Happy Birthday Penny – Part I
I see her more than I would like to. Not that I don’t love her. No. I love her to death. I like spending time with her, looking at her beautiful face. I want her to always be with me. Yet sometimes, I am not sure if I want her by my side.
She is my wife, my Penina. I like to call her Penny.
She scolds and nags only as a wife could. The other day I wore torn socks and I did not hear the end of it. She said that I embarrass her when I don’t dress properly. She reminded me that the way I dress is a reflection of the kind of wife she is – and she is a good wife.
She once insisted that I needed to add some weight. How was I to do that when I hate cooking?
We ended up having an argument.
“Why won’t you just let me be!”
You know I can’t do that, Mike.
“There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do for me Penny”
You need to add some weight.
“I don’t want to eat”
You have to. You know …
“…you are a good wife. I know!”
You are right Mike. I am a good wife. Stop making me look like a bad wife. I am a good wife Mike.
“Jesus Christ! YOU….you….” I shook my head. I could not say it.
She kept me company as I whipped up a meal for myself. She issued instructions from the moment I put the cooking oil in the pan.
God, this woman will drive me crazy. She will drive me to an early grave!
Add the chopped onions.
Don’t allow the onions to burn.
Wait till they are almost golden brown.
Now add the tomatoes.
I prefer when the onions are a darker shade of brown. She sees me hesitate.
Add the tomatoes Mike!
Wait for the tomatoes to cook to a paste.
Wait for the tomatoes to cook to a paste.
Wait for the tomatoes…
“I heard you Penny!”
Make sure that the oil has separated from the tomato paste before adding the food…
I cook and I eat every single day, with her supervision. I have added some weight. My people are pleased to see the heavier me. They say I am coping well. That I look much better, you know, considering.
Penny is happy to hear that.
She always wants things to be done her way. Otherwise she will sulk. And you do not want to make Penny sulk.
When she sulks, she does not talk to me. She will not walk with me to the bus stage. She will not squeeze herself between the seats in the bus to accompany me to work. She will not sit on top of my desk when I am working. She will disappear for days. When this happens, I get worried.
I get worried because bad things happen to me when Penny is not around. The other day, she insisted that I should wear the blue stripped shirt with my navy blue suit to work. I was tired of having her run my life and so to spite her, I chose to wear the green shirt instead. Big mistake!
She sulked. I went ahead to mind my own business. Like a boss. I would show her. What was the worst that could happen anyway? What could she do to me, right?
Wrong! I should not have entertained such thoughts because a lot of bad things did happen to me.
Donning the green shirt, and a face full of defiance, I strode casually to the bus stop. I was only a few meters from the house when I fell on a puddle of rain water. Cursing, I rushed back to change my clothes. I was running late. Penny had left but not before laying out the blue stripped shirt on top of the bed. I knew that if I did not wear it, I would end up making more trips back to the house for a fresh change of clothes. So, I let her win. Green never did look good on me anyway so I wore the blue stripped shirt and dashed off to work.
I was late and immediately sat at my desk to immerse myself in the day’s tasks.
You would think that since I had worn the shirt she wanted that she would stop sulking and come back? No. She did not come back. She never perched herself on top of my desk to gossip about my colleagues and my boss like she always did. She never accompanied me to fetch my routine glass of water from the water dispenser. I became nervous because I knew that as long as she was away, bad things would continue happening to me.
Later in the day, the boss called me into his office. He scolded me about my late arrival that morning. I found this to be quite unfair because it was the first time I had ever been late. I was having a bad day and in my frustration, I yelled at him. I told him to screw himself.
Unbelievable, I know. I still cringe when I think about it. I lost it. I was tired of Penny controlling my life and I lost it. Needless to say, I was fired.
Do you know why I lost my job? It was because I did not listen to Penny. Because I wore a green shirt instead of a blue stripped one.
I have been home for the last two days now, feeling dejected. Today, I have decided to summon Penny since she seems reluctant to come back.
“Show yourself! Show yourself you…you crazy woman!”
I am in the living room. I hear her calling from the bedroom.
“Why do you always come to my bedroom?” I ask her.
I like talking to you here. And it is our bedroom.
“Why the bedroom?”
I think you want to tell me something, don’t you?
She ignores my question.
“You had me fired from my job” It is not a question.
I am not a crazy woman Mike.
Ignoring me again.
I sit down on the bed next to her, supporting my head with my hands, trying to think of what to say to her.
“What do you want Penny? What is it that you want from me?”
Me? What do I want? Nothing Mike. I think we are happy just the way we are, don’t you?
“We are happy? I am not happy Penny. I just lost my job. I am not happy. In fact I am very miserable”
Penny takes her time. She then looks at me with anger in her eyes.
What are you saying? Do you want a divorce?
“A divorce? A divo… can you hear yourself? Even if I wanted a divorce, say I wanted a divorce, how the hell am supposed to get it from you?!”
She laughs. Slowly at first. Then she becomes hysterical and laughs until she has tears in her eyes.
“OK Penny. Tell me what you want.” I try again.
Come. I want you to come to this side.
I freeze. I possibly cannot be hearing her right
“You want me to die?”
“You want me to die.”
“Why are you doing this Penny?”
Let’s call it your birthday present to me.
Penny’s birthday is two days away.
This article was first published on the Storymoja Festival Blog
Illustration by Elsardt Kigen. Elsardt is a talented artist and a senior student of The Arts and Design at The University of Nairobi. He has won several Art Competitions including ‘Experiencing Kenyan Heritage Through Art’ (2013) where he was accorded a visit to the UK.