She is married now, a mutual friend texted me last month and told me that their marriage is sailing smoothly, and they are trying to get a child. “Good for them!”, I honestly replied. She’d actually slipped my mind and I hadn’t really thought too much about her since we broke up three years ago.
We had met through mutual friends on a camping trip to Maasai Mara National Park. We’d collectively hired a tour van to take us from Nairobi to the park, then to other interesting destinations, we wanted to explore. The head planner of the trip had insisted that she and I should sit together throughout the trip to get to know each other. “You are both writers, right? I am sure you will find something to talk about. If not, just sit silently and write about the most awkward trip to the Mara!” she said in her unnaturally loud voice.
If she was trying to hook us up, it worked because one hour into the trip Daisy and I were in deep conversation about what is the best way to cook chicken. “It is better when wet fried!”, declared with the conviction of a thousand men. She stared right into my eyes, her full lips attempting to conceal a smile that couldn’t be tamed.
“Do you even like wet fry chicken or are you just making this difficult so that you can fuel this senseless argument?” She shyly asked while reaching into her bag and handing me a bar of chocolate.
I love chicken but seeing her getting frustrated because of my liking wet fry brought me so much more satisfaction.
She was short and slender but with puffy cheeks and big eyes that made her look like a cartoon character. She was such a beautiful girl and she smelled like fresh flowers on a sunny Sunday morning.
“How old are you?” I finally shot the question that had been lurking in my mind since I sat next to her.
As expected, she reverted with a question of her own, “how old do I look? Kwani how old are you?”
After some unnecessary attacks at the two strands of grey hairs in my beard, she finally disclosed that she was turning 29 later that year. Two years my senior but she looked nothing like her age, if anything, I had thought that she was way younger than me.
I kissed her later that night under a billion stars and serenaded by nature’s sweetest sounds, crickets, and all. We’d been drinking since the time we arrived in Mara. I was on my third Guinness and she on her second glass of wine when she asked me to walk her to her tent. Her hand was wrapped around my waist as we subtly staggered down the narrow pavement into the camping area. I went in for a hug, but she had wanted more.
“Would you like me to walk you to your bed as well?” I gambled, not sure if she was ready to go all the way that night. Her arms were now stretched up around my neck, but it was a huge effort for the very short Daisy. She paused, looked at me with those beautiful eyes and finally let out a silent laugh, “see you tomorrow, buy me some dinner first. Btw! I don’t want any more of your wine!”
As I walked back to the bar to get one more beer, I had a feeling that it was going to be a really good trip. It was!
I bought Daisy dinner every night we were there. Each time she found a clever way of wiggling herself out of my advances to sleep in her tent with her. On the last night, I had stopped trying, I assumed that maybe she wasn’t ready, or she wasn’t attracted to me in that way.
“Would you like to come into my tent?” She asked after what had become our deep kissing evening routine. “Red, red wine, is this you speaking? Daisy, if you are being held against your will, say the word chicken and I will save you!!” I joked, attempting to act cool when every fibre in my body wanted me to jump in celebration.
She made me promise her that I would be patient with her. I said of course. After forty-five minutes in the tent, I was in tears, but her cries drowned the sound of mine and even the crickets outside. She was half-naked, facing away from me and her hands resting where her breasts used to be.
She was 18 when she first felt a tiny lump in her breast. Unaware that the women in her family had a long history of suffering from breast cancer, she ignored the signs and casually moved on with her life. By her 22th birthday, the cancer was in the progressive stages and had spread to both her breasts. To prevent it from affecting other areas of her body, she was advised to get an urgent double mastectomy (the removal of both breasts). She spent the Christmas of that year in hospital, heavily medicated and in pain.
She was never the same after losing her breasts. She hid behind baggy hoodies and stuffed bras. It would be years before she even considered dating again. When she finally gathered up the courage, she sparked a relationship with a coworker who was very gentle and accepting…at first. A nasty breakup would later ensue, and the boyfriend really turned against her. He demeaned and humiliated her after he’d? suspected that she was flirting with a mutual friend of theirs. He attacked her flat chest and called her ugly. She was broken.
I held her that night. She kept crying for the next half hour before she drifted into a deep sleep. The next morning, I brought her breakfast and asked her if she’d be interested in us getting to know each other better.
“I have to think about it,” she said without lifting her head to face me.
Two months into our relationship she turned off the lights in my bedroom and took off the heavily padded bra that she never took off. She let me “see” her scars in the dark and touch them. It was a release of great emotion and we got intimate for the first time that night.
In the following months that we dated we always switched off the lights and drew the curtains close. If there was any light, we couldn’t do it. She wore the bra when she went into the bathroom to shower and she would come out wearing another bra. I was patient and didn’t pressure her into doing things any other way.
We broke up on the third date of September, two days after my birthday. The magic was over, and we had not been happy for a long time. She brought up her breasts and asked if her being flat had anything to do with my unhappiness. I answered honestly and said no. Our relationship had served its purpose and we’d started drifting away.
She reached out when she was in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She was thinking about baby names but only one felt right, “Esparanza”. A name that aptly described her life since she first felt the lump.” Esparanza means Hope in Spanish”, she said. “At one point it was the only thing I had and now I am about to reap the benefits!”