What if her gun-toting soldier of a husband walks in one day and finds me with his jewel in bed? When he comes back beaten and brutalized by war and yearning for his wife’s touch. He will surely kill me. He will cock his gun and empty the contents of the bullet chamber into my head. He will smear the beige-painted wall with what will be left of my brains. With a voice that trembled like a leaf in the wind, he will curse my dead body for daring to drink from a fountain that wasn’t mine.
Or maybe he will walk in and put on an unbothered face. Unstirred that he just found another man with his wife in bed. I know it is a stupid thought. But what if? But then again, that is highly unlikely. In that milieu, even the most harmless of men would be driven to the edge of insanity. The devil that always lay half-dead at the bottom of his gut will roar back to life brandishing a pitchfork and throw me to hell where I belong.
But it will be a happy death. Wouldn’t it? What better way to die than in bed with a beautiful woman, a full stomach, a couple of orgasms to take along with me to the afterworld, and a bullet to the head-quick and painless.
These are the thoughts that often racked my mind as I lay in bed stroking Rosine’s slender arms after copious amounts of coitus.
My name is Losaka and I am Congolese.
You see, I did not grow up like a typical child in Kinshasa at the heart of the Congo: clapping hands, chasing grasshoppers, and catapulting marbles with my fingers. I was a quiet child brought up by a single mother who didn’t hide the fact that she hated me. I never met my father. I once overheard my maternal relatives say he was so ashamed of my mother’s promiscuous tendencies that he left home one day and never returned—vanished like a politician after being elected into office.
I would cringe in a corner in a near fetal position, and survey the chain of men that trooped into our tinned house, clutching my mother’s waist. Lanky, short, dark-skinned, light-skinned, ugly, and not-so-ugly, they would stream into the house and leave after what always felt and sounded like a war coupled with mild screams and squeaking furniture. Only that nobody came out of the bedroom bruised or bloody.
When I think about it today, I can’t help but wonder what my mother saw in those men. None of them was good-looking. Not even close. Okay, that may be an exaggeration. Some of them tried to dress up—mostly in brightly colored suits, open shoes, and a fedora to match. But dressing up does not change a person’s facial structures, does it? And just in case you are wondering, I know it is uncouth, an abomination even, for me, an African man to think of another man as handsome or not-so-handsome. The ancestors are probably turning in their graves as I tell this story. But I cannot help it.
I was always the unpopular child in the neighborhood. Sometimes, I think that I have never been loved my entire life. That is why it came as a surprise when Rosine, a soldier’s wife, invited me for a meal of moambe chicken or Poulet moambe in case you are Francophone.
Well, it was not really a surprise because, on several occasions, she had tickled my palm whenever we shook hands. And where I grew up, tickling a person’s hand as you shook hands meant that you liked them and wouldn’t mind seeing them in their underwear.
I am a carpenter by profession, so it was easy to know what kind of timber Rosine’s door was made of as I reluctantly knocked on it for the first time on the 28th of May, 2012, at about 7:30 in the evening. It was made of mahogany-the door.
When I think back on that day, I wish I had turned around and disappeared into the cold night, the chirping crickets clouding my receding my footsteps. I wish I turned around and left when I entered the room and found her err…you, know, dressed so unpleasantly pleasing. I wish I turned around when she seductively swiveled her waist and hips as she beckoned me to get into the house. I wish I arose from my seat and dashed out of the door when she temptingly wiggled her backside as she placed a piece of chicken into my plate. Holy crap! I wished I left when she sunk into my seat’s armrest and wrapped her hands around my bony shoulders.
Here I was, a boy who did not consider himself good-looking being devilishly seduced by a woman way above my league. Okay, for impartiality purposes, a few girls had told me they wouldn’t mind being my girlfriend. So I imagine I am not badly off. But Rosine? She was the embodiment of beauty. At about forty years of age, her curves were smoother than girls half her age. Her eyes sparkled like water under the sun. Her silky, lustrous skin was so limpid that it almost revealed what lay beneath. And her bedroom antics? Holy Moses! Athletic is how I can best describe them. I think I lost a couple of kilograms in the few months I bonked her. For a moment, I think I fell in love. But you know what they say about good things –they don’t last.
It was during the Ramadhan festivities when her husband walked in on us. A Muslim friend, an Abubakar, had invited me to dine with his family that night, but I turned down the offer to spend some quality time with mon chéri. Sometimes I wish I had accepted Abubakar’s invitation. Maybe if I did, I would not be huddled up in a dilapidated house in one of Kenya’s largest slums. Maybe if I accepted the invitation, I would still be Joseph Losaka, the carpenter, and not Mkongo wa samosa, as many of my Kenyan neighbors refer to me. My real name has become inconsequential.
I don’t remember much from that night except for the fact that Rosine’s husband walked in as wet as a fish from the rain outside, a backpack hanging loosely on one of his shoulders. An altercation followed as soon as he set foot into the house. I am not certain, but I think I killed him. I drove a kitchen knife into his stomach and watched him clutch at it as a wheezing sound escaped his mouth.
I am not sure if I killed him because in half an hour or so after the altercation, I was in a transit truck bound for Uganda. I would be a dead man if a stayed a minute longer.
Uganda became home for a fortnight or so, but I kept looking over my shoulder. Too many Congolese live among the Ugandans, and I feared I would bump into somebody who knew me. It was too close to home. On the last day in Kumi district, a place I thought very unlikely to bump into a Congolese, I almost jumped out of my skin when I overheard somebody say in that common Congolese accent, “Mon frère, katia mimi nyama ya nguruwe kilo moja. Si mbichi, nataka ya kuiva.” I would later come to find out he was a Congolese truck driver. Bonheur was his name. He had been ferrying goods between Kenya and Congo for about half a decade.
You might not agree with this, but one thing about the Congolese is that they are always willing to help you out as long as you speak the same language. So with the help of Bonheur, who to date thinks I am a businessman in Nairobi, I crossed the Ugandan border into Kenya through Busia sometime in September of 2012. I did not pay a dime! Imagine that. All I had to do was to play along to Bonheur’s stories about women’s backsides and maintain the narrative that I was in the timber business in Nairobi. I am glad he never asked, “which part of Nairobi?” because I did not have a clue. I was Congolese-born and bred. I had never set foot beyond the Congolese borders.
It has been about eight years since I stabbed the soldier in the stomach. I hope he did not die.
And Rosine, my lover? I fear for her. She is probably rotting in a jail in Kinshasa or was lynched by a mob-God forbid. I guess I will never find out.