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The Man On Facebook (Part 1)

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Flamingos Painting  by Michael Lee

The first time Enid went to Nairobi was after an invite from someone, who could as well have been a stranger to her on Facebook. He simply went by the initials KK.

A wealthy man by the look of things on his Social Media activity. But then people lied all the time on Facebook, so Enid wasn’t very sure that what she had been seeing, is what she would get.

She went anyway. Out of a desire for adventure, an illusion that she was in love and curiosity. This was not really the very first time Enid would be in Nairobi. Rather it was the first time she would be in the city by herself.

A 22 year old college student from the dusty town of Nakuru or Nax for short or Nax Vegas, depending on what brought you to the Rift Valley town. The home of flamingoes. She had noticed that those who referred to Nakuru town as Nax Vegas, were mostly revellers who showed up for weekend events from other towns, specifically Nairobi.

Nowadays, the flamingoes were not that many on Lake Nakuru like they had been when Enid was a kid. Plus climate change had messed up things and the levels of water had really risen in recent times, so much that the KWS Offices had been submerged. They had to put up some new structures a bit further from the main gate to the game park. And it was now simply Nakuru County. No longer Rift Valley province and Nakuru town anymore.

If Enid was to talk about her town it would be endless. It was basically the only place she knew having been born and brought up there. She even had that brown tint on her teeth. The one synonymous with Nakuru dwellers only that hers was not very conspicuous. You had to really pay attention to her while she spoke to notice the dull streaks of brown on her teeth. Nothing like some garish brown she had seen on some people, thank God.

Enid had been to Nairobi before as a kid but her memory of it was foggy. It was a traditional wedding of someone in the family. Those distant relatives that you could not recognize on the street at first glance but your parents knew them very well. It was somewhere on the outskirts of Nairobi but still Nairobi. She had seen the tall buildings and the people on the street and the hustle and bustle of downtown Nairobi.

Now she would be here on her own. KK had sent her the fare. At least he was a gentleman. But he could afford it. Meeting KK had been interesting. He sent her a friend request. She looked at his photos, could not recognize him from anywhere. As a matter of fact, he appeared significantly older. But there was something about him. How he dressed. How he took his selfies. The people he hang out with on his photos.

She had confirmed the request. That was about 3 months ago. And then the “Do I know you from somewhere?” and “You look familiar” had followed. Gradually, over the 3 months, they had gotten to know each other eventually exchanging numbers.

Then one day, out of the blue, KK had confessed to falling for Enid. She had been taken aback at first. All that time, she had assumed the conversations were purely platonic. And then he had insisted that he wanted to see her and would send her money to come.

So here she was, getting an Uber taxi to Kilimani. Wherever that was. It sounded posh though.

“What is the name of that?” Enid asked the chatty driver, when they got to what looked like a mall. On the other side of the road was a petrol station.

“Ah, that’s Yaya Center. Been here for years!” The driver readily offered. “Haven’t you been to Nairobi before?” He asked.

“Not as an adult.” Enid revealed.

“And from the way you looked I assumed you lived in the city.” It was the driver’s turn to get surprised. All that time he had been in the car with Enid, they had been talking about mundane things. Nothing to give away the fact that his client was a newbie.

“I’m from Nakuru.” Enid thought it best to clarify.

“Nakuru it is! What have you brought for us from there?” The usual question that city dwellers liked to ask those they assumed were from the village. Enid would have literally rolled her eyes, were it not for an incoming call interrupting them on the driver’s phone.

“Sawa, sawa” He kept repeating over the phone. Then once he had hang up he looked over at Enid on the passenger seat.

“We are almost at your destination.” He mentioned.

For a moment, Enid wondered how the driver knew and if it was KK who had been calling. These Uber things were very different from the bodas and tuk tuks of Nakuru that she was used to. It was KK who had actually gotten the taxi for her, after instructing her to let him know when she approached Westlands.

Enid had to ask the person sitting next to her where Westlands was. Luckily, he was a middle aged man who had spent the better part of the two and a half hour journey, peering into his newspaper pages through his glasses. He was also very helpful. Fatherly even. She had alighted at Westlands, where the Uber taxi had picked her up.

The car suddenly came to a stop infront of a big black gate. She could make out some huge buildings, with wide balconies in the compound.

“Madam, you have arrived.” The Uber driver announced.

Enid then alighted, her backpack in tow. It was only a weekend anyway and she had lied to mum that she was visiting a friend in the city.

Mum was never the suspicious type and if dad questioned, she always knew how to shut him down, if she felt he was poking his nose too much into her children’s affairs. After all, Enid had been the poster child. The one who had never had trouble at school. There was nothing to suspect, or was there? Seeing that she was meeting with a man she had never seen in person before.

As she dialled KK’s number to inform him of her arrival, Enid realized that she was trembling. From nervousness or fear or both, she could not tell. How would KK look in person? Would he like the effort she had put in her appearance just to look good for him? The newly braided hair, fitting jeans, stylish top, pedicured toe nails  peeking from the front of her open shoes?

He picked up on the second ring.

“I’m actually at the gate.” He mentioned, before abruptly hanging up. Then immediately after, the gate swung open and out stepped KK in person. He was of medium height, comfortably dressed in a T-shirt, a watch on one of his wrists, a wallet in hand possibly to pay for the Uber services, track bottoms and sandals. From where she stood, Enid could smell his cologne. It was definitely not cheap.

“Oh, hi dearie?!” He began once he was done with the Uber driver, a huge grin on his handsome face. An awkward side hug followed and Enid literally had to stop herself from showing the disappointment on her face. But what had she expected? A sensual hug out there on the street?! The Kilimani neighborhood surely looked like a well tended street, tarmacked, with the ocassional cars driving past. She also noticed that it was quiet.

Just the ideal place for the wealthy to reside.

“Welcome! Welcome! It’s so nice to see you! You must be tired!” He was rambling as he ushered Enid into the compound. It was now Enid’s opportunity to scan the new environment. A wide parking lot. Two storey houses that looked very spacious even from the outside. Clean, quiet, a pavement covering the entire compound, two vehicles parked at the entrances to what she assumed were the houses of the owners. A security guard lazing about inside his small wooden post by the gate.

Surely, KK must be swimming in money.

She found herself wondering how his house would look like as he led the way, into one of the two storey units, up a flight of stairs. There was a child of about 4 or 5 struggling to get his small bike down the stairs on the upper floor.

He looked like a mix of Black and White with his brown skin tone and a head of curly, blondish hair. Enid decided immediately that he was a cute child and would have readily helped him with his bike, were it not for a harsh voice that suddenly interrupted them.

“No, now is not the time to ride your bike!” A slender woman admonished, appearing at the door. She gave a disinterested look at Enid before stepping out in a maxi dress that hugged her petite figure, barefeet, with long dreadlocks falling over her shoulders.

“What did we say Jason? No bike riding in the evening. Come into the house.” Her voice was now gentler, as Enid followed KK into his apartment.

“Those are my new neighbors.” KK was now saying. “The lady is Jamaican married to a Briton. They moved in just last month.”

“Oh,” A gasp escaped Enid’s throat. Everything about KK sounded so foreign. She had never really felt it in the course of their conversations but now that she was here, she could literally feel it. Back home in Nakuru, it was rare to have foreign neighbors and especially, people who came from far of countries such as Jamaica.

When they said that Nairobi was cosmopolitan, perhaps this is what they meant. Your next door neighbor could just be from anywhere in the world.

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11.

Young man portrait painting by eydii …

There’s a new occupant in Mama Ken’s house.

His name is Abel.

It is pretty obvious that Abel won’t be staying with us for long. He is Baba Ken’s nephew who came when I was away in the village. He is waiting to join University in May but I can already tell that Mama Ken does not want him around.

If I previously thought that Ken was bad news, Abel seems worse. You can just tell from looking at him. When I arrived from the village and found him at the house, he gave me one of those looks. Those looks that communicate a lot without words. Those looks that immediately warned me that I ought to be careful around Abel. But yet sometimes I can’t help being curious about him.

Unlike her own children who dump their dirty clothes in the laundry basket outside the downstairs bathroom door, Mama Ken makes Abel launder his own clothes. He does it, albeit reluctantly. She also warned him about his habit of watching movies the entire day.

This particular warning, Abel seems to ignore. He still watches the movies whenever my employer is out and wears those jeans of his in the house. The ones with large holes at the knees. In my village, wearing tattered clothes exposes the poverty that has afflicted your family. In the city, wearing jeans that have holes in them seems to be cool.

I have so far done my best to avoid being around Abel but without much success. The young man always seems to find an excuse to get near me. Like the other day when I was washing utensils by the sink, Abel must have crept up quietly behind me. I was only made aware of his presence when he whispered, very close to my ear, “You are beautiful.”

I swear I could have died from shock. But the young man seemed unfazed by my reaction to his gimmick. With a naughty grin on his face, he proceeded to dump his dirty plate in the sink. My heart was beating wildly in my chest. I am not sure whether it was only from shock but also from delight at having a man show that much interest in me.

You see, I recently turned 19 a few days after my return from the village. In a way, I feel like I have not experienced as much as my friend Priscilla has. It is not that I want a baby. I do not feel ready for one at the moment plus I do not have a husband. But I must admit that I harbor a curiosity for many things. And especially a curiosity about love and how it feels to be loved by a man.

Something however tells me that Abel is not sincere. Every time he tries to get close to me and succeeds, I experience mixed feelings. One is a bad feeling that he is up to no good and the other is a somewhat good feeling that he is paying attention to me. A mere househelp.

Mama Ken must have noticed this. Whenever she is home from work, I can tell that she is watching both Abel and I like a hawk. After Ken’s incident, I feel like whatever little trust my employer had in me previously has significantly diminished.

I have always valued my job no matter how tough it sometimes got. And especially after seeing how much my being employed has helped mother in the village, I value it even more.

Honestly, I am not sure if I will be very successful in avoiding Abel but for the sake of my job, I will try.

4.

Image Sourced from African Paintings on Pinterest

These Nigerians are such good actors, so I had come to realize. I also like how loud and dramatic they usually get. It makes their movies livelier.

Recently, I was watching a Nigerian movie where the main character was an orphan. She was living with a relative who really mistreated her, called her unsavory names and made her do all the house chores.

I could definitely relate with the doing of the house chores part.

In the end, this girl met a wealthy man, who fell in love with her and married her eventually.

I could not help wondering if I would also meet a wealthy man eventually, who would love me and marry me.

You see, I have never had a boyfriend in my life. I know nothing much about love matters.

There is a girl who keeps coming to the house to see Ken over the weekends.

I think she lives within the neighborhood and goes to the same school as him.

She always comes when both parents are not around. They then go upstairs to Ken’s room or sometimes, stay within the living room watching something on TV.

I wish I had the courage to ask Ken if she is his girlfriend.

He is only two years younger than me but being my employer’s son, I always get tongue tied around him.

But then, it is really none of my business so I don’t really dwell on it.

Ken once made me promise never to tell his mother about the girl’s visits.

So far, I have kept my promise.

The last time I spoke to mother on the phone which was a few days back, she mentioned that my village best friend Priscilla is expectant. Priscilla had never mentioned anything about having a boyfriend to me in the past. But in the village, once a man noticed how resourceful you were as a woman, he never hesitated in making you his wife. Mother added that Priscilla was already married and that her parents had received her dowry too.

I wish I had Priscilla’s number to call her and congratulate her on the good news. So much seems to have happened back home, the year I have been away. I wonder what else new I will find.

However, sometimes I could not help getting worried about Ken and that girl. If anything happened, I knew Mama Ken would have automatically blamed me for keeping quiet about it. I may be clueless on love matters, but I surely know what goes on between a man and a woman behind closed doors. In this case, a girl and a boy. I simply hoped that was not what was going on with Ken and that girl.

The news about Priscilla had made me somewhat envious. She was a lucky one, that girl. Books may have failed her but life certainly had not failed her. I know people in the village would have concluded that I was way luckier than Priscilla, working in the city. They hardly knew just how difficult it was.

Uncle called regularly to find out how I was faring on. I never told him just how mean Mama Ken could get. I never mentioned how hard I worked in this house. I never disclosed how they always left me behind whenever they went out for family outings, either in an Uber Taxi  that Mama Ken had hired or in Baba Ken’s range rover. I never said how I always felt like the “odd one out” sitting in the church pew on Sundays with the family.

How everyone dressed better than me, whose Sunday Best was a kitenge outfit that the village tailor had made for me, to attend a relative’s wedding. And that the kitenge skirt had become too tight over time and the zipper could not be zipped all the way up. It always left an ugly bulge of my colored petticoat at the top, which I expertly covered with the kitenge top being of good length.

Whenever uncle called, I always made it a point to act cheerful. I knew uncle had my best interests at heart. Him and mother were the only reasons I persevered.