I saw a happy man the other day. A genuinely happy man. A rare spectacle in these streets. He had earphones stuck to his ears, singing along to a song that could be heard only by him.
I wondered what was making him happy. He did not care that I looked at him. He smiled and kept singing, even adding a spring to his step.
Immediately our eyes met, I named him Robert. Yes. I sometimes give people names and assign them life stories. Robert’s name dropped from the blues. Almost like when you are in labour, and you have not thought of a name for your bundle of joy, then the doctor places it in your arms and bam! An epiphany happens and a name pops out of you in the same fashion the child did. Only less painfully.
Robert’s name popped out and he wore it befittingly; he had the looks of a Robert and the heavy build that Roberts are known for (I dare you to show me a skinny Robert).
Robert sung. And smiled. And continued to sing. Loudly. Without a care in the world.
I looked at him and wondered what made him happy. I imagined Robert’s life to be perfect. That unlike some Kenyans with (Chase) Bank problems, his money was securely earning interest in a flourishing Bank somewhere.
I imagined him in his house that morning. With his loving wife Stacy. A wife he loved. A wife who had been his college sweetheart. I saw Stacy fry some eggs that morning for him. Watched as Robert got out of the shower, dressed himself and helped Nick, their 4-year-old son, into his school uniform as Stacy busied herself with breakfast.
I imagined Robert walking his son to school, kissing his wife on the cheek, wishing her a good day as she boarded a matatu. Or when he boarded a matatu. Or they both boarded the same matatu. Or separate matatus.
Robert sung so cheerfully because he was in a happy marriage with a woman he loved and who loved him back, and a son that he adored.
I imagined that Robert always knew that actions have consequences. That long before he married Stacy, while in college, when temptation was rife and every man was having his way with every woman he wanted, Robert paused and thought long and hard about what he wanted out of his life.
I wonder what you were doing at the time. Let me guess; were you not having unprotected sex? Didn’t you at the time see no point in ‘eating candy with its wrapper’? Didn’t your girlfriend (can we call her Patience?) get pregnant? Did she not agree to have an abortion when you beseeched her to do so? Didn’t she get pregnant again? Did you not ask her to procure another abortion? Did she not resist? Did you not threaten to leave her if she didn’t take care of the pregnancy? To drive the point home, did you not sleep with her friend? Telling her that you would consider going back to her only if she did not insist on making you a father? Then did Patience not find her way to your hostels the next day having taken care of the pregnancy and the morning sickness to boot?
Were you not happy then? Happy to have responsibility taken off your shoulders so easily. Did you not enjoy having this woman at your beck and call? come on! And her friend too, whom you never really intended to break things off with? And many more when they were not looking – but why talk about that now right?
When college was over, you were ready to get employed and make something of yourself. Patience was out there hustling too, each of you having gone your separate ways after college. Good for Patience, right? You wish her all the best, right? You never intended to marry her anyway, right? She had after all had so many abortions you lost count, right? You needed a more – how would you put it delicately – unused woman to be your wife.
You were now ready to settle down. All you needed was that wife material to show up. Then you ran into Patience one day while clubbing. Where was this, the Space Lounge perhaps? Of course you were surprised to see her. But you didn’t mind her company. She was a looker after all – looked perfect hanging from your arm. So you got to talking. No bad blood existed between you two, you realized. She wasn’t seeing anyone, you discovered. Did I mention that you’d been having a dry spell? So you spent the night together, naturally. For old times’ sake, both of you called it. And you hooked up several nights after that. You could at least have fun as you waited for the right girl. That girl, who would be everything Patience wasn’t.
Patience kept visiting. One weekend, she never bothered to go back. She was tired. You had had a crazy night out. Understandable.
Another weekend, you requested her to stay after she cooked a delicious meal for you and you ended up sleeping the whole afternoon. She woke up on Monday to go to work from your place.
Then when she left, you had no one to cook for you. Your wife was taking too long to show up! You thought you missed Patience.
Patience asked to talk to you a few days later:
I am pregnant.
Not again. Were you not on the pill?
They are not a hundred percent foolproof.
Shit! I’ll get you the money to take care of it.
You have to take care of it.
We are not ready to have a baby.
When will we ever be?
I just started working…
And I am not getting any younger.
You are not being fair.
I’m keeping it.
She kept it. And it is growing.
She knows about your roving eye. She is not amused. You argue every day. She demands that you go and see her parents before the child comes. She needs money for the baby’s clothes. She needs you to start saving for the baby’s education. She hates that you never answer her calls promptly. You hate that she is so demanding. She knows that you don’t love her. You know that you don’t love her.
You are nothing like Robert; you do not sing, you do not smile, you do not laugh, and you don’t walk with a spring to your step. You are not a happy man. You are in fact a very sad man. You are mad at the world. You feel shortchanged.
Stuck. That is how you feel.
You are tempted to think that Patience and women in general make you angry, but it is not her or those other women. The anger is within you sir.
Now don’t you wish you were more like Robert?