The Other Side of the Bed

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She woke up to the sound of his key in the door. There was no sleep to rub from her eyes, not these days. The clock beside the bed blinked green. It was 2 a.m.

She listened as he shut the door and kicked off his shoes. She would find them askew by the door in the morning, discarded by their owner. Something she knew a little about.

She followed his footsteps …on the stairs? He never came straight to bed! Not before supper! This she had learned earlier on in their marriage. Sourly, she thought about the food that sat in the microwave and regreted that it would go to waste. If only she could go and pack it in the fridge, but she couldn’t ..

Her train of thought was cut short by the opening bedroom door. She closed her eyes, even though she was turned away from him. She stiffened and pretended to be fast asleep.

She sighed with relief when she heard his muffled footsteps heading towards the bathroom, stopping only to drop his clothes on the empty floor. The closed bathroom door allowed her freedom to breath.

What had they become?!
Her hand went to her head, as if in pain, but that was not the part of her that ached. Her chest tightened in anguish and the tears she had been holding onto threatened to spill.     

She quickly huddled herself into a ball just as he emerged from the washroom. He didn’t put on the light. He allowed her that courtesy.

He slipped into bed. He didn’t touch her. Not in the way that put people on the family way, but he didn’t touch her. Sometimes when she’d close her eyes, she would imagine she was alone in their bed. And their marriage .

How had they become one of those couples?!?
They never talked, apart from asking for the jam or the mashed potatoes or the day’s paper. They were both always so busy. With everything it seemed, except each other.   

She couldn’t think of when it had all began.  One minute they were deep in love, lost in each other’s eyes, whispering forever and a day, painting heaven and brewing passion. The next, they couldn’t even have a conversation.
Had she stepped back? Had he?

His breathing had slowed to a steady rhythm. He was asleep. She turned, careful not to wake him up. His face was calm. The green light from the clock cast over the contours of his face.

Her heart clenched as she remembered how much she loved that face. How much she still did. And knowing that hurt the most.
No, she hadn’t moved away. He had. He had stopped fighting for them. He had stopped caring. He had stopped loving her.

Her hand flew to her mouth to stop the cry of anguish that threatened to tear out.  
He was leaving her. She had no doubt about it. Why? She had no clue. But she couldn’t make him love her. She had already tried.

All she could do was wait for the day his suitcases would be by the staircase. For the day he couldn’t meet her gaze. For the day he would do what he had already done a long time ago; leave.

She touched her face to find it wet. She was crying. She wiped the tears away gingerly and without anouther thought, she took his arm and wrapped it around her, her back to him. She felt him wake up and held her breath,waiting for him to pull away.

He didn’t. He tightened his hold on her and kissed her forehead. She didn’t understand, but if this was their last night together, she didn’t want to spend it trying to understand.

That night, she slept through the whole night for the first time in a long time, and in the morning, she didn’t wake up to an empty bed. Now she really didn’t understand.  But when she looked into his eyes, she finally did. He hadn’t come back. He’d never left. He was just on the other side of the bed.

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I sat alone on the park bench. The midday sun, which would have been a nightmare, was tempered by a modest dose of cloud cover, making it a perfect day for a picnic. I watched as Nairobi succumbed to hunger’s demand., the streets immediately teeming with starved suits with a time limit.  Deftly, I reached for the Uchumi ham sandwich I had bought earlier, and settled in for the afternoon’s activities.

Perky Stella walked, nay, skipped down the path, her arm hooked firmly around her beau of the week. The poor sucker looked scared to death, constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure that no one he knew was around to see the sight. And it was a sight! Stella was a compact beauty, who, from my observations, hooked her prey by feigning to be honey’s sweetness and the sun’s warmth. But the girl was far from sweet! Sure, she meant well, but if life was all intention, Eden would be a realtor’s dream.

She gave a small wave as she walked past me. I smiled as much as one could without exposing chewed matter. We’d never actually had a conversation, but there’s a bond between people who see each other everyday for more than four months, albeit from a far. I had a feeling we’d probably be pretty good friends; where she’d come cry over what he did and I’d give an exasperated sigh and tell her she should stop giving a show and just let him get to know her for who she was.

As the stink of ‘perk’ slowly diffused away,  Funky Karl, made his way up the path. Ah, Funky Karl. Just the thought of him makes me smile. So the sight of him in pink kitenge loafers, jean cut-offs and  shirt so tight, he was halfway through tearing it with his muscles, made my day. You see, Karl at first sight looks like these uber cool guys who know that they are hot. (Ladies, don’t we just hate those?!) So here’s the really cool bit; that’s exactly who he is!

For the first two months, he would come over and wax lyrical, spouting the nonsense that normal girls would melt, boil, dry on the cement floor, over. Finally, we came to the mutual conclusion that I lost a screw during assembly and we were better off as Park buddies.

He stops by the smokie cart and then walked over with about ten smokies. Just a snack before lunch of course. He sits beside me and launches into a monologue about , well, everything. Don’t think him rude. That’s just his way. And I didn’t really mind much. I’m not much up to talking..hadn’t been for the last three years.

I could remember the very last words I said. Well, they weren’t exactly words. Sounds, I guess. Shouts. Screams. I didn’t like to remember. Silence had become my constant companion. Life wasn’t that much different. No one used to listen before. Now, i just didn’t even bother.

‘Are you okay?’

Funky Karl has a worried look on his face. Its a new look for him. I attempt a smile but all i succeed in is stretching my face. It’s such a poor attempt, we both crack up.

Am I Okay?

Had I ever been ?

Quiescence