Your wife has her friends over. They are only five but it feels like they are 38 because they are sitting everywhere. And they all seem to be talking at the same time and laughing at the same things and some have their feet up on the wooden coffee table, some toes painted the colour of raw wounds. Some have their feet tucked under them, in what seem like yoga poses. They hold on to sofa cushions like they are drowning and the cushions are floaters. The whole house suddenly smells of perfume and camaraderie and chatter. Someone opened all the windows.
At first glance they seem to be thick as thieves but you know where the fault lines lie. You know the politics, the underlying currents because when their relationship hits a rock your wife will often moan about them. The one with the Bobcat hairstyle? She hates paying for anything. Laura, the short, quiet one with the dimple? She’s a dentist and she’s also bipolar or something like that. She’s on meds and sees a therapist twice a week. She also keeps leaving their WhatsApp group which is named Superior Mamas because you suppose Supa Mamas had already been taken. Plus Supa Mamas sounds corny, like mamas in the matatu business. The one in a short, kidney-red dress with a string of pearls around her neck is the rich one. She married money. Laura is the buxom one, the vivacious one, divorced and currently dating a younger man who loves her as much as he loves his beard. Apparently, your wife reports, he also has a tattoo on the back of his leg. You don’t know much about him but he sounds either jobless or is a fitness instructor. Lastly, there is the beauty queen with her smoky eyes. Rather, she used to be a beauty queen in her heyday. Did some pageantry, wore a crown once for something or other. She hardly ever eats, her shoulder bones are arranged under her skin in such a way that a bird could build a nest against them. But her eyes…he always avoids looking her in the eye lest she sees his own desires.
Then there is your wife of 13 years who is currently telling you in the bedroom, “take the boy to shave.” The boy here is your son. You guys just call him ‘the boy’ even though he has a name. You don’t want to take the boy to shave, his hair isn’t even grown enough for a shave. What you want to do is leave the house and meet your friends in the bar. I mean, you can’t be holed up in the bedroom the whole afternoon with the women making a ruckus behind the door. “I will take him tomorrow,” you say. “I’m doing nothing tomorrow.”
“I know you won’t, Tim,” she says, “ you will be hungover.” She suggests that you stay indoors and watch the race from the bedroom. Who watches the race from the bedroom? What is this, house arrest?
“Take the boy to shave,” she says and leaves the bedroom.
You find the boy in his room. He’s your only son but you have another child with Mildred. Your baby momma is called Mildred because of all the women who could have had your baby you chose one with Mildred as a name. Of course it was never going to last, not only because of her name, but because she says you come from a cursed family. That you come from a family of destruction. Of doom. You haven’t been able to see your daughter because she says she has to ‘break the curse.’ The curse here, she says, is that you are ‘self-destructive, you self-combust.’ That You ‘hate being happy.’ You are reckless. “You drink like your father!” She would say, and not as a compliment.
You don’t even drink that much.
Your son has your mother’s forehead; wide and inviting. He has your eyes; large. His character is your wife’s; measured but can get pretty stubborn if fixated on something. “We are going to shave,” You announce to him. He’s lying on the floor playing with his tab. He holds your head with one hand for balance as you wedge his foot in a shoe. Why do kids just leave their foot for you to wedge in a shoe? They never make any effort to participate in the process of putting their damn foot in the shoe. His other hand holds his tablet from which a squirrely cartoon character says, ‘jump up, skippers!’ An hour later you are back home, hair shaved, mission accomplished. You present him to your wife like a peace offering. Like ransom money. You can’t watch the race at home, you tell your wife. Come on.
“I won’t be long,” you lie to her, “I will be back soon after the race.”
On your way out you make small conversation with her friends as you lean on the doorway, your jacket in hand. On the table are two bottles of wine and a bottle of gin. Their faces are flushed with alcohol and happiness. “My husband is on team Ferrari.” Bobcat tells you. Her husband is a snobby man who likes wearing terrible jackets- of course he’s on team Ferrari. The Beauty Queen says she doesn’t understand the fuss around Formula One. You avoid her smoky eyes. You say, “oh well, you ladies have a great one. Let me catch up with the boys.”
Your wife follows you outside and says, “please leave the car behind. I hate when you drink and drive.” You tell her you won’t even have that much, besides you are going to the local not Mombasa. “I will be okay.” You assure her. She says, “Just get an Uber.”
“Babe,” you say, “have fun. I will see you later” You kiss her on her pie hole.
“Don’t be late,” she says after you as you bound down the staircase, glad to be out of the damn house full of noisy women. Freedom! You feel like Nelson Mandela. A little bit.
At the bar, Tony and Tom are seated by the window and are halfway through their first bottle of whisky. Tony is the one with a sour face. Met in university, knows where all the bodies are buried. Tom is the one with no eyebrows, he has a medical condition called Noeyebrosiosis. Tony is in biashara, that’s all you need to know. Tom is a banker. Both are fathers and husbands. Tom claims to love golf when all he loves is the social illusion of golf. His handicap is shit. You are in a WhatsApp Group called 3T, after the letters of your first names. You know you are over the hill if you know the RnB group 3T.
Mary fetches you a short glass. Mary is the waitress you all flirt with. You drop an ice cube in a glass and the plop sounds like a national anthem. The race is already on. Night soon falls outside. The bar gets louder, there is a deejay. A girl you all know joins the table with another girl you all don’t know. The other girl says she isn’t drinking. “Are you on antibiotics?” One of the T’s ask her. She says she isn’t on any antibiotics but she just doesn’t drink. She’s bashful and coy and she holds her purse against her the whole time as if it’s very unsafe. The girl you all know is having a purple cocktail in a fancy glass shaped like an intrauterine device – if you look at it from the side. With one eye.
At 9:30pm your wife texts, “Pls bring me those samosas.” You don’t open the message because if you open and read it, it means you will have to go home early with samosas. Besides, she doesn’t really love those samosas. She loves saute potatoes. And ice cream. And brisket. And potato crisps. And peanut butter,which she sticks her finger in and sucks like a child. She also loves whipped cream. She likes to eat these things while in bed watching television. Your wife snores sometimes and hogs the duvet.
Tom is shouting something in your ear. His face is shiny and his eyes look like he belongs to a cult that doesn’t defeather chicken. You look away, at the barman – Max- shaking a cocktail near his right ear. At 10:08pm she texts again, “Tim.” So you sigh and open the message. She is online. You can tell just by looking at her online status that she isn’t amused. That’s what happens when you share a pillow and toothpaste with someone for over a decade.
“Hi. Ihav orderd samos.” You text with typos. It’s a lot of work texting while drinking.
10:12 Are you drunk?
10:19 No, areyou?
10:19 Tim, please.
10:28 The samos r beig made.
10:28: Please leave the car at the bar and pick it up kesho. You don’t want a repeat of what happened last time. You have children!
11:01 Tim? Promise me you won’t drive.
11:32 Promise soot anna
11:33: Scouts honour
You get behind the wheel at 12:54. You have gotten behind the wheel many times at this hour from the bar. You are familiar with the car and the journey. Besides, home isn’t far away, practically a 10 mins drive, nine if you take that shortcut that cuts through that silent street past the now dark and looming church with the bell you have never heard toil.
Your phone is ringing as you drive out. “You forgot the samosas,” Tom says. Argh, the bloody samosas. You turn in your seat and reverse all the way back to the pub. “Say hello to madam,” Tom says, handing the samosas through the window before tapping the roof of your car, “text when home.”
The samosas in a brown paper bag sit on the passenger seat. You drive with your window open. Cold air blows into the car. Radio is on 87.7 FM. Past the blinking amber traffic lights, down the hill that suddenly curves right, over the small annoying bumps. A public school with a faded gate. At the T-junction near those gaudy new apartment blocks with one-way windows you slow down, the sound of the indicator over the music. The car is warm and toasty. You stop and look left and then right. It’s all clear. You swing the car into the road.
That’s the last thing you remember.
You never really wake up. But that’s not your problem. You will never know that your wife will always remember the call that woke her up at 3am. A cop. You always know it’s a cop. They sound disinterested, listless even, as they pass the information in a matter-of-fact way. You will not know that the first responders, the next guys who pulled over at the accident scene, found samosa strewn all over the car. Torn samosas. “It’s as if the samosas had exploded,” they said.
You will not know how you have damaged your mother. How you left her a shell, just bones and grief. How loss has seeped into her body and her flesh and blood and changed her very chemistry. How she stopped combing her hair, stopped tending to her beloved chickens and cows, just sitting in the same spot, the same old sofa, barely eating, not going to church, just leafing through photos of you as a baby in the old family album. You won’t know that she will suffer a stroke and she will never be the same again.
Mildred will hold your daughter’s hand by the grave. She will continue praying for the curse not to follow your daughter. She will meet and hug your wife for the first time and understand her language before she speaks, this drastic language of loss because she lost you before your wife did. She will squeeze her and whisper in her ear, “don’t stop praying for your son.” Your wife will find it odd, will find her strange.
You will never know that your wife wore green during the funeral and that for the first time your son was taken for a haircut by his mother. Your son will stand over the yawning grave, hugging a framed photo of you pressed against his chest. You will never know that two years later, a guy called Bramwel would take your son for his haircut. A kind man who owned the IT company that supports the law firm your wife works at. So kind, when he heard about you, he sent flowers and he kept sending flowers occasionally and being attentive and “sweet” and caring because he understood grief because he is an orphan, lost his parents when he was 25. You will not know that he will be accepted by the Superior Mamas. They will tell her, ‘mama, you need to live your life. Don’t feel guilty. Tim would want you to move on.” Hell no. You wouldn’t. You would want her to be single forever and not touch another man. Ever.
At your local, Mary, your favourite waitress will cover her mouth when she is told about what happened and gasp, ‘Ngai! Not Tim! Aki No!” She will run to the bathroom and cry for five minutes. Max, the barman, will be in disbelief but shocked. He knows how your type ends. He has seen many drinking men die in cars. Many. Can count them on all the fingers on his hands. You had it coming. He still shakes cocktails and pours drinks for dead men with car keys in their pockets.
Tony and Tom will still hold court in that corner, they will start a ritual where they spill some whisky on the floor whenever a new bottle is opened, but soon that will get old and silly and expensive and they will stop. Time will pass and grass will grow on your memory. Your group, 3T, will be less than one person and one day, Tom will simply change it to 2T. And that will be it.
Of course you will never know this.