I thought he was cute when we started; he was fair, tall and slim. He looked a bit like a slit-eyed rodent, but that just added to his charm. Now I wasn’t so sure. Few things are as unattractive as a man begging for sex after he’s been told ‘No.’ Mistake number one.
“But why?” He drew out the ‘Why’ as if I had just told him that I ate his mother. “What are you afraid of?” His eyes widened. I thought he mirrored the incredulity on my face.
“What am I afraid of, kwa? Are you trying to be funny?”
“No, I just want to know. Are you afraid it will be painful?” I laughed. I threw my head back and riddled the air with snorts. I knew it was undignified but I didn’t care. When I finished, I discreetly swallowed the phlegm that I had mistakenly hacked up and wiped my eyes.
“You laugh like a mad woman,” he said.
“Do I? Well you have your answer, then. I am a mad woman, that is why I won’t sleep with you.”
“Oh com’on… be serious. I will be very gentle. I am a good lover. Why are you laughing?”
“Who the hell says ‘I am a good lover’ like that?”
“But I am. So tell me, what is the problem?”
“Ok, let me tell you.” I wiped the laughter from my eyes. “Am I afraid it will be painful? I don’t think ‘Afraid’ is the word. I just don’t want to do it now. It is bound to be painful but at the right time, I am sure I won’t mind. Just because I like you and we’re in a relationship does not mean I have to jump into bed…” I thought about his mattress on the floor of his student hostel, “or something with you. And please stop using that tone of voice with me, like I am some naive mgbeke who doesn’t know her own mind and the way you’re talking will appeal to me. You know I’m not dainty or fragile. I don’t scare easily. And I definitely know what I want. And what I don’t want.”
“Hia, o!” He spoke in his normal voice for the first time since the conversation started. “Sorry. These are sensitive matters, one cannot just be shouting them about the place. But I hear you, I will talk normally.” He held my hand and tried to look into my eyes. “It’s just I think I am falling in love with you.”
Mistake number two. If you want me to take off my mpeteri, telling me you love me is not the way to go. My mother covered such topics in her rules. Just tell me you want to do, I will say ‘No’ and that will be that. All he would need to say now to make the lie complete…
“…If you really love me, you’d make love with me.” He made eyes at me. It was meant to be funny but I noticed with the pencil-thin moustache over his upper lip, that he really did bear a close similarity to a rat. The kind of rat that – when caught pillaging the food cupboard in the middle of the night – stares down the owner of the house until he inches backwards muttering ‘Jesus’ and reaching for his bible.
“No means ‘No’. Just leave it at that. Now, can I still come and borrow your tape recorder tomorrow? I still haven’t finished my assignment and it’s due at the end of the month.”
“Ah-ahn. Why are you talking like that now?”
“Nothing, my mind is just somewhere else.”
“What time would be OK for me to come?”
“Come tomorrow after classes, in the evening around five o’clock.”I knew he was upset so when we kissed I gave him an extra long hug. He was my boyfriend after all.
The next evening, I knocked on his door. I waited and knocked again. I looked at my watch: five fifteen pm. I heard shuffling inside the room. I waited. Maybe one of his flatmates was getting dressed and would soon come out. But why would they not respond? Eventually the door opened.
“So you were in there sef. What took you so long now? Were you sleeping?” I pushed past him and entered the wide room. There were four sleeping areas, made up of beds and mattresses on floors, each separated with its own ceiling-to-floor curtain for privacy and demarcation. These curtains were currently all pulled back. The room was empty.
My boyfriend’s curtain was half open. It twitched. Somebody lay on the mattress. I pulled it open.
The girl licked her index finger and flipped through the pages of the magazine slowly.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hello.” She gave me a look that made my anus burn. It was his ex-girlfriend. I looked at my boyfriend.
“Sit down,” he pointed at the solitary chair placed some way away from the mattress. “Let me get the recorder.” He turned to his ex. “Would you like more water?” he asked. She mumbled something without looking up. “Pardon?” he asked, bending down.
I looked at their body language. That did it. Mistake number three.
I stood up and walked.