happened to your hand?”
He placed it on the table like you would place something you want to sell. Like a sirloin. Or a bundle of miraa. We both stared at his hand; I with morbid curiosity and him with what seemed like melancholy. He might have sighed or not, I don’t remember. “I lost it in an accident,” he said, still looking at his hand. His arm was severed above the wrist and it ended in a stub that looked like a mud fish’s mouth. The stubby area looked mournful; the shape a sad mouth adopts when the head’s having migraines. It didn’t look like a happy hand, to be honest. It looked like it was not ready to have parted with the fist.
We stared at his hand. He was wearing a burgundy Lacoste polo shirt. He smelled good. [By the way, I could have just written that he was wearing a ‘red polo shirt’ but I feel like showing off that I’m the kind of guy who uses burgundy, not red. Bite me.] I wanted to poke the stubby area with a fork and ask if it had any sensation. I wanted to ask him what kind of tasks a stubby hand like that is useful for because God said if He closes a door, He always opens a window. [It’s God who said that, right?] Instead I asked, “Do you miss your fist, your fingers? Do you miss holding a banana? Or just resting it on a thigh without any intention other than to be aware of its presence?”
He retrieved his hand from the table and chuckled. “Yeah, of course, I miss my fist. But less and less, I’m getting used to not having it. Often when you lose something you learn to live without it. Humans are very adaptable.”
He sipped his latte with his good hand—not that his other hand was bad. They were all good hands, only one hand was out of commission. He said he was planning on having prosthetics made. Something he can wear and remove at night like dentures. I tried to imagine his household. “Honey, have you seen my hand??? It’s not funny, you’re hiding my hand when you know I have to run off for a meeting!”
“What type of accident were you involved in?” I asked. “Heavy machinery?”
“No,” he said, “ a road accident, actually.”His phone rang and he answered it with his Bluetooth. Suddenly he was using a different voice from what he had been addressing me with. All of a sudden he was grave, like an undertaker. He told the person to send the documents in PDF format. It didn’t seem negotiable, that instruction. He then listened and grunted, scratching an imaginary stain off the table with his index finger. He told them that he wasn’t sure who would be assigned that job. He grunted again. He looked at me and looked across the floor of the restaurant. I stared at the crocodile on his polo shirt and imagined how someone somewhere said they’d use a crocodile on their clothing line and someone seated at the end of the table objected and said, nobody in their right minds would buy a shirt with a crocodile on them. Unless they worked in a zoo.
He talked some more on the phone. I could feel him adjust his legs under the table. He was a fairly tall guy and tall guys are always trying to find space under the table to wedge their legs in. It’s as if their legs were a liability, something you check in. The conversation wasn’t going very well. He seemed irritated by the other person or what they were suggesting.
Finally, he hung up and removed his earpiece. He had one of those phones that, when a message comes in, displays a sliver of light at the top of the screen and you have to lean over and squint to read the message preview.
“Talk about first-hand experience with douchebags.” He said, perhaps not aware of the pun there.
Unable to rise above it, to be a bigger person, I said, “On the other hand, it could be worse.”
So yes, to tell me the story of how he lost his arm he had to tell me the story of his wife contracting Sjogren’s Syndrome and the story of his mistress. Of course, I changed locations of a few things, added a dash of colour here and there but the facts remain the same. We are here for the facts, right? A bit of joshing, sure. Anyway, beyond the accident and him losing his arm there isn’t much of a story to tell really. Neither was the cake story, for me at least, but your wish is my command.
We did a quick phone interview [I hate these] and what I discovered about the cake was that he didn’t know much about the type of cake it was. “It had a coffee taste, sort of,” he said. “Maybe it was white forest, I don’t recall. I have to ask the wife.” The type of cake isn’t that important. What’s important is that he remembers the cake being cut. He held the knife and his wife held the knife. It was more like a sabre than a knife. It was long and shiny, the type you can swing about and scream, “heeeeyaaa!” if it wasn’t a serious day before the Lord and man. He then fed the wife a piece of cake and everybody screamed and there was ululation and the MC, a man with a small tuxedo and a thick neck, made a joke, a domestic joke about microwaves that no longer has goodwill in the new century. Thankfully it was funny because laughter washed through the congregation like a macro wave. His wife fed him a piece of cake but there wasn’t as much ululation this time because who cares if he eats?
He liked the cake, but most importantly his wife loved the cake. They went about with a slice of cake on a plate, first feeding his dad and mom and then his father and mother-in-law. He noted how they opened their mouths when the spoon bearing the cake approached them. Some closed their eyes. Others didn’t. There were some speeches. Some bad dancing. Someone kept refilling the flute in his hand with champagne. At some point his wife, a teetotaller, squeezed his hand and he knew exactly what she was saying, “Mf, don’t you get drunk on our wedding day.” Wives/women have non-verbal cues that need no interpretation. She could look at you across the room and you know it means, ‘Please let’s go home, I’m tired and bored.’ Someone—one of her friends—could say at a party, ‘Jack, why don’t you drop us and then come back?’ Her demure smile would mean, ‘Drop them and I drop you.’ It’s inbuilt, this ability.
Anyway, the cake was shared with the congregation that wasn’t big. Say, 75 people give or take and not all tasted the cake because most were already drinking and dancing. “I heard my wife specifically tell one of her friends to make sure some of that cake was kept for her because she planned to give it to her colleagues who couldn’t make it.” he said. “The idea was for it to be taken to our house.”
Only it never ended up in their house. His pal says he gave it to one of the drivers to send it home, only as the myth goes, someone, and we can’t mention their relation to avoid embarrassment [but it was someone from her side of the divide] told the driver not to worry, they would make sure it got to their house. They went and changed into their evening gear. She wore a glittery dinner dress with no back at all. He ran a finger down her backbone, as if strumming a guitar. There was glitter on her cheeks and she smelled like the neck of a rose. They danced and she drank some non-alcoholic champagne [which is like drinking coconut water in a flute] and they forgot about the cake.
They were to leave for their honeymoon the following day but the wife had wished to spend the night in the new house they had just been moved to the previous day. “It’s the kind of house she had always wanted, one with our own bedroom balcony.” When they spilled home at 3am, her shoes in both hands, he heard her say from the kitchen. “Babe, I can’t find the cake.” So they looked for it and then he started making calls because she didn’t want it to look like she was fussing over the cake. He could, the fall guy.
“People just kept saying, oh nani said she would drop it, or oh, I thought it was taken by so and so? Mark you, this is 3am, I should be doing what grooms do on wedding nights, not calling the world looking for our cake.”
She wasn’t happy. “That story of the disappearing cake really put a damper on her. I wouldn’t say it messed up our wedding day, but it sure was a blemish.” The following day, he made more calls as they rode in an Uber to the airport but there was no trace of the cake.
“I can have the cake guys bake another one,” he told her, rubbing his knee with his hand. The hand that didn’t know what fate would befall it soon.
“It’s okay, let it go.” She said, looking out the car window. “It’s just cake.”
But it wasn’t just cake. It was their wedding cake and someone from her side of the family had carried it to their home and placed it in their fridge and had eaten it with their bra off. That’s all he is going to say about that story.
And that’s all I will write about this damn cake story. Please don’t ask for another sequel. Let’s move on. Can we?
Talking of which; do you have a great story to tell. I’m on [email protected] Send me a synopsis of your story. Just two paragraphs will suffice.
If not then don’t wait until THURSDAY to get DRUNK here. [Those are my books]