Some of the stories I write here are stories I was told months ago, and they just re-surface in my head when they think appropriate. Sometimes I start writing a story and leave it in the middle because the subject texted me at 12:07 am and asked me to not post it, and I get pissed off because I had seen how it would end. I had the whole thing planned out in my head for so long that I knew when and how each paragraph would begin and what exact words I would use to bring the story to life. Have it breathe the words of a life told in tears and laughter. Other times I have the story but lack the words. I hate these days. These are the days I lie on the floor and try to think of a word for each letter of the alphabet. A for abandon. B for brawl. T for tactless…because that’s how it feels in this difficult task of coming up with words that will explain this story in a way that you will be able to understand how broad the smiles are and how much the creasing of foreheads depict their sadness.
And so, because I cannot seem to write it properly, I will tell you about a man I sat next to on Saturday.
The bus was full by the time I got in. It made me feel like a VIP, the way I entered and we were off as if I was the one they were waiting for. I felt so special. I must have been smiling because he saw me and smiled himself and I knew it was safe to sit by him. Not because he smiled, [you never know how conniving people are out here. One minute they smile at you in public and the next you have a blade at your hip], but because it was the only available seat.
You know how you arrive late at an event and your best friend has a seat, so without thinking they scoot over and you both sit an arse cheek a-hanging? That’s how I sat… only the guy was not my friend and he had taken half my seat rather that scooching over on a bench. He had a little girl on his lap, I presumed she was (..or is?) his daughter judging by how trusting she slept. He was a big man. Not fat, yet not built. He played at being fat with muscles. I tried googling an exact word for his physique and now Google wants me to join a gym. I don’t think there is a word for what he is…but you can help me by commenting below if you know.
I can’t speak for the rest of him, but his face had no hair. Zilch. Nada. I remember thinking to myself that he either waxes his face weekly or has a personal barber that comes to his house every morning to shave him while his little girl has the pancakes that he made for breakfast. He looked like he cooks. Not that he smelled of onions or cayenne pepper, but with the way he held his little girl. The delicateness of his hands when he smoothed her shirt on her shoulders and carefully placed them on her knees. The softness of his chin that lacked the scruff of manly strands. Even his top lip was smooth. Most guys forget the moustache area. Maybe his daughter once complained “Daddy, when you kiss me goodnight, the hair on your face scratches my soft skin and I bleed” so the man had to make a decision. Face hair or giving his little girl her goodnight kisses. Others may say he chose poorly, but for him, it was the best decision he ever made. He had a hat on so I can’t speak much of the hair on his head.
Michael Blackson is a 46-year-old Ghanaian comedian and American actor. His real name is Jafari Ferguson and he is well known for portraying “Angry African Man” in the film Next Friday [thankyou Wikipedia]. He is best known for his work on Wild n Out…[because that is where I first knew him from]. Anyway, last week. Michael Blackson was on a flight from I don’t know where to I have no clue where, and he was seated next to this “Ben Affleck looking neega” who fell asleep and Blackson “sabotaged his life” doing all manner of things like wearing the dude’s glasses and taking photos of his armpit on the guy’s phone [Irrelevant info btw]. Back to the guy I am next to…who had now fallen asleep. When daughters sleep on their father’s laps, and the fathers fall asleep as well, do they meet in a special Daddy-daughter wonderland where fathers can keep facial hair and still kiss their little girls without scratching their foreheads and delicate cheeks? [PS. I didn’t take photos of my armpit with his phone]
Having this Alcoholics Anonymous thing has had me doing some weird shit btw. Now I cannot hold a conversation with someone without asking if they drink, what kind of drink floats their boat [He-he] and what impact that drink has had on their lives. But whatever conversation I had held with this sleeping man had only happened in my head, so I had to ask myself this as well.
“Do you drink?”
I lean in closer to smell him. The people seated behind me must have thought me mad…but I guess I’d do anything for you guys. He smells like candy which is a good thing, but makes me suspicious. Maybe he drinks or smokes and uses candy to mask the smell. Maybe he buys the candy in the guise of they are his daughter’s when half of that candy is for his stench.
“What kind of drink?”
Can’t be any type of cheap liquor. He has a daughter to think of. He cannot be found in a trench without his senses. No. He walks into a bar, takes a seat by the counter and tells the bartender exactly what he wants. Whiskey, neat. [I watch movies too]. He broods over it, buying time so he can get home when homework is finished and people are ready for bed, so he can deliver his fatherly duty on delicate foreheads and cheeks.
Hmm, tough one. He has a happy life. The wife must be happy. The kids are dressed, her hair is done. He seems content. Normal. I don’t like normal people. They have no story to tell. They are blunt.
The daughter stirs. The father wakes. He stares into her face as if he could see the reason to her moving in her sleep written on her tiny nose. He smiles. It’s small. I may have missed it if I was not looking at him from the corner of my eye. That smile holds so much story. Memories that I cannot begin to unravel unless he speaks of them. That smile holds the first time she said ‘Dada’ and her first tooth. It is her scraped knee and the time she cried because she could not have her way. But it is also much, much more. It is the present, the past, and future. Forehead kisses and all.
Someone alighted at Commercial and I had to move to the empty seat because the arse cheek that was hanging had started getting numb. I didn’t want uneven cheek muscles while walking around CBD. I could have as easily become a meme. The girl I sit next to was not as interesting…but she had on red trousers and an orange top. That was peculiar.
[Alcoholics Anonymous continues next Thursday. Also, methinks we need another Easter holiday just to recover from last weekend]
Hello… we are all new here. This is an introductory post to Mirawu. I don’t know what to say. It’s been a journey, literally and figuratively, to come to this moment, right here, right now, and my heart couldn’t be any fuller. I have envisioned this specific post a million times. I have written it in my head a thousand times. And now, I don’t even know what to write about.
I had thought I would just post a different story today and we would get back to our system as usual, but you don’t move into a new house without a housewarming, right? At least that’s how the proper people do it. And I want to do this properly. To take you with the pace you are most comfortable in. But I did get a story, promise. I even started writing it, but I can’t seem to get past the first two paragraphs, which I keep adding to and deleting every 20 minutes. So I thought…hey, why not just ramble?
I have played with the idea of this blog for about one year, eight months and 11 days, but who’s counting, right? And I did it. I think. Or I am well on my way to actually doing it. I feel like a mother…well, not really, because I don’t know what a mother feels. Maybe I feel more like a kid with a new toy. Yeah, that’s it. The kind of toy? I don’t know. Maybe one of those writing pads that we had as kids. You know the ones? They had a thingy at the bottom to rub what you had so ineloquently written down and a pen attached with a string like the special pens at the bank. [I never really owned that thing, but my next door neighbor did and I practically made it mine. And I don’t even remember her name]
So I’m listening to country music like an old person. And I’m randomly typing hoping you feel as much for this mirawu thing as I do. Everything remains the same. We only changed the house, not the family. This is Mirabelaw and Not Yet Adults and Mirawu. All for one and one for all. The people are the same. You have not changed and I am still me. I just felt we needed a change of scenery and some new drapes… and here we are.
Also, I know I promised consistency this year, and I know what happened in March…but this is what I was working on in March. Pretty cool right? I have an excuse, don’t crucify me. I plan to keep that promise. And I have enough Alcoholics Anonymous stories to keep us afloat while I wait on some of you to deliver on some of your story promises.
Okay, that’s enough, right? I haven’t rambled much, I hope. Welcome to Mirawu, let’s kick ass.
[Hey, look at that, I actually had something to say after all] Tell me what you think about this. I’m trying to test the comments and subscribe buttons…wink wink.
I need to know one thing
Before you lay to rest tonight
I need to know who you are
Who are you when I’m not looking?
Do you close your eyes on a messy bed
Are you turned on by the color red
Are you also a man on the wire
Or do your principles keep you from the shire
Have you felt a divine kind of emotion
Do you fall on a couch with caution
Who are you when I’m not as around?
Is your coffee white or as dark as my heart
Do you own a dog or prefer a cat
Do you look in the mirror or just stare at it blankly
I pray that you may answer me frankly
Who are you when I’m not looking?
I had something in my bed.
Disclaimer: There is no concealed meaning to this. Something means something and “in my bed” literally means just that. Heck, this may end up being a ramble and you may not like it as much…
Before we begin, no, it was not a boy (ha-ha, who would want this mess?). But I really did have this thing in my bed a few weeks ago. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I write about it on the morning it happened? Because I don’t tell you guys everything about me Nosey Shirley. And I wanted to heal from the trauma it caused me first, so I could see if there was any humor in it. Also, no, I don’t dream about these things, they do happen. In reality or conjured up in my head, they are as real as the thing in my bed (sounds like the beginning of a horror movie).
At first, I thought it was a mosquito because I woke up with a lump on my forehead. That should have been the first clue that it wasn’t a mosquito right? Mosquito bites aren’t as big as this lump was. But leave it to my brain to come up with solutions. I was not reasoning, I mean, come on, I had a lump on my forehead! All my power to reason was sucked away and the little that remained was constrained in the lump. Are lumps a collection of un-sucked blood? And if so, why don’t vampire bites cause lumping?Anyway, I googled the lump till I was sure I had a combination of kwashiorkor, HIV, a severe case of the measle (get it? because it’s just the one) and was patient zero to an epidemic they would have to make movies for, then I waited for my mom, aka my personal all-round disaster manager, to come home.
So she walks in and I let her get settled in before revealing that she should enjoy the last few days we had left until her house was quarantined and the CDC came to take me away for “tests”. At least that’s what they were going to say till I find myself in a lab at a desert in the middle of nowhere.
“Is this a mosquito?” I ask her, pointing to my still lumpy forehead. I am batshit scared at this point. I just want her to tell me that she hit me in my sleep and that that is what caused it and all I had to do was wait a few days for the lump leave for the Land of Lumps and leave us alone. She comes closer. Lifts my face to the light.
She presses the lump.
“Is there pain?”
I hadn’t thought about the pain part all day. There was no pain. At least not the searing kind. Just some tiny baby pain. On a scale, it would have ranked at around the magnitudes of 0.5 out of 10. Which, depending on how you see it, is either really good, or completely underperforming.
Mom is full on Doctor Mode now. Her fingers are on my chin, facing my face this way and that, forehead creased into her signature 3-line frown, proof that she is really worried. This is it. I think. I’m a goner. Tell my brother I love him and I did not mean to raise my voice at him when he took the remote. Tell Dad I…
“Doesn’t look serious.” She lets go of my chin. “What did you do today?” she asks.
Woman! Don’t you see me dying? Call people! Organize a harambee for my hospital bill. We are not going to manage!
The frown is gone. This is the part in the movie when doctors tell you everything is okay only so they can go to the break room and draw straws on who will deliver the bad news. That’s what was happening. I was sure of it. I had the epidemic of The Measle she wanted wait until I was calm to give me the news. I sit down.
Calm down. Dying is one day, better get over with it. at least you’ll be famous for it. You’ll be the Van Gogh of The Measle. Dying is one day. You will get it over it. You’ve seen worse.
But you haven’t seen enough! You haven’t gone to Paris and stood touching the Eiffel Tower like those people who touch KICC. You haven’t lived off the ledge. You are still afraid of bugs and..
“Maybe it’s a spider bite,” she says.
“Spider?” Where? Kill it! Slap it with a slipper. Spill its guts everywhere! Massacre! Death to all arachnids!
In my head, I have torches and machetes on this spider.
“Ruffle out your beddings tomorrow then we’ll see.”
I rush to the mirror for The Measle inspection. Nothing on the face. Phew, dodged a bullet there. Run the tap to wash my face. Freeze.
We stand there, me staring at him and him at me. Another Western stalemate. I can’t look away. My heart races and skips simultaneously. I feel faint. I blink first because I am weak. The disease is getting to me. There, right at the foot of my thumb, is another one. Forehead measle brought a friend, or his kids. Two smaller lumps, side by side. I want to call out to mom, but she already left for work. The new thumb guys look like a pair of eyes staring at me, so I cut three sheets of tissue paper and wrap my hand.
I find my phone and dial.
“Yes baby?” because she almost always answers like that. I fear the original lump knew this so it brought its babies. A show of him not being the only guy in town.
“There’s another one.”
“Another lump, Mom. There’s another one on my thumb. I sent a picture on WhatsApp. What should I do?” Will I die? In my laptop, my browser hist…
“Remove your beddings.”
She’s chasing me away? Without even saying it to my face. She wants me out. Wants me as far away from her people as I can be.
“Toa beddings and ruffle them.”
Oh. The Measle syndrome must come with short-term memory loss. Long story short, I take my blankets outside, nothing. Ruffle them like my life depends on it. Nothing. I hang them on the line and get back. I stare at the sheets. the look lonely there, rumpled with no blankets to keep them warm. If this thing is causing as much trouble as it is, why isn’t it as big as I assumed?
Maybe, it crawls up walls and waits for me to get in bed… or it is the boogieman taking small bites of me and hiding under my bed. There’s nothing under the bed.
Open the wardrobe and check. I do and nothing.
I’m spent, scared and almost traumatized. I sit on the bed, then stand suddenly. Wouldn’t want my ass bitten off.
I should change the sheets. Lonely sheets are cold and may be lumpy. I lift a side and pull. There, with its 8 legs and ashy exoskeleton, sits a Wolf Spider. Of course I knew this after giving Google a detailed description and taking a photo of said thing in my bed. I don’t know if this was a prank or just fate to make me realize that moms are always right, but I’m never doubting my mom ever again.
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.)
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)