Make me forget the pain you caused...Understanding is a great thing… If it comes from the heart… "Straight from the heart" by Irma Thomas blared from Carrie's earplugs. Her emotions fed on the songs from the 60s until 90s and the beautifully enigmatic tunes from West Africa she listened to. It was a shame that someone her age, that I the author chose to not divulge, had never felt anything strongly. Most songs Carrie listened to derived their depth from sad and tragic tales, or strong feelings of contentment and happiness. She was numb. At this point, she could even accept heartbreak instead of this numbness. She was a talented painter, but over time, her paintings became plain minimalistic thoughts spread onto the canvas to fit the interior designs of people's homes. She appreciated the gigs and the money, but she wanted something for herself - a profound painting that would flash memories in front of her eyes whenever she looked at it.
She removed her earplugs and stirred her dodo dish. Her dodos and tomatoes were half cooked just the way she loved it, they would go so well with the rice. The aroma of the number one quality Tanzanian rice wafted from her small living room to the kitchen. She wanted to feel strongly for someone the way she did about her food. After a satisfying fill of her food, she dumped dishes in the green basin in the kitchen and carried a steaming mug of Rwanda tea out to the small porch.
With her Cockblender plugged, there would be less mosquitoes. She hated them - just like the author. She stared out at the city lights. At some point, the Convention Center felt like the moon and the smaller lights became the stars. As she got lost into the beauty and the tranquility, a mosquito bit her, and an idea flickered in her mind. She could have someone to date and dump for at least two weeks. She just had to choose who. Judo was a good friend but too conventional for the idea, Shema was a playboy who would think she had had a crush on him for a long time, Louis would probably jump at the idea, based on the way his eyes lit up whenever they met. She had given some paintings to the bank where he worked, and from there they connected.
She went back inside her house, she did her customary house tour to check on locks and curtains, and she finally sat in the living room. She searched up Louis on her GB Whatsapp, and stared at her small ornamental inanga (harp) hanging on the doorway.
Her mind churned. "Hey, Can I request something weird from you?" She typed and deleted, that would scare him away. She just had to get the word out and hear what he had to say. "Hey, mind being my boyfriend for two weeks? Don't mind it's for education purposes, practically."
She watched the typing tag under his name for a long minute until she got tired and slammed the phone down. Then it shrilled with a notification.
Six words. "Sure, when is our first date?"
She narrowed her eyes at the text suspiciously. She had no idea why he would jump at the idea. From movies she watched and books she read, if two people faked a date it ended in tears. Either dating for real and crying happily or a bitter parting after an epic heartbreak. She thought she'd prefer the latter since this was for practical reasons anyway. The more it hurt, the deeper her art would be - thought the author.
On their first date, Carrie painted her canvas black and set up colors. Tonight is the beginning of a great me-art piece. She thought. They met in DownTown at one of the cheap coffee shops. It was Tuesday evening and just like all working days, people were lined up in long queues waiting for buses. Louis smelled like Nivea Anti-transpirant, and his attire though casual it fitted him. He seemed so calm and that rattled her. "Not nervous?" She asked, fiddling with the straw of her mango smoothie - the author's favorite too. "Why would I be nervous Carrie? I have wanted to ask you out for sometime now," Louis said in his calm voice. His eyes bore into Carrie's, and she couldn't help but feel a bit frightened. They spent two minutes in a pregnant silence. "I am now your boyfriend, so relax, will you?" Louis said and cracked up in a melodious laugh that made Carrie's heart twitch a bit.
He actually has a beautiful laugh, she thought, I can fall in love with that. She laughed too. As the laugh ended, they gazed at each other. Louis took in her beautiful hands cuddling a big smoothie plastic cup, she wondered if she wasn't cold. Carrie took in his darkened eyes, long French nose, and unconnected beard. She would remember it. At the end of their first date before he got her a motorbike to go home, Louis held her hands on either side of his face and told her that she could be someone he's been waiting for. Later that night, she splashed a mixture of bright colors of green, yellow, red, and lavender on her canvas.
For the first week, they met three times, and everytime they parted, Louis repeated the same words he told her at the end of the first date, holding her hands to his face. You can be someone I have been waiting for… Carrie's heart would expand at the gesture; it was just a cement to solidify all the fun and tense moments they had on their dates. At the end of their first week of the relationship, Carrie had drawn a bird on a branch spreading its wings with an open mouth. She did not know why it was what she painted. She had recurring dreams of a road trip with Louis too; she didn't know what that meant. Maybe that's what people who felt strongly about someone experienced. She was happy she had sweet memories that came into her head at the end of the day or during her breaks. Louis was good at texting. His words were humorous, sometimes sweet, sometimes indecipherable.
For the second week, they went to karaoke together in Remera, trying out different bars and drinks, splitting bills and eating ibiraha (vegetarian samosas) on streets. Carrie learnt that Louis couldn't drink more than three beers, else he'd go to the bathroom four times in one sitting, he'd sound a bit tipsy and tell her about an ex-girlfriend who had left him for one of her choirmates in SDA church. Louis also told her that he had wanted to kiss her for a long time, and so he did when they danced. Carrie replayed those kisses when she drew another bird next to the one she had had before, this one had dark feathers, its beak intertwined with the brighter one. She was pleased. On their last date, they went to Blackstone lounge in Kigali Heights. Louis had booked a room that had weird paintings that Carrie couldn't make out since it was dark with dimmed lights flickering in the corners. The table was filled with spirits, whiskies, and vodka. Carrie was puzzled.
"We'll have some of my friends join us later. " Louis said, taking her hand. "It's the last day, let's enjoy ourselves." With that they sat down in one of the black leather couches. He looked at her, his gaze heavy on her lips, and he started kissing her more fervently than the previous times. His hands roamed all over her body, just when he started to nuzzle her neck on his way to her bosom, the doors split open. High pitched laughs and baritones filled the room as girls dressed scantily entered with weird guys with cigarettes in their hands. "Those are your friends?" Carrie asked Louis, she hoped they had entered the wrong room, but Louis ignored her and greeted his friends. His demeanor completely changed to gangster mode, he kissed multiple girls on the lips, and they all sat down, squeezing Carrie into the leather couch. Eyes wide, she pinched Louis, "What is going on?" She whispered harshly into his ear.
"So guys, this is Carrie, my other fake girlfriend," Louis said, pouring a glass of whisky, beckoning to all others to help themselves.
"Carrie, this is Sonia, Keza, and Sharon, my other girlfriends. You'll have to excuse us, Mutoni and Fiona won't be able to come but they sent their best."
They smiled and held out their hands to Carrie who was still in shock of how they were so happy and calm about it. She felt so stupid; she had fancied a connection and a bond with Louis. Instead, she was one of many girlfriends Louis had.
She thought he was such a respectable almost antisocial guy who could be sweet and tense and weird with her.
She stormed outside in rage. She went down the stairs, taking two steps at a time. She was lucky she had remembered her purse. She whistled for a motorcycle arousing the surprised stare from the traffic policeman near her. She didn't care, she wanted to go home, fix her tea, and forget Louis and his machinations. When she got home, she repainted her canvas black. Later that night, Judo texted her. "Hey, I saw you at Blackstone, how do you know Louis?" Carrie didn't reply. She had never known Louis. Heartbreak had been served to her on a silver platter. The next morning there was nothing from Louis, but Judo texted again. "Anyway, he's my best friend actually, and I hope you don't really think all that was true." Carrie ignored the text.
Around 5:00 pm, she heard a knock on her door. Who wants me at this hour for Christ sake, she thought angrily. To her surprise, Shema, the playboy, stood there on her doorstep. Oh shit, she thought. She let him in and fixed him a cup of black tea with ginger.
"What brings you here?" She asked.
"Can't a guy visit a friend?" Shema said.
"Not when the guy is you," she shot at him cynically.
"Oh come on, how have you been? Thank me for asking…" he replied smiling over the rim of the mug. From there, they talked about nothing and everything, and she escorted him up the brown dirt road from her house. "Thanks for coming over," Carrie said, meaning the words.
"Thanks for letting me in, I almost thought you'd shut the door in my face. Um, do you mind going to a networking event with me next Saturday? I think it would be good for your art while buying me time with you." He said rubbing his hands as if he was nervous. Carrie smiled in the darkness.
"Sure." She muttered. Before Shema could react, Carrie stood on her tip toes and kissed lips briefly. He seemed surprised at her boldness. She didn't allow him to react; she practically ran back down the dirt road to her house. That night, she painted a minimalistic picture of two stickmen holding hands on a path in the desert overlooking the pyramids.