Our third date was in the outskirts of Nairobi, at a restaurant she had picked, “Jennie’s”. I didn’t know it then, but Jennie’s meant more to her than just the four walls where they made ridiculously priced food. This had been where she’d shared the fondest memories with her late father. A man gone too soon, robbed from his family by a mentally ill police officer who went on a killing spree, fatally shooting any male who had the slightest contact with his wife. As all these stories always end, the distraught policeman took his own life outside his children’s school. Scarring them for life. It was international news; three men died that day and one was severely injured.
“It’s Mace, not Mercy! I swear I will stand you up if you keep on pushing my buttons, short man!” Mace chuckled as she hung up the phone. There had been an ongoing joke between us where she would tease me for being short and I would infuriate her by pronouncing her name wrong.
I had arrived at Jennie’s thirty minutes earlier because I wanted to spend the time sending out my CV using their Wi-Fi. I also passed by my usual “Kibandaski” and ordered a bowl of beans and more chapatis than is morally acceptable. Any responsible broke man knows to eat well before going on a date that is going to break the bank. You eat beforehand so that once you get to your date, you can comfortably order the cheapest drink for yourself, allowing her to have whatever she wants.
Mace was and is on a wheelchair, she fractured her spine when she was eleven after falling off a horse during a horse riding competition. Twenty years later, her wheelchair looked more like an accessory rather than the daunting device we think of when we see a wheelchair. She didn’t need saving or fixing, she seemed to be extremely comfortable in her skin; dare I say, even more comfortable than I was.
To put it more accurately, Mace’s injury had paralyzed her everywhere below her belly button. She explained that this was referred to as a “complete injury”, meaning that she had absolutely no feeling in her legs and lower back. Her upper body, however, was quite strong. She could do almost everything that able-bodied people do. With her accessible car, she drove just as well, if not better than everybody else. She needed a little help with showering, reaching things in high places and cooking; this wasn’t a side effect of her paralysis, just a general dislike for the kitchen.
She rolled up the ramp to Jennie’s dressed in a long floral dress that was just high enough to show her slightly swollen feet in her pink sandals. She had mentioned earlier that this was a common thing that most people on wheelchairs experience.
Her hair was short and blonde. I had not been a big fan of it initially but it quickly became the thing that I liked most about her. Mace always carried a water bottle, and an expensive-looking flask was hooked conveniently to the frame of her chair. She was bright and beautiful and by day’s end would hopefully become my girlfriend.
She took a few minutes catching up with the manager and staff at Jennie’s because they had already known each other for a while. I took the time to log off my computer and put it away in my bag. I straightened myself up, cleared my throat, patted my afro a few times and did a couple of other things that people do when they are nervous.
“Hello beautiful, right on time, as always! Finally, I see the famous Jennie’s!” I said as I stood up walked towards her and crouched to give her a big warm hug.
“Babe, how long have you been waiting? I thought we had agreed we’d meet up around this time?”
As I was coming up with ways to cover up the truth, which I believed to be embarrassing, one of the waitresses was already at our table, removing one of the chairs so that Mace could find space to park her wheelchair. After the waitress had made sure that her favourite customer was well settled, she whispered something in her ear and gingerly walked off.
“I needed to get some work done so I figured I would come earlier, do that and keep your chair warm as well.”
“You got jokes, don’t you? But that’s a good one I won’t lie.” She said with a broad smile and bright eyes, “So you got a job eventually? Good for you shortie!” She added in jest.
I couldn’t get my eyes off her beautiful face, every time I was with her I felt a warmth inside, a calmness I never knew existed. It had something to do with her sense of humour and personality. She was fierce but gentle at the same time. That little shortie joke flew past me as I was staring at her and generally being weird.
“My guy! Have you been hit by some kind of stroke? Why are you staring at me like there’s a cow sitting on my forehead?”
“Why are you like this Mace? Can’t I have a gander at the woman giving me sleepless nights? And no, unfortunately, I am still sending out my CV. Fingers are still crossed.”
Mace leaned forward and reached for my hand from the other side of the table. Her eyes softened as she assured me that my break was on the horizon. She had rough hands from all the wheeling she had been doing for most of her life. Wheeling had also made her quite strong, especially in her core. Every day I was surprised by how much she was able to do even with most of her body being paralyzed.
“What are we having? The waitress just whispered to me that today’s lunch will be on the house so order anything you fancy.”
I cursed the decision I had made to eat all those chapatis that were already making my stomach rumbly. I chose to have soup while she ordered the most delicious-looking chicken breast I had ever laid my eyes on. We were halfway into lunch when I finally got the balls to ask the question I had rehearsed for hours the previous night.
“So Mace, the last few weeks have been magical for me. It’s a pleasure and privilege to know you and have a glimpse into your life. I won’t say I don’t see your wheelchair because you don’t like it when people say that. What I will simply say, is that I see you and what you are, is more than enough for me, if anything, you are probably a little bit more than I am used to, in a good way. Before ramble too much, I guess what I am trying to ask is if you would find me worthy, I would very much like to be your boyfriend.”
At some point during my long, carefully worded proposal, she had covered her mouth with both her hands and tears were running down both her cheeks. I had caught her by surprise and she was taking her precious time to process what I was asking of her. Finally, struggling to regain her voice and with tear-soaked eyes, she said,
“That was really beautiful, I was wondering when you would ask. I am happy you just did. Be my boyfriend! Because I like you, I like you a lot!”
We stayed at Jennie’s for the rest of the day, if we could have, we would have burnt the midnight oil. We talked about anything in our lives we felt was worth sharing. I let myself be free with her and she did the same. We became one that day and our love story felt riveting; a tale of two Misfits with a couple of loose screws in their head. A couple that genuinely wanted to be with each other. That evening she dropped me home in her car and offered to buy me supper which I turned down of course, because if something must kill a man, then it must be his pride.
The next time we went to Jennie’s was three months later. This time, Mace had been the one who had arrived earlier even though we had already started living together at this point. I knew someone who knew someone whose uncle worked at the county office so I had gotten a job at the immigration department. I helped people get passports and though it wasn’t my ideal job, it was enough to provide for Mace and I, though she still helped a lot with some bills.
As a wheelchair user, Mace was mostly independent but she still needed some help here and there. I had become her primary caregiver and I was able and willing to help with anything she wanted. This, however, had been difficult to achieve because initially, she hadn’t wanted me to take on that role in her life. She had always hired caregivers but it didn’t make sense to keep them once we started living together. She took some convincing but eventually, she came around.
I left work early that day to meet up with Mace at Jennie’s. She always sat at the same place so I knew where to find her. Only that this time, she wasn’t alone. Her friend Molly sat beside her. I felt tense as I walked up to them. I had always had a feeling that I wasn’t Molly’s favourite person in the world. Maybe it had something to do with the passive-aggressive comments she made when I moved into Mace’s house. Something along the lines of, real men don’t live in their women’s houses.
“Hey guys, sorry I am late. The traffic was crazy today. Molly, so nice to see you! I hope you are keeping well.”
I gave Mace a soft kiss on the cheek but she didn’t seem thrilled by it. Molly looked annoyed as usual and didn’t even look me in the eye. The mood was super awkward and I started to ask myself if I had done something that could’ve caused them to be this indifferent.
“Babe, you look troubled, what’s up? Is everything okay?” I was genuinely acting suspicious because I was the one always making dumb decisions in the relationship. One time I took her water bottle with me to work and she didn’t talk to me for two days. The other time she had asked me to fix a screw in her wheelchair, I forgot, the wheelchair malfunctioned, she fell, she cried and I blamed myself for a week. So, what had I done now?
“I have good news and bad news Chris. I will tell you the good news first,” Mace finally spoke up. Molly moved closer to her, being supportive and rubbing her back.
“Okay babe, what is the news?”
She was visibly struggling to get the words out and Molly was doing her best to encourage her. In the end, she burst into tears and Molly decided to be her voice, “She is six weeks pregnant! I hope you are proud of yourself!”
Mace immediately nudged her, warning her to cease her unnecessary attack on me. She then looked at me and simply nodded, “it’s true, we are going to have a baby!”
I was stunned, in a good way, in a very good way. I was a 35yr old man. I had always wanted to have a child, who better to start a family with, than Mace? It was a dream fulfilled, we had always discussed having children and this was something that Mace wanted too. We hadn’t been actively trying to get pregnant but if walls could speak, our bedroom walls would tell tales of our determination and desire to make love every time an opportunity presented itself.
Yes, women with disabilities can get pregnant too. I had voiced my concerns earlier in the relationship. I wasn’t questioning her fertility, but rather her ability to successfully carry the baby to term. It seemed like it was going to be too uncomfortable or too difficult for her. She sat me down one afternoon and explained all the bits and pieces. Carrying the baby to term wouldn’t be easy on a wheelchair, but that didn’t mean that it was impossible. She disclosed that she had miscarried a baby once before in her twenties; a painful experience that ultimately led to the end of the relationship she was in at the time. That being said, Mace was always “down to pound” as she explicitly referred to it. Despite being paralyzed, she enjoyed the intimacy of making love; touching, rubbing, kissing, and fondling. She was a big fan. I loved her to death but sometimes I found it hard to keep up. Off the record.
“This is a wonderful babe! Such good news! Why are you crying? It’s something we have always wanted…”
“If it’s something you have always wanted, then why are your family sending her death threats?” Molly interjected.
My family had always acted like they accepted Mace but their true feelings couldn’t have been more different. They were superstitious and backward thinking just because she had a disability. My uncles had sat me down the first time I took Mace home and had subtly expressed their disapproval of her. They spoke in hush tones that always found their way to me, they said that Mace would bring me bad luck, the kind that I would never recover from. She was broken and choosing her was an insult to my family and ancestors.
“What do you mean death threats? About the pregnancy? How did they know? Babe, how long have you known?”
Mace was still sobbing, I had not seen her this distraught before. I wished to console her and calm her but Molly had her arms around her, almost in a protective way. Like she needed to fear me as well, as though the sins of my kin were automatically mine.
“We have known for a week now. Your cousin Wanjiru confirmed it at her clinic. She promised not to tell but clearly, her word means nothing. They are saying that Mace will give birth to a cripple like her. Your family is vile and rude. I never liked you one bit…..” Molly was trembling with anger as she spoke those words. Her narrowed eyes pierced through me and into my soul. She meant every word she said.
“Babe, I know I was never your family’s favourite person but I don’t like where things are going. I can deal with rude comments out here but I can’t imagine receiving them from my in-laws to be. It is decided, I have no desire of seeing or talking to your family ever again and I will also need you to leave my house as well. I beg you to leave me in peace.”
Check out The Storms We Weathered. A Valentine’s Love Story Part 2
Was He Going To Lose His Girlfriend Because Of A Cheap Valentine’s Publicity Stunt?
The Singlehood Series: Being A Young Widow Made Me Not Want Long-Term Relationships
Reunion: Rekindling An Old Love On Valentine’s Day
A Hundred Chocolates Saved Their Relationship On Valentine’s Day
My First Love Died But I Cant Let Go Of Our Valentine’s Day Tradition