• Stuck in a Rut-By Edward Maroncha

    “Why Lord?” she asks herself. She looks around her house. She lives in a bedsitter outside the city. She can feel frustration rising up her throat. A lump that is threatening to choke her. Instagram is becoming depressing. So is Facebook. All her friends’ lives seem to be going on well.

    Some are getting married. Others are in stable relationships. Most are in good jobs and are obviously doing well with their lives. And what does she have to show for herself and her 31 years? Nothing! She is employed as a teller in a Sacco. Earning a paltry twenty thousand shillings. Her social life is in shambles. The only people who seem interested in her are married men. Okay, and the losers who just want to sleep with her without commitment.

    But she does maintain the image. So she spends a huge chunk of the twenty thousand shillings she earns on clothes. Add shoes and jewelry. Those are very important. So her social media images are glamorous. Some photos are taken near top of the range vehicles. For the purpose of the photos, she has had to acquire an expensive phone. She cannot afford to have photos that look like mug shots of Wanugu. Otherwise, how will she fit in with the girls?

    As a result, she is in a financial mess. Her mother was asking for help yesterday, but she could not help. She has no money. In fact, she is deeply in debt. She is embarrassed of her situation. But she does not seem able to get out of it. Her friends are organizing a trip to Mt. Longonot next weekend. Rose does not have the money. She knows she should say no, and stay behind. But she knows she won’t. She will borrow money and go. Looking happy like the rest of them, but dying from the inside.

    Which is why she has been thinking about Derrick a lot these past days. He is the manager of the Sacco. He is married. But he wants her. He claims that he and his wife are technically separated. He does not wear a wedding ring. But isn’t that what they all say? He started hitting on her immediately she joined the Sacco two years ago. But she has resisted him so far. The same way she has resisted every other married man who has been hitting on her.

    But now she is beginning to wonder whether she is being naïve. Some of her friends are indeed doing well in their jobs. Like Salome, who works at an international NGO. But some are getting along with the help of older men. Like Jane. She works as a cashier in a small restaurant. But she lives in a nice neighborhood, with a nice car. Thanks to that ageing and married boyfriend of hers.

    Two years ago, she considered Jane to be the filth of womanhood. A husband snatcher. The blot that was disgracing all women. Women should work hard and go up the ladder through merit, she thought. But now she is not too sure. She had hoped that by now she would be working her way up at PWC. Or KPMG. Or perhaps one of the major banks. Equity. Standard Chartered. KCB. But here she was, stuck in a struggling Sacco.

    Rose sighs deeply. She is a Christian. She cannot date a married man. Besides, what a married man would want is what she cannot give. Sex without marriage. Yet all the single men she meets are either broke, or jerks. Dave, her ex-boyfriend was a decent man. But he could not even afford to take her out for dinner on Valentines. He would not even sacrifice a thousand bob for her to take Uber after meeting her friends for coffee. Salome had offered to give her a lift home, but she declined, saying that she would take an Uber. She did not want Salome to know where she lived. She called Dave, and dude told her to take a mat. He said he did not have a thousand shillings. Even though it was end month. She had taken the Uber with her money, sinking a thousand out of the twenty she had just been paid.

    She missed Dave, that’s for sure. He wasn’t a miser, just broke. And financially prudent in an annoying way. He wasn’t the kind of guy she would proudly introduce to her girlfriends. So she had maintained the single and independent vibe, even when she was with him. Then Salome introduced her to Tony and she quickly dumped Dave.

    Tony was rich, but arrogant. To him, she was a trophy. He showed her off to his friends. But it was all for a show. Whenever they ate out, it had to be recorded. If he gave her a gift, it had to be recorded. For social media. He did not hesitate to flirt with other women, even in her presence. She felt insulted, but she stayed on. Because one, be bankrolled her lifestyle, and two, she had introduced him to the girls. But he kept pressuring her for sex. And when she kept refusing, he dumped her for another girl. They had dated for a total of two months.

    These memories are painful. Rose takes her Bible and walks to church. It is a Saturday afternoon, and very few people are in the church. Just a few church staff members. The church itself is a tiny Anglican Chapel where she fellowships. It has an old design that suggests that it is a structure that was built during the colonial days. She sits at a corner and cries out to God.  He has to provide a way. He has to give her a better job. And a decent man to marry. And soon. Otherwise she will find herself in her boss’ arms.

    When she is done praying, she wipes her tears, blows her nose with her handkerchief and rises to leave. That is when she notices him. He is watching her. Ndirangu is a deacon in the church. He is well respected, both because he is wealthy and because he is known to be a devout man of faith. He is the youngest member of the Deacon’s Board, at 38. A handsome man. Although he easily admits that he dropped out of form 2 because of lack of school fees, he has a sharp brain.

    Although she is not active at the church, Rose knows him because he is the one who reads announcements in church.

    “Hi Rose?”

    Rose is surprised that he knows her name.

    “Hello sir,”

    “Are you okay?”

    “Yes. I was just praying”

    He looks at her questioningly. Anglican Christians are not supposed to show emotion in church. At least not like Pentecostals. But she does not give any further details. She does not want to.

    “How is your wife?” She asks, in a bid to steer the conversation away from her. She has learnt a thing or two on how to deal with married men.

    “I do not have a wife. She died last year. Breast cancer”

    “I am sorry. I didn’t…”

    “It is okay. You joined the church after she was buried. There is no way you would have known.”

    Men in that church do not sit in their wives. They are old school men who do not even wear wedding rings. Okay, except the younger ones. You just assume someone is married by approximating their age.

    The conversation went on from there. Somehow, Rose found herself opening up to him. She told him about her financial woes as well as her social woes. He listened without interrupting until she finished.

    “Why is it so important to you “to fit” In as you call it?” he finally asked.

    “They are my friends. If I don’t fit in, where will I get other friends?”

    “If they are your friends they will accept you even if you are broke. If they will judge you, then perhaps you should find new friends” he said.

    She pondered this for a while.

    “Let us assume they do not judge me. Won’t I always be a liability to them? I do not want them to always be footing my bills. It is embarrassing.”

    “Then don’t go with them everywhere. You can join them occasionally when you can afford it, but you do not have to go with them every time they are meeting for coffee or going out of town.”

    Ndirangu explained to her how he started, working in a little shop in Kerugoya. He lived in a tiny, mabati corridor  that had been converted into a single room. He had just dropped out of high school, and had been hired to run the shop at a pay of Kshs. 500 a month.

    He told her his 25 year journey as a businessman in detail. By the time he was done, it was dark. He offered to take her out for dinner, so that they could finish the conversation.

    She refused, but he insisted.

    They ate as he told her stories of patience and endurance.

    “You have to be patient. And strategic,” he said over and over again.

    ***

    Over the following months Ndirangu and Rose became friends. He helped her to manage her finances. In spite of his relatively youthful age, he became a father figure to her.

    “I could give you a job at one of my companies and pay you well. But if I do that you will miss important lessons in life. Lessons on how to make do with little,” he kept telling her. But he did settle her debts so that she could start on a clean slate.

    At first she was anxious, thinking he would start pressuring her for sex. But she soon came to learn that he genuinely wanted to help. He still loved his late wife, and was deeply committed to his two young boys.

    As she overcame her vanity, Rose started warming back to Dave. She now appreciated his financial practicality. He was doing what Ndirangu had been doing in his younger days. Dave was a young man who had wanted a life for them. But there was a problem. He did not want her back. She had hurt him. By dumping him because he was broke, she had humiliated him. And so he did not trust her anymore. No one wants to be hurt over and over again.

    She vowed to be patient. She loved him, but she had hurt him. Waiting was a small price to pay. At least he had agreed to be friends with her again. That was a good sign.

    But then one day, as she was having lunch with Ndirangu, he asked her to marry him. He just said it casually, but seriously. He had fallen in love with her and wanted her as his wife.

    She liked him, although she had never looked at him in that light. Although only seven years older than she was, he was always like a father to her. Then there was Dave. The man she loved. Deeply. But what if he had moved on? What if he would never love her again but instead fall in love with another girl? What if she said no to Ndirangu and then Dave never comes through? She would have lost a good man.

    But the reverse also raises a similar predicament: What if she says yes to Ndirangu then Dave also asks soon after? What would she do? Would he ever understand that she loved him but could not wait? That the future was too uncertain? Or would he think that she had run off again with another rich man?

    What is a girl supposed to do?

    Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/smile-happy-people-fun-young-2072908/

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