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Darling, Please Turn Off The Light…He jumped off the bed

I thought it was a small issue but then, I’m also reminded that it’s the small hole that sinks the ship. Anytime he brought the issue up, I brushed it aside as something not important until one day we had an argument and he became bitter. When I asked what the issue was he said, “Nothing.” I wasn’t a child. I knew this “nothing” was indeed something.  I’ve done that before. I’ve said, “Nothing” when indeed I was dying on the inside.

This is what happened…

We dated for one and a half years before we got married. It was a no-sex-before-marriage kind of arrangement. We did it. We went through the whole length of our dating relationship without sex. Not even a kiss. So that night after our wedding, he was eager and I was afraid, shy and confused. “What if he didn’t find me appealing after making him wait for all these while?” That was the question plaguing my mind.

So when he started getting closer to me, I pointed to the light. He said, “What?” I said, “Can you please turn off the light?” He jumped off the bed and turned it off. I thought we had a good time. I had a good time. I guessed he had a good time too. His demeanor afterward wasn’t about a man who was discontented.

Every night when he made an attempt to jump over me, I signaled him to turn off the light. At some point, he asked, “What is it about you and the light?” I told him, “Nothing, I guess I’m comfortable when it’s off.” He didn’t complain. I was the one rather complaining: “Whenever you want us to do that, kindly turn off the light.” He asked again. This time with a strain of frustration in his voice, “What is it about the light that you always want it off?” I told him, “After doing it, you quickly fall asleep and I also get too tired to get up. It’s better it’s off so no one gets to get up to turn it off.”

What is it about me and the light?

Let me tell you. Two things…

When I was young, I suffered some serious burns on my right thigh. The scar went too deep. I thought it would fade as I grew up but it didn’t. It’s very visible and it makes me very uncomfortable. Again, the measles breakout I had some years ago left some deep dark spots at very intimate places on my skin. These two things made me very conscious of my own body.

When I explained it to my friend, she said, “He’s your husband. Can you hide that from him forever?” Yeah, I can’t hide from him forever but it shouldn’t be all at once. Slowly, he’ll find out but not immediately and not during sex.

One night things got heated. He said, “The light stays on.” I said, “The light goes off.”

“The light stays on!”

“The light goes off!”

“The light stays on!”

“The light goes off!”

For the first time, I got out of the bed and put the light off. He picked his pillow, removed the bedsheet and went to sleep in the hall. The light was off but I was sleeping alone. I picked my pillow and chased him up at the hall. We both slept at the hall that night. At dawn when I woke up, I was sleeping there alone. He had gone back to sleep in the bedroom.

He tried to avoid me all day but I wasn’t going to allow him. It was my turn to ask him the same question he’d been asking me every day; “What is it about you and the light?” He retorted, “Are you the one who pays the light bill in this house to determine when it goes off and when it comes on?” He was clearly angry and I wasn’t going to follow him on that tangent. I asked him, “But whether lights on or off, is it not the same thing?”

“If it’s the same thing, then why do you want it off?” He asked. That question threw me off balance but it was an opportunity for both of us to have a discussion and agree on one thing.

I told him about the scar on my skin and how it made it uncomfortable for me to show myself out in that vulnerable moment. “Sex is new to both of us. We didn’t get exposed right from the beginning so it takes a while to get used to us. I need to trust that you’re ok with me and my body, that way, I would be comfortable and when I’m comfortable, there’s nothing to hide.”

He grinned. “I’ve seen those scars and they are not different from the many on my legs. I’ve watched you while you sleep and there’s nothing to dislike. Scars are just scars. Everybody has it.”

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I was quite relieved but it wasn’t enough to make me go all out with the lights on. He told me a lot of beautiful things but in my mind, they were just things said to make me feel good. But he needed the light on because according to him, men love what they can see. “I want to see your face while I do it. It’s communication. Are you enjoying it? Did I hit where it hurts? Is it too rough? You don’t have to tell me all these because they will show on your face. How do I see it when the lights are off?”

So that night, the light was on when things were going down. I couldn’t open my eyes. I didn’t want to see him watching me. I was very uncomfortable but I tried because he wanted it that way. I didn’t even enjoy it. My mind was wandering throughout.

But both of us had to compromise. Somedays the light stayed. Some days it went off. Today, whether off or on, I don’t even see it. The most important thing is what’s going on. Sometimes our eyes meet but I quickly look away. Though I try as much not to give any clues with my facial expressions, sometimes I can’t help it. When it hit, the expression expresses itself on my face. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

—Achieng, Kenya


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