While the occasional visits to one another’s houses is spontaneous and very sexy, splitting bills and co-owning a space is real work.
So we were asleep, right? On a Sunday morning. Then someone started ringing the bell. Not even ringing, that person was leaning on it. Which is kind of rude, don’t you think? You do not visit people on Sunday mornings, and that has nothing to do with religion, but the simple fact that Sundays are private days. Especially mornings! It had been a rough Saturday night, and I had had more than is usually standard.
“You go get it,” I groaned, and turned, half asleep.
“No, you get it,” my girlfriend shoots back.
“I am not…were you expecting someone?”
So we let it at that, but the person on the bell was not going anywhere, so she jumped angrily out of bed and I heard her ask, “who is it?” Then all of a sudden she burst back in saying, “G….G….wake up!” I refused. “Wake up, G, it is my mother! My mother is here!!!”
All the sleep and alcohol in my head disappeared. Then we rushed to the living room, hid all my stuff, and then she locked me in the other spare room, you’d think we had rehearsed all this before. But no, there had been no drill. It was all reflex.
And you know the crazy thing about all of it, is that this was also my house. We had moved in together, it is just that since her parents were such staunch Adventist, she had postponed telling them about it – for three years.
But this story is not about how I was put under house arrest in my own house, it is about moving in together, when you’re not married yet. The way it usually happens is that you start spending a lot of time together. You spend a whole week at her house, and she spends a whole week at your house. Then at some point, one of you starts literally staying at the other’s house, and before you know it, your bedroom stand has a lot of tubes of oil for sijui what, she now has her side of the bed in your bed, she has her own key, toothbrush, a closetful of clothes, shoes and handbags. But she is still paying rent the other side.
Then you come to your senses one morning and you pose the big question, “haja gani sasa tulipe rent mara mbili?” Next thing, she is directing the movers where to put what. You go on a work trip, come back and your curtains are gone. And whose carpet is that? If she is a Kale, she has replaced your white dish rack with a luminous green one that her mom sent to her from Kericho when she was starting life.
It is no longer just your house. Perhaps, only according to your landlord.
Moving in together is a big deal, don’t get me wrong. It is not something that happens by chance. While the occasional visits to one another’s houses is nice, spontaneous and very sexy, splitting bills and co-owning a space is real work.
The first question after cohabiting is always money. On one hand, you are a man. And a proper man is supposed to wear the trousers in that house – meaning you have to pay for the bills. The big bills like rent, food, shopping and internet are yours by default, because that is how you saw things work. Your father paid for everything, and your mother’s salary was for miscellaneous.
But then on the other hand, this is Nairobi. As a man, I am struggling to earn a coin, just as you are. And in as much as I value my father, I am not him. We grew up in such different times. Such is the convenience of being ‘woke.’
That is when you get to know one another properly. That is when you realize that while God was showing off when he was making this woman’s body, he kind of snoozed when He was dishing out manners – she does not refill the ice tray, and then she waits until you are both covered in the duvet to start farting. All of a sudden the bed is so warm, yet so stale!
And when you brings those things up, she takes the opportunity to remind you of the way you startle her awake when you are having nightmares, and the way you sleep talk…
You try and be reasonable. You say to her with your chest, “Listen, Chamyet. I was just fine before you moved in here.
Then she will start swelling. And you will start boiling. And then you realise when you were not staying together, there was the opportunity of one to leave and go back to their own houses, but now that you are under the same roof, you are kind of stuck with one another.
There is always that fear. That pending fear of what if it does not work out? Then what? It could go either way. We could end up getting married. The worst that could happen is her parents find out we were living together, then they will increase dowry for breaking the fence to enter their home. You were apparently milking a cow you have not bought, so they slap you with a hefty fine.
Or, it could end. And that is where the rub is. Who keeps what? Who gets the house? Is the man the one supposed to move out? Or is it whoever cannot afford the rent. Whatever the case, one day you will wake up in that house and that space where her tubes of oil used to occupy on the bedroom desk is as bare as the emptiness you have inside.
This content was first published on Saturday Magazine, Saturday Nation of 21st September 2019