I’m a Kenyan student living in Beijing. I was one of the many Kenyan students awarded Chinese Government Scholarship to study in China. It was at the university where I met Taio, the Chinese guy I would fall for and have an illicit relationship with. It was illicit because of our cultural and socio-economic differences. He came from a wealthy family and he was engaged to the daughter of one of his father’s business associates.
No one knew about our relationship. We didn’t talk or socialize with each other on campus. He had his own flat but we couldn’t see each other there. There was always the risk of the landlord or one of the other tenants spilling the beans. If his parents found out about us, they would stop paying his tuition and rent and disinherit him. He would be evicted and end up in the streets. Neither of us wanted that to happen, not even for love.
So, we met in a cheap motel near Beijing. He paid for the room in cash from his allowance. Many times, he apologized for this saying, “You deserve better than this. I wish I can take you to my apartment or to a fancy hotel.”
“I understand why you can’t do either of those things,” I told him. “I don’t mind about where we are as long as we’re together.”
His response would be, “I love you so much,” before he carried me over to the bed. We would sneak in fast food and after we finished making love and showered, we sat on the bed and ate. We were careful not to leave any crumbs or spill anything. He would drive me back to the apartment I share with my uncle and his Chinese wife. They recently got married and don’t have any children as yet. Aunt Mai has been teaching me how to cook Chinese dishes and I have been showing her how to make Kenyan dishes. There were times when I was really tempted to tell her about Taio.
Taio and I saw each other seven days a week. When we weren’t together, we called or texted each other. So, it was very troubling when a week went by and I didn’t hear from him. It was during the summer holidays so I wouldn’t have seen him on the campus. I tried his cell but it was turned off and I tried his home but got no response. I was very worried and after three weeks passed, I began to think that maybe it was over between us. Somehow, his parents had found out about us and had given him an ultimatum and he had chosen to end his relationship with me. If that were the case, why didn’t he tell me so to my face? Was he afraid that he would lose his resolve? Was he afraid that I would make a scene?
Heartbroken, I tried to muddle through the days which turned into weeks. I got a summer job at a boutique and tried to act like everything was fine and dandy but it wasn’t. I missed Taio and I longed to know why he hadn’t been in touch with me.
Then, one day, I got a call from him. He asked me to meet him in front of the White Tower in Beihai Park. I was shocked that he wanted us to meet in public. Thrilled to hear from him, I agreed to meet him. Promptly at five, I left the boutique and took a bus to Beihai Park. My heart leaped in my chest when I saw him standing there. I wanted to throw myself at him but I kept my cool. I didn’t know why he hadn’t been in touch for so long and now why he had asked me to meet him here.
When he saw me, he hurried over to me and hugged me tightly. “Oh, Dalia,” he moaned. And then he was kissing me all over my face. I know people were staring at us but he didn’t seem to care. I put my arms around his waist, my heart bursting because at least I knew that he still loved me.
Several minutes later, he drew back and suggested that we go by the lake and talk there. Holding hands, we left the White Tower and headed for the lake. When we arrived there and were facing each other, I asked the question which had been tormenting me all this time, “Taio, why haven’t I heard or seen you for almost a month?”
“My parents found out about us.”
“Someone saw us going into the motel and told my father. When he confronted me, I couldn’t deny it. I told him about us and he went ballistic. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. The more my mother told him to calm down, the angrier he got. My mother was upset with me. She said if my father got sick over this whole sordid mess, it would be all my fault. She demanded to know how I could shame the family by getting involved with an African girl. They both told me to end it or I could university and my allowance goodbye. I refused. I told them that I loved you and I wasn’t going to give you up.”
“And what did they say?”
“My father demanded that I come to my senses and end my affair immediately. My mother reminded me of my engagement to Wen. I told them then that I broken it off that same morning.”
Stunned and furious, my father called Wen’s father to find out is this was in fact true and when her father confirmed that it was, my father ordered me to leave the premises and to never show my face there again. I heard my mother crying which broke my heart but I had to think about my own happiness. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I got evicted from the apartment, so I packed up and left. I got in touch with Uncle Hao, my father’s younger brother whom he doesn’t get along with and he was more than happy to put me up. He has given me a job in his shop for the summer. I will use the money I earn to pay for my tuition. He will cover the difference.”
“Did you tell him why your family disowned you?”
“Yes and said that it was up to me to do whatever makes me happy.”
“I’m so sorry that you’re cut off from your family because of me.”
He put his arms around me. “Don’t be. It really doesn’t matter what they think. You and I belong together. My life and happiness are wrapped up in you.”
Tears sprang to my eyes and I hugged him tightly. “My life and happiness are wrapped up in you too.”
We stayed in the park for a while and then I took him home to meet my uncle and aunt who invited him to stay for dinner. A week later, he asked me to marry him. The wedding is set for next year September after we graduate from university.