She shouts, ‘let me out the car’. He does…
- June 27, 2018
THE other day, I am crawling in traffic on Waiyaki Way, Chiromo area, deep in thought. I am deep in thought, thinking about nothing in particular, so I turn my attention to Kempisky across the road.
The pink silhouette looks pretty…pinker; a delicate girl bathing in the six o’clock sunlight. I try to imagine the white sections painted red instead. I can’t. I’m not a painter.
On the passenger side sits a woman, left-hand elbow dug into the door armrest, chin propped on the palm. She’s a pretty thing; big eyes, lovely smile…generally, a finely sculptured piece of temptation. I could show you what I mean but her face is turned away. She seems lost in the vegetation crawling past outside her window. She is not a botanist.
What she is, is the firstborn daughter of her father. She’s also an unapologetic micro-manager, hopeless control freak with the self-confidence of a champion village bull. It is a strange co-relation unique to firstborn girls.
The pretty one riding with me is sulking. We had a mini-fight a few moments before because I refused to be ‘firstborned’ –by her. Very diplomatically, I had drawn her attention to the glaring fact that I am neither her small brother nor her kid –the latter of which did sound less rude in my head.
Anyhows, I insisted that I am her husband. And that I would not allow myself to have two elder sisters –my father’s firstborn daughter and her, the mother of my kids.
I had a valid point, and she knew it. But she…they don’t know how to be wrong. So she caught feelings. Said I am selfish, self-centred and does not care about anyone else but myself.
This is the point I usually bang my kisser shut. Only that this time, I didn’t. I politely pointed out that all those are adjectives that mean the exact same thing.
She glared at me and charged that I never listen.
I’m a good student of history. So I know once the conversation gets to the “you never listen”, there is no salvaging anything out of it. It is a point from which anything the man says or doesn’t say, anything he does or doesn’t do, whether right or wrong –will be wrong.
My dad taught me that when a wise man argues with a woman, he shuts up. My dad was nothing but flesh, testosterone and raw wisdom. I have employed his advice numerous times in the past. It has never worked. But that’s because nothing really will in these situations.
That is why I shut up my trap –also from a genuine deficiency of anything clever to say.
The situation had predictably become a plummet from the skies without a parachute. A free-fall towards the unpredictable ground of marital conflict. There is little you can do about the drop once it starts.
But you can control the fall, and how you steer it will determine if you land on a kinder surface such as a sandy beach that will leave you with bruises and grit in every hole on your body. Or you could end up on a rocky cliff that tapers off into a crocodile-infested river.
My fall was gathering speed.
“Typical you. Never takes anything I say seriously…” Her index finger wiggles in the air along with the words.
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The nail is painted green…but it could also be sky-blue or blue. It is a blur and really hard to tell. But it looks exactly like the Safaricom House we have just gone past.
But then, it looks exactly like the Barclays building a few metres after. Very confusing.
“Your nail is beautiful…I feel like biting it,” I say, seizing upon a sudden inspiration to break the increasing gloom.
Snap-snap, I go after the coloured limb with my teeth. I’m also growling like a dog. But the seat-belt sabotages my nefarious mission. It rudely slumps me back onto the seat.
“Are you watching the road?!” It’s not a question. More of a rebuke. Delivered in the exact tone of a school teacher scolding a boy who just stepped onto the road without looking all directions first.
“You really take me for granted, don’t you?” The daughter of my mother-in-law says in a softer tone. There’s not a hint of a smile. Gosh! This is new.
So I retreat to my original plan, silently cursing her absent sense of humour. Me, I am also a naturally happy bloke. Can’t stand grumpy. When a fight is totally unavoidable, I prefer to swiftly dispense with it and move back to the happy side of living.
Besides, grumpiness is infectious and no one likes grumpy me –not even me. I prefer it when people like me.
“Si unanibebanga ufala sana?” she goes on.
I don’t answer. I am too busy fomenting hostilities with the driver of this huge bus that’s threatening to merge my jalopy with the tarmac at Kangemi. But the scuffle is brief as the bus snorts a plume of diesel and scoots off to find a more cowardly foe. I am sad to see it go. The scrap was a welcome distraction from the nuclear warheads detonating inside my car.
“I am here all concerned about our kid and you are there seemingly with no care in the world. Am I the only one worried that our baby could have died?”
The air in the metal encasing has become magnificently uncomfortable. The unhappiness is so saturated you can serve it in a calabash like porridge.
I am desperate to get out of the sad-mobile. I wish the bus driver had taken me with him to Shamakhoho or wherever he is headed. Anywhere, just far from the despondency surrounding me.
Even He had no clue…
I suddenly notice the radio is still turned all the way down. I stretch my hand to turn it up –and then stop. That was a really daft trap I was about to spring, I realised just in time. ‘Fighting fire with fire’ isn’t the best mantra in this situation.
“Then there is this habit you have of ignoring me. Everything I say is bull crap to you, isn’t it? And to make matters…”
Don’t hear anything else she says from that point. I have left the car. In fact, I am well out of the planet, gallivanting in outer space where I bump into the Big Man Himself.
I ask Him how He could package so much annoyance, so beautifully and did He have to make it all so irresistibly sweet?
He scratches His wizened head in puzzlement and confesses that it is a feat that baffles even Him. I suggest that next time, He should probably use a different limb because…who knows?.
He agrees that a rib was not the smartest choice but then kicks me in my ribs.
“What the hell was that for?” I demand from Him, yelping from the pain.
“… heard anything I have said? And why is there drool on your lips?”
Drat! It’s the mother of my tots, and she had dug me in the ribs with a school ruler.
“What the fudge is a friggin Haco ruler doing in your handbag?” I want to ask.
Instead, I lie that I heard everything she said. I then explain, for the umpteenth time, that because I refuse to panic when the house girl calls in the middle of the day saying our one-year-old baby is having difficulties breathing doesn’t mean I don’t care.
“We both can’t scream in times of trouble. One of us has to keep a cool head. And that one is me. I am the man here,” I say.
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Her anger is actually a spill-over from the previous day. She had called me in a near-fit after the house girl told her the baby was convulsing. It is something that parents really dread.
She wanted me to drop everything and meet with her at home that instant. It is all I wanted to do as well. But life is never that straight forward.
First, I called a neighbour who agreed to watch over the other kid for a while. Then I instructed the house girl to get to a nearby hospital as we made our way there. I then did as much as was reasonably possible of my day’s assignment (which, by the way, CAN’T be put off until tomorrow) and relegated the rest to some kindred colleagues before I raced home.
But my wife refused to acknowledge that was the most responsible thing to do.
“I don’t know if you expected me to jump off the second-floor balcony of my office to get to the ground faster? But all in all, I got there in the end, the baby is fine, why make it such an issue?” I ask.
“You just don’t care…” is how she dismisses my speech.
I sit there wondering why I opened my yapper in the first place. The paralysing pain a man feels when he invests all his words trying to comfort a girl, who refuses to be comforted, courses through me like snake venom. I am seething in silent rage. The me that only Satan has learned to like took over.
Some boda boda fellow near Mountain View estate is not aware of this. He is driving against traffic, towards me. I am in no mood to negotiate with bad manners. So I stick to the lane as the daredevil frantically flashes his lights at me.
He either dives into the nearby ditch or gets run over, I decide wiping droplets of the drizzle that is beginning to fall from the windscreen.
Not even the “what are you doing?” screams from my now terrified passenger could budge this angry me. A few metres to impact, I noticed something that sent a chill to the last atom of my murderous heart –tiny fingers clenching the fluffy jacket of the rider. Then a pair of young heads peek from behind the swollen jacket. One is braided, the other shaved clean.
Angry me was about to murder an insolent boda boda rider (probably deserved it) and two innocent babies the bugger was ferrying on the wrong side of a blood-thirsty highway. Likeable me realised what a life-altering disaster that would be and wrests back control.
In a moment of pure driving brilliance (allow me to pat my back on this one) that involved tire squeals, major smoke and chassis-bending swerves, I brush inches past the bike before squeezing my protesting ride between a Star Bus and a City Shuttle locomotive. It was evasive driving per excellence. Patrick Njiru would have clapped in approval.
But my wife didn’t. She isn’t a rally driver. She is still screaming for me to stop.
“Now you want to kill me? Just stop, let me out…”
And in an instant, nasty me is back in charge. I am terribly upset, feeling deeply unappreciated. And it is with shivering fingers that I flipped the lever for the left blinker near Kabete Police Station. For a fleeting moment, I am tempted to drive to the cop-station yelling that I had been kidnapped –by my passenger.
Instead, the shudder in my leg causes a premature release of the clutch. The car stalls.
With a trembling hand, I reach across the passenger seat, opens the door and asks the passenger to step out. It is with shock, confusion, fear and anger that she gathers her stuff and hops off into the drizzle. It is with a deep sense of trepidation that I drive off, nearly knocking her down with the half-closed door.
It is exactly 13 minutes later when I get to our gate –and drive past. I continue to this empty lot on the Southern by-pass and switch on my laptop to start writing this.
I am writing but my thoughts are wandering all over the place. They are interrogating the soundness of my earlier decisions. But mostly, I am wondering if I am still married.