On your birthday they sent you a meme. And not even a funny one. It was over when you last met at the lobby of the bank and their laughter was dry and dishonest and they were ready to bolt, sitting there at the edge of their seat like they had mumps on their ass. You just knew the two of you were drowning in this phoney geniality when they asked you, “Did you change your spectacles?” You hadn’t changed your specs in four years.
Truth is, you didn’t know them anymore. They knew you even less. You could have shaved and gotten a tattoo of a vulture on your bald scalp and they wouldn’t have noticed because you were looking at each other in past tense. Everything had changed. Time had chipped away at the two of you turning you into an amateurish sculpture of unrequited love.
It was over when you went for weeks without really speaking, because they were busy and you were busy and you all let that relationship sink further in that murk of indifference. The last time you saw them you were at the bar and you had stepped outside to smoke. It had rained; one of those moonless nights so dark that even the breeze seems to be coloured black. Standing there under the awning, cigarette burning between your fingers, you lazily watched a girl in a dress that looked like a parachute that had deployed prematurely painfully clomp up the staircase in her impossible wooden wedges. As she got closer, you realised that the person she was hanging onto for support was them. You don’t recall the awkward conversation that ensued but you remember that their teeth looked whiter than usual. “Maybe you should stop smoking, we don’t want to lose you,” they said lightly. Well, they had a smoke of their own and they were blowing it up your ass.
And so when it was finally over it ended without any spark; like a dead battery. And it was both a relief and a surprise; at how you simply accepted it without investigating its consequence. It had run its course – a year and two months, but who was counting? The night you were deleting their old messages from your phone you went through the text messages they had sent and they were all “Will call you right back.” That made you chuckle. It was a clean break. There were no long speeches of “I wish you well, I hope you find happiness and we will always be friends.” None of that claptrap. You were not going to be friends. You were never really friends. You had fun moments, yes, but you wouldn’t say that you were besotted. Maybe they would block you on Whatsapp and Instagram, maybe they wouldn’t. You didn’t care. You never heard from them again. They went back to their lives. You went back to yours. One day you saw them in traffic, they were eating something from a serviette, it could have been bitterness. But it wasn’t carbs.
Then you never saw them again.
Your life continued. You chased business. You discovered an ingenious way to read the FT for free. You joined a new gym. You handed your office landlord notice because for how long were you going to complain about the office toilet? You bought a new suit. You bought your father a new suit. Against your better judgement you went for a stag party in Kitisuru where a large stripper gave you a lap dance and your lap hurt for days. Your mother lost two of her cows to a disease that sounded a hell lot like something that Nairobi motorists have. You took a roadtrip to Nanyuki with a girl with a silver ring on her navel and who had never seen Mt. Kenya and you would wake up to find her seated in the cold of the balcony, staring hard at the mountain. You lost a client. Then got another one. You re-read Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. You rode in a Chrysler driven by a former special forces operative at midnight. You discovered a new word: disjune.
Then you met someone else. They were introduced to you as someone “you would click with. They like Zumba like you.” You don’t like Zumba, you like Rhumba. Well. Not another dancer, you thought to yourself, you were not about to allow anyone to dance on your lap again. You called them up on the phone and they sounded warm and charming. They sounded like those people who cut their apple into four equal pieces. You then met them – of all the places – in a meeting room because sometimes these things are a business transaction; you deal with the currency of hearts and expectations after all. To mean it wasn’t a real date. A meet and greet.
How that happened was that they were doing some banking at Yaya and you happened to have been getting a haircut up Ring Road. They were dressed the way bankers dress; like they are going for a business luncheon after. She commented on your aftershave. You explained that you had just had a haircut. She looked at your head and mumbled politely, “Oh, nice.” They seemed nice. But they all seem nice the first time, don’t they? They offered you coffee from the complimentary confectionery because they are with Priority banking and guys there get pampered because they are the geese that lay the golden eggs. You would very much have liked a cookie with your coffee but you didn’t want to look like a foodie.
They sipped their water and smiled a lot and you made small talk. The meeting room was small and functional, a place that doesn’t invite lingering. A place for busy geese. Their subtle perfume filled the room. They asked you about yourself and instead you told them what you do. You asked them if they love what they do. You asked them about their last name and what it meant. You wanted to ask for more sugar in your coffee but you didn’t want to come across as needy, so you suffered through that cup. Later when you played over the meeting as you drove back to your office you concluded that indeed it had gone well, even though you almost ruined it in the end when you asked them if they cut their apple into four equal parts.
At some point the two of you got into a relationship.
It’s always difficult to know when a relationship starts. One day you wake up and you just realise you are in one. Some start with a sloppy kiss in the parking outside a bar. Some start by the other party saying something as abstract like, “I hope you are not shagging someone else.” Some start when you are invited to accompany them to their daughter’s school play and they turn and enthuse, “Isn’t she talented!” and you have to lie that she is even though that little girl – cute as a button as she is – can’t sing for shit. Sometimes they just make you an egg and boom, you are dating. Sometimes you could be buying batteries for your electric toothbrush on your way to meet them and they say, “Do you mind awfully picking sanitary pads for me, I just realised I’m out.” For others it takes them getting in the bathroom and sitting there taking a leak as you are having a shower. The point is, if you aren’t careful you will always find yourself in a relationship. And nobody is to blame.
When you think about it, relationships are very like the relationships you have with your bank relationship manager. There are always expectations and some are met while others are not. Money and finances are also always things that can make or break. These relationships, not nurtured, breed disappointment and then people simply drift apart and break up and move on to other relationships. The only difference is that they are mature; nobody blocks or unfriends anybody or goes to the next relationship and talks badly about what a nightmare their previous relationship was.
I have a theory (based on my last experience with my relationship manager) that as long as you have defined what your languages of love are, there will always be less problems.
For the sake of the cool people seated there at the back, going through their Instagram feed, there are five languages of love. One of them is words of affirmation. This is the language for people who want to be told nice things. Oh, such big handsome hands, Christine! Oh, look at how you stir your coffee, such flair and great coordination. Oh, you are so intelligent, run me through the pythagoras theorem again. Etc etc.
Then there is the language of quality time. These are the people who invented date night. They want to spend an intense amount of blocked time with you without you replying an email or taking a call or blowing your nose. You can’t even go to the loo. You know how in Luke 14:5 they ask if it’s okay to pull out your ox that has fallen in a well on the sabbath? Well, the people whose language of love is quality time would not allow that. That ox would die in that well. How dare it fall during their quality time?
The third language of love is receiving gifts. These are people who equate gifts to love. Doesn’t matter that Jesus gave them a gift by dying on the cross for their sins. They still and will always want something wrapped. Or it will be a wrap.
The fourth language of love is acts of service. If this is your language then you are better off learning Luganda. Then getting a Baganda woman. They kneel before you. They serve you as King. Or they used to. There are girls who don’t want much from you; the very act of removing their nail polish is enough for them. They wouldn’t ask for more.
The last language of love is physical touch. Did you know that there are men who love to have their backs rubbed? You want to get him to take you on a holiday? Rub his back. He’s mad at something you did? Rub his back. You want to get him in the mood; rub his back. He’s like a genie in a bottle. He probably purrs while you rub his back.
The language of love that works for two people in this bank relationship manager – client relationship are “acts of service” and “gifting.” But in hard Kenyan cash. You make them money and they serve you. The world of relationship managers would be a much better place with this understood.
My relationship with my ex-relationship manager with Stanchart’s Priority Banking wasn’t working, so we broke up. It wasn’t a nasty breakup. No bad SMSes were traded. Nobody made any disparaging remarks about anybody’s loving skills. We just became strangers and we went our separate ways. Sometimes I think about him. I hope he’s doing well wherever he is. I hope he’s happy. I hope he finally found his banking chakra. I hope he found someone who understands his language of love. I take part of the responsibility for that relationship’s failure; I never read his language of love properly. I think his language of love was quality time and physical touch and given that we weren’t meeting and I certainly as hell wasn’t rubbing his back we drifted apart.
Then Stanchart gave me a new relationship manager called Jasmit Kaur. She’s a star. I don’t even know what I was doing with the other guy. I don’t remember who I was when I was with the other guy. Well, it’s early days with Jasmit but we are happy. Her language of love is gifting in hard cash…rather cash to the bank. Mine is words of affirmation and acts of service. So our conversations go something like this:
Hi Jackson, are you keeping well? I read your article in Msafiri, it was so funny.
Oh thank you! Some people didn’t get it! Bless your funny bones. Did you also read the one I did last month about the next African footballers to watch out for?
Oh, yes. That was also very nice. I enjoyed reading it. I enjoy reading everything you write.
Oh, stop now…Okay, don’t. But are you well, Jasmit?
I am well. By the way, how is the gym coming?
Oh it’s great. It’s just great.
Can you now bench-press 35kgs?
I can do 39kgs now.
You big strong boy, you. Congratulations!
On and on it goes. Words of affirmation!
For acts of service she just calls me to find out if I’m happy with the bank’s services and that I shouldn’t hesitate if I need anything. She also emails me the bank’s local investment services, market updates and things that I hardly ever read because of all the financial jargon. If I need to change currency she is always a phone-call away. For Christmas she sent me an e-card. Whenever she calls she asks me, “How are the children?” Isn’t it nice when people ask you about your children? It makes you feel so grown up and responsible. And on my part, I fulfill her language of love by just working hard and being a good client.
And it works perfectly.
I hope we don’t break up. The worst that can happen is if some bank takes her away and then I will have to be handed another relationship manager whose language of love could be words of affirmation. Then we will have a problem because come on, what will I tell them? “Hey Linda. How’s things? By the way, you mentioned that you have a greenhouse on the side, I see you as the kind of person who is loved by plants. Did you know there are people like that? People who just touch tomatoes and those tomatoes grow into big, healthy, happy tomatoes that bring joy to the world? Just a touch, Linda, like those guys who carry a crying child and they hush immediately only this is the Midas touch of agriculture. Pumpkins love you. Coriander die for you. Let’s not even talk about oranges, they go bananas! Cucumbers…my God, cucumbers hear you are coming and they blush. You seem like that person, the pied piper of vegetables. So Linda, any news on that loan?”
That relationship won’t last. I can tell you