Relationships are such an underestimated place for self-discovery because we are often lost in love that we don’t notice when we are losing ourselves.
Chris and I were high school lovers. We had our fair share of love letters soaked in cheap fragrance, withered flowers and special song dedications at the end of each letter. For two years, we were poets, him William Shakespeare and I, probably Stella Nyanzi, because even vulgarity can heal a dying nation.
This particular poem, a pestle to a mortar, remains a favourite to date. The rhyme, the cohesion, the eroticism, the confidence and the expectation to lose ourselves to love. It was a beautiful fantasy, and I was glad that we warmed our desks every night, pondering over the same thing.
Chris is the person to call when you need to make a quick run around town. He knows every stage, where to get everything at a cheaper price and has contact with someone who knows someone. In short, he’s a shortcut, and I can’t comprehend why I never questioned if our relationship was just a means to an end.
It hit me when in the early stages of our break up, he took his long-term girl best friend on an expensive date. Six years together and he had never done anything more than get me chocolates on my birthday. Actually, for my last birthday, he was in such a hurry to meet up with me that he forgot to reach for the chocolate in his bedroom. Later that night, he said the house help gave it to his younger sister.
This was pretty much the kind of relationship we had. He always had excuses for why he couldn’t get me the book he promised. For always showing up late for dates I was paying for, simply for the breadcrumbs, he had to offer. But love is patient, and darling I was patient.
The first pair of sneakers I got him was a surprise because he was going through some issues, and they boosted his spirits. He was grateful, and we were rolling on great energy all week long. The second pair was a Valentine’s gift. We dissed the cliche of rocking red and black attires to throng all the eating joints in town and settled on getting each other sentimental gifts. That was the first of the chocolates.
Relationships are an avenue of self-discovery, but I was in my feelings to notice that my love was barely reciprocated. At least, his lack of financial support should have been compensated with emotional support. He never offered to help pay a bill or be present at my worst. He was only available when I was paying, even for his Uber to wherever I needed him to be.
But a month after we broke up, he bought his long-term bestie this huge cake for her birthday. It would be an understatement to say I was surprised, jealous even. He even had the audacity to ask me to get on Uber and get him a rider. He was packing up at the farthest corner of his room, as he chatted away about their love for memes, soccer and concerts.
Rage was taking over me, I could feel the sting of betrayal pierce through my heart. The rehearsal on his notebook, before carefully placing that A6 card on the study table gutted me. He was smiling, widely. His eyes were beaming with pride, I guess for the effort he put in to craft this birthday present together.
For years, I thought things would get better, that eventually, he’d grow to love and appreciate me as much as I did. What I never realized, is that he stayed, for the financial security and velvet cushion I offered him freely.
At the start, I was convinced that his financial woes were the reasons why he did so little. I excused the little things; delayed replies, an unexpected turn of events, late nights with half-ass explanations, no-shows, even his disdain for my best friend, who always pointed out his weird behaviours to me.
One evening, when he showed up at my house pretty late for our supposed date, Josh called. My cousins had set me up for a blind date. We joked about it, at how Josh spoke with polished English and he almost sounded like Larry Madowo, just that he almost choked on his words.
“You should probably go see him. I bet he’ll come in a suit, strangling himself to death with a tie”. Chris suggested. We both burst into laughter and joked about our high school teachers all evening. But that night, I gave it so much thought, and I wondered, what good is a man in a suit? This thought was the death of our relationship.
Josh did the simple things. He pulled my chair for me, helped open the matatu window, held my hand when we crossed the busy streets at Archives, asked what I would like to have, and asked if I was comfortable or if I needed a ride home.
The entire time, I couldn’t help but compare situations with Chris. Every time Josh offered his help, I was surprised, and it showed. In fact, I asked two times if he was certain about paying for my meal because that’s something Chris never did, except for the few occasions he needed to refund me some money he had borrowed, he’d offer to pay for lunch with it instead.
“You seem to be into this guy, Janine. Do you need to tell me something?” He asked.
“I told you everything already. He’s a really nice man”. I responded.
“Are you cheating on me?” Shit hit the fan too fast.
“Janine, are you cheating on me?”
“Are you serious right now? Like for real?”
“Well have you seen your face, talking about him?”
“What is this about my face?”
“You are smiling”.
“That’s because he makes me smile Chris”.
“Then answer the damn question!”
“Chris, I think you should leave now”.
“I fucking knew it! It was never a blind date. You knew this guy, you have just been pretending”.
“This is getting disrespectful, please leave,” I said, maintaining my cool.
I started to notice the cracks in our relationship that day. I had been suppressing my emotions all this while because I thought that feeling unloved was a phase in every relationship. To date, I do not understand why I felt compelled to stay, to wait for Chris to grow on me, for our relationship to get better with age.
I had my doubts. More often than not, I bought him gifts to prove to myself that I loved him, and all I wanted was to be with him. But every single time, it felt as though I was sucking the air out of my lungs and soon, it’d be too hard to breathe.
After that fight, I got on Jumia and ordered a pair of Nikes, and a card to apologize. I felt, in my heart, that my financial capabilities were what drew us apart, even though his character is what we should have questioned.
I brought the sneakers to his place, apologized and promised never to talk to Josh again. He was elated, and we buried talks about Josh for three or so days until he called when we were out, having lunch together.
“So you haven’t blocked him?” Chris asked.
“No. I just went silent on him. Figured he’d view that as loss of interest,” I replied.
“Ooh, so you were interested?”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean like, the lack of communication would disinterest him”.
“Sounds like you are both interested in each other”.
At this moment, I started reeling back memories of our fights. Chris never tried to apologize with sincerity whenever we fought. In fact, he’d comfortably send me poorly structured sentences with tons of spelling mistakes and afterwards, sing the “I already apologized ” song.
He had quite mastered the art of manipulating me into believing his lies, making me feel sorry for mistakes he did against me and having me beg him to make things work.
The last straw was when I got him a brand new pair of Vans for his birthday. I was dead broke, so I took out a two thousand bob loan from M-Shwari to get him the shoes.
That ungrateful man looked me in the eyes and asked “Did Josh pay for these too?”
It occurred to me that I’d rather be single than saddled with such an ungrateful man.
If I could recover all the sneakers I’ve bought him, I could possibly buy land in Vasha.
Like what the actual fuck?
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When You Are The Campus Wife But He Is Just Using You!
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