“Why do Luhyas have to be so strange? I mean, they eat locusts, can’t have any other thing for dinner but Ugali, and the worst of all, they must marry more than one wife! What’s wrong with these people?” A friend of my friend’s girlfriend wondered loudly before sipping her whisky. She was in a red off the shoulder dress that showed no cleavage but which enhanced her massive breasts, standing on her chest like an impending calamity. She had a dimple on her left cheek and her tiny nose stood out. It’s like it didn’t want to be there. Or it did not want to be a nose in the first place. Perhaps it wanted to be the forehead, which is massive, but God said, No, you will be the nose, I already have set aside an acre of a forehead for her.
We were seated in a noisy, dingy club in town, one which horde all the fun. Everyone you see in this club is unhinged. The women here do not sit pretty, cross their legs and dub their lips with a napkin after every sip. No, they dance and shake their butts and sing along to every music that plays. And they are all very beautiful. Not the inner beauty, of course, but the one we can all see and therefore verify.
From the way my friend looked at me, I could tell he knew the girls had no idea I am a Luhya and so he was looking at me as if to say, “Don’t take offence.” I did not. I rarely take offence. I love it when people speak freely because then you know on which side of the fence to place them.
“It’s Albert, isn’t it?” My friend’s girlfriend said. “What is it this time?”
“Remember that chick we found in his house the other day? The one he said was his cousin? Well, turns out he is sleeping with her. Just the other day we were talking about marriage and he is cheating already!”
“Sounds like something Alberts would do,” I said.
They all turned to look at me and everyone but the forehead girl laughed. She was probably not in the mood for jokes, which was terrible seeing as she seemed to be pretty okay bantering Luhyas and defaming the hell out of us.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore,” she finally said. “You know, I was warned that Luhyas don’t settle with one woman and I thought my Albert would be different. But he is surely not. If he is cheating now, how much more will he cheat after we get married? Si he will even marry a second wife?”
She raised her glass, contemplated it and downed the contents in one swig. She closed her eyes as the Whisky burned its way down her throat. She then flipped open her bag and brought out a pack of Embassy. She lit a stick, took one long drag, leaned back against the chair and let the smoke out in one thin chain. I gazed at her. Her nose notwithstanding, she was stunning. Hers was the kind of beauty that kills you slowly like a slow poison. When my friend called to ask if we can hang out, he said his girlfriend will be coming with her troubled friend and that if I wanted to, I could seduce her. I said I was coming for the drinks but will pass on the girl. But her beauty was making me think otherwise.
I stretched my hand to her and she gave me the cigarette. I am no smoker, but I have smoked a cigarette before. A few times, actually. I took a drag and because we were seated next to an open window, the cigarette burned brighter, illuminating my face. I passed the cigarette back to her and let the smoke out from the corner of my mouth.
“From the way you speak, I can only assume you are not from Western,” I said.
“I am from Kisii.” She blew the smoke in my face with a smile.
“You have been dating this your Luhya guy for how long?”
She pretended to be recollecting her thoughts and I knew she was pretending because girls remember the exact date, exact hour and the exact minute you started dating. There’s a reason Men are sent to the doghouse for not remembering anniversaries. She pressed the cigarette butt against the ashtray and dropped it. A smiling waitress came to our table and leaned towards her but faced me.
“This one is handsome. Are you sure we can’t have a threesome? Upstairs. After my shift ends in an hour.”
“Piss off,” she told her, laughing.
The waitress laughed and walked away.
“I should leave him, right?”
“Because he is a cheat or because he is a Luhya?”
“Is there a difference?”
We laugh at that.
“Do what you feel is right.”
I did not want to turn into Doctor Love because Love is stupid. You cannot advise someone in love. People fall for people who are worse in everyone’s eyes because that’s what love does to you. If love made sense, perhaps we would be heartbroken only once in our lifetime. But we are heartbroken again and again because nothing will ever shield us from heartbreak. Not being woke, not a Steve Harvey’s book or even the Men’s Conference. Heartbreak is a sure bet the moment you fall in love.
But the main reason I did not turn into Doctor Love is that I got where she was coming from with this Luhyas and cheating and polygamy thingy. I do because at one point in my life, and I risk being stoned by saying this, I believed all Kisiis are witches. I know, I know, but back in the days, I had sworn never to entangle myself in a love affair with a Kisii woman because I believed she would bewitch me and make it impossible for me to leave her. That she would turn me into a zombie. That I would slap my mother for her. That I would, in fact, move to Nyamira with her and never be seen in Bungoma. Kisii women were a No for me and you wouldn’t tell me otherwise.
Then one day, in campus, I went to visit a friend who lived with his girlfriend and found them in the company of a woman whose beauty I will not describe because time is not on my side. That woman fell in love with my voice first before she fell in love with me. By the time I was leaving my friend’s place she had my number and even though she was seated I could tell that she had an ass within an ass, the same way we have a story within a story. As I walked back to my hostel, I said, “That woman better not call me or I swear to God ntapita na yeye kama Tsunami!”
She called me.
Ours was a mutual attraction. She invited me over for dinner the following day and when I got to her place, I found that she had also bought wine for the occasion. She was a student but was also working for some organization, and so her house had a sofa set, TV and everything a normal, broke student did not have. We had our dinner, chasing it down with a bottle of wine because unlike other girls who seduced you with their belly buttons, she had gone full-blown to make sure I was in her net. She didn’t have to, though, her beauty and ass, but mostly ass. That night I bent my back like a Cheater giving chase and laid the pipe like a Luhya man because every time you have sex as a Luhya man, you either prove or demystify a myth.
Before I knew it, we were in a relationship. I passed going out with friends to hang out with her at her place. Booty calls became a thing and ours came at weird times of the night. But darkness, or the thought of muggers lingering in the dark, never stopped me from sliding into my shoes and going to fulfil my duty. All was well. I was going to come out of Uni with both a degree and a wife, until one evening, just after we had had sex, she answered a phone call, from her mother, I think, and proceeded to speak in a rapid, rumbling Kisii that thundered around the house and made my penis shrink.
This was it. This was how it was going to end for me. I had lived my life meticulously to avoid this moment, yet here I was. I could not spend the night after that. I went and told my roommate that if I suddenly started showing this clingy behaviour towards my girlfriend, that they should know the real me was in a bottle somewhere and what they were seeing was a bewitched version of myself.
I needed to break up with her. But how? Breaking up with her ati because she was a Kisii and she was going to bewitch me was, surely, going to make her use double portions of juju on me, si ndio? So I braved myself through it and when the day came when she said, “Listen, it’s not you, it’s me,” even though I was the one not pulling my weight in that relationship, I went home, sunk to my knees and broke into the
“Amenitendea,” song, singing as loudly as I could before eventually speaking in tongues. Jesus deserved all the praise.
Years later, during one of our random catch-ups, I told her about my fears during that time when we were dating and she laughed so hard and said, “Please, no juju will make a Luhya man not marry a second wife or sire a battalion of children out of wedlock. It would have been a waste of time and witchcraft!”
My Kisii people, please forgive me. I know better.