A true story of lust, booze, and an African weapon of war.
Yours truly, the African Cupid, wanted to shoot a girl with his arrow. I found her at a New Year’s Eve party in San Jose and immediately charmed her with my good looks. Or, was it my sense of humor? A few weeks later, she was spending nights at my apartment.
Girl, twenty-two and living at home with parents, loved to drink. “Motherfucker, the only reason I sleep with you is because I’m a drunk,” she said to me one night, as I attempted to lecture her after she wet my bed. So, it wasn’t the good looks.
I should have left her then, but she came back with new beddings from the store in the mall, where she worked. After owning just one set of 250-thread-count sheets – which I took off the bed only when I did laundry – those softer and fancier linens changed my heart. She was also gorgeous and the sex was great.
I can change her, I said to myself. Really, if I show this girl love, she will quit drinking. What I didn’t know was that the Cupid’s arrow I would shoot her with was going to be of the kind my grandfather’s generation used in tribal wars.
It seemed like a genius idea to ask my cousin Nancy to bring me a shield, a spear and a bow and arrows from Kenya. I wanted something to remind me of my boyhood, hunting deer and rabbits in the Rift Valley. Or the memorable day my late cousin Phillip – a self-trained marksman of unbelievable accuracy – pursued a cobra that had killed our puppy and pinned its head to a tree.
Nancy brought back the right shield, spear and bow, but the wrong arrows. They were vicious war arrows – a very dangerous type – with two layers of barbs. The shaft is designed to fall off when you shoot the enemy to make it difficult for him to pull the metal blade out. To remove such an arrow, the victim has to either undergo surgery or have someone push it through. I carefully laid them behind a printer in my bedroom, where I thought no one would ever go.
One Saturday night, my girl and I went to a club and drank, as we did every weekend. We came home laughing and talking about how we “dug” each other. She had temporarily reduced drinking, though not willingly, making me even more attracted to her. We made sweet love and before we went to bed, I asked her to leave for work quietly because Sunday was my morning to sleep in.
At around nine in the morning I was awakened by a sound of someone falling. I jumped out of bed to find my girl struggling to get up. She had tripped on a telephone cord and fallen on my printer, next to my desk. “Are you okay?” I asked, reaching for her hand to help her get up. “Fuck! You are not okay!” I shouted, before she could answer.
On her left arm, midway between the shoulder and the elbow, was one of my arrows, embedded deep in her flesh to the first layer of barbs. Like a good war arrow, the shaft had fallen off. I pointed to it.
“Pull it out!” she commanded.
I took the other arrow out from behind the printer, where minutes before the two weapons were lying, supposedly out of the way. I showed it to her.
My girl fainted. I stood over her body, naked like her, not sure what to do. Should I give her CPR? I did not know how. I shook her a little bit, not trying to resuscitate her, but to check if she was alive. She regained her consciousness and immediately started to move the six-inch piece of metal, up and down, left to right, like a teenager playing with a joystick at a video game arcade. We should go to the hospital, babe, I suggested.
She refused saying she did not want her aging mother, who had cancer, to know that her daughter had been badly hurt. She began to bleed profusely. I snatched one of my white T-shirts from the closet, ripped it, and tied the cloth around her arm, right above the wound to stop the bleeding. It was not tight enough to work effectively.
I left her alone and rushed to the drug store for a tourniquet and bandages, knowing I was going to have to force her to get to the hospital.
As I hurried to the store, I began to hallucinate. I was going to go to prison. Would the nurse at the hospital call the police? What would I tell the cops? Was possession of arrows even legal? What would I do in Kenya if I were to be deported without a college degree?
I dashed into the drug store sweating as if I had run a distance many times the hundred yards from my apartment. I ran straight to the aisle where drugs and first aid kits were on display. There were bandages, but no tourniquet. A roll of medical tape would do for now, I told myself, grabbed it, and zoomed to the cash register, unapologetically pushing shoppers out of my way.
There were long lines at all stations. I was tempted to sprint out without paying. Undoubtedly, they would call the police if I tried. In fact, on the many occasions I shopped at the store, the security guard, who was always at the door, trailed and observed me from afar, probably to make sure that I– a black man in a store full of Vietnamese customers – didn’t shoplift. I went to one of the cashiers and pleaded with her to let me jump the line to save my girlfriend from bleeding to death.
I returned home to find the door locked. I had left without the key. I pounded on the door to wake my roommate who worked the graveyard shift. No response. I threw a few tiny rocks at the window. I saw him lift the blinds, and waved up at him. A minute later he opened the door. I gently pushed him aside and ran up to my room.
“Baby,” I called out, as I flung the bedroom door open.
She answered, to my relief. She was still alive!
I walked into the bathroom and was shocked to see the arrow on the counter, bits of her flesh still stuck to the barbs. My girl had carefully managed to pull it out. She was a brave woman. Throughout the episode, she had shed not a drop of tears, even as blood oozed out of her arm. She had grown up in war-torn Haiti where, she said, such an incident would be seen as minor.
I convinced her to go to the hospital, where she got tetanus shots and painkillers. A few weeks later, fearing she would fall on the spear I had under my bed, I broke up with her.
©2017 Edwin O. Okong’o