(For Ugandan Obsessions)
By John Oryem
She slipped into my house again that night, popping sweet gum as if she was chewing an old buffalo's meat. Alice would gather the exhausted elastic gum from her decaying jaw, throwing the over-chewed stuff with the might of her head's muscles at the surface of her tongue; to hang loosely on her front teeth that covered and whitened her mouth. Alice was already violently knocking at the frame of my window when I opened it. Looking at her face, faded out by 'Fair & lovely' cream, I whispered to my troubled soul, "sweet-gum producers will never, ever, produce it again if it is being abused this way!"
Earlier on from my bathroom, I could slightly hear a blacksmith knock through that small opening in my bathroom door. "That should be she!" Alice has been acting as if she was already my wife; she wanted to be inside my room as soon as she could to satisfy her curiosity.
“She is only trying to trap me with a woman inside.” I thought to myself. Moving confused and out of place, I saw uneasiness in Alice's face.
“Am sorry, I came without notifying you earlier.” she apologized, remaining still with a face of a cow being milked; stressing the ‘sorry’ several times. I nodded and said only once; “it is fine, is it not your house anyway?” This was Alice's seventh time in a row with her intrusion in my house involving such awkward manner. After I had gathered some courage and cooled down my burning rage, I invited Alice with some resisted wrinkles on my face; “open the refrigerator; Stim, cold burger there……warm it? Tea, perhaps kerkede (hibiscus) or kongoles? (Baobab-fruit) Oh, those sweet things, ooo! Moussy please!” Alice gained some assurance after I had spoken to her in a welcoming tone.
"Why do you always distant your cell phone when am around?" Alice asked me again just from the spot where she was still standing.
"You always press your mobile 'silent' as soon are together."
"What for?" I smiled pretentiously with a question.
"Do I know?" Alice shrugged.
"Why are your girlfriends not calling you whenever am with you? Why is your phone always busy when I call?"
"I don't have girlfriends beside you! Alice!"
"Let me check your phonebook then if you are not." Alice demanded.
"What for? What will you find in it?" I melted into the kitchen.
I relaxed at the high table surfing and piping in between some articles in a magazine. My mind was imagining how Alice would have caught me with Sue, my new babe whom I met over the weekend. She had just arrived from Gadarif that very week. Sue brought along with her Ethiopian romance, I was used to Alice's dull life that was tasteless. Alice was the type that could jump on a rooftop if I were to pretend that I wasn’t around in the compound. "Am ready to die any moment with any woman over….you!" she once terrified me. "Over me?"
"Over you! And who else?"
"Oh Alice, Alice be the first Alice!" I jumped on my feet, punching the air with my hands.
"Are you crazy?"
"You made me crazy Alice!"
"I will be out of your way…."
Alice went and leaned against the cupboard where I had hung my trousers; lying next to several papers were my personal notebooks. As I continued watching Coming to America, Alice suddenly turned and asked me; "so you made money transfer this morning?" I was silent, concentrating on Hakim's tricks trying to win Lisa's heart.
"And which girl is this? Or, no…. not my business…" Alice shrugged.
"Are all my female relatives my wi-i-i-ves Alice?" I protested loudly.
"Did I say something wrong? You are free." she turned to me, flinging her hands like a sugarcane cutter.
Turning away from her assaults while picking my slippers, Alice hurriedly ran to me and asked, “What?” guessing I was annoyed of course.
“I think you have to solve this problem once and for all,” Alice went on.
"What problem?" I inquired.
"Your insincerity ... I mean your infidelity to me." Alice's eyes pooled with tears.
“I will!” I assured her.
“Do you still love her?”
"Monica, the girl you transferred money to this morning. I know she is studying in Ahfad University. They told me all about her."
“I will tell you all.”
“But when? You know nothing about her." Alice warned.
"I told you all, I don’t……."
Though I was not prepared for Alice that night, at certain moment of the night, we decided to end the 'boycott' with an unannounced intimacy. We were still at each others arms by 7am; caught up by pinching cold penetrating window frames, the wind was cracking my uncovered cheeks with serious warning as I lay still lazily with a feeling of a child at his mothers’ laps. Alice was coiling near me in her pink bikini. She keeps it in my wardrobe.
When Tombe my neighbor arrived to say 'hallo' as always, I was still being tormented by Alice's latest suicidal moves; she was resting assured on the assumption that she was my senior wife.
Leila, a girl in my neighborhood whom I was trying to woo once told me; "Alice saw your manhood! Your life’s secrets are in her hands." I persuaded her many times but all she repeatedly told me was, "am scared of such ladies who are shameless. Please am out of your list!" Leila declared boldly to my face, rejecting my advances.
Alice had been for a while in my life. We caught our hands several years back one June before the revolution when parties where staged at weekends allover Khartoum. That very weekend, Laku, Tombe's brother was receiving our sendoff party. He was immigrating to Canada after the fall of democratically elected government in our country. 'Seiko'and 'Arizona' liquors were rulers over every man that night. Alice, who was previously unknown to me, caught my very eye that had seen many charming girls around Khartoum's suburbs. I preyed on her, waiting for a chance to invite her from the next table where she was. There were some crooked boys from Haj Yousif I knew in her round table. "As soon as the DJ plays on something nice I will run to grab her like a kite….me?" I continued wishing for that moment from my marginalized table next to a W.C.; we nicknamed that all-male round table "Jaborona IDP camp". Alice was irresistible for a rumba dance I was patiently waiting for. Koffi Olomide had just released his sensational ‘Tcha Tcho’ before Christmas. He was taking Khartoum by storm. As soon as I heard the slow crooning echo undergoing internal mixing by the DJ, I dashed and grabbed Alice's hands for that kingly rumba. She placed her creamy head on my shoulders. My head swollen with pride as if I was on top of Lotti Mountains. For the next many hours that went by, Alice never bothered if I was going to embrace other babes in the party. When most of the guys were getting drunk, lights became dimmer, I took hold of Alice like a tiger clinging onto a gazelle’s neck. “I love you very much Mama.” I repeatedly told her. She was a lamb, only nodding at one point. We had long moved in the dark corner of the compound, where many lovebirds were grounded, whispering like evil-doers. We later possessed our hearts; Alice rubbed her heavily scented braided head on my shoulders, leaning with all her double intentions that I would later come to know. Though I never went back to my original dull table, some guys from that table were constantly glancing at my changed face, a real slave to Alice's heart! With their thumbs up, they signaled me 'off site!' If an ant's head was offered for a meal that night, we could have divided it evenly with Alice. When she was tired of my repeated love-words, Alice whispered in my ear; “am…….am only agreeing because…….you are crazy.” It was an assurance I never got for a long time from a lady.
“Can we go…..to ehhh my house?” I proposed instantly.
"Your house? To do what?"
"No, I meant maybe we are now tired."
"Not tonight. Leave it for another day." Alice pleaded.
"But Alice my house is near?"
"What will people say tomorrow? Where did Alice sleep?"
"Let's go" I persuaded her. "Why do you behave like our grandmothers of the 60s who wouldn’t ….?"
We soon disappeared in the winter cold; by the time we reached my house, our noses were dried up. Alice used my jacket and I pretended to be a man in the cold.
The morning cold castrated the usual 10 o'clock sunrays.
"Breakfast is ready my queen Alice! Let's go, wake up." I invited her. "Please begin to eat. My water is cooling." I was off to the bathroom. Moments later I was back with towel wrapped down my waist.
"What is wrong?" I found Alice had dressed up, un-plucked her mobile phone; her bag hanging one-sidedly on her shoulder and was lingering around the mirror, appreciating her boobs.
"Hi what happened?"
"Did you eat?"
Alice was silent, busying herself with the mirror.
"Am going, but be careful, these girls of yours…..these women, God will not be unjust to me!"
"What is wrong Alice? Have we not solved those things in the night?"
"I will harm and kill any girl I find here." Alice declared on my face, pointing right in my eyeballs.
Alice's moves have been rather disturbing. I couldn't figure out exactly what on earth she was pursuing after me. I had been showing her all good sides of me.
"Phone me immediately if you reach," I urged.
"I will, you know me."
I ushered Alice through my gate but did not accompany her to bus station. When she was long gone, I sat like a wizard in the living room, thinking of my next move against Alice. She too could be thinking of how to squeeze life out of my body. "Perhaps I should gather my guts to be a man again. Will chance bump me again at such girls?" I buried my head in a pillow, inhaling the feminine perfume that lingered on after Alice has left.