Reflections

By Bruce Ndung’u

Again. It had happened again. What was the fucking problem?

The dress hugged her. Cleavage peeking out just enough to prove she’s not a man. Her legs were a paradise upon which no hairs could dwell, and her skin a palace with no room for blemishes, but yet, here she was in that same situation again.

There was something commanding about her existence. It could have been the whispers that always fled the mouths of those she passed. She had discovered many things about herself from these whispers. She never knew, for example, that her weave was a cheap horse’s tail masquerading as the hair of a Brazilian. She thought perhaps she should purchase these less expensive ones that leave you tapping your head to the brink of a concussion.

But no, the tense atmosphere she brought about had to be attributed to more than the gossiper’s incitement. It wasn’t the gossipers whose every statement turned the tongues of interns into knots, rendering them speechless.

Whatever it was, Malaika had it, and she hated it.

“There is something terribly attractive about a woman who speaks out, stands her ground and commands respect.”

Her mother’s words would ring in her head every time the little devil visited her.

“Baby, Don’t be one of these slave minded womb-men whose most exciting endeavors are acquiring a new detergent. Never let your need for anything be reduced to dependency, not on a job, not on some man made philosophy that was brought here by our oppressor and definitely not on some man.”

Mother would always pronounce it as ‘womb-man’ rather than ‘woman’; she said society needed to acknowledge that women are houses of life.

The words of her mother had not been successful in chasing off this little devil and they certainly weren’t helping her now.

“Can I help you?” she asked this visibly horrified man for the third time.

He just stood there. Immobile. Incoherent.

This was the third time this month the guys at the I.T department had sent one of their interns to try and flirt with her, and this was also the third time this month that a man had fallen dumb upon approaching her.

Zena couldn’t figure out what it was about her that often left men speechless.

She knew she wasn’t ugly. The 10,000 bob she spent on her hair lent credence to this. So what was it? That little devil of fear would always overcome her in these moments, and she hated that too. Fear that she will never have a happy marriage, fear that she will die before she has tasted sex that is not devoid of love, fear that her aunts will never stop pestering her about how at her age they were on their fourth child… fear that she may never realize her maternal potential.

“Hmph! Why do we need these spineless goats to reproduce anyway?” she thought to herself.

Men, according to what she had come to understand, were kinks in the evolutionary wheel. Nothing more than short catalysts in the process of conception. None of these goats could even speak to her, let alone carry an entire being in them for nine months. Weaklings.

Zena’s thoughts began to wander like the words that had rested on the lips of the intern who was now returning to the violent laughs of his colleagues.

What about Kwame?

He was the one man with the mettle to spark her admiration. His broad shoulders blotted out sunlight. His handshakes were always firm. There was a certainty in his every step that made him appear to always be in control. Zena felt as if her eggs jumped every time he would respectfully disagree with their CEO during meetings. There was something about watching an array of sycophants agree with the bland suggestions. The CEO would so often dish out, then hearing that deep bass emerge, “I beg to differ.” THIS was a man!

Except, that was the problem. He was a man. And Zena just couldn’t seem to understand men. Unlike every other man in that office, Kwame never made a move on Zena. Not once did his eyes work to escort her buttocks whenever she passed.

She dropped a million signs his way, what kind of fool was he to not see she’s interested? How was it not obvious she wanted him when she smiled at him at least twice a day? The goat! How could he not see? Or maybe he could and he was just ignoring her. The nerve! That he should think himself so attractive that he can’t stoop down to her level.

He wasn’t exactly a prince charming himself, what made him act so entitled? She was going to tell him. His arrogance was stifling, and his ego needed to be put in check.

Zena walked fervently toward his desk. His eyes, like always, didn’t even move to show that he recognized someone approaching. She was livid.

“Listen Brad Pitt, you really think you’re all that huh? Well go to the mirror and take a good look at that reflection! Goat!”

***

That night, Kwame stared at the kettle –he always liked to prepare himself some black tea after a long day’s work. The shiny curves of silver made his forehead appear bigger than it really was. The kettle hissed, suddenly letting off steam.

He remembered Zena.

Her words began to hiss in his ears too and he found himself staring at his reflection. He was amazed at how perfect it was, how strikingly similar to him it looked like. In the eyes he saw blissful memories of old, memories amounting to immeasurable joy, strife and solidarity.

“You know, even if you’re my boyfriend, its rude to stare.”Malaika giggled.

Kwame giggled back. He always loved how their relationship was founded on making fun of each other as well as making fun of others together. In his eyes, only a seriously self-confident woman has the ability to spar with jokes. He lost his train of thought and found himself staring at Malaika again. There she was, the reflection of all the good in his life, the reflection of all the best parts of him, the reflection of…

“Kwame! Stop it. You’re being weird now.”

“Funny you should mention, the weirdest thing happened at work today…let me get the tea first.”

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