Andy wavers between the Citi Hoppa and KBS bus; which one should he board? It is 10pm on a cold Thursday night and Kencom is relatively empty. Behind him, a homeless man is laying out cardboard, settling in for the night. Andy considers giving him his jacket but changes his mind, thinking, everybody’s got problems. I don’t have a job and he’s homeless. The universe, man. Right next to the homeless man, there’s a preacher shuffling the pages of his Bible. Every so often, someone passes by and he holds out his Bible expecting an offering. Andy, like most people, avoids looking at him. The homeless man, however, occasionally looks the preacher in the eye and the preacher mostly looks away or scoffs.
In the KBS bus, the conductor sits on the seat adjacent to the door, dangling a laminated sheet of paper outside the window—a list of the bus’ various stops. The Citi Hoppa conductor is standing by the entrance of his bus, looking bored and tired. He also holds a laminated sheet of paper. His eyes meet Andy’s, and he signals towards the bus. Andy doesn’t know why, but he looks away and in that moment, decides to board KBS instead.
From inside the KBS, July watches Andy. He is wearing grey sweatpants and a blue hoodie. He is playing with the hoodie’s cap, pulling it over his head and removing it; it doesn’t properly fit because of his huge afro. He stops playing with his hoodie to scratch his beard. The afro, coupled with the overgrown beard hugging a small narrow face, on top of an even skinnier frame, just serves to make him look overwhelmed and dejected. This somehow excites July. He seems like he is desperate enough for company, any sort of company; she won’t have to try too hard to get him to go home with her. She’s long discovered that this kind of guy is the sweet spot. You don’t want to have to do too much to get a man to go home with you because then the word whore gets spit around. But you also don’t want it to be too easy because then it isn’t fun and it can be nerve wracking because surely, only men with hidden agendas jump at the chance to get a woman alone. She wants a man she can fix—just for the night. She smiles and sits back when it’s clear that Andy will board the bus she is in.
For the past year, July’s sexual encounters have been with random men she’s met in clubs. At the beginning of her last serious relationship, she had been okay with the sex being just fine. She thought she just had to communicate her needs and wait it out and things would get better with time as they learnt each other’s bodies. But four years in, not much had changed. It was just alright and after a while, July found she preferred to make out and cuddle than to have sex with him. And then one night, she pushed him off, told him to leave and never spoke to him again.
The very next day, she went to the club, let a guy buy her some drinks and later on, got fucked to hell. Sexually, she’s been having the best year of her life.
Andy will be the first man she’s picked up in a different setting. A spur of the moment decision. He looks like he will agree and…not kill her?
Andy enters the bus and dallies in the space between the columns of seats for a while, undecided on where to sit. July, impatient, smiles and waves him over. July’s smiling face is so open, it ignites a little fire in his abdomen. A mix of the possibility that he could get lucky and the anxiety of possible further rejection. He realises that he has to be strategic. He can’t be too eager. Not only does he need to appear like a prize, he also needs a pretend cushion for his disappointment should this not work out. He walks down three rows of seats and drops next to July. He half-smiles at her and takes out his phone. There are a couple of messages from his friend, the reason he was in town today.
Sorry bro, I’m sure something will come up soon.
You could try freelancing for a while.
He scoffs and opens his Twitter.
“You’re on Twitter?” July beams beside him.
Andy shrugs, continues to scroll down his timeline.
“Twitter is life, yeah?” she says.
“Right now, yes.”
“Si you follow me.”
Andy makes it a point to not look at her.
July takes his phone, searches her handle, hits follow and gives it back to him. The bus is filling up now. July is on her phone scrolling down Andy’s Twitter profile. It says: Writer. Insanely curious. Lover of fine women. His tweets are mostly just retweets of articles he’s written for some online publication, but even those stopped about a month ago. She isn’t sure she should follow him back.
“Is there an article of yours you’d recommend I read?”
Andy sighs.“What do you like?”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Do you want to get some food while you figure it out?”
Andy hesitates for a moment. Take out just seems like frivolous spending.
“My treat,” she says.
“Might as well.”
The bus zooms away as soon as their feet touch the ground.
July puts a fifty shilling note in the homeless man’s cup, and he quickly puts it in his pocket. The preacher glares at her. She mouths a fuck you. She and Andy walk round Hilton, cross the street and enter Galitos. July orders fries (she is always craving fries) and Andy, well, he likes chicken. They are seated as they wait for their order. July playfully elbows him and says,
“So first date questions: what do you do?”
“You know the answer to that.”
July raises her hand in mock defence and then a few seconds later, “me I run an online shop.”
“Lingerie, sex toys, just women stuff.”
Andy turns so that he’s facing July directly. They stare at each other, July smirking. After a while, Andy smiles and drops his gaze.
“Does that make you uncomfortable?”
“Why would it?” he says.
He doesn’t know how to tell July that he thinks their order is ready. Lucky for him, July immediately walks to the counter and comes back with two brown bags. She hands one to him smiling, her eyebrows raised.
A few minutes pass as they eat and Andy still hasn’t said anything. July is beginning to regret spending money on him. She suddenly just wants to get home.
“We should probably hurry and see if we can catch the last mat.”
“Yeah. Thank you by the way,” he says, thankfully folding up his bag of chicken.
July walks ahead of Andy, trying not to cry.
“Or we could get a cab and go to your place,” he says.
July spins around.
“Is that cool? I’ll pay.”
Andy takes out his phone to order a cab.
The cab driver is a chatty man who drives too fast and doesn’t watch the road. When he pulls up outside Galitos to pick them up, he seems bored and tired.
“We ni Andy?” he half-whispers, half-barks.
Andy nods and opens the back door for July to get in first. Upon realising that Andy is with a babe, the driver’s face immediately lights up and he keeps trying to meet Andy’s eyes as if to communicate how proud he is of Andy for picking up this chic.
After they are in the car, he keeps turning around, trying to have a conversation with Andy about relationship manenoz. He runs through the usual talking points: women not being wife material, relationship dramas, women trapping him with children, Andrew Kibe being the voice for the boy child. At first, July watches Andy’s face closely for his reaction. He twists his lips and shakes his head. I don’t know what the fuck he’s on.
July exhales and only then does she realise that she is a little apprehensive. But this small gesture—Andy distancing himself from this cab driver—reassures her. She spends the rest of the ride half-amused, half-annoyed by the driver’s rhetoric. Andy silently looks out the window the entire time. When Andy pays the driver, he hisses at July, “Kwani your guy doesn’t talk?”
July’s house is a mess. There are muddy boots by the door and an L-shaped couch that’s been placed haphazardly. Sprawled on the couch, are women’s underwear, some new, some dirty. Andy notices them and shifts uncomfortably, trying to look away. July notices his discomfort, but she just stands there, staring at him, waiting to see how long it will take him before he says something about it. She is smirking. It then occurs to Andy that the dirty bras, if they belong to July, can tell him the size of July’s breasts. So begins the stolen glances between July’s chest and the bras on the couch. July notices this and stands up straighter. After a while, she giggles and heads for the kitchen. Andy follows her.
“Would you like some water?”
Andy is looking around her kitchen. The sink is full of dirty dishes. July fetches a cup from the sink, rinses it mildly, fills it with water and hands it to Andy. Andy hesitates for a second before bringing the cup to his mouth. The water tastes like dust and smells of burnt chicken. Andy stifles a cough, drinks the cup of water in one gulp. They stand there awkwardly, Andy trying to see the rest of the house from his position, July wondering if he should offer to make them tea. She wishes Andy would explicitly state that he doesn’t want tea because she doesn’t want to wash the dishes. Andy just stands there, craning his neck this way and that way, looking like he’d rather be out of the kitchen, but scared to say it. Eventually, July sighs and offers to make tea. Andy declines and says he’d rather eat his chicken before it’s too cold.
July, relieved, goes to the couch to create space to sit. She moves some of the lingerie before she gives up and takes Andy by the hand and leads him to her bedroom. Andy’s excited grin grows into a full sheepish smile when he sees the multiple packages of sex toys on the bed. July sighs again, like she’s surprised by the contents of her bed and hurriedly embarks on creating space for them to sit. Again, she gives up mid-activity and pushes the packages to the corner of the bed, others falling to the floor.
“You’re small. We’re both small.” She says when she turns around to Andy’s half smiling, half frowning face.
July takes out her laptop from the closet, and they sit down to watch a movie as they eat. Andy is nibbling on his chicken, barely glancing at the screen, trying to find an organic way to ask about July’s business. July uses her left hand to nudge him to eat while unhooking her bra with her right hand. Andy tries and fails to dislodge a piece of chicken from the bone. He is too engrossed in watching her hand movements. How do they do it so fast?
July playfully throws her bra at him, and Andy instinctively tilts back his head so that the bra is balanced on his face. He abstains for a while, and then after a while, unable to help himself, he inhales deeply. July sits silently and in the seconds that follow, Andy turns to his left—perhaps to make room for the embarrassment he feels—the bra still perfectly balanced on his face. Andy, thinking that July is going to throw him out of the house any minute now, decides to take a couple last sniffs. July is watching him, amused, counting the length of each sniff in her head. Four seconds. Five seconds. Six seconds.
After the fifth sniff, Andy sits upright, incoherent apologies falling out of his mouth. July moves around the bed awkwardly, occasionally glancing up at Andy, her eyes narrowed. After a while, Andy gets up to leave and July, satisfied that she’s let him simmer in his embarrassment for long enough, pulls him down and kisses him. For a while, Andy is unresponsive, eyes widened, confused by her reaction. July is persistent and Andy, feeling a little less awkward, shoves his tongue into July’s mouth. For July, it is too much tongue too soon but she goes along with it hoping she can get him to move his tongue less fiercely. In actuality, it feels like July’s tongue is chasing Andy’s tongue around—from her mouth to his. July finds this a little amusing and chuckles. Andy takes this to be a good sign and so he chuckles as well and July must realise why he’s chuckling and figures it’s the perfect moment to reel things in and so she withdraws her tongue. But Andy is moving his tongue a lot more excitedly now and incidentally, July bites his tongue in trying to close her mouth.
Andy might have yelped but it occurs to him that this biting could be something July enjoys sexually and so he chooses an outlet for his pain that he hopes comes out indicative of his pleasure—long, heavy breaths. July might have stopped and apologised but Andy’s reaction, though strange, enables the shift into a tender, less invasive kiss. And so the kiss continues for a full minute before July can no longer tolerate the taste of his blood. She stops to ask him if he’s okay but Andy is so determined to see this experience through, he takes this moment of slowing down as an invitation to remove her shirt, and then her pants. July takes this as confirmation that he’s okay and undresses him as well. Andy is fondling and kissing her breasts while July gives him a handjob. In between Andy’s groans and oh fucks, July feels a weirdly viscous liquid on her breasts and she just knows it’s a mixture of Andy’s saliva and blood. She reflexively moves her hand to wipe it off and only realises too late that it’s the same hand that she was using to pleasure him. She pulls his penis so hard, he freezes… and then he yelps. A yelp so sharp it must consume all his resolve and so he drops all of his weight on July’s body, and they just lie there in silence.
Andy keeps thinking that he has to get off her, but he just can’t seem to do it. July is thinking he must think she did it on purpose. That she’s a jerk. Oh my God, I am the jerk that jacked him off. She tries to suppress a giggle about the wordplay but the more she thinks about it, the funnier she finds it until she can’t stop giggling. She giggles and giggles until Andy finds the jerking of the bodies too uncomfortable and rolls over onto the bed. He thinks July is laughing at his inability to see a sexual experience to completion. He dares not ask. Eventually, they both fall asleep to an awkward silence.
The next morning, a naked Andy wakes up tangled in bras and underwear. He draws up the blanket to his chin and lays there, wondering how long he has to wait for July to wake up. He is pressed but he resolves to wait for July to wake up so he doesn’t seem too presumptuous. July is sound asleep beside him. When he can’t take it anymore, he rolls over July and goes into the bathroom. Instead of going back to the bedroom when he is done, he goes to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. He finds some eggs and a loaf of bread. He begins with washing the dishes on the sink and soon afterwards, he is beating the eggs to prepare French toast. In the bedroom, July eventually wakes up and immediately notices Andy isn’t beside her. She thinks he snuck out before she woke up, but that thought is immediately corrected by the sizzling sound in the kitchen. She throws on a nightdress and heads to the kitchen. In the kitchen, the thing July really sees is Andy’s butt, bent over the gas in her direction, and the outline of his face, entirely focussed on turning a slice of bread.
July takes deep breaths to stop herself from screaming.
“Please put some clothes on.”
Andy spins around, knocking the pan’s handle which tips the pan. He spins around again to stop the pan from falling down and in the process, grazes his hand on the hot pan. He squeals and July rushes over to help him. July gets to him just as he is standing and they bump into each other—his erect penis grazing her abdomen. July takes a step back and an uncomfortable silence descends into the room. Andy fidgets, moving his hands over his body, but not actually covering his penis. He looks to July like a mime touching himself and she breaks into a guffaw. Andy joins him in a subdued laugh.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“I wasn’t sleeping on your clothes, man.”
A clothed Andy goes back to cooking breakfast while July clears her couch. They are eating breakfast in no time, except July is just sipping on strong tea. She has been scarred out of eating French toast. Andy seems relaxed, like he has moved on from the earlier incident and is gobbling down his toast. He notices that July isn’t eating and because he wants to continue eating, he asks the first question that pops into his head.
“So, first date questions, what do you do?”
July just stares at him.
“Right. Sex shop. Why a sex shop?”
“I don’t know. I guess I like sexy women?”
It’s an answer a lot of men like.
“Sexy women… like in a threesome?”
July twirls the cup of tea in her hands.
“Too forward?” Andy asks.
“I didn’t love it.”
Andy thinks that maybe, in a cryptic way, this could be July’s evaluation of the previous night and once again, he dares not ask. He stares at the wall. July talks.
“Tell me about your family.”
“I am an only child. Parents live up-country. Yeah. Basically.”
“Same. Except my parents are dead,” she says.
Andy thinks about standing up to hug her but instead mumbles a “sorry.”
“It’s cool. Don’t have to explain my business to them.”
“Your business… how did you get into that?”
July only shrugs.
It feels like the conversation is getting away from them. Andy is beating himself up for not reacting appropriately to July being an orphan. July is hoping Andy would stand up and leave. To show empathy, Andy blurts,
“For what it’s worth, I got fired about a month ago.”
Andy hears the boredom in July’s voice. But since he doesn’t want to go back to his quiet, foodless apartment, he thinks he can buy himself more time in her house by spicing things up.
“I noticed a lot of your merchandise is lace.”
July lets out a long sigh and tilts her head to face Andy, her eyebrows raised.
“Did you know that lace underwear isn’t good for women?” he says.
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah. Read something about it messing with your PH.”
“I didn’t realise you were a sex writer.”
July collects the utensils at the table and heads to the kitchen.
“I have to go somewhere,” July lies.
She hears Andy’s footsteps behind her. She abruptly stops and says,
“Maybe you should take a shower?”
“I get it, I stink.” Andy says jokingly.
“I just think it’ll save us time if you shower while I’m doing the dishes.”
“Oh, you mean you are going somewhere now now ?”
“Can I borrow a towel?
“Of course. It’s hanging on the closet’s handle.”
July is done with the dishes and is organising her bedroom by the time Andy gets out of the shower. He drops the towel as soon as he enters the bedroom. July avoids looking at him. Although she is curious about how hurt his penis is, she figures the way things are going, it’s not even her concern anymore.
“Your clothes are in the corner. Sorry, I had to make my bed.”
Andy doesn’t seem offended. He is moving around the room picking up his clothes from the floor, opening drawers, presumably looking for oil. July is getting more irritable. She picks up the towel and goes to the bathroom to soak it. She locks the bathroom door, planning to sit on the toilet until Andy is ready to leave, but she notices he didn’t flush the toilet. The yellow puddle of pee in the toilet bowl makes her want to vomit. She realises she can’t even keep the towel he used. She’s had enough. He has to leave her house now. She flushes the toilet, exits the bathroom and heads to the kitchen to throw away the towel. She bumps into him by the bathroom door, still naked, holding his underwear in his arms.
“Jesus Christ! Are you an exhibitionist or something?”
“What is happening dude?”
“My underwear is dirty. Thought I could wash it before I go. You and I can hang out as we wait for it to dry.” Andy says playfully elbowing July.
“No, me I need to leave.” She resents him for making her repeat the lie.
She goes to the kitchen, drops the towel in the dustbin and unable to hold back her frustration anymore, she sits on the kitchen floor, crying a little. Andy soaks his underwear and goes to the kitchen to comfort July. He sits on the floor next to her, puts his arms around her. July opens her eyes when she feels her next to him and directly in her eyesight, is Andy’s penis. His hands around her conjure up images of a snake wrapping itself around her. She shudders and closes her eyes. The lump in her throat feels like it is increasing in size.
“I’m here for you. What’s up?” Andy asks, pulling her closer to him. She wiggles out of his embrace, her sobs getting louder.
“Is this about your parents?”
July continues to wail, her frustration evolving into purposeful dramatics in the hopes that it’ll make him so uncomfortable he leaves.
“I get that. You never quite get over losing something you loved.”
Something?? Is he trying to make this about losing his job?
July blows her nose with her dress. Andy doesn’t stir.
“When I lost my job, I couldn’t eat for days.’
Oh yes. Yes he is.
July wipes her hand on his chest.
“I know it’s not the same thing. I’m trying to say I understand.”
“And leave you like this? No way.”
July inhales deeply, summoning an even greater sob from the pits of her stomach. Andy proceeds to tell her about the day he was fired. One day his editor called him into his office. Andy didn’t think this was strange as they usually had impromptu meetings when the article he’d pitched earlier wasn’t working and they’d have to brainstorm a different one on the spot. He walked in, pen and notebook in hand. This time however, the editor’s laptop was shut on the desk. His editor sat in his chair, a blank expression on his face.
“I’m sorry Andy…”
Andy went home. He fell asleep as soon as he sat on his bed. He only woke up when he heard banging on his door. His friend was at the door, take-out food on hand. Only after he’d seen his friend did it actually hit him that he’d lost his job. He locked himself in the toilet and cried for an hour.
By now, July is quiet, trying to tune out Andy, realising that she has to do something radical to get him to leave her house. And then it comes to her. She fakes a smile and puts her fore-finger across Andy’s lips. She then tilts her head and kisses him. She makes sure to kiss him long enough to ensure he is as erect as he is going to get. Satisfied that she’s gotten him there, she moves down, kissing her way down to his crotch. Andy, consumed by pleasure, does not expect the surge of pain in his penis when she bites down, hard.
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