Weeks ago, a friend asked me to describe the man sitting beside me now in one word, and I said ‘basic.’ Mr. Basic has just proposed marriage now and rendered me incoherent. We have been here before, in this decent restaurant, even seated around this particular table; I have a vague recollection of fiddling with the salt shaker as I am doing now. I cannot recall when we became exclusive because there are red hearts at the end of Mark’s, Mungai’s, and Ben’s contacts in my phone.
“You are finally through with Campus. You said if I wanted you I had to wait.”
I have no recollection of saying this too.
“I don’t have a job yet,” I manage an argument.
“But I do. I will cover our needs before you get one. Plus my Uncle is well-connected, he will sort you out.” I imagine the apartment we will live in as he says this. I visualize us seated on a sofa facing a wide flat-screen television, our conversations mute. I will probably insist on a glass table because it pairs well with other inessential middle-class items like the water dispenser sitting pretty at a corner. We would get a bed that does not creak when we have sex like the one in his bedsitter.
We have known each for five years now, the details of which are incomplete and often hazy in my mind. We met in a matatu destined for our hometown in my last year of high school. He was polite in his intentions: requesting for my phone number so we could build upon the new ‘friendship.’
I remember being overly excited when we resumed school. On that first night, I did not let my cube-mates sleep as I exaggerated on his mocha skin, perfectly aligned teeth, and inviting lips. I would often fantasize us kissing during class, and when it finally happened, it was a soft and sloppy disappointment, nothing like the steamy, hungry kiss I had imagined. Later, I hinted that a little bit of aggressiveness would not hurt.
A waitress sets down our food, and I watch her flat bum as she saunters away.
“Mum asks for you,” he says as he squeezes tomato sauce all over the chips shining with oil.
It dawns on me then why he wants us to get married. It makes sense. His 26 years matches to my 22. His mother- such a lovely woman- and I get along just fine, and I am beautiful enough to incite winks from his friends when they think I am not looking.
Once, after his friends left from an afternoon of watching football and just being too loud he remarked, “Mike says I will regret it if I lose you.” The comment did not come off as flattering as it has been intended. I knew Mike was just impressed because I had cooked and served them food. It was a good wife’s role after all: to cook for her man’s boys.
I know he has other women. We once came upon each other in the supermarket as a tall, curvy woman held loosely on his arm. He spent the next months apologizing, mistaking my silence for anger while it was nothing more than surprise at my not being jealous.
“Your mind is not here,” he observes, and I look from the couple seated two tables from us back to him. The woman has her back to me, but the man’s dark complexion looks almost exotic. They have been so engaged with each other, talking and laughing and not once have I seen either of them glance away.
The aforementioned friend and I have discussed the word discontent at length, otherwise the feeling of wanting better, and almost always not yet conceived things. The word comes to me now, sudden and pertinent.
“I want to be told extraordinary things.”
My assertion startles him. “What?” He asks.
“Nothing,” I shrug, “just something I read.”
The chips taste bland on my tongue. I think back to our conversations and how I drift off to sleep as he goes on about his job, emphasizing on his demanding boss.
“Let me think about it. It is a significant decision to make you know.”
“I know, but I have waited all these years for you.”
“Not quite, you have had other women.”
“I apologized for that, and it won’t happen again. I love only you.”
He says this in a way that makes me think he has said it before, maybe even in a setting such as this.