I have a cold, and was rained on today. So, I found that reason enough to take it as a reminder to post this before Thursday ends, because that’s how deadlines see my boots! I feel much better [from the cold] and might actually sleep better that I did last night, if at all. This is another short story that I kept telling myself needed a second part too many times that I actually gave it a part B.
**we still have no title for this, so we’ll just call it ‘Short Story 3a’ for now
Short Story 3a
If there was one thing that Joseph knew about his mother, it was that she kept time. With her tiny wrist watch that she barely looked at but always seemed to know what time it was, his mother was a special breed. She was reliable. Everyone said it to him. Not that he didn’t know it himself. People only had a strange need to remind him of things about his mother. They told him how beautiful she was, as if he didn’t marvel at her face every morning he pushed past the bed sheet that separated his sleeping area from the sitting room area to find her, smiling at him while two cups of tea steamed on the stool before her. They told him how kind she was, as if he never noticed her giving most of herself everyday to people who didn’t appreciate her enough. People liked to say things about his mother.
They talked of her bravery. How kind, generous and honest a soul she had. They said things he already knew. How she was always where she was supposed to be. On time, with her clothes fitting and proper, topped with the brightest smile in any room.
Joseph’s mother, with her tiny wrist watch on her left hand (because she needed her right hand to “do things”) arrived five minutes early to everything, and never a second late. Her hair, always in perfect curls that she labored over the night before so she would have enough time for him in the morning. People admired the natural curls on her head, unbeknownst to them of the forty five minutes she spent each evening to tie bantu knots on her head before carefully tying a satin scarf to sleep.
People only saw what she allowed. He knew more. He heard the sighs she released when it was just the two of them. Saw her closed eyes as she fought back tears (or what he assumed were tears) when she came out of Mr Damu’s home office that day.
“What’s wrong?” he has asked her, ready to go through the heavy set doors to fight the bulky man sitting behind the big mahogany desk. She smiled at him and said everything was fine. No matter, she would tell him when she was ready. She always told him when something bothered her. There were no secrets. It was just the two of them, and the unwritten rule was that they would keep nothing from each other.
“Nothing, Monkey,” she told him.
People had been watching. She couldn’t have told him then. He would wait till they got home. Wait till she went behind the bed sheet. Ever the gentleman, he allowed her to change out of her outside clothes first. The house was big enough for them, but some compromises had to be made. For a few minutes each day, while changing into pajamas, and out of outside clothes, or right after a shower, one of them was behind the bed sheet that separated his sleeping area and the sitting room.
“How was your day, Monkey?” she would ask while behind the sheet, her breath short because she was trying to change out of her clothes as fast as she could. He knew she loved looking at him. Her monkey. He has started disliking that moniker. He knew if he told her, it would break her heart, and the last thing Joseph wanted to do was break his mother’s heart.
Going to the Damus’ mansion was something she had talked about all week. “If they give me a job, it will pay better. They’re doing interviews, you know. Sandra told me. They need someone to take care of old Mrs. Damu. Poor thing has Alzheimer’s. Can you spell Alzheimer’s, Monkey?”
She laughed. He remembered her laugh. Bubbly, rich and coming from somewhere deep in her stomach. His mother laughed like the world needed to hear the tickle in her throat. It was a beautiful laugh. Everyone said so. It was a laugh filled with flowers and puppies and cinnamon pancakes. When his mother laughed, their house became so huge that the walls echoed with the sound. “Replace the other a’s with e’s”
“That’s my genius boy!” she said, emerging from behind the bed sheet that hung on a rope that ran along the roof, separating the room into two. “Well, how do I look?”
It was an unnecessary question. Everything she wore found a way to fit around her slender figure. She looked good whether she tied a leso around her waist or wore her Sunday clothes, like she was. The bright yellow skirt and white embroidered cotton blouse that he knew all too well were perfect just as they were every other Sunday.
“Monkey? How do I look?” she was waiting for an answer.
“Stupendous!” He recalled a word he had learned at school. It brought the smile he enjoyed seeing. The gap in her front teeth showed first, followed by dimples so deep he could drink out of them. She ushered him out the door and locked up.
“Here,” she told him. “You’re a big boy. You can carry the house keys today.”
Joseph took the keys from her, a responsibility he had asked for each time they went out. The keys felt big in his hands. They felt heavy and he liked it. He closed his fist around the keys and held on tight. He would be damned if he lost them.
When they got to the Damus’ mansion, Joseph marveled at the house. They were first led to a room that looked like the reception at a hospital. “Please wait here,” the maid in a black and white uniform told them as she hurried off to tell the big man of their arrival.
Oh kids! So many things are happening, and I know a whole lot more about dragons now, counting all the HOTD content with The Inheritance Series that I’m devouring in the time I can steal.
S – Sometimes I think
H – However
“The final words of Carina Smyth. Good sirs, I’m not a witch but I forgive your common dim witlessness and feeble brains. In short, most of you have the mind of a goat.”
Do you see?
Rain washes down
Thoughts of you
I am getting into a pirate phase, so brace yourselves. I am watching Taika Waititi’s ‘Our Flag Means Death’ which so far is perfection, and reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and the captain, who was already my favorite, has fallen to his death. What’s left is curating the perfect playlist and I’ll be set.
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
A lot of things are great about the cold weather being here [I understand it is summer elsewhere, bear with me]. Things like socks, where we can now have them on all day and night without feet being too hot [or maybe it is you that is hot and socks can suck it]. Nights when it would get so uncomfortable in them that your toes have trained themselves to superhuman abilities of removing socks without help are long gone. Socks make everything better, and especially when it is cold. You can walk around without bothering about slippers in the house because, somehow, tiles are always cold, no matter the weather. It is particularly cold in my mothers’ house, where I have spent a lot of my “home time”. Now, with my own home, that is cold in its ways but not as cold, I find myself longing for home.
This longing is new. It is separate from the usual homesickness that I think I will forever have. Home is never really home. No one knows this better than the first born daughter. At 6 years old, you will hear it and not quite comprehend. You have to find your own home. You know, that lingering question on an aunt’s tongue, that they hold because they know you are prone to having answers on your tip. You know the one that comes with being a daughter and knowing without being told, that at 25, you need to have started a life. Your mother had, so why aren’t you? It comes with my realizing that now that I have a home separate from home, this may be it. My days of that cold abode being home are expanded to plural. It will never, even though it remains, truly be home. It is a daunting thought. To even put it out here like this.
The cold is great because of the quiet. I work in an industrial area and on a bright and sunny day, you can hear everything. July has been silent. I could hear more of my thoughts[I’m not sure I like it that much] and I find myself forgetting to plug in my earphones. To escape with a sad girl starter pack playlist because when it’s sunny, even the pin makes noise in hay. There is a lot of noise in Industrial Area, what with the elections coming. One particular #AmohNdioBest campaign truck is giving me a headache just thinking of it.
Buildings in Industrial Area are connected. You will know one warehouse from the other by the paint on its walls. The skyline is a continuous zigzag, connecting cement, flour, spare parts and other warehouse goods that I know not. Ours is not as such. Our building [singular, no zigzags], is a standalone five floor reptile that is cold even when the sun is in January. The parking lot at the basement is a hollow space fit to hold the cold and supply it up, only for the roof ventilators to pick and spin it right back to my frozen fingertips. Tap water is devastatingly cold, and don’t let me start with my ears if I don’t do a headwrap to rival an eskimo.
Industrial Area is a whole lot of what you think it is. It is men. In overalls, usually, and sometimes in hats. Men in navy blue and dark green overalls. Men who catcall and men who listen quietly as their colleagues catcall. It is women with clear buckets filled with fruit. Watermelons and pineapples in the sunshine, tea and mandazis when it freezes over. It is warehouses that are dark inside with the paint chipping by the door. It is dust by the one playground where boys play football matches in neon colored uniforms and dust by the tarmac where mechanics zoom past with cars they test drive. The drainage is terrible. And I’m not going to say much about it other than the tunnels are clogged and black and littered beyond what drainages should be.
Home, is a weird concept. I grew up with a lot of people in my home [well, the household I call home] There was always a cousin or aunt or nephew of someone that my mom either wanted to or was forced upon [she’s nicer, so she’ll say everyone was welcome]. This meant that privacy was the one thing I craved for as a child. To have the space I have now would be a constant daydream. In a two-bedroom house, we would be, at any given point, more than six individuals with a 4×6 bunk bed.
This being home for the longest time, I grew up with the idea that I would have countless homes when I was older. Numerous times, the conversation at home [often when my parents were away] was of people leaving this place I knew as home. Moving out. Not a day went by without a snide or nice comment of “I can’t wait to be at my house. Kwangu.” Kwangu (My place) quickly morphed to something I dreamed of. I stopped wishing these people out, and started creating my own four walls.
For a long time, I had just the walls. The reason for this, I do not have time to dissect. What is important, however, is that I had walls that were mine, albeit intangible. My extremely active imagination came to play. I had blank unpainted walls, as I listened to stories of people wanting sewing rooms and swimming pools. I was content with my four walls. Everyone else was calling for white furniture and fully furnished kitchens. It was here that the idea of a dishwasher was planted in my head. The idea of plates cleaning themselves blew my mind, being the main dishwasher at the time.
For a long time, home was four blank walls, while my home was covered with dreams of machines and irrelevance. Now, if any of those who lived and shared their dreams of home while in my home are here, I am in no way belittling your dreams of home [I have learned that sometimes, my words are taken out of context. I mean nothing by this, except for the facts of the matter. But also, did I lie?] If anything, yours were much bigger than my nothingness.
Then I got my first four walls in my second year at campus and had my heart broken in them. Now, in these four walls that I have called home, I contemplate a lot of things, like, is Amoh really the best? Amoh who has hired a truck full of university age girls to twerk for a crowd? Amoh, who is asked about water and responds by buying alcohol for those at a drinking hole at 2pm? Will this be home after Amoh is on the ballot? Will it be as cold as last year?
Time seems to keep losing track of me, but what is important is that we’re here, and we’re done. As promised, here is the second stort story that I wrote early this year.
The Boy and His Ball
The fear was still present in her chest. Fear that had crippled the whole world in different magnitudes. Nancy still felt it, despite having watched the news last night and this morning. The Minister of Health had stated clearly that the nation was free of the disease. We had won. Triumphed over the coughing and chest pains and death. Oh the deaths. Nancy could not count how many people had been lost. How many coughed their last with the disease that crept in overnight.
She walked up the road, her eyes set on that last turn. She had worked at Mater Hospital for four years now, two of which were crippled with the COVID-19 pandemic. That is over now. It seemed unreal. When the Minister gave his statement last night, she could not believe it. When she heard the ululations out in the streets, of people celebrating this new freedom, her heart refused to believe it. She wanted to get to the hospital first. If it was truly over, there were still a lot of things to do before everyone was completely free.
“Nurse!” a child called to her from the street. “Nurse, tumepona [we are healed]” she smiled under her mask.
Masks had become her life. Other than being required to wear them at work, the whole world wore them outside. Her nose only saw the world when she was alone, at home. She remembered the first few weeks when the pandemic hit. How people fought to not wear them. How they tried to seek alternatives.
Maybe if I cover my mouth when I talk to people? Patients would ask.
What if I don’t go near people?
I am allergic to the fabric used to make masks. Can I get a letter to not wear them?
There were all kinds of excuses. Everyone was scared of the world being something they did not understand. Change is hardly ever welcome.
Nancy reached the last turn to the hospital entrance. There was no traffic today. The world decided to take a rest. All of Nairobi was inside, when they should be out celebrating. The world was healed. There were no more masks. She smiled under hers. She had put it on as a reflex action. Her body was so used to wearing a mask that despite knowing she did not need it anymore, she still put it on when she left her house.
She nodded to the gateman like she did each time she came in for a shift and headed towards the back. The nurses’ entrance was to the left. Jackline always joked that the people who worked the most deserved a special entrance, which is why only the nurses used the back door. Doctors were normal people, they used the main entrance. The doors used by patients and janitors and visitors. Nancy knew it was because the doctors liked to be seen as they walked in. It gave them a sense of purpose. Fed their egos.
At her locker, she found a note.
THANK YOU FOR HOLDING THE HOSPITAL DURING THESE TRYING TIMES.
“They couldn’t even personalize the notes, huh?” she heard Jackline say. Nancy turned to see her gap toothed friend smiling in that way that made her patients feel special.
“Jackline, at least it is appreciative,” she said.
“Bah!” spat Jackline. “They should have at least put your name in it. No one worked as hard as you the last two years.”
“Maybe the doctors,” she tried to counter.
“No doctor could come close. You knew more of the patients here than all the doctors combined! Remember when Doc Muchiri couldn’t even remember that patient’s name until you helped him out? Makes me wonder how they even know which meds to administer. Maybe you should wear that white coat instead of the arrogant prick!”
“Okay, too far. Anyway, Mother Mary is looking for you.”
Nancy did not know why the administrative nurse would be looking for her. There were usually two reasons anyone was called to Mother Mary’s office. To get a pay cut or fired. She could not afford any of the two. There was nowhere to get a job right after a crippling pandemic.
“Good luck,” Jackline called to her. “I hope it’s a pay cut.”
She held her heart in her hand as she walked to the administration office. Standing in front of the door, she took three deep breaths before she knocked on it. A familiar voice called to let her in.
She looked at Doc Michael sitting comfortably on Mother Mary’s seat. He had a smug smile on his face. Nancy tried desperately to hide the fear in her eyes. She could not understand why Michael had called her into the administration office. She left the door open, just in case he had any ideas. Before she could take a seat, he spoke.
“Shut the door first.”
“I don’t think it would be appropriate.”
“Nan, just close the door. I want to talk to you.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and sat smugly. She was not going to allow herself in a compromising situation. The other nurses had rambling mouths.
“I miss you, Nan,” Michael began.
“Is that why I am here? Am I being fired for having a fling with a doctor?”
“It wasn’t just a fling, was it?” he asked.
Nancy looked up at him. His face showed remorse, but you could never be too sure. Michael, Doc Michael, had a reputation with the nurses. He was the playboy at Mater Hospital. The pandemic may have reduced the amount of contact he had with others, but everything was going back to normal. He, too, would be back to his meandering ways.
“Why am I here?” she asked.
“Mother Mary asked me to speak with you.”
Nancy wondered why the administrative head would ask a general practitioner to speak to a nurse.
“I know you’re asking yourself why she would ask me to talk to you.”
“No I wasn’t,” she retorted.
“Nan, I know you better than you can imagine.”
She remained silent. Was he waiting for a response? If so, he was in for a rude shock.
Michael swung in his seat. Why was she being so difficult? “You can get the funds to further your studies. Mother Mary said that since you have been instrumental during the pandemic, the hospital can find some money to pay for your higher education.”
She raised her eyes to meet him for the first time since she walked in the office. She searched them, trying to figure out if this was just another scheme of his. She could see no angle. He was telling the truth. She could finally be a registered nurse like the others working at the hospital. Nancy did not feel the tears running down her face until Michael touched her face with a handkerchief.
Back at the nurses’ station, Nancy was still crying when Jackline came back in. She basically lived in the station, escaping her duties so someone else would be assigned to them.
“Okay, you need to take that mask off once in a while,” Jackline said as she approached her. She was removing the mask from Nancy’s left ear when she noticed the tears. “Oh, baby. Were you fired?”
Nancy shook her head.
“Well, then a paycheck isn’t that important anyway. Come on, there is a party that the other nurses have put together at the cafeteria. There are snacks. We can carry some home. Don’t worry about the money.”
“They’re paying for everything, Jack”
“Yes,” Jackline said impatiently. “All the snacks are paid for. Now come on…”
Nancy held her friend’s arm. “For school! The hospital is paying for me to go back to school, Jack. I can’t believe it.”
Jackline’s face lit up as she smiled at her friend. “See. I told you all your hard work the last two years would pay off.”
“No you didn’t”
“Honey, yes I did. You just never heard me. Now come. The pandemic is over, you can afford school and I need to get to those free snacks so I can stuff some in my bra for later.” She pushed her friend out the door.
Nancy allowed herself to move, with Jackline’s hand on the small of her back. As she walked out into the back parking lot, she noticed a boy playing. He was about 6 years old. He didn’t have a mask on.
The fear was still present in her chest. Fear that had crippled the whole world in different magnitudes. Nancy still felt it, despite having watched the news last night and this morning. She looked at the boy’s unmasked face as he bounced a small ball on the tarmac. Jackline had already started for the cafeteria.
As she watched the boy’s face, she recognized an innocence that lacked in hers. He was certain that everything was alright now. With the pandemic being over, he was free. He could play without restrictions. He could bounce his ball on a road that was frequented by vehicles. Vehicles driven by doctors who had spent entire shifts sneaking off for a sip of brandy. Vehicles like Doc Michael’s BMW that was coming down the tarmac at speeds meant for safari rallies.
Without thinking, Nancy flung herself towards the boy and his ball. Her arms were spread forward, pushing him out of the way but leaving her right in the path of Doc Michael’s BMW. By the time the bumper got to her, she was already on the tarmac. She could taste the burn of the tires. The fear remained in her chest.
Doc Michael was watching Nancy the whole time. He had been looking for her in the cafeteria before someone mentioned that she may have left for the back entrance. Hurriedly, he got into his BMW and rushed to get to her. He had to tell her he still loved her. That the time they spent together meant more that he could put into words. That he was proud of all the work she had done.
He had seen her on the pavement right outside the nurses’ station. Her eyes were puffy. Had she been crying? Who would make her cry? He had a few things his fists could say to such a person.
Then, out of nowhere, she jumped in front of his car.
When you meet love, you’ll know
That’s what they say
Even before you see their face
How you know without knowing
A scarlet thread in play
I like that and me toos
The similarities insane
You will never think of anything like this
It doesn’t exist until it does
Until it dies
When you meet love, you’ll pretend
Not for not seeing him
For your sanity and repeat mistakes
And you will convince love to leave
Then whisper begging him to turn back
I love yous you won’t mean
The separation deafening
You will wish for something like it
For moons on end until
Out of the blue, love returns
And oh! Perfection
Love will be love, you know
Hearts with melodies for days on end
Even before you see their face
The scarlet thread of murder
I missed that and hellos
Behold, all parts still fit
Fire blazes beneath
When you return to love, it’s better
Love will remind you of…love
And the pain when he was away
Love will speak to your dreams
Deceive you to remove walls
The scarlet thread on your heart
When you meet love, you wish!
Before your eyes, alteration
How you know without knowing
The first time you feel the shift
Deep in your bones and scarlet
Your delusion was your folly
It will act like those that raised you
The wait for things that weren’t coming
People that kept forgetting
Saying and not meaning it
It may not even realize the cracking
Hold on, baby, you’re losing it
Black as rain and you’ll say
Take me back and you’ll beg
What’s going on?
And again and again and again
You retreat and recoil
Forgive and forget
But do you?
Do you believe?
When you meet him, do you know?
So long, and nothing yet
Too far, train and forget
What’s going on?
And again and again and again
I have had a series of events that have forcefully reminded me how much I dislike broken promises. I have turned myself inside out trying to figure out if there is something in my existence that makes the universe this cruel, then I remembered I am the Khaleesi of broken promises.
So, I do not come here with a promise to keep at it. I come, hat in hand, as just a girl, who is trying to remember if she actually liked you kids, or if this was just another way for me to break my own promises.
This post, except for these first three paragraphs, were written on the day they said we can take off our masks. Now, they’re asking us to put them back on, and I am. I might actually be happier about it since I am back to talking to myself behind it, in public, and it is pure bliss. So, enjoy this maybe uninteresting run of my borderline anger at who I cannot pinpoint, and what I may never change about writing for y’all: ranting.
It’s a curious thing; getting rid of masks. We have had more than 20 months of having our faces covered and suddenly, I can see people’s lips moving and it seems wrong. It feels like we are breaking society by uncovering our faces. Like uncorking a volcano that is bubbling hot, ready to take Pompeii and all that is in it.
How we bullied the government to allow us to reveal faces is beyond me. A can of worms has been released, and so much has changed overnight.
Now, touts have taken back their previous entitlement. I see their stretched hands and want to recoil and rock myself to oblivion. They come at me, arms stretched out ready to place it on the small of my back just to usher me in the vehicle and my blood boils.
In the era of masks, they’d let me walk. I mean, sure, they would come at me, but I had the time to throw eyes at them and have them step back, because all they could see of my face was my eyes, so they had to look in them. Now, they have miles and miles of face to distract them, and there is only so much rage one can show with their nose (even if it could move that way)
And sure, you will put me together with the “I went to Alliance” and “I don’t go to CBD” peeps, but to that I say, I didn’t go to Alliance. I am wearing my mask, not for the disease but for the nduthi rides, and the dust (probably the cold too when the weather changes). I wear it for Robert Pattinson’s Batman who, like his fellows, has his whole body covered except for the part I will. I wear it for Catwoman’s wanting mask that looks like her cats tore into and left just enough fabric to cover part of her face and head. I wear it for Gotham, and the last season of the Peaky Blinders. I am a woman of no limitations, and with Polly gone, someone has to keep it classy, so I will, with a face mask on. I wear it for the touts in town who stretch out their hands to me, as if I am Taylor Swift at a concert. As if I am the sandaled philosopher riding a donkey into the town that desecrates my home. A town that was already overwhelming, but has transformed back into the unmasked hell I once knew.
A study was published in 2009, in the European Journal of Social Psychology [I found it in these Google holes I often find myself in] that found it takes between 18 to 254 hours to form a new habit. It also said it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. So, to the unmaskers, are you inhuman? Do you breathe? Were you represented in this study or did they come to their dings with vibes and inshallah? I have questions, like, how do you unmask and not feel naked? Is there a ritual I need to do, offerings to what deity? Share your secrets!
I wear a mask for those that do not wear them, because if not me, who? I don’t know much, but I know it’s a curious thing, getting rid of masks.
Anyway, I stopped wearing my mask, but it is back on my face, and everything is right with the world again.
PS. No promises, but I may rant, or continue with Short story #2. See you Thursday, kids!
I wrote some short stories last year, and would like to share them with you kids. Some of them got shortlisted, some got on some long lists, and some I simply enjoyed writing. They will be posted in no order up till Jan 31st when we start the new year. I don’t think I can explain my not posting last year. Maybe I will sometime, but then again, who knows. If you’ve read them all, good for you. If you haven’t, I’m so happy you get to experience my phychotic breaks of 2021. And yeah, I planned on posting these Dec last year, but I forced myself to live in the moment so much that I simply didn’t.
That was a year. Is all I will say. A new job, all the differences and difficulties that made everything tie up so well. Up to the moment I was screaming my lungs out at midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1, I still couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I do right now. My boss(yeah, HER!) urges us to move on, regardless of circumstances, and maybe this is what I should do.
So, anyway, here is one short story; Disintegrating
When I wrote this, I had lost my great grandma and they wanted a horror story from me. The first I have written. So, I put myself in a coffin, and let the words roam.
I keep lying here as I disintegrate. There is nowhere to be, nowhere to go. There are many of us, and new ones come in every single day. We have no breaks. It is a constant battle, disintegrating. I don’t like it one bit.
The first few weeks are the worst. You don’t understand what is happening, yet it keeps happening. Piece by piece, atom by atom. The new guys scream the most. I’m used to it. I don’t scream anymore. I didn’t even scream much when I came here. I only missed ma and pa.
Their memory keeps fading as my body follows. It’s not much of a body at this point, but it’s still better than what the others look like. I still have most of me, even though the pain of disintegrating is a little worse than what the others suffer. It’s a good thing I came in young. Travis said my pain is bearable because there is so little of me. It is probably the one good thing about dying young.
Travis is great. He’s older, much older. He says he doesn’t know how long he has been here. He also says that with time, I will also stop the count. Today is day fifty-eight since I was put in the ground, and sixty-six since I died. Pneumonia did me in. Ma and Pa did not have health insurance. It is such a cold world out there, even colder than in here.
Most people come in dressed in black. I like watching the younger kids who come in. They have no idea how good they have it. How fast I would trade places with any of them. To feel my feet again. To play in the sand and not just lie in it. To blow out candles on my birthday. I don’t even remember when I was born, just the day I died.
I remember my chest constricting. How I would gasp for air that never came. I remember lying in my bedroom, thinking of times when I was better. Times that I do not remember now.
Travis was the first dead guy who talked to me. The others are a little focused on feeling their pain. They don’t like me very much. I suspect it’s because I feel less pain because I died so young. I didn’t ask for it. If I had the choice, I would be out in the sun, playing with the other children who came in today.
Day sixty-one of disintegrating. I could say the worst thing is feeling the worms in my stomach. When I first started seeing them, it wasn’t so bad. They were my friends. The first one I met was Michael. He was very shy. It was his first time meeting a child under here and he didn’t really know what to do. We talked for a while, but he did not have much to say. I wanted to know if he knew how Ma and Pa were doing. Then a few of his friends showed up.
I would say the worst of the worms is Shirley. She eats into me like her life depends on it. The appetite of that worm is abnormal. She could eat for the whole neighborhood. The neighborhood I lived in was…I forget. I don’t have a lot of details about my previous life. My memory keeps failing me.
Day eighty-three and Shirley is in my lungs. It reminds me of the day I came here. When the pain in my chest finally stopped and I thought that it was the end. It was all so strange. There was this finality in the air as I was put in the ground. I could hear crying but could not see who was shedding tears for me. My lungs were quiet. I don’t think I would have thought of my lungs ever again had Shirley not been munching away in my left bronchiole. She has such an appetite for a worm so small.
Some guy called Travis tried to reach out to me today. He was very worn out. He seemed like he was a washed out version of himself. Painted beige and left to dry, but there he was. He is very strange. He said something to me. “I guess they are eating at your brain now. I am older, so I can keep most of my memories. You, however, child, may not remember your own name.” I have been thinking about his words. What is a name?
I don’t understand a lot of things. Michael says it is because I am so young. I think it’s so unfair that other people remember but others forget. His bites are smaller now. He says I disintegrate faster and he is trying to keep me here as long as possible. Where is here?
It feels so damp all the time. I feel so alone even with Michael and Shirley and that Travis guy hovering. It’s so cold. Sometimes, I open my eyes and see all three of them looking down at me. They talk among themselves. Sometimes, I catch some of their conversation.
“Such a pity…”
“…been through enough…so strong…such will in such a small body”
“Can we continue feeding now?”
“…She was too young…I feed slower, so she lasts longer”
“Ha-ha, I munch to my heart’s content. She’ll be gone soon anyway”
“Yes…so sad. Gone, just like that”
I think they talk about me. Though other times, I can’t be too sure. Day one-hundred-and-forty-six is a lot harder than I thought. There is not much left. Three people look at me. There is a familiarity in their eyes that I recognize, but I can’t keep my eyes open enough to know who they are.
One of them is older. He has friendly eyes. He seems like he is in a lot of pain. I feel no pain. My body is numb. Almost non-existent. I can feel nothing. I am not sure I know what I should be feeling, but I know I don’t feel it. The older guy hovers and lifts his hand to me. I try to touch him, but can’t.
The other two look alike. They seem related. There is a slight difference with them. One looks like someone who I could be friends with. The other looks like they could eat me alive. It is a constant battle, disintegrating. I don’t like it one bit.
Disclaimer; This post may be all over the place. It was written in a whole lot of places.
There are a lot of things that cross your mind when you stand by the graveside of someone you knew. It’s even weird just talking about them in the past tense, simply because the last time their lungs filled with air was yesterday, a few minutes ago, last week, last year. They’re gone, and there is literally nothing you can do about it. You know, because if there was, you would do it in a heartbeat. If the universe came up with a way to bring back people we held dear. If Thanatos gave the option to have them back, who’s to say they would still be their same selves?
But you’re there, the earth is raw and you can still spot an earthworm or two in the pile of sand next to the rectangle. You hold yourself up because everyone else is being so strong and you also have to. Strength, at this point, sounds foreign. Strength is something nonexistent in your diction. You stop yourself every few hours to ask how you have held on when everything feels like it is crumbling. Nothing matters. The sun is not too hot, the air not too humid, clouds not too grey. You can withstand anything at this point because something totally different has taken over your shell and all you’re doing is holding on to a thread as events unfold.
I saw a lot of my people in this shell. People so strong, yet so broken by the matriarch’s passing that they cease to exist in the pain. I watched them pull themselves out to delegate and move locations and eat. I saw them crack jokes and laugh in an empty-shelly way that it gets you thinking.
You know when you have a bad couple of days, and it seems nothing is ever going to go right EVER? When a few things go awry and you deal with each problem as it comes. Then a couple more things go wrong and you start wishing, start cursing, blaming everything and every cat that crosses your path. I’m not superstitious, I’m just a little stitious, and when a client cancels a call, you get a TON of corrections on work you have done before without notes, your toenail gets caught on the carpet, you have a constant nagging headache and a black cat starts following you around when you go out to buy bread only to find they don’t have brown bread, you’re going to blame the white bread you left at the shop. Or the black cat. Your pick.
I recently had a ‘when it rains it pours’ couple of days, and actually got rained on at the worst possible time. The human body, as I came to know, can do whatever it is the mind tells it to do. Maybe I am sharing too much and a lady never tells, but I have rarely been known to follow rules. I did an entire hour and a half journey with a full bladder, and the journey back with the urine knocking ever not so subtly. My mind and bladder connected and kept each other dry, even as rain dripped all over me. Yup, literally, on the worst possible time, I got drenched just when my body needed to drench a toilet.
Okay, back to more socially acceptable topics. Why is death such a hush-hush topic? Why is it that, when my great-grandma passed, there was this silent bow done in my face, as if the curtains were drawn? The woman was 99 (according to the books. Everyone kept saying she must have been older] Why was it all sorrys and no aren’t you glad to have met her? Sat with her? Watched her smile and ask myself how she bit into apples with that huge gap in her front two?
I have been writing this thing for months now, and I don’t even have the words to make it into a complete post. Am I finished as a writer? Have my words faded and I, now, an empty vessel, remain here to wallow in the emptiness of 12:14 am, with no one to call and have and be? Is this my existential crisis, and how many am I allowed before I have to say I have nothing left?
How this thing will morph into a single thought, I have no idea. I just know I need to write again, and doing it in parts is what is working now, so…
Some strange things happened as I stood by that graveside. The rain seemed to wait for just the right moment [unlike when I actually needed to be dry]. It was somber, but there was this feeling in the air, that she was there, watching, or maybe I have seen too many movies and need some reality.
They poured battery acid on her. My Kisii County people are known to find the dead quite delish, so now, when your loved one passes, you have to make sure they are really gone. The acid comes after she is lowered to the ground, to minimize any nightmares that may creep into the night. Without it, the matriarch would be excavated in the cover of darkness, right about the time I am writing this: 12:20 am. The matriarch would be eaten, and honestly, I wonder what a woman as strong as her would taste like.
Would her flesh be tender, to disregard the years she has toiled, or would it match it, blow for blow. She didn’t live quietly, that one. They kept saying she “loved life”. She was a drunk, that’s for sure, but she was a drunk who was in bed by 7 pm [unlike a lot of you]. A responsible drunk, have you heard of such a thing? Her thing was busaa, made with leftover ugali because there was frugality in her generosity. Nothing was wasted with the woman.
As I stretched my cup of busaa to the hot water guy [which, did you know busaa was topped off by hot water?] I realized what legacies this woman left behind. A mother to 9, and 8 boys, even her teeth feared her and had to stay apart. It is because she insisted, with tooth and cane [ha-ha] that her children must go to school, that I am telling stories through my fingers. Poseidon knows I couldn’t have managed to do word of mouth.
As the flour settled in my cup, and I had to look for a stick to stir [the situation called to twigs, not spoons] I listened to the stories of her thrashing my grandma and her siblings if they did not want to go to school. A woman after my own heart, even before she knew me. She needed the cane, especially with 8 boys. That’s what they said.