She wrote me an interesting email about her marriage, with a mathematical subtext. I said, “How about you send me some 2,000 words on this?” So she sent 5,000 words. I barely needed to touch it. But because I’m intrusive, I have put my commentary in brackets.
I could tell you my name, but it is better that my identity gnaws at your psyche as I tell this story. Let’s start at the beginning. I was raised in a village-town, Nyeri. It was a village because it was not a city and it was a town because we had paved roads and no livestock. I am the middle child with two siblings. I believe that mine was literally the best dad in the world. I wanted to be a princess and he encouraged me, said I could be anything I wanted to be in the world. But the only princess I knew at the time, Diana, died, and I no longer wanted to be a princess. I now wanted to be a business lady so that I could be rich and help people, mostly myself, and yet he encouraged me. I grew up in an overly functional home, so functional that I guess it was dysfunctional in a way. Everything ran mechanically and logically. My dad would ensure we were ready to go to school, drive us to school and pick us up at “home time”. He ensured our homework was done and that we did revision for our exams. My mom ensured we were well-fed and clothed and disciplined. Everything to do with school was Dad, and everything to do with home was Mom. We had structure. In French, mutaratara… procedure.
My dad is an engineer and because of him I came to love math and physics. By the way did you know there are 11 branches of physics? Now you know. Naturally, because of the way I was nurtured, I grew into a person who likes structure and procedures and programmes. I plan obsessively. I had a life plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I hate cliches but I hate this specific cliche the most because it doesn’t scientifically or mathematically make sense. Planning doesn’t mitigate failure and not planning doesn’t automatically invite failure. Happenstance has been known to be perfect sometimes. And in my case, planning bore utter failure.
My life plan was: Meet a man, fall in love, get married, build a business, get the first born and second borns (twins) and then live happily thereafter, in wealth and fame, till I die before him, because I cannot be a widow. I had a perfect plan.
God must have chuckled.
So, in 2013, I am 23 and I am jobless. I had quit my job in a huff and was hoping to get another one and I couldn’t get one. I had been in the house for six months, and being idle was killing me. Then my rich uncle called in a favor, and I landed an interview. I went to the interview looking good and smelling great. The man, my former boss, gave it to me straight. He said he didn’t want to say no to my uncle but he didn’t have any open positions for someone of my qualifications. Being an analytical mind, beleaguered by low self-esteem, what I heard was that he indeed had a vacancy but I was underqualified. I quickly said, “Whatever position there is, despite not being qualified, I will learn and do well.”
He laughed and told me that I was actually overqualified with my degree and experience. I asked what job it was, and he said front office. I surprised him by saying I would take it. It paid me literal peanuts but I took it just so I could get out of the house.
So I landed me a job that my parents didn’t approve of. They didn’t think their princess should be stooping so low as to take a front office job but I needed to do something, and being jobless wasn’t helping me. I am headstrong and unyielding, when I want something, nothing can stop me. I was stubborn like Number 33 before Andrew Booker. Thirty three was considered a stubborn number because for a long time mathematicians could not figure out how to express it as sum of 3 cubes. Andrew Booker had to come up with his own algorithm to get the answer since it was computationally impossible to calculate. Well, anyway, that’s how stubborn I can be when I want something.
I took the job. It was based in Thika, a real estate company in the middle of a vast coffee plantation. The place was so far removed from any town that we had to live on the property. The company housed all their employees so we were all neighbors. There were hippos too, and it is easy to assume that it was Barney [Isn’t Barney a dinosaur?] singing good morning, but no, these were African Hippos. They do not sing. They are badass. They kill you just for existing within their line of sight. A sign at the gate of our estate said “Hippos are here at the pleasure of the Minister of Wildlife and the KWS” which is subliminal messaging for “You will probably get killed and it won’t be our fault.” So we were warned not to walk around at night because despite the fact that they look overweight, you cannot outrun a hippo. It runs at 30kph, and this means nothing as a number till you realize Eliud Kipchoge’s average speed at the Ineos 159 challenge was not even 22kph.
I met him on my first day at work. Let’s call him Jude. He is the tall, dark chocolate, handsome type of man with great shoulders and arms. I am an arms girl. I like men with good arms. Like if you play tennis or lift weights then you probably have good arms. But good arms are only good arms if they look good in dress shirts, like Jude’s. [He wore the hell out of dress shirts.] He laughed easily and loudly. His teeth were a bit crooked but it kinda added to his rawness. He was a raw guy, no wahalla. I really liked his arms and we hit it off on day one. As part of my duties in the office, I was also the tea girl. I would make tea for the whole office. I loved it because I love cooking and cleaning. He kept me company as I made tea and we would talk about life and stuff. People who just met talk about stuff – it is the nothingness and the lack of specificity about important subjects that makes people decide if they like each other’s company. He liked my tea, I liked his arms and we liked talking about stuff, therefore, a friendship blossomed.
Jude was kind and loved helping people. He always came to me for advice as he was in marketing and my boss made sure to remind all of them that I was more qualified than they all were. And so we ended up spending lots of time together discussing stuff, because people generally talk about stuff when they spend time together.
We had a lot in common. We liked planning. We liked business. We liked to be rich. And most importantly, we both liked math. He was an Econ Stat major, math was his whole thing. And I was a self-taught math and physics enthusiast. [Yikes! Geeks!] We both viewed life as an equation that needed to be solved. All his problems were solved on spreadsheets, and all of mine were solved with analysis. It was magic. Math and analysis together are magic, sparkly fairy type magic.
We were also super different. I am a neat freak and he always came to work with dirty shoes. It bothered me so much until one day I discovered that it was because he had a kitchen garden with things growing in it and would stop by to do some weeding and soil-turning before coming to work. He planted things he could harvest and eat: lettuce, onions, potatoes, spinach, beetroot, corn. [Ati corn. You can tell what sort of schools this chick attended]. He had it all. It blew my mind. I actually tried to have the gardener grow things in my garden, but well…it didn’t really work out for me. I knew nothing about growing things. I know a lot of things, but this I didn’t know. Garden stuff. I actually thought that when you plant stuff, you wait for the rain to come. I had no idea that one should be proactive in watering the plants if the skies do not look like they are going to give. I have mad respect for farmers, it is such a science. I believe farming is closest to math than any other activity.
Jude would go to Thika town often to sample food in restaurants and then he would call us to find out if we needed anything from the supermarket. He would then, without expecting any favors in return, deliver everyone’s shopping to their homes. I thought him selfless, an admirable quality.
One day he asked me to accompany him to go check out a new Swahili food joint that had opened in Thika and I obliged, and that became the norm. Every day after work we would go try out a different food place in Thika town and talk for hours. We were beginning to fall in love and were becoming inseparable after a couple of months of doing food tours (dates) and making tea at the office but I quit my job late November 2013 to go start a business and so we kinda lost our groove. The thing is, in my head they were dates, in his head they were food tours, an argument we have never settled to date. [They sound like food tours to me]. After I left, we tried to keep in touch but he was so far away that it didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere.
As fate would have it, I became his girlfriend on 9th January 2014. He had called to check on me and he said he missed me and I said he had no right to miss me because we weren’t anything. So he asked me on the phone to be his girlfriend, and being a bossy babe I wasn’t going to be a girlfriend to a man who wasn’t going to marry me. I informed him as much. He, being the math and numbers/ analytical geek, asked me what my timelines were to settle down. I said two years, that was my deadline. I had my plan all figured out and it was as beautiful as Euler’s Identity. [What now?] I cannot begin to describe the beauty of this equation because it would take an entire article and we do not have the time. [No, we do! You are not the boss of us!]
Okay, fine. This is the jewel of modern math – there is no better equation, it is the best. But that is the thing though, now that I mentioned it I feel like you won’t understand my point if I do not explain it. It’s basically an equation that brings together 5 constants whose sum is zero. It is written as eiπ + 1 = 0, the most recognizable of these constants are zero, one and pi and then there is e which is a calculus base and i which is the most fundamental imaginary number square root of -1. [There are actually people like this out there. As in, we share roads together!] So my plan where beauty was concerned stacked up to the magnificence of this equation.
Back to my story, Jude paused a bit and said “Today is Friday 9th of January…. two years from today 9th January is a Saturday…would you like to get married on that day?” Impressed by the precision of it, I answered in the affirmative. It didn’t occur to me as impulsive. I had a plan, and here was a person that had fit right into the plan. I had found X, my missing variable. By the way, that too is a math reference but we really shouldn’t get into it. [No, probably not. I’m still reeling from Euler’s Identity] And there begun our transactional full on, love-filled relationship, which culminated in a 1000pax wedding two years to the day, i.e. 9th January 2016.
We did everything together. We were an “us” now. The forever type us. We had spreadsheets for important decisions and the usual couple stuff that two logical people in love, building a forever type love would have. We were as perfect as 6 the number. Biko, a perfect number is a positive integer that is equal to the sum of its positive divisors excluding itself. 6 has 3 divisors 1,2,3. Their sum is 6. [For chrissake]That is very easy to remember!
It made sense for us to be together, we had complementary goals. Together we were 1.618, the golden ratio. To the world, we were the perfect couple. We were so in love we resembled each other. At our wedding people were looking for the groom because they thought he was the bride’s brother.
To ourselves…we would conquer the world together. It was transactional logical love. Him, a tall, darkish handsome math geek with good arms and cute crooked teeth and who did numbers for everything. Me, the kick ass, go-getting, risk-taking boss lady that always got a yes. Logical emotion is what I’d call it. If I would create a math formula for it, it would probably be something like.
US = (Time * Love * Matching Goals) + Logic
Interfering variables would be family and financial disposition – and I haven’t found a way to incorporate that into this permutation to produce a more accurate outcome. See our lives. Ha-ha.
We got married and what was supposed to be a perfect union began. After the wedding, he lost his job and I became the sole breadwinner. I was consulting at the time, chasing clients and also doing events at the time. I was kicking ass everyday, handling big companies and also being a wife, the type that would host people for three-course dinner. I was superwoman; I worked, cooked and cleaned. The tri-factor of female superhood. He stayed at home. He sometimes helped with client work whilst he looked for a job. But I was pulling all the weight. It didn’t really bother me, I am domesticated and I love my job so it was all great. We had some happy times, he liked to cook so we would do some experimenting in the kitchen together and we would laugh and gossip together. We were friends, very good friends, best friends even.
But the cracks started to appear early in the marriage. Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and boy, wrong and his whole clan moved into our house.
Some weeks after the ruracio before the wedding I caught him sexting a lady, his former workmate, Grace. He said they were just texts and I was ill-advised that it is not wise to end a union just over some measly texts so I stayed. Six months into the marriage, Grace would call him early mornings and late evenings like a cock scheduled to crow and he refused to stop talking to her. I discovered he was even discussing intricate details of our marriage with her, but felt helpless like there was nothing I could do. Our marriage was so strained in the first year that I really just wanted to leave. It had stopped making sense to be here, it wasn’t perfect anymore. But I stayed. Because my folks and his folks got involved and we found a way to resolve the matter.
You know when you first get married you think that marriage is perfect, like a perfect square. Again, Biko, a perfect square is one that is made up of two equal integers like 25 (5*5). But soon you slowly realize that marriage is like Pi, I assure you, you can divide 22 by 7 all your life and you will never get a pattern to the digits and it keeps going as long as you keep doing it. [I can’t imagine dividing 22 by 7 my whole life.] What this means is that there is no one way to do marriage, no pattern, and both bad and good behaviours continue as long as you keep enabling them.
He was jobless in all of our first year of marriage and it slowly became more and more difficult to make ends meet. Enter his mom. His mom felt that the reason we were struggling is because we lived in an expensive house. When we got married, he moved into my house. I had been living there for a year before the wedding and it didn’t make sense to me that now we were two of us and the house was all of a sudden expensive. She really piled on the pressure and I was adamant. I didn’t want to move. I felt like I was lowering my standards. He also had become very picky. I am very connected in the business world and I would call in favors and my contacts would ask me to tell him to send his CV and he just wouldn’t do it. He would claim he either didn’t like the company or some other reason and end up not applying. Eventually, we gave into the pressure by his mom, and I, trying to be a submissive wife, agreed for us to move into his mom’s house. She had a big house. Massive. It was like we were not even there. I knew this was a bad move, but I was so worn out by the nagging and the noise it just made sense to let go.
He got a job that same week we moved, and had to move down to the coast. I lived in Nairobi because I had school and my business which now really needed me to put in more effort as we were rapidly expanding! It finally seemed like we were finding a way to be happy again. This was the second year in our marriage. I had moved out of his mom’s place and was living in between Nairobi and the coast. I would go to see him when work wasn’t tight but he actually never would make an effort to come see me. His reason was that he was so busy in his important job that he couldn’t make it to travel. I never complained, I travelled when I could and continued keeping my business running. It was growing, I was getting awards left, right and centre. I was a winning boss babe. Kicking ass at work with a seemingly perfect life, but my marriage was falling apart and I was too embarrassed to speak about it.
As the months passed, so did the sleuth of women we had to keep fighting about. Incidentally, it never actually occurred to me to leave him, we would fight and I would forgive him, and we would move on. Then another woman would pop up. Our marriage was like a teen riddled with pubescent zits, you pop one, it oozes pus, leaves a scar and then another one forms. It was turbulent. But it made sense to be together. We had a plan. We were forever type us, and so you don’t blow up a whole life plan based on a few infidelities.
I caught him once with some used condoms, he said they were to give himself a prostate massage. [I will Google this later]. I didn’t believe him and I told him as much. So he proceeded to ghost me for a month. By ghost I mean, he wouldn’t talk to me, call me or anything. [Please, we know what ghosting is]. His parents had to intervene for him to talk to me.
I thought marriage was supposed to be hard, like a math test that you haven’t prepared for. So just like math, I studied books, and tried different techniques including the secrets of fascinating womanhood, and let me tell you right now, that book is a scam. Hahaha. I tried to ace this exam but I kept falling short. I believed there must be something I am not doing right and despite all my effort solving for and analyzing y (the magical variable leading to happy marriages) I couldn’t figure it out. I was failing at this and I am not used to failing at things. [Thank goodness you didn’t try the x. Ha-ha]
In June 2018, I went for a doctor’s checkup. I was having extreme headaches and was feeling lethargic. I was constantly exhausted and didn’t have the energy to even get out of bed. The doctor said I was fine and the only issue he had identified was that I was underweight. I weighed 49kg. He asked me if I was under stress or if I was suffering from depression and to me the suggestion was incredulous at best. I had been feeling a bit upset. Jude had ghosted me for a month because I had attended my cousin’s birthday and ended up coming home rather late. He wasn’t even at home at the time, he hadn’t been home in weeks. I am the one who had told him that I went home late, and he decided that he was upset and would not speak to me. So that was the only thing bothering me, but really couldn’t use the word stressed or depressed.
I went home, meal plan in hand, determined to get my weight up to a healthy 55kg which the doc had said was most ideal. The docs words had me really worried. Could I be depressed or stressed? I have kept a journal every day for a really long time, probably five years. And I decided to just go through my journals to see what could have been streams of consciousness that I hadn’t paid attention to. My journals opened up my eyes to something I had never considered before, that I was living in an abusive marriage. The constant cheating. You know, strange things would happen to me whilst I was down at the coast, strangers would greet me as Judes wife, reminding me where I met them, and I would play along knowing full well that it wasn’t me. Most prolific scandal was where he had our friend visit us, though she was staying in his friend’s villa. Our friend also happened to be working for me at the time, so I never suspected a thing. Turns out they were adding the bed, subtracting their clothes and dividing legs the whole time and I was none the wiser. When I asked him about it, he ghosted me for two months. [That’s it, I’m naming this piece; The Tall Ghost.] He didn’t come home or speak to me, and even went as far as closing my bank account, and changing all my email and social media passwords. It took the intervention of my parents for him to cede the passwords to my social media accounts and re-add me as a signatory to the bank account.
I wanted children. We had a plan, start trying for a baby in year two. I went for my pre-prenatal treatments. My sister took me to the ob/gyn to get my coil removed. That process is dreadful. They crank you open like a jack raises your car when you have a puncture. But it was worth it because we were going to have babies. I love babies! My plan was intact. When I told him the coil was out and we were now going to multiply and fill the earth, he was not hearing any of it because he said he wasn’t ready to be a father. He completely stopped talking to me and for the three weeks we were together he would not even hug me. Dejected I came back to Nairobi and my sister had to take me back to the doctor to get the coil put back. That was the last time we ever discussed babies. It was a tricky topic. I was so strung out by the fighting and I had zero energy left.
I could see so clearly from my writing a pattern of verbal abuse. He would constantly remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that his mom would have preferred someone else, that he did me a favor marrying me choosing me over many prettier women, that I was a bad wife etc. In his eyes, I never did anything right. He would look at my pictures where I was in makeup and tell me that I looked unattractive, he didn’t want me going to the salon or getting my nails done because he thought that women that did that were unattractive bimbos and to be an important person you really shouldn’t spend time or money on outward appearance. He refused to attend a gala dinner where I was getting awarded because he said to me that “other women who had done much better than me were not getting awards so it was pointless to even be happy about this award.” I almost didn’t attend but my friends dragged me there kicking and screaming, feeling like an impostor.
I was paying all the bills despite him having a significantly higher income than I did. And yet, I was not enough. The books, to him, remained unbalanced. [I love this sentence.] We never travelled because it made him “sick”, we didn’t visit with friends because he liked his space, we didn’t talk about our problems to anyone because he liked his privacy, I couldn’t go shopping because it was not on the budget and besides, I wasn’t curvy enough for the clothes I wanted anyway. Everything I had done since I met this man was for him. And yet, it was not enough. I was not enough. I was never going to be enough. I was a proper fraction, more than zero but always less than one. It’s actually interesting that “improper” fractions are more than 1. It feels like it should be the other way round.
Reading my past journal entries broke my heart. It occured to me that I had been so unhappy and so alone in the marriage. I realized I had put up with so many despicable things that went against my core belief system. My unhappiness needed to be solved. I needed to find a way to break this cycle. My body was shutting down and I needed to run. The first thing I learned about abusive marriages is how destructive they are, and as a victim, you do not need to wait for people’s validation or approval to save yourself!
I packed my things and I moved houses. I left him. It surprised me that I had the courage to leave. At the time I thought it was temporary, that we would figure out a way to solve the issues and get back to ticking the boxes on our perfect plan. Divorce wasn’t in the plan, so I knew sooner or later we had to figure out a way to make it work.
Then the parents got involved, and we tried counselling, but the more these efforts were made, the deeper the problems went and the further apart we fell. It became apparent to me that in African society and from a christian standpoint, the man can do no wrong. That when the marriage ends, it’s the woman’s fault. Why didn’t she “vumilia”? And “Is she the first to be cheated on or abused?” Other than my doting parents, everyone else was focussed on how horrible it is for a woman to leave her husband as opposed to what the husband actually did to deserve being left. On one occasion during what was supposed to be a mediation meeting, his mom said that “God” had told her that the reason the marriage wasn’t working was because we weren’t virgins, and “God” also told her that her son was not cheating and had never cheated. [This god is a wingman]. That for me solved the equation and final formula was To leave > To stay. I could not withstand this clownery anymore.
I filed for divorce and – a year later – on 8th October 2019 I went to court. I sat anxiously on the court bench waiting for my turn in the dock. It wasn’t different from the three other times I have been here, but on this day I was anxious, it was judgement day. The judge looked at me pitifully as I walked up the small step, she actually looked pretty defeated. That day, instead of reading her judgement she asked me to approach her bench, next to the clerk, she gave me a typed piece of paper and said, “You are young, start over.” In my hands was the divorce order. It’s what you use to get the divorce certificate. I walked out of court. I was prepared to fall apart but I felt so free, for the first time in a long time I felt like I could breath, you know like how you would feel if a rock was lifted off of your chest. But I also felt sad. Like I was an integer and someone just cube rooted me. A big part of me was over and gone.
Divorce interrupted my plan. I used to believe that you make your own destiny, you have to really push and grind to steer your life in a certain logical direction, that you cannot fail if you plan and that sticking to the plan is more important than how you feel. Now, I am a strong believer in keeping your mind open to the possibilities, focusing on your overall happiness and contentment first, allowing oneself to experience a bit of randomness, and most importantly, never to lose oneself during the execution of any life plan.
It is interesting to note that from the day I left that man, to the day the court ruled we were divorced, he never once spoke to me or called me to see how I was doing. The other day I realized, I do not actually know when the friendship ended, when our love story equation stopped making sense or even when he decided I was not worth it. And I guess this will remain unsolved like Riemann’s Hypothesis. Three years from that beautiful wedding day, I am still a kickass boss lady and he is still a tall handsome math geek with crooked teeth and good arms but we’re not together any more. We’re now like i (not a real number).
I have been wondering what is the number of true love? Some people say it is 3 because God is woven in with 2 strands aka two humans, some say it is 2 because it takes 2 to tango, and 1 + 1 is 2. But I think it is 1. You love yourself.