Month: August 2019

Where The Sweetness Lies

Where The Sweetness Lies

You can probably count the total number of times that I have eaten pineapples in all these [very few] years I have lived. It’s not that I dislike them, because you cannot dislike something that you know where the sweetness lies. See, I like pineapples, but every time I eat a slice, my tongue becomes the Rift Valley. Jack, too, realized a sweetness of his own.

He was always a good boy. The one who sat in a corner and read Goosebumps novels while the rest of his classmates were busy jumping on lockers. He sat still and upright in class while the rest slouched. Always on his best behavior. Always the one to be used as an example. “I never saw the reason for mayhem. Causing trouble was just… not in my DNA” he texts.

I met him during high school, at some holiday tuition that I coincidentally met my best friend at. He was still quiet. Still a mammoth hiding in the snow. He never flossed, never bragged, never boasted about something that wasn’t his. He just…sat in a corner and read. But it was also quiet before it went cuckoo in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“In that time, I lived by one rule. ‘Live to the standards of my parents’. Only… I don’t really think I was living”. He was caged. Tied to wanting to please his sires that he stopped living his life. /Mom wants you to be at home by 4:30/ Mom expects you to read, Jack/ Dad needs you to pay attention. So pay fucking attention/ Mom would frown upon rolling in the grass/ Come on Jack, Dad wouldn’t think the teacher saying ‘algolithim’ is funny/. And so he simmered. Beneath the surface, like a covered sufuria with boiling milk, until, he could take it no longer and erupted, flowing out of the lid his parents placed on him. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I lost touch with him by our final year. In this time, he kept heating up. “Fulfilling their wishes was my life’s goal. I was going to become an engineer like my father wanted. Marry a girl my mom probably chose by 28, have kids, take care of my parents till they were too old to expect anything from me and then… start living.” I laugh. He continues, “I mean, they say life begins at 40, right? I knew that I could stand up to them by then. That I would be grown. A man. Then I met Lorraine.” [Don’t you just get goosebumps when a story takes a sudden turn like this?]

He first saw her during orientation when he joined university. She walked in the hall, late, with her posse of four girls. Obviously the leader of the pack. “I didn’t think much of her on that day. I just thought she was one of those slay queens who unleash the power of their new found freedom on the campus,” he texts.

Here’s the thing about pineapples. They’re sweet. Real sweet. Natural sweet, not processed like that of sugar. But they are not always this sweet. They start off bitter. A bitterness that cuts the tongue on the first bite. A bitterness that never really leaves, even when the sugar settles on the bottom part of the pineapple. Jack’s pineapple started sweetening soon after classes began.

“I was having supper in the mes hall one evening. And I used to always eat alone, with earphones on and on my phone the whole time. Textbook loner. Then I saw a hand in front of my face. Looked up to see her trying to say something”

He took the left side off and raised his eyebrow.

“Can I have some of your salt?”

“huh?” He didn’t hear her. She was beautiful. Girls like that never even looked in his direction.

She reached out and pinched the salt he had on his tray. He was outraged! The audacity of this goddess of a supernatural being. What nerve she had to just dip her perfectly manicured fingers in his salt? Fingers that he would later that night dream were digging into his back.

The next time they met he was in a vest that he had owned since form one. It would not have been safe to say it was white, or that it still held on to his frame. She was in a yellow dress.

“It was the afternoon of the Fresha’s night. She asked if I was going. I said I would go if she was going. She said she would meet me there and I immediately went to shower” His heartbeat was irregular. There was an excitement in him that his body had never witnessed. He was breaking the rules. His parent’s rules. He did not think about what his mother would say or what would go through his father’s mind when he heard of this atrocity. He followed his heart. And a different part of him was witnessing an awakening.

They made out at the party, and a few nights after. They held hands to class. It was perfect. “Then one night, like a month after they started ‘being together’ [because he says what they did was not dating] she came to his hostel room drunk to her toes. “It surprised me. She was a good girl, to what I had gathered. But here she was, at 11.47pm, unable to utter a sensible sentence. She said she had something for me. A bottle of Best mzinga. Pulled it out from somewhere in her trench coat… that actually had no pockets!”

“Let me guess. You remembered the rules?” I ask.

“I wish,” he replies. “I wish I told her no that first night. Said I was tired. Even broken it off with her. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.” She said if he didn’t drink the alcohol she had bought for him then she would be “very offended”. So he did. [What is it with girls and not wanting to be drunk alone though?]. And so it began.

The two of them would get totally and completely batshit drunk that they forgot the days passed. He forgot about classes, chasing her around campus. “See, she was not my ‘girlfriend’. But she was all I had. I would find her making out with other guys behind classes, in her room, at the library. I would just hear things. Lots of things. People would come to me and say ‘Yoh Jack, your girl is behind the library with Bob’ and I would go, because she actually was my girl. But I wasn’t her guy and she made sure everyone knew that”

“Why didn’t you break it off? Whatever you guys had.”

“She was a good time. She is one of those girls who will make you believe you can hold the world in your palm when you are with her. She’s amazing. I was wrapped around her little finger. Also, remember I had never had any interaction with girls like that. She was most of my firsts, so I held on to her, or she to me.”

When his grades started slipping, his parents found out. They knew someone in the administration who would send them his grades immediately they were out. They came to campus, breathing fire from their nostrils. Why was he getting Ds? What was he lacking? Was the money they were sending him not fitting his needs? They could always increase the amount. Why was he failing? He said nothing. Let them ask their questions then get back home. But before they left, he asked a question. The first he ever posed to his parents. How did they know he was failing?

“My father looked at me like I had asked for a gun. Then he said the same thing I expected him to say, ‘Because we are the parents, and you the child’. But I was no longer a child. Lorraine said I was not a child. And then I plummeted down her path wholly.”

They became the dynamic duo. Clubbing every day of the week. Wearing the stench of alcohol as cologne. Barely eating. He lost so much weight that by the time he was woken up in class by a lecturer, he was just a frail shadow of himself. They had lost track of time.

“Young man, do you know what class this is?” he was asked. He didn’t know.

“What is your name?” He didn’t know.

He was sent to the Dean’s office, then was suspended indefinitely. He was before the disciplinary committee in 2 months, and a decision on his fate was made. He would get a thousand days, not counting holidays and weekends. After this time, if he chose to come back, he would have to resume his classes, repeat the ones to be repeated and do supplementary exams on the rest.

“Where was Lorraine?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Haven’t seen her till today. She changed her number. And I can’t say I have friends in school who I could ask to check on her, because I never had the chance to make friends in school. I wish I never looked up when she took my salt. I wish I never saw that yellow dress.”

“When do the thousand days end?”

“9th September, 2023”

Right now, most of the people I went to school with have kids and families and jobs and some even already own businesses. I think about where these people will be in 2023.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it till then. I don’t think I can wait.”

“What do you want?”

“Honestly? I just want my life back. I want my Goosebumps novels and my corner. I want the hoodies back. To crawl into the shadows and forget that the world exists. I’m done with jumping on lockers.”

A pineapple’s sweetness lies at the bottom. Jack is at his very bottom. There is no sweetness there.

***

[Still accepting AA stories. Send me an email or dm me on IG [Yes, ill check my DMs from now] Also… I will give priority to someone who enjoys his or her drink. Let’s get out of this sunken place for a while, right]

Hell Hole

Hell Hole

For some reason, there is this notion that girls do not get along with their moms. I don’t understand it. Not that I haven’t tried, because I have. I simply cannot wrap my head around it. It also doesn’t help that I get along with mine on most days.

But then, as if the universe was sending me a direct message, this one girl sent me a text as I was bingeing on a Netflix series that I felt was trying too hard to be original. See, a story needs not be complicated, or about something you have never seen before, to capture the attention of the audience. It simply needs, and trust me on this, to be a GOOD STORY. ‘Trinkets’ was not common, but I also felt it was not as good as Netflix wanted it to be. Or maybe it is my palate that has become choosy.

It revolves around three girls [like every typical movie with girls…ever] but these girls happen to be kleptomaniacs. Well…in the end we find out one of them was going to Kleptomaniacs Anonymous meetings just for show…but that’s not important right now. Where I am going, with this tale of three girls who steal as therapy for their Hollywood lives, is somewhere in episode six or seven, where one of the girls is complaining about her mother (who posts everything on social media) to the other two, then stops suddenly and looks at the second girl and apologizes. This second girl lost her mother in an accident a few years back and is still dealing with that in her own way [the klepto-way]. But it didn’t hit me what had happened in the scene till the second one says “Don’t mind me. Daughters hate their moms. I know that.” Then my phone lit up.

“Can you write my story without using names?” it reads.

“Sure I can” I text back. “But why don’t you want to pick a name? You get to pick anything YOU want, you know?”

“I don’t want to hide behind an identity that isn’t mine. I embrace reality. My reality”

Now for just a second, I had a personal meeting. An existential crisis for MIRAWU. Have I been creating fake lives for the people whose stories I have told? Was letting them hide behind colors and flowers and cities wrong of me? Did I deny them their “reality”? Did I take away their ability to embrace it? To embrace themselves? But then I thought…what the heck. No one has complained, right? And until I post something here that makes someone say “That MIRAWU blog these days has grown a head”… I’m good.

Her mom enlisted in the army at 20 years old. She always wanted to serve. She was lieutenant on her way to captain when she got pregnant. “It was someone superior. That’s what she always said. Never a name. Even his rank was never mentioned. She only ever said that he was her superior and he ruined her life,” she texts.

She was forced to take a leave of absence, which meant she missed the required exams to advance to become a Captain. On top of this, another problem lay in wait for her at home. “Sometimes I think my mom got in the army to escape my grandma.” The grandma, as she describes, is something from a fairy tale. The evil step mother in Snow White, Cruella de Vil, the evil step mother in Cinderella, the forgotten fairy in Sleeping Beauty, all rolled in one. She is something resembling what Biko called a “Hurricane” in one of his Men and Marriage posts.

The mom had to drop out of the army since there was no one to take care of her baby. She had no siblings and all existing family members had been estranged due to her mother. She had no one and she knew it. Accepted it. Hated it. She loathed her mother for being who she was and she detested her new daughter for steering her life to where it was. She had anger so loud that a hundred thunderstorms could not drown it out.

“I don’t remember much of my childhood. But I recall one incident,” the daughter texts. “I think it was my birthday (which I had to find out by fishing my birth certificate from a back drawer that she had stuffed it into). I asked for a photo. A childish thing really. A simple wish. To remember the day I celebrated being born. I wanted a photo taken of my mother and me, possibly with me sitting on her lap, if it was not asking too much”

She wanted this photo for school. Her classmates kept bringing photographs of how amazing their birthday parties were, with smiling faces and tables strewn with treats that seemed to rain from heaven. She wanted a photo of her own to show, albeit without the endless treats and beautiful birthday clothes. But also, she says, she wanted the photo of herself. To remember the innocent times. When it was just the two of them. Instead, she was thrown across the room.

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah, she just picked me up and threw me aside, literally. It’s the only thing I remember from my childhood. I remember my arm and knee hurt like hell.”

“So you paid an arm and a leg for asking for the photograph?”
She doesn’t get it. I thought it was really funny. And before all you Judgy Cathys start with me, remember that tragedy plus time equals humor. That’s what I was going for here.

“I discovered alcohol at 16. I was young and it made me numb to the things she would say to me as soon as I got home.”

“What would she say?” I ask.

“Wueh. Where to start. She would say I ruined her life. That I was the reason her path turned left. She would blame me for everything that went wrong. If she was cooking and she put a little more salt that intended, it turned out to be my fault. I destroyed everything in her eyes.”

“Was she violent?”
“Was she never? I always think I remember that birthday photo thing because it was when it actually started. There is nothing in the physical abuse handbook that that woman has not done to me.”

I am left in a somber mood. I don’t know what to say. How to even say it. how do you phrase a sentence to make tthis girl feel better about her situation? What kind of text will fix her?

“Don’t pity me,” she texts again. “I know what my situation sounds like. I have lived it. but it is my life, and I came to terms with it long ago. But I am going to get out of it. I will leave this hell hole and never look back.”

“Have you ever tried talking to someone about this?”

“No. im talking to you” this statement leaves a burden on my shoulders that I am not sure I can carry alone. I feel weighed down. What if I say the wrong thing? Something that pushes her over the cliff. What is the right thing to say? “But I’m not telling you this to make you obligated to tell my story. Do what you will. I’m just glad I got through the first step of talking about it”

“Do you hate your mother?”

She reads the texts and goes offline. I sit there, looking at my phone, trying to finish the last episode of Trinkets without thinking of her.

“Hate is such a strong emotion. I don’t think I hate her. But I don’t like her either. She has made my life miserable. But she also managed to give me the strength to work hard enough to get out. So now I have this scholarship, that is taking me out of the country next month. I haven’t told her yet. Maybe I will. Also, maybe one day, she will come home and find her punching bag Thousands of kilometers away. Let’s see what she’ll do then.

[We’re still looking for people wiling to share their AA stories. Send an email on mirawuor@gmail.com if you’ve got one]

Face-to-Face

Face-to-Face

“Girls have always gravitated towards me,” he says at one point in our conversation. I am tempted to ask whether this force is naturally occurring or man-made. Does it come as moths flock to a light source or bees to a flower? Instead, I let him go on. “See, I’m a girls’ guy. I’ve lived with girls. Growing up, I was surrounded by them.”

He is cocky and chauvinistic. The kind of millennial that truly believes that the place of a woman is the kitchen and a man enters his house only to bark orders. He is a lost millennial. One that has refused to evolve with the times and knows a man will always rule over all else. I don’t like him one bit. But the minute he says his name is Kevin, everything makes sense. It was either that or Brayo, right? The two lost groups of young men who still live as stereotypically as the people who raised them allow.

“I have 3 sisters. That’s how I learned how to deal with girls,” he continues. “I know when to let them talk and when to talk back. It’s an art I have perfected…and aki it has not been easy”

“Oh? How so”

“You know girls are different,” he says.

“And boys are the same?”

“Hapana. I don’t mean it like that. I mean they are delicate. How you deal with one is different from how you would deal with the next girl. There is no manual”

I laugh. “Where can I get a manual to understand boys?” I ask him. Then, just because I feel like it, I tell him he is coming off as arrogant, or trying too hard to sound tough and “manly”. He gets offended and leaves me on blue ticks. Two days later, I text him, “Hey, you got pissed with me before you gave me your AA story”

“wasn’t pissed. Just busy. text you jioni

At 7.02pm, he tells me he had finished exams early that semester. It was in April, and the school had communicated that they would close on the 26th, which was the date his parents knew he would also be arriving home. However, the timetable had his last paper on the fifteenth, giving him about 10 days to use as he pleased. “Almost everyone in campus has had an opportunity like this. You finish your exams early and because you don’t want to leave Nairobi for a whole 4 months of long holz in Eldoret without having some fun to compensate at least, you tell a little white lie. You say you still have exams and they pray for you to do well, while you are piling bottles of Bluemoon and Kibao under your bedsitter’s kitchen sink.”

Nothing much happened in the first few days since most of his friends still had exams and he was “respecting their time”. So he waited. Patiently, with the knowledge of how good the weekend would be when all that pent up energy would be released.

On that last Friday, eerily similar to the biblical version, Kevin and his two best friends decided to have a final hurrah before getting ready for home. He tried really hard to not give me the names of these two boys, so I named them Red and Blue. Red came with his girlfriend of then eleven months [they have since broken up] and Blue has never had a girl around him for more than two weeks. Kevin referred to Blue as a “Lone Wolf”. Sometimes, they call him Wolfie “just for fun”.

Kevin’s girl was undetermined by the beginning of the night, but everyone knew the clock would not strike midnight before he had a pretty young thing clung to his arm.

The night began in his bedsitter, with a bottle of Bluemoon. “You always start cheap so you have enough mulla to splurge on the shawties when the night is on full beast mode.” The first order of business, however, was to pick the designated driver of the night. Kevin was out for obvious reasons. He provided the car [borrowed for the night from an uncle of his], which meant he had exclusive getting wasted rights. The tussle remained between Red and Blue where Red argued he had his girl to pick up… and she would get mad at him if she was drinking alone. Red was a gentleman, Kevin says, he couldn’t allow his girl to soar through a drunken stupor alone. [Ah, young love… am I right?]

Blue was the obvious choice, but he was not happy about it. He sulked the whole ride to pick Red’s girlfriend and the whole way to the club. An hour into the night, Kevin realized Blue was not having any fun. He was just seated with his hands crossed, looking so pissed off that he was bumming everyone out. So Kevin went up to him with an idea. For every two shots the other guys would have, Blue would have one. And it worked! Blue was blue no more [see what I did there?]

After a while, they wanted a change of scenery. Different club, different DJ, more “shawties”. They decided to club hop, and went into about 10 clubs in between Juja and Nairobi CBD.  “By this time, I had made out with so many shawties I couldn’t keep count. Si I told you I’m smooth with the ladies. Hata Red and Blue salute me for that night to date. In tao is where shit got real sasa. Nairobi sio ya mtu. I took mulla from my wallet and stuffed it in my socks because I couldn’t even see straight. Red’s girl had blacked out in the car. Then I find this nigga Blue with a Best mzinga, drinking from the bottle.”

“Your designated driver got wasted?”

“Yeah man. Can I call you man? This dude decided he was done being responsible for us and our safety and just said “F it” to all of us”

“How did he get his hands on the mzinga? Weren’t you keeping an eye on him?”

“I wish. But girls can confuse a guy, man. I had my hands full and I just forgot about him. Remember I had promised him a shot for every two we had? Totally slipped my mind. He later said ati he felt left out on all the fun we were having so he decided to take matters into his own hands. But that’s not even the crazy part. Let me tell you about what happened when it was time to leave for Juja.”

When the clock struck 4.00 am, Kevin started freaking out about how they would get home. Blue could not speak a coherent sentence let alone allow his neck to hold his head upright. He found Red blacked out in the back seat next to his girl. He managed to partly lift Blue to the car and pry away the girl that had stuck to his side [because he is smooth and can’t let us forget it].

I asked what you’re thinking. Why didn’t they Uber, right? Kevin says he thought about it. but they were in a borrowed car. What would he tell his uncle…who needed the car back at 8.00 am? He had to soldier on. Be a man. So he forced the girl to remain behind [he doesn’t recall her name], and promised to call her as soon as he was able to [he is still not “able”]. Then he bought a liter of ice cold water, washed his face, poured it over his head, got behind the wheel and started out of the parking lot.

“Everything was going great. I was going at 30 kmph and since there was little to no traffic, it was easy. We got on to the highway and then all hell broke loose.”

Red’s girl woke up to find them leaving and started causing a ruckus about them letting her sleep while they had all the fun. But Kevin managed to tell her that they didn’t do much, that they just got drunk and blacked out…and that he had just woken up and decided to drive them back. She seemed to calm down after that and he continued to focus all his concentration on the road.

But then, the devil does not sleep. From the driver’s seat, he heard what sounded like a tire burst and a moan from Red. “What the fuck!”

“What is this?” asked Red’s girl. She had his phone, open to his gallery.

“What?” a groggy Red. “Did you fucking slap me?”

“This, Red! What the fuck is this”

“I…uh” Pause. “I don’t feel so good”

“HUH?WHAT the hell is THIS?”

Then he heard a belch, and the girl scream, and the sound of chunky soup spilling on the floor and he waited. He says he does not know what he was waiting for but he knew once it was there. He was waiting for the smell, to confirm that it was just water. That liquor had spilled on the back seat. That someone, anyone, had bought a bucket of chunky water. But as the smell of Red’s puke reached him, his heart sank. “WHAT THE FUCK MAN!” he said… more like shouted, and turned to look at the mess. He saw the look of the girl’s face first before he realized he had just fucked up. His foot searched for the brake pedal in the time that it took him to bring his head to face the road and when his toe touched something, he pressed with all his might, praying to the God of his mother that he did not hold the accelerator pedal.

There was a screeching sound, and a long honk from the truck in front of them. He remembers the number plate. It floats to his mind anytime he sees a steering wheel. He sees it in his dreams. He could be dreaming of Amish people but the number plate would still be there, on a carriage, on a horse, on a goddamn swing set. When the truck passed them, Blue opened his eyes just long enough to ask, “Was that a sewage truck? Damn, imagine if we crashed and our bodies would smell of both Nairobi’s poop and Red’s puke”

“We were face-to-face with death,” Kevin says on his final text.

Maybe he saw death, complete with the black-hooded robe and scythe. Maybe he saw nothing. He can’t say. What he can say, however, is that he went home that morning.

Halfway Roofless

Halfway Roofless

Some of you do not know that Railways was actually a train station first before it was stage ya Ronga. You have only seen it filled with buses to Ngong and Kitengela and Easy Coach. That inasmuch as it is the most common stage in this Nairobi CBD, it brought as many people to town even in the olden days. and you may think you knew this, but think about it. did you really? I know this because I was among you until I was enlightened. Brought to the light by the person who told me this story. Now, you must have figured out already that this is not a story a millennial. And you may sit down in a corner and ask yourself, “Didn’t this MIRAWU person say she would give us stories by millennials? Didn’t she say that she would not lie to us?” I know how you feel. But allow me to digress a little with this one story, told to me by someone who lived the life of the famous 70s and dressed the fashion of the 80s, but saw the same problems we face today.

I am made to understand that the houses that were provided for Railways employees were extremely big. In that time, you could walk in Nairobi without rubbing shoulders and holding on to your purse anytime someone bumps into you. There was space, and space here means you could do cartwheels in the CBD without bumping into anyone. In fact, I think they would just do somersaults around town on Sunday afternoons for the sake of it. Just because they could. Must’ve been nice. The people who designed these Railway houses had spent enough time in the streets that they thought the curtains should match the drapes. This, I was told, had both its positives and negatives. We will focus on the positives first. After all, who receives the bad news before the good?

He had five children. I’m not sure how many were girls and how many boys. They were children. They played together, lived and laughed in their father’s house. They were “Railways kids” [pronounced ‘RELWE’]. They were happy, as children from large households ought to be. No kid with more than two siblings ever says they had a dull childhood because children are cunning and stubborn and ruthless when it comes to having fun with each other. Plus, they had a big enough house to play in. They were happy children.

He, however, was not as joyous as his household. It was not that he was discontent with all he had achieved. I mean, he had laughter in his house. Any man whose walls vibrate with the laughter of his children is a happy man, to say the least. He could provide for his family –meaning he was happy with himself as well. His life was good. Almost perfect. People in ushago used him as a benchmark. A man would hit a calf on the back and think to himself “One day, I will be like So-and-so, with a big family and a big house in Narobi,”  his dreams flooded by a time of no cow dung at the hem of his trousers.

This man’s children would set trends when they went to their visit their ushago relatives during the Christmas holidays. He would meet people in the streets filled with praises for his well-behaved children.

“Aah, Mr. So-and-so, this is you?”

“Ha-ha” he would smile coyly “This is me”

“You have come to visit us. Ei! that is good. The kids also need to know their home”

Still smiling.

 “How long are you staying? My Akech should meet with your youngest. You know they are age mates eh?”

The smile is wiped off his face. “That child is not mine”

“Aah, So-and-so, you play too much”

But he didn’t play. He was never one to mince his words and he did this, a lot. He said it to friends, colleagues, even relatives during holidays and family gatherings. He would be seated on a bench near the jiko that slowly roasted nyama choma when the wife would send one of the children to ask their father where he placed his socks because she wanted to do laundry. The child would come and whisper in his ear, since you do not speak of dirty socks near roasting meat, lest the hypothetical stench shifts gears. He would listen intently, as his face did things without his knowledge. A frown here, a scowl there. Tiny things that made no difference to someone who did not pay attention to a man whose belly was filled with kong’o. But for those who judged not and held no importance to a wig and gavel, conversations after one of his five children passed by him went a different way.

“That’s my oldest. Aah, I love this child. He is very smart too. You know he was number one again? He has remained in the position since class two. The brains on that child are like mine. Copyright!”

 The second child passes: “That child is not mine. I don’t know where their mother got that child from but he is not mine.”

To this, someone would say, “Ah Buana, how do you know?” And he would reply, “A man knows his children”. But does he? Can a man say, without a sliver of doubt, that a child is truly his and no one else’s? How does he know? Is it the glistening of the child’s shaved head that he looks at and goes “that head glistens like my grandfather’s, hence that child is mine”? Or is it the child’s cough. Or his hands, in the way they grasp a cup at breakfast. It’s not black and white for a man. A woman can know. She has the possibility of having enough reason to believe a child is of a specific man… As a child is the mother’s before he is given to the father

[don’t fight me on this, I spoke to the elders first before I came to you with
it]

When the wife started asking for another child, he was at a lack of words. He could not openly say no, because they had space for it

[notice we have began the negatives]

and his job was paying well enough that he could afford it. He just did not want to have another kid whose paternity he would have to worry about. But he could not tell his wife this, so he hid in alcohol.

He began drinking at about the same time Railways employees were suddenly retrenched. Some would say he did this because he lost his job. He could no longer provide and hence he felt like less of a man. That he drank to mask this pain. But people close to him know. The person telling me this story knows. He drank because of his paternity wrangles.

“What does the wife say?” I asked.

She said the kids are his. That no other man has gone where her husband has ventured. But in-laws always doubt these things. They have a way to assume everything you claim is a lie.

It did not help when he relocated his family to ushago at around this time. There was already so much going on that this one move seemed to tip the pile over. a normal person would have put up a house just enough for his family. The kids could have even shared a room in this said household. But you don’t come here for stories about normal people and because he was mtu wa Relwe, he built a mud bungalow. Talk of spare rooms that were never moved into (because they had to sell half their belongings to move upcountry) and a house so massive that people came over just to marvel at its size.

When it rains, they say, it pours. His drinking got so bad over the months and with his diminishing funds, he started seeking alternative sources to pay for his mug of froth. One evening, while sitting under a tree outside his house, he was looking at the roofing, and at the spare rooms that nobody used and he realized he was housing nothing when that effort could be taken elsewhere. So he got a hammer and a ladder, climbed up the latter and pounded with the former, then took his “spare” roofing material to pay for his drink. His wife tried to protest but at this point in their marriage, she had become white noise to his ears.

“He has been doing that for a while now. The house remains halfway roofless. Last I heard, he wanted the kids to share rooms so there could be more dues for his beer.”