Friday, July 16, 2010

Forswearing Plagiarism (Part Four)

Angela was upbeat, for one whose eye had been ravaged by I-don’t-know-what. She evaded the question without tact, simply ignoring it whenever it arose. I wished I could give her a pirate-style eye-patch. She cared less, being more interested in tagging along to the arranged breakfast showdown with the Ex. She then took her time getting ready in her own bedsitter, and emerged looking vaguely attractive, but for her now purple black eye.

On the bus to town, I asked her to turn back and go home, catch some more sleep and overcome her hangover, leave me alone. I was getting confused as to who I was having a date with. “Who will you say you are? What are you going there to do?”

Without batting a blackened eye, she said, “I’m your attorney. I bet she’ll have her own chaperone around to protect her from your devilish charms.” Her wink and her placid way of phrasing it only made me angrier, but she hadn’t yet riled me to her satisfaction. “If you really wanted me to go back you would have left me behind while I was showering. So relax Negroid, get with the program. Let’s prepare a story. What’s your version of events?”

I narrated despite shock at being called Negroid.

By the time we got to Nairobi’s CBD, a tentative plan had been devised. The broad strategy was to deny liability for things which emerged in my journal, to convey regret nevertheless for any harm done by unauthorized access to said journal and to clarify the relationship status between myself and The Ex. It sounded like a good plan - except that Angela continuously referred to The Ex as “Our Wife”. (As it turned out, I should have read the portents and dropped this attorney like a bad hot potato.)

As we walked the streets side by side towards Burger Dome, pedestrians who saw Angela’s black eye turned to me with sour looks. She noticed that I was receiving undue credit for it and did nothing to correct the impression. I got angry, so that people who looked at me seemed to confirm that I’m a hotheaded beater of headstrong women, disrespecting of persons. Luckily FIDA doesn’t patrol the streets.

There was a smattering of patrons at Burger Dome. Two girls seated in a corner grabbed by attention. The Ex and her sister sat side by side in stony silence. The Ex looked stunning. Angela chose this moment to turn her swag on; she cat-walked majestically-ostentatiously towards their table. Sister of The Ex fixed me a glare which could only mean “who the blazes is this?” and I shrugged as if that would help anything.

I took the seat across from The Ex, who didn’t look up at all. To my left, Angela settled down with the announcement, “We have a situation and we hope to resolve this one amicably.” She sounded businesslike.

“You’re late. Who the blazes is this?” Sister of The Ex asked me with minimum cordiality.

“I’m his attorney,” declared Angela grandly, “We won’t have you two ganging up on him; I’ll let you know early.”

“Her name is Angela,” said The Ex to her sister, still looking down at her hands.

Sister of The Ex regarded Angela’s purple left-eye-area for a while, such that my ears became hot. “I didn’t do that,” I muttered. This statement made The Ex look up and naturally she located the center of attention. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, staring straight into Angela’s eyes. “That wasn’t there yesterday.” Her concern was plain.

Then she turned to me and asked me to excuse them. The request came to me as a surprise, and I hesitated. The Ex then demanded, “Go away, we’ll call you when we need you.”

I skulked to the counter, ordered a burger and juice and went to a corner from where I could warily view the three girls from a distance. They seemed, surprisingly, to be having a good time, and laughing rather too much for what I perceived to be a life threatening crisis. My burger tasted like sand in these circumstances, and the juice like saltwater. They mixed unconvincingly in my mouth and scraped and corroded their way down my throat into my stomach. Anger or suspicion or fear or self-consciousness mounted as I watched Angela lean forward and whisper something, and then all three girls flung their heads back with raucous laughter. They’re making fun of me, I thought, I have a good mind to just walk out and go away. I think I’ll do that. Oh no, I still have a mountain of food to clear. Maybe I should just toe the line and apologize to The Ex and take her home... that’d be nice wouldn’t it. Wow, look at her. What the hell are they talking about? One movie comes to mind, 'Chris Tucker (or suchlike names) Must Die', in which girls conspire to harm or kill a guy – I don’t know. The time is nigh for big bites and little chewing, boy. Run away, fast – or do you want to DIE? Hey, what happened to Chris Tucker eventually? I should watch that movie…

I forget the rest of my mental process.

After a while, all three girls moved to my table in greatly enhanced moods. The Ex could now afford to give me eye contact; consequently a knot tightened in my chest – apprehension. “A deal has been reached,” she said, oblique and confident. I opened my mouth to protest not being consulted about any deal in which I was implicated, but The Ex raised a finger to my lips and said, “You can write what you like in your journal about anyone you want. It’s your right. I guess I overreacted. ” I sighed with relief because, technically, she was right, but I shortly found out that this wouldn’t be all.

Sister of The Ex gave her interpretation with a self-assured smile and a cocky delivery: “You won’t remain single forever.” What a thing to say. The premises and conclusions of that statement suggested a lot. The implications were obvious to all present. Angela went as far as to chortle.

The Ex: “Our wife here will keep an eye on you for me.”

Panic flooded my head - I turned to Angela, my attorney, now Our Wife Here (?!?) and met her smug smile. Angela: “No pressure.” I was searching her eyes and she insisted on smiling self-absorbedly back at me as though we were on the same page of a wildly successful hostile takeover. A realization was mounting that something had long been decided and sealed as final, so that my understanding or consent was deemed immaterial to the inexorable forward march of destiny.

The Ex: “Now if you’ll excuse us we’ll have a ladies’ day out.”

Perceiving that I was being sent away, I forgot my snacks and asked, “Hasn’t it occurred to any of you that my input matters in this matter?”

“That’s a good question,” said Sister of The Ex, “but… Objection overruled.”

Laughter.

“Actually,” said my attorney Angela, “Your name has been cleared. You conducted yourself splendidly. You can leave! Acquitted! Toodles!” She waved her fingers at me in a gesture I instantly deemed to be disrespectful and aimed at minimizing my stature, a lackadaisical signal. The stab of betrayal caused me to scowl and set my jaw and clench my fist, even as I felt that I couldn’t quite place my finger on what exactly that betrayal was - if any. (All I know is that everyone was smiling mischievously for reasons not unveiled to me and so, logically, I had been betrayed, right?)

Somehow, I actually left. I heard laughter in my wake. A dark, dark thought in the blackest depths of my heart urged me to promote Angela to two black eyes. I regretted allowing her to come along. What had just happened?!? Was it good or bad?!? There wouldn’t be answers fast enough. I went back “home”.

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