Open Season

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It was her ex-husband’s idea. Her ex husband was a businessman. He liked to host people, his associates mostly, or people he was wooing, people he showed their massive garden in the backyard of a house they had taken seven years and two loans to build. He took credit for the garden even though she had never seen him lift a hoe. [At least not a hoe she knew. [Ho-ho-ho]] He would stand before the garden that she had mostly laboured on, pointing at plants with his glass of brandy. From their bedroom upstairs she could hear them laugh at something he said. He was the kind of guy who stood up to say something at a wedding when the MC asked if there was someone who wanted to say something. The kind who would volunteer to read a verse in church. The type who enjoyed being the centre of those parties even more. He liked people but people loved him. He always knew what to say to whom. He loved the sound of his voice, so he did not mind stopping to talk to a watchman or start an inane conversation with a hawker in traffic. Yadder yadder yadder, ho-ho-ho. A jolly good fellow. 

“I was the opposite,” she told me. “ I’m introverted. I hated it when he invited people over. Hated the idea that I would have to engage with a stranger and sustain a conversation. Hated to go for the dinners he liked to attend. Eventually he stopped asking me to go with him and it was fine. Only he started asking other people.”

He had a type; big-breasted and wide hipped. Thick, size-18 upwards, anything lower needed to eat more carbs. She’d hear about these girls he took out, younger girls, mostly in their late 20s. “Initially we’d have many fights about these women, but then again if I think about it, most of the fights we had in our marriage were about women. Even as early as when we were dating, girls just seemed to hang around him. He let them. He enjoyed people. ” She looked at her nails. They were well tended, the colour of Fanta passion. “He was a man of great passions, and that’s what was admirable about him. His passions were infectious. Most people aren’t very infectious with their passions and so he would attract all manner of people to him. I eventually made peace with the fact that I wasn’t the only one who got attracted to his web. How could I stop other women from admiring him for the same qualities that I loved and admired in him?”

I was over at her house, a two-bedroom on a road I can’t tell you. We sat at her balcony which felt underutilized. The railings had a thin layer of dust. It overlooked another road that ended up at a building with reflector windows in a cul-de-sac. Her two children were ‘away.’ I asked away where and she said, ‘away’, so I figured that information was above my paygrade and minded my own business. She wore jogging pants, a hoodie and those thick winter socks, stripped of the colour of the rainbow flag. [She isn’t gay but she thinks the gays should be left the hell alone and she supports them by wearing such socks]. Her feet were up on a drum-like stool,  her hands nursing a mug of tea on her lap.

She talked about her ex-husband like you would talk about your best friend in high school – the one that eventually ran away with the girl you loved. So, with a lot of admiration, which at times suddenly veered off onto the thin ice of resentment. Otherwise most of the time you felt like he was a guy you’d not mind meeting. 

“That man almost made me go nuts,” She said. 

She tells me of the time she followed him all the way to Mombasa. He had said he was going to meet some county government types to talk business. “ He was the kind of person who forgot his passwords, so he wrote all his passwords and kept them in a folder in his phone.”

“Let me guess, you had the password to his phone.” I said.

“Correct.” She laughed and put one leg over the other. “He never changed his password once for the 15 years I knew him, 12 of those married. I can promise you that even now if I found his phone it will be the same password.”

“Maybe he didn’t put great value in passwords made by man,” I said. “His password was the Lord.”

“Oh please!” She chortled. 

Anyway, she found plane tickets and hotel reservations in his email’s trash. “I’d figured this out about him a long time ago. If I wanted to find something he had hidden, I’d simply visit his email trash folder.” There she found the name of the girl and the hotel. A real slick one, that brother. 

He kissed her goodbye on Wednesday morning then left for the airport. “He had booked her on the next day’s flight. I suppose he wanted to have his meetings on the first day and then have his fun for the next two days with her. I booked myself on the same flight she was on. It wasn’t difficult identifying her; size 18, young, big breasted and very hippy. A younger version of me. Only less prettier, of course.” 

Ha-ha. I laugh at her overwhelming modesty.

She checked herself into a different hotel and waited for her time. “The best time to strike is when he is most vulnerable; in the morning. My ex would not wake up before 8am if the house was burning, and he slept the deepest from 5am to 7:30 am. At 7am I went to the reception and said I was delivering some hypersensitive meds for my brother who had checked in the previous day with his wife.” She said, “I told the receptionist that I was happy to leave the meds behind for him. I said, he was in room 346. The receptionist was very young and tired having worked the night shift, so she was not very alert, she fell for it. She typed on her computer and said, ‘Oh Mr. so and so, he isn’t in room 346, it’s actually room 120. I will make sure he gets the meds when he wakes up.’ I said I’d grab a cup of coffee from the restaurant but I went straight to the room.”

She pressed the doorbell to room 120. After a long moment, the door opened a crack. It was the girl. She had hair on her face. “I knew my ex-husband would not come to the door. The girl was shocked. At least she wasn’t dumb because she knew immediately who I was without even me saying a word. I addressed her by her name, I said, ‘Oh Hi, Linda, Oh I’m sorry, did I wake you guys up?’ All sweet and peachy. She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out, so I helped her out. I said, ‘It’s Pete’s wife. Do you mind waking him up? This is urgent.”

“You are a psycho.” I said. 

She closed the door and went to fetch Pete. She probably shook Pete, who sounded like the kind of guy who slept on his belly. She said, “Pete! Pete! Wake up!” Pete groaned and curled into a ball, pulling the sheet tightly around him. “Pete! Pete!” She shook him harder, “Your wife is at the door.” So Pete heard her but he thought he was dreaming, a nightmare. When she repeated it again, he raised his head, blinked hard and thought, why would my wife be at the door? Is she not at home? Am I not in Mombasa? Wait, am I in Mombasa? 

“Your wife is at the door.” She must have repeated. 

He rolled on his back, looked at her panicked face, said, what!? Then he fainted. Or died. Death being the better option.

“But that wasn’t the first or last time I caught him. Every year there would be a girl or two. I knew when he was in something new; suddenly he was always staying up late on his laptop. There was always some pressing proposal he had to stay up late doing. The reason he would stay up was to chat with these girls. It got to a point I was never worried anymore about these girls because they would last six months at the most. He was very intense the first four months, then he’d ghost them. It was like day-time drama.”

He wasn’t a bad husband or father, despite all these. “He was very kind, very attentive and very considerate. He paid all the bills. He was perfect. People admired our marriage. They thought it was rosy. And it was, if I turned a blind eye on his women. But then one day when he was drunk and we were having a fight again, he said that I was free to live my life as well.”

In the morning she asked him exactly what he meant and he said that she was free to see other people if she was discreet enough.

“Oh you mean, as discreet as you have been?” She asked him. He was at the sink flossing. He was the kind of guy who flossed when hungover. You should try it sometime. 

“The funny thing is that when he said that I heard ‘I don’t love you,’ instead.” She said, “Because why else would he want me to be with another man, knowingly?  I remember feeling very disgusted by him, feeling very cheap and unappreciated.”

He told her he still loved her, he just felt that the whole marriage was too important to throw away because of some challenges. “It’s this part that isn’t working, this sexual part.”

“It’s working for you!” She screamed at him. “You are out there getting laid.”

“You could also find someone to meet those needs,” he said, leaning against the bathroom sink. 

“It’s not easy for me. Unlike you, I have self respect. I’m not a whore.”

He had flinched at that, turned and washed his face slowly then dried it with a towel. “Look,” he told her,  towel in hand, “if you have a beautiful house and you loved that house because it had everything that works but one of the toilets wasn’t working well, it’d clog all the time, do you knock down the whole house?”

“Is this toilet in reference to you?” She said, spoiling for a massive row. 

“We can’t undo this marriage when we have options.” He said. “Think about it.” He got in the shower. 

She was offended. She was indignant. She was infuriated. How dare he? How dare he think she was like one of his big-breasted, crested-feet whores who wore red bras? She was a self respecting woman, not some floozy. How dare he suggest an open marriage? Open marriage! Like some dysfunctional and desperate family. If that was the case she was better off throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  

The idea boiled within her for days and as she simmered down, she started considering it, half heartedly. She shared it with her best friend, the one who knows where all the bodies are buried. “She thought it was not altogether a horrible idea, given that our sex lives couldn’t be described as exciting or frequent. Once a month or twice at best.” She said. “ But still. There was something holding me back. It didn’t feel like something I’d do. I was raised in a very conservative family. My parents were known figures in church. I didn’t wear jeans before my dad until after university.”

“SDA?”

‘No,” she rolled her eyes, “old fashioned.”

“Ha-ha, like the cocktail.”

“Only doesn’t go down as well.”

She gets up and goes into the house. I don’t suppose she’s gone to fetch a photo album. When she comes back she says, “where was I?”

“In your first pair of jeans after university. Savco jeans.”

“A what?”

“Never mind.”

She’s 35 years old. She doesn’t know about Savco jeans. [I bet you don’t either]

Eventually she asked her ex-husband about the terms and conditions of an open marriage. “So he didn’t want to know about the man and vice versa. He didn’t want the children to know about the man. He didn’t want the man to come over. The man could not be his friend or someone in their circle. And he’d have to have done tests to be sure he was not carrying diseases. The rest, he said, we’d make up as we went along.”

And so that was the start of the open marriage. “The good thing about it was that he didn’t have to lie about his women. I stopped wondering who he was sleeping with and redirected that energy elsewhere, to things that gave me joy. I was telling my best friend how I realised I was wasting so much of my time thinking about his cheating ways; where he was, who he was with, going through receipts and Mpesa statements and Uber. I once trailed him. I had time. Or I used the time to sleuth around, a complete waste of time.”

“Were you happier for it?” I asked. “Would you say so?”

“I was not happier, I just had peace of mind. Those are two different things, you know.” 

“Tell me.”

“I wasn’t worrying about who he was shagging because now I knew that he was shagging someone. That knowledge gave me peace. You see, as a woman, at least for me, when I used to snoop around looking for evidence, I didn’t do it because I really wanted to bust him, I did it hoping that I was wrong about him. I did it to believe the lies he told me. But I also did it because I was curious about the identity of these women? What did they have that I didn’t? Were they prettier? Once I discovered that he was not adventurous, that the women were carbon copies, just out to be taken care of, I stopped being threatened by them.”

“Did you meet and see men during this time?”

“Yes, one man. You know us guys are not like you men who just want to sleep with anything and everything – “

“Tell me about this man,” I said. “Where did you meet?”

She paused and said, “No. He isn’t part of the story. He is a minor detail.”

“Did you find fulfilment in the relationship?”

“At the beginning, perhaps, but later it flat lined. It felt like we were playing this game -”

“You and him?”

“No, me and my ex-husband. I felt like the marriage was a scam. I was not happy with the arrangement even though he seemed to thrive in it.”

“Happens when you have a head start. Ha-ha”

“Ha-ha. Yeah. For a whole year or two that it happened he seemed able to separate the issues. He was navigating the marriage and his shenanigans outside. We fought less for sure and that should have brought me happiness but it couldn’t. He seemed happy and, I don’t know, free. I, on the other hand, wasn’t very happy.”

“Why were you not happy?” I inquired. “Were you envious that the arrangement suited him more than it did you? Were you jealous that he was having more fun?”

“Jealous? Please. The whole thing stopped making sense. I wasn’t jealous or anything but I just felt like we were pretending, or I was pretending if I could speak for myself. I think men are more capable of polygamy than women in polyandry. I mean, some women can handle it, but I just couldn’t.” 

“Also the open marriage simply killed whatever was left of our dwindling sex life. We stopped getting intimate and slowly the lack of intimacy made us start wondering what is this that we are protecting? Our joint investments? Children? Our image?”

One day, she told him that she wanted a divorce. Her parents were overcome with grief. “It was almost like someone had died.” She said, “But you know that they weren’t sad for me, they were thinking about how that would reflect on them. Their daughter’s marriage is over, what a tragedy.”

“How would they face people in church?”

“Exactly. They couldn’t understand why I was leaving him, a perfect man. He had them in his pockets. He could do no wrong. I was the one on the wrong. He was the model husband and son-in-law. I couldn’t even tell them of the years I endured his women or even the open marriage. My mom begged me to hold off on the decision so she could hold a special prayer for my marriage.” She laughs. “I told her, Mathe time for prayers is gone. This marriage can’t be saved by prayers.’ She looked like I had slapped her in the face.”

“Or worse, slapped Jesus in the face.” I said. Like the fateful evening when Simon Peter [that cad] denied Jesus in the garden and some official slapped Jesus across the face. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to that official. Maybe he was forgiven, like the rest of us. 

“Would you recommend an open marriage to anyone?” I ask her. 

She takes a deep breath and considers that question. “It’s a complicated question to be honest. I say complicated because marriages are so different, there is no one size fits all. Also there are people who are in open marriages now, they just haven’t accepted that they are in one. I know many. It couldn’t work for me, though, because I’m too traditional. Maybe too idealistic.” 

She shrugs. 

“So … to each their own.”

***

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61 Comments
  1. That knowledge gave me peace. You see, as a woman, at least for me, when I used to snoop around looking for evidence, I didn’t do it because I really wanted to bust him, I did it hoping that I was wrong about him. I did it to believe the lies he told me.

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  2. She just had to be a Linda! Oh well! There are people created for open marriages, I wish they’d be married to each other. But how would life kick us in the teeth if conservatives and hopeless romantics don’t fall for whoremongers?

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    1. This lady left us with alot of gaps in her story and i feel like she didn’t want to speak. When Biko gives you some space you better speak like a radio with new batteries. What happened in Mombasa? did she pull Linda by her hair on those hotel corridors? And what does she mean the kids are away? away on leave? away to our Lord and Messiah ( God forbid thou) Anyway to each their own.
      *Shrugs too*

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  3. Of Vice and Virtue.

    Quite the Virtuous Woman. Commendable.
    But for one to tell who is Truthful and is indeed Honest before the Lord , then we should get the Man’s side of his story.

    For surely, He sees all ( All- Knowing) and indeed knows what is concealed deep in the hearts of men. Do Seek for repentance. It will help with the sleepless nights and night mares.

    It’s a good read the though.

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  4. You see, as a woman, at least for me, when I used to snoop around looking for evidence, I didn’t do it because I really wanted to bust him, I did it hoping that I was wrong about him

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  5. Really wanted more of this one, I feel like I’ve been somewhat left hanging. How it all plays out is intriguing and sad at the same time.

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  6. Biko, I feel like we (you and us) are in an open marriage. You being the main Man of the house…omundhu strong!

    This bed…platform feels different…like a strange spouse. Every so often…it excites…but mostly….not quite

    Are we allowed to critique our spouse by the way…their game…and style…and positions..

    My B spot is left yearning for a hit… it didn’t get to Z.

    BZ…do something. You keep wetting the reading appetites…and yeah!

    Open marriages…To each his own. opening it can be a can of worms. Keeping it closed in toxicity can be well…a Bomb. Choose your hard.

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  7. The nitty gritty’s of a story is what give us the drive to read it. The lady has limited our scope and so flattened the story which is not what we usually religiously come here for. Anyway, yangu iko wapi niwaambie and so who am I to complain loudly?

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  8. Biko!!!

    This story is unfinished! The dude made a choice and he was ready for the consequences. As for Linda, she’s lucky she’s still got her sanity! Peace over everything!!! Inner peace is the most important thing for a person.

    We need her to come.back and now tell us about herself more coz the story is unfinished….

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  9. I’m traditional, idealistic and 35 years old, just like that lady.
    We’re too idealistic for the present day marriages. So I have intentionally avoided marriage to protect my heart. It’s an act of self-preservation for me.

    Oh, and we 35 yo’s know Savco and Tokyo. My Bros had those and they looked and felt super cool in them!

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  10. Its sad how we get into marriages with people we love, only to end up unhappy, anxious, and spending our time snooping around looking for evidence, just hoping what weʼve been feeling and seeing is wrong. Then we end up being disappointed, cheated on, time wasted! If only they could say when they are done sticking to one person.

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    1. We share the same sentiments,’if only they could say when they are done’, that will save you from a lot of mental turmoil. But then again I wonder if we would be ready to handle and hear the truth.

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  11. It wss her Ex husbands idea. Like did he tell you to interview her?
    How was it after confronting the size 18 in the hotel toom?
    How was the divorce process?
    How old are the kids and how did they handle the separation?
    How is her love life now?
    How is his love life as well?
    That said and done, I cant be in an open marriage because marriage will lose its meaning.

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    1. Have you ever thought of existing in a polygamous one ? Our forefathers seemed not to have a problem with it…

  12. Am still waiting for Pete to come to the door.

    Let’s revisit that scene Baldy. Shall we?

    Does Linda mete violence on the gachungwa?

    Does Linda travel in the same flight back to Nairobi?

    Linda is sanitizing herself quite a lot with her narrative. What were her weaknesses in the marriage? Can we hear from Pete’s side too?

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  13. To each their own!
    The finality of that statement…

    I thought we only had open relationships. I hadn’t the slightest idea that open marriages exist as well. Perhaps that is one of the consequences of being born in ’97. Ama it’s just me?

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  14. Most enter marriage with their eyes wide shut and for sure there were red flags during dating but one makes a choice to ignore hoping the wedding day will change them but does a leopard change it’s colors?.Marriage is not for the faint hearted, your shock absorber must indeed be tough to endure and wisely navigate the deep dark valleys which are numerous.

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  15. Not only was this a fantastic story, it has a lot of interesting vocabulary.
    I had to keep toggling between the story and the dictionary.

  16. I loved this girl,when we talked about the future…she would describe me as the dude in this story…….so she walked away.

  17. Nice work Biko, this honesty and lack of pretending wahh. Waiting for part 2 of this story, would love to know how hubby reacted to the divorce requested