A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Series: Diary of A Reluctant Immigrant Part III
By Muntu Chikondi

Life in London brought two experiences that resulted in very profound changes to my life, the first brought great joy to my life and the second taught me lessons that altered my perspective on the world. 

The first was the beginning of a romance. I did not plan on starting a relationship for at least a year having always been involved in some sort of liaison for years; I felt I needed to know what it felt like to be alone. Fortunately it was not to be; I am not sure how I would have coped with my move if I had not had support and a place that I could run to when I needed reassurance.

I previously encountered Mr B. Doright in Zambia; we met at work.  I had recently left university and decided that, for the good of my financial and mental health, the best thing would be for me to join the ranks of the corporate world as soon as possible, albeit as a lowly tyro.  In hindsight it was fortunate that I thought I should do this in my country of birth; having been away for several years, living in Kenya and going to boarding school and University in England, I thought that it was important I should experience living in my homeland.

I suppose now one could say it was destiny that we should meet.  Just as I decided to go home, he was given an assignment that meant he was to live and work in Lusaka for three months.

We worked on the same floor of the building for a couple of weeks before I finally spotted him.  On the faithful day I marched into his department to complain about something or the other to one of the men in his team; I spent five minutes ranting before I spotted him from the corner of my eye.  No, it wasn’t love at first sight, more like lust.  The chemistry was tangible; every time I saw him from then on I had to use all the strength in my body to not drag him into a secluded corner and have my way with him.

It was inevitable that I would be attracted to him, especially after I heard him speak.  I have a thing for well spoken men and his voice has a rich timbre mixed with an accent of public school education.   I still find it hypnotic.  Add to this the fact that he is athletic, well age is setting in; he reads this column and I would not want him to get a big head!  He was also young, fashionable and exhibited an arrogance that I found sexy. Considering the package it was unreasonable to expect me to resist!

He has since told me that he originally tried to pretend that he had not seen me, but his demeanour gave him away to the men in his department, who I must say were quite roguish when it came to the opposite sex; they spent a few days teasing and encouraging him.  I never did get the chance to thank them.

After our first encounter I was more attentive to my work outfits - no longer did I roll out of bed and perform my toilette with casual disinterest.  Over the next few days I found many a reason to find myself in his department, often following him, after he had just walked past my desk.  

Despite my best efforts to appear available and give him the opportunity to ask me out on a date, it still took him a week to ask me to lunch.  I chose a slightly clandestine café for the date, far away enough from the office to mean we needed to take a long lunch and to give us time to talk on the ride to and from the restaurant.  I could not tell you what we spoke about that during our first meal together but I do remember feeling intoxicated throughout the meal, despite not having anything alcoholic to drink.

Before he left Zambia I took him home for dinner, not to meet the parents but so that he could have a meal with a Zambian family.   My parents are very relaxed (and used to me bringing stray work colleagues home to be fed) and he got along with both of them, having a conversation about the use of guns with my mother and somehow finding himself being shown around the house by my father.

We spent the next few years emailing shamelessly; I could flirt in emails as he wasn’t present to befuddle me. During this time I dabbled with thoughts of coming back to England and giving the relationship a real go.  However, my mission (that I chose to accept) was to experience Zambia and I decided to stay. 

So I resolved to live in Zambia, in that time our relationship moved from lustful cravings to long distance friendship and I moved on to look for love in all the wrong places.  We kept each other updated about our lives whenever we had the time.  Even after time and distance mellowed my initial reaction to him, my heart skipped a beat and I broke out in a sweat every time I saw his name in my inbox.  However, we dated other people and I decided we were always going to be “what could have been”.

And then I moved to London.  I made my mind up to travel because I was tired of Zambia; I had also gotten entangled in a relationship that completely consumed me.  I had let my existence revolve around a man who did not appreciate it.  I made decisions in this relationship that had led to instability in several areas of my life. It took years of confusion before I finally decided to take a breather from it all and evaluate where I was coming from, where I was right now and where I wanted to go from here.

In an effort to be stand-offish I decided to take the cowardly route and send Mr. Doright an email rather than call him; I find his voice far too enthralling and I was quite emotionally vulnerable.  This way of doing things would also soften the blow of any rejection. I could make excuses for him if he did not reply to my email; I could not justify him not picking up the phone. 

In contrast to my cowardice and true to his nature he decided to call me rather than write back (he is old fashioned about communication, he would rather phone than email or text if he can help it) and invited me to a gig the next evening.  If I had to pinpoint the beginning of our relationship I would say that was it, as it was the point our friendship began to change.

I was still living at the hostel and out of my suitcase, so getting dressed was a challenge.  I settled on jeans and trainers before trying on several tops.  (I missed my mother, sisters and girlfriends because I had no one to tell me I looked hot before I walked out the door.) I was really nervous as I finally left the hostel.  Being new to north London I took the tube from Belsize Park to Chalk Farm (I have since discovered that its at most a 15 minute walk, even with my short little legs) and then attempted to find the pub we were to meet in. I phoned him several times before I asked a group of very drunk girls, who pointed me in the wrong direction.

When I finally found the pub he was already on the decks.  He had previously told me that he was a DJ there on occasion but I thought that was an attempt to impress me in some way.  I was, off course, wrong and was left wondering what to do next as the fact that he was the DJ that night posed a problem as I was now on my own and looking rather lost and not sure what the etiquette is when you want to get the DJ’s attention.  The pub was incredibly dark and he did not see me until I decided to get a drink.  He spotted me as I asked the bartender for a gin and tonic.  He had just put a record on and came over to give me some drink tokens before going back to work.

 I took my drink and stood close to the DJ booth where a couple who had taken the best seats in the pub spotted me and felt sorry for me.  They had occupied two large ox blood leather chairs in the style of those old chairs you see in period dramas, in men’s smoking room.  They saw me looking lost and invited me over to sit with them.

She was an American journalist and he was a charming young man named Charlie.  They took me under their respective wings and I got progressively intoxicated.  I spent the rest of the evening talking to them and telling them my story including how I met the DJ.  They left an hour before closing and Mr. Doright came to see if I was OK.  He invited me to DJ with him and showed me how to play a record on a turn table.  As he stood behind me with his arms around me putting the record on, it suddenly felt a little like a date. 

Once the pub had shut for the night he asked if I would come home with him.  He had not had the opportunity to speak with me; I know a few of you may be sceptical about his motivations but he was convinced I was dedicated to another man.  We got to his flat, and though I was more than slightly intoxicated I asked for a glass of wine.  He pointed me to the fridge which revealed a store of alcohol but no food so I had several glasses of white wine. I informed him of my lack of commitment to my current relationship. And after several minutes of conversation we grappled and I gave him a wedgy, which cemented our relationship.

This was off course the beginning of my resolution to stay in London which led to my second, unexpected lesson in life. And that was not an all together pleasant experience.