I recently met Olivia, an old friend whom I haven’t seen in quite a long time. She was actually friends with my sister first. Then we became friends by association. The last time I saw her, many years ago, she was actually planning her wedding. I got curious about how it all went and that led me to this story. I tried as much as I could to narrate it in her own voice.

So here’s Olivia’s story in her own voice:

‘Chris is everything to me. Ever since I met him in 2013, he has bestridden my life like a colossus. He has huge physique but not too huge. A gym enthusiast with muscles that quite set him out apart in the sexiest way I could ever imagine. One can easily mistake him for a model because of the perfect manner in which he was created. He looks quite strong. He has a perfect set of teeth that seems whiter than fresh milk. He has the kind of height any woman would want in a man. Need I mention the fact that he is brilliant and extraordinarily romantic. His brilliance, he says, emanates from his parents. His dad is a distinguished law professor while his mum has written dozens of books in literature and won a considerable number of literary awards. He has a small cute little sister who studies business administration at Stanford University in the States. And, of course, he is the manager of the Food and Beverages Section at Kisumu Hotel.

During our first days together, I felt like my life was this fantastic dream I never wanted to break away from. Everything was so surreal. I had dated a number of guys before but none of them made me feel like Chris did. He was sent from heaven. It looked as though the Angels up there decided to act on my prayers by sending me a package in form of him. I had a tragic last relationship before him and therefore his was a whole level of new, unique, beautiful and scary at the same time. I had got accustomed to the sadness of the past to the extent that such kind of happiness scared the hell out of me.

Prior to Chris, the relationship I had was a tragedy, an unusual tragedy. It was like a Greek Mythology. It was unworldly. Every time I tell it to people, they find it hard to believe. And when they find it hard to believe, they make me find it hard to imagine that I went through such and came out in one piece. Sometimes I marvel at my strength. In as much as I may have shared tiny portions of the story with a few people, I feel like I have never really found full closure. It’s hard to move on from some things especially when they have a lasting effect on the rest of your life.

Jim was the name of the guy I dated before Chris. His parents and family members called him James but he insisted on me calling him Jim. He was a reserved person. He only talked when necessary. He made me laugh occasionally though. He had a deep sense of humor which I felt like he didn’t want people to know about. All my life I had never known how to deal with introverts till I met Jim. There are days when we could stay in silence for moments that seemed like forever. At first I found it weird but later learnt to cope up. Then there are those times he could be the best boyfriend in the world. He could be so jovial and happy and excited about so many things at the same time. He could tell me some of his darkest secrets and the little ones that nobody knew about such as the fact that there was a time in which he put salt in his dad’s tea and kept quiet when the old man went crazy about it blaming his mum.

The happy days were the best days. Then, the sad days came. I always thought that the worst he could be was to give me silent treats. How wrong I was. Jim had extremely sad days. He could cry out loudly like a soldier whose arm had been chopped off in the battlefield. He could coil himself and talk about how he was a burden to everyone and that he wanted to die. Not only did this scare me but it made me think of some way in which I could help him out. So I looked for his mum, whom I had never met, to inquire if anything might have been wrong with him or if there’s some special attention that he needed.

My meeting with his mum was the most awkward meeting I ever had with anyone. She was more than mean. She was wild. She told me things that crushed me. She told me to leave her son alone and never show my face in her compound again or else she would curve out my eyeballs and extract my liver which she would feed to her dogs. I have never been as scared in my life. I was horrified and I knew I had to leave her quickly at that exact moment. As I picked my handbag and rushed towards the gate, a manly voice called me. I looked behind and saw a man in his early fifties hurrying behind me. He introduced himself as Richard. He was Jim’s father. He had a kind tone which made me wonder what was going on. One moment Jim’s mother is threatening me with death and the next a man follows me and introduces himself as Jim’s father then tells me to ignore whatever the lady said to me. Just as I attempted to walk away from him thinking that this must be some sort of a joke, he told me that the lady was sick. She had bipolar disorder.

I was nothing short of surprised but the real shock came when he added that his son Jim had inherited the condition from her. Reality started kicking in and I felt like fainting. My head suddenly became heavy as my heart throbbed faster. I could see everything spin around me in a raging manner. I felt like everything had stopped around and at the same time they were moving so quickly. I came back to my senses when the old man tapped me on the shoulder asking me if I was okay. Okay? How could I be okay after learning that my boyfriend had bipolar disorder? I couldn’t be okay. I needed to breathe. I needed to get out of that place as fast as possible. I needed to slowly process this information. It saddened me in an incomprehensible way.

I trudged out of the compound slowly with my head held down and my arms stretched out unconsciously. By now tears had gathered in my eyes and I didn’t have a tissue or a handkerchief so I just resignedly let them flow freely. How could I have missed the signs? How could I not have known? I should have asked him perhaps. I should have insisted on him telling me everything about him. A lot of questions and thoughts jammed my mind making me lose track of time and direction but I didn’t care. I tried to think of the pain that Jim had been through all this time but quickly shifted my terrain of thoughts in a bid to avoid the guilt. If only I knew that he had suffered that much with his bipolar condition then perhaps I could have done more to make him be as comfortable and happy as possible.

Over the next few months, I became as close as I could to him. I tried to make him as happy as possible. I bought him ice cream because I knew he’d to go the moon for  ice cream. I organized hang outs with him and I think those were some of the happiest days of his life. Outwardly I was happy too. Inwardly, I was a wreck. But I didn’t want to look weak or broken. How could I? What would become of him if I portrayed any signs of worries? On his moody days, I feared so much for him. I wanted him to be happy. I needed him to be happy.

At some point we moved in together against the will of his parents. He moved over to my house next to Milimani Resort. He wanted that and I wanted it too. His parents got furious with me but what could I do? How could I abandon Jim when I clear knew that I am all he had other than the parents? The months that followed were all bliss. We watched animations, action movies and even some mysterious Bollywood movies. I still find Bollywood to be a mystery to date. I think Indians are a very strange kind of people. Anyway, we did all sorts of fun things. We even organized a road trip to the Mara some time and marveled at the wonder of God’s creations.

Then one day I came back home from work and Jim was nowhere to be found. Ordinarily, I would find him engrossed in some crossword puzzle as he took some caramel tea. Or sometimes I would find him watching some NatGeo documentaries involving mega structures such as the Hoover Dam in America or the Great Wall of China. Not today. The house was as empty and as silent as the Sunni Muslim Cemetery that’s next to Kisumu International Airport. When I came outside the house calling his name thinking that he might be outside, I met the biggest shock of my life. There he was. Jim was floating in the middle of the pool. No movement. Not even a single ripple or water wave in the swimming pool. The chlorinated water looked unfazed and unusually calm.

I impulsively dived into the pool with both my work clothes and shoes on. I was late. Too late. I held him in my arms as tightly as possible still not coming to terms with whatever the hell had just happened. He had his only suit on and he wore the black bowtie that I bought him not so long ago. He also had his best shoes on. Jim was gone. I had dreaded that such a day might come and that such a thing might happen but I never imagined it this way. I had so much hoped that he would get better somehow. I mean he was taking his medicine. A huge part of me left with him but I took solace in the fact that I did everything to make his life as comfortable as possible. I would later on after his burial find a note he left in the cupboard inside his favorite mug that stated “OLIVIA YOU ARE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN MY LIFE”.  I cried uncontrollably when I saw that. I felt a sharp pain in my heart as the images of him being withdrawn from the pool into the ambulance replayed in my mind. That period of my life was so dark to the extent that my mum and sister moved in to my house.

They did everything for me. My mum could cook as my sister washed my clothes. They showered me with their kindness. The trimmed the flowers. My mum even grew me tulips in the flower garden. That’s when my love for tulips began. They stayed with me for a whole six months. I have never felt the warmth of my family like I did during that time. I had quit my job to mourn. I just could handle writing reports and attending meetings on behalf of the organization in the state I was. I knew myself better to know that I could burst into tears in one of those meetings. For a whole year, I just did nothing other than gardening and learning how to play a piano. I quit swimming and called some people to empty the pool. I couldn’t stand the sight of that swimming pool. It robbed me of someone I considered the love of my life.

Things changed when I met Chris. This was three years after Jim’s passing on. It was some event at Twiga Sanctuary that brought together baristas from the whole of Western Kenya region. It was more of like a coffee making competition. I had simply gone to watch because I am such a coffee lover and here was a chance for me to get some tips on how to spice up or improve the way I made my lattes. When the time for coffee tasting came I somehow tripped with my coffee and accidentally poured it on some tall guy’s white shirt. His name turned out to be Chris. The coffee was hot. I expected a rebuke but instead got care from him. He asked if I was okay and whether there was anything he could do or whether I needed a refill. Such a gentleman he was and still is. We struck up a conversation and the rest is history.

Chris and I got married in the December of 2015. It was such a simple but lovely wedding. My dad walked me down the aisle where I met a teary Chris. He looked so gorgeous and handsome in his black suit. Before we exchanged vows, he whispered to my right ear that he was nervous. He also whispered that he had waited for this day his whole life. I smiled at that. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this happy. My whole being was immersed in joy. I wanted that moment to last forever. I had heard stories that weddings are lovely but never imagined that mine would be this lovely and would give me this much bliss.

Ever since that day, Chris has been a rock in my life. Sometimes when I’m from work (I found a new job) I find that he has prepared dinner and lit pink scented candles around the table. There are days when he reads me stories till late in the night. He has these bed time stories which his mum used to read him when he was young. I find such kind of stories stupid occasionally but they do make me sleep when Chris reads them out loudly. I hate how he sings though. He was totally not cut out for music. He knows everything about me. He knows about Jim. Every year he accompanies me to his grave to take fresh flowers (tulips).

Chris if you ever read this, I just want to tell you that I love you. To more happiness. Forever.’

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