A FRESH START
Brian was startled from his thoughts by a gentle knock on the window on the co – driver’s side of the car. It was Mike, his new landlord. He had come over to see if everything was fine with him. Brian had stayed in the car for a little over an hour since he drove in.
This car that had been a gift he bought himself at the beginning of the year, was perhaps the most important thing he owned at the moment – a 1998 Mercedes Benz C200. He had always wanted an old school car but when buying their first car, he had to settle for a newer family car. His wife had wanted something more reliable that would not keep them at the garage every weekend. He could not wait to buy this ‘baby’ when he made himself some extra money. It also ended the fights over the family car that he shared with his wife. Brian had hated fights. He was brought up in a family where his parents never fought, at least not openly.
Here he was today. Seated in the car staring at the narrow path that led to the one bedroom extension that would become his new home. His car had in it all his earthly belongings; a couple of clothes and an assortment of documents. The nine thousand shillings in his pockets and the few pending invoices he had of clients he had supplied but were yet to pay was the difference between himself and poverty.
The engine was off. The loud bass beats that characterized his presence in the car were silent that evening. There was no four-year-old baby trying to get his own perception of the world by asking his daddy a hundred questions each minute. No hugs from the little man. No kiss on the cheek. Just silence. Silence punctuated by the sound of his own breath, and now that gentle knock on the window.
“Niko sawa, nilikuwa tu kwa simu kidogo,” he responded. A little lie he thought Mike would buy.
His eyes were still teary. He wondered how his life had gotten to this point again. Everything seemed perfect when their life together had started. He had a job his peers would kill for, they had lived in their own home and then there was the adorable four-year-old boy. But now, there was none of that. Just him, the Mercedes and a new whole life he had no idea how to navigate.
Mike was not one of those nosy landlords. He knew how to mind his own business. He looked about two or three years older than Brian but with a heavier build. Lived alone in the main house. Had an eight or nine-year-old girl who visited over the weekends. I think I would like to have a landlord like Mike, you probably would too. This place was perfect for a do-over. The tranquility of Milimani. No nosy neighbors to ask him a tone of questions regarding why he was moving out here alone.
Brian had seen it all. At 25 he had made his first million bob. This was back in 2006 when a million bob still meant something. You could walk with it into Al-Husnain Motors and get an ex-Japan Toyota Premio – the one they call Premio Nyoka. It was the in thing then. You would still have enough change left to fill your tank and do some shopping for your mum. When you bought a new car back in the day, you had to drive it home and show it to your mother first. It was a huge achievement that your mother had to be given an opportunity to brag about to fellow women at the next chama meeting.
Brian did not buy a car with his first million. In fact, it was a little over a million from a clean business deal. Not government tenders. Not kickbacks. No godfathers. Just a young man working his ass one tiny project at a time.
Brian was a jogger too – not a marathoner but a guy who jogged in the evenings and at times in the morning. He paced his life pretty much the same way he paced his jogging. When out for an evening run he gave himself simple targets; “let me run until that bend” he would tell himself. When he got to the bend he would set a new target. Once in a while after running through a number of targets he would stop to walk a little, reward himself with a sip from his water bottle and would start running again and repeat the process until his target for the evening was done. He applied this with his professional life too.
But Brian had also had his fair share of misfortunes. He had surrounded himself with a lot of people to mask his loneliness. When he had made his first million he had just suffered a breakup that led to a suicide attempt. Deep inside he was emotionally unstable. Most of it from unattended to stress. His girlfriend of two years had brought another man to their bed when he was away traveling for work. He came home to find used condoms in the trash bin. At first, he had found two used cups in the sink. This would not have raised any suspicion but somehow the sight of the two cups made his heart stop. It’s like the universe was giving him a sign. Something told him to look through the trash and boom! There he was, staring at used condoms rolled in tissue paper just the same way she had always rolled their condoms.
He felt his heart sink. Their relationship had been a bit rocky over the past few weeks but he did not expect to come home to this. He did not expect her to disrespect their house like this. When he was going on his trip she had seen him off to the bus station. They had held hands on the way there. They had hugged a little longer before he got into the bus. When he took his seat by the window she was still standing down there waving and smiling. Braving the chill and light evening drizzle. Brian was sure he would come back home to a much better relationship. Then this hit him.
He couldn’t stare at the couch without thinking they had probably had sex there. Despite the Kisumu heat, he couldn’t get into the shower to take a bath without thinking about what they could have possibly done there that weekend when he was away. He got into the bedroom trying to get a fresh set of clothes, the sight of their bed disgusted him. He knew it had been defiled.
He opened his closet and was met with the open box of Femiplan Condoms. Brian had always used Femiplan Condoms with his girlfriend. She was sensitive to hormonal based contraceptives so they settled on using condoms. This was his preferred brand. Not too expensive. Studded and had a lovely strawberry scent. He did not love condoms but it’s the only way they had sex. Their sex life was somewhat boring but they had a great emotional and intellectual connection.
Brian had studied enterprise development, he helped organizations develop sustainable social enterprises. His girlfriend was a nurse who was pursuing a public health degree at a local university over the weekends. They rarely had sex, partly because of their demanding professional lives, partly because Brian hated condoms which would have probably meant the sex was not all that -apart from the few days they had had raw sex.
But here he was, staring at his own condoms. They did not just have sex in their house and on their bed. They used his condoms. I don’t know which of those finished him more.
Brian was distraught. He went and bought a poisonous substance to end his life but not before he confronted his girlfriend and knew why she had decided to betray him like this. He did confront her when she came home that evening.
“What were you looking for in the trash?” She had replied.
That response cut through his soul. He felt betrayed by his best friend. That she did not even try to deny it caused him more pain. He sat on their bed looking at her sitting at the small plastic study table they had fitted in their bedroom for her school work, wondering what had gotten into her. He remembered the day they walked to the bus station holding hands saying nothing with their mouths but a lot with their hearts and gentle stares into each other’s eyes. Tears began to roll down his cheeks. He sobbed. Painfully. He called his mother. He was ready to forgive her but she would not even talk to his mother. His heart broke. His mother’s heart broke too on the other end of the line. She felt sorry for his son. She was worried. That evening she couldn’t sleep. She knew his son, she knew how fragile his heart was. Her instincts were right.
That night, Brian had attempted to kill himself. It was his third and last suicide attempt.
Here he was six years later, feeling lost again. Wondering why unhappiness had to stalk him everywhere he turned.
It took him about 15 minutes to move his bags from the car to the house. He had dropped everything in one corner of the sitting room. There was a mattress on the sitting room floor. His friend had brought it with her earlier when they had come to pay a deposit and rent for the house. They came in her car. He liked the place as soon as he saw it and paid without haggling over the rent.
His friend lived close by. She had convinced him they pass by her place on their way back to town to get some bedding. Brian didn’t mind sleeping on the hard floor, he was just happy that he had finally decided to move out – far away from the violence.
The previous day had been a Sunday. Brian had gone to close some business deal that took longer than expected. It was one of those deals men close in a bar. He had frequently updated his wife on the status – not really on his own will but because he knew how crazy she could get. When he was done he called her to tell her he was coming home. She had told him to stay wherever he was. That she would not open the door for him.
Brian got home to find the padlock to the gate changed. He jumped over and knocked on the door. Silence. His phone calls went unanswered. He got back to the car and drove to a guest house in Milimani. He spent the night there. In the morning he drove back home to change and go to work. His wife demanded to know where he had spent the night. He explained in detail trying so hard to keep calm. Brian hated fights but he loathed morning fights more. They spoiled his entire day. There was however no escaping one this morning.
“Sasa ulikuwa na hao malaya wako, si ndiyo?” She had shouted.
Brian kept quiet.
“Unaniona mimi ni mjinga nakuongelesha na unanyamaza,” she said grabbing Brian by the collar of his shirt and pushing him towards the wall.
He never fought back or hit his wife. He managed to get her hands off his neck and push her away to free himself. She came back charging with her head like a bull. The impact throwing Brian’s back against the wall. He hit the back of his head.
Their son who was asleep woke up and sat by the edge of the bed. He was watching in silence. Not crying. Just staring. It was hard to imagine what was going on in his head. Difficult to know if he understood what was unfolding right in front of his young eyes.
“Stop. I can’t do this anymore. Let me pick up my things and go. I will continue supporting you and the baby as I have always done. Just let me go,” Brian had told her.
Brian loved his son. He was the best thing to have happened in his life. He did not want him growing up thinking it’s okay to be violent. If he stayed here, that was exactly what was going to happen.
“Toka, rudi kwa hao malaya wako,” she shouted moving to his side of the closet and starting to throw his stuff on the floor.
Brian took out his traveling suitcases and threw the clothes inside. Once in a while she would stop him to pick an item she had gifted him. He was only to carry the things he had bought. It did not take long before he had his clothes and documents in the car. He drove off with tears rolling down his cheeks as his wife hurled unprintable words. The neighbors watched in disbelief. They were not so surprised though. If they were it was about how a man like Brian could be so cool in such a situation. How he could leave behind his son and their house just like that. There were rumors that she had cast a spell over him circulating in the neighborhood.
He left without knowing where he would spend the night. He was lucky to find this house online. Lucky that the landlord was likable. Lucky that he still had this one friend he could count on.
When he was done setting things down in the house he cried. He cried bitterly for his son. He asked him to forgive him for bringing him into this life. He wasn’t sure about his belief in God but he prayed and asked him to take away the suicidal thoughts and feeling of defeat. He felt peaceful after.
That night Brian slept on the mattress on the floor. It was a cold night. He had no curtains on the windows. He stared at the light outside with tears still rolling down his cheeks until he fell asleep. He had eaten nothing that night.
That night marked a fresh start for his new life.The day he walked away from a relationship that would have killed him or sent him to prison for murder leaving behind an orphaned son. Painful, but he hoped it will get better when morning light comes in.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.