The night was as loud as it could get. It was like the final blast to the end of the world. Shouts, shrieks, thrills and cries of passion accentuated the music, which was so fucking loud you could feel your gut vibrating as if the speakers were inside you. It was a big party. One of those pandemonic ones that could make you feel as if your intestines were about to fall out of your ass. The song was Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, and it was apt because the dancers wanted to fuck one another despite the party being for a two-year old kid’s birthday. In one of the most bizarre incidents ever recorded in The Whoever’s Book of Modern Parenting, Soni’s sister had rented a three-floor office block to celebrate her son’s birthday. What a giant plus!
Soni was on the roof, having attempted to escape the din to no avail. She wanted to be alone but could not leave because her sister would be upset. So she stood there like a lost creature, with a hurt face, looking at nothing in particular, everything dismal and irritating. The sky was black and vast and gloomy like a variant of hell where you were tortured with darkness and depression and not fire and whipping. Even the music was ugly. Instead of Bad Romance she wished they would play a song called I Shot the Cheating Bastard by a woman named Gas.
“I caught him. I shot him. I gunned the fucker down. I burned the sucker down. I struck him and cut him and stuck his gut on the roof. Birds came and picked his eyeballs. I shot them too. Others came for his meatballs. I shot them too. I shot the motherfucker. I shot the cheating bastard with no mercy to spare.”
The album was called Fifty Shades of Balls and Soni loved it. Especially now when she was grinding her teeth and swallowing whatever peeled off them. She imagined she could taste her own teeth. They tasted like metal, like when you licked iron or tried to chew a roofing nail. There was a taste it left in your mouth that tickled your glands so that you wanted to keep licking and biting even if the iron cut your tongue and the nail broke your teeth.
There was a story she’d read about a serial killer who used to eat teeth. He kidnapped people he thought had excellent teeth and “detoothed them”—his words. He ground the teeth into a fine powder and used it to spice his foods, even licking some like sugar. He said it was extremely rich in calcium, and that, although he was fifty years old, he felt sixteen all the time.
“He eats teeth!” Soni had told Dama with a big grin.
“Jeez! Are you insane?” Dama had frowned.
“He eats teeth!” Soni had repeated and then twisted her face and snarled her mouth to look scary. “Grrrrrr . . . !” she’d growled, mimicking an attack.
They had been in their room at the University of Nairobi and Dama had been reading a Nicholas Sparks romance, her favourite. She closed the book and examined Soni.
“I think you are insane. How do you read a crazy book like that and become so happy about it?”
“What’s not to like about it?”
“That book is making you mad!”
Soni had rolled her eyes. Whatever!
She should have eaten Dama’s teeth. Dama had very fine teeth and Soni should have chewed them like nuts, even ground them and dissolved them in quencher and slurped it all down in one sitting. Then belched happily afterwards: BEEEEEH! She should have eaten Dama’s teeth. Dama and that cheating son of a bitch bastard who was now riding her cockpit. That bag of balls, the bastard of all bastards! F—
She turned, startled. It was Shiro, whose son was the reason for the party.
“What are you doing alone up here?”
“Excogitating,” Soni said.
“Ex . . . what?”
“That doctor is looking for you. The Chinese,” Shiro said.
“Where is he?”
They started downstairs in silence. Shiro was sorry for her, which made Soni’s situation worse. Shiro was younger than her by three years. Three whole effing years!
“Dama and Oloo were here briefly,” Shiro said.
Soni didn’t reply. She pretended not to have heard. She was looking at the dancers on the first floor and wondering at them. They were really shaking and twisting, glistening and stinking with sweat and confusion. She saw a man named Ori flinging his ass this way and that as if he wanted it to fall off. She thought he would look very funny if he was stripped of the giant flesh on his ass and left to dance as a skeleton. She pictured the room full of skeletons, gawky, graceless, repulsive things, swinging their bony ass-less frames to the music, and she burst out with laughter.
It meant that these people could not really dance; they were just pretending, because if you looked deep down into a person where the essence could be found, if you searched thoroughly for the soul there, it was the skeleton that you encountered—that sketchy, empty thing! You found emptiness. Like tin cans—you found tin cans. And yet it was the skeleton that lasted forever to be dug up later on by those fancy modern-day grave robbers. It was the skeleton that seduced you at a party, coming towards you with that trademark toothy empty perpetual grin: “Hello, mellow! I love you!” And you thought you loved him too. Only to end up screwing some ass-less fleshless corpse that grinned behind your back every time.
She had drifted off again. “What?” she shouted, coming to and searching for Shiro, who was right there beside her.
“I asked you what you are laughing at,” Shiro said.
“Oh, just had a happy thought,” Soni said.
“What happy thought?”
“Did you watch Pirates of the Caribbean?”
“Imagine if all these people were from Captain Barbossa’s crew—those skeletons. How do you think they would be dancing?”
“Soni!” Shiro exclaimed and laughed until she jolted the man named Ori, who did not hesitate to grab her by the waist and make her dance with him.
Soni proceeded to ground floor and outside the building.
The doctor was leaning on a column by the main entrance. He seemed abstracted.
“Hey,” Soni said.
“Soni!” he breathed, and before she knew it, he had hugged her. She hugged him back, though with reluctance, thinking of it as an eye for an eye. Do me how I do you.
“I missed you, Soni,” he said.
“That is not entirely a good idea,” she told him.
He let go of her and they stood face to face. She was slightly taller than him but that was neither here nor there. He was a pleasant guy, all in all. He had a lot of heart and a lot of warmth and a lot of friendship. He had a lot of things. There were just two problems: a) He didn’t have a name like Jackie Chan or Jet Li or Andy Lau. His name was Xihuangxi and Soni didn’t have the right accent to pronounce it. It sounded nice when he said it; it sounded like shit when she did. So she just called him Dr. Xi instead of ‘the Chinese man’ as most people did. He spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese but his English was good which was a plus. She could differentiate between Mandarin and Cantonese and that too was a plus. b) He was in love with her and that was not nice, not nice at all.
Once you saw the skeleton, the essence of man, the soul, what the philosophers called the quiddity, the haecceity—once you saw it, you could never get it out of your head. And there was no way to dress it up. You knew it was there and grinning insidiously from beneath that pleasant face, pointing at you and whispering, “I’m watching you!” It was only a matter of time before it tore the face apart and leaped out, glaring at you with its hollow nasty sockets, screaming: “Tell me, you fucking bitch! What do you see? Do you like what you see? Because I’ve been locked up in this wretched flesh for decades like a genie in a bottle, but now I’m out! Now I’m out! And I’m going to fuck you till your ass breaks like a pot!”
“What’s the matter?” the doctor was asking.
“Oh.” She didn’t remember sighing. Lately she had been unable to hold her thoughts together, or even account for her presence at a specific place. Sometimes she couldn’t remember that she had been anywhere.
“I brought your favourite cookies,” he said and handed her a rainbow-coloured glass jar with alternating diamond and octagonal patterns on it. She studied it slowly, turning it over in her hands like a precious thing. She thought of kissing him thank you, changed her mind, leaned over and pecked his cheek nevertheless.
“Thank you!” she said cheerfully but there was no cheer in her eyes. She took one of the cookies and bit it, chewed. It was great. He made the tastiest cookies she had ever eaten. If it went on this way she was afraid he might just win her ass after all. It was funny how the ass always came before the heart, wasn’t it? Why were things so upside-down, anyway? If you asked the intelligent guys, the doctors and the physicists, they’d say the heart was even more important than the brain, that it had a greater magnetic field and it controlled the brain, not vice versa. But in reality, the society wanted your ass before it cared a shit what was in your heart.
Dr. Xi had agreed to show her the secret of his cookies if she went to his place—which was another way of saying that it was time he stuffed things up her ass.
“Do you want a dick or a cookie?” he might ask her. “Because that cookie is going to be shit in a sec while this dick is built to last! Just like the Great Wall!”
“I thought you said your nephew is two years old?” he was asking.
“He is,” she said.
“Why all this noise, then?”
“It’s called modern parenting,” she said and swallowed a tad too hard. “Give the kid a blast or blast the kid!” She took a second cookie and bit it.
“You sound unhappy.”
“Unhappy?” she frowned. “Doctor, I am weeping blood and pus inside. That’s my little sister celebrating her son’s second birthday, and I just got dumped! Dumped! How is that for a thrilling unputdownable cloak-and-dagger whatever-the-shit-whodunit?”
“Take it easy,” he said and put his hand on her shoulder. She stiffened for a moment, even paused chewing. Next he would be touching her ass and feeling all cosy about it. Now that she was single he would really try to get his score. As if she owed him. Nice or not, cookies or no cookies, in love or out of it, he was just like the rest of his species. The rest of them people with penises. The PWPs. The specious species. Concerned chiefly with her ass. They were a queer lot. They didn’t care about your humanity because they had given up on it. They cared about your ass because they had things to stuff in it.
“I’m so pretty they all wanna plug me like a socket, and then kick me out like a rocket,” Gas had sung.
“They wanna plug me in every hole in my body. Hell, they would plug my sockets if my eyeballs didn’t fill them.”
If you were beheaded but somehow kept alive in a highly advanced laboratory, maybe wired from the neck upwards to a supercomputer for a brain, the PWPs would still screw you as long as your ass was intact.
There was, for instance, the story of the man who had planted an artificial vagina on a mannequin so that he could fuck it. Or the nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital who used to raped unconscious patients.
“How do I look, sweetie?” the woman asked her boyfriend.
“Phenomenal!” he answered, but what he saw was a big phenomenal vagina with arms and legs sticking on it.
“You are the whole of my life,” he said and she laughed sweetly, although what he had really said was: “You are the hole of my life.”
Once upon a time, an alien and a PWP met on Ganymede.
Said the alien, “I hear you guys fuck each other up like hell on that shitty little planet of yours. You want to fuck me too?”
The cheating bastard grinned like the Devil and clapped his hands. “Got any pussy on you?” he asked the alien.
There was a song by Gas called My Vagina Is a Planet in which she sang about the men she had slept with. “I have taken enough beatings and enough sperm to make a planet, but I’m not yet halfway to go.” She said she had been used, abused, and cheated, and her hope of finding true love grew dimmer and dimmer with each passing day. She used to think that she had dated many men but realized one day that it was the same guy in parallel universes. She said she had reached a point when she thought she needed a man like she needed a vagina on her forehead. So she tried to be a lesbian, thinking that lesbians had it easy since some of them, if not most, had escaped the PWPs. Instead, she ended up paired with a hardcore natural-born lesbian named Lessi who used to fuck her with a strap-on dildo and sometimes with a prosthetic penis. Lessi was so rough and so cruel it was like sleeping with a sadistic man, even worse. When Gas complained, the fucking stopped but Lessi demanded blowjobs almost every hour.
“She turned my tongue into a mop for her vagina,” Gas sung. “There is no escaping this shit unless I shoot myself and quit.
Soni sighed despondently and the doctor frowned at her.
“Did you hear about that French guy Michel Lotito who used to eat metal?” she asked before he could ask what she had sighed about.
“Yes,” he said after a moment. “Why?”
“He ate nine tonnes of metal. Nine tonnes! He even ate a plane!”
“Yes, I remember,” said Xi, who was still nonplussed.
“What kind of teeth did he have?”
“What do you mean?”
“His teeth must have been stronger than metal so that he could chew so much of it.”
“I suppose so.”
“That means he could eat teeth!”
“He could eat teeth,” she repeated. She motioned at her own teeth, tapped one with her index finger. “Oh, man! What a plus! He could chew them like nuts. I wonder if he ever did. Especially human teeth! Do you think he ever ate human teeth?”
“What are you talking about, Soni?”
But at this point they were interrupted by Shiro.
“You guys are the loveliest pair!” she announced and put her arm around Soni.
Soni took out two more cookies from the jar and gave her the rest.
“The jar is mine,” she said.
“My sister is the loveliest woman in the world,” Shiro told Xi and Soni thought she was saying that because of the devastating breakup. “She is also the craziest, and I think it is the best combination ever!”
Soni thought “How sweeeeell!” and ran her palms over the swell of her ass.
Shiro left to go share the cookies with her husband and Soni told the doctor that if they were to date, he would have to buy her an original copy of Fifty Shades of Balls.
“Fifty Shades of Balls?” he asked and stifled his own laughter. “I’ve never heard of any album by that name. I’ve never even heard of Gas.”
“You have now,” she said. “There has to be a precondition in this relationship.”
“So we have a relationship?”
“I didn’t say that!” She shook her head and stepped away as if about to take off.
“I don’t understand you sometimes,” he said in a rather melancholy tone.
“That is because you are trying to understand me when I have just been cheated on and dumped. That sort of stuff screws up people like a whirlwind of shit. You know that better than me. You’re the doctor.”
He nodded. “I understand.”
“Then just get the album and you will take me to Fiji or Tasmania or Ganymede even. Anywhere,” she said and then remembered that he had never really said that he wanted to take her anywhere. In fact, he had never categorically stated what he wanted from her. Which was one of those things about the PWPs that could annoy you until you pissed fire: how they were modest and even shy, searching for proper words to address you, preferring euphemisms and circumambulations, yet later on—aha! Later on, after they pumped your womb full of semen like one pumping a tire full of gas, all the modesty and shyness and euphemisms and circumambulations faded like a fart in the wind, and he gave you a piece of his mind point-blank like a bullet, telling you how you were no longer the significant hole of his dear life, how he and his new glob of goo had decided you were a nuisance.
“I’ve been sleeping with her and we decided you are a nuisance.”
Maybe it would be a little more helpful if the whole hitting-on business was reduced to a couple of lines.
Woman: State your business, Mister, and don’t beat about the bush!
PWP: Yes, ma’am. My business is with your ass and I just want to beat about its bush.
So that when you were approached by some quivering PWP saying things like “I was just wondering if”, you shut him down forthright.
“Back off! You’re giving me déjà vu!”
“I’ve fallen for that before and it didn’t work. It sure ain’t gonna to work now,” Gas had sung in a song called Déjà vu.
“I’ll get it,” the doctor was saying about the album.
“We have a deal,” Soni told him.
She thought she should tell him outright that she didn’t want to hop from relationship to relationship like a kid playing hopscotch. But it didn’t matter. What the hell? Let him go get her Gas—if he could.
She saw him off and thanked him for the cookies and for seeing her at 11.30PM. She then kissed Shiro and her husband farewell and drove to her place in Jamuhuri. She lived with a cat named Q.O. in a two bedroom apartment which was rather too big and hollow for both of them, every room echoing with emptiness and heartbreak. Once, she had been convinced that if she went into the extra bedroom, she would find her old self hanging on the ceiling with a twisted neck-tie, her eyes open and rotting, tongue lolling out like a bad sausage. For many days she had avoided the room.
She had rented the place after Oloo left her for her best friend. “I’m in love with Dama,” he’d announced one morning while adjusting his tie. “I’ve been sleeping with her and we decided you are a nuisance.”
He then smoothed down his tie as if to give her the metaphorical side of his speech. She was a crease in the fabric of their lives.
They had been discussing her behind her back and they’d decided she was a nuisance.
“Soni, you’re no longer the hole of my life. You are the block,” he might as well have said.
She had transitioned from being the hole of his life to being the stumbling block. From a hole to a block in five seconds! Wow! What a plus!
But the thing was: how did you tell the world that your man had left you for your best friend when you were thirty-one years old?
Granted, the whole my-best-friend-stole-my-boyfriend story was the oldest in the book. But it should have at least been relegated (and restricted) to teenagers and adolescents and people in college. Not when you were over thirty and thinking: I have finally found a place where my ass fits perfectly, and here I will last till time chews me into a wrinkled rugged shitbag!
Not when you were a diligent intelligent girl with an outstanding upstanding broad spectrum of thoughts in your head and a goodly amount of humanity to pass around, a woman with her shit together like a hen with eggs, an electrical engineer with a shitload of cash from Geothermal Development Company of Kenya. No. Not then. You couldn’t explain it. You shut up and ate your humiliation for breakfast, your pain for lunch. You felt lowered, vitiated. How could they make you stoop so low? How could you love so absolutely, trust so abysmally, how could you hand your soul to the Devil and feel glad about it? How could you think that you were in love, that you were loved, only to find out that you were jetsam to be discarded during the slightest storm? Why didn’t you see it coming? Were you stupid?
“Why me, you goddamned Fate?” she’d cried in the lonely room. “I don’t deserve this! I have never cheated on anyone!”
She had been thinking of the Greek Sisters of Fate, the three Moirai, who governed all lives by manipulating the threads of existence: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.
“How is my thread doing, y’all fancy babes?” she’d thought of asking them.
“Whose ass didn’t I kiss, you fucking diabolical bitches?” she’d cried.
But Fate, God and Gravity were the best friends to ever meet under the sun. They hung out in a mean joint of three down on the dingy wormy shit-hung corridors of River Road, smoking bitter pot and drinking and pissing where they stood, holding hands and singing: “Vug yo all vugging whomans! Vug yo all vugging whomans!”
Soni scrambled two eggs for the cat and let the meal cool before serving it to him. He ate on the dinner table like a real person, except he stood on it. She took a beer for herself and went to watch a movie called Shaolin, starring Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse, Wu Jing, and Jackie Chan. Soon afterwards, Q.O. came and sat by her and they both enjoyed some really classy display of kung-fu. He was a clever cat. He could stare at you until you knew he understood something about you. His attention was always glued to the screen more than hers which was distracted by troubles, heartaches, and sadness.
He had been an unequalled companion ever since she got dumped like an excess load. There was a book she had read about living with animals. It said that living with animals helped you to discover your humanity. But that was bullshit. You were already a human. You couldn’t discover what you were intrinsically, for even the process of that discovery was characteristic of your humanity. What she had learnt from living with Q.O. was that being an animal wasn’t bad at all. It was great. People thought animals were bad because people were bad. Being an animal was perhaps the best thing that could happen to you, especially if you could keep off the clever know-it-all humans, who were perpetually on fire even if they thought they were under water. Being a human meant that you were surrounded by assholes and elbows for the rest of your life, ruled (and overruled) by them. And your heart was breakfast for the goblins.
By 4.00AM she was still sitting on the floor watching Invisible Target, again starring Wu Jing and Nicholas Tse, their roles now reversed. She slept less and less day by day. The big breakup had cursed her with insomnia, though she thought it was more from self-infliction than anything else. It didn’t do any good to go to bed and discover how alone you were, especially when you used to bump the other person way too often and you got used to his warmth and discordant breathing and you could fling your arm around him and draw him so close that your belly rested on the crack of his bare ass. And he couldn’t fart because if he did the jet of gas would send you against the wall like a rocket. Sometimes your hand strayed too far down from his chest and stroked his pilot (He had a pilot. I had a cockpit. Hell, we were perfect for each other, Gas had sung) until the beast began to growl and spit fire. It didn’t help to lie awake in bed remembering those things, remembering the vanity of invested heart and emotions. You started to go mad. So a night of kung-fu was transcendent compared to that cold scary bed.
She even got up to practise some Wushu when the movie was done, copying Wu Jing’s graceful movies. She imagined tackling her opponent, that lousy cheating bastard, the way Wu Jing would have, breaking him and hurling him up like a rock. She became more and more passionate when she realized she was fighting a real person, one who had hurt her unprovoked and in a way she had never been hurt before. She took a wrong step, though, and landed hard on her ass until she shrieked aloud. “Ouch-Ouchy-Oucha!”
Afterwards, Soni did yoga, counted push-ups, sit-ups, and somersaults, having moved the furniture to one corner. She was fitter than Dama. Dama was heavy around the ass, thighs and boobs. She had what could sometimes be called liquid asset—an ass that shook like a plastic bag full of water. One of her university boyfriends had told her that fucking her was like fucking pawpaw. And she had cried like a child with only Soni to console and protect her. Soni had solved the situation by turning the abuse on the man himself.
“Do you fuck pawpaw? You fucking pervert! Fucking fruit abuser! I will tell the world what you do when you’re alone!”
That guy had cheated on Dama with a classmate. When she found out and asked him, he sent her a text message on her cell phone:
“I didn’t mean to cheat on you, sweetie. I swear. But gravity pulled down my underwear.”
Dama had replied that his stupid head looked like a giant testicle, and that was when he told her that fucking her was like fucking pawpaw.
The same man had at one time messed up Dama’s plumbing so that Soni had to take her to the hospital six times to get it fixed. Soni had had to be there as well whenever Dama had to dash to the Ladies which she did almost every thirty minutes. She had been afraid everyone would know her piping had been wrecked. Soni had shielded her from that shame.
Soni, who was now the greatest enemy of all time, who was now the nuisance.
She was too tired by 5.30, too tired in fact to care about people who should have been there but weren’t, who should have been stillborn or aborted in the womb, people who would grow up to break the same hearts that cared deeply for them.
Soni showered, brushed, and went to bed.
She woke up at 7.46AM. Q.O. wanted to relieve himself but couldn’t open the door to go outside. So he was tugging at the hanging edges of the sheets in order to wake her, something he had learned to do by himself. She let him out through the backdoor. She lived on the ground floor, which was a big plus because if she had been any higher than that, he would have been shitting on the balcony. That would be awful. His shit wasn’t flavoured. After she had disposed of his mess and cleaned up her hands, she mixed his breakfast and gave it to him.
Then she had a whole day to ponder over what to do, where to go. Things had become dull and dry; the things she used to enjoy had suddenly taken on a horrible aspect. She didn’t know whether the breakup had opened her eyes or shut them. She didn’t know whether she was living or dead. There was no Dama to hang out with, no Oloo to pinch in the back. She used to pinch his ass in public and he would jump and scratch and turn to her. She would laugh and run from him and he would chase and hug her. She would laugh with (and from) her heart. He was a big man with a big butt, tall, stalwart, strong as a column. He was also a genius, a geek, a computer scientist working for the IBM branch in Nairobi. How do you lose a man like that? What hadn’t she done?
That was what she had thought when he just woke up one day and told her it was over between them: “What didn’t I do?” She didn’t know what she hadn’t done for him. She didn’t think there had been anything left to do.
“Oloo, what is wrong?” she’d besought, panic proliferating inside her, her world slowly tilting, turning upside-down, her on the edge, supportless. “What is wrong? If anything is wrong, please tell me. I can fix it. I can fix it!”
“You can’t fix it,” he said. “I’m in love with Dama. I’ve been sleeping with her and we decided you are a nuisance.”
She would rather he had shot her dead.
She had lived with his sister when his sister had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. IBM had been moving Oloo around from Kenya to South Africa to Egypt to the United States and back again. So Soni took care of his sister. Soni doing this, Soni doing that, Soni paying all the bills and signing papers, Soni making phone calls to report progress, Soni shouting “I love you” at the end of every call, Soni thinking how lucky she was, counting her wonderful blessings, Soni praying for Yuni to recover, Soni the generous one, the greatest lover of all time, Soni in love, smiling with everybody and thinking “You’re all great, people. You’re all just great.” When Yuni died, Soni had been devastated, having known the woman and made friends with her. Oloo had been in the States and Soni had had to take care of everything concerning the funeral.
Soni the nuisance.
“Take a break to choke a prick,” Gas had sung in a song called How to Kill a Motherfucker.
“I loved him deeply, from the heart of my broken bottom. It made no fucking difference.”
It turned out Dama had been seducing him. She had worked hard at it, desperately, eventually winning him by inviting him over to her house for dinner and taking off her clothes to show him her shapely body. Dama was curvy, voluptuous even—a beautiful girl with a jealous heart—while Soni—she of the ex—was too slim and had no ass to tell mom about. If it was told, it’d be a comedy.
Son: Hey, Mom. Have you seen my girlfriend’s ass?
Mom: No, Son.
Son: It’s like two fists. Like this. (He makes two fists with his hands and sticks them together side by side.)
Mom (reproving): Son! That is so rude!
Son (laughing): It’s the truth, Mom. Her ass is so skinny when she bends over her vagina sticks out the back like that of a goat.
(Mom laughs till she dies. Curtains.)
“My ass is expanding like the universe,” Dama had said one day.
“And mine is shrunken like a singularity,” Soni had replied and they both had burst out with laugher.
Some good friends. Some good old days.
Soni scrambled an egg for herself and ate it with lemon juice. She then brushed and showered, thinking she really should go somewhere, that Sundays were the best days to visit anywhere in Nairobi and she couldn’t just lack a place to go. Even downtown was sparsely populated. And there was no traffic.
But then, she remembered that almost everyone she knew was in a relationship, in love, or married. And the rest were what should be called Broadband Bitches. The ones that knew everything about everyone and never shut up. Like radios. They could have made excellent careers in sales, research, or writing fiction since they had countless stories to tell and countless characters to create. Instead they spent time gossiping on Facebook and Twitter about who broke up with who, who cheated on who, who fucked who, who wants to screw who, who stole who’s man, who wore which dress, who bought what, who said what where how, who, who, who. Fucking airwaves. The Broadband Broads. The BBBs. The Triple Bs. The Triple BS. The Three Bullshitters. Aha!
Soni laughed until there were tears in her eyes. She thought she sounded like a lonely witch laughing in the forest and she laughed harder. Then she realized she wasn’t really laughing and the tears weren’t those of laughter. She was crying. Her face hurt. So she stopped.
I will eat your teeth! she wrote to Dama on Whatsapp.
You’re crazy! Dama wrote back immediately.
I will detooth you and chew your teeth like groundnuts! Like groundnuts! You hear? I’ll roast them and chew them for breakfast with tea. With tea!
Mad bitch, Dama wrote. You are absolutely mad!
How dare you call me a bitch, Dama? You wobbly-ass Belgian blue! You dense matter! Man-thief! Human trafficker! You trafficked away my boyfriend into your ass! You know you should fix that liquid asset before it falls off in public and leaves your coccyx sticking out like an absurd tail. Do you even know the coccyx, you broadband bitch? Fucking airwave! Do you? For your info—and this is truly from my magnanimous heart—it is the vestigial dick in your ass!!
You always grudge my ass! Dama wrote and went offline. She always couldn’t take a fight.
“Grudge my ass,” Soni jeered. Bullshit! Who wanted a massive shitbank hanging behind them like a misplaced hump?
A moment later Oloo called her.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
“Why do you insult my wife?”
My wife! How deliberate!
“Can’t she fight for herself or is her jealous mouth wrapped around your tiny dick?”
Oloo didn’t reply for a moment. Then he said, “Tiny dick, huh?”
“Puny!” Soni shouted, glad that she’d hit him right where his ego dwelt. “Puny penis,” she stressed. “Very poetic. It’s called alliteration. Puny penis pumping plump putrid pussy! Microscopic cock collapsed in a colossal cockpit!” she sang and burst out with a manic shriek.
“That’s very funny,” he said with a chuckle. “Because you are the only woman I’ve ever fucked who has complained that my dick is tiny.”
“I’m not complaining! Why should I? And nobody else has mentioned it to you because you date fat morons who cannot distinguish their own asses from an anthill.”
He chuckled again. “I dated you, Soni. What does that make you?”
He caught her off-guard with that and she experienced a powerful impulse to terminate the call. She didn’t like the exchange, not with him, not like this.
“I’m not fat downstairs. And you used to say I am a genius.”
“Have you considered that it may be your vagina that is way bigger than those of the other girls I have dated, way bigger than my penis?” he went on, encouraged by her hesitation. “Like a wormhole. Do you know a wormhole? It is a hole through spacetime and that means it’s awfully vast. Like a tunnel made by gods to ferry them across the universe or to alternate universes altogether. That’s what you’ve got between your legs, Soni! A spacetime wormhole!” he added and laughed aloud.
“I know what a wormhole is!” she interrupted.
“Ha! Then I have made my point!”
“A wormhole is imaginary, you jelly-headed alien!”
He laughed again. “What difference does it make?”
“It makes a fucking difference because I found out from my daily readings that a tiny dick is medically called a peacock. Do you understand? A pea-cock! Like the grain of pea. Or a pea-nis! And your balls are pea-nuts!”
“Wormhole!” he swore. She had got him again.
“Peacock-peanis-peanuts!” she sang.
He was quiet. Just as he used to do when he was incensed. Then, very condescendingly, he said: “Listen, Soni. Damaris is expecting our first child. You shouldn’t distress her again like this. I take it for granted that you are able to understand what it means to us. Thank you.” He hung up.
“Expecting?” Soni screamed into the silent phone. “Expecting?”
A violent surge of unpleasant emotions engulfed her. Jealousy, envy, rage, indignation, shock. She began to cry. He hadn’t wanted children until he had bought land and put up a home in which to raise them. They had already bought the land and construction had begun. That had been the plan and Soni had been for it. He had said that raising children in an apartment was unhealthy; children needed a real home where they could make all the noise they wanted without the next door neighbour reporting a complaint, where they could run along the fence and dogs could bark with absolute freedom. She had thought it was a great idea.
He had changed all that for her. For Damaris. That endomorphic bitch! They were still living in an apartment in Valley Arcade. And she was expecting!
Soni took a deep breath, closed her eyes. She was on fire. She was going to explode.
“That was fucked up,” she choked in despair, wiping her eyes and thinking she should never have provoked them, thinking about things that were better left unknown. “That was totally awful,” she swallowed bitterly, snuffling.
She took three sleeping pills and went back to bed. The prescription said she should take one.
“Fuck the prescription!”
She drew up her legs and buried her face in the pillow, pulled the blanket and the sheet over her. She hoped Atropos would cut her thread.
But the pills didn’t work and she climbed down to take three more. They didn’t work either and she took six others. When those too failed to have any effect, she emptied the bottle into her mouth and drank water.
Needless to say, she was still awake. As awake as day.
“Why?” cried she. “Why doesn’t anything work? What did I do to anyone? Whose ass didn’t I kiss? Why me? Why doesn’t anything work for me? Why?”
“Because of entropy,” a husky male voice said and she jumped.
“Who is that?”
But it was Q.O. coming towards her.
“Just me,” he said. “My goodness, look at your face! It’s like you have seen the Devil or something.”
“Q.O.?” she said and drew back. “You’re talking? You are talking!”
“Yes,” he said. “Why are you shocked? You always talk to me.”
“But you are a cat!”
“You always talk to me nevertheless.” He climbed onto the bed and sat down.
“You are a cat. You are not supposed to talk back—”
“I know. I didn’t come here to confirm that I am a cat. Or whether cats talk or not. Do you talk to me only because you think I cannot talk back? Well, I can. I just happen to prefer listening to you. Talking drains away my spirit. That day when I pooped on the sofa and you whipped my ass, screaming “Never! Never! Never!” I heard you. I wanted to say ‘Okay, Soni, I get it. I’ll never do it again.’ But I didn’t because you were shouting so hard I could hear your heartbeat in my head.”
The way he said “you whipped my ass”—it made her smile despite her bitterness. As if he had an ass to whip.
But why was she talking to a cat? Why was the cat talking to her? “How can I hear what the cat says?” worried she. She felt tired; weariness clamped her bones, muscles. She felt sick. Her head was aching. She put her face in her hands and squeezed her eyes. This was the ultimate breakdown. From a breakup to a breakdown. How wonderful! The natural destiny of a diseased existence.
“This is what Dama always meant when she said that I am mad,” she moaned. “I am truly mad.”
The whole thing with Dama and Oloo had exposed her most genuine vulnerability—a tendency to madness. She had always been madness waiting to happen. A ticking time-bomb of insanity. Reduced now to holding a conversation with a cat.
She opened her eyes and Q.O. was still there. They stared at each other, his gaze steady, as if they were equals. He was an Abyssinian, and so proud and confident you’d think he owned the house and she was his tenant. She did not say anything and waited to see if he would. Maybe she had imagined him speaking.
“I don’t like what is going on here,” he said.
“What is going on here?” she asked.
“You are getting rid of me.”
She shook her head. “I’m not getting rid of you, Q.O.”
“You are,” he stressed. “Those pills are dangerous. What does that mean?”
She was quiet, her heart sinking in shame. She had not looked at her actions in regard to him. She broke eye contact and surveyed the room without really seeing anything.
“Who will take care of me when you’re gone, Soni?”
“I am not going anywhere,” she said. “The pills are not working.”
“Ha!” he snorted.
“Because, I do not want to be a homeless cat,” he went on. “I saw a homeless cat out through the kitchen window. He was very stout and brutal. He was stinking too and his fur was unkempt; he doesn’t groom. He was crouching after a lizard but he didn’t catch it. He caught me looking at him and a deep shadow of embarrassment beclouded his features. He said: ‘What are you looking at?’ I said I was looking at the trees but he was intruding on my panorama. He stopped and surveyed me with his bloodcurdling eyes. He was crouching again as if thinking of jumping at me. ‘You have a very pretty mouth, Pet, and I would like to eat it for lunch,’ he said in a raucous voice. ‘I can break into that cosy little house of yours right now and chew your pretty mouth off your face. Pet!’ he added with contempt. He was very frightening but I didn’t like his tone, so I said: ‘This house is not little and I’m not your pet.’ He made as if to jump at me and I jerked back in terror. ‘I didn’t ask for your opinion,’ he returned. ‘But you can shove it up where the sun doesn’t shine.’ He then walked away to sniff Mr. Kamencu’s dustbin. I tell you, Soni: that guy gave me the heebie-jeebies of the century!”
Intruding on my panorama, Soni was thinking. Shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Shove it up your ass. She laughed. Her voice was hoarse and empty.
“Is that a true story?” asked she.
“Why wouldn’t it be true?” Q.O. returned.
She laughed again and wiped her eyes. It was becoming very hard to tell whether she was laughing or crying.
“This situation is really personal for me,” Q.O. picked up. “I’m going to be like that cat. And if he finds me some day, he will eat my mouth, and—who knows?—he might love the taste of my flesh and consume the whole of me. He was serious about the cannibal business.”
“You will not be like him,” Soni promised. “You have been a great friend and I will always be here for you.” She wanted to hug him but she could not reach him.
He ignored her outstretched hands and said:
“I know you are heartbroken. I hate what Oloo did to you. I’ve been cogitating about it. I decided I should jump onto his face and tear out his eyeballs the next time I see him. He made me wish that I was a dog and I hate him for it. Can you believe that? A cat wishing to be a dog! Awful! Awful! It means I was driven beyond rescue. Dogs can protect their human friends better than cats. They are huge and they have fierce teeth which they can use to tear off an enemy’s throat like hell if they know how to do it. I give them credit for that. Otherwise they are just noisy and overly emotional animals. They panic too fast. Like maniacs. They are not cool like cats. Cats are the coolest. Cats hardly get scared. Cats eat dogs. Cats ruled the Savannah for centuries before those dog-loving people arrived with guns and invented the inglorious hunting expeditions in order to kill cats.”
He paused again and scrutinized her face as if to confirm she was with him. He seemed satisfied, so he went on:
“Anyway, as I was saying, I hate what Oloo did. I despise him. He has threatened my existence. He used to come home smelling of Dama and I would—”
“You knew he was cheating on me?” Soni interrupted.
“No,” Q.O. said. “He just used to smell strongly of Dama’s deep essence. I could hear his heartbeat when he you let him in. He was scared. I knew something was the matter with him. I just didn’t know what it was.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were too drunk with love and you’d have kicked me out. Who wants a talking cat in the house of love? Besides, I thought you knew as well. You were always kissing and hugging him. How could you know not know?”
“I didn’t know.”
“That is because you do not use your heart,” Q.O. said, studying her face. “You prefer your brain. You should have kept your brain for analysis and your heart to tell you things neither your eyes nor your ears can sense. It is how animals work.”
“Okay,” she said, her face contracting, tears bursting forth. She wiped her eyes with the bed sheet.
“You said something about entropy. What has entropy to do with any of it?” she asked.
“Entropy has to do with everything,” Q.O. explained. “Entropy is the reason everything breaks apart. It is the reason hot water cools down, ice melts, and rivers flow downhill and not in reverse. Entropy is probably the reason big bang happened so that the earth, the universe, exists in the first place.
“In thermodynamics, entropy is defined for an isolated system and it is the amount of energy unavailable to do work. An isolated system is a system that does not interact with its surroundings at all in terms of its energy. It is ideally contained and its energy is well conserved. Yet therein the entropy must increase as energy distributes about and less and less of it is made available for useful work.
“In a practical life situation, entropy is a measure of disorder. The greater the amount of disorder the higher the entropy. It goes that the entropy of the universe never decreases. Which means that all the chaos in the world: wars, dangers, murders, heartbreaks, hate, poverty, etc—all those nasty things must always increase. If one happens to decrease in any case, one or all the remaining others must increase to account for the decrease. For instance, the world is experiencing better healthcare, better equality in terms of gender, race, child rights, etc; less wars, more equitable distribution of resources than in the past, yet love is gone, friendship is gone, freedom, unity, dead . . . even humanity itself is extinct; heartbreaks galore, dissatisfaction, hate, meanness, greed, pollution.
“Entropy is Nature’s method of organizing herself. She does so by choosing the most likely ways of arranging things. When water is ice, its molecules are bound to one another and you can say that they are ordered. Nature hates that because there are fewer ways to arrange those molecules than if they were in liquid form. Ice, therefore, melts, so that the molecules are disordered and they can be arranged anyhow. In a cold metal, the atoms have little kinetic energy and their movement is restricted. If you put the cold metal in contact with a hot one, heat flows into it from the hot one so that its atoms can have more freedom of arranging themselves as they want, thereby increasing entropy.
“Entropy is the reason the world is always run by fools. Fools have greater chances of increasing entropy than intelligent people, and there are far too many ways to be stupid than there are to be intelligent. There are more ways for a river to flow downhill than uphill; more ways to be poor than to be rich, to spill milk, break an egg, lose something, hurt people, etc. There are more ways to be heartbroken than to be in love.”
Q.O. paused and inhaled deeply. “Nature has a baby, Soni. His name is Entropy and he feeds on disorder,” he added.
“So, you are saying that we are all here to increase entropy? That’s it for us?” Soni asked after a moment of melancholy meditation.
“What about how we feel?”
“How you feel also increases entropy.”
“But that is cruel.”
“It is Nature’s way and you can’t do anything about it. I think we are all like water molecules in a glass that is being shaken. Do you care whether those molecules have consciousness and feel pain when you shake them like that and make collide against the glass and one another? Do you care that rocks feel pain when you cut them to put up a house? Or don’t you care only that at the end you have a house to live in? That is how it works. It doesn’t matter how you feel. Entropy must increase.”
“Why? Why must it increase?”
“I don’t know. Ask Nature. Or your gods, if they exist. But I think that energy needs to be dispersed. Vast sections of the universe are dead cold and dark. When you are at war or are inspired by some venomous emotions and you scream and bawl and fight and wail like a maniac, you emit a lot of energy. The earth is not an isolated system, and so the frequencies can escape into Space and excite the molecules in those cold regions to vibrate and generate heat. With time, perhaps after some millions of years, heat will spread throughout the universe until the universe reaches thermal equilibrium, where everything has the same temperature. Once that point is reached, everything will die. Equal temperature means equal pressure, which further means that you will not be able to breathe. There will be no wind to stir up the air. Therefore, death of all.”
“Q.O., you are scaring me!” Soni lamented, feeling worse than ever.
“It doesn’t matter. Fear is Nature’s number one tool for increasing entropy. Nature does not like her choices to be limited. She likes them vast and diverse. Entropy is the reason there is (or was—I’m not sure about the present) so much diversity on earth. But you humans—you want to limit Nature’s choices to just a handful. You wish there was just one race of mankind on earth, one tribe, one clan, one family, one person. You cannot stand differences, even the slightest. You even wish that all animals were dogs or like dogs. But it doesn’t matter, anyway, because all those wishes make you do things that increase entropy.
“You wish to be in love forever, forgetting that love makes your other diverse emotions unavailable for Nature to work with. Forgetting, in fact, that love, being the principal emotion for finding peace, satisfaction, happiness—love decreases entropy. It minimises chaos. Therefore, it cannot be allowed.”
“Q.O., you are very cruel,” Soni snivelled and wiped her eyes, which were now red and swollen.
“It doesn’t matter,” Q.O. said. “All things serve to increase entropy. Crying is good for entropy,” he added.
“Are we just puppets then?” she asked.
“Yes. That’s what you have always been. Will always be. Puppets. Even abused puppets. You are not in charge of anything. None of you is. But you are too scared to admit it. So you labour to build a heaven, yet your heaven is populated with chaos and destruction. I tell you, Soni. There is not a single human being who is working for his own benefit. You are all labouring towards your own indefinite death.”
“But, Q.O.—there is order in the world,” Soni said after a moment.
“Look at you, me. Those eyes, tongue, legs, etc. Each designed for a specific purpose, all working hand-in-hand to achieve you. Look at the trees. Photosynthesis, carbon cycles, the stomata, the phloem—how is that a disorder?”
“I already told you. Nature makes her decisions based on the probability of increasing entropy. The higher the probability—well, you know. And high entropy is achieved by plenty of disorder. It therefore goes without saying that even what looks ordered to you is the most disordered of its lot. It was chosen because it had the highest probability of increasing entropy. You are a disorder, Soni, so am I. We are disorders within disorders, and there are plenty of disorders in us.
“It is how we work, Q.O. The coordination,” Soni said.
He paused, glared at her. “Are you listening to me, Soni? There is no calm here, sweetie. No order. Just pick up your gun and kill a motherfucker.”
It was a line from How to Kill a Motherfucker and in her merry days, she’d have laughed explosively at it. Instead, she sighed like one giving up to death.
“Is there hope?” she asked.
“Hope is in knowing,” he said. “Knowing that entropy is a bitch.”
“Aha!” she snorted. “What sort of hope is that?”
“Entropy is what is wrong with the world. Not people. Not animals. Not trees. I think it hurts much less to accept that entropy and time both point towards a drastic, dystopian, horrifying future where everything dies. Everything. And you are all headed there.”
“There is nothing hopeful in that either.”
“What do you want me to say? Cats don’t lie. We are not built to please. We don’t toady humans. We don’t grovel, drivel, or curry favours. Like dogs do. If you want the truth, ask a cat. So take my word, Soni. Everybody is just a disaster waiting to happen, so is everything else, and they are going to happen to you as long as you live. The person you love so much is the best disorder Nature could allow to serve her diabolic purpose. He is a puppet. So are you. And both are made of chemical mixtures that cause chaos.”
“Well, enough of that entropy shit,” Soni said and got down from the bed. She did so slowly, tiredly, yawning and stretching. But to her shock, her body remained sleeping.
“Holy shit, Q.O.! What is that?” she pointed and jumped back.
“You are dead,” Q.O. said. He was so cool.
“I’m not dead!” she shrieked, gawking at the languid dead thing curled on the bed like a foetus. Some sort of foam was flowing from its mouth. “I’m not dead!” she cried.
“You OD’d, and you are as dead as dead. Those pills are as effective as electricity. You have been dead for about an hour. Don’t you feel it?”
“I feel alive.”
“Then there is nothing to worry about.”
She examined the dead thing. “I don’t want to be dead,” she moaned. “I want to live!”
“You have been dead ever since Oloo left you,” Q.O. said. “You took it too hard. This is just the last death, the climax, the end. But I think you should be happy. Why do you wish to continue living in this pollution? Life is a disease. Death is the cure. Death is the eternal hero, the uncompromising liberator.”
“Death is the cure?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” agreed Q.O.
“I believe you,” she said with a wise nod. “But how can you see me and talk to me if I’m dead?”
“I am a cat,” he shrugged. “Cats have their virtues. We can see two worlds at a go.”
“Yeah, I think I have heard such a thing.”
“I just proved it.”
“Why did you teach me all that stuff about entropy if I am dead?”
“Don’t worry about it. The most important lessons are always learned belatedly. If you learn them in due time, you might act on them and decrease entropy. Nature hates any interference with that horrible pampered baby.”
“The only regrettable thing is that Dr. Xi is going to be shattered. He truly loves you. He is a great man, smelling of honesty, truth. He was going to ask you to marry him.”
“Oh, man!” Soni cried.
“Don’t worry about it. His nature decreases entropy. He has too much love in his heart. So he deserves to be shattered with heartbreak.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It is nothing personal. It is just entropy.”
She buried her face in her hands, squeezed her eyes, sighed.
“What do I do now?”
“You can vanish like other dead people. Now is the time to adventure outside earth and wander across the universe. Find a planet and haunt it. Perhaps you can start with Mars or Ganymede. They say life may be possible on those ones.”
He paused, added: “Alternatively, you can just stick around. Increase some entropy and make Mother happy.”
“What do you mean by ‘increase some entropy’?” Soni asked.
He shrugged. “You can deal absolute terror on those two fuckers who did this to you, to us. Oloo and Damaris. You have the advantage. You are like a ghost now. They can’t see you. You can grip them like gravity and hit them with the force of a wrecking ball.”
Her eyes blazed. “Yes! Wonderful! Marvellous! Sublime!” she cried and frolicked about like a kid. “Yes! I’m going to show them what it means to be a nuisance!”
“That’s the spirit, baby,” Q.O. said.
“And I’m not leaving this house. It is my house!” declared she. “My house whether I am dead or alive, a ghost or whatever!”
“Our house,” Q.O. said.
“Yes. Our house,” she amended. “And nobody will take it from us!”
Q.O. yawned and stretched. “I think you should get me some food now. I like the eggs. Scrambled as they come. That ‘cat-food’ stuff from the supermarket tastes like dog shit. Every time you serve me some I can’t help looking at you and asking myself: who tastes this shit and decides that it is good for me?”
Soni laughed. “Got it!”
They walked out of the bedroom side by side. Like good old eternal buddies.
“One more thing I’ve been asking myself: what does Q.O. stand for?”
“It stands for Quintessential Organism.”
“Ah! That’s a relief. I thought it stood for Quick Offer.”
“Why would you think so?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m just a negative cat.”