There is this kathing I usually have on my face. It has always been there since I was a teenager, and we have always co-existed peacefully. But last week it breached our truce and ballooned into the size of a tennis ball, with pain triple that size. But that turn of events also came with some perks: I became a celebrity. Everywhere I went heads turned to stare. My friends and acquaintances were itching to talk to me while strangers contented themselves with just staring. When I took a stroll from our office to Nakumatt junction nearby, the guards did not even search me. Even the metal detector did not ring though I had some coins in my pocket. The attention of course fed my vanity. I convinced myself that the sons of men had finally come to the realization that I am a piece of art. Created on a Wednesday morning when God was in a jovial mood. I wonder why it has taken people so long to see the obvious.
But it is the reaction of a certain girl I met that I considered priceless. It was the day I finally went to see a doctor, because the pain was splitting my head into multiple pieces. I left the office at about 9am, and hopped into a Citi Hoppa. Somewhere in the middle of the bus was this girl seated next to the aisle. Immediately I boarded the bus, her eyes became glued to my face. You could see it was causing her anguish. Her yellow face darkened and her lips tightened as though the red lipstick had suddenly become super glue. Her face had a pained expression, yet she made no attempt to look away. That is, until I reached where she was, smiled at her and said hi. Then she looked away, embarrassed.
She got me thinking, why do we sometimes seem hypnotized by unpleasant experiences? There are some beggars in the streets who have gory wounds. I see people standing there, staring at them. I can’t. I have a weak heart. I give what I may have and disappear very quickly. I can’t stand there watching a gruesome wound like it is a music video. For what? So that it can haunt me for the rest of the day? By the way that is how I knew I would never make to be a doctor. I am simply not cut out for it.
But there are people who seem unable to remove themselves from painful experiences, even when it is obvious they are suffering. And I am not talking about the kind of pain that life throws our way and we can do nothing about. I am talking about the kind of pain we bring ourselves voluntarily. Like prolonged staring at people’s swollen faces and gory wounds. Or those people who eat pepper with tears rolling down their cheeks. I have a weak throat too. I don’t take pepper. Unless I am starving and the only food available is peppered. Or I have visited in laws and they have peppered the food. Even then, I will take about a gallon of cold water for every spoonful I chew. But there are people who will open the floodgates of tears but still insist they are enjoying the meal. Why, but why? Personally, I have no point to prove. I am soft, now let life go on.
Or working for an abusive employer. You know those employers who derive pleasure in diminishing your self-esteem. There is nothing you ever do that deserves credit. Yet at every mistake you make they grab the opportunity to remind you how stupid you are. And it gets into your subconscious. You cannot walk away because you are persuaded that you are so stupid that no other employer will touch you. You believe it when your abusive employer tells you that they are doing you a favor keeping you employed. In fact, you believe that if a congregation of fools was held, they would give you a lifetime award for your unending foolishness. And so you bear the insults, and the little pay, without a fight. My friend, you are hypnotized by pain. Walk, baby walk.
Or those abusive friendships or relationships. There are those friendships you know you should just walk but you linger there for a bit too long. Maybe the friendship is defined more by prolonged periods of silent treatment. The only time she is nice is when she needs a favor (it has to be a she. Because if a man starts sulking on me I will not even start getting angry. I will calmly take a video and save it for future use. Future use here being mentoring my sons on what NOT to become). You try making a casual conversation and she gives you a glance that reminds you of your imminent mortality. Or makes a cutting remark that slices your trunk neatly into two. I am yet to decide what is worse for me, between being yelled at, or being given a chilly treatment.
Yet when you finally decide to walk she will sense it and probably give you a call. You debate in your head on whether to pick or let it slide. You decide to pick, so that you can tell her to find where the everlasting furnace is and find her way there. But those conversations rarely go as you had planned.
“Sasa Maro,” she used your nickname. Half your heart defrosts.
“By the way ile blogpost ya last week ilikuwa poa sana” Now she is stroking your vanity, and the stupid heart is warming.
“Thanks,” you reply.
“Oh and thanks for praying with me last week. I am now ok,” The silly heart melts. In the process she even manages to squeeze out another favor from you. And so you stay, lamely waiting for the next round of abuse. And it will not take long in coming.
Is that how women also stay in abusive relationships? Like a man beats the daylights out of you, and you make excuses for him.
“Oh, kama hajalewa anakuwanga mtu mpoa.” And he is not even your husband.
Out of curiosity though, how do you beat the pulp out of a woman and still claim to love her? Anyway, let my friends be put on notice, and especially my future girlfriend. That illustration I have used up there is purely hypothetical. If I sense you are abusing my affections I will walk. And after I walk you will try calling me and I wont pick. You might even show up at my desk at work (at one when I am starving) with a peace token- a bowl of mukimo made exactly the way my grandma Joyce would have made it, or those huge soft chapatis with a thick beef stew (oh boy!). But I will not touch them. I will not even look at them. Saliva will fill my mouth but I will not attempt to swallow it. Because I know you will notice. And because I know the peace token is a poisoned chalice. A ticket to more pain. And I have a weak heart. And a weak throat. So I can’t stand pain.
But I will admit I am in an abusive relationship. My affair with Safaricom. Yet Safaricom was not even my first love. Celtel was. Ok fine, so it was an arranged marriage. My mum bought me my first phone for my 19th birthday in November 2008. It was a Motorolla C118. A lovely phone that kept charge for eight solid days. Though when I got a teaching job at my former school other teachers started hating on it. One day it rang in the staff room and one of the teachers asked, “hako kapaka kako wapi?”. Anyway, this phone came with a fixed Celtel line. I think my mom bought it on offer. But our marriage went on well for several months. Until I discovered Safaricom was cooking a meal called M-PESA. And my wife Celtel just didn’t seem to get the recipe right, though she tried. Oh she tried. And so an affair grew with Safaricom. Soon, she took over.
But now I know better. When the Bible says ‘rejoice in the wife of your youth’ it knows what it is saying. I know that all too well now. Especially when I see that message ‘Dear customer, your data bundles are almost finished’ three minutes after I buy them. I have made up my mind to go back to the wife of my youth. Only that the day I wanted to change my WhatsApp number to Airtel, some mercenaries stole the phone with my Airtel line. But I will not give up. One of these days I will gather courage like my friend Arnold Karani and walk. Because I refuse to be in an unholy matrimony with pain. That, I refuse.