There was a time last year when I decided I will stop lying to myself. I realized I was not happy. With myself, my situation, even my writing. Now, I get happiness starts with me. I do. I understand that I make myself happy. But put that aside for one minute and become human. Realize with me that external factors affect us. Affected me. Swallow it. Let that thought, before you begin to have reinforced steel around your choice to be happy goes up. Listen.
I realized I was faking everything. That I only faced the truth when I was alone, and could not even admit it to myself. A depressive period. A time when I wrote the following words.
I hate writing. Now. I hate thinking up words. I hate defining things. I hate thinking of a full paragraph and then some in my head, because my fingers do not connect as well anymore. My heart does not feel the flow. I sit and put things down that end up making zero sense to me. I hate it. It annoys me that I rethink everything. Every word out of my brain, every letter at my fingertips.
This feeling has been there for me, in the sense of a blockage that lets nothing out. It is writer’s block. I feel it. I have had it before. I know it from a previous time or two, but in those times, it left as soon as it came on. This? This feels like something out of the ordinary.
You want to know what I did before? I let it be. I allowed it to consume me. I gave it power, because I had realized it was an ordinary part of the process. “I always get over it. Always come out on the other end.” I did. I just don’t trust myself this time. The surety that was there in my heart is gone. Put out like a match in the wind. Out, without warning.
I tried a couple of things. One that worked well for me was trying to place my situation in a practical world.
Let me try to explain it, maybe that will help. It’s a well. A borehole if you will. A tapered shaft bored into the ground that is used for extraction. A pump is used to extract whatever it is. Water, gas, the alphabet. Now, the pump is manmade. It breaks. It needs maintenance, repairs. I know how to repair the pump. There is a system in place. I have a sometimes imperfect plan on how to, but the pump always roars again. ALWAYS. This time, I’m not so sure.
It is not a practical world. The borehole cannot work without the pump. I have both. What I was missing was something to turn the pump on. To help me access the water. The alphabet.
There have been lies over the last few years. Promises made and broken. I have lied to myself, which is insane to me. I pride myself in the art of truth. I don’t see reason to fabricate things, because I do enough of that in my writing. I cook up stories about everything. Cats, trees, even the sun.
This is not my reinvention. What am I reinventing anyway? I am not a new person. I am not different. What I am, is older [this number is really getting up there]. And wiser. I intend on using this wisdom going forward. I have had a lot of lessons this past year. A LOT of them. I had to unlearn some of the things I had held on to dearly. I had to distance myself from everything that pulled me farther from the switch to my pump.
I am not saying I am there. I am saying I now have a system. A method and the support I require to get to where the switch is. I am working every day to get to it. I am working every day to do better. Be better. Hydrate and mind my business. [That’s a weird word; Business. Like a thing to get money with, but also, a thing that keeps you busy. The act of being busy. Busy+Ness] My business, of course, being here. You, me, every Thursday.
Last year’s theme was Young Love. I am not changed so I see no reason for is to change. It also makes no sense to introduce you to a new theme when you have provided about two dozen stories on the theme. It is weird how you guys still sent in stories when I have not been writing. My 2021 MIRAWU planner is filled, and I am in awe. You may have been the method I needed.
I used to write more. In my teens, heck, even in my pre-teens. As I get older, I need to write more. At least more than the last few years. Here’s to hoping.
So, we continue with Young Love 2.1. I wanted to call it 2.0 but that eerily sounds so last year [Ha-ha]
Welcome back, kids! So excited.
There’s an elegant symmetry to traditional wedding vows: for better or for worse. But love is not symmetrical, and most of us don’t realize how lopsided it can be. The worse matters far more than the better in marriage or any other relationship. That’s how the brain works.
Our thoughts and feelings are skewed by what researchers call the negativity effect, which is our tendency to respond more strongly to negative events and emotions than to positive ones. I don’t take well to compliments. I don’t know what to do with my hands, or where to look or what to say. I get tongue tied, waiting, wishing it would all end. I know a hell lot of what to do with criticism.
When I hear a mix of compliments and criticism, I obsess over the criticism instead of enjoying the praise. This imbalance, also known as the negativity bias, evolved in the brain because it kept our ancestors alert to deadly threats. But too often it warps our perspective and behavior. A small conflict can have ruinous consequences when the power of bad overwhelms your judgment. It provokes you to actions that further alienate whoever is listening. I would fare better by using my rational brain to override irrational impulses, but what is the fun in that?
In relationships, the negativity effect magnifies your partner’s faults, real or imagined. It starts with their ingratitude, because you’re also biased by an internal overconfidence that magnifies your own strengths. So you wonder how your partner can be so selfish and so blind to your virtues—to all that you’ve done for them. You contemplate one of life’s most exasperating mysteries: Why don’t they appreciate me?
I have been battling this sense of appreciation, or lack thereof in the last few weeks. I found myself lashing out, mixing things I meant in a lot that I didn’t. So, I decided to seek help from published and professional sources. Someone to help me escape from the world of Negative Nancies.
I got some answers, thanks to a friend psychologist who has been tracking happiness. He tried to explain to me that happiness is unquantifiable, but used a lot of jargon that I could hardly keep up. Later, I tried to figure out his documents [Yes, I had homework] on my own. He has found, based on the couples’ ratings of their own satisfaction, that marriages usually don’t get better. The ratings typically go downhill over time. The successful marriages are defined not by improvement, but by avoiding decline. I know what you think. Marriage = Misery. Not necessarily. The thrill of infatuation fades, so the euphoria that initially bonded a couple cannot sustain them over the decades, but most couples find other sources of contentment and remain satisfied overall (just not as satisfied as at the beginning). Sometimes, though, the decline in satisfaction is so steep that it dooms a marriage. They [He has colleagues] monitored how couples interact and tracked them over time.
Imagine you are dating someone who does something that annoys you. (This may not require a great deal of imagination.) Perhaps your partner is a spendthrift, or flirts with your friends, or zones out in the middle of your stories. How do you respond?
- Let it slide and hope things improve.
- Explain what bothers you and work out a compromise.
- Sulk. Say nothing, but emotionally withdraw from your partner.
- Head for the exit. Threaten to break up, or start looking for another partner.
Those answers form a matrix used in a classic study of how dating couples deal with problems.
My go-to has been option 3 until I get over it. It usually takes me between 2 and 8 days to let something go, and the guy said that this is a destructive option.
Psychologists at the University of Kentucky identified two general strategies, constructive or destructive, each of which could be either passive or active. The constructive strategies sounded sensible and admirable, but they didn’t matter much. Remaining passively loyal had no discernible impact on the course of the relationship; actively trying to work out a solution improved things only a little.
What mattered was the bad stuff, as the psychologists concluded: “It is not so much the good, constructive things that partners do or do not do for one another that determines whether a relationship ‘works’ as it is the destructive things that they do or do not do in reaction to the problems.” When you quietly hang in there for your partner, your loyalty often isn’t even noticed. But when you silently withdraw from your partner or issue angry threats, you can start a disastrous spiral of retaliation.
Sooner or later one person is liable to be negative for so long that the other one starts to respond negatively too. When that happens, it’s hard to save the relationship. Negativity is a tough disease to shake—and it’s highly contagious. Other researchers have found that when partners are separately asked to ponder aspects of their relationship, they spend much more time contemplating the bad than the good. To get through the bad stuff, you need to stop the negative spiral before it begins.
But suppose you’ve managed to survive your courtship without any problems. (This may take more imagination.) You’ve just graduated from dating to blissful matrimony. Your soul soars, your heart sings, and your brain is awash in oxytocin, dopamine, and other neurochemicals associated with love. Good for you. Fall as hard as possible. Make it like one of those dreams where you are falling into a never ending pit of darkness. But remember to deal with the negatives as they come.
Negativity hits young people especially hard, which is one reason that people who marry earlier in life are more likely to divorce than ones who delay marriage. (Another reason is that younger people tend to have less money, which means more stress.)
Most people don’t recognize the negativity effect in their relationships. When most studies ask participants why they think they would be a good partner, they list positive things: being friendly, understanding, good in bed, loyal, smart, funny. These things do make a difference, but what’s crucial is avoiding the negative. Being able to hold your tongue rather than say something nasty
I read this weird African Literature book called Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. I cannot talk about it. It is something you need to read on your own. After you are done here today of course, that goes without saying.
You’ll hear about Zeze today.
Usually, I am able to craft a story in 2 days tops. Sometimes I write the whole thing in one sitting for an hour or two. It took me the time it has taken me for this one.
Her favorite color is brown. It used to be purple but life has shown her she needs only a dull color. Something that hides the dirt. Unrecognizable in the dark.
“Sometimes I don’t know what I am,” she starts. “It feels like I am alive. I pinch myself and there I am, feeling it, being alive. I just don’t know for what? I started getting an idea for this question when I read Freshwater and also gave them names. I called them Esther, Joseph, Leviticus, Psalms and Zeze.”
The key attribute to Esther is she is gorgeous and she knows it. The man slayer, as she is so aptly described. Esther knows where to touch to make someone cough. Make them fold into quarters and do her bidding. She plays people like the Fiddler.
“The hems are shorter on her. She is the most sexual thing I know,” she writes. “I cannot explain it. She is tempestuous. Myself? I am very shy with people I like. Hata with people generally. I am never the girl that stands out in a group. Very ordinary.”
There was a party when they were freshmen. She went because her roommates were going and she did not want to remain in the room alone. “There were rumors spread to freshmen about a certain lady ghost who haunted the hostels. I knew they weren’t true, but I did not want to be the one to find out they weren’t.” She comes from a superstitious family, so she went with her friends to the party.
She wore the clothes she had on during the day; a sweater top, black trousers and white Adidas sneakers. Esther went into the party in a skimpy golden shimmery dress and strappy heels.
“The next day, I woke up to my friends telling me of how Esther had worked the party. How flirty she was, how she strutted into rooms with boys’ hands on the small of her back.” She controlled the room, that Esther. The literal embodiment of life of the party. They said that whenever Esther disappeared into a room or went outside for a smoke, they had to look for her. Had to find the oxygen that kept the party’s lungs going.
“I know it sounds like an exaggeration. It never seems normal describing them. I know where the lines are since I clearly set boundaries between me and them. They somehow have found a way to blur the lines. It’s the similarities that gets me, like take Joe for example.
It was both easy and not to notice Joe’s presence. He was extraordinarily smart in all matters books, but pretty gullible when it came to social cues. Joe was the kind who grapped everything taught in class and needed not to go through it again.
Initially, Zeze would recognize him when she was studying. The way her attention would instantly shift from constant distraction to immediate understanding. She liked Joe because he was not destructive. Mostly he would bail her out of situations.
She remembers one time during a Chemistry lesson in high school. The short-tempered teacher was tackling Organic Chemistry for the second time. Mr. Rotich had the tendency to randomly hold oral quizzes in his classes. He would be teaching one minute, ask a question and if the same two hands were raised with an answer he would go into a fit.
Mr. Rotich: Can anyone else other than Sally and Emma answer me? None of you were in this class when I taught this same thing yesterday? (bangs fist on the desk to grab attention) I AM TALKING TO YOU GIRLS. Can anyone else tell me what Organic Chemistry is? No one? (Ignores the two hands still raised) Okay! That’s it. Everyone up! No one sits until I receive a satisfactory answer.
The whole class, except the two know-it-alls would get on their feet.
Mr Rotich: Alright. Let’s start at the front. Mildred, can you tell us what Organic Chemistry is?
The girl at the front would fumble her words, throwing in compounds and elements at improbable sections of her nonsense paragraph, leaving Mr Rotich with an exasperated look on his face.
Zeze would pray. “Not to God. I never pray to him. I feel he is a made up concept. I prayed to whomever was listening. Plead for help from wherever it would come. He was caning anyone who got it wrong and even though I am not proud of it, I would do anything to avoid pain. Anything.
Mr. Rotich was moving through the class, devouring them like a wildfire in the desert. Zeze sat in the middle of the class and she felt suffocated. She did not want to be caned for something she did not know, or rather had simply slipped her mind. The teacher got to her desk mate. “I pleaded with myself as Dinah received her strokes. I was watching her wince in pain and I knew it wasn’t for me, then, as suddenly as if I had known it even before I had heard of it, I recited the whole answer.”
I don’t know how to explain it. The best I can do is that it feels like my body is taken over by someone else. Like Tony Stark and the Mark L. I am usually the suit and my Tonys are Esther and Joseph and the rest of the guys. I don’t understand it myself. I have zero control over it. None. It is like a possession, only I still have my eyes.
I see everything happen. I use my hands to touch items and they don’t really feel like my hands. It feels like I am using gloves, thick ones that won’t allow me to access the real world. Like I have this shield around me that both protects and harms me according to its will.
I do have control over much of my life, and before I could see someone about it, so much had happened. I have been in and out of psychiatrist offices and hospitals. I am only thankful that I never hurt anyone. The episodes are less frequent as of recently.
I can tell you what I think of each of them. Esther is a bitch, but I love her. She takes nonsense from nobody and is so unapologetically herself that I almost feel envious, then I remember she is me. She has this immense sense of self-confidence that I absolutely adore, and if you see that girl work a room? Phew, goosebumps.
Joe is subtler. Smart and cautious. There is something almost calming when I feel his presence. He doesn’t push himself out unless I let him. He is never pretentious, unlike Lev, and always is himself.
When we read Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater, I saw myself in Ada. Granted, it is a made up story about personality disorder, coupled with religiosity and obscenities that are relevant to the book, but it holds relevance to me as well. It helped us understand what we are, and that was all we ever needed.
Some of the words used to describe this year’s remake of the Chinese legendary warrior movie were “boring, over-hyped, overrated, awkward, unconvincing and cringe-worthy”. Now, the dictionary version of cringe is to bend one’s head and body in fear or apprehension or in a servile manner. To cringe, in the way they mean, is to dislike something so much that your body curls itself away from said thing. That someone took their time to use this word, would mean they physically hated Niki Caro’s remake so badly that their bodies, independent from their brains, decided to get away from it, which is much if to say unbelievable. Yes, it was not as good as the ’98 version, but most live action remakes [in this case the lack of Mushu] rarely measure up.
Mulan is a 16-year-old girl who tries to hide in a world of men while her chi reigns supreme above all the male species she encounters. She lives by three pillars; loyal, brave and true. Maria said she was brave to open her heart, loyal to all who she gave it to and true to herself. I could not help but liken her to the legendary warrior.
When Maria joined high school, she was 13 years old and younger than most of the students in her class. She was in fact, one of the youngest people in the school. Her physique did not help either, since puberty was just hitting her which meant she was still small on most parts. But she was smart, and even though boys rarely liked smart girls, she did not seem to mind [gerrit?].
She knew from a young age that she was not normal. Granted, no one ever feels normal to my knowledge, but she actually knew she wasn’t. She didn’t like the same things as her friends. First off, she calls them childhood acquaintances, since she feels like she never made any real connections with the so-called friends from younger ages.
“Going to high school meant I had a clean slate. I was not going to hide,” she tells me. She however found herself at a disadvantage. A small smart girl. Boys had nothing to say to her as young since she was still as flat chested as they come and did not like the same things as them anyway. She loved books, a little quiet and a whole lot of nature. Girls in her class liked boys, which meant they too liked loud and dirt and balls (watching for the girls and playing for the other gender) and holding hands. She rarely made any friends, which meant her time was spent alone.
“I started using the library at around week 3 when I realized everything was not as I had hoped. I was doomed to a life of solitude and I was just making my peace with that when Jack appeared to me,” she tells me.
Meeting Jack came as a surprise to both of them. Jack was everything she wanted. Read books, loved the quiet and enjoyed looking at trees and rolling in the grass. Jack was perfect. Jack had a gap in the teeth and always kept the shirt tucked. Neat was her second language. They got along quite well and were soon spending lots of time together.
Basically, this story is going as you expect stories to go. But I am not seated here in the cold with no coffee in my hand to write an ordinary story. Jack had a secret. They shared this secret, Jack and Maria. “It was like we both knew this thing weighed between both of us even before we first spoke. Even before I laid eyes on Jack, I knew it, and Jack knew. It connected us, that we kept this one thing to ourselves, and because we never spoke of it, it was almost sacred.” I like secrets. They give me an edge over the rest of the population. I have one rule on them; don’t tell, because they lose this power immediately you share them. You no longer have the one thing that only you knew. A secret shared is not worth two in the bush. It is worth nothing. Today’s little nugget of wisdom? Keep your secrets, kids. Unless you are telling me of course (wink).
Touch was her favorite sense. When Jack would lean over her shoulder in the library, reading a favorite passage. Passages she can recite by heart to date. When Jack’s little finger would graze hers unintentionally as they were both engrossed in a classic Austen. When Jack read to her, it was like touching her very soul. “We didn’t know it was happening, while being aware of everything in each single moment.” They were doomed to be in love with each other’s souls.
The moment that broke the pot happened on a Thursday afternoon. Thursdays were class library days for form ones. What Jack was doing in the library that day can be found in a rat’s arse. They did not share a table. “It was becoming too obvious that we were into each other, so we decided some distance in public would help put some suspicions to death,” she tells me. [It sounds eerily similar to some high society Jane Austen plot if you ask me]
Maria stood to find a book. Jack stood too, probably out of reflex, and followed. “I pulled the book I needed from the shelf and there she was, looking at me. ‘Stay there. Be quiet’ she told me. I didn’t move. She came to the row I was on, turned me by my shoulders and placed her lips on mine. If there was a time to say I genuinely froze, it was then. Until I kissed her back.”
She cannot tell how long the stood there, lip-locked with a forgotten encyclopedia between them in her hands. “I only remember the gasps. I can still hear them today,” she says.
In their temporary escape from reality, a classmate had come in search of the same book that was miserably failing to act as a barrier and had quickly called for other spectators.
“The next thing I remember was being pushed into the bookcase and Jack fleeing from me. I also remember feeling cold. Not from the weather, but from dread. It was the end of something that had barely began.”
If this was a perfect story, we would say Maria got the conversation she needed. The conversation that cleared things up. That had Jack tell her why she did what she did, or at least had her apologize for letting the whole school believe that she pushed herself up on Jack and forced the kiss. It would have had Jack explain why she lied to their parents when they were called to the school to explain the “demonic behavior” as the discipline mistress had it so well put. Maybe, all the nineteen times that Maria tried to get Jack alone to talk about it would have given her an answer instead of jeers and insults and accusations of stalking, writing “secret love letters” (that she still does not understand where they came from) and branding of filthy, filthy names. Names that she asked me not to repeat because she can barely stomach the thought of them, leave alone seeing them associated with her one more time.
“I have always liked girls. I grew up crushing on Melissa Joan Hart on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and the Spice Girls. So I kinda knew I was of the community, I just never expected my first chance at opening the blood pumper would be so chaotic and full of all it had. I wish it was different, but it also made me braver. It forced me to learn that nothing can come at me and defeat me. So, in a way, Jack gave me bravery without knowing it. I also knew that hiding helped nothing, I mean, you can stay in if you aren’t ready, but immediately you feel ready, all you need to do is be true to yourself and everything else will fall into place.”
She says she knows it is difficult. That knowing what you want and actually going for it are two separate things that can seem worlds apart, but they aren’t. She describes truth and loyalty as neighbors who don’t know each other until one steps out and decides to meet the other. “Once they meet, all you need is the bravery to face anything and all things that come at you.”
Mulan is her favorite movie. The animation, not the Niki Caro version. “Mulan is in a world that she needs to come out on top of. If she fails, everything goes to shits. If one of the boys finds out she is a she, I mean, look at what happened to me. So she holds her secret until she is at the precipice, just waiting to tip over, to turn herself in. She waits until they know how loyal she is to the cause, how brave she has been through the bathroom trips and sleeping in a dorm-like situation with filthy, crude men, to show them her true self. And she does it like a freaking boss. I think we can all learn something from her,” she says.
I think we can learn something from both of them.
[I’m keeping my promises now. Cool, huh?]
We all have at least one anecdote from this specific Pizza Inn. You know the one, right? You have waited outside of it for some late Cathy who told you they would be there by 2pm but it is now 3:42 and the small of your back has started singing, or you have bought ice-cream at the Creamy Inn then realized you would have gotten 2 for a cheaper price. You have broken hearts walking along it and love has been declared in between its tables. It’s crazy how many stories I have been told that detoured in there, and amazing that such a small expanse can hold hostage so many memories. So many chances either left in line or with one of the watch people looking into bags. God knows what secrets those guards have seen to date. That would be a story, huh!
Their first date was in this hustle and bustle just after high school. None of them had joined campus yet. They were both fresh into life and looking for someone to love. Someone to die for. Their union, blessed by a mutual friend who thought they would be good together, was filled with sparks from the very beginning.
He tells me this story on the day before her birthday. Maybe he was reminiscing on the times they had together. Maybe he was thanking the universe for getting him out of it. He said it in passing, like it didn’t really matter that he still remembered her birthday. Like it was out of reflex. Something his brain had trained itself to remember. He suggested that it would be something if the story was posted then. But hey, I’m not here to grant wishes. Write to Santa for that.
Anyhow, he had gone out to a party with this girl whose name is not important since she will not be mentioned again as this story develops. While there, the Cupid impersonator told him the unnamed girl wasn’t good enough for him, and that she would shoot him in the right direction. “She hooked me up with two chics [girls, not chicken]. One who was in the States and the other who was in Nakuru,” he tells me. “Being a logical dude, I thought Nakuru was closer, so I opted for the one who was nearer…and yeah, that’s when it started, on August 7th”.
Their vibe was insane! They liked the same things, and disagreed on a few. Life had hit her fast which meant she was doing what any young adult would: Getting away. She was in Nakuru when he first made contact, and they had not yet met by August 14th when he asked her to be his girlfriend. “It was crazy! I had never seen this chic in person. I had only seen like one or two photos of her. We were vibing on like level 1,000. There were late night texts, I would wake up at 3am thinking of her and then I find her online and we would talk…so yeah, 2015, August 14th, we started dating officially.” It went on for a while, till she came back from Babylon.
They met in September at Pizza Inn-Moi Avenue (commonly Pizza Inn Archives). Originally from Karatina, she was new to the city so she was escorted by her friends. “Afterwards, we went to her brother’s place where we chilled and had a good time. I was an 18 year-old in the city, living the fast life.” Her brother lived in Ngara where he would go, spend time with his girlfriend then leave at around 9pm. You know the feeling when you are in town and you have just realized your phone has been pickpocketed? Not the initial shock when your brain is still trying to grasp at the flimsy strands of the loss…no. The one you get when you have already realized it, the shock has passed and now, right before you accept the situation and walk in to the first sim card replacement shop you see. That feeling of abandonment. Of defeat. Right before acceptance when all that goes on in your head is “What the fuck am I to do now?” That is the feeling he gets when he recalls he was walking around Ngara at 9pm with all the atrocities that this Nairobi has to offer. [I didn’t get it either]
Things happened. Things that he told me. Things that I will tell some of to you. But first, let’s talk names. There won’t be any. But if I was to pick and because my mind is still in a slump, the best I could have done is Jack, because Bauer is my childhood version of Shwarzenegger [consider this your weekly useless fact]. I hope you keep up.
She joined college, in Murang’a. Yes, people. This was not the Babylonian exile as you can tell. She came back after much less than the expected 70 years and they could now meet on their own terms albeit with a couple of hiccups. “We didn’t have a place to stay so we would depend on people’s houses, ask friends if they could steal a few moments of privacy behind their walls.” If walls could speak…
They were together one weekend in early November.
“As she was about to leave, she called this guy and she’s like, ‘can you pick me up at the stage?’ and I’m like…why are you asking someone to pick you at the stage? And she’s like, ‘you know it’s late, I’ll get there late and I need to be safe’ or something like that. So, I was like ‘okay, cool’. I thought it made sense since she was thinking of her safety.” But shit hit the fan.
She started ghosting him. No, parents. She did not die. Calm your areolas. It’s amazing how one thing can mean something totally different to different generations.
“You can tell when someone is not the same,” he says. In his honor, we will change the storytelling tactic just a little bit.
Okay. Picture a frat house, about 11 guys [he may have exaggerated, who knows?] This is where she hangs out when away from him.
He decides to put on Sherlock’s hat between Nov 25th and 27th in the ruse of surprising her. “The surprise was an investigation kind of thing.” He admitted. His friend who was dating someone else then [which is why he trusted him] stayed in this frat house too. “I had just turned 19. I trusted people still.”
He hides in the bathroom at the frat house, waiting for her. She arrives and starts hugging all 11 dudes, but they know there is more than just slippery walls, tainted floors and several pieces of unfinished soap in that bathroom so they do not hug her back. She asks why no arms are wrapping around her a couple of times until she sees his shoes and asks where he is. “She came to the bathroom, hugged me and we went outside to talk.”
Outside the frat house, she deletes some texts on her phone while he watches, probably from the corner of his eye. They go back in and “have some serious sex” after which she says she was going to her friend Washington’s place, about one or two floors above the frathouse. She leaves her phone.
“She had deleted texts from this other guy; George, but forgot about Washington’s chats [rookie mistake], so I took screenshots and sent them to my phone then went to sleep.”
She comes back at midnight, asking why he went through her phone. “I didn’t think that that was the issue at the time. She was cheating one me.” He cried. It was bad, I mean, it was still Friday, and he was one of those kids [I was one too] who received pocket money weekly, at the beginning of each one. Which meant he had no money to go back to Nairobi with, he could not ask her for money because they were just broken up and pride stood tall, and the frat dudes would definitely be no help. It was a long 24 hours, but he made it through. “It felt like a lifetime. I went back, did my exams, failed miserably and went into my whoring phase.”
She reached out in January and because affairs of the heart are a mystery to us all, they got together in the new semester. His parents gave him the rent for the whole semester which he, being the boy in love that he was, used it all up on her. The word he used was “squandered”.
Sometime afterwards, there was some bam-chicka-bow-wow and the diddy was done. She asked the question and he said yes. He suggested the emergency pill Postinor-2 (P-2) but she basically shrugged it off, in so many words. 2 weeks later, she hits him with a positive pregnancy test. He ditched classes completely and they stayed at his uncle’s place in Lang’ata while they figured shit out. He reached out to a nurse aunt who he thought was cool to get them meds from the hospital she worked at. She was definitely not cool.
Nurse aunt snitched to his mom who in return called him fuming at the nostrils. After she calmed down, she sent him 5 thousand bob which they used at a clinic near Thika Road Mall in May.
“We were okay for a while, until I started liking this other chic from school. When she found out, she lost it and we broke up. The chic I started liking is currently dating my uncle [story for another time] and I don’t know where I am going with this story. I am now dating an amazing girl and things are not bad. I mean they are bad right now but, isn’t that every relationship?” [I don’t know, you tell me]
As an afterthought, he says, “Oh, and don’t use original names. People will read this blog even in 50 years and I don’t want to be brought down.”
I mean, first of all, thank you for hoping people will still want to hear from me in that era, and secondly, this ain’t my first rodeo.
[Guess who’s back (back-back) back again (gain-gain). You should have sung that.
PSA: I am not receiving any more stories since I want to first finish the ones you guys paraded in my inbox with. I’m also thinking of adding Sunday as an additional posting day just till I’m done dishing the currently available stories. Wait for the link.
PS. I missed y’all. Kisses]
Please don’t send any more stories yet. Please. I appreciate you all so much.
by John Ouma
“There is in every village a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman”
The Reproductive Healthcare Bill, 2019 that, as of the time of writing of this article, is at the third reading stage before the Senate, has triggered fresh conversation on sexuality, morality, abortion and the reality of life as it’s lived today in Kenya. This comes at a time when the country is witnessing a spike in cases of rape, teenage pregnancies and gender based violence.
In substance, the conversation has digressed from the ‘meat’ of the Bill; the reproductive challenges that women face, to the old position of ‘us against them’, to which the church is at the thick.
This argument endeavors to shed light on Kenya project operating as a theocracy, politics of morality and why the issue of teenage pregnancies is fundamentally a political problem.
Religion as a tool of governance: the story of Kenya state
Essentially, as political theorist Rajeev Bhargava notes, the state should be separated from religious institutions to check religious tyranny, oppression, hierarchy or sectarianism and to promote religious and non-religious freedom equalities and solidarity among citizens. When the state enters into an unchecked, intimate relationship with the church, (the church here refers to religious institutions) a theocracy develops; a system in which God or a deity is recognised as the supreme civil ruler. Kenya isn’t there yet. And I am not trying to say that a theocracy is especially bad.
But statements like “so and so has been chosen by God as president” in an election that is later proven to be shambolic, remind us of how a theocracy manifests itself. Where gender sensitive health policies, for example, are required, a state that operates as a theocracy will tend to vacillate, to brown-nose its relationship with the church.
Theocracy, if unchecked, can inspire, as history tells us, questionable decisions. When the administration of George W. Bush attacked Iraq in 2003, despite reservations by United Nations, Bush said God had told him to do so. Similarly, he prevented a medical research that was trying to look into safe abortion practice when he was Governor of Texas.
We all know how religious absolutism operated in Afghanistan under the Taliban where homosexuals were executed by being buried alive. We also know that God-fearing Syria is by far violent than, say, atheist Netherlands. And so recent statements coming from the church casting proponents of ‘safe’ abortion and comprehensive sexuality education as public enemies are worrying.
Why labelling abortionists as public enemies is dangerous
In his column in the Sunday Standard, June 28, 2020, David Oginde of Christ Is the Answer (CITAM) wrote, “Recently reported numbers of teen pregnancies across the country since the Covid-19 lockdown of schools are certainly beyond reality and are simply meant to set an obvious but sinister agenda…the proposed Comprehensive Sexuality Education and the Reproductive Healthcare Bill are poisoned chalice that we should never allow into our society…”
Statements from various religious authorities have used strong and sometimes misleading words in reference to Reproductive Healthcare Bill. Without examining the root cause to the problem, the church has adopted a bellicose attitude and tone in its sustained objection to the Bill. This position, many agree, is a potential catalyst of anarchy.
On July 1994, American reverend Paul Hill killed Dr John Britton and his bodyguard James Barret in the former’s clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Hill said he killed Britton to avoid future deaths of innocent babies.
Randull Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue – an American organization for intimidating abortion providers – is quoted saying, “when I, or people like me, are running this country, you’d (abortion providers) better flee, because we will find you, we will try you and, and we’ll execute you…”
Pro-life people argue that an embryo is a baby, killing it is therefore murder, and that’s that. A human embryo is an example of human life. Consequentialists on the other hand look at it differently: does the embryo suffer? Does it have a nervous system?
I am not here to argue for or against abortion. My point is that in a highly churched society like Kenya, the caustic tone adopted by the church on the matter of abortion is dangerous. Instead of interpreting the reality, the church is giving the matter an interpretation of its own. The church, like George Magoha of Ministry of Education, has not only cast doubt on the veracity of the teenage pregnancy figures, it has branded those calling for a practical solution, as, in the words of David Oginde, “hawks with less than positive intentions”.
A study conducted by Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Reproductive Health and Rights Alliance (RHRA) concluded that stigmatization by religion drives young women to procure abortion, and that religion doesn’t play a significant role in youth sexuality other than influencing use and access to contraception. It also found out that parents/guardians often force their pregnant adolescents to procure abortion.
Facts about the state of a Kenyan teenager from a poor household paint a different picture; a picture that captures abortion as a pragmatic rather than a religious logic. An estimated 13, 000 Kenyan girls drop out of school annually as a result of pregnancies, and about 17 per cent of girls have had sex, under some form of force, before the age of 15. Of the 316, 560 cases of abortion procured in the country every year, almost 50 per cent involve women aged between 14 and 24. Another 120, 000 women and girls are hospitalized each year due to abortion-related complications, making unsafe abortion a leading cause of maternal morbidity and mortality in the country.
A similar research by Marie Stopes International indicate that 41 per cent of unintended pregnancies end up being aborted. 2, 600 women and girls die annually due to abortion or its related complications; an average of seven deaths every day. 64.8 per cent of girls from Korogocho slum interviewed in 2010 were Christians and 60 per cent were between the age of 18 and 22 year. The reality of life as it is lived in low-income areas where sexual abuse, extreme poverty and low levels of education expose women and girls to sexual violence, unwanted pregnancies and disease is increasingly not captured in the church’s approach to sexuality and abortion.
Women and girls procure abortion regardless of the position of the church or the faith they profess. In short, by restricting the conversation within the conservatism rim, religious censorship on abortion can be seen as a violation of freedom of conscience.
But even if these figures were exaggerated, and such research funded by ‘donors’ as the church wants us to believe, it is difficult to overlook the seriousness of abortion, teenage and/or unintended pregnancies. Consequently, a knee-jerk response that includes such things as teaching values in schools, as suggested by the church, is especially ineffective. You can teach children to abstain from sex, but you cannot claim control over their decision to whether or not indulge in it. It’s this type of decision that the Reproductive Healthcare Bill, sponsored by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika seeks to strengthen.
Another argument that has gained traction in the recent times is the role politicians play in shaping morality. By virtue of their influence on the masses, politicians have framed a type of morality that thrives on verbal and sexual diatribes.
By placing a knife on moral convention, politicians have facilitated decay of societies
Sexual consciousness in this day and age of globalization has drastically arisen. Zeitgeist, ‘spirit of the times’ has inspired a secular understanding of sex. This, however, isn’t just a Kenyan problem; politicians world over cultivate and preserve their sway and public likability by trading sexual diatribe.
Self-styled Kenyan politician Paul Ongili alias Babu Owino is popular for his sexual remarks dating back to his days at the University of Nairobi. Late 2019, he published a controversial tweet that came out for violence against women, if stripped down to its bare bones. He wrote,
“Alice Wahome must respect Baba and president Uhuru or we will shave every part of her body that has hair. This is not a threat it’s a promise”
In the same thread, he detractively told off Nairobi City County Member of Parliament, Esther Passaris for construing his tweet (quoted above) within the obvious context. He wrote:
“I know you (Esther Passaris) are in that time of the month. So I will not engage hormones”
U.S President Donald J. Trump, is notorious for his belittling and offensive language against women. He made headlines in 2005 with his “grabbing women by the pussy” comment in a Hollywood show. Trump has been quoted widely in the past and present for his derogatory comments on women within and without his circle. In 2016, at the run up to presidential elections, he wrote on twitter, in reference to journalist Megyn Kelly, then a news anchor at Fox News;
“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever”
In 2016, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, then the major of Davao City, was quoted saying, with reference to a rape incident that involved an Australian missionary during a prison riot;
“But she was so beautiful, the major (him) should have been first. What a waste”
Mr Duterte who enjoys in-fine-feather public likability, has a deep history of vulgar outburst and use of crass and defaming language on women.
Sex, as it has been said, is a political weapon that can be employed to perpetuate consensual domination. At the backdrop of technological revolution, with advent of smart phones and fast-speed internet, people have become more sexually imaginative and credulous without paying much attention to the dynamics of the world in which and with which they exist.
By knowing what resonates with their audience, politicians use public platforms to influence national discourse in a type of language with a dearth of morality.
Why comprehensive sex education is critical
‘Safe’ abortions, as KHRC notes, are economically out of reach for most of the victims of sexual violence, this leaves them with no option but to go for unsafe abortions. Also, reproductive health facilities are not friendly to sexually active adolescents; a major factor that has contributed to limited knowledge on safe sex practice among adolescents. Studies also show that young and poorly educated women and girls are more likely to procure abortion compared to their rich and educated peers.
To reduce cases of teen pregnancies, comprehensive sex education is clearly needed, because the truth is, teenagers, as a result of ‘spirit of the times’ – shaped by, among other things, pop music – indulge in sex at a young age. Some of the most effective ways of helping adolescents are: one, empowering them with information about their sexuality. This will go a long way in raising their consciousness with regard to their rights.
The position of the church that the figures have purposefully be blown out of proportion is neither here nor there. At any rate, sexual assault cases aren’t matters to be judged based on how many happen in truth. Even a single case is enough to prompt action. Also, there’s need to financially empower households in low-income neighborhoods where economic difficulties force women and girls to indulge in sexual activities to make ends meet.
Two, law enforcement agencies should be restructured to expedite dispensation of justice where cases of defilement, rape, and sexual assault are involved. Some religions are known to insist that such cases be solved out of court at the expense of justice. To achieve these, the state must separate its self from the church.
John Ouma is a journalism student and a coming writer
Paragraphs have plagued me recently. It starts as usual, a swarm of words invading my brain and begging to be let out. Next follows the connection to my fingers, where they ache, plead, to be released on a keyboard. But when I oblige, there only comes a few sentences, five or seven and everything goes blank. It is finished. Pan the camera away from a beach at the end of a captivating motion picture. The end. Fin. Finito. Until another paragraph comes along to plague me.
I thought of collecting all these snippets into one complete post, but they don’t even fit together. They are pieces of a puzzle, yes, if the puzzles were a hundred and these were the lost pieces of each article, totaling somewhere between twenty and a gazillion. I had to create a folder for them, and in naming the folder, I considered “Insanity” since that is what a normal person would think on reading them in a chronological order, so I let it remain “New Folder” because I have made a mental note to not question my mental state, especially in the month of May.
Any time I tell someone I have started running, I want them to tell me to stop. That it is bad for my health. Nothing grave, something like my fingertips will freeze off from the morning cold and I will have nothing to tap on the keyboard with. At least the paragraphs may stop.
Running is not easy, especially for a homebody who has taken the time to invest in their bedroom. I mean, of course I have been working out, but in the comfort of this room that I am constantly in the process of putting together. Running requires a different kind of strength. The kind that Ragnar Lothbrok or, [for you laymen] Ned Stark would be able to comprehend. It is not for the weak hearted.
The first obstacle doesn’t even start on the day, but on the previous night. You need to set the alarm because you know how much your body loves warmth. How, in the morning cold, it lifts the blanket on the sides to burrito itself with or without your consent. How your hand knows to cover the head but leave enough space around your nose [because only psychopaths and Trump sleep completely covered] and how your mouth curves in delight when you realize it is only 6am and these are COVID times.
These are times when we wake way past when the sun has risen and shamelessly have breakfast at 11am. Times when we lounge in our PJs way into the afternoon, have a snack for lunch and wait for dinner [supper, Dearest Laymen] to plunge our minds in the internet to the wee hours of the night. Running takes away from these COVID times.
Running makes sure you have a bedtime. That you sleep for at least 6 hours which means you need to be in bed by midnight like a toddler in these times. It makes sure you set an alarm for when the small hand has travelled half the way and you need to get up, not to adjust the blanket around your nose but to make your bed [because if you do not, you will go to the bathroom and when you come back, you will hear whispers. They will ask you, nay, beg, plead with you to get back in. The whispers will say “Baby girl, you work so hard…often tired…often busy. You need this. No, you DESERVE this. And then, as in Moana, your blanket will lift (with the power of comfort and warmth) and tap twice like a pot bellied man asking a woman to sit by him. When you hear these whispers, when your body recognizes your unmade bed, you will realize you are only human, and have the rest of this lockdown to put your foot in front of the other, and you will succumb]. Speaking from experience, you WILL make that bed if you are to run on that day.
The next hurdle is getting the body to get the F up. I am not a morning person. I know this, people around me know this and now you, too, are in the loop. Mornings make me sick! If I entered a pyramid and found Aladdin’s lamp, after a crown for my mother’s head and before a backyard for my dogs, I would wish for mornings to be abolished. Incinerated. Done completely with. But since we need to run, I will throw some water on my face, a sports bra on my chest which will also secure my phone [for tracking purposes, I cannot act like my Kisii counterparts without proof that I am not actually mad] and a pair of socks in my shoes because after mornings, the thing that irks me is sweaty feet.
We moved to this place approximately six months ago. It was one of those things that was planned, and maybe the Big guy was in on it because I am not sure if I would survive in towns during these COVID times. We have one immediate neighbor. Well, I lie. He has not moved in yet. No, that is another stretched lie. He has dug his foundation, the site house was complete 2 days ago and for the last 3 days, no fundis have been on site…so, we may be back to having zero close neighbors. It’s bittersweet for someone of my nature. On one hand, the closest people are yonder [which means no unnecessary visits except for one or two passersby and, I hear, hyenas [more on this some other time], on the other hand, I quickly realized I need to see people to be able to write about people [this was in one of the paragraphs].
It makes running easy, however. Even though I pride myself in doing what I want to and not thinking of what people say, I find myself wondering what those in my proximity would think of me. I mean, they can keep their judgement and all that, but, usually, when I pass someone alone or with a friend, I tend to make up conversation in my head. Conversations that I think they may be having, and more often than not, I would put myself in it. An example is this:
Dude 1: When is the Premier League coming back?
Dude 2: Seventeenth Dude
Dude 1: Seventeenth of what, Dude?
Me: (Runs past the two dudes)
Dude 2: Of this freaking mon…hey, if you were to ever work out, would you run, like that chic?
Dude 1: Nah dude, I’m healthy, *flexes nonexistent muscles* Seventeenth of what man
Dude 2: THIS month Dude!
Dude 1: Whoa, Dude…
Dude 2: I know Dude
There is an urban legend, in the name of Runner’s High that I have not yet encountered. It may be true, since all the Keinos and Cherutos in world marathons claim to have touched the hems of it. I haven’t. And I tend to believe that which I see so we shall see. Otherwise, this Runner’s High stands close to Big Foot in my book.
The last hurdle has to be the Johnny Storm effect. You do not realize when it is a spark, which basically validates the saying that there is a spark inside each one of us. It is only felt when it is in full Human Torch glory, with the fire erupting like a volcano in Hawaii that was hurled at insults all its life.
/Oh, that volcano is dormant/
/The last time it had any action was before the time of Eve/
[Question: Did dinosaurs exist before or after Eve was framed? Who walked first, the rex or the hex?] Anyway, back to volcano rebuff
/That volcano has never seen the light of day [gerrit?]/
/If I was to heat anything up, that volcano would be the last place to look for a spark/
Then you feel the burn. You will assume it at first because hey, you are running and a little burn never hurt nobody. One foot after the other, you will say. Onward! The churning will grow to a smoulder that will crease your brows but you will go on. Mark time soldier! By the time it grows to a full bonfire that has you doubled up and panting with your tongue out like the stray dogs you passed a few kilometers back, you will hope you have reached your target for the morning, and you will look up and the finish line will be nowhere in sight.
I contemplated writing this after a run, but all I want afterward is a cold glass and shower and some food, the latter which I suspect defeats the whole purpose. I will see if I can gain any inspiration from tomorrow’s run. It is my bedtime.
I didn’t go today. It happens even to the best of us.
When you discover a secret, you have two options. I say discover because a secret is not made to be found out, except only by accident. I say when because most secrets are easy to discover, and your two options are pulled by a scale. The lowest end, the part with less weight, the easiest and most humane thing to do, would be to keep it as it were. To leave it be and walk the other way [much like your lecturers when they discover your answers while walking around an exam room]. The second option, and the one that will earn you pats on the back even as you feel like the shittiest person [because unless you are a rock, you will] is what you, as an arsehole will do.
There are two secrets that ruled Newton’s life. The first was kept from him until he was old enough to handle it, though he doubts anyone can ever be old enough to hold the gravity of such a secret. The second one, he kept because he did not know he was keeping it. He did not understand it even though it lived in him.
“I’m bipolar,” he starts. “I recently got an accurate diagnosis from a psychiatrist I have been seeing since February.”
Newton did not grow up with any information about her mother, other than the fact that she was dead. “She passed away when I was a baby. That is all I was ever told whenever I asked my uncle.”
He doesn’t remember half his childhood, and not like you who recalls nothing below the age of 8. “There are moments of time, sometimes very long periods of my life that I do not remember. I used to make fun of it in school. We would be in class waiting for the next lesson and when the teacher came in to start the lesson I would not understand shit because I was basically not around when previous classes were taught. I mean, I sat in for the lesson, but I had no memory of it. I was present but only by my body as an empty shell.”
He didn’t really understand what was happening. The only reasonable explanation for him was that he was a slow learner. “I always thought I was not book smart, but I remembered everything I studied half the time. I just always said I was average.
The first real episode that he remembers was a party. “A friend from school was home alone since her parents had travelled. So she was throwing a party and invited everyone who could come. My uncle was never going to let me go. He never let me do anything, so I didn’t even bother asking for permission.” He snuck out.
“I told my uncle I wasn’t feeling well. Probably a stomach thing because a stomach ache is easier to hide than a headache.” Newton’s Law states that: A stomachache can be feigned by holding onto your abdomen and doubling over, accompanied by just the right facial expression. “A lot of frowning makes you look like you are pooping, and a bit less than required makes parents think you are not really hurting.”
So he snuck out, and went to the party. Only, he didn’t go. “Listen, to help you understand it, you will need to believe this shit. Most people don’t. I went to that party. I swear it. I went there and I met my friends and we had an epic time. EPIC. I know that because I have memories of it happening. I still smell the alcohol from that night. I do.”
When he got to school on Monday, his friends were furious!
“Ah Newt wewe ni mtu bure sana”
“Why sasa? Why would you make us wait on you and you don’t show?”
“Newton man, I always thought you were a solid guy my guy”
“Newt btw mimi I can’t even. I just can’t”
“They were relentless. And I tried telling them that I did not understand what was going on, but before I got the chance to, the bell rang. I was so confused.” They all settled down to class, his mind far from stillness. He wrote a note to his desk mate.
/Jay, kwani what is going on? /
Desk Mate opened the note and shot him a frown. [Not the same as the stomachache one but frowny enough to let him know they were on murky waters] Desk Mate handed him back a note
/Dude, you chezad us bana /
/What did I do? /
/You didn’t show up man. (Frowny face emoji)/
/What do you mean I didn’t show up? I came/
Desk Mate shook his head in disappointment.
“Turns out I never went to the party,” he finally says. “It’s a weird thing, being bipolar. I have episodes where I am irritable and I don’t even know why. Sometimes I am manic, other times depressed, then there are long periods of time when nothing happens. Nothing. And I forget. It takes up to months! There was a time I went for 7 full months. Then I had the worst depressive time of my life. I almost killed myself.”
When he turned 18, his uncle sat him down because he was “old enough” and told him the first secret of his life. “My mother killed herself. They think it was postpartum depression that did her in, but my uncle said she was just like me. She could shift through moods like she was flipping through a flimsy book.”
His mother, bless her heart, did all she could. She had met a man, fallen head over heels, opened up to him about her mental condition and he had said he would love her through it all. He still left. Newton’s uncle does not know when exactly. After he was born, his uncle had dropped by to see his nephew and found his sister in the worst state ever. “He said she looked like she had not had any sleep for weeks. She was distressed. She told my uncle that my father walked out on her because she was “too sad all the time.” Then she asked his uncle to hold him for a minute while she took a shower. She walked into her bedroom and never walked out.
He started making sense of everything he had been going through when he did research on his mother’s condition. He studied everything on post-partum disorder and mental health and particularly bipolar disorder. “There are so many types of bipolar disorder, some don’t even have names one can pronounce as of yet. Each person reacts differently to it. The levels of hyperactivity(mania) and placidity(depression) are different in everyone. It’s all very complex.”
His psychotherapist is heaven sent. They began by unpacking all his unresolved feelings towards his mother. “I started seeing him a few months ago, and I talk to him any time I have an episode. He is amazing at helping me manage my episodes. I learnt that I would forget things I did because I was physically there but my mind was in an episode. That I could be perfectly calm on the outside but be fighting for my consciousness to be one with my body, and that by fighting it, I was sinking deeper into the episode. I am still learning. My therapist says I should learn to let go of everything, and that I should stop trying to act normal, because I’m not.”
Newton had two secrets in his life. The one he hid from the world in his mind, and the one his mother and uncle hid from him. Turns out, it was the same secret.
[May is Mental Health Awareness month and this week, we are learning about Bipolar Disorder. I found a really helpful article by Chiromo Lane Medical Center here. You can read through it to learn more about the disorder, it’s symptoms, and what you can do to help someone in each of the extremes. Stay safe kids]
It’s May! It’s Mental health awareness month and this morning, I just heard Biko say he does not believe in “writer’s block”. It is a foreign concept to him and he has written for, get this, 13 years! 13 is Taylor Swift’s lucky number. 13 is also considered to be an unlucky number. Maybe that’s why Taytay likes it… but if you were to count the things that superstitious people believe to bring bad omens, then black cats and jumping over one’s outstretched feet have nothing on Thirteen.
Did you know Judas Iscariot was the thirteenth dude to sit at Jesus’ table during the Last Supper? Yup, the guy who openly kisses another man in the Bible is also considered bad luck because he was late. Maybe he just didn’t want to eat in a room full of extros but hey, all the bad things that follow are directly linked to his arrival, though late. No one likes late things. Ask us girls. Anyway, luck is not a number because if so, then Maureen wouldn’t have gotten so mad at me when I beat her with an equivalent of 13 marks on our KCPE results. I’ll probably reach out sometime in 2023 and make a joke of it, after say… 13 lucky years.
She was in a hall the first time she thought back to the incident. A long hollow room that housed her and more than a hundred of her friends and classmates who she would remain in touch with just but a handful. She was 13 years old, coincidentally, trying so hard to recall the answer to the social studies question 57. The answer to the question was either Kabaka Mutesa 1 or Kabaka Mutesa 2. Such a close tie. She needed to think critically of her answer, so she sat back and opened the floodgates to her memories.
“I wish I never sat back in that seat. I wish I never tried to remember which Kabaka was exiled by Andrew Cohen because then I wouldn’t have remembered being between his thighs and not knowing any better.”
She must have been six or seven years old, which when you add up brings you back to Judas’ Digits. Her mother worked a lot. Her dad, not so much. Sure he spent his days out of the house but everyone knew where to find him. Her mother was the one bringing in the bread. She worked her ass off and to help her, she had some of her younger siblings stay with her, to help raise our girl, who by now deserves a name. She has however not responded to my text asking which name I should use, so as the Hogwarts Houses sorting hat, I deem her a Sophia.
Sophia grew up with her aunts as role models. They gave her breakfast and helped with her homework and taught her how to hold a pen. They were her big sisters. Her protectors. She felt safe around them. Turns out she shouldn’t have.
As Sophia sat on her locker, the last paper on her desk with only three questions to go (she always did the Religion part first). She remembered him. “I can’t tell you if he was one of my uncles or a cousin to my aunts, or maybe a childhood friend of theirs.”
“How sure are you that it wasn’t a stranger? Someone who was not as close to the family as you suggest?”
“Because he feels familiar. The environment we were all in feels surreal, since it is all in my memories, but it is definitely familiar. There is this feeling in my heart and in the pit of my stomach that tells me, assures me even, that they knew that man. They actually knew that man and it disgusts me”
Sundays were for Sophia and her mom. Strictly. She would wake up early as the sun glazed the horizon a golden hue and slipped into her mother’s bed. Her dad barely came home on weekends so the bed was almost always empty for her. She would snuggle into her mother’s arms and wait. Not a word was spoken. They would enjoy the silence that the morning offered together before embarking on a fun-filled day that began with breakfast, then church, then ice cream and then they would take the long way home for lunch. In those few minutes that she first got in bed with her mother, those sacred minutes, she relished in the joy of being with her.
“I loved Sundays. I still do. They were basically the only time I got to really see my mom. Probably the only time I ever felt safe if I think about it now,” she says. “There was this man, who I have never really seen in my adult life. He never really comes to any family gatherings. I know because I check. But I am scared that the moment I stop looking for him he will stand before me and I will not know what to do.”
When her parents were away, her mother winning bread and her father winning World’s Absent-But-Present dad, her aunts were free to roam. A cat and mouse scenario. They would lock her in her room when they had boys over and open only to give her food. She would be let out for bathroom breaks, of course. “I always knew when they came to let me out. The chattering would go down, the music silenced. She would be escorted, like a violent murderer in prison, and someone would wait by the bathroom door for her to finish and escort her back to the bedroom. A prisoner in her own home.
“I think that is why I loved being let out to stay when guests of the family came. I don’t really know. But it weighs on me. I honestly cannot tell you when I saw him first, or if there was a handshake that led to me sitting by him, and him having his feet outstretched on the couch, and to me sitting between those legs in a dress. But I can tell you I still feel his fingers between my thighs. I still feel his fingers going higher, and I still see my aunts both seated on the next seat, acting like they saw nothing.”
The man has no face, just the familiarity of someone you are comfortable being around. The familiarity of people you call family. These strangers that are closer to your parents or in this case, aunts, that you feel the need to call them “Uncle”, because your aunts have made it comfortable for them to be around. They have made the room familiar enough for him to run his fingers up your legs.
“Have you spoken to your aunts about it?”
“How would I start?” she asks back. “I have tried. I got to the point of having them sit down with me and I started asking it. But we were at my grandmother’s home, and I did not have the strength. Plus, I think they will just deny it. My family has developed this strange gift of making me sound, look and feel weird.”
I ask her how they do that.
“I don’t know if they know they are doing it, or if my aunts had enough practice bullying me when I was younger, but I will say something and they will negate it, or do something like try to help with the dishes and they will come in saying I’m not doing it right. Can you imagine that? I “washed a plate wrong”! I cannot really put it in words, but they whisper about me when I pass.”
“Like they know something that you don’t?” I ask.
“Yeah! Exactly. It messes me up so bad. I hate going to those family gatherings, but then I also feel it is my right to face that man when he shows up. If I can recognize his face…or his voice. I really hope I can recognize something about him. It might put my mind to rest”
As she sat in that hall, years ago, hollow in her chest as she realized what she was recalling, a tear rolled down her left cheek. “An invigilator passed by me, saw the tear and thought I was sad about finishing school. You know what my therapist says?”
I clearly don’t.
“She says that me remembering his fingers on me is real. That I should not think it was a dream. That my mind is probably waiting for me to get to the correct space to remember. She also says that I should be prepared to remember worse details. That the man might have hurt me. Invaded me. Stole my innocence at 6 or 7 years old.”
She told me the fear of the number thirteen is called Triskaidekaphobia. She has always had an irrational fear of this number, even before sitting on her desk in the hall staring at the Kabakas. She could never write the date when it was the thirteenth and always made a joke about being superstitious about Friday the 13th, saying she was scared of Jason. Maybe her Jason came with a certain familiarity.
[It’s May! It’s Mental Health awareness month. As usual, MIRAWU will do 4 stories on Mental Health. Reach out to me if you would like to tell your mental health story, journey or experience.]
When they met, she wrote him a letter.
You’re not ideal. I feel like I am not supposed to be with you. I’m telling myself that it is because of him. Because I still have unresolved feelings about this other guy and I never really told him how I felt. But we both know I am over him.
So what the fuck is my problem with you? I want this. I want you. You are fun and kinda cute and weird and really strange and you make me angry and happy and weirder. I love how I feel when I am around you. And your voice? Whoever made music a thing must have started out by hearing you speak. You give me butterflies…but I feel like I will get hurt again. I feel like I am headed for a shitload of heartache and I don’t think I am strong enough for another hit. I need a break. That is why I pull back.
You don’t help your case either. So it can’t be my fault I feel this way. You don’t talk to me. You don’t explain shit. You just sit there, springing conversations out of jokes, which means we can never talk about anything concerning us. Sometimes it feels like there is no us, and I am just forcing things. I know nothing about you, yet I have shared with you some of my most intimate secrets. I don’t even know your last name.
I couldn’t tell my mom about you because of this. And maybe this is a good thing. Maybe she shouldn’t know just yet, so that I don’t have to defend you to her when you leave. I am tempted. I talk to her about everything. Yeah, I know you said you’re not going anywhere, but if I was to have a nickel for each time I heard those words then I’d have a butt load of money. So sue me if I don’t believe you.
But I really like you. I like how amazing your days are and how you smell. I like when you tell me stories and how you pull me to you after sex. I love your mind. God! I love your mind. I love your stupid theories and your stupid lies. But it still feels off. It still feels as if I have so far to go to equal how much you like me, if at all what you say is true.
It feels like I still like him and that is why I can’t like you enough. It feels like I am too little for you. I don’t match up to you. It feels like once you find out that I am not smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough, you will walk away, and you will find someone better, because there almost always is. You will look for someone willing to go the miles you travel and I will be left to collect my pieces once more.
When she fell in love, she wrote him a letter.
This is not a word I throw around. I mean, sure, I fall in love with a puppy in an instant. I love dark chocolate and sunsets. But you happened over time. Those words only became harder to say to other people the longer I learned to love myself. The longer I built the walls. But you? You are a sledgehammer.
I cannot clearly say when you actually broke through. But you did. And I love you, Spencer. I will tell you tonight. Thank you for loving all my strange little pieces.
When he broke her heart, she wrote him one last time.
I didn’t think I would be doing this with you… but maybe I should stop lying to myself. I have been wearing my heart on my sleeve all my life. Also, no one loves while anticipating heartbreak.
I just wish you had done it sooner. Like during the texting incident. I wish you had stopped texting back and I would know that I screwed up. But there was no reasonable proof to dump me then, right? Because he was the one who texted and I immediately told him I had you. Still, I wish you broke me at that moment because my feelings had not advanced to actually missing your name popping up on my phone. You waited, and I loved you.
I hate it. I hate that I tell myself it’s the last time. You know me. I will just sit here watching the time stamp on your socials as though you would do the same. I imagine you, living life, your hand on another girl’s thigh, cooking for her, and it bugs me… because I didn’t even get the chance to redeem myself. You just decided that my sin was too big to forgive.
But let’s talk about that for a minute, shall we? What the fuck did I do wrong?
You have disrespected me, mocked me and insulted my heart for loving and being emotional. You have called me weak, made fun of me and dismissed my thinking, but I braved it all. Not because I thought any less of myself, but because talking to you was bigger than anything else. But I realize now, that I had no sin. So what bugs me is I cannot understand why you would think it best to ignore me all this time when I committed no crime. When I took care of your heart as if it were in my chest. I don’t understand how you would say the things you say to me and in the same breath utter the words “I love you”. Your lips have no right to say those words. You know no love. You only know selfishness. You think of yourself and nothing more. No one else but good ol’ Spencer, and it makes me sick that I fell so hard for such a narcissistic bastard.
Also, let’s talk about the Whatsapp thing. I hate it, Spens. I do. I hate that you have me waiting to see your name among the list of people who have viewed my status, because that is the only interaction I get from you now. I hate it that I see your name there, among my friends and family. I hate that you have me there, waiting for you to view my status. What are you waiting for? A break-up post? A long thread of words weaved in your honor? I would never share you like that. I would never disrespect you like that. Or would that be actually granting you the respect that you lacked the grace to give me? Who knows. Still, I hate that my heart races. That it skips when I see your name. I hate waiting for you to change your picture just so I can get to see your face. I hate that I give you that much power over me… power that I had reclaimed over time.
Then you ducking blocked me [she said Ducking]. Which nulls every feeling that I may have had for you. You clearly did not want to deal with me, so why should I deal with you? Why should I waste my time, watching my status views and your time stamp when you clearly want nothing to do with me? It sucks that you still affect me this much yet you are not in my life anymore. And yeah, it has only been 4 days, but I hate that I know I will forget loving you. I have to forget. This is my last letter, Spencer.
I choose me. My mental health and my peace of mind. I will not grovel at you, or beg for your attention… because I do not want love kernels. I want a giant bucket of buttered caramel pops and I plan to find it, just not with you. You made yourself very clear… you do not want me. And I don’t think I should be where I am not wanted. I will collect my pieces Spenser, and you will own them no more. I wish you well.
[PS, you cool cats and kittens, I am still accepting your Young Love stories. Priority will be given to stories that are not boy-girl relationship related. Stay safe. Wash your hands]