I loved Glen. Maybe it was because he was the first man who took me down the oven hot coast. It was my first time on a plane too. He squeezed my hand in his. He always did that when he felt nervousness creeping in me. It’s gonna be okay baby, relax. He said, his other hand on my thigh. I took the window seat. As the engine came to life, followed by whirring sounds and we were speeding through the runway before takeoff, my heart surged. I edged back on my seat, closing my eyes tight. I felt light headed as we took off and held him tighter. He stroked me and perched my head on his shoulder. Gum? Will it help baby? He offered. Yes. Yes. I said crushing it anxiously. We landed at 11 am and were hit hard with the sweltering August heat.
The taxi man, called Yusuf, stood with boards displaying our names. I could see he was trying to pick the kind of relationship Glen and I had, as he drove through the road, bracketed with the tall palm trees. His racoon restless eyes kept looking at us through the mirror. He was telling us so much, like we were tourists. Madafu. Mahamri. Mbaazi. And Glen never misses such opportunities. He hugs such talks with all feigned eagerness. Like it was his first time at the coast.
Ah! Basi Gedi iko wapi? Is it far kaka yangu?
He asks, his eyes planted on Yusuf and his Swahili sounding natural. I don’t like it when he does that. He always wants people to talk and he nods and does the listening. He gets shocked and mesmerized at facts he already knows.
Mwajua Malindi si mbali sana kutoka hapa. It is near.
Yusuf says, his coastal accent blowing me away. And his English, still decorated with the accent that made me excited.
We later took a private road and were on a driveway with well-manicured grass on both sides. We drove through grandiose mansions in Nyali estate. The huge black iron gate and sort of faux anchors on the sides ushered us into Voyager Hotels. The guards, all in white, greeted us so warmly and one Bakari blew the trumpet after the security check and said welcome aboard.
I like it. I like that.
Glen said as we drove into the reception.
I thought I should bring this lovely lady down here for a few days.
Glen was confiding in the receptionist who had a weave obscuring her forehead. He pulled me close and I nestled shyly in his hairy arms. The reception had antique paintings of an old ship and an old photograph of Uhuru Kenyatta, overlooking Moi as he signed the visitor’s book. Thick woven ropes hang loosely from the makuti roof and converged on one pole and were tied on a steering wheel. Next to the wheel was a black board displaying the day’s cuisine and beside the board, the flag for Spain. Two porters, in floral shirts and shorts, rushed as we checked in. One had very scarce beards and the other had thin chicken legs. They took our luggage to room 3045. The room, on third floor, overlooked the blue ocean and the palm trees whispered outside our windows as they played with the wind. The king-sized bed was dressed in milk-white comforters and pillows arranged in a descending way.
On the wall was a painting of the sea horse, star fish and coral reefs, all in algae green and a dash of luminous green. The windows were floor-to-ceiling, transparent and huge and once opened, you would access the balcony.
The beach, all sandy and white, was inviting. Later we would write our names on the sand and encircle it in a love heart.
He asks, staring at our names, then into my eyes
I laugh and poke his waist as the huge wave strikes and sweeps away the names.
I say, trying to grab the wave
He is alarmed
No, I mean our names have gone with the wave.
I laugh even harder at his shock. Glen comes out so innocent at times and it cracks me up.
You freaky queen!
He sweeps me off my feet and makes a run into the ocean throwing me into the water.
Or maybe I loved him because I told him to take me to Club Lambarda the next day. He laughed and said this was my weekend to be a free bird. He had insisted we switch our phones off and forget about everyone else. Just he and I. All to ourselves. It sounded like what I wanted to hear. I stared at the stripper with a shiny mask covering her face. She was gyrating her waist and twisting herself around that pole with ease of tendrils of passion fruits around a tree. She swang round the pole and descended. Then she lay on the floor, her legs apart, then mechanically turned and started crawling on the floor and pointing at…Glen! I felt my heart crush and cursed as she moved closer, knowing too well she was about to give my Glen a lap dance of his life. He rose and melted away into the dark as the stripper faced away from where we were sitting and bounced her huge round ass on those of us still sitting. A young boy rained money on her, his eyes widening with lust.
Later on, after we returned to room 3045, he took me in his arms. He planted me on the dressing table, reaching deeply for my lips. He pulled off my short white linen dress, panting. Maybe he was picturing me as that stripper with huge buttocks, dancing for him. Maybe he loved a little dance before getting intimate.
Maybe I loved him because he was crazy and insisted we should go for luhya nights in Carnivore.This is life! He would shout amidst Jacob Luseno’s Mukangala. He would pull me, but I would pull away, laughing and shaking my shoulders and shaking my buttocks violently. He would marvel and try to shake his shoulders. His frozen shoulders. He would be excited at the sight of my poor dancing. He said it was original, free and liberated. He would insist on eating chiswa when he saw me enjoying the delicacy, even though I knew he did it to please me. Unlike many non-luhyas, non- Kenyans too, he did not stare at them in horror, and say aren’t these insects? Horror all over their face and start throwing up. As if, we who eat them, are cave people, still evolving.
Maybe I loved him because he cleared my father’s huge medical bill. He had broken his limb after falling from a motor bike in the village. Mama called me in tears, the way she always does, in a dramatic way. I thought father was no more.
Uwiii aki mimi ntakufa! Baba yako!
Woi mummy ni nini? What’s wrong please!
My voice was choking off. Tears welled up. I was up on my feet pacing the room, my whole body shaking and my stomach churning. Then she told me about the ordeal. That they have rushed him to MTRH, but the money the hospital is demanding before attending to him is outrageous. Father had arthritis and was diabetic too, which only exacerbated this situation and so many precautionary things had to be done. I drained my savings account and presented it to the hospital. They helped him, but you know how it is when you break your leg. You have to be admitted in hospital. I watched the bill escalate day after day, until Glen asked me to meet him over the weekend.
I cannot. I am not in town
Where are you? He asked, upset.
Dad broke his leg and I’m in the hospital
What? When? Is dad okay?
What is with expatriates asking if you are okay, when clearly, you have told them your father had broken his leg?
No! He is dying Glen. He is in so much pain. I said sadly. And his bill is sky rocketing by the day.
I got you babe. I got you.
And indeed, he came through for me. For us. For my family.
Maybe I loved him because when I stared at his lifeless body at Lee funeral home, with the name Glen Lindokuhle on his drawer, I wanted to go with him. I wanted his peace. His love. His genuinity. I wanted us forever, even though the waves swept our names into the ocean. I wanted to be with him, in life and after life. When he was buried months later in his reserved burial spot at the cemetery, I was summoned in a family court as his last will and testament was read. The executor a tall white man with tanned skin and auburn hair read through it, his eyes occasionally lifting above the spectacles. Some of his proceeds were given to me and others to Susan. He described me as a close friend who was there at all times when it mattered. Susan was staring at me angrily with a venomous look and wanted to strangle me. She was volcanic. She was protesting and speaking so rapidly and had to be contained. I knew who she was, I knew her face and I knew too that they had a daughter together and that she was his wife.