Five blissful years. Muthaka has one thing holding her back, fear of the unknown. She wants to get in, but she can’t bring herself to do it, at least not yet. Make no mistake, she wants this as much as he does but not before she speaks her truth. She worries that he may devalue her truth or hold it against her every time they talk about this big elephant standing between them.
“Do you love this man?” I begin the unraveling.
“Love?” Muthaka begins, as her face lightens up at the question. “He is my life. I adore him. The picture isn’t perfect if he is not in it. It would just be a useless frame.”
“Why not talk to him about it?” I question.
“I don’t want our story to be anything like my parents. I have never told anyone this and it has been chocking life out of me. I don’t want to tell him either. He won’t understand me.”
She gasped for air as she tried to reposition her posture on the seat. She looked at my notebook and pen as I listened to her then as if in a trance, sighed. I was sitting opposite her in that big glass office. She reached for this hour glass that sat on her desk and flipped it. Like some sort of countdown, she took her time. It was a cold evening but she suddenly started sweating. This must have been heavy on her. She stood up, went to the kitchen right behind where her desk was, and came back with a glass of cold water.
Muthaka and her fiancé have been dating for five years. She admits this is too long for courtship. It’s either you are in or not. They have travelled together for adventures, gone for late night dates, and bought each other expensive gifts. The culmination of their relationship was when he introduced her to his family officially though, their parents have been business partners. Months later, he proposed to her in the presence of her family, and she gave a resounding yes. She however, gave him back the ring owing to the fact that she wasn’t ready for marriage. Five years together and she wasn’t ready? Or was she still unsure she wanted to commit to this?
“I want to get married. Married to him. But I easily get bored of doing the same things over and over. But that is not to be compared to the fear I have of seeing what my parents’ marriage had come to. Their marriage is not one to be emulated by anyone. My dad…”
A deafening silence.
She got up again and went for another glass of water. This time, she didn’t come back to her seat. She went by the window and looked outside the beautiful view of Nairobi. People on the move trying to beat the evening traffic. It’s a colourful sight. Vehicles and streetlights brighten the streets as darkness prepares to make its way.
I remained seated and waited for her to break the silence which seemed like eternity. She gathered up some courage, “he has never treated my mother with respect or dignity. Do you know how painful it is to find out you have step-brothers and sisters who are almost your age? I have never sunk so low. When they’d have arguments they’d do it in front of us. My sisters and I grew up seeing our mother trashed by the man she married, the man who sirred us. I know there are two sides of the coin, but I don’t want to flip this one. He crushed the little hope I had in marriage. I am not saying my mother doesn’t have her share of blame for their wrecked marriage, but dad carries the biggest share.”
She turns to look at me and asks if she is overreacting and I tell her she is simply telling her truth. But I wonder what her fiancé has got to do with her parents, “your fiancé…” She reads my mind. She comes back to her seat her eyes still hooked at the view outside. She picks two marbles from her desk drawer and fidgets with them. “He has nothing to do with anything”, she finally manages to speak again, “my background is what is holding me back. I don’t know how to overcome this fear. I get married and then it turns out like that of my parents?” (they are in the middle of an ugly divorce).
When her mother found out that her husband had another family, it tore her apart. She didn’t want her children to find out but shock on her. One day as Muthaka was going about her day, someone sent her a photo of this lady at a wedding and flattered her on looking so gorgeous. She looked at the photo and she was shocked to see a lady who looked much like her. Like her twin. That evening she showed her mother the photo. Her jaw dropped. Muthaka’s mother had to come clean and tell her the truth. That it’s possible the lady might be her sister from another mother because her father had another family for as long as theirs had been existing.
“I dread that we will get married, and our marriage turns out like that of my parents. Dad was abusive since I can remember. Emotional abuse is the worst kind of abuse. It doesn’t compare to someone punching you in the face or belly. How he talked to us, especially mum, disgusted me. Yet here I am waiting to be someone’s wife.”
Muthaka and her fiancé have tried to talk about her fears but it hits a dead end, always. After she took back the ring the first time he had proposed to her, she wanted to be sure it was what she wanted.
One time she came across messages on his phone from another woman, he had almost cheated on her. Or perhaps he did, but she would rather not know. But the issue pushed her further down from ever opening up to him and tell him about her fears, about marriage, which includes infidelity.
“So why are you with him if you don’t want to tell him exactly what you feel?” I ask.
“How do I start when chances are he won’t understand me?”
“Perhaps give him a shadow a doubt?”
Two weeks after we spoke, she decided it was time to face the issue head on. She was reluctant at first but deep down she knew she had to face her demons.
“I called him up. He was out of town for some business. But as soon as he got back, I sat him down and told him about my fears. I thought we’d put all this behind us, but no. He thought I was overreacting but assured me that our story would be nothing like my parents”, she phoned to update me.
Their traditional wedding is a few months away. I wonder if she had all her questions answered. Perhaps, she needs to overcome all her fears before making this lifetime commitment? Or maybe, get her fiancé to understand that though she is getting into this commitment, she will still be untethering from her background?
She has few months to buy herself time. She may as well decide this is not for her, and kiss him goodbye? Or give it a chance?