Honesty is expensive

Graphic of a couple arguing. [Photo: Standard]

If honesty was a commodity, it would be the most expensive thing in the market. Someone would enter a shop; see varieties of honesty put behind glass cases, point at one variety and ask, “how much does that go for?”

The shop attendant would look at the commodity then back at the customer with a huge smile on his face. “Which one? This one?” He would ask pointing at the respective variety.

“Yes,” the customer would say. “How much is it?”

“Well,” the shop attendant would start, “This goes for Sh250,000 shillings.”

“Phew!” the customer would whistle. “That is so expensive! Why, when it is so small?”

The attendant would giggle and say, “Lakini si unajua customer (but you should know), this is the best brand of honesty there is. That’s why it’s called Absolute Honesty.”

The customer would stride away from this expensive form of honesty and go down the aisle to where something called half-truths, another brand of honesty, is placed inside a glass case. Sort of like jewelry. “Na hii (What about this?)?” he would ask the price, pointing at it.

“Sh100,000.” The attendant would cite the price with confidence because it is not quite as expensive as absolute honesty.

“Ni bei ya kuongea (Is it negotiable?)?” the customer would ask, wishing to negotiate and the attendant would smile and say no. Honesty is non-negotiable.

The client would move on further down the aisle and to the last form of honesty called sweet lies, which is a brand of honesty that has a made in China tag attached.

The attendant would follow him down there quickly and say, “This is Sh5,000,” when the customer asks how much sweet lies cost and add that it is negotiable.

Elated, the customer would negotiate the price down to Sh 3,500 only and say, “Nifungie sweet lies mbili na unipe receipt (Give me two sweet lies and a receipt).

Absolute honesty is so expensive that one would rather create a social media page that is totally different from who they are. It is so expensive that people have declared it extinct. “Does absolute honesty exist anymore?” Someone might ask and their colleague will say, “Sorry. That died along with dinosaurs. And unlike dinosaurs, you won’t even see it in movies.”

I’m driving Albert from the police station where he spent the night. See, he has been seeing this girl for several months and they have been having a really good time. Candle lit dinners with Ed Sheeran playing in the background, breakfast in bed, slow dancing under the moonlight, exchanging sweet letters, name it, they have done it.

Suddenly, she doesn’t reply to messages as much as before and when she says “Let me call you back in a minute,” the minute never ends and he has to try again in a few hours.

“So finally I ask her what’s up, right?” Albert says, “And she says I’m acting like we are in a relationship.” He imitates. “Did I ever say we are dating? I thought we’re just friends hanging out.”

Albert does not understand why she did not say that before. Why in the course of those months, she did not let him into the whole, “by the way we’re just kissing under the moonlight because we’re just friends” secret. Why she had to lead him on like that. Why she could not just be honest about how she felt or didn’t feel, considering he had even told her how he felt about her, in a well worded romantic letter, written on a piece of paper, because he’s old school like that.

With defeat, he decided to have a drink or two and think about the direction his life is taking. “I thought I had found the one, but she is just there like, we’re just friends.” Stress and alcohol lead him to a bar fight and spending a night in the slammer.

As I drive him home in the morning, he looks quite disheveled and he says, “Liars are the most insecure people in the world. They lie to maintain an illusion of power over others because they don’t want the world to see how vulnerable and normal they are. They want the world to think they are special, that they have it figured out but they are just as human as the rest of us.”