It seems like a dream. The hotel room, the food, and luxury of the mini getaway. I could get used to this life in an instant. I order room service just to see how it feels in the movies. An added expense of $60. But that’s not my money, and the sweetest money is that which isn’t from your hard-earned sweat. I was living the life of my dreams but it would all come with a cost. Would I be willing to pay it?
I was seated in a matatu on my way home from campus. I gathered my last few coins to pay for fare wondering how I would make it through the next day. It was the 20th of January, or should I say Njaanuary. I carefully recollected how I had spent all my monthly allowance within the first two weeks. A mani-pedi? Check. New hair? Check. A lunch date? Check. Last but not least, a shopping expedition? Check. If I could look good and act rich, maybe the law of attraction would bring all that goodness back to me.
This was the beginning of all my problems.
I checked my phone to coincidentally find a text message from Njau. “Why haven’t you given me an answer yet?” I read this message from my notification bar, blushed a little and then turned it off. You don’t want to seem overeager, I said to myself.
I met this man a month earlier during my first class at university. Initially, he seemed like a ball of self-righteousness and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time his hand went up. He was a well-known journalist at a reputable media house. He spoke about his wife candidly and brought her up in almost all class discussions. It seemed like true love. I never quite paid that much attention in my sophomore year. This was the period of fun, where I could walk out two minutes into class to go to a local and join my peers in a drinking expedition.
I could ignore a lot of things, but Njau’s stares in my direction always made my spine tingle. I couldn’t let it pass. It was completely uncomfortable, especially because I came from a female-only Catholic school where I never talked to boys. However, I decided not to think too much of it. Some people just like to stare.
Weeks went by and one afternoon I was just minding my business when he called me. I hadn’t saved his number, and at the same time, I had been applying to places for a job so unknown calls were always welcome. The thing with me is I’m the furthest thing from an open book. I have about fifty layers before you can actually get to know me. So one-worded answers are never surprising, even to my best of friends. Njau had asked about ten questions when he almost gave up on me. I was, however, quick to realize that this phone call had no sense of direction. It was the usual “What do you do for fun? What’s your favourite colour?”
I have never and will never be good at small talk, and rude as it sounds I asked him to get to the bottom of his reason for calling.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked shamelessly. At this point, I still hadn’t put two and two together.
“I do. We’ve been together since high school.” Some part of me thought that if I said that, it would at least set some boundaries in the way he treated me.
“Perfect,” he said. “I have a wife and you have a boyfriend. The equation adds up.”
To be honest, I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. Wow. Just like that? For a minute I went blank. I tried so hard to get some words out of my mouth but I couldn’t. So I hang up.
He called again and again but to his disappointment I never picked. I even thought of changing my number. The next week when I entered the class I found him seated next to where I usually sat. The anxiety of entering class when the lecturer had started teaching already made me bite my nails, and now this? My first thoughts were to drop this particular class. I soon realized however that this was not a long term solution. I quickly found a spot at the complete opposite end of the class.
That’s when the texts started coming in. “Why are you running away from your feelings, my love?”
Feelings? The only feelings I had at this time were complete nervousness. I was sweating and my fingers were fumbling. Yes, I wanted to run as far away from possible from these feelings and this nightmare.
When I got home that evening I decided to confront him. But I soon realized that I couldn’t run away from his charm.
I sent him an angry text. “How dare you flirt with me with your wife and kids right there on your profile picture? The audacity!”
But he was quick to disregard my claims. “Your boyfriend is on your profile as well, and yet here you are talking to me. All I’m asking for is one date.”
I ignored him.
The next morning, he called me again. This time I was going to pick up and end this conversation once and for all with an insult or two. Or so I thought. When he picked up he engaged me in the most intellectually fulfilling conversation I had had in a while, and I couldn’t help but feel butterflies in my stomach.
“Let’s do this, go to Diani this weekend. I have paid for your accommodation already. Check your WhatsApp, I’ve sent the return plane ticket. Think about it. Sit down and meditate, and at the end of the weekend if you’re still unsure I won’t disturb you about this again.”
I sat and thought about it. He won’t be there anyway. It’ll be a quiet solo trip, I’ll have new content for my Instagram followers, and once I’m done I’ll let him know that I’m not interested in taking part in his nonsense. The pros outweighed the cons.
That Friday, I lied to my parents that I was going for a sleepover at a friend’s. They offered me money just in case but I was quick to mention that I was fine. We would just be at someone’s house anyway. I took an Uber to the airport and caught the flight to Diani. All I can say is, this was the best weekend in my history. Nothing could top this experience.
It’s now Sunday morning, my final day. As soon as I realize this reverie is over, my mood shifts. I open my eyes and stretch as far as I can.
It seems like a dream. The hotel room, the food, and just the luxury of the mini-holiday. I could get used to this life in an instant. I order room service just to see how it feels in the movies. An added expense of $60. But that’s not my money, and the sweetest money is that which isn’t from your hard-earned sweat.
However, the weekend was just what I needed to realize that the answer to some things don’t need deliberation. I was grateful.
I pick up the last of my dignity and walk out of that hotel room, knowing that I now had an answer for Njau.
I leave him a text message immediately. Not too many details. Just the word “No”
I walk down to the reception and asked to check out.
“Your bill is 50,000 Kenya shillings, madam!” A light-skinned lady said with a smile, as though she was unleashing the best of news.
I try to call Njau but his phone doesn’t go through. So I’m left with one option.
“Hello, dad? Remember when you asked if I needed any money for the weekend? I need 50,000 shillings.”