Sam walked out of the restaurant, hands in pockets, mind detached from his body. The street lights in town gave the city an orange glow. The clubs at its centre pumping music hard and fast. Girls and guys walking the streets with smiles as wide as the Sahara desert. Anticipating the night’s turn-up. On every other night, Sam would have watched. The watching was blissful contentment for him. The nightlife in Nairobi, a scene in an unmade movie.
Tonight was different. Tonight his eyes saw without interpreting. Godspeed had given him a number to call and a decision to make. The dinner story had been highly entertaining, Godspeed’s journey to success, mind-bogglingly captivating. “He could become an inspirational speaker,” Sam thought laughed ironically, “with his perfect teeth, wealthy life, and persuasive speech and stories. No wonder he convinced the rich old hag to marry him.” Sam still didn’t know if saying yes to this idea would be proof of how desperate he was or an opportunity to show how cunning he could be. Maybe both.
He sat down on a bench near the archives to think about what Godspeed had said.
“You are advantaged my friend. Like I told you before you are a fairly attractive man-o. You don’t have to go looking for male models’ pictures to pretend to be. If you cleaned up a little, maybe take a shower, get one new outfit eh? You could make these women worship you. The money would rain down on you.”
Godspeed had made it seem so simple. His story had worked out so perfectly. Sam took out his phone and typed out the first web address of the two he had been given. It was private and needed sign-up details. He closed his eyes, did he really want to do this? He had friends who when desperate had gone to extreme lengths to be able to provide food on the table. Paul had become a mwizi when he got fired from his job at some restaurant. He had mastered the art of taking without being seen. For some reason that had seemed more respectable than those who just grabbed in plain sight, or those who took while a blade shimmered near the owner’s throat.
Politicians too were thieves. Standing on their big stages, with their big-bellied frames as if they had swallowed the bribes paid to them, whole. Sam chuckled, if he thought about it, everyone in this country was a thief in one way or another. Some thieves were just more respectable than others. This… ehh, he didn’t know what to call it… uhh… opportunity? It was more respectable too. If anything this wasn’t stealing, it was preparing to be given. As Godspeed explained, it was merely tenderizing meat into supple flesh.
He opened his eyes as his thumb lightly touched the enter key. He gave his information and signed up. In the ‘recommended by?’ section he typed in Godspeed’s full name and that seemed to do the trick. The forum opened, allowing him to view the conversations taking place. He scrolled through this new space where men and women alike bonded over the stories, successes and failures alike. Most of them preyed on foreigners.
The advice was in abundance. It was harder to trick an African. Africans were wary of their own, and they would want to meet you before they could ever send you money. Westerners on the other hand knew the privilege they had over you the poor African. They knew you would need money to meet them in the first place, to talk to them, and to allow them to feel like they saved you. You, the poor African are exotic to them. There was a whole thread on that.
Another was when you have to trick one of your own gender.
Two males Username: 123icatfishedyomama and Username: 2don’tsayididn’twarnya were having a discussion on the best way to convince a man that you were a woman. One said he got his girlfriend to speak on the phone for him. The other took that to be cheating, to be able to boast of your manipulation skills one needs to be the manipulator through and through.
There was advice on how not to get caught. How to disappear after milking the prey dry. Never ever give your real name. Don’t get attached unless you are done with a game. What to do when the police identify you (though most of the time in Africa they have more petty real-time criminals to arrest. The internet was not their forte). In case by some chance, you were caught, having money saved, as a bribe would be the first way to go.
The one common factor in the stories is that they worked. It was like how people went through all the before and after photo’s on the internet before they started a diet as inspiration. These were living transformation stories. But the transformation was not the thickness of their waist but of their wallets. Sam was intrigued. He was being given the chance to make something of himself. Didn’t he want to be an actor when he was younger? Now there would barely be a difference between him and Lupita. He opened a new tab and signed into the second link he had been given, the ‘findloveexotic’ match website. He answered the about him questions simply with half-lies and negligible truth. The only accurate description was the picture he uploaded of himself the one time he looked descent.
Sam looked at the phone number he had been given by Godspeed. His first attempt at the game. It had all been set up for him. Just try it, the woman was a friend of Godspeed’s old wife. Godspeed had said she was on several dating websites and desperate. She was ripe for the picking. What did he have to lose? Sam dialled the number.
“Hello?” Her voice sounded softer and younger than he expected. Sam was quiet. “Hello?” She asked again. He couldn’t do it. He cut the phone.
Sam exhaled into the evening, his breath creating fog. He would talk to Godspeed tomorrow. As he stood up from the bench his phone beeped. He opened it to see the new account he had just created with a new message. Someone had hit him up. He opened it,
“Hi”. It was the simplest two-letter, one-syllable form of communication ever presented. Yet it was also an invitation. Something stirred something in his gut. He had to prove he could do this. The games began…
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.