What do women think about, lying beside you in bed, staring at the ceiling? Secret dalliances…petty jealousies. And dreams. Is this what makes them so interesting? The secret lives of women.
Women are always dreaming, always thinking…chained to the kitchens, hearths and custom. We’re always flying with the birds. At least I always was. We swallow routine while men go off searching for adventure. Men give us their dreams, we carry them in our wombs. We keep everything alive.
And we are a bitter lot.
“You refused to take me to school so I could be a doctor, one day you’ll fall sick.”- An Afghani girl.
All the years spent in rooms, and as is a woman’s nature, carrying every memory of every room.
- Hours spent in a room
How a man rushes up the stairs to the room. I’m so excited, he says…I can’t believe you chose me. Zipper quickly undone. The sensation of cold fingertips on your skin. The kissing, the loving, the way the city sounds creep into the room. The way he breathes asleep as if he’s not even there. The things he says and the way he says them. Hours of madness in the blunt wordless language of the senses. The ancient cure. The distance between two naked bodies in a room, emphasized by white sheets with pink border. What a demon desire is, and you see it possess another person. It passes through contact and he touches you. And you see the shapes that your intertwined bodies cast on the room’s walls. How violently greedy the soul is when the body is so exposed. It engulfs everything…the bravado of conquest, the certainty of possession and the emptiness of you, the emptiness of a well.
It rains gently outside and something sprouts in you. A whole Garden of Eden starts in your womb, there where your invisible children play. Honey hours, honey days. Weaver bird nervousness. Weave bird fluttering. How angels fall…
And the morning after the war, a city sacked, ruined but triumphant despite love’s reek. The imprint of his hands on your back dripping like liquid sin. This way, he says and something in you wants to run. Run into the rain and streets and sounds and into the world. But…you realize how futile. You’re a woman. You always carry the room. Everything…the noise in the streets, the indecent animal smell of love, and always when it rains…everything is a key into the room. You’re a prisoner.
- Mrs. Okuthe Reading (prelude to a play)
Mrs. Okuthe has decided that if it must happen, it must happen on a Friday, and an afternoon. There was something so terribly happening about a Friday afternoon in Nairobi and she wanted for once to be a part of it all. It would, she thought, be a way to tell a story.
Mrs. Okuthe has decided to cook lunch for herself. Though the children wouldn’t be back from school in time for lunch she would still cook. It would be, she thought somewhat bemused, so unnatural to do something for herself. She had even fallen out of the habit of even praying for herself.
She caught pieces of her reflection on the cutlery. She had been no great beauty Mrs. Okuthe, at best she was non-descript. She had always known this with a gentle anger. And often wondered if she would have occupied a different station had nature blessed her with beauty. At present, she was a housewife.
No, Mrs. Okuthe was no great beauty. What she was something far more valuable. She was an interesting woman with extremely perky thoughts whose charms were completely lost on her spousal unit, as with most marriages in Kenya. Mrs. Okuthe is what you would call a dreamer. On most days she is by the window staring out into the world, wanting more, sewing buttons to shirts, darning socks…wanting more. Wishing to have her life over, sure she can do it all better…get it so right.
Mrs. Okuthe is a woman so rabidly alone that on some days she goes out into the world to feel the way strange hands graze hers. A woman so rabidly unsexed that she has completely forgotten what her body is for. Good touches and bad touches are all the same to her.
Mrs. Okuthe is pregnant, her sixth child in as many years. Mr. Okuthe likes her occupied. She has wasted away ironing shirts and making tea. Mr. Okuthe doesn’t even know how she likes her tea…which is not at all. He had bought her cheaply for two bulls and one thousand three hundred and fifty seven shillings in a ceremony that barely lasted an hour and so she hadn’t expected a fairytale.
Her time is thus divided between Mr. Okuthe and his children. Yes his children. There is nothing of her in them. She was never consulted when they were made. And they always tore her books.
She might have had friends Mrs. Okuthe, only she is a clenched soul and so empty. So very empty. Besides she likes reading, Mrs. Okuthe, a habit which her neighbours think odd and suspicious but respect anyway. It is a habit Mr. Okuthe detests in her. And often, he writes his displeasure all over her face. The height of Mrs. Okuthe’s romanticism is the earnest longing for a man who doesn’t beat her.
Now to the how. Murder had always seemed to Mrs. Okuthe to be the greatest enterprise. The expending of hours of thought on the efficiency of the means, the inner turmoil. But she felt none of the struggle. It seemed so natural to her to want to kill her husband that it must have been the only consideration she allowed herself for him.
Mrs. Okuthe: (As if in agony) Let me speak! Let me tell it all…it’s my story