I wake up late. A quarter to seven to be exact. I was supposed to have been up three hours earlier. The service is starting in two hours’ time. Or at least I am supposed to be there by 9. Having locked my hotel room and switched off my phone, there was no way anyone could have gotten through to me to wake me up.
From Suite 1256, the Atlantic Ocean is awe-inspiring. Having no contemplation of how late I am, I open the enormous windows to at least take a breath of the salty wind that is attempting too hard to get its way into the room. This is the culmination of what felt like an eternity of fighting, struggling, determination, hard work and an understanding I hadn’t received at any point in my life.
My dad is serving three life sentences in prison, one for a robbery with violence, another one for aggravated assault, and the other for the murder of my mother’s lover. How I had grown up and got my shit in order before tasting unsalted prison food baffles me to date.
I switch on my phone and hit the shower. The water is surprisingly soft.
My mind drifts back to the first time Diana and I had showered together. It had been during a conference organized by IPAS Africa in Kisumu. D’s mum had paid for our flights to the Kenyan Lakeside town and the prospect of us being together for a whole week kept us grinning and grabbing.
Since the organization didn’t allow two people to share a room, we had booked ourselves into adjacent rooms for convenience and sneaking around. Before even settling in, I had heard a knock on the door and upon opening, D had walked in wearing a kanga and a tank top. Her hair was wrapped in a white towel and the jewelry was gone from her neck.
The only makeup she had was lip balm.
I locked the door behind her while licking my lips. This was going to be interesting… something inside my head whispered. She proceeded to the bed and before climbing up, she held the kanga by the hem and let it fall to her feet. Apart from the balm and the top, she was wearing nothing else.
In the glow of the setting sun, her ebony skin glittered making my hands itch with an unfaltering desire to roam all over… The desire inside my eyes must have given me away because she looked at me and smiled revealing a beautiful set of white teeth that drove me nuts.
Everything about this woman drove me crazy.
D: Will you just stand there watching or will you quench that desire I see in your eyes?
Like a zombie, I walked over to the bed, straddled her legs and got in between them to obey her command. 2 hours later we had hit the shower only to leave it after another two hours.
Back then our hormones and thirst for each other had always been in overdrive.
After shaving and rinsing, I get out and without even looking at my phone I dial Diana’s room.
Me: Good morning Diddy
Her: Hey babe. Why is your phone off? You even locked your room. I have sent room service there several times. We are running late. I hope you are already ready. I am dressed up and my parents will be downstairs in a little moment. Mum just called me as they were leaving the hotel. She says she saw your uncle Michael leaving too.
Me: To answer your first question, I wanted to get enough sleep, at least in my last night as a bachelor. I didn’t want calls from Nairobi or from my grandparents in Nyandarua. We had a video call yesterday with everyone who couldn’t make it to the wedding and in my infinite wisdom, I felt that that was enough attention… at least until I got married. Secondly, I knew you would send room service here several times, making it necessary for me to lock the room with a chair… I am sorry D.
I am ready. I just got out of the shower.
Me: What’s wrong?
Diddy: I knocked my calf on the bed stand. I am okay though…
I move over to the balcony and stare down at the beach as I try to lock my cufflinks. They have a D inscription on them. She had bought them from Milan after a customization request that took three weeks to go through.
Down by the beach, the blue carpet is being rolled out on the marble pavement that is leading from the hotel pool to the Atlantic front. The pulpit is set up and decorated just at the edge of the ocean and the beautifulness of the whole set up makes me smile from within.
The chairs are 39 in total and I know that 35 of them would be occupied by the time the ceremony kicks off. The four are reserved seats for our two kids, my mum and dad. In as much as they aren’t present at the moment, it was Diddy’s feeling that they should have a front seat as we exchange our vows.
I agreed to the suggestion in as much as there wasn’t a single bone in my body that was proud of the lives my parents had lived. My dad was in prison for killing my mother’s lover after finding her in bed with him in their matrimonial bed. His behavior, in as much as it was inexcusable, was understandable…at least to me. He had labored hard, working in a construction site to provide for me and a woman who spent all her time gossiping in slum alleys and spreading falsehoods of how he couldn’t perform in bed.
The screams from dad’s bedroom had been unforgettable since I was little. She had been lying… or pretending. What was the difference anyway?
So he had slit her throat, with her hands pinned by his knees. He had then left her bleeding on the bed and pursued her lover. He has cornered him in a drinking den three hours later and shot him point-blank in the stomach. While pleading for his life, he had then slit his throat just as he had his wife of 17 years.
Mum’s body had disappeared from our house and based on this, he was only charged with the murder of her lover. No body meant no conclusive evidence.
Her death hadn’t affected me a bit.
By that time, I had been in my third year of university, sponsored by Boma project. The NGO had sponsored my education from primary all through to university in Makerere. There, I had met Diddy, a beautiful, dark-skinned girl interning in the College of Education and External Studies. Her father, being a Professor in the faculty, had organized the internship as a way of making her interact with professionals in her field.
We had hit it off immediately and the following weekend after our meeting, she had taken me to her parent’s palatial home in Mbuya.
We had left Kampala immediately after a sumptuous lunch of Luwombo and driven Southeast towards Makerere Hill Rd, took Kira Rd gone onto Lugogo By-Pass. Being a Friday, many people were in high spirits whose implication was the drunkenness of half of Uganda.
Beautiful Monster by Ne- yo was playing on the car stereo.
Driving in silence, we had then taken New Port Bell Rd to Serunkuma Rd, turning left onto Makerere Hill Rd. After several turns, which D seemed to be quite seasoned to, we again turned right onto Serunkuma road and drove for another 5 minutes till she stopped in front of this enormous black gate.
She tootled twice after which a gateman opened the colossal entrance and ushered us in. He had a grin all along as he followed us to the parking lot. He was elderly and from the wrinkles on his forehead, he didn’t look anything below 50.
D: His name is Musa. He has been with us since I can remember. When my parents moved here from Spain, he was the first person they employed. Based on what my mum told me, he was in charge of construction and security of the property as they were abroad and once they came back they decided to retain him as an employee in various capacities. He has seen me since I was in diapers to this moment. He is a kind and respectable man.
There was a white Toyota Land cruiser V8 with Kenyan number plates on the parking lot and a black Mercedes S600 with Ugandan plates. Two other slots were empty and Diddy parked in one of them leaving the other unoccupied.
Being in the hot season, I had expected to be met by something other than the sprinkled lawns, gigantic swimming pool, and the green, immaculately landscaped compound. She drove an outdated Mazda and as such, it was impossible to imagine she came from such opulence.
She had never mentioned anything about her background. Heck, our relationship was one week old.
By the time we were alighting from the car, her dad was there opening the driver’s door for her. He was a muscular guy with some specks of grey hair on his beard. She magically disappeared into his arms.
Her mum was at a conference in Jinja and wouldn’t be back till late in the evening. The afternoon was spent conversing, which was basically an interrogation by her dad. He was warm and easy to listen to. His voice was heavy and he cracked Diana up more than I ever could.
Unknowingly, I had looked up to him as the father I never had.
Have you ever watched a well up family and asked God why yours was so broken? In the place of feeling sorry for myself, I had effortlessly fit in primarily because of D’s affection for me and her dad’s reassurance.
Later, I had come to learn that her mother was (at our time of meeting) the Minister of Education in M7’s government. They could afford a little comfort. (in D’s words).
After our undergraduate studies, we had proceeded to the United Kingdom to do our Master’s programmes. Using the connections of Diddy’s mother, we had secured scholarships by Mastercard Foundation and I had chosen to do International Development with Diddy choosing to proceed with Literature.
After that, we had moved in together after our admission and everything had settled in place as soon as lectures commenced. Everything had gone smoothly until she got pregnant for the first time. Some complications ensued and we lost Samantha. The second pregnancy came with its own complications and we lost Harvey.
The two losses broke her spirit and with the same braw breaking my being. She seemed tired all the time and two months ago, she noticed she was pregnant with our third child. Our conflicting emotions took better of us but in the long run, we decided to be married so as to be together in preparation for any eventuality.
Mixed emotions characterized the discovery but we hoped beyond everything we had that the pregnancy would grow to maturity and that D would finally hold her son in her arms after so many false starts.
I had just woken up for an eight o’clock meeting when I turned to my right to find D’s eyes on me. She had been staring at me for a while. She had intriguing eyes. Brown and big… They were what I looked at when I wasn’t sure what she was feeling. These windows to her being were staring down at me. Her head was placed on her palm which was resting right angularly on the mattress.
Saying she was beautiful is a complete underrepresentation of how she looked that cold morning. It was there and then the decision to get married was arrived at.
The set up was now done and I heard a knock on the door.
It was my best man Willy. He looked dapper in his African attire.
“Man, I am glad you are already up and ready. D is breathing fire”
“Good morning to you too bruh. D can wait… at least for a few minutes…”
“D can’t wait. It’s her day. It’s a day edged at the most romantic circle of every woman’s brain.”
“Did you just use the word edged in a sentence?”
“Hahaha blame it all on your influence. Seriously though, we need to get moving.”
“Alright. Let me at least put on my shoes.”
Thirty minutes later, I am looking into D’s eyes after the Arab preacher asks me to say my vows…
Preacher: In the presence of your family and friends, confidants and colleagues, the world and God I now bind your two souls together, to symbolize a new union of love, adoration, mutual understanding, trust, and friendship. (Hands each of us our rings) Now, please look at one another and pledge the vows that you swear before everyone gathered here to abide by.
Me: “Diana, you and I met at a time when I had been relegated to the bottom of a pile of filth and unworthiness. I didn’t believe that meeting someone who saw beyond my low self-esteem and my tattered clothes were possible. I believed that my living in that state was permanent until you held my hand in that corridor in a foreign land (at least to me it was) and asked me my name. I was lost for words but then you spoke first and thereafter gave me your number. I can remember this day because I had had such a bad day but here you were… beautiful, in all African wear and confident to a fault.
Call me… You said. But I didn’t possess a cell phone. I had to ask Willy for his phone to beep you. From the onset, I knew you were beyond my league but something kept whispering to me that there was no loss in trying. My affection for you took a while, primarily because of pessimism but your love for me was instant. I felt I wasn’t worthy of your love but then in the ensuing months you proved that our affection could withstand anything.
When we lost our first and a year after our second baby, I was so heartbroken. Deep down I believed I should have done more but I didn’t know what to do. I was helpless but I had to be strong for your sake and for the sake of your parents. I loved you, and seeing you cry to sleep broke a part of me every day.
I would then go to the bathroom and let the tears flow. I couldn’t let the tears flow in front of you. I had to take into consideration your strong emotions and my role in the relationship. I cried for me, for you and for our two babies.
You are everything in my life. I have achieved quite a fete, but none could have been possible weren’t it for your kindness, your understanding and your utmost belief in my abilities.
D, as long as I live I will be your protector as you will be mine, one to shield the other till eternity. After tucking in and ensuring the safety of our children, as all adults must, not a single soul will come before you. So I pledge to stay with you as you stay with me, trust in you as you trust in me, hold your hand as you hold mine, support your dreams as you mold mine and together we will ride through every storm, waiting to see what each new dawn may bring.
I devote myself to you this day, to love and to hold close, to cherish and to adore, to assure and to be by for the rest of my life. Through shine or rain, I will love you unconditionally because you haven’t showered me with anything less. Dianna, I am proclaiming before man, before our friends and your parents but most importantly before God that I will always put you first from this day until the day I breathe my last.”
She looks at me and allows her tears to flow freely. I have seen her cry before but this time her tears are different. She is smiling through them. A smile that her mum is sharing… I fall in love with her all over again, a fete I hadn’t thought possible.
Her vulnerability in this single moment assures my conscience that I made the right decision in agreeing to be with this incredible woman.
Being a girl, she is in an overflowing blue dress. She is neither wearing makeup nor shoes. She has a diamond necklace and matching earrings. Her full lips are balmed and my mind keeps drifting to the moment later today that mine will descend on them. Her hair is afro and the look on her face as she slides the ring onto my finger is glorious.
Diddy: I don’t want to water down that declaration but I will speak from my heart because you deserve nothing less. You and I are from different worlds. Different worlds in every meaning of the word. Geographically we were born in different climatic zones and everything else about us was different till we met.
The one thing that drew you to me was a lost look in your eyes. Although you had gone through so much by the time I laid my eyes on you, you still hadn’t figured out your place in the world. I was drawn to you because something inside me told me that your place was right beside me. I was the lost rib you had been searching for unknowingly for so long.
My family amazingly accepted you as mine and no one ever questioned this attraction that was boundless. Being daddy’s girl, I had expected dad to pull me aside and warn me about you but you had warmed his heart, making him accept you as part of our family. Through me, you had become part of us and even mum, being the toughest, laughed at your jokes.
From the moment I introduced you to them, they blessed this union whose culmination of celebration is this day, thousands of miles from the dusty pavements of Makerere that we had met on.
Being around you has taught me so much about myself and life, teachings I couldn’t have experienced hadn’t I met you. Mum and dad, thank you for supporting us all through and being our parents. God knows we have endured lots of suffering and heartache but your presence has been instrumental in us being here today.
Mike, I believe in your judgment, I trust your instinct, I am humbled by your drive and above all my respect for you knows no bounds. I pledge to love you unconditionally like my life depends on that affection because honestly, from this point going forward it will. I take you to be my God chosen husband not only in words but in action from this point till eternity. I promise to love you like the sky loves the birds with open hands and infinite freedom.”
13 hours later…
Diana’s voice: Babie, Abraham is outside our door…