(I first wrote this story in October 2018 and titled it` A Place Called Hope. I have decided to expand it to a novella. Naturally, the storyline has changed a little.)
He stares at the bottles alcohol in the hotel room’s minibar. What should he take? In front of him is an array of expensive wines and spirits. He doesn’t intend to pay for them so he doesn’t care about the price. When he left the club yesterday, he was tipsy but not drunk. He drank himself silly with these wines, before jumping onto bed. He took alcohol for the first time in his life yesterday. Confident that no one would recognize him in Nairobi, he went to a club and took a couple of beers; he picked a prostitute from the club and rode with her on an Uber to this hotel room. This is a high end hotel, one that Philip would not have ordinarily afforded on his salary. They wanted to run his debit card as he was booking the room, but he convinced them that he would run it in the morning. The receptionist called the manager and the manager somehow agreed.
Philip has already broken the second of his previously cardinal principles: sexual fidelity. He stares briefly at the form of the woman on the bed and smiles to himself. Was it even worth it? Why isn’t he feeling fulfilled and liberated? She is the prostitute who he picked up at the club and brought to this room. He negotiated a price of two thousand five hundred shillings for a whole night with her. Since he has zero experience with commercial sex workers, he doesn’t know if that is cheap or expensive, but he doesn’t care. In any case, he doesn’t intend to pay her either. He has already had sex with her once, last night. He knows he had sex with her because when he woke up both of them were naked. But he cannot remember anything about the sex itself. He is disappointed because he doesn’t feel the overwhelming feeling of triumph against his wife-or ex-wife- and God, because this wasn’t just about sex. It was an act of defiant rebellion.
Agnetta, his mother, will be ashamed of him if, sorry, when she learns that he cheated on his wife with a commercial sex worker. She is already ashamed of him as it is, but this is a new low. A prostitute! His mother is a very conservative Christian, and to her there are no grey areas when it comes to matters spiritual. She will be horrified. It won’t matter that his wife Daisy has been with another man for four years now; it won’t matter that she cheated on him first before she eventually left him. It won’t matter because Agnetta-and the world-will never know all that. Besides, Daisy made false accusations against him first before leaving, and that is what everybody seems to believe to be the gospel truth. Nobody is going to believe anything he says.
Not that he intends to say anything.
Today Agnetta will get even more shocking news: that her son is dead. Perhaps he should send away the prostitute so that his mother won’t have to know about her when she learns about his death. But he wants the world in general, and Daisy in particular, to know that he exited the earth defiantly.
Philip wanted to annoy God first before checking out of this life. So he got drunk, picked a prostitute and slept with her. It is now 4.30 am, and he has just woken up. He has a blinding headache, but he knows it is hangover. He is also feeling tired and nauseous. Is this what people who take alcohol regularly go through? Perhaps if he takes more alcohol, the headache will go away. Before God’s anger cools down, he wants to get drunk again. Then he will sleep with the prostitute again. Then he will go to the bathroom and swallow the lethal pills. He will hopefully still be high when he gets to the other side to confront the Master of the Universe.
He pulls out a bottle of wine and places it on the small table. He will need courage to swallow the pills. He decides to look for the pills and place them nearby, out of sight but nearby, so that immediately he is done having sex with the girl, who told him that her name is Darling Sweetness, he will just enter the bathroom and swallow them. He glances at the bed and confirms that the girl is asleep; he takes his small briefcase and fumbles with it looking for the pills. He cannot find them. He checks again. And again. Then he empties the contents of the briefcase on the floor.
“They are not there,” the woman says from deep within the covers. She is awake.
“What are you talking about?”
“I know you are looking for the pills you intend to use to commit suicide. I flushed them in the toilet while you were asleep.”
Philip is more surprised than angry.
“How did you know about the pills?”
“You were sleep talking the whole night. You kept apologizing to your mother and saying you can’t take it anymore.”
Philip does not say anything, and silence reigns in the room for a while.
“Listen,” the woman continues. “I don’t know you. I don’t even know your name. I don’t know what you are going through. But I can assure you, killing yourself is not a solution to anything.”
“You have no idea what I have been through.”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know…some of these things are personal. And I don’t even know your name. I am sure it is not Darling Sweetness.”
The woman smiles; it is a genuine smile, the first that Philip has seen since he met her last night. Suddenly, she looks more human, as opposed to a mass of female flesh meant to fulfil his carnal desires.
“You don’t know my real name, yet you surrendered your body to me.”
“That was different…”
“My name is Jerusha, and what is yours?”
“Listen, Philip. Even though I am a commercial sex worker, I am human too. I can listen, and I can empathize. I can also get arrested if a man I spent the night with is found dead in the hotel room we used.”
“Is that why you flushed the pills down the toilet?”
“Subconsciously, perhaps yes. Nobody wants to get in trouble when they can avoid it. But I was mainly thinking about your mother, and the pain she would go through after your death. From your rumblings, it was obvious that the two of you adore each other. So, are you telling me why you want to kill yourself or not?”
“My wife has left me.”
Jerusha looks like she might burst out laughing, but when she sees the expression on his face, she changes her mind.
“You are not the first man to be left by a woman, Philip. Neither will you be the last. In fact, some men are left multiple times by different women, but they don’t kill themselves. Betrayal is the nature of human beings, and marriages are particularly vulnerable to it.”
Philip is surprised by the woman’s eloquence and clarity of thought. They stay in silence for a few seconds, before Jerusha gets off the bed. She finds her clothes and dresses up. The tiny dress doesn’t cover much, but it is better than being stark naked. She places two tablets in Philip’s hand and hands him a glass of water. Philip has no idea where he has gotten the drugs from. It is almost a though the tablets got into her hand by magic.
“Thanks,” he manages to mumble. He swallows the tablets without bothering to find out what they are.
Jerusha sits on the edge of the bed and takes Philip’s left hand into both of hers.
“Tell me why your wife left you.”
Philip shrugs his shoulders.
“She met a better man I guess. He cannot marry her or even acknowledge her publicly because he is married, but he has way more money than I do. They have been together for four years, perhaps longer, but I only found out six months ago. I couldn’t do anything about it, so I pretended I didn’t know. But it was like wound festering within me. Two days ago Daisy and I had an argument, and I confronted her about the cheating, and she did not even deny it. But then she said she is going to teach me a lesson. She stormed out of the house at night, and did not return.
Yesterday morning the police showed up at my door and arrested me for apparently beating Daisy up. I swear I did not touch her, and when she left the house she was without any injury. But she made a post on Facebook yesterday calling me a monstrous wife batterer, and claimed that I had beaten her up because she had confronted me about an affair I have had with one of the youth members of the church where I serve as a youth pastor. She posted a photo of her badly wounded face and arms. Either she got someone to beat her up, or she got a very skilled makeup artist. The injuries looked that real.
The lady I am accused of sleeping with made her own Facebook post later in the day saying that I had been blackmailing her into sleeping with me. She is twenty one, and she says I have been defiling her since she was seventeen. She even said that she got pregnant with me while she was still a minor and I forced her to abort. All this happened while I was in the police cells so I didn’t get to hear about it until this morning when I was taken to court. In court I was charged with two separate charges: assault and defilement. The magistrate was kind; he released me on a cash bail of a hundred thousand, but warned me not to go anywhere near Daisy and the other lady, whose name is Anne. I am not even supposed to contact them via phone or even email. Nobody visited me in the cells; not even my mother. But someone paid my bail, but did not come to see me. I suspect it is my father.”
“Did you sleep with Anne?”
“Never! You are the first woman that I slept with apart from Daisy, and that was only because I was going to kill myself. I wanted to stick it up to God one last time before checking out of this life. I have lost all my friends in the past two days. And this afternoon, the Senior Pastor called me and told me that the Board had decided to terminate my employment contract. When I got to my house, I found that my wife had left and she had swept the house clean. The only things left there are my clothes and shoes. She also emptied our joint account leaving me penniless.
The landlady visited and told me that she does not tolerate wife battering, so I would have to leave her house with immediate effect. I called a few friends to see if I could crash in with them before I found my feet again. But they all refused. My own siblings have become very cold towards me. You see Daisy is very charming, and she is beloved by everyone. She is particularly beloved of my mother, which is probably why my mother is so disappointed that she did not come to see me in the cells.
I sold my clothes on the cheap to some acquaintances and that is how I got the money to come to the city.”
“You said you caught Daisy cheating six months ago. Why didn’t you divorce her? Why do you say that you couldn’t do anything about it?”
“Because if I divorced her, the truth would come out and my family-and I am talking about my parent’s family here-would disintegrate.”
“Because the man my wife Daisy has been sleeping with for at least the last four years is my own father, the same man who has been my mother’s husband of thirty seven years. He also happens to be the chairman of the church board that fired me yesterday afternoon.”
Image by Leon Gerardo Cholula from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/male-man-depression-dark-black-3532483/
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