I have never been on a boat. Never floated on an ocean. I never even learnt how to swim. Until I was in high school, the only swimmable water I ever got in to, and I use “swimmable” loosely, is the River Awach in the hills of Seme. This might be the cause of the shortness of my breath and my sweaty palms when I first stared into the deep end of a swimming pool.
I don’t understand floating. Maybe because I can’t do it for more than 4 seconds before imagining clawed hands reaching up for me. Water was made for drinking and washing. For cleansing. With this reasoning, floating could be the result of one’s own cleansed sins keeping them afloat, hence the reason to why I can’t really float. Maybe my sins are not as grave and lack the strength to lift me in the water. Maybe I commit weaker sin. Sin that has no reason to float to the brim and have others see it because it is ashamed of the ways in which it is lacking. Maybe I cannot swim because I don’t have suitable sin.
Or, and I am just grasping at straws here, maybe the gravity of my sin is too dense to cleanse. My sins could have its own in-built anchor, and it could be that they are heavier and sink deep and stay down, without the resolve to come up for air. I tried having a swimming instructor teach me the secret to having my body suspended in the water. A teacher of the ways that floating men follow. I should have found a John the Baptist instead.
This teacher came in checked swimming trunks that were so worn I could swear he found them in a Salvation Army bucket. “Make yourself float!” he would shout. When I asked him why he was shouting, he said that he needed me to hear him better. As if I had taken out my hearing aid like some white 60-year old woman because African grandmas don’t even want to perceive the idea of hearing aids.
“Dani, I know you have been having problems with your ears…”
“I SAID I KNOW YOU HAVE A HEARING PROBLEM.”
“Oh no child,” because she doesn’t understand the grand part of relativity. “You have problems with your talking”
You both laugh.
“No, Dani.” Sigh. “Look…” you take out pictures of the hearing aid. “This is a device that will be able to help you.”
“Speak up child”
“THIS WILL HELP!”
“These misungu things cannot help me. I was the one who would hear your grandfather’s call from that hill,” she points, “when he came from war. He would call my name immediately he got up that hill so that I could slaughter a hen for his arrival. You young people are influenced by misungus. That snake around my ears will not help me.”
“When I was young, I would walk to Kisumo with my own two feet. Nonstop. I am strong my child. My ears are strong. The ears of a woman who has raised men that work in Narobi.”
“those are not things that relate to you not hearing.”
“What did you say?”
He would walk around the pool like an entitled spoilt child watching the servants clean his mansion. He walks in strides. Slow paces that give him a false sense of authority over those who can and cannot swim. He barked commands at any and all men, without looking at who he was talking to. He had me in a mesh of confusion, splashing and following commands that may or may not have been for me specifically.
“Use your arms!”
His were behind his back, hands clasped. Manicured hands that have known no other kind of work other than shouting at half-naked men and women who were there to relax in the piss of strangers. Hands that get calloused by carrying a bucket of water. His were clean nails, left to grow a little longer than was acceptable for a man. Nails that some girls would scratch each other’s eyes out to get.
He came around to my side of the pool. There seemed to be a glint in his eye. The last time he was in a true relationship might have been in high school. And that was only because he didn’t see her as much. He only copied great works onto perfumed paper and sealed the deal with his saliva. That was how she fell for him. Through Shakespeare and Maya Angelou. He called her his muse, without understanding what being his muse really meant. He won her with words. Empty like the ones only men like him can make up. He told her he gave her all of him and was gone immediately he gave her the part of him he was interested to give.
“Just float. It’s so easy, a grandmamma could do it!”
He should meet my Dani before making such comments.
He probably never calls his mom. She calls him weekly, like all mothers do. The last time he called her was when he heard from his brother that their father had died. He called and said sorry, heard her crying and hung up. He hates the sound of a woman crying. Calls them weak. Says they feel too much. But if they didn’t feel as much, where would the world dump all its problems? A baby cries in the distance. His grin flattens for a moment then curls right back. He probably cries when he is drunk. People are usually more honest with a little liquor in them.
Climate change is a farce and he believes Hitler was a victim of circumstance. He cannot remember the last time he went to church. He lives on the dark side of the moon. He drinks all week and shows up to work any time he wants because his uncle owns the chain of hotels. He doesn’t know his mother called the uncle one cold July night begging for a job for her son. That she had asked for anything. Something he could do so as not to waste away in the puddle of broken dreams and drunken nights.
The crying baby and its mother pass by him. He looks at the little bundle with disdain. He tells himself that he never wants kids. They will destroy his life. Ruin his fun. He tells this to all his friends and they agree with him. They always do until they find the right woman and start a family and forget all about the drunk swimming instructor who never cries.
“Collo is just a disgrace to the superior gender, that he is.” hiccup “Says he fell in love. What kind of bullshit is that? Love. He is bewitched, that’s what he is. That Kamba girl did something. I just can’t say what.”
He talks like this. Saying something then justifying to his audience that he did not say it. He hides behind innuendo and fallacy. He winks or grins or plainly says it, but he makes sure you know what he said without him saying it.
“See that girl. I don’t like girls like that. She needs to get a bigger swimming costume, or rather, come out with a really long T-shirt. Nobody wants to see those things!”
For a guy that doesn’t like crying, he sure knows who to make cry and has mastered the art of doing it. He thinks himself clever. Sees himself as superior to all beings. Nobody can hold nothing to him. He has an amazing job where he is practically self-employed. He chips in a comment about his uncle owning the chain of hotels in every conversation.
Another stroll around the pool.
His head is balding. The area around his stomach is bulging, probably from the beer in his breath. He looks like he was in a gym at a point in his life. His shoulders are broad, arms muscle-y. The depreciating version of a man who once had his life together. A man who held a steady job that he woke up every morning for. A man whose being is now clouded by a false sense of self-appreciation. A man who once had love to give, even had hope for the kids he says ruin lives. A man who cries himself to sleep.
His eyes are mischievous every time he spots a girl. Particularly girls old enough to be his daughters. He looks them over like dead cows hung on a butchery hook. He calls after them, taunting. He has no shame. The women stare in disgust, the men hide their faces on his behalf. Once in a while,when a colleague walks up to him and asks him to put down the glass of frothy brown liquid in his glass, he threatens to have them fired.
“Do you know who my uncle is?” he shouts.
He doesn’t talk, he bellows. All the time. You would think his vocal chords would tire or he would take a break and pop some Strepsils in. You’d be wrong. He has a gift, this man. In another life, he would be a pastor, one of those in matatus or on the streets who holler at passersby. I picture him with a worn out bible in a City Hoppa and he fits right in. He was made for something that has him speaking all the time, without any sense of success. You have to see him to understand him. To picture his balding head sweating along Tom Mboya preaching a gospel that seems to have eluded him.
“Do you know who my Father is?”
“Use your Bible!”
The waiters apologize every time they serve. You ask for fries and it comes with an apology. They are sorry for the trouble he is causing. He did not mean what he said to you. He is just drunk. He is not usually like this. He doesn’t even come every day.
They apologize with a feigned look of remorse in their eyes. They also laugh behind his back. He is the boss’s nephew who they can do nothing about but laugh at for being who he is. They laugh when he calls people names then rush behind him when the customers make to leave because an offended customer is a non-paying customer. The boss will not understand an unpaid bill, even if it is his nephew’s fault.
In the evening, after downing a couple more bottles at his uncle’s expense, my swimming teacher will leave saying he is going home. Nobody knows where he lays his head. They do not invite themselves the way people interested in your life would. They do not ask to be invited for supper or a nightcap. They only pray he does not show himself tomorrow, because tomorrow is a Saturday and there will be more customers. They do not want to apologize to more people that they had to today. He goes out shouting his goodbyes to “his good people” and yelling that he is now going to finish in the mansion. Nobody asks if he is going to finish a bottle or himself. No one cares. Not even him.
Writing is not easy.
You have to be creative and funny and coherent and weird and unique, all at the same time. There is a whole unwritten list of things to do and have and be before you even sit behind a computer to write. Then you have to think of where to begin the story from. Starting a story from its conception to its termination is also not allowed. I mean, you can do it…but people get tired of reading the same goddamn thing all the time. You also get tired of always starting from when someone was born and ending at their death bed. It gets boring. You cannot use the same style of writing for every story you tell. People won’t click on your link if you do. They’ll see you send them anything and think, “Basic story from a basic blog”. I don’t want that. Nobody wants that.
Sometimes I tell myself that I write for you. For people who wake up Thursday mornings expecting a link in their email or WhatsApp or wherever you come here from in this crazy world. I tell myself, in those little pep talks before I start keying down a story that has been playing at my brain for hours, sometimes even days, that I do it for you. But a girl lies.
Mostly, it is for me. It is for the times I have a meltdown and can only get healing by scrolling down this place. For the moments I have stare down melees with the titles, reminiscing of the processes that led me to such a heading and not having the stomach to read the post. I can never read these things once I post them. Too much anxiety. It’s like submitting an exam then looking over the teacher’s shoulder while he marks. Seeing every wrong answer marked wrong and every joke making you laugh. Noticing the mistakes that I let pass and switching this word for that because it seemed correct at the time but now… it might not work as well as the first time. Its torture.
Most times, I think I have writer’s block. I think this all the time. I never give myself a break. I start getting anxious immediately a new week starts. I go to school on Monday and rack my brain for a Thursday deluxe to put together. I sit before my laptop on Tuesday and just stare, willing for anything to cross my mind. Anything! By Wednesday, I think of writing a Tom and Jerry episode. Oh, did I mention I have an amazing pair of Harry Potter socks? This is not relevant information or anything… but I feel like this post is not as relevant to anything at this point so… what the heck right? I do have them. They are like the puppy I never had.
I haven’t really had stories to tell you guys the last two weeks, but I promised myself consistency, so as I listen to greatest hits of Abba, I write. I apologize if you do not know what Abba is. You must be one of these 90’s kids who listen to rainbow headed musicians and mumbling that one can’t really make out. Me? I listen to music. Words sang to a tune that comes from the heart, or just about another person who was sitting with a pen in the back of a pickup truck in the 80’s with nothing better to do.
I am in campus; you must know this by know of course. The first thing someone asks you when you tell them you are in campus is whether or not you live in the school hostels or in the nearest town. I saw a meme that told people to say where they actually come from and to stop rounding it off to the nearest town. Damn! Isn’t this post a mess? I’m getting to the point. I promise.
Okay, so, the first thing you are asked… or not, since they have to ask about the course you do and what year you are in first… so maybe the fourth thing, yeah? School. Course. Year. Where you sleep. Yeah, got it. The fourth thing is usually the hostels.
“Unalala ndani ama nje?” (please read this without the subtext… I beg of you) Translation: /Do you sleep in or outside school?/
Depending on who it is, they will either do the nitakuja supper thing or be smart enough to simply ask where and leave the mystery as is.
Side note: Boys, have some self-respect and stop asking to come eat at our places. We hate it. We will willingly invite you when you have slayed 7 lions, ridden 2 dragons and crossed the sea of fire. Not before. Otherwise, eat at your hostel rooms please.
Abba’s Super Trooper just started.
Now, I left the hostels in my second year of university, and since I tasted freedom I cannot imagine myself ever going back. I am from a family of very few people. The ones we were taught are known as nuclear families. I only see the extended part during Christmas holidays when we have nyama choma grilled outside under this tree with yellow flowers that always fall on the meat.
I’m not used to sharing space with four different personalities at once. I tried and failed. Please don’t think I am a snob. I’m really nice but don’t think I’m just banging an empty drum here. You should hold a conversation with me and find out yourself. Bring food.
My only issue with living outside school is you have to deal with these mama mbogas who are too good for us campus students. I don’t know about how they treat other mamas out there, but I have only had discussions about mama mbogas with my total of 2 friends, which gives me the right to generalize. Westlands people, my apologies. Mama mboga is a lady with a wooden kibanda (well-aerated shop) selling veggies and tomatoes and pilipili and avocados on occasion –groceries shop of the hood.
On the ka-njia to get to my place are two notorious mama mbogas. I don’t know if it is for the fact that my skin is not as dark as my Luo relations but this one mama talks to her mama mboga friend about me when I go to get veggies from her. I stopped immediately, even told her I didn’t want her sukuma-wiki anymore. God knows how that week went. This other one waits till you give her your money and serves her friends who come after you, while you put La Casa on pause and Professor had just arrived with the detective at the mansion they trained at. What makes matters a little fascinating is that this Luo mama mboga has her stand extend from The Shop in the neighborhood. You know that shop that has Jik and gum and kiwi and a needle and thread? The Shop that satisfies all your household needs and if what you seek is not available, there is always an alternative. That’s the shop that the Luo mama mboga extends her kiosk from. I marvel at the strength of The Shop every day I pass by it, even as it supports her and her humongous sense of self. Kenyans would say that it is indeed a shop and a half.
And you know a girl has to go to The Shop, because there are things that you can’t walk the 5 minutes to a Supermarket for, especially at night, being someone with fear of the dark among many.
I do go to The Shop, weekly, like mass. Sometimes I pass other shops who try to emulate the sparkle of The Shop, not because they have sub-standard goods, but because I love seeing her give me a look she gives me when I pass her with my Sukuma-wiki that I got from another mama mboga and buy Ting Ting at The Shop. We have this special thing we do, my Luo mama mboga and me. She glowers and I smirk. At first, I never noticed the frown she ruins her face further with until one time when I passed her with a friend and the friend asked if I had given the woman an undeserved kiss.
Then I started noticing how she would be all happy and smiling with someone at her stall until I pass by her from school or to my sweet friendly mama mboga. I saw how she would cringe when she noticed me crack a joke with the person behind The Shop’s counter. Counter people at The Shop change shifts. Do you know how successful aa shop needs to be to have keepers who change shifts? Neither do I, but I will ask one day. I assume it is very successful. I need that kind of success in my chaotic life. As soon as I noticed her displeasure, I began the walk past her extension of a kibanda with this grin that lights my soul on fire.
A few months ago, she went out of stock, or had mismanaged her funds or something happened. Look, all I know is she did not open for a few weeks. I would say I was happy about it, but no. I can’t lie to you. I missed the lines across her forehead and her pursed lips. But most of all, I missed those eyes. Eyes that would follow me from my favorite mama mboga’s till I went past the corner. Sometimes, I hope she cranes her neck to look at my back after I go past the corner. We have these special moments with her, me and my Luo mama mboga. She and I.
(PS. You have a story that you think I can spruce up and tell here, please find me. I’m getting desperate here.)
It’s been a couple of years since high school. Well, not a couple…few, maybe? A couple sounds like a number you don’t want to disclose…plus, I’ve been told ladies do not disclose their age and I might actually consider myself a lady, so to speak. I am also aware that immediately I state the year I left high school, ye undiscovered math geniuses will resort to work finding x. but I am not old, except for the aged woman who lives inside me and gives me constant insight on how to live my life, among other things. Ah, just know, it hasn’t been 10 years, and I didn’t join campus last year. That works, right?
The reason I bring up leaving high school is because I have not spoken to more than three quarters of my classmates in those few years, but I have heard about them. Social media is a magical world. We keep tabs on people we would never even speak to if the chance presented itself. We wave these mystical phones and in a heartbeat, one knows where someone is, has been and where they plan to be. We have information on spouses (if any) and get to be involved in the lives of people we only knew by name. Isn’t that great? So great. PS, I have no spouse.
So I was scrolling through Instagram recently and found that another of my former schoolmates is expectant. This, together with the conversations I have had with most of the people I know, like say 7, has me convinced that most of us are having children pretty young now. Before you bash me and say I am being childish, let me say that I have nothing against preggers women. It’s amazing that one can grow another human being in their body and have them breathe and eat and make you feel this progress for 9 months. The process is divine. Children are wonderful and I totally would like tiny versions of me running around here someday, if I get sane enough that is. That said, dont you feel like everyone is getting pregnant? Not you boys, relax a little, damn!
But seriously, everyone knows someone under 25 who has a kid, or is expecting one or plans to trap a poor unsuspecting soul into giving them one. If you don’t know such a person, you probably are the one. We have had this conversation a million times. Of how Nani has a baby or Nani Two is to have one soon. Kindergarten and Nursery buses plague our roads on a daily, filled with elated screams of children going home from school. Children are having children like it is a contest. The number of baby showers I have heard about and been invited to is well near Ridiculous! (Remember that show? Yeah? Let’s move on).
This has made a new almost extinct species come to life. 20 somethings without kids. Young adults who are not moms and do not plan to be any time soon. Boys who are not crippled with the fear of getting the dreaded late night text to give them the news.
/Can we talk/
/Sure, what’s up/ Blood now pumping.
/I think I’m late/
/You think or you are?/
/I don’t know Sweetie/ Because the deal has to be sweetened and you lured in with sugary name-calling. But now, the antennas are up. Not because of the time passed (Ha-ha, get it)but because you have never been Sweetied or Babed or Darlinged in the time you have known each other. The aerial shoots up because you do not know how to react to names you have never heard from them.
/Are you sure its me? / Now, this…this could mean a number of things.
Are you sure you have the right number?
Are you sure I am the father?
Are you sure I am the one who took your watch. See? A great number of things. Yes, I know I repeated a joke.
/Brayo, don’t joke around/
Please note that I use a Brian connotation only so most guys can relate to it. Not that I have a specific Brian in mind.
And ladies… just because I feel this needs emphasis… no Brian came to me with your dilemma. If there is in fact a Brian who texts you as I have presumed above have you heard of a little thing called coincidence? Look it up before you come to me asking which Brayo I am talking about. Yours is not the only one.
Anyway, Brian will then blue-tick you while you send him paragraphs reliving all the little nothings he whispered into your ear and he will go have a few sodas topped with a bottle… of Dasani and gobble on some nyama choma while you put your composition skills into practice on his inbox. We’ve seen it happen and have laughed with a few Brians ourselves. So girls, come on. I hear bedroom business is pretty good business. Have your transactions with Brians who will not drive you to compulsory essays and ulcers just because you let him sit in the office with no suit on. Ensure Brayo suits up.
If you are a 20 something without a kid, stay strong my sister. -Insert Lupita’s quote-
Sidenote: Don’t mistake this for me bashing our age mates with children. I love kids. Adore them even. They are what is right with the world, right after Oreos. And I think you are strong to have had a kid and still go on with school or your business or whatever it is you do right now to have you take over from Zuckerberg and Beyonce. I don’t possess that kind of strength and, knowing me, I might lose my wits I anything like a Brian happens to me. So I do admire you. All of you who go to class or to work on a daily and still have to go home to a cute little one and take care of them.
You have within you the strength of two mountains piled on each other.
After their wedding, David’s new father-in-law paid for his Diploma in Management. He left his wife just 2 days into their new lives knowing it would all be worth it. He studied the same way he won her heart. For her. For his angel. He did odd jobs to support himself in school and sent money back home to Sylvia. It is what a man would do, and David was a real man. He said he never looked at any other women when I asked. Sylvia is his soulmate. She saved all the envelops that came to her from Nairobi with little trinkets from a time he was walking down a street or some paper boat he made while thinking of her.
[Hello newbies…the link to the first part is this https://notyetadults.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/davids-angel/]
She travelled often to see him. Nairobi girls can spot a good man from a mile away. She did not want hers taken before she had gotten used to the idea of being his wife. When she got pregnant, she rushed with the news to his classroom and they were thrown out for disrupting the lesson. They didn’t care. They were in love. The perfect duo. The Legend to her Chrissy.
Dave Kalalei was born on a cold July morning in 1996. His father was by his mother’s side the whole time. He changed diapers and got puked on. He loved every single second of it. He held her hand through his brother’s birthday too, two years later. Dave does not recall this day. He was too young to remember his father receiving the call that changed him from the guy who gave piggyback rides to a stern-frowning ever-shouting monster who hit them with belts, threw boots at them and one time, when Dave was 16, his mother’s jiko.
The phone call came with the second most terrifying scream David Kalalei has ever heard. He was driving his wife and newborn son from the hospital when his phone rang with an unknown number. Usually, he never answers numbers he has not saved but he was so happy he had to tell someone. It didn’t matter if it was a wrong number call. His wife wishes he never answered this one call.
“Hello?” he must have said with a smile on his face. The kind of smile that comes with the joy of being a new father to a healthy baby boy.
“Kalalei? David Kalalei?”
“I’m calling about your mother.”
David must have frozen, recalling the last time he had even thought of his mother. When she could barely set her eyes on him. When she made that terrible sound from her throat that caused his heart to shred to bits. She had called to strangers to come take her murderous son who had slain her Goliath.
“I don’t ha…”
“She passed away.”
He must have suddenly hit the brakes and caused his wife and son to be thrust forward (this is for science…inertia and all. See? I paid attention in school too).
As if on cue, some random woman in the background let out a scream after the caller said this. The second worst sound he has ever heard. He felt in his bones the farce that was the scream. The choreographed delusion that clearly elaborated the sham he was. He was one with the scream. Morphed into it. A futile joke that showed his mother’s mistakes. He stopped the car, got out and walked. Sylvia did not know what to do. She followed him, trying to ask what the problem was. He just walked.
I’m starting to think David is a walker.
She went back to the car and found the caller still on the phone. They needed to go back to Baringo to plan the funeral. They were the only family Maria Kalalei had. Nothing could be done without their consent. She tried to look down the road David had taken. Nothing. He was not coming back. Her David was broken once more. She thanked the man and hang up.
When she got home, her husband was not there. He was always home, on the couch by the TV. Not watching it, he never watched TV. He is a radio man, that David. What he liked was watching Dave watch cartoons on the box with pictures. But he was not there. He did not come home that night. There was a knock at dawn. She had not slept. Her hero of a husband was at the door in the morning, reeking of alcohol. He never drank, except for the occasional celebratory wine. But he reeked. She looked at him once and asked if he wanted a shower. No answer. He got into the house and went straight for the bedroom. In the 8 years she had known him, she always got an answer. It didn’t matter if she had angered him or if he was exhausted to death.
The months that followed were wearying for Sylvia. David had helped with Dave. She had counted on him being as supportive with the new baby. A month-old infant and a 2-year-old boy was too much for a girl who had never taken care of any other person other than the man who had decreased himself to a drunken stupor.
Dave Kalalei Jr says he grew up knowing his father as a no-nonsense man. You would get a boot on the arse for anything! Failed grades, spilled milk and even the baby crying. A boot in the arse for any wrongdoing. It didn’t matter who was in the wrong. One time, he recalls, he came home 20 minutes late because he missed the first turn on the school bus while waiting for his report card. His father was always home by 3:00 pm for his before-evening whisky. David had transitioned to drinking at the house and Dave was late in giving him his routine 3 glasses at 3pm before disappearing to bars till midnight. Dave says this was when his father started hitting him. As soon as he was off the bus, a brown boot was on his face. That was his father’s M.O. A boot in the face or on the arse if he had no time to take it off.
Over time, it fluxed to beatings. The same way you would beat a thief by the road, only without the rocks and tyre to burn him. Dave was hit at every excuse. It was the same as the boot-season, only more intense because blows, punches and slaps were factored in.
His younger brothers fought over the remote? Punch-Kick-Slap
His mother left for the market without telling her husband? Kick-Slap-Punch
He sits on the couch doing nothing? Being idle and irresponsible? You know how this goes.
So Dave grew up fearing his father. He was crippled with terror any time his father took a breath. He lost his hearing for a week when he was 14 and cried himself to sleep every night. David Kalalei always told himself he was beating his son’s mistakes and made sure Dave knew this. He wanted his son to grow up tough. Grow up into a man.
But Dave is his father’s son. Soon, his scrawny got biceped. He stopped thinking about his father. About the looming beatings at every turn. An exoskeleton formed and he was as tough as only one who has gone through what he did can become. When he hit back, once, his father was clearly shocked. It was one punch. One punch that knocked David Kalalei back to his senses. He looked at his son for the first time in 17 years, shook his head and went to bed.
Sylvia tells me David slept for 3 days. Nonstop. This man is a Rubik’s cube of his own kind. In the three days, he says he dreamt of his mother. Says she came to him and asked him to forgive her. Well, he says ‘begged’, but I know for a fact that African mothers do not beg their children for anything. You either forgive them or live a life of misery beating your children senseless and ruining your angel’s life in the process. Sylvia says when he woke up, he took a shower, got out and went back in for another shower. He had only taken showers for meetings in 17 years.
Two weeks ago, when Dave Kalalei Jr walked out of Mathare Hospital from his last psychiatric meeting, he felt relieved. He told the story of his father. Of how David Kalalei had been broken by his own mother’s scream and the pretentious wail of a stranger. He told of his mother’s unending love and prayer. The meetings were for his father, for even though David Kalalei now showers every morning, he could not bring himself to walk into a psychiatric doctor’s office.
But he had raised a son with thick skin, and an elastic heart. Dave did not talk of the punch that saved his family’s life in his sessions. This is not the story of the punch he threw.
He also said I should not call this story ‘The Fist of Fire’, which is what I had initially thought of.
Somewhere between the confines of the blue mesh and the white walls of Mathare was where Dave Kalalei Junior learnt to accept his fate. Going in, he had sworn to never let the crazy people doctors anywhere near his head. He was alright. He was of perfect health. In fact, his father was the one who should have walked through those gates.
His father, David Kalalei Sr is one tough cookie. He was raised in Baringo county, where I assume he literally had to cross rivers, fight crocodiles and brave storms just to get to school. He actually raised himself..I don’t know why I claim he was raised. His hands are calloused, of course, because he did construction work for years to win the heart of his angel.
David’s mother, Junior’s grandmother (keep up), was the kind that could not keep a man. Strange men were what he grew up calling father. At one point, he started calling his mother’s boyfriends “Uncle”, because he felt he was misusing the paternal term on people who did not deserve it. His mother loved him. She only did not know how to show it. He brought his report cards home when he scored As, which was always. She lit her fires with them. Don’t blame her. She could not read. She was not like those grandparents who could not read but still sent our parents school because they knew the value of education. No. Maria Kalalei could not understand her son’s success. She sent him to school to keep him away from home. Her boyfriends liked peace and quiet, and David was neither peaceful nor quiet.
Adolescence caught up with him early enough. His voice deepened by the time he was 11. He was taller than his uncles by the time he was 14 and had a chin full of hair by 16. The uncles feared him. But real men do not show fear. Not towards a 16-year old son to the woman you are bedding. So they acted tough. They whipped him for “being disrespectful” and sleeping past sunrise. They threw his homework to the pigs if he left a bull unattended. They tormented him all day when he was home so that he could leave, but he could never leave his mother. He loved her, even in her incapability of finding a man worth her heart.
Then David became stronger. He grew muscles from the hard labor uncle after uncle made him do. He became the best wrestler in his small village. Nobody messed with his mom anymore. For a while, she was single and life was good. It was the two of them against the world. He would have loved for things to remain as such, but his mother had a testosterone weakness.
One evening, he came into the compound from the sty and heard noises he had not heard in a while. He rushed into the house only to find his mother giving herself to his best friend who he has asked to wait for him in the house. David Kalalei lost it. He hit his friend with the club he kept behind the door.
His mother screamed.
David remembers this scream. It was the scream that confirmed his mother’s weakness. The scream that called to the neighbors to save her from him. It was a fear scream. A scream that pierced his soul and shattered him to bits.
His best friend lay motionless on the ground, a pool of his blood soaking the ground.
He tried to talk to his mother, but she was hearing none of it. He wanted them to run. To get out of the house that had memories of uncles who would beat her, uncles who would refuse him food that he had worked so hard to get and uncles who destroyed his faith in paternity. His mother kept screaming to the neighbors. She wanted their help from her monster son. The monster David who had slain her beloved Goliath.
The neighbors took him to the chief and Goliath to the clinic then the district hospital. Goliath survived. He was still breathing when they got to the district hospital and did not have any serious injuries. His gods were alive. He had only lost consciousness from the scare his friend had given him, not from the club blow. And the blood was just an open wound that was salvaged by 4 stitches.
David did not have as much luck as his ex-best friend. The chief gave him an ultimatum.
Apologize to Goliath and pledge to be his cattle boy forever or leave the only place he had ever called home.
He asked to see his mother.
When he got home, his mother could not look him in the eye. She asked him to leave. She said things he can never repeat to his sons. She locked herself in her room until he was long gone.
He left home with nowhere to go. He only walked. One foot in front of the other. He walked until it was too dark to see his own hand and he walked some more. By daybreak, David Kalalei was dehydrated and had blisters all over his feet. Do you know how much you have to walk to have blisters all over your feet? David does. The blisters could not allow his feet to touch the ground. Maybe that was God’s way of telling him he was in Canaan.
The sun may have shone on him for hours and a snake might have slithered past him.
Dave Kalalei Jr tells me his oshago has lots of snakes. They don’t go to his father’s place. He has only taken them to the place their mother found him. He tells them he felt the softest of hands touch him.
“The touch of an angel. My mother is father’s angel,” Dave says with a smile. It is a genuine smile. A smile you get when you have seen an angel.
Sylvia says she found David sprawled on the ground. He was well built and had nothing on him other than his clothes. That is how she describes the first impression she had of her husband. Not handsome. Not tall. Not dark. Just, well built, with nothing other than the clothes on his back. She says she sat with him for hours, looking at his face. David always disputes this. He says he woke up as soon as she was near him. Men and their egos. Sylvia took him home. She did not know what she would tell her father if she came with a well built man who had collapsed in the sun with nothing but his clothes, so they made a deal. Two strangers with no background story struck a deal with the Earth as their only witness. She would walk home ahead of him and after a few minutes, he would follow. He could not miss her father’s homestead. It was the one with the permanent houses.
David’s soon to be father in law was a construction foreman. He had been hospitable to the young man and after a few grilling sessions, he offered the young man a job. That is how David’s hands became calloused. He worked for his Sylvia. He woke up for her, had meals for her and went to sleep for her.
It may have been the love he had for her but soon enough he was better than the builders Sylvia’s father had. He promoted him to assistant foreman after one and a half years.
When he finally had the courage to tell his boss that he wanted his daughter’s hand, the older man told him that he already knew. Perhaps while the two lovers shared stolen looks of longing, the father was watching. He was, after all, the foreman. His job was to watch his workers. He only asked him to be as good to the daughter as the father had been to him. And David keeps his promise.
He adores his angel. He tells everyone that she saved his life.
“Hi, my name is David Kalalei and this is my angel wife, Sylvia Kalalei.”
“Good afternoon, this is my wife and angel, Sylvia. She saved my life.”
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I am David. This is angel here is Sylvia, my wife. She saved my life.”
They got married 5 years to the day Sylvia found him on the ground and lifted him higher than he ever thought he could go. The ceremony, held in her father’s compound, was only attended by the bride’s side. To lessen the absurdity of the strange sight it was, they did not have the traditional 2 tents. Guests had the hot hard ground where everyone sat and witnessed love in all its glory. David joked that the ground represented his family. That their guests sat on it because he was the man and had to lift the bride and her family high. Sylvia knows he was not joking. She knows him well enough to read between his lines.
David Kalalei lost his mother 2 years after he had Dave Kalalei Jr. The news broke him. He thought he was done with her, but that is a story for another time.
Every evening when they are at their maternal grandparents’ home, David calls Dave and his brothers to watch the sunset. He loves the sunset. He watches it facing the direction he came from. The direction that his home for a time still stands. Everything fades away into darkness and he is taken back. He tells his sons to do better. Be better. His sons find this to be true. They want to be better than him, because despite having an angel to call his own, David has demons of his own.
Don’t you just hate exams?
It’s like the teachers don’t believe in themselves, right? There thinking testing us is the only way to validate themselves.
Constantly not believing in us and that we really went to class and concentrated the whole time. Minus the few times we looked into our phones or just didn’t go to the class, because there are some of those classes that we just have to purposely miss.
Every semester they give us exams to test us, rather than teaching us those exact things that they test for. Like 10 questions are the scale to know whether or not we learned anything. Why not teach us those 10 things and leave us alone?
The worst ones are those who give tests on things they never taught… I mean..come on! If you thought I didn’t need to know about what you set, why the hell didn’t you teach it then? Sometimes I think they don’t know the answers themselves and are only depending on our superior millennial brains to tell them in the form of exams, so they don’t sound desperate in asking for help.
After my exam burden was conquered last week, I tried writing for you guys here. I really did. And yes, I did get the texts asking for last week’s link…there wasn’t any. I was suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. The only viable and proven cure was obviously my mama’s cooking and loving and caring and all the mom-ing that moms do to make everything better. That one person’s presence alone can be as comforting as this phenomenal being is simply baffling.
I love moms.
Biko said that one time you could wake up to find a mountain in the next compound and you would call out to your neighbor saying
“Felix, what the…why is there a mountain in your compound?”
And Felix would calmly say…as if it was a natural thing to find the rock, “Oh, that? That was moved by my mother.” (PS. I paraphrased this…it is not word for word…please don’t report me to the quotation police. Striped suits do not do justice for my potato sack build)
Have you heard the tale of the three cousin thieves?
A trio of black sheep really. Three men sharing the blood running through their veins who thought it wise to dedicate their time and effort to debauchery and robbery. That has a nice ring to it. Debauchery and Robbery.
These cousins made a pact. Was the pact sealed with blood? Because anytime I hear the word pact I think it to be sacred. That the participants need to commit to said pact with something dear. It is not clear whether the trefoil sealed the pact with the blood running through their veins. But they should have. They must have been scared of blades. Or the sight of blood. That always gives me goosebumps. This was their first of many mistakes. Not sealing that pact.
They say all word and no blood make for spoiled plans. I don’t know who they are but I agree with them. The trio agrees with them. Fate agrees with them. Also, ‘they’ are not real and this is a fake saying.
They also say there is honor among thieves. This one is true…I heard it in a movie or something.
These modern day musketeers had no honor. They had been involved in a number of small fender-benders with relatives at funerals and weddings. They would snipe little trinkets from relatives at family gatherings and with time, like all addictive traits, this form of larceny was not enough to quench their thirst.They thought of bigger games. Larger results. They wanted something sizeable that would take them out of the game for a little while. The plan was never to get out completely. Just one big break and they would get back to their normal small thefts routine.
Adrenaline enchantingly pumping through their same colored veins, they found Miss X. It might have been Mrs. X. The story was quite vague and I’m only grasping at straws here.
It is also not clear how they knew of Miss X.
I like Miss. It makes her sound ageless. Is she 26 or 58? We may never know.
I also don’t need to overuse the fullstop when I use Miss. Punctuation is such a drag.
You may come to realize that this story has a lot of holes in it, and if you haven’t yet, I would beg you to go on with that thinking. But I have admitted to you that I do not have all the facts right, and will give you the story as I got it.
Miss X withdrew 800,000 Kenyan shillings from a bank. Kenya shillings? Kenyan? This is not an exam so just listen.
The three somehow learned of Miss Xs withdrawal and the route she was taking. Perhaps it was the bank’s requirement to map out the path you take when you withdraw a certain amount. Or she dropped bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel. Or she too is a relative to the MDM and during a family wedding the youngest sat next to her and as they had that ‘How is school’ conversation, Auntie X accidentally-on-purpose let it slip that she was to receive a hefty amount of almost a mil and she would go through the route she never takes to wade off thieves.
“You should study my nephew, the 800k in my account did not come from dancing that Bazokozo and singing about lollipops all the time like you guys are doing,” she may have advised sitting next to him under a tent dressed in her new kitenge. Aunties always wear vitenges to family events.
“Ah Auntie X…” he may have coaxed. “Don’t be like that. Have you seen me dancing Bazokizo? I am not like my cousins you know,” and just like that, he may have begun devising ways he could get the 800k in the account that obviously did not come from her dancing Bazokizo since Auntie X could not move her two left feet if her life depended on it.
Maybe she trusted the wrong man. Maybe in a previous life she was a waitress and she used to spit in people’s food or maybe, without knowing, Auntie X spilled the beans to her thieving nephew who then planned on relieving her of her small handbag business profit.
And when Auntie X was talking with the grown-ups in the other tent, her nephew might have gone to the cousins and told of the 800k and the route it would take and a plan was hatched.
Long story short, Miss X was robbed and thoroughly beat because she tried to scream after she was warned not to. The boys were also arrested. Miss X says she does not know who they are. The real drama was at court when each of the boys had a different tale to tell.As is custom in all cases, they were asked to defend themselves.
Cousin One was in Laikipia. He does not even know what the case is about. He was hurled into a cell without an explanation and found himself in court this morning not knowing of what he was charged with. This is a lie. Before you get to a point in a case where you have to defend yourself, you will have been issued a charge sheet which explains your error to society.
Cousin Two was in Kapenguria at the specified time. He was summoned to this court without any notice and is only beginning to understand the proceedings. They are saying he stole 800,000 shillings? He has never held that much money in his hands. He is only accustomed to money that is often referred to as bob…not Kenyan shillings! This feels like they are blaming him for La Casa De Papel (good movie btw). But, like Cousin One, he too is lying. How do we know this? From Cousin Three, also known in this story as…drumrolls please… Nephew to Auntie X! I know, I know. You saw this twist a mile away…but what you did not see coming could be Cousin Three’s defense.
Blood is supposed to be thicker than water. These gentlemen failed to realize the truth to this age old saying when they forgot to seal the deal with the blood of their blood. Because when C3 stood in court, he sang like a canary. Not that I have heard a canary sing. I could not even point out a canary to you if it flew past me and hit you in the head. I couldn’t say to you, “Oh, hey look! That’s a canary that just flew by and hit you in the head.” But oh did he dish in that courtroom.
Cousin Three tells the judge he was with them. He will not lie like his cousins. He was raised to tell the truth. They were together at the said location, and they did infact steal 800,000 Kenyan shillings from Miss X. He says they did plan the theft, or robbery if you prefer. I am told you theft is for lighter amounts like that 5 bob you took from mom’s purse when you were 9.
What they had not planned on was the violence. They did not think that Miss X would scream and that they would be forced to give her a couple of blows to shut her up. But who would not scream when they were being robbed of 800k from their purse? Or whatever sack she was carrying that could fit the whole amount to be carried with ease. Cousin Three confessed to knowing the route the money would take. He refers to Miss X as “the money”, since she became the whole package when she stepped out of the bank.
He was the one who had overheard her planning to go get her cheddar and mapped out her path. He had given the route to his older cousins and they had agreed to split the money three ways. Whoever taught these three math must be arrested this instant. They did not think to use a calculator to know that someone would have to go home with less. But that was not the problem. Instead of giving C3 his equal share, C1 and C2 opted to cut corners with the money and underpay C3 for his hard labor. This is why C3 was singing, he says.
“I am only 19, mheshimiwa,” he calls the judge that, because he knows big people are either mheshimiwa or kiongozi. Our generation must be cursed. “These two are my brothers yes, but walinicheza sana (they played me). They took the money and game me an amount we had not agreed to. Yes, we were together…and I cannot stand here while they lie to mheshimiwa,” he says solemnly.
So, like in La Casa, let us choose the people we want to make heists with carefully, be like El Profesor.
Growing up without the guts to punch people who piss you off in the face is cowardly, yes, but also kind of interesting.
I know because I lived it.
Barely being able to tell people who did you wrong that they had. What I did instead is probably the most cowardly thing you have ever heard of. I would write. Write down what they did to make my chest burn. I would sit down and describe, in gruesome detail, what they made me feel. Pages filled with words describing how I felt when I was facing adolescence filled my notebooks.
I could describe almost anything, but only when I was angry, or sad. I always wrote when I was burning inside. That flame inside my chest filled the paper with so much ink that I might have become addicted to it. Almost like an adrenaline rush. As a result, I think I forgot that people could also be talked to in murky situations. It might have slipped my mind that human interaction was key. So every time I ventured out of my comfort zone, and more often than not, someone did me wrong, I would still put that flame into words.
Two of the notebooks survived. I named them. Always did. I liked naming the important things.
‘You are my notebook and you will be called Shirley’.
It was always random names. Giving myself a sense of Adam in Eden. I had control over them. Power. And power was everything. I could talk back to these things.
Slam Shirley across the locker. Drag Andrew on the floor.
I guess I was suffering from a superiority complex against myself. I don’t know when it stopped, or if it ever did, but it helped me get through a number of situations that might have ended badly. The writing, not the naming. I still don’t know what that was about.
Her name is Jessicah. With an –H-.
You might want to read the first part of Jacked Up Stranger…https://notyetadults.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/jacked-up-stranger-the-meet/
\Simply putting a stop sign on a highway will not change the fact that there is no speed limit on the same highway\
This is the first thing she sent me. She said it was the lesson her family came to really understand, after years of being disinterested of the things their daughter was being involved in.
Her mother was seated outside the doctor’s office and could not believe what her family had descended into. Her husband had practically disowned them and Jessicah was clinging to dear life in the next room.
Jessicah had asked to go on a school trip. Her dearest mother did not think much of it. It was just another school trip. She never even noticed that there was no permission slip to accompany the request. She had waved her daughter off to her destruction.
Afterwards she would tell Jessicah that she ran the events of the day through her mind a million times, trying to find a loophole where she could have helped her. She must have found so many. If she had once looked up at her daughter instead of simply asking her to leave for the trip as soon as possible. If once, she had gone into her daughter’s room, then maybe she would have found the pregnancy tests earlier. She blamed herself. What had happened to Jessicah was her fault. Jessicah does not believe her.
Her parents had done their civic duty and had escorted their daughter to university barely 7 weeks before. Jessicah had been made to write down a month long budget so that they could send her money to sustain her in school. They did not want frequent phone calls from her asking for money.
She felt alone in school. Not that she was not used to it after lifelong practise. She was in a place she had never been before with a group of her peers that she did not know very well. In her loneliness, she had met Jack, a second year student in the same university. He took her on a tour around the school, showed her where her classes would be held and where she could get meals. Jack was kind to her. No one had ever been kind to her without expecting something in return. He paid attention to her at a time when no one else was.
He gave her gifts. Little trinkets that meant nothing to other people but had sentimental value to them.
The Tingting chewing gum she was chewing when they first met. A leaf for every time they met since she never liked flowers. He knew the little things that made her and she found herself thinking of him during classes.
She called her mother to tell her about Jack. To tell her how nice he was being to her and that she liked him. Her mother put her on hold and forgot about the phone call altogether. But Jack was there. He comforted her. He held her through the night as she burned inside. She told him her secrets that night. Everything. Her family, who her father is, what her life growing up was like. She bore her soul to the devil.
Out of the blue, Jack had asked for sex the next day. This was a big step for them. They had only gone as far as lying on his shoulder as she cried. She told him she would have to think about it but he got angry. He had never raised his voice at her. She had never seen him angry at all, but to be fair, she had only known him 2 weeks. He told her of all the things he had done for her. Said that she was just being selfish. He could not be with someone who was denying him of the one thing he had ever asked for.
He stopped texting. He did not answer her calls. He did not show up when it was time to go eat. Jessicah had no sight of him for two consecutive days. She was distraught.
She asked her roommate about sex. Nobody had ever told her anything and Google was certainly not helpful. Would painkillers help with the pain? How long would it last? Was there things she was she required to do in preparation and if any, what? She had so many questions that a search engine was not enough for her.
Her roommate went to the hostel bathrooms and came back with some red wrappers. Sure Condoms. She had seen these condoms in the hostel bathrooms but had never bothered with them. They did not look safe to her. Unsure condoms to say the least.
The roommate told her that they were safe. If Jack wore one, nothing bad would happen. She made it sound like hidden inside the red wrappers was a team of superheroes who would bust out just in time to save her from whatever uncertainty lay ahead. She took the 6 condoms and sent a text to Jack. She was ready. They would have sex if they used the Sure condoms provided by the university.
Five weeks into university and Jessicah missed her period. She was frantic. Her roommate said she was probably only stressed and her period was late as a result. But Jessicah was not convinced. Jack had disappeared for home for two weeks. His parents were those oshago kind. Lived deep in the rural areas. There was no reception [read network]. She could not get a hold of the most important person in her life.
She bought a home pregnancy test kit from a chemist on her way home. Frightened to death, she watched as the plus sign confirmed her suspicions. The first person she called was him. Jack. But his number was disconnected [read mteja] as it had been for two weeks. She could not talk to her mother.
\are you kidding me? I’d be disowned!\
She called the roommate instead. Besides, she was the one who had talked her into having sex in the first place. This was a cross that they had to bear together. The roommate was no help at all. It was not her problem. Not her boyfriend. Not her body that someone could be growing inside. Then she had hung up and Jessicah was back where she started. Right back to before she joined university and she couldn’t talk to anyone because there was no one to talk to. She says this was the worst experience of her life.
She repented. She says she saw the hand of God stretched out for her. That He called out to her. She is not sure whether she got saved because of the fright or if she really saw the light. She might have lost consciousness too. The only thing she is sure of is having survived it.
Isn’t social media a crazy place? A mess of the wealthy and the wealthy wanna-bes, the high schoolers and the campus-ers, the odis and the classy all mixed together in one gigantic cauldron.
Everyone has forgotten those terrible blurry selfies with the ridiculous poses and just as bad captions. I recall a time when we identified our accounts on Facebook (because Facebook was all we had) by our profile pictures.
“Nilikutumia friend request na hukuaccept,” a classmate would say 2 weeks into a new term.
“Who? Me? No you didn’t. What account did you send it to?”
“Si wewe ndiyo Mish Lianna? Profile picture ya Willow Smith.”
And it would be Chris Brown the next term. Bow Wow after that. Usher. PSquare, et cetera.
These were the times we would go to cyber cafes to change said profile pictures. When the creativity of user names reflected loosely popularity.
Xs replaced Ss and we scrubbed vowels from our vocabulary altogether. Some words suffered as much as being replaced by numbers but it was a good life.
I texted Chris Brown with so much hope. Sent messages so many times I’m sure he had to block Mish Lianna from Kentucky. Did I mention she was from Kentucky? I didn’t even know where the hell Kentucky stood on a map. She had a home there but never posted pictures of the house.
She posted pictures of cars she owned. A Lamborghini Gallardo she had and let her model friends on the bonnet. The Bugatti Veyron on the highway. Mish Lianna always took the pictures. Photographing was what she really loved.She also posted pictures of herself, and whenever she did, she made them blurry. The Gor Mahia jersey in the robust hills of Seme. That time she had her feet in the Awach River or was in some matatu just because she felt like it.
There was never a bad day. Her researched captions were always positive messages. Quotes from people who inspired her at the time. She was always in a good mood. Always happy because what was there not to love about Mish Lianna? The 748 friends obviously agreed. The Bugattis got about 650 reactions and the Seme selfies about half of that.
Self-employed, had gone to Havard and was both a doctor and engineer at Unspecified. Life was good.
Charlene has skin that could advertise for Vaseline instead of that ka-leaf.
Her mane of hair could be used to wrap onto shoes instead of Kiwi. (Been looking at Kenyan ads on YouTube, bear with me). But real talk? Her clothes fit so well that I felt a little uncomfortable.
She always has this air about her that makes it enjoyable to bask in her glory.
You know how prisoners have to obey all orders from the officers? When I met with Charlene, I felt like a prisoner myself. Like I had met my warden and her word was my every command. It was strange, seeing someone with that much power in their presence.
Her smile is outrageously beautiful. Eyebrows well-trimmed-not-drawn. Lashes lush. Even her foundation matched her neck. I presume she must have her own foundation maker.
With a powerful name like that, she obviously doesn’t ever worry about pronouncing it to others.
“What’s your name,” they always ask.
“Mirriam,” I always reply.
“Mirriam,” putting emphasis on the i’s. Thats where they always get it wrong.
“Oh, Mirriam. You don’t look like a Mirriam.”
Oh yeah? Well what do I look like Nancy? Nancy will then say ridiculous names that my mom who went barefoot across hills, through crocodile infested waters and into tarantula habited forests to get to Nyagoto Primary School has never heard of. Instead I half-smile and say thanks for thinking I could get a name as absurd as that Jane or Bridgit or whatever. No offence to all Janes and Bridgits and Whatevers…
Charlene sits across from me at KFC. It feels like being illuminated by first light. Her perfume quickly creeps into every crevice of the vastly populated room and she unapologetically becomes our Airwick.
She sits there looking straight at me.
“You’re weird,” she says with a chuckle.
“Let’s play a game.”
A game? Here? Char must be delusional.
And she must be koo-koo too.
Who plays games in restaurants? Preposterous!
We play the game.
It was simple. Just write down on the serviette (Char says Napkin). So, just write on the napkin, whatever you want.
“Anything at all. Assume you lived in a world of no limits and boundaries were a thing of the past.”
I just stare at her. She is mad. But she goes on.
“Imagine the world was a perfect place and anything you wish for could come true. Unicorns are real. Mermaids dance on ocean beds. Fairy tales exist and Prince Charmings have hearts that love true and deep.”
Ah, I see the problem. Hidden in her game and bizzare wish to have a perfect world.
Who broke your heart? I ask.
She smiles briefly.
“Why do you assume that my heart is broken?”
She smiles again. A full one this time. The kind of smile I am used to seeing her wear.
Char is strange. She has 2,467 contacts saved on her phone and yet she swears she talks only to 7, including me, her dad and brother. What is the other two thousand, four hundred and sixty for? She can’t say. She only says that I cannot understand with my contact list of 64 and that I am not cut out for the life she lives.
She and I are different in more ways than we are similar, but we are better friends this way. She understands the need to keep to myself, just as I respect hers to flaunt her new designer clothes on social media, or to party every weekend to keep her circle lit.
She has some strange friends as well. I have not met many of them. Usually I ask her to come alone when we are supposed to meet. Once, she came with a group of about 10 people, all our age, yes, but in some very strange social circle all together.
Three weeks later she was in some financial conundrum and called me when these same friends all deserted her. Long story short, she deferred a semester, they all cut contact with her, and last week her Instagram post was a picture of more than half that group with her in the middle, captioned ‘Friends for Life’.
Char has beautiful eyes. She is never the duff. She resembles these video vixens we see, if all that perfection was put together and had a baby. It doesnt help that she has an amazing heart. She gives clothes to children homes and goes on walks for cancer, sickle cell and other diseases I never hear of until she tells me about them. She is in a group that is working with children with autism.
“My hearts not broken Silly,” she says, waking me from my reverie.
She knows I was lost in my thoughts because she stares at me for a moment longer before lowering her gaze.
“What were you thinking about?”
“Nothing really,” I reply.
“Really Mir? I thought we were better friends than that.”
She hands me her serviette together with a pen. Sorry. Napkin. It is folded into a triangle.
“Dont look. Give me yours first.”
I take the napkin and think.
In a perfect world, what would I really want? Definitely not flying powers; terrified of heights or falling and crashing into my death. Not X-ray vision. Not heat breath or morphing into a dragon-human. A draman. Definitely not lightning speed.
“We dont have all day,” Char rushes forcing me to write down the first thing that comes to mind.
She looks at it and laughs first. I knew that was not clever.
“Why this? Why a mirror?”
“I dont know” I whine You rushed me.
“No,” she gives me a determined look. I should have just given her the flying thing and gotten done with this. “Tell me. Why, of all choices, would you want to be a mirror?”
“Well,” I stutter now. “People would get to look into me to see themselves? I think.” She is not satisfied. And when Char is not convinced about something, you have your work cut out for you.
In all honesty, I wanted to be a mirror in our little made up world because maybe then, Char would see her reflection. She would know her level of perfection surpasses all other measures. She would realize that she does not need 2,467 people to make her wanted, or worthy. She would understand that having 7 dependable friends is better that 2,460 who wouldnt give a rats ass about her. I wanted to be a mirror for my one friend who needs to know her worth, and when she was done realizing how amazing she is, then she would also be a mirror for someone else.
She asked me to look at her napkin, since I had refused to tell her why my choice was a mirror.
Char had scribbled the 5 letters into the napkin so well it was rough in the underside.
She too does not care to explain. She said I have to interpret it however I wished.
If Char wants to be a shadow, I think she is scared. I think she wants to hide half of her life behind whatever will help. Cellphone. Instagram. Fake life. Fake friends. Prada and Louis Vuitton. I think she uses the life with the group of about 10 to validate herself. To prove that she too can live like the other kids if she wishes to.
But secretly, I think my Char is longing for escape. She craves to trade the life she has online for the peace and quiet of the night. She however is not ready to deliver herself from it completely.
That is why she wrote Shadow on the napkin.
She wants to cling to it for the occasional relief. For when she is beat from living within herself. Exhausted from getting to understand her being. She wants to escape from the camera life, but with a catch. Escape that allows a backslide every now and then.
Life was not “always good” for Mish Lianna. She cried. She lost. She got angry and lost her temper. But 748 wanted happy and positive and sensational.748 wanted downloaded Lamborghinis and quotes that Mish could not believe in when she was broken. She let 748 control what she herself was supposed to control.
This is what social media has done to most of us, only in a greater scale. Because despite the great benefits it has brought us, while Mish Lianna was fiction and my friends knew it, the Mish Liannas of today are living the lie. They are buying the clothes and going for trips with money they have not been raised with. Holding on to friendships that are as detrimental as the delusions of grandeur that they try to sell to us. Letting their worth be measured by numbers. 1 friend request. 3,700 follow requests. 10,000 followers. 53 following. 7 real friends. 1 being.
She hasn’t texted.
It feels like I have so much unfinished business concerning her. The Jacked Up Stranger chick.
Link to it if you are among the few who know not what I am talking about is this: https://notyetadults.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/jacked-up-stranger-the-meet/
Is it right calling ladies chicks? Sometimes people remove the ‘k’ to make it more bearable. But doesn’t that only serve the purpose of enhancing the effect of the word? But this is not a morality piece. This is about she who has not texted.
It sucks, being blue-ticked all this time. I posted the first post about her thinking that it would trigger her texting me back but boy was I wrong. I was expecting a “Why would you post about me?” text or in the rare chance a “Yay, you posted about me!”. But no. Nothing came.
So for all of us who have been sending me messages asking “What happened to the Jacked Up Stranger chick” … I am as much in the dark as you all are. I have the same anxiety to know if Jack still has his heads attached to him or the Medusa in her came alive and gave her the spirit of those Nyerian mamas.
All this unfinished business is frustrating. You and I deserve to put the uncertainty to rest already. So, Stranger, if you are out there, we need you. We need to focus on other things. To write on other things. To read other things.
You fed us well the first time. Gave us hope for a better story only for you to leave us like a forgotten lover. You had our throats flapped open for you as wide as a hippopotamus’ jaw, then you disappeared on us. Please reach out, if only for our sakes.
I am writing this at 4.24 am. Slept early and you know the drill. 6 hours at most. Till yesterday I didn’t know what to write about. I have been crossing fingers and toes wishing that she would text last minute but from where I stand, I have had to face the reality.
She doesn’t care about us. About we who are not yet adults. About you. Only I care about you from now. Believe that. That is why I wake up at ungodly hours to write for you. To explain why I have no continuing story for you, even though I had promised to find her. But how do you find someone who wants to equate themselves to Jason Bourne and disappear? I just hope that, like her mentor Mr. Bourne, she will see it fit to come out of the shadows if for one last time, to reclaim her public life and explain to us the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ that she left us with.
School is hectic. I am tired all the time. I miss lunches unintentionally. Sometimes even breakfasts! I am in school all day, and if I am home, I am either thinking about the next day’s school or finishing on assignments or thinking of fresh content for the blog.
I feel like a dog that just needs time to have its mouth open so that it can let its tongue out. Just for a few seconds. But I have no time to put my tongue out.Also, I am almost always surrounded by group members in school. I don’t want to be known in school as Mirriam-who-puts-her-tongue-out-in-school. Especially not when I am in forth year with no time to clear my name. These days I don’t even try any more.
People I thought were my friends have recently become the ones who talk behind my back when I’m not looking(I’m just guessing here. They probably talk of how well I articulate my thoughts in words for you)
In high school, they put quotes on little metal placards and perched them in the ground at strategic points all around the compound. There was one placard that went something like:
“Nothing bites like a friend that stabs you in the back”.
Not exactly. It could have been:
“Your friends are the ones who will stab you in the back”
But there was stabbing and there was your back and the two had met with the help of your friend. The verb and the noun made the matrimonial union and your back is stabbed and you feel the stabber-thing, or whatever they used still sticking out from behind there every time you see them and don’t confront them.
I don’t even know where I am going with this anymore!
I recall this specific quote because I would pass by it with my two friends and we would almost always ask each other to not stab each other’s backs. I’m just glad that we have kept that promise that was made with dirty plates in one hand and warm cookies from the school bakery in the other.
Hashalla draws the most amazing of Afghan Hounds. I just found out yesterday. Just when I thought that her recipes were the one good thing about her talent she comes up and shtuas us with an amazing drawing of this. (Her easy-step recipe blog is hurshlinda.wordpress.com)
I think it is amazing how young people are coming up with different ways to express themselves in this age.
Considering how messed up our generation is, it is only fair that Kimyong has his dance crew and sends links to their videos each week and Raheel’s Mesisisi head wraps are a bombshell and Patricia just met her one-year natural hair mark and Wabs has her #WednesdaysWithWabs where she gives Wednesday motivation on various issues.
I am a firm supporter of all things creativity and so psyched that I get to be sorrounded by so many people, most of whom I cannot mention by name, who do what they have got to do to make that extra mulla or just simply have FUN.
Breaks into song;
I know I can *2
Be what I wanna be *2
If I work hard in it *2
I’ll be where I wanna be *2
Bloggers are busy with sending links and singers like Lil Vince send their videos to us and Anselm is still the “Funny Introvert” and poets are poeting or poeming and my friends made their first feature film known as “I’m Still There” (P.S there are bloopers) and we are all working at something to bring out the madness that swirls in our heads.
Designing the semester project is so hectic, but the group is so supportive of each and everyone’s effort and there is so much fun in creating The Scroll that I don’t want to stop. We laugh at our frustration when we have not had breakfast because we thought we would have lunch but then when we next look at the time and it is 6.30 pm and now you have to rush home to eat the leftovers you had left for lunch as supper.
The Scroll is a newspaper that focuses on stories from a specific region, meaning the first issue, (the one we are creating), will be of Multimedia University of Kenya and the next is the Coast issue.
It is also the reason that my back aches, my shoulders are tight, my eyes are exhausted and my legs are musclier from all the walking to and fro. ‘Musclier’ has a red line under it, so I’m not sure if the language police want me to use ‘more muscly’, but we’ve come so far with you that I am sure you know what I mean by now right? Spell Checker doesn’t know what we’ve got.
This is why when I came across Hashalla’s drawing, I was immediately drawn to it. (Take a moment to appreciate the word play there)
The drawing is beautiful in the most basic of ways. Black and white but with enough detail to have you frustrated. I texted her for details at 4.32 am but it seems she is among those of godly hours.
The Afghan Hound can at times have facial hair, kind of like a Fu Manchu mustache –Google it– and the mustache is called “mandarins”. Kind of cool especially when we are told that Mandarin is the language of the future and now everyone is learning “Chinese”.
Its temperament can be aloof and dignified according to Puppy Facts, but it is also happy and clownish when she is playing, and I have never met a dog whose character I could identify more to than Hashalla’s Afghan Hound. She does not get along with smaller animals but is a successful competitor in dog agility trials, plus, and listen to this, she can be an intuitive therapy dog and companion. Considering people I don’t know like the Jacked Up Stranger girl vent to me, I consider myself a therapy human too from this day henceforth.
Also, the first cloned dog was an Afghan Hound named Snuppy. Isn’t that a cool name? I’ve been calling to an imaginary Snuppy Puppy in my head all day to get to pet her. I’m so dumb😌
This is where I generally end with some wise words but I think it is best to give you yesterday’s #WednesdaysWithWabs.
She talked of new beginnings, it being a new month and coincidentally her birthday month as well and some of the incredibly insightful posts included the following:
1. Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. –Robin Sharma
2. You’re the author of your life’s story. You can start a new chapter any time you choose.
3. Do things for yourself; in 30 years, nobody is going to remember your choices except for you.
4. So, I close my eyes to old ends. And open my heart to new beginnings. (I particularly liked this one)
Then she ends it with a “So Happy New Month even if it’s all gloomy and raining”
(PS. I know you know I googled most of the facts about Afghan Hounds. You’re so smart)
First things first. Coast was amazing and hot and beautiful and chaotic and did I mention hot? It was so hot I seriously considered sleeping outside on a mkeka and being a Nakuru person, that is saying a lot.
There was so much to see and do and complain about and enjoy and have a bus full of students lost in its industrial area.
It was actually my first time there and I have never been happier to lose the v-card as I am at the moment.
If you haven’t caught on yet, I am trying to say that I did not post last week because I had travelled to Mombasa for the better part of the week and I couldn’t post last Thursday because I left my laptop in cold and freezing Nairobi.
It was definitely, absolutely and totally not because I was lazy and the heat got to me and I lost track of time and I realized on Friday that I had not posted. Definitely not.
So, the bus. There was so much energy in all areas. So much creativity and fun and happy-angry people in there it was crazy. My back was killing me and a whole morning was wasted driving around lost and we were all playing at being happy or just plain old pissed at our first day.
We went by school bus. University bus to be precise since it wasn’t all yellow and ugly. There was chatter. Lots of it. It felt like people spoke to each other the whole journey there and still had more things to say to each other after we arrived at around half past midnight.
I was not talking to people for more than 5 minutes. Rude, right? It wasn’t intentional. I tried to but after the first 3 minutes I started missing my thoughts while staring out the window, meaning I was forced to cut conversations short because every fiber in my being was screaming defeat. I couldn’t do it. Especially not on the journey there. I was bubbling underneath to read every sign post and every banner hoisted up. To know where we were at each moment by not looking at Google Maps but by staring out into unknown lands and reading where we were.
We were to think of stories to write along the way. There is a school project where we make a newspaper with all the perks and since everything is a story, I didn’t want to miss anything along the way. At least that’s what I thought I was doing.
All through school, I have been the one person who is most likely to lack a partner in class when the teacher says everyone should pair up. I prefer the group kind of assignments, simply because they are easier. I can place myself strategically around an already formed group when I see they lack a few more members and I will automatically be in the group. But the pairing part? Na-ah.
Usually, I have one to two people in a class that I am friends with. And sure, I might talk to a good number of people in the class, say 5, but I will most definitely not always be comfortable to be paired with any of them.
I have always had the kinds of friendships where if you see me, you have to ask where the other person is, and often, they experience the same thing. And I bank on these friendships. They are my world.
The friends have to understand me, understand who I am and that I will need time alone in a day to get lost in my thoughts. and more often than not, we end up having a falling out. It breaks my heart, but life goes on.
It’s not all sad though, my best friends are these two amazing souls I have known for about 8 years now and they make me happy, despite the many falling outs of the other friendships I try to conjure up.
Now, the bus. I brought up the friendship thing because seated in that bus for 12 hours got me thinking. Do extroverts have this same problem? The bus was crawling with them. Students, all who I have shared a class with at some point and some who I have spoken with but none who I was really comfortable to talk to about how beautiful the stars looked in the nighttime or how my butt ached or how much my brain needed to be picked on because I had so many things I was thinking about at the same time that I wanted to scream.
Do extroverts also lose friends? And what do they do if in the rare case that it happens? Do they go out and look for new friends immediately they lose the ones they have? Do they mourn the loss of good friendships? Do they feel the emptiness that comes with losing the one person you depend on for months or years on end? Or do they just cruise through life, being the friends that let go immediately we really need them.
That bus had all characters. It had the silent shy types. The loud obnoxious types. The brooding types. The travelling while reading types (my favorite humans). The book hater types. The talking because they were talked to types. The talking just because types. The walking in the bus types. The standing up only when the bus stops types. The going to the loo types. The not peeing while travelling types. And the two lecturers and two drivers.
We stopped at Mtito Andei. Both times. On the journey to they told us that was supper. On the journey from we had breakfast there. Friendly people. One good but expensive hotel. Chips kuku was 400 bob! Only if I was mad! I ended up spending slightly more than that amount though, but I got myself an Afia Mixed Fruit and some nice nyama choma and ugali and kachumbari, a one and a half litre of water and a pack of gum. Totally worth it.
The Voi Standard Gauge Railway terminal looked amazing in the dark. Then we went through Taru and a place called Maji ya Chumvi and Mariakani and Jomvu then Mombasa. I thought the Maji ya Chumvi place had to be the oceans headquarters because my braids still taste salty.
Here’s what being an introvert is like;
1. When you are sitting comfortably with the people you think are calm enough to be your friends and their friends show up, that is the most awkward thing in the world. You never know what to say because suddenly, even your friend becomes an alien who talks of strange things you have never heard of. It gets worse when the intruder friends ask why you are so quiet and you had not even noticed that you were quiet because your mind was running at speeds you had not realized it could reach but you know that they would not understand that so you just stretch the corners of your mouth in an attempt at a polite enough smile and hope to heaven that your friend will explain that you are sick and need to go home. (Breathe)
2. You are in class. You have an idea to what an answer could be to the question asked by the lecturer/teacher but no one else has raised their hands so you too are not going to. But because of this, the lecturer/teacher just randomly out of the blue says that because no one has answered, he or she will have to call on some random person to answer. This is where you try to shrink yourself into the seat but it only ends up making you squirm and now the lecturer has you in their sights and he or she is totally going to choose you but the flip of an idea that you had to the answer has also squeezed itself out of your brain at the same time you tried to get swallowed by the seat.
3. Those dreadful PTA meetings in schools that we loved for the food but hated for the teacher-parent sit down. I can’t count the number of times my parents have heard the phrase “She is well behaved and polite but she should participate more in class” or “Your daughter is a very bright girl, all she needs to do is answer questions in class. Thank-you-so-much Mrs. Randa from primary. (PS. Sorry Mom)
4. You know that time, when you were young, and relatives would call and ask to talk to you, but you clearly shake your head at your parents but they see it as an invitation to make your life a living hell? Then they smile sheepishly at you and say to the phone “She is right here, she is actually begging to talk to you”. I hate those times. These parents don’t have our backs no more.
5. Campus. Still in class. I swear classes are the worst, apart from the learning and gaining knowledge part. So in class, you have done an impeccable job on your assignment and everything is in order, but for some devilish reason, the person required to make the presentation of the work to the rest of the class is out somewhere pretending to be sick and so with your heart thudding in your chest, like those Tum Tum West African drums of primary school essays and compositions, you get infront of the class. Everything is going well, you even start tooting your own horn until some mumu at the back shouts “I can’t hear you”. Ladies and gentlemen, this is where we wish to kill ourselves or George Bush the mumu at the back with your sneaker.
6. You know when you are thirsty and with a friend at their house and their mom asks if you want a drink and you awkwardly say “No, thanks”. Because you want to seem polite and you were given explicit instructions at home to not eat elsewhere… but the parent asks if you are sure about not wanting a drink and suddenly the Kalahari invades your throat and you are in desperate need of that drink but you now cannot say you would like a drink because the parent will start saying things like you should not be afraid of her and that you should feel at home and that she is not a monster and you know you do not need any more awkwardness in your life so you remain adamant with your Kalahari throat and all your mouth can say is a frail “No, thanks. I’m fine”. But even then, the last part of what you say does not come out clearly because it feels like your brain is slowly being encroached into the desert.
This, is what it loosely feels like to be an introvert, without the daily struggle and the strange looks and the whispers that you are a snobbish B-word and the awkwardness at parties and the loneliness of having no friends and the learning to accept and love your introverted self.
But introvert, extrovert, you need to learn to love yourself. To not depend solely on others for happiness. To make yourself your own entertainment. And be good at it. This has to be the ultimate law of life. Because until you get to the point that you are sincerely bored with yourself for days on end, then you will have learnt everything that makes you tick. And since this will obviously take you long enough, by the end of it, all you will have learnt is to truly love yourself. Isn’t that the ultimate goal to a happy life?
PS. Sorry about the long sentences. This was kind of a rant and I wanted you to read it the exact same way that the words were coming to me. Glad you were in my head.