Second Chances

6.30pm, Friday.

You’re in your favorite bar, a beer in front of you. It is the color of the setting sun, and it’s frothing at the top. The glass is full to the brim and you take a gulp. You’ve just been laid off from work – at a consultancy firm set in the middle class suburbs of Kileleshwa –  and you are stressed out of your senses. Your boss mentioned something about ‘diminishing profits because of the long election period’ as the reason why he no longer needed you. As if that is reason enough to cut someone from their source of livelihood. You flipped, thumped your fists on the mahogany table, stood up and showed him the middle finger, a first in the entire 5 year period you’ve been working there. Then you walked out of the room yelling a number of profanities, jumped into your Land Cruiser VX, turned on the ignition and revved your way out of the premises. Driving up Ring Road Kilimani, you maneuvered through a mild traffic jam, joined Denis Pritt Road and found your way to your local – Road House Grill.

Here you are now- on your 4th beer and you feel the urge to switch to something stronger. Whisky to be precise. Music is playing softly in the background. You check your wrist watch. It’s 6.30pm and dusk is approaching fast. People are getting cozier in their seats, the sound of laughter is getting louder and it’s drowning out the music and intruding into your short-lived peace. Time moves some more and when you check again it’s 7.10pm. You’ve switched to whisky already and you’re pretty buzzed when a woman walks by, takes the seat next to you and orders a double of vodka. On the rocks.  She’s dressed in a red silk dress that flows all the way to her knees, and upon taking her seat, the dress moves a few inches up to expose her thighs. Your pleasure. She glances in your direction and gives you a ‘it’s been a long day’ kind of smile. You reciprocate with a ‘I’m taking you home with me tonight baby’ kind of smile. That is how it begun…

6am, Saturday.

You wake up to the sound of your faithful alarm ringing annoyingly, birds chirping cheerfully outside in the array of trees within your compound, and the sweet aroma of bacon emanating from the kitchen downstairs. It is 6am, your head feels heavy. You do not remember how you got home, you always never do. The other side of the bed, where your wife sleeps, is empty, she’s up early as usual. They say the early bird catches the worm, but you know how life is, sometimes you’re the bird, and sometimes you’re the worm. You slide into your bathroom slippers and trudge your hangover-filled body down to the kitchen. There she is, back turned towards you, the silhouette of her curvaceous body showing through her translucent satin nightie. You sneak up behind her and take her in your arms and give her a long wet kiss. She is startled and pushes you away reflexively. You sense the subtle hostility and ask ”What’s up babe?”

She replies, ”Ben”….

You know you’re in shit when she calls you by your first name.

“Yes baby”, you reply casually.

”I’m leaving you”. 

”What?” you ask.

”I’m leaving you. This relationship isn’t working anymore. We’ve grown apart. You’re drinking more than ever now, and you always come home in the morning smelling of other women’s perfume. Like last night, for instance, where in God’s name were you? Do you even remember? When you showed up here at 4am, I’m not even sure which one was stronger – the alcohol in your breath, or the perfume on your shirt.”

”But, honey, you know…” you scratch your head.

‘You’re not the same man I fell in love with. I’m not the same woman I was. You’ve changed. I’ve changed. Life changes people. It’s not your fault, Ben. We’re living beyond our means trying to pursue the finer things in life. We’re deep in debt. I’ve lost hope. I need to pursue other options. I’m not growing any younger, I won’t be beautiful forever.”

So it’s my fault now, eeh? What happened to ‘for better or for worse? Things are going to be better baby, it’s just a matter of time before…” you retort angrily.

”You’ve been saying that for the past three years. And things have just been getting worse. I’m human, Ben, I crack too. I can no longer wait. I’ll leave today. In the afternoon.” she says with a tone of finality.

You flip. This is too much. First your job, then your wife. In a blind rage, you take your keys and dash to your car, start the ignition and drive off. You drive away from your palatial home in Karen, into the tarmac road, whizz past The Hub and are now approaching the Karen Roundabout. It is early, and there is no traffic, at least you don’t expect any, plus you’re angry, so you’re cruising at 140Kph, and you press your right food harder on the accelerator. Everything becomes hazy. It’s too late when you see it – an abandoned mini-lorry that’s stalled carelessly right on your lane. You swerve and lose control, try slamming the brakes, but the machine is now losing balance. You’re sure you’re gonna crash. Letting go of the wheel, you close your eyes. There’s the sound of a deafening crash, but you don’t feel any impact, just nothingness as your life flashes in front of your eyes, then everything goes blank and white…

When you wake up, you’re dressed in nothing but a white overall and brown sandals on your feet. You touch your body, no pain, no broken bones, no bandages. This definitely can’t be a hospital. Either you’re dreaming or you’re dead. Ahead of you is a path that seems to have been trodden on quite recently. You follow it. It leads to a gate, pearly, with spikes of gold at the top. It is manned by two guards, all dressed in white with golden swords on their backs.

”Sir, am I dead? What’s this place?” You ask

None of them say a word, but one gestures you in. That’s when you see it. A city laced in gold, roads neatly tarmacked with plenty of greenery on each side. The guard ushers you to follow him and he leads through a series of turns up to another gate which opens into a seven-storey towering mansion with a sign on it ‘The Gold House’. The doors open and the guard leads into the House. It is exquisitely furnished with gold. You’re led through a staircase which you climb up and up to the topmost floor, where you see a door to your right.

”Enter”, your host urges you on.

You oblige and you push the door open. And that’s when you see him.

He has a bushy grey beard that covers his chin and lower face, with the rest of his being covered in a dazzling white linen clothing that stretches all to his feet. His neck and wrists are covered in gold. He is seated on a throne, his face radiating with holiness, and you are there standing awkwardly, feeling naked and exposed, cowering in fear and awe. He claps his hands twice in quick succession and an angelic figure hastily walks in with a cup filled with a substance which you are told will to calm your nerves. You take a sip. It tastes like milk and honey. You take another long sip, then you hear a calm still voice:

”You must be wondering what this is. Son, you didn’t survive the car crash. You’re dead. This is heaven, and I am God. This is where I live. This building, this is like the White House of heaven. It’s been more appropriately called the Gold House.

You look around, confused.

He continues, ”First of all, you failed this test called life. I put you down there with a purpose. You messed it up son. I gave you a lot. Good health, a bright mind, talent”

A long pause.

”You see the way you’re wired son, you’re wired to give. That’s the only way you’ll find any lasting contentment. But you, instead of giving, you started taking. That is why you never found any lasting contentment. You took from everyone whom you crossed paths with. Do you know the real reason why your boss let you go? With you always asking for a pay rise, while you spent your days bumming around and sharing memes on social media instead of putting in some real work? You were a liability, a pain in the ass. And your wife? You took from her time, effort, optimism and hope without returning anything even in the form of commitment. You’ve been dogging strangers, son,  yet you vowed to be faithful to her. Of course they aren’t strangers to me, I know them all by heart but you get the point, don’t you? She knew about it. And she turned cold because of that. She became a shell of her former self. When you couldn’t take any more from the people around you, you started taking from yourself. Your health, your dignity. You turned your life into shit. You ended up taking your own life, son.

Another long pause. You are surprised that God can use such strong language on you, but you can’t ask, you wouldn’t dare. Even then he reads your mind and goes on;

”I know you’re worried, and a little bit offended by my choice of words. But you see son, censorship is a human construct, and so is manners. The only thing I’ve ever asked of you humans is to love. And to love is to give. All these shit you’ve invented to massage your egos like etiquette, manners, rules, these things, they mean nothing to me and I am not bound by them, for I am God. I’ve seen that you even invented censorship agencies to police yourselves from using some words. You are your own worst enemies. 

You’re flabbergasted. ”So what do I do?”, you ask?

”You see, you humans, your egos blind you from seeing the truth. You are petty. That is why you’ve divided yourselves into races, tribes, gender, social class, within which you keep fighting each other. Yet you are all one. You’re obsessed with power, control and vanity.  The only reason you still exist, is because I am a merciful God. This is also the only reason why I am going to send you back in. I hope you’ve heeded my strong words and you’ll be a better person”.

He claps his hands twice in quick succession, and you wake up startled. You’re now in bed, in your boxers, and your wife is sleeping peacefully beside you. You touch your body, it’s yours, it’s real. You check the time. It is 6am, Wednesday, 20th December 2017. You’re not dead. What a relief. It was all a dream. Or was it?


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