You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes...
Song of Solomon 4:9
He called me two weeks later. I'd swiftly moved on; laughed about it with my roommate, and went on with my life. One Friday afternoon I was walking out of church from some kind of meeting, when my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number.
"Hi Wambui. It's Bryan."
*heart skips a beat*
"Bryan, Hi..." *please don't sound too eager Wambui.*
"Are you free tomorrow?'
*mouth open, no sound coming out*
"I was wondering if you were interested in running the Mater Dettol Heart Run tomorrow?" (I worked at Mater Hospital so he was counting on staff attendance being mandatory. In truth, my boss had strongly advised those not on call to go and run, but I wasn't about to tell him that!).
I'm just going to stop there for a minute. You can't even understand the emotions colliding in me at that moment. He called! Girl calm yourself down. Where did he get my number? He looked for my number! What does he want? Hold up, hold up...ati we go running? Mentally laughs out loud.
I don't know if I gave him the "fitness chic" vibe, because that was the last thing I was in 2010. There was no way I was going to 'run' in Nairobi heat, sweating buckets, as unnactractive as a girl could get, with this spritely youth doing that jogging backwards thing encouraging me not to collapse on the tarmac and die. Yeah, that wasn't happening.
"Wow, umm...imagine I can't make it. I have a shift tomorrow." *a flat out lie*(these are my confessions).
"Oh, OK...no biggie. Just heard about it, thought you'd be interested. Enjoy your weekend! Bye!".
I was left standing at the Kenyatta Hospital bus stop staring down at my phone, confused. Was he asking me on a date? Was he just calling to hang out, you know, just buddies? What does he want?! Lord still my heart; I'm too fragile for this roller coaster. You would be amazed the effect a man can have on you when you're attracted to him. I was so sad that weekend. I didn't even know why. But by midweek, I was myself again and even managed to forget about him. Two weeks later my roommate and some friends of ours went to the Nairobi Cake Festival at The Splash (I think?). It was a Saturday, the weather was amazing and I was ecstatic. Friends, blue skies and all the cake I wanted...I was living life and being merry.
After we all got to the point of a certain sugar overdose, we decided to check out and head home. I remember walking to The Carnivore bus stop so very uncomfortable, my belt buckle biting into my skin; I had eaten way too much cake and was suffering from a major case of bloat. We got into our matatu, got to town and I went to visit my parents at their pharmacy.
So I'm seated there, chatting with them. My cousin's there as well and we're all catching up when my phone rings. Again, I didn't recognoze the number.
The uncontrollable physical reaction exploded like a bomb inside me again! Heart beating out of my chest, stomach flipping, shallow breathing...unbelievable.
"Hi Bryan...whassup..." Pitiful attempt at trying to sound chilled out and unmoved.
"Where are you right now?"
"Yeah. I wanna pick you up and take you out on a date."
"A date?" Pretty sure I was painfully high-pitched at this point.
"Yes. I want to take you out for a meal."
*angelic choir breaking out in the heavens HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH!*
"Umm...sure. I'm in the CBD, at my parents' shop." I gave him the directions.
"Fantastic. I'm not far. See you in 20 minutes."
And he hang up.
I sat a good minute, unable to process what had just happened. I'm a tenderhearted girl; I always had been. I've always worn my heart on my sleeve, so it's very easy to break it. After a few dead-end "relationships" in my late teens, I went on my knees one afternoon in my bedroom at my parent's house and asked God not to bring any man my way unless he was the one who was going to marry me. I had ZERO interest in dating casually to you know, 'see what happens'; it wasn't my thing. I remember crumbling under the pressure of my friends and having one date each with two guys, and I knew immediately that they were not for me. There was some concern among my friends, mostly communicated through ridiculous jokes, about my great desire for romantic love, but complete unwillingness to go on these dates. In medical school, I was referred to as a nun, the stubborn spinster, and one guy once asked my roommate, "Why is Hunja that way? Stiff as a rod." Yohhh. That one stung.
I can't really explain it, but I just knew that wasn't how it was going to go if my turn ever came. I did have a good friend once when I was in medschool. A great, funny guy and a Christ follower with a deep passion for God's Word. He had the same approach as I did to marriage so one day he asked me out for coffee, which I found a tad odd, because we never met alone, ever. But it was a regular café with lots of people around in the middle of the day so I didn't make too much of it, and I went to meet him.
He asked me to marry him.
For all the reasons I wanted someone to marry me. Because he saw Christ in me, and wanted a fellow believer as his wife. Because he found me beautiful. He was in love with my mind. that I was a reader. He thought I would make a good mother. I mean, guys, it was beautiful. But I wasn't attracted to him romantically, and I had to be honest with him. It killed me to do it, but it was the right thing; leading him on in any way would have been cruel.
I gained an incredible amount of respect for my friend that day. He was a clear display of an honourable man, and it was refreshing to know they existed.
We lost touch sometime after that. I heard that he found himself a godly wife and they are parents now, which brings me great joy.
I only share the story to illustrate the kind of way I hoped it would go for me. I wanted a man who was sure. Not just dipping a toe in to test the water. I wanted a determined man. A decided man. The price I paid for that was seven years of loneliness that sometimes felt like a suffocating blanket. Seven years of going to friends' weddings, crying each time the vows were said, holding back tears and asking God to hear my cries for companionship. Seven years of rom-com marathons on my couch, eating ice cream and chocolate, wishing, hoping, longing. So cliché, I know. I know it's always kind of been en-vogue to 'not be interested in marriage'; you know, if it comes, it comes but I'm going to be living my life like it's golden either way. I tried to be that person but it was a mask. Girls that really want to be married exist. Never poke fun at your single friend. You don't know how much it hurts to be a third wheel. You don't know how separated from her friends she feels as she watches them get married one by one. She might be grieving a relationship just ended, a broken engagement. She might have been a bride once, found her ever-after, but her marriage one day stopped breathing and died. You don't know people's pain, until they share it. So, be tender. Be kind.
I wanted to experience a love untold; laugh every day with my best friend. I wanted to stop living alone, shopping for one. I wanted to be protected, physically. Can't tell you the number of times my roommate and I ended up in one room because we were hearing noises. I wanted my man to carry up the gas cylinder and connect it (my four flights of stairs to my Hazina Estate apartment still flash before my eyes.). I wanted to serve my Lord side by side with my husband, and reveal the gospel through our marriage. I wanted breakfast brought to me in bed, I wanted to hold hands and walk on the beach, I wanted to give my husband babies. Sigh...this was me. Wambui Hunja. I wanted the real deal. I wasn't interested in test drives.
My cousin insisted on putting some pink lip gloss and mascara on me before I walked out to meet Bryan. I've never been a make up girl so I wasn't seeing the need to fuss. She even made me comb my hair again. As I walked out, she shouted, "You never know, this might be the one who ends up marrying you."
And just like that, there he was. Seated in a blue 1987 190e Mercedes Benz, engine still running, looking at me. He had on a cream summer button-down shirt, grey cotton pants and sandals. What made my knees weak though were the sunglasses he had on, and the sun on his face, making him glow in all of his caramel glory. He opened the car door for me and I got in. His cologne just about made me faint, it was so good. I remember my hand trembling as I held onto the door, half of me wanting to run. I had never been on a real, real date. 26 year old medical doctor, and I was shaking like a leaf, my mind completely blank. He on the other hand was so calm and collected. He asked me a lot of questions, so that kept the conversation going.
I'm going to risk my neck here and share a hilarious part of that day. He said he was taking me to a restaurant in Gigiri. But at some point, he mumbled something about the traffic and turned sharply into Parklands. We ended up at K1.
Yes. K1, the night club. At 1 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. I'd never been there, but I was pretty sure this was bizarre. He said they had a restaurant open during the day. I was skeptical but who was I to complain. I WANTED this date to happen! Just before we got engaged I found out that he had bit the bullet that morning and called to asked me out without a second thought. When I said yes, he got so excited, he just got into the car and drove to come get me, with just enough money to buy us lunch (remember, broke uni student). He then nearly had a heart attack when he saw the dashboard flashing 'empty'! He'd been pushing that car with the E sign a few days already and the last thing he wanted was us stranded on Limuru road as he ran to look for petrol with an empty 2L bottle of Coca Cola, LOL. So he made a last minute decision to enter K1 and prayed we wouldn't get food poisoning.
We sat there six hours straight. Six hours. Never in my life had I been so enriched and enraptured by conversation with one person for that long. We literally got lost in each other's eyes the entire afternoon. I only realized it was quite late when he said to me, "You're so incredibly beautiful in this sunset light." Lord, still my heart...this guy was out guns blazing. He prayed with every hundred metres as he drove me home, and the car actually got to my parent's house that night. We didn't stall! Still not sure how he then made it to Kilimani from Kahawa Sukari after that, I think the Good Lord carried the car all the way.
In bed that night, I couldn't sleep. I later found out that neither could he. We were both experiencing something completely new; and neither of us had seen it coming. It was scary, it was breathlessly exciting, confusing...beautiful. Even that first night I had the feeling: this was it. This was my man. He had come.
From then on, things went fast and furious. We had around four more dates over the next three weeks. We went to a exhibit at a gallery in Upper Hill on the newspaper history of Kenya; and that was the day I realized he would teach me so many things I knew nothing about; I loved that. For my birthday, he asked me to meet him very early and he drove me to the Rusty Nail restaurant in Karen (now closed, broke my heart). We ordered four desserts, LOL...because I love cake: Sticky Toffee Pudding (best on the continent was at that restaurant), a strawberry cheesecake, a lemon and lime sorbet with vodka (yup), and one more that seems to have not made an impression. After we ate we walked the garden, sat on a bench, and talked softly. It was no secret now that we were attracted to one another. We just hadn't said anything. He held my hand for the first time that day on the bench. It was electric.
Two nights after that, I was watching the 9 o'clock news with my dad, and I got a text. It was Bryan.
"I think I've fallen in love with you."
I paused in shock, wondering what to say, but then it came pretty easy, "I think I've fallen in love with you too."
28 days after he picked me up that Saturday and took me to K1, he came to get me saying we were going to a restaurant close by in Hurlingham I think. He had asked me to wear a sundress. But he insisted on stopping at that Total Petrol Station there, to have his tyre pressure checked, and the spare one repaired, along with replacing the car oil. For the first time, I got a tad bit irritated. It was hot, and I was hungry. "If we're already in Hurlingham, why can't we just eat first?" He dodged my questions. Once back in the car he started an animated story that had me so into it; I was howling with laughter, unaware of the drive. The next time I looked up and focused, we were driving past the airport. Guys, that's how well he had me...completely transfixed.
"Where are we going?!"
He smiled and ignored my questions again. We stopped at a very random joint on the highway. He walked me in and asked me to use the bathroom. "The bathroom?!".
"Just follow instructions Wambui."
Back in the car, all civilization behind is us, nothing but Savannah surrounds us. I see some antelope. It occurs to me this is how girls are never seen again. Who will sympathize with me? Did I not get into his car willingly? Did I ask anyone to help me? Was I being held against my will? Nope.
"Are you a serial killer?". He laughs....I laugh too.
We go off onto a dirt road after about 45 minutes of driving. We're on it another half hour. Guys there wasn't a human being in sight. It was giraffe, antelope and squirrels darting across the road. We then drive off the road, and into the actual Savannah grassland for a bit. I've stopped talking now; I'm 80% intrigued, 20% legitimately worried. He suddenly stops the car. He says, "We can come out now."
We step out and all I can hear is the wind in the grass. You know that movie, Ghost in the Darkness, with the lions dragging people into that tall yellow grass? This was it. I was a goner.
He opens the trunk and my heart almost stops. No it was not a collection of knives and axes, thank God! It was the largest picnic basket I had ever seen. Cheeses, grapes, crackers, brioche, white wine (our special vineyard ever since), chocolate, strawberries...ridiculous. I literally gasped.
"Welcome to Maanzoni.", he said.
It's land somewhere past Machakos I think, where people who don't want the city anywhere near them have built incredible cabins and 'Out of Africa' style mansions, so far apart from one another, you can't actually tell anyone lives there. He had some connections, and that's how we came to be there that afternoon.
He hauled the basket onto his shoulder, told me to stay put and ran off. Guys, he just disappeared into the grass. A minute passed. Then another. Panic set it. I was about to be mauled by lions, I just knew it. "Bryan..?"...."Bryan!!!!"......
He came back sprinting, apologizing profusely. He walked me over to a clearing, with huge thorn trees in a small circle. He had set up our picnic within the circle. I literally had only seen a setting so beautiful in movies. We sat down, and he handed me a glass of wine. My hands were shaking.
"Wambui. I have fallen deeply in love with you. I cannot see how I could possibly live the rest of my days without you. Would you please give me the great honour and make me the happiest man alive, by becoming my girlfriend? But, please know, if you say yes? I have every intention of making you my wife."
You would think the earth would stop and the ground would shake. But all that surrounded us was the soft wind, swaying the yellow grass. This time my heart beat steady. My hands stopped shaking. I was breathing steady. Because I was sure. This was the man God had chosen for me. It had only been 28 days. But I knew. And he knew.
I closed my eyes and prayed a long time. I thanked God for His faithfulness. For holding me close for nearly a decade until he brought Bryan along. For His grace; only His grace had kept me out of another man's bed all of those years. I thanked Him for His mercy; he had carried each of us through some tough years before this moment. I now know that I prayed for too long and left a guy hanging with his wine glass raised. So long in fact that he had time to organize his exit strategy if I said no! He'd already planned how he was going to throw everything in the basket and just drive me home, pretending nothing had happened :).
I opened my eyes and found the most beautiful, earnest, hopeful eyes looking at me.
"Yes. I will be your girlfriend. "
Right there, in the African Savannah, my husband found his wife.
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.