Friday, 20 October 2017

How the Mighty Fall

Well, I’m dating. 

And it’s about as lovely as you’d expect. 

You know, long walks in the mud, experiencing behavioural segregation, having dinner with my roommate, listening to a rat die in the next room... 

...Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

Dating, for me, is a 5-step program. 

Step 1:  Desperate Avoidance – Most men are thwarted here.
Step 2:  Determined Friend-Zoning – I have a permit and I am not afraid to use it; trespassers will be told they look just like my brother.
Step 3:  Casual Abuse – Sarcasm and subtle feminism erode at fragile egos until a single  idio  victor emerges.
Step 4:  Violent Cynicism – All the worst stories about love are presented; this serves the dual purpose of a punishment for having bested me in battle and a foretaste of our future.
Step 5:  Acceptance – All the hugs.

I told Butters, Carrottop, and BFG about the tender blossoming of my relationship at Step 1 in order to have the support of my community in evasion, but only Butters knew I had joined the program.  When I finally admitted – perhaps 10 months later – to Carrottop that I was dating, she advised me to stop being such a secretive loser.  I took this into account and, a few weeks later, admitted whom I was dating (let’s call him Joseph).  At that time, she and BFG issued an open invitation to dinner for me, my commitment phobia, and our +1. 

Soon after this, I put myself in a situation of relative safety alone with Joseph, and this was classified as An Incident for my organisation as a whole – I have recurrent nightmares where the ensuing report is shared at a fundraising meeting for preppy teens in Nebraska.  Since then, our dates have consisted of sitting at the dinner table in the living room of our 4th-floor apartment while Timbit learns to play guitar in the darkness of her room and Butters eats dinner in front of the computer in his. 

I am destroying our family.

In addition, the 1st-floor housemaids regularly ask me how my cheri is doing.

This sort of indignity is not to be borne. 

In a desperate attempt to leave the house, I gave up my Saturday of Braless Solitude to tromp through the mud in Rwanda to reach a spotless new home with a fabulous studio for a DJ with a passion for gospel music – which Joseph is incredibly skilled at playing.  Later, we went out for lunch and Joseph had a first-class taste of mzungu life when the sweet server, Clementine, wiped my plate with a napkin, washed my mud-sodden shoes, and left him to his own devices.  So my darling Clementine and I talked while he ate off a dirty plate and washed his own sandals, quietly musing how his life might’ve been different if he’d been Indian.  Clementine, meanwhile, was doing up the top buttons on my shirt and crooning over my penchant to say Thank you to everything.   

Since Joseph’s skills are not restricted solely to preaching, patience, playing various instruments, generosity, leading a choir, kindness, training interns, self-control, planning, implementing, and monitoring agricultural projects, etc. he also advised Butters and I about our rat problem (i.e. to kill Ratilla or face the horde), carefully fixing a peanut onto each of our traps while struggling with PTSD from a rat pooping in his newly-washed sheets twice or thrice upon a time.  In honour of this good fight, Ratilla waited some time before consuming each skewered peanut without incident. 

One lazy Sunday afternoon, when Butters saw Ratilla shoot past his room and into the kitchen, he decided we’d had enough.  With his usual impulsive commitment to random acts of idiocy, he was certain he would be able to harpoon Ratilla with a broomstick handle.  When I pointed out the incongruity of an Anabaptist man being able to do any such thing, I was given the job title of Murderer.  So we blocked most of the exits (doors, traps, covering gaps etc.), and began the hunt.  In retrospect, we were both so frightened of moving appliances and bags, and so prone to screaming (okay, that was me – I have no idea what Butters was doing whenever Ratilla was visible, but it had to be quieter than me) that it was a lost cause from the start.  Ratilla was stuck for a brief moment at his usual escape route (blocked by our doormat), but somehow managed to squirm away while I was occupied with shrieking and ineffectually waggling the broomstick handle in the air. 

Soon after, on date night, Butters had just finished his supper with us when there was a small commotion in the kitchen.  Assuming it to be just another day at home, home, on the range stove, where the vermin and the ant play, I was surprised when Joseph patted my hand and congratulated me on the end of our time of pestilence.  The Phoenix, in his magical way, had finally found a way to outwit Ratilla, and we were at the end of this months-long impasse.  So first there was the cha-cha of the trap snapping shut on Ratilla’s neck, then slowly weakening struggles as she (as it turned out) tried to escape, deep wheezing as she fought to breathe, two final, pained screams, and it was finished.  The next morning, I would hear the squeaks of what I imagined was a desperately hungry little rat family, unable to send the little ratlings to school because Mommy wasn’t home from work. 

Victory is less sweet than you would think

Butters, Joseph, and I watched parts of her final moments – sometimes with Joseph’s arm around me – like we were at a late night show.  The mood, such as it was, was basically shot (though apparently not from Joseph’s point of view), but that left a part of me free to mentally catalogue the details of my hot date set to the soundtrack of a rat asphyxiating in our kitchen in the Congo.

It’ll be something to tell the children, that’s for sure. 

After Joseph left, I tried to advise Butters to just throw the little corpse somewhere it would be found by a bird.  He accused me of poisoning the city’s water supply and left it on the path to our water supply as a clear sign of what he thought of my ideas. 

I was supposed to deal with it the next morning, but decided to leave it for the man of the house – like any good feminist. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Just a Spoonful

I am slightly sociopathic.  Just a little. 

This epiphany was brought to you by Butters (and the letters F and U) during an argument in which I raved that he was never on my side, didn’t love me, and never would.

Friday, 6 October 2017


...It’s been a while.

You’ll never believe what happened.

My organization offered me a position after the ending of my placement, even going so far to ask whether a certain salary would be acceptable.  This nebulous offer (the second of its kind) felt good but, as I sat on a moto for an hour to get to a health centre where we would be carrying out a supervisory field mission, I had time to reflect on it.

As that happened to be a day on which being female and taking a long moto ride just did not go well together, I decided I would rather set my head on fire.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

What Happened – Part II

This is a detriment to anyone's
mental health

On that same field visit, I faced a room of around 20 seniors who had been abandoned by their families for having outlived their usefulness.  At the end of my scattered speech about strength, catharsis, and encouragement in togetherness (all translated into Maashi and possibly stalagmites, capitalism, and encephalopathy in Togo), and much ululation and clapping, I prepared to leave and wondered who was supposed to be treating whom.  At the door, I was halted by a decrepit old woman with her feet wrapped in square blocks of what looked like dinner napkins.  After speaking forcefully to my translator, she turned to me, grasped my hand with unexpected strength, and made a speech that ended with pointing firmly at her cheekbone.  As I have been eating deep-fried sweet bread for quite some time now, I decided she must be calling me out on my skincare routine.  I opened my mouth to answer in Swahili--

“She’s thanking you for coming.  And she’s telling you she’s blind.”

Thursday, 14 September 2017

What Happened – Part I

Having to keep secrets makes me less of a writer. 

Staying out late, having to be let into our building by Butter’s smirk and pretend-casual, “So did you have a hot date?  Did you kiss?!” is a level of punishment that I don’t deserve. 

Yes, and no, respectively.

Throwing my newly-washed fit from our fourth-floor drying line was likewise undeserved - although he claimed it was preemptive revenge for the next night, when he had to step out of the shower to let me into our building again.  It’s a good thing friendship is all about keeping score.