With You

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I can swear by anything I hold dear, like my mother, or my bed, or canvas shoes I recently acquired, or even the yellow petticoat I used to own back in primary, that my brother cannot do a sales job. If a heist in a bank went down and he is suspected to be the mastermind, then we can talk, because he is a thinker. He is those men who are the quietest in office, but have solutions to a wide array of issues, except politics. He doesn’t speak much and has always been the undisputed champion as the quietest in the family and the potential victim of bullying. Man, I think I violated his rights all his life until his voice broke and he threatened to beat me up one day. On that fateful day, I had worn his pair of shorts.

As siblings, our relationship hasn’t frizzled out after becoming adults. I told him that this year I was going to step out of my comfort zone. I told him that I was going to manage my finances better, to hit the gym among other nondescript things. He only listened, occasionally breaking my monologue with a question for clarity.  He never talks, never interrupts unless asking a question, but not actively participating. Just sits still and nods, like a tortoise in fables. All the 3004 heart breaks I’ve gone through, we have gone through together. I whine to him. I punch him as I demonstrate how I was going to beat my ex. He never opposes, never talks about himself. Just sits and listen to others. Looks like the comfort zone thing got him.

In January’s uncompromising heat, I came from work, creaked open my door and- there he was in my house, poring over newspapers and comic books that were under my table. Uh. He has a copy of the keys because I need the society to see a man walking to my house. When a day passes and I don’t call him, he says he thinks I committed suicide because I have been a lonely woman, living in a fictional world.

His fading, browning, satchel was on his side, his dimples drilling into his cheeks, the way they always do when he smiles.

“You- you are here?”

I say, kicking my shoes off my smelly feet and dumping my handbag on the floor. He had interrupted my most awaited moment of the day when I get home and start throwing all earthly my baggage that accompanied me to work. Shoes. Bag. Clothes.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I thought you died or something”

“I’m not dead, so you can leave now. Thank you”

“Uh-uh… I need you to buy one of these insurance covers-”

“What? No. Why? From where? Cover what?”

My brother is a sales rep in Britam Insurance company, that I’m utterly convinced they do not have a Talent Management Department because if they did, they would have given him typing work or made him their florist perhaps. Sales? The most misplaced of all. He’s been trying to sell policies to people. They look at his dry mouth maybe and decide to buy out of pity. Or maybe his dimples have been working for him, I don’t know. Or perhaps he has coerced people into buying by painting a realistic picture of how after 5 years of paying, they can finally afford a dream car, house or their dream destination. Or finally get a decent send-off. Creepy.

Over December, he was on every relative’s and any employed villager’s neck, convincing them of money markets, savings and my favorite… the send-off cover. People’s reactions to this cover will make you die laughing and fail to get a good send-off. They shrieked and said,

“We have always known you don’t want us alive to taste your sugar and use your blanket.”

In the village, you cannot convince any person about saving for the future. They kept telling him the same things, to my amusement.  I would accompany him and launch greetings, study the mood, throw praises about their healthy chicken, children then boom! He comes in with his insurance talk. They would decline, after he had explained for one hour, calculating where need be and demonstrating growth in the money you invested or about the pension. Still,

“Ah baba! Ni Mungu tu ndio anajua siku za usoni.”

I wanted to explode on his behalf. But again, it was hilarious.

Others would say,

“School fees? Si serikali imesema kusoma itakua bure?”

Even my poor mother was a victim to his nagging about insurance covers. He explained to her, why she needs insurance cover, should her health fail. I bashed him, like, are you threatening mum with a terminal illness for her to buy the cover? Mum said that the burial/send-off package looks okay and I tore up the papers when he gave her to sign, because my mother is living forever. Case closed.

Explaining the policies to Mr. Pamba required an appointment, a written text message request with full sentences and punctuation marks, including brackets where need be, and an mpesa message to lure him into giving him a sitting.  The bespectacled Mr. Pamba stared at him after he finished his presentation and demanded for answers, “Did I take you to school to do this?” Deep furrows crossed his forehead and we knew this question was serious.

I have watched my miserable, shy, quiet brother selling those covers to people and my heart shrinks. So when he said he wanted to sell me those policies, I already blocked my mind. Those insurance people are thieves! Only God knows our future. Go do what dad took you through school-

He started explaining the terms, repeating a million times about sum assured and money markets, I told him,

“So, which one fits me? Send-off?” I ask, hands akimbo.

“No. Take this one for school fees.”

“Whose school fees?”

“Your children’s”

“Did I tell you I wanted children?”

He smiles, again, not ready to allow his temper get in the way of him and his potential client. Such stupid questions- he had gotten accustomed to.

“Fine. You can take, for your own Masters’ fees.” He ignores my pervious question.

“I said did I tell you I wanted children?” Pettiness is my other name by the way. I thought you should know.

“I was just giving an example, Gee bana!”

“I don’t want those policies.”

“Maze kua serious,” he says and walks to the fridge and picks MY coke zero, this Mr. Burial send-off man, whom dad took to school to…

“I don’t want to risk,” I clobber him with more disappointment

“Risk what?”

“Losing my money”

“You won’t lose money. The company is also re-insured”

It sounded like something difficult, that would expose my ignorance to my young brother and I was not ready to ask, because he would think I was interested in buying his policies. Besides I was hungry, my bra my grinding into my skin… I just wanted him to leave my house. I’m now dragging my handbag, heading to my bedroom. He blocks my path.

“Didn’t you say that you wanted to invest your money?” he challenges me. Clearly, selling these policies has made him relentless.

“Me?”

“Yes. On 31st December, you told me about your resolutions, remember?”

“Yes. But I didn’t say I wanted to be friends with Britam.”

He laughs, as he fishes out another file, explaining each kind of cover and its advantages. I was honestly tired from all his explanations and the math he’d been doing for the last 2 hours. Did I see him draw a vector? Is that calculus he is writing down? Did he just mention compound interest. He lost me.

Clients have done him good. He has given out his cards to many Nairobians, who throw it 2 centimeters away from him. Some promise him that they will buy the cover and ask him to go to their offices, but when he does, their secretaries with plastic smiles say,

“Sorry sir, he is not in.” Or

“Sorry sir, he said you should come next week,” or

“Did he give you an appointment?”

Should my brother say yes, or no, the secretaries have ready answers to chase him away. His job is not something I would do.

As we speak, I took one of the covers, shingo upande, so that he leaves me alone. I dunno this insurance thing…but I think it’s a good thing. I don’t know what cover I took. I just know it is not the sendoff package.

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