It’s not that I didn’t notice him, nor notice that he was trying to talk to me, but Lord knows I wasn’t going to be entertaining conversation from some random (pervert?) roaming the hospital corridors at odd hours of the night when I had a sick boy on my hands. I got to the nurses’ station.
“Mwana wa dwala.”
“A Dokotala ndiomwe mukuwasiya mbuyoyo”
And just like a cliché movie, I was put in a relatively awkward position. How to deal: In chess, never double back even when you make a mistake; you give your opponent one move over you.
“Mwana wa dwala!” Incessant, like I had told him this five times already.
We had a flirting scene straight out of third grade with him making the necessary unnecessary mean remarks and me getting appropriately angered by the minute because I don’t know why he is being so ‘extra’. He accused me of wasting government resources because I had forgotten my baby cousin’s health passport where they keep a record of all of one’s illnesses. He was not pleased with the fact that he was using government paper to write down the diagnosis.
Having sufficiently established to himself that he liked me, he asked for my number. Ask and ye shall receive. In the car, a friend who was with me stated her observation that the doctor fancied me.
“Really?” Noncommittal. Psssshhhht.
We talked over the phone. I told him I had something for him which I could only give him at the hospital. He got excited. I wanted to reimburse the one page of ‘government resources’ he had used, with 500 pages. I didn’t tell him this. He pledged to call once at the hospital- it took him two days, by which time I had flown to England. He did not believe my sister, who kept answering his random calls at odd hours of the day saying the same thing, “Can I talk to Fiona? It’s Dr. Q”, when she told him that I had left. He told her he had something important to tell me thus needed my current number; worst thing to say to someone’s sister when you are in that profession. She demanded to know what it was. He refused, outrageously invoking doctor-patient privileges. She invoked sister-sister privileges and refused to give him the number, informing him that she would give me his number instead. She recounted the conversation to me. She gave me the number. I never called.
Fast forward two years. Now picture me retching with malaria; PICTURE me vomiting everything in my stomach, including the digestive fluids. I rushed to the private clinic that I always go to when ill. As I was going to the nurses’ station, a doctor was coming out of his office. The nurse pointed me in his direction. He seemed barely able to contain his excitement. He addressed me as if he knew me, asking what I was doing there. When my facial expression did not crumble into the expected smile of recognition, I witnessed his demeanor double back to being professional and he asked me into his office. I knew I should have been cautious; I knew I should have been weirded out by his excitement but I didn’t care. I wanted drugs!!!!!! The first thing he did was set about setting me to rights; asking all the right, and necessary, questions-How long had I been ill? How many times had I vomited? Had I taken any drugs for it? If so what and when? With these answers, and aided by my physical appearance, he deduced that I needed to be admitted to the clinic. I refused. I just wanted medication to curtail the vomiting. We compromised that I would remain there half an hour for observation after taking the pill that was to lead me back to health and posterity. He also changed the medication that I was taking for the malaria. He didn’t charge me for anti-vomiting pill ‘since it was just one’ and offered to pay for my new anti-malarial meds. I refused, but was completely chuffed.
The second thing that he did was to remind me who he was while we waited for the half hour to elapse. With just a little nudge in the right direction I remembered a lot. Once that was out of the way, he proceeded to increase my knowledge of him by a lot. I am a great listener. I thoroughly enjoyed the monologue. At exactly the half hour mark, I grabbed a pen and paper from his desk, scribbled my number and told him to contact me if he felt so inclined. It took him a week, and then only to say, “It’s Q, I don’t have a lot of credit but can we meet tomorrow?”
“Wait…wha’?” I was disoriented. “I can’t tomorrow-”
“The phone is cutting. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“-I’m out of town,” I mumbled into the silence.
This is something I find cute: when a man does all the wrong things-like call me when he doesn’t have enough credit to tell me exactly what’s on his mind. I found the conversation endearing. He never called the next day, nor the day after that…nor the next week.
Two weeks later, I was back in town, with a sick relative on my hands. As fate would have it, in a third world country you gotta know somebody who knows somebody in order to get a basic service. I called him, explained the situation, and asked him if he knew anybody who worked at the main hospital in the capital city who could help us. He revealed that he had two jobs and that working at the said main hospital was the second one. He revealed that he wasn’t on duty and didn’t know who was so would just meet us there. Ten minutes later, we were there; so was he. He asked the doctor on duty to give my ill uncle a full-body checkup, then he said he had to go and check on his other patients since he was already there. The doctor on duty decided to just give my uncle a malaria test because he was so sure it was just malaria. The lab results came back at the same time that Q did. It wasn’t malaria. Q asked the other doctor into the office next to the examination room. The closed door could not conceal the rage that Q was pouring onto the other doctor for negligence and taking shortcuts. When Q came out, he smiled, inclined his head apologetically, and asked my uncle to go into the office for the rest of the tests. I was grinning like an idiot. I had fallen; hard. I could tell he could tell because I was doing a miserable job of trying to hide smile. I felt like the whole world, including my relatives, could tell, and I felt I had to hide it because Q seemed like the sort of guy who would want me to hide it.
He personally admitted my uncle into the hospital when they had the diagnosis. He asked me to bring him lunch. I brought him lunch- at 3pm. He complained that it was late. I kicked myself and made a mental note to do better. He asked me to see him when visiting my uncle in the evening. I visited my uncle, kept an eye out for him, but didn’t make an effort to find him. I didn’t want to put him off by doing too much.
Over the next couple of days he didn’t call; neither did I. Finally, I broke and called. He accused me of negligence for not doing what I said I would do, having promised that I would visit him when visiting my uncle and not fulfilling that promise. He seemed genuinely upset. Then he brought up my shutting him down without so much as an explanation when he had first tried to initiate contact with me over the phone. He sited this as he reason for not reaching out to me again. I winced inwardly. Why am I always doing the wrong thing with this guy?
After a minute or so of conversation that would get us nowhere, it dawned on me that he is the sort of character that needs to be shocked into saying something that makes them vulnerable so I told him I was leaving for the US for a year. Predictable as predictable can be, everything started pouring out. He is in love with me, but I have a problem: I am never in one place (around him) long enough to develop anything; he wants to cultivate enough of my trust in him to take naked pictures with him and for him; he is ‘willing’ to visit me in the US; ‘when two people are getting together, they must detach themselves from their families’ *?*; ‘even if a family doesn’t accept a man, if the girl puts her foot down that she loves him, the family has no choice but to accept him’ *?*. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing physically wrong with him, he had a job most women would kill to be associated with; drove a tolerably nice car; had his own place, same nationality and race as myself- I couldn’t see where his insecurity regarding my family’s sentiments towards him was stemming from so I unnecessarily, mentally, attributed all sorts of psychological issues to his person.
The next day when I called ‘from the US’ using a blocked number, there was more talk of commitment: “what religion am I?”; “I will, of course, change and join his religion”; “He has been finding out about the beliefs in my religion.” When I realised this over-zealousness would give me a toothache, besides making me nauseously bored, I told him I am out of credit and had to go. “Give me your number, I will call you.”
I told him he was sweet for wanting to subject his finances to calling me overseas, which cost him two arms and two legs from the third world. I told him that because I didn’t trust him not to call since he was so sweet, I wouldn’t give him the number; instead I would ‘ask my sister if she had any calling cards and would call him back’. I felt an intense bout of self-loathing for depreciating to such deplorable levels of manipulation when I was the one who had opened this can of sweetness. I called him back. I owed him that. He insisted on having my number; he would be more comfortable ‘knowing he could reach me anytime’. I started to give him my sister’s number then twisted one of the digits; you know, one of those things where you say seven instead of eleven and then accuse them, later, of having misheard you.
I knew it was only a matter of time before the web of lies fell apart and since I would rather be caught shitting outside naked than be caught telling lies, I decided that the next time I spoke to him I needed to come clean. I called him the next day-again on a blocked number- but he didn’t pick up. I started getting anxiety attacks that perhaps he, or someone we both knew, had seen me in town and the game was up; or worse, perhaps he had misheard me saying seven and thought I had said eleven and, therefore, had recorded the real number and called it, and my sisters had told him it was all a misunderstanding and that I was actually in Malawi. I decided to use whatever means I could to confess before he had a chance to confront me. I texted him everything, including about lying because of my insecurity that we were on a road headed to paradise but were going so slow that we would probably be dead by the time we got there. I have issues with rejection-from my observations, even more so than others. On the rare occasion that I place myself in a position where there is a possibility of rejection, I must be in control of this so I was quick to tell him that if he never wanted to talk to me again, I would understand. He replied saying he believed in giving people second chances because he had once asked for one and was not given it so he made a pledge that he would always give it to others.
Two things were clear: 1) I was completely into him; 2) I didn’t want to date him. Most of my friends didn’t even want to begin to deal with this conundrum; most of the time I seem so sure of myself or seem to find humour in my confusion so that my friends usually think my confusion is either put on or conclude that I will figure it out by myself. Some of my more mature friends berated me for my childishness and not knowing what I want; “Panopa you just need to find mamuna wa serious”. I too continue to be confused with my conundrums.
It became pretty clear to Q that we were just treading water. I showered him with all kinds of attentions and it was pretty clear to him that even my friends knew that he was the man in my life. However, I could not- would not- commit to him; and what’s more, I couldn’t explain why.
One day, I decide to put a stop to this circling around and psyched myself up to open myself up to him. I heard the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach so I go bearing edible gifts. My demeanor is the embodiment of cheerfulness. He has never seen me like this; it seems to excite him. I have never seen him like this. He kisses my fingers. He lacks the balls to kiss me anywhere else. He is afraid of rejection. I find this endearing. I don’t blame him; ‘rejection’s a bitch’. I feel sorry for him; not because of his lack of knowledge that with that one little act he has sealed his fate of never having me but because of the actual never having me. I am unable to attach myself to a man who lacks balls. *Pun intended*. I, sincerely, believe I would have been good for him; as it is, my narcissism will never be checked.
After this, my actions show extreme disinterest. He mirrors me because he lacks the spine to stand up for his feelings. This makes me lose respect for him; if a man can’t stand up for feelings which are his own, how can he stand up for me, a whole separate entity (Am I living in the wrong age for chivalry?). In the end, he did what every grown man who’s about his integrity should do; he pulled the plug. No calls; no visits; nothing! I called him over for a little heart to heart asking him what’s wrong? What did I do? “Nothing.” I did nothing wrong. Do I see anything amiss? We are still friends aren’t we?
“Friends? I thought you said you liked me?”
“Yes, as I like all my friends.”
“From what you said, I got the impression that you ‘fancied’ me.”
“What does that word mean?”
I started reading from the dictionary and it said something about ‘love’ so I stopped reading which seemed to amuse him because I had made it pretty clear that I did not believe he ‘loved’ me. In the end, he made it clear that he wanted us to ‘just be friends’.
I grudgingly accepted but then he started initiating hangout sessions so I lent him The Art of Loving because my “love life” was non existent, and I was bored, and I didn’t respect him enough to not play with his feelings. I wanted him to think that I am trying to communicate something to him and see what he was going to do about it. It excited him, which defeated the purpose because he would not do anything that would shock me into respecting him. I adored him but not as a ‘man’.
Several occurrences justified my cutting off communication with him, but not bitterly; all it was, was that I did not feel guilty if I did not initiate communication or did not respond to his communications. 1) he lied to me that someone wanted to buy my broken tv when, in fact, no one wanted to buy it and when I insisted on his giving me the person’s number he pretended to be talking on the phone, telling the said person to expect my call, and gave me his housemate’s number and didn’t get a chance to brief him to perpetuate the lie before I called. 2) I started seeing his tolerably posh car with someone else all the time, and when I asked him if he had sold it, he blatantly lied, instead, claiming that he had two cars. 3) He lied about being a doctor; he was a clinical officer. Liar! Liar! Liar! Of course human nature dictates that we all be hypocrites, expecting more from our fellow man than we are able to give (e.g. telling someone a secret and dictating that they keep it to themselves; obviously you couldn’t that’s why you shared it so why burden someone else with a burden you couldn’t carry?), but in this situation, I forced my integrity to rise to the occasion. I questioned him about everything-gave him a chance to ask for a second chance which would have been morally intolerable for me to withhold; he refused to admit he lied, giving one excuse/ lie after another. My dripping lack of respect for him hardened to disgust. And to this day, the only reason I keep in touch with him is because he continues to hold my Art of Loving hostage and I want that particular copy back because it was given to me by My Heart .