Tag Archives: Love

Dissecting Love

You have acquired this habit of examining love, having become distrustful lately of a thing whose workings you cannot understand. You see, if you can just figure out what love is, how it works, what makes it tick, what feeling denotes what reality, then you will know how much to trust it, what to do with it, how much of your heart you can allocate to it.

You think about the appropriate analogy for this dissecting of love. Play with the idea of performing sanitized autopsies of loves gone past. Slicing through tender flesh with steady handed precision, prodding at hardened arteries with deposits from hurts gone past. Hair trapped in a net, elbows deep in latex gloves, your mask puffs out every time you sing the words to Daudi Kabaka’s Pole Musa playing in the operating theatre. But just as you are about to reach the pulsating centre of flesh that may house the secrets of love’s inner workings, it strikes you that autopsies are only performed on the dead, and love is still very much alive.

So instead you doodle in your black moleskine notebook with the fluorescent pink pen that lends whimsy to the heaviest of topics, and you draw boxes and arrows and circle things furiously.

You land on four possible types of love. You pass on these theories to your best friend, the most discerning one, the sensible one with wisdom in her smile and mischief in her eyes. She spreads some green tomato chutney on a cracker, layers it with soft goats cheese, and pauses to hmmm before she crunches it in her mouth. It is a hmmmm of recognition. It strikes you how old you have both become. Love used to be simple. You felt it. You know you were in it. Now, it seems so complicated, so layered, so charged with agenda and masked with illusion.

You lay the four types of love out on a table, arrange them delicately and with care, the same way you used to play with your mother’s jewellery. An attempt to put beauty into order. Most of all, you do it to exorcise previous avatars of love. Name them. Shame them. Dispel them so they dissolve into whiffs of non-existence.

You think you are in love with him. You were a little in love with him before you even met him. He dripped with charm, the kind that made you want to be smarter, wittier, worthy of the banter he threw your way. But it was how he did what he did that crawled under your skin. You have always been intoxicated by men at the peak of their game. And he was that. He combined understated passion with intense skill and a disarming humility that kept him hungry, just a sliver of the insecure peeking through in conversations. Every now and then he would show you a whisker of vulnerability, and that is when you felt it. That thing. Because it was like he was giving you a glimpse of a part of himself that nobody else in the world had access to. And that was enough of the carrot for you to be kept hanging on. And so in the throes of your encounters, you almost didn’t notice how his eyes darted to the ass of the girl who walked by. Every time. Every girl. And the charm grew old once you realized it wasn’t reserved for just you. Instead it poured out for everyone he met. You see men like that can never belong to one person, they belong to the world.

But then he would ensnare you again with the way he articulated life, the certainty with which he had its nuances figured out, even if they didn’t align with yours. There was something undeniably sexy about such certainty, especially contrasted with your utter wishy washy flakiness viewpoints on life, where everything was changeable, nothing black and white, just large swathes of grey. So you, a self confessed feminist, fell in love with a misogynist.

And then you realize you aren’t in love with him honey. You just want to be him. How’s that for a twist?

You think you are in love with him. You listen to cheesy love songs on the radio and feel like you have finally been let into an exclusive club, that you now know the secret handshake. The delicious texts that you receive first thing in the morning and last thing in the night mean that to someone you are their first and last thought. The fact that you save them more for what they represent, than what they actually say doesn’t ring warning bells. Imagine, all around you there are people walking around this world, sitting in their cars, working at their desks, floating over life in a mist of this emotion, feeling this way all the time. How have you existed this long without this feeling in your life?

You spend a lot of time in the future. When the possibility of what could be, somehow outweighs the pleasure of what is now. When you imagine the things that will happen for you, the way your life will look like now that you are in love, it is almost always backed by a soundtrack, accompanied with lush cinematography and a fan to blow the hair off your face. As if you were the heroine of your own romantic comedy. You want to tell everybody about this newfound love of yours, as if somehow if it isn’t heard and acknowledged by other human beings, it isn’t actually real. And when you do declare it, you have a practiced smug content obnoxious grin that crawls over your face. Except you can’t for the life of you figure out what it is you love about this person. Just that he exists. And that for now is enough.

You aren’t in love with him honey. You are just in love with the idea of being in love.

You think you are in love with him.  It creeps up on you stealthily. At first it’s hot and furious, and you use up all your charm very quickly, doling it out in supersize portions, not bothering to ration some for later. Predictably you soon run dry. And he still sticks around. Still seems excited to have you around. You soak up the things he says to you, hoard them like little nuggets of deliciousness that you can draw on, and suck out the goodness from later. You feel floaty, like nothing bad can stick to you, it just slides off, like water off raw potato covered windscreens  at the drive-in during the rainy season. When he holds you, you close your eyes and concentrate on the feeling of skin touching skin imbuing caring and desire and want.

And this time when the texts arrive, their meaning is what you cling onto. The words becoming etched and carved onto the spongy surface of your brain, deeper and deeper, the typed out words shrugging off any ownership from the person. You see at that moment in time, it doesn’t matter who is doing the loving. You are loved. My God you are loved. It comes from a space of emptiness this sort of love, a filling of a gaping hole. As if you could plug the crack in your wall with carbon monoxide. It is a pitiful, egotistic kind of love, the type that takes advantage of vulnerability and speeds away with your dignity. Before you know it, you are knee deep in a love that you don’t own, but a love that has claimed ownership over your emotions. And for what it makes you feel, you are grateful,

You aren’t in love with him honey. You are just in love with feeling loved.

You think you are in love with him. Across unreasonable circumstances, your hurt found his hurt, recognized it, wrapped its tentacles around it and oozed thick sticky honey love, coating it with comfort and kindness. You found his nooks and crannies, his tunnels and crevices, and filled them with a languorous urgency that took his breath away. You made him feel things he thought he had banished from his heart a long time ago. And when he smiles, the sparkle in his eyes, boyish, peeking out from the veil of arrogant assuredness, takes your breath away. It is addictive, watching this effect on him. You can see him visibly softening. You feel like you are smoothening his edges like the ocean does to the jaggedness of shells.

He tells you what it is that you do to him, and you swell with accomplishment that you could make another human being feel this way. Your heart smiles that his heart smiles. You feel special. Unique even. Like this is your purpose in life. You have this special untapped power that you did not know about, and suddenly it becomes more important than anything else in the world. Because perhaps this is the only person in the world who is programmed to respond to you in this way, and to waste it would be to go against nature’s design. Cause and Response. It is science really. And when he looks at you like that, like you are the most important person in the world, how you feel about him is but a side effect really.

You aren’t in love with him honey. You are just in love with being able to make someone so happy.

So what is love? Hush honey, and just feel…..

In love via photopin (license)Photo Credit


A not so unusual love story

When I lived in Bungoma our askari Wafula would sit by the gate in his wicker chair every evening, tweed jacket wrapped around his shoulders, shiny pointed leather shoes tapping against the dusty ground, home-made bow and arrow by his side, and nose stuck in a book. He would rummage through my bookshelf every week for something new to read. But Hemmingway was his real love. He was the gentile type. Sophisticated. Perfectly groomed. A dreamer. Not the sort you really want protecting you from a gang of marauding thugs. But he loved to read, and I am a sucker for those who love books.

What I remember most about Wafula was this whiff of disillusionment he carried around with him. He was destined for greater things he believed. He wasn’t sure how at this point in his life, he was opening gates instead of having gates opened for him. He wore a veneer of disappointment. It showed in the smile that was too quick to form but never reached his eyes. In the sighs he didn’t bother to hide as he talked about his life. In the looks of irritation he would give his wife Nekesa.

Nekesa. The Bukusu lady who stole his heart, and with it the sort of life that befitted a man of his nature. She got pregnant. Again and again. There were kids to be fed. To be schooled. It was not enough. It was never enough. She never let him forget it. And so every now and then Wafula would come to me with notes; meticulously written business proposals.  A Kaimati manufacturing business. A dog food re-distribution company. A boda-radio-installment endeavour. The businesses never lasted. I suspect it had something to do with his market research skills.

Nekesa would come by to clean the house every other day, and would leave her own notes for me. Poetic shopping lists.

Blessed was the day you were born.

Happy are the parents that gave birth to you.

Wondrous is this life that you lead.

Big is the smile that you wear.

Thankful am I that we met.

Good is God. All the time.

All the time. God is good.

Yours always and forever with great respect and love, Nekesa

P.S. We need a mobber

Nekesa felt a great responsibility to make sure I ended up with the right sort of man. She was very concerned that someone had put a love spell on me, and so one evening she dragged me to see the person who had first planted this seed in her mind. Her Pastor. He was very bling. Shiny gold watch. Three phones laid out on the table. Big studded cufflinks. We sat at the balcony of Bungoma Tourist Hotel sipping on warm Fanta as bodas clung their horns and the smell of jikos being lit wafted up.

The Pastor told me gravely that someone had been putting herbs and bones and all sorts of other indecent items under my chair at work, to trap me and make me fall in love with them against my will.

Nekesa nodded and looked at me with wide eyes, as if to say ‘See, I told you!’

I must not have looked convinced, because he quickly started telling me things to prove his psychic powers. Real deep stuff.  The sorts of things that he was certain would convince anyone that he possessed an innate telepathic ability. Like the fact that I had a dog. And a sick grandparent. And a tree in my garden.  Nekesa eyes got even bigger and she nudged me with her elbow, mouthing ‘See, I told you!’ He was very convincing. I began to get paranoid. Which of my colleagues had displayed suspiciously amorous intentions? What are the signs that a love-spell-putter-on-er exhibits?

What if it really was true? I would spend the rest of my life in hapless servitude to a man who had used a bone and herbs and other indecent items to hoodwink me into falling in love with him. Where is the romance in that!? What story would I tell our children about how their parents met? Well, Daddy took a shine to Mummy, so he heroically dug out some leaves from the Chief’s garden in Kabuchai, with great hardship purchased an owl leg bone off the black market at Webuye, went through all the trouble to break into her office one rainy night and lovingly placed these items of courtship under her chair…and then, just like that, our love came to life. Like all great love stories, the stars were aligned.

Then I remembered the photo I had shown Nekesa. Of my home. With my dog sitting under the tree in the garden.

Now of course to get rid of this love spell the pastor told me I had to….. hold your breath… part with a rather large sum of money to enable him to procure the items he needed to ward away this vicious entrapment. Unsurprisingly, I learned later that the Pastor had been helping Nekesa rekindle her romance with Wafula. And relieving her of hefty sums of money in exchange for this favour.

They weren’t so different, Nekesa and Wafula. Both held a void inside them, carved out from the disappointment they felt they had caused the other. They tried to fill it with money making schemes or money sucking scams. Looking for love in dreams of what could be.

Is there a greater loneliness than feeling alone next to the one you love?

I wonder if they realised that weren’t so different from so many couples out there. There was nothing special or peculiar about their relationship. Every night, thousands of women pretend to be asleep as their mind roams for ideas of how to bring back that look in his eyes. Every morning, thousands of men wake up thinking, what am I going to do that will finally please her?

In the end Wafula left Nekesa. Ran away with another woman.

Perhaps he tried to run away from disappointment. His and hers.  Tried to save her from him. Tried to save himself from her. The thing is I don’t know if you can run away from these things. They hide in your shadow.

And you can’t run away from your shadow.

Photo Credit