We were up early yesterday and dashed to sun-splashed Village Market to pick up some drinks and fresh flowers to take to our hosts. I felt irrationally better after reading George’s horoscope preferring it to my own … 'This looks as if its going to be a lively day, and one in which you must be prepared to take advantage of what crops up completely out of the blue…', Capricorn in the Saturday Nation magazine promised.
It’s a 20 minute drive to Mike’s imposing residence; securing large government tenders has delivered ostentatious rewards. Mike’s wife Zawadi in a dazzling kitenge cloth dress greeted us warmly as we parked our car on the cabro-paved drive. I was told the children have gone to the grandparents for the weekend. She cast George understandably a sneakily devilish once-over and I heard the familiar shriek of Tandy the African Grey parrot from his perch inside the mansion’s upstairs indoor- garden announcing our arrival, ‘alo’, ‘alo’.
Mike was sitting proprietarily at the gazebo in their garden behind a table overlooking the criminally indulgent lush lawn studying us sauntering across the footpath. He stood up to give me the customary hug. I could sense him looking over my shoulder at George before shaking hands as I introduced them.
I sat between Zawadi and George, who was to Mike’s right side round the table garnished in exquisite crystal ware. I feigned interest in my chat with Mike’s wife as I strained to hear what he was talking about with George. The snatched snippets were safely around the theme of cars, corruption and our politics, interrupted with hearty mutual laughs. Is my best friend bonding with my secret lover, I wondered wildly. Two hours later they were both carving the deliciously charred racks of tropical heat spice- inspired goat ribs served with lashings of kachumbari salad with hot green chillies. The mood encouraged by cold tusker lagers had lightened and Mike said to George come let me show you the pool. I sensed danger but I couldn’t do anything to avert the impending disaster. So they left us to go see the swimming pool behind the house and I started the pork chops and beef steaks on the barbecue for round two as Annie the housekeeper cleared away the plates while humming Ahadi zake by Marion Shako.
They were gone for ten minutes. In that eternity Zawadi pointedly asked about George, who is he? I answered truthfully taking off my sunglasses, he’s a friend and he’s living at my house now. I surprised myself how quietly profound I sounded. She nodded, looked at me straight in the eye and said he seems like a nice person. She knew; and she knew I knew she knew! It’s the way she tapped my arm gently as she said it.
We didn’t have time to talk more about George because we saw them walking back to the gazebo; I was shocked into soberness to see Mike’s hand resting Obama-style on George’s shoulder. I put my sunglasses back on as they sat down. Zawadi went to the fridge to fetch some drinks. George was now unusually quiet, staring at his beer. Something was not right but I was like a sitting duck. Mike started speaking to me. ‘Buddy, I’m disappointed in you’. He sounded sad. I braced myself. ‘All these years I’ve known you and your family. You are my children’s godfather and yet you hide things from me’. Zawadi, how long does it take to fetch beers and wine from the fridge? Then the bombshell: 'It takes a stranger to tell me you are homosexual’. I was stunned, but strangely felt only a mild anger at George for putting me through this. ‘I was afraid our friendship would end; I didn’t want to lose that,’ came my hoarse answer.
There was a short pause. The sound of a light breeze caressing bougainvillea vines before Mike spoke. ‘I’m sorry I made you feel anything would change our friendship. After all we’ve been through; I don’t understand about this gay business but I love and respect you. It only matters to me that you are happy.’ Then casually a good-humoured call, ‘Zawa, bring the brandy we need something stronger!’
So there it was. My life was starting all over again. I felt sadness that I had ever doubted the capacity of my relationship with my best friend. Over 20 years of secrets from Mike undone in a few sentences and all because George had the courage to tell the truth and set me free. With these clouds lifted away, we had a most memorable afternoon. Mike played our favourite 80’s disco music and we all danced together until early evening.