I almost collided into a pregnant woman walking down Nairobi's Haile Selassie Avenue, her face glowing with the youthful fragrance of those so young menopause could as well be a mouthwash.
She had unprotected sex in a country crawling with bugs and where thugs bang on your door at midnight yelling, "Open up! Fungua!" In this country where teachers and nurses strike at the drop of a hat and a mooing cow could lose its innocence at a 'private clinic' in a flash, she allowed a tadpole to whiplash across her Atlantic and zap one of her prized eggs into life. Brave girl.
Her face was bereft of that unhappy stain in women who regret walking down the aisle, so I guessed she was newly and still happily married. The stains and strains come later, when romance lies buried beneath farts and snores and the beautiful wedding photos that took three bloody hours to shoot start gathering dust in a neglected drawer dripping with yesteryear's sexy lingerie.
Or maybe she was single and the father of her unborn child vanished, like the man who urinates on a lamppost and walks, without a backward glance.
Hopping over an open drain, I wondered whether she met him at a wedding. Maybe church or Facebook. Maybe they were workmates. Or perhaps he shoved his thigh crudely against hers in a matatu and struck up a conversation, as if that would ignite a defunct volcano. It always starts with the weather by the way, even in this digital age.
"The heat in this town can kill someone…"
She rolled her eyes and smiled scornfully. Deep down, she knew he was thinking of a different kind of heat so she glared at him, shifted from his annoying thigh and stared out of the window. But the 'Fisi' kept talking. Who chews gum minutes after waking up?
He asked for her phone number. She ignored him. Finally, in exasperation, she gave in to shut him up because he kept pleading and pestering, oblivious of the disapproving looks from an Akorino couple in the adjoining seat. When she alighted, he said bye, exuding a fondness so fake she was tempted to smack him across the face.
"He will probably send me a lewd text message an hour from now and I will call and rudely tell him off," she swore. But a day passed. Then two, a week, two weeks, a month… He never called.
Strangely, that hurt. Much as she tried, she couldn't dismiss the annoying thought that maybe 'that donkey-faced son of a b….' (her words) hadn't found her attractive. And that stung because it reminded her of Pablo, the 'creature' she fell for despite knowing he was so vain he nicknamed himself Kadinya. He didn't waste time sleeping with her best friend as well and when she confronted him, he just shrugged.
"What did you expect? I am a man." It stung. Like hell it stung.
Every time her phone buzzed, she hoped it was that annoying gum-chewing matatu man so she could scream, "Never, ever call this number again!" then hang up and block his number. She was dying to tell someone all the nasty things she wanted to tell her ex. But, like Pablo, he never called.
Then one boring Friday in the middle of the month when everyone is broke, the heat is stifling and her former best friend had just posted 13 pictures on Facebook – holding Pablo, riding on Pablo's back, gazing adoringly at Pablo, feeding Pablo – her phone rung.
Clearing throat nervously: "Hi… It's me."
Angry hiss: "What do you want?"
Smooth as a snake: "Could we like have coffee? Today? Please?"
She almost threw up. The nerve! He expected her to drop whatever she was doing and run to meet him? Who the hell did he think he was? Yet somehow, they ended up in a roaring pub. The ones where Rhumba is loud, loudspeakers scratchy, beer cheap and glasses not too clean, kitchen dirty, urinal stinky, meat oddly delicious, men rotund and the curvaceous women painted like neon signs hide toxic powder in shiny handbags.
The moment she wriggled into a plastic seat, he leaned over and shouted in her ear. "I went to pick my certificate of good conduct from the CID. I have never been so nervous in my life. I was worried that the cops might unearth something silly from 12 years ago."
"And what was that?" she asked, disinterest written all over her face.
"When I was in Form Two, the headmaster's mother-in-law brought him a chicken. We stole through the ka apple fence, grabbed the bird and roasted it over an open fire in the school farm at night!" he shouted. She laughed.
Five hours and three bottles of Smirnoff Ice later, she realised how lonely and vulnerable she was, how much she missed being held by a man – any man. "Do you have it?" she whispered when they kissed in the taxi outside her flat.
The condom burst that night. And like a man who pees on a lamppost, spits and walks away zipping his pants without a backward glance, he melted into dusty morning air and never returned.
Seven months on, there she was, walking bravely down the street on a Saturday afternoon, wondering, like her folks and friends: Who is the baby daddy?
Ted Malanda is the Associate Editor, Nairobian
Visit his blog at http://www.tedmalanda.com/
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