He looked like all those other big men my cousin hung with. Shiny men with earthglobe bellies and three phones. One for his Africell line, one for his Orange line and one for his girlfriends, dubbed to his wife as his business phone. His eyes slid over my features, I repressed the urge to wipe away the snail trail from my face. A plastic smile appeared, “so nice to meet you.” But really wanted to know why my cousin had called me to meet his friend, at least 20 years older than me. “Nice to meet you, darling.” He licked his lips as he spoke, wet lips, his tongue like a quince in cinnamon. His stiffly pressed shirt spanned around his waist. He suffered from reverse Kwashiorkor. Instead of a lack of nutrients causing the belly to inflate, an over-indulgence in rice with cassava leaves, fried chicken and plantains prepared dutifully by his wive. His girlfriends apparently did not make him sweat enough. He belched, said nothing and continued his stare. I smelled an unknown fog on his breath.
I glanced at him. He didn’t even notice that I was staring at his stomach as he was too enamoured with my breasts. He moved his head somewhat to the right to see whether he could get a glance of my back. My cousin smiled sheepishly, watching the two of us dancing the ritual of observation and judgement.
“My sweet cousin here is looking for a job. Did you not get the tender for the construction of that new road? Don’t you need an assistant? She’s very good with figures.” My smile split open until my face bled. “I actually am a data analyst, and I do freelance work, not really looking for something steady,” my voice a velvety sweet. The man cocked his head, nodded slowly, “I think I need an assistant.” He belched again. Cousin looked as though he saw unicorn. “See coz, this is what you have family for. I mean, it’s a really big project and I’m sure that you will get a lot of exposure and will learn a lot.” “Yes darling, I am a very good teacher. And I am sure you-,” the man distorted his face, “- you” he moved the back of his hand to his mouth and made an earthy, growling sound. My cousin and I looked at him, unsure of what was happening. He held his hand there for a few seconds, his eyes darted around in space, slowly, his shoulders hunched forward. I stepped backwards, and as I did so he started to gag. His stomach vibrated as he pushed his hands in front of his mouth, clearly trying his best to avoid what was inside of him to come out. My cousin moved forward, then stepped back and with a little voice asked whether he was alright. The man avoided our eyes, his cheeks bulged, by now he was holding his lips together with his fingers. Then, in a decisive, powerful convulsion, paired with the sound of a dog giving birth, the man vomited on the marble floor. He squatted as he spat, his hands on his knees, his head bent forward allowing us to see the bold spot on the top of his head. He continued for a good minute, as me and my cousin were only able to stare in disgust at what was happening. The convulsions stopped. He heaved, opened his teary eyes, and sharply inhaled. None of us spoke. In the background I heard chicken, the static of a radio, a woman shouting, “hot pap, hot pap!” in the far distance.
We all stared at the mountain of snails that came out of the man. Large, grey snails, laying in a puddle of slime, crawling about slowly, as though they were about to give up. There were so many I reasoned that his belly must have deflated by now, but apart from a slime stain on his shirt, nothing had changed in his appearance.
A giggle escaped me. My cousin somehow managed to smile. The man glanced at the snail party in disbelief. He shook his head and said, “This is not what my wife made me for lunch.”