Woman to Woman

You’re seated at the back of a white uber chap chap, struggling not to feel as suffocated by the small car as your mind convinces you to be. You’re excited, your boyfriend of six months, Wendo, has asked to meet you at the Java on Kimathi street for lunch today. You have a one-hour lunchtime break, your workplace is fifteen minutes away from town, and you’ll meet him for thirty minutes, max. And knowing Wendo, he did this math way before you did. You don’t care that you’re meeting so briefly, you’re just glad that you’re not fighting today. 

You had your fifth ‘big fight’ last week Friday after his workplace’s office party. Wendo is charming, smart, tall, and conventionally handsome. A bit naive of you to think there wouldn’t be someone at work admiring him. Even more naive of you to think he would not enjoy being admired- like the way you saw him enjoy being admired by Leah. You had excused yourself to go to the bathroom. All you wanted to do was check whether your little red dress had a little red stain. It didn’t take you long to get back to the restaurant-set hall. You heard the DJ playing ‘Girlfriend’ by Ruger, one of your favorite songs, and you rushed to join the rest of the party in dancing to it.  

You saw him standing at the far end of the hall, near the exit, with a fair-skinned lady. Her pink off-shoulder dress showed off her hourglass-shaped body, she was the kind of belle skin care production companies looked for. Some of her hair fell on one side of her face down to her shoulder while the rest was held up in a ponytail. He looked at her red bottom black heels and said something that had her giving him a playful slap on his shoulder, giggling like a high school girl. She glanced at his brown oxford shoes, said something, and he shrugged and smiled. You lost it when they hugged. ‘That’s not where you hold a female worker when you hug,’ you thought to yourself.

A huge pile of red flags, that’s what your friend Liz called Wendo. “He’s not even all that,” she told you one time when you met for lunch. You laughed. He was all that to you.  “I texted the girl, approached her woman to woman, told her to keep off my man,” you said to her, taking out your phone to show her your chat with Leah. She laughed. “Fine? That’s all she said?” “I should have threatened her or something, yeah?” “Girl, you’re being a clown!” She burst out laughing. You rolled your eyes. She’d know if she had a man.

You get your phone and start scrolling through Instagram to distract yourself from thinking about Leah. You double-tap on a video of Lupita Nyong’o turning 40. You go through the comments to see which celebrities wished her a happy birthday…Yvonne Orji…Janelle Monae…Diane Kruger…you wonder whether they’re somewhere with her, celebrating her. It reminds you of your birthday a week ago. Your IG post got a thousand and something views and three hundred and something comments…and you responded to each one of them, seated on your bed alone, with red eyes and throbbing temples from crying. 

“Lunchtime traffic? This Nairobi…,” the cab driver interrupts your thoughts with his raspy voice. You hadn’t even noticed there was traffic. You check the time…1:12…you’re good. “Do you live around Nairobi?” the driver continues. He is begging you for a one-star rating at this point. “Yes,” you answer, hoping he can tell by your tone you are not in the mood for a conversation. 

The next post you see on Instagram is of your friends Nancy and Barbara, in front of a bathroom mirror. Classic, you think to yourself. The caption reads #friendships that last. You chuckle. You’ve known them since high school and nothing about their friendship last for any longer than two weeks. You get upset. Why didn’t they call you on your birthday? Or do something silly like posting you on their Whatsapp status…or that dinner thing where poorly paid waiters waste minutes of their precious time singing you a birthday song. You hate both options, but you would have appreciated it. You’re a grateful person.

“Hapa ni sawa,” you tell the cab driver as he looks for a parking spot. You spot Wendo at a seat next to a window. The spot feels carelessly picked. Unlike him. He’s always been annoyingly particular about where he chooses to sit. He stands up and gives you a side hug. A Christian brother kind of hug. Your mind registers an anomaly and tells your heart to start a race. 

“Sorry I took so long, traffic,” you say, adjusting your seat and picking up the menu.

“Traffic? At this time?” he asks, his tone giving mistrust.

“Why would I lie about that…there must have been an accident or something, I wasn’t really looking outside.”

“You were on your phone…talking to who?”

“I was on Insta…what’s up Wendo?” you stop yourself from explaining.

“You confronted Leah?” he asks, his voice is uncomfortably calm, his gaze hasn’t shifted since you sat down. 

You pretend to go through the menu. You hate that you didn’t see this coming. 

“I felt the need to,” you say, motioning a waiter to come. You’re going to need caffeine. 

“We talked and you said you were okay,” you can tell there’s anger building up in his voice.

“My confronting her had nothing to do with you…it was all her…I was…”

“Ready to order?” the waiter interrupts you. “Yes, double peppermint mocha, please.”

“You’re creative in finding ways to embarrass me, you know?”

“Anything else?” the waiter asks, nonchalant about what had just been said. You hate her for it.

“No,” you hand her the menu. “Actually, bring nothing, I’m heading out,” she throws curious glances at both of you and walks away. 

“If you’ve found someone else, Wendo, just say it, don’t you dare play with my heart,” you say, your elbows on the table and hands intertwined under your chin. You’re hoping this will make him say he’s sorry, that he didn’t mean to say that, that he kind of understands why you confronted Leah…that he loves you too much to leave. 

He mirrors your seating position.

“What if I told you I did?” The guts of this man.

“I’ll walk away and you’ll never see me again.”

“Well, I did.”

Your heart is beating like those drums you wrote about in primary school. Your temples are throbbing. You feel a drop of sweat on your back. You fight tears from falling from your eyes. You want to make a scene, yell at him, tell him how ungrateful he is, and what price of a woman you are. You almost slap him. But someone might record, post it on Tiktok, and you’ll forever be the clown who was dumped in downtown Java. Your trending video will start conversations on TV and Radio about how much women need to have self-worth.

Liz visited you at home that night to borrow some shoes she needed for an event. She found you listening to JP Cooper, your laptop on your partly covered thighs, typing away. On your table there was nearly every kind of snack, melting ice cream, and two different types of 2 litre sodas. She asked if Wendo was coming for movie night. You quasi-smiled. You wanted her to look into your eyes and figure out that you weren’t okay. You hoped she’d be able to tell because you couldn’t bring yourself to tell her. She leaves and cheerfully tells you to have a good time with Wendo. 

It beats you how she couldn’t tell you were not okay. 

The part you hate most about going through a breakup is having to go through the hurt alone. The disappointment hurts, but it hurts more when there are no people there with you to comfort you, tell you that he was the problem and you’ll find someone better. It’s always just you, your junk food, and your laptop, writing stories that convince you you’re the problem and you’ll never truly find love.  

Once you had told your campus roommate Nancy about your parents fighting, she swore not to tell anyone. Two days later, Barbara, your classmate who you’d never seen talking to Nancy,  texted you to ask how you were doing, and it didn’t take science to figure out she already knew. You knew you would never trust her again when even Sara, a girl you’d barely met since high school, asked you why your parents were getting divorced. 

After five days of not going to work, you decided to try to talk to Liz. You didn’t want to be alone anymore. She was a good friend, a bit self-centred but good nonetheless. You left your house at 7:00 p.m to go visit her. She lived in Ruiru, two hours from where you stayed. When you got to her door in the newly built 5-story apartment she stayed in, you almost changed your mind about going in. There were two pairs of shoes on her maroon ‘welcome’ rug. One was the one you gave her, the other was a pair of brown oxfords. Your heart sank. 

You knock twice and let yourself in. The door was already open.  “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t know you had company,” you say with faked concern looking at Liz with a disappointed smile. She stares at you, her eyes wide open like she’d seen the ghost of Garbatula you read about as children. She whispers the ‘it’s not what it looks like’ phrase both of you had laughed at every time a movie character used it. You slowly turn around, walk out, and shut the door behind you, leaving her there with her huge pile of red flags seated shirtless on her grey couch. 

11 thoughts on “Woman to Woman”

  1. The tension in every line is unmatched..
    It’s the way it’s very open and articulate and very much easy to see the imagery view to it,to feel the emotions..

    Broo I could feel her disappointment at the Java 😄.
    Lesson (don’t be overly expectant)

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