Ask me about this man that I loved so much, enough, in fact, to agree to marry him just so that I could spend the rest of my life with him. The rest of my life. Isn’t that something? And I did it young too – on my 28th birthday. That was pretty young for a generation that is pushing marriage to the back burner only to give it thought in their mid-thirties, and some their early forties.
If you ask, I will tell you about the high with which we started our life together. The exchange of vows at the AG’s office. The presence of our friends and family. Very few from both sides – just how we both wanted it. I’ll have you know that we’re level-headed people who had better things to do with our money than splash it all around in one day. The honeymoon in Mombasa – nothing elaborate, just a week of sun, sand and hotel room sex.
Ask me, not if, but how much, I loved my husband. How much I looked forward to growing old with him, bearing him many children. We only managed one; a boy. A good number in this economy huh?
My life in marriage – ask me about that. Ask me how I changed my name from Penina Mwende to Penina Mwende-Oluoch immediately after our first child. And I suspect he was conceived during our honeymoon. How romantic is that if you care about romance? I will tell you how he spent the day with me in the hospital during the delivery of our child. Again if you care about romantic gestures, isn’t that something? I’ll tell you how I wore my new name as proudly as I wore my ring.
I don’t know if I’ll have to tell you about the disagreements we had – every couple has those, don’t they? It’s kinda old news, don’t you think? Anyway, there’s the many nights we went to bed angry at each other – yes, we’d been told about that stupid rule of never going to bed angry, but you know what, shove it! This is real life. It is not a script from ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’. Nor is it a fairy tale. We did go to bed angry at each other – you know why? Because he did not transform from a frog to a rich prince whose father the king had shitloads of money, money that could buy anything under the sky – think designer perfumes, handbags, trips to Dubai and wherever – no. We were the ones to send his father money, not vice versa. King my foot! And he did not find my glass slipper either. No. He never went around the Estate knocking on people’s doors during the day, probably finding house helps watching Afrosinema and giving him that angry-Nigerian-woman look when he asked them to try on some slipper he’d happened to find during the night of the ball that was held at his father’s (the King’s) house. Of course, these ladies would have wondered how stupid he was not to ask for her number while they were waltzing their way to love, and how stupidly drank he must have been not to be able to remember the face and name of a woman he claims to have danced with the whole night. If they take their minds off Afrosinema for a minute, they will also wonder what the hell they talked about as he held her by the waist, and as she held him by his shoulders and moved around the room in rhythm to the music. Ours was not a fairy tale and we lived up to this by going to bed pissed off at each other on numerous occasion. Go ahead, judge us!
If you are kind enough not to judge us, I just might tell you about that Monday morning, when I went to work and on taking out my phone from my handbag, found several missed calls from my husband. I’ll tell you how I called him back only for a lady to answer his phone. I will introduce you to the words that changed my life to date: He’s been hit by a Matatu.
You might notice that my mouth will go dry when I repeat these words. So again, if you are kind enough to offer me a glass of water, I will take you through my painful journey; how I rushed to Langata road, the scene of the accident to find a Matatu lying on its side, glass shattered all around it, dents decorating the colorful graffiti on it, and not a soul inside. I’ll tell you how the Cops had cordoned off the scene as they waited for the Matatu – now a dented piece of metal – to be towed away. How they informed me to try and trace my ‘loved one’ at Kenyatta Hospital where the injured had been taken. I’ll tell you how I jumped on a boda-boda and rushed to the hospital while reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary in succession.
At this point, I will be too into the story to stop myself. Plus, I think I’ll need the therapy that comes with talking about this so I’ll tell you how I found my husband in the mortuary, not the hospital. How I called his kin – Uncle – who lived in Kileleshwa. How he came and helped me identify his body. How he organized for the fundraising to transport his body home. How he asked me if I was sure I wanted to escort his body to his rural home, his final resting place, how I felt insulted that he would ask such a thing, he was after all my husband, wasn’t he? You get why I was upset, don’t you?
I’ll also tell you how before we went, on the material day; hearse ready, I and my son packed and ready to meet our in-laws and grandparents respectively, as we met in Westlands, my husband’s uncle called me aside and said he needed to find out something. I asked him what. Do you know about Akinyi, he asked. I knew no Akinyi so I told him so. And now I wanted to know who she was; who was Akinyi and why were we talking about her now when we had a dead body to bury? How Uncle took a long breath and looked down. He looked tired. He must not have been sleeping just like me. Funeral arrangements tend to do that to you.
Anyway, I will tell you how I found out about Akinyi, my husband’s wife. It was at the side of the road, next to a petrol station in Westlands where we had stopped for fuel on my way to bury my husband.
“I thought he had told you, but I had to be sure,” Uncle said. I’ll tell you how I looked at him when he was talking and all I could think of was what his name was.
“My uncle” my husband had always called him.
I’ll have you know that when ‘Uncle’ asked if I was okay, I said yes. I asked him what his name was and though he was shocked by my question, he gave me both his names. More out of sympathy than a need for re-introduction. Evans Oketch.
Ask me if I proceeded to escort the body to its final resting place. Why? He had never taken me to his home when he lived, I was not going to go there now that he was dead. I was not going to face Akinyi or anyone, and try to explain my existence in his life. That was his job. He absconded it. I took my son from the car we were riding in, grabbed our bags from the booth, and we went home. It was time to let them bury their dead.
He was never really my husband. My marriage was one big fat lie. So go ahead, ask me about my marriage. Because then I’ll get to ask; what fucking marriage?