Archive for September, 2016

I had a tree once, she was beautiful, she grew tall and strong. Every year yielding greater harvest than the last. I was the envy of the whole village as I brought the fruit from my tree to the market on market days.

So you ask me why we are now warming ourselves in the fire from her boughs and why there is a big hole in my backyard where she used to be. Why there is a thin vine growing steadily in her place and her leaves lie as mulch in my garden.

We go way back, my tree and I. I found her in the woods; she was beautiful, growing among other trees, not a care in the world, proudly towering a above the rest.

Maybe I shouldn’t have taken her in the first place, but I wanted her, needed her even. She was a strong tree. I knew she would survive. I have a garden but every summer, everything is scorched under the harsh sun and in winter, cold snow freezes the ground over. I cannot weed, I cannot plough. Everything dies in the cold and in spring I have to start over.  No one would blame me if I grew tired of living this way.  I needed to do something.

Every day I would take a long walk through the woods. Everything was in balance there. The undergrowth was thick and plush even when under feet of snow and in the spring, oh the beauty that sprung forth. I loved the summers sitting under the shades of these mighty trees. It always felt like a different world; a utopia of sorts.

So I planned for days and one day with the help of others we went into the forest and brought home a magnificent tree. With innovation these days, anything is possible. I planted it carefully, right in the middle of my garden and watched and waited as its roots found their way underground. It wasn’t easy; I had to tend to it day and night to ensure everything went right. But it was a strong tree and soon, it was doing even better than the plants that had been there for ages. My garden became the envy of all. People would walk past and stare. Winter, spring, summer, autumn, my garden was alive all through.

One day I was sitting underneath my tree and I noticed something horrific, she was leaning. It wasn’t windy so that wasn’t it.  Something far worse was happening; my tree was growing weak and couldn’t support itself anymore. Its roots could go no further. People had warned me about this, years ago. Do not take it from its home, it will not survive they said. Cries of the envious I would shrug. But they were right.

I needed to find a solution fast. Maybe if I found something it could lean on for a time! Just for a few months until she can get back to her feet (roots). I found a vine. I had never heard of it before but it was said to be able to help in these cases. The tree only needs a little support and soon it will learn to stand on its own they told me.

I quickly planted the vine next to my tree and within no time it started to grow together with my tree. At first only just hugging it, taking only a little from it just to survive. It didn’t need much and it was helping.  My tree soon stopped leaning so I let them be.

Years went by and I continued to enjoy the harvest, it was slightly less but that was understandable, you lose some to win some.

One day I thought to myself, it has been long enough; I do not need the vine anymore. I went out to my garden, cut down the vine and went to bed.

The very next morning I was horrified by what I saw. My tree! It was leaning again! Worse than ever before! There was nothing I could do.

My tree had never learnt to stand on its own. You should have known better they said. What could come from such a pathetic weak tree? they sneered. They smiled and waved now as they passed by my garden. We warned you, they would say mockingly. She was dead the minute you took her from her home.

The vine was growing back; steadily,stronger than before. I didn’t even have to water it, it just kept on growing. It was like it had taken so much from y tree and just stored it somewhere. They never told me this would happen. I was sure that if I cut it down and cut down my tree too, neither would come back.

I would dream about my tree for days after that. I would dream that one day I would walk in my garden and find new shoots growing. I have never stopped watering that spot. One day. Who knows? She might just grow back. She might just rise again.

 

At least there is hope for a tree; if it is cut down, it will sprout again and its new shoots will not fail.Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil .Yet at the scent of water it will build and put forth shoots like a plant.

 –              Job 14:7-9

Those who know me will tell you I am not exactly a fan of early rising and also not much of a morning person. But this memory woke me up today at 6am and for the life of me I couldn’t get back to sleep till I wrote this down. I have made reference to this event in my journals over the years but most of the details are still vague as it happened way back in 1998, I think. It was the day I realized I am not a fighter.

Calling it ‘The Big Fight’ is probably the overstatement of the century. A girl just literally got ‘bitch-slapped’. A girl’s name is Cynthia Awinja and this is her story.

You never forget your first bitch-slap. You know the first time you get slapped so hard you have to take a few seconds to reconfigure your settings and remember which planet you are on and your mother’s name? I was in class six and for the love of Dominos’ pizza I haven’t the slightest idea what we were fighting about. She wasn’t a big girl; I think I was even a little taller than her but she was a bit of a bully and I was a lot of a nerd. I really hope she reads this because “Wherever you are young lady, you owe this girl an amends!!!!!”

So I get slapped and all I could do was stare into the face of my slap-monster and will myself not to cry. She was probably even ready for a full blown fight. I’m sure there were a few inciters around us chanting “Mimi siwezi chapwa hivyo” (I can’t just be smacked like that). I think I just walked away to look for a corner where I could cry in peace and nurse my poor, hot, sore cheek. I’m just glad I didn’t pass out instead. I learnt a few lessons from that episode though:

Lesson 1: Do not get into a fight with me. You will definitely win but you will forever be known as the evil person who beat up that sweet, polite, innocent skinny girl who would never hurt a fly. Are you willing to carry that ‘monster’ label for the rest of your life? I think not.

Lesson 2: My tears don’t need introduction. If you know me well enough you have probably met them a few times. They live at the very edge of my eyelids where landslides (read tear-slides) are a common natural occurrence. Case in point;  I was watching an animation called Planet 51 yesterday with my 5 year old sister and 12 year old brother. You know that mushy scene at the end of every animation where the hero almost dies or gets into really big trouble but eventually comes out victorious then there’s the kissy scene with whoever they have been googly-eyeing through the whole movie? Well, while my sister and brother were busy ‘eiw-ing’ that scene, a girl was drowning in tears! Geez! To make matters worse, that was probably the fifth time I watched that movie and the fourth time was literally two days before. Don’t judge me! I know some of y’all still cry when Mufasa dies in the Lion King, and we’ve been watching that way longer.

Lesson 3: This is the most important lesson so read carefully.

If you are my friend and I’m talking close friend. Like you know I love you and I will ride or die for you. You and my heart are on first-name basis. You’ve been there for a few of my tantrums and awkward mood swings. You’ve become well acquainted with my tears. We’ve maybe almost died together. You’ve seen the hair on my legs… Ok maybe I should explain that bit… I rarely wear short stuff and when I do, you can be assured my yellow-yellow (due to lack of exposure to the elements) legs will be fully shaved. So essentially, if you have seen the hair on my legs (I rarely shave) then you know we are tight.

If you are this type of person to me then please; I implore you; do not, intentionally or unintentionally, get into a fight when all you have for back up is me. Let me explain why. I won’t leave you even if I could because if anything were to happen to you, the guilt alone would finish me. I will be the one screaming for mercy and help at the same time (yes, I have mastered the skill of multi-screaming). We will get thoroughly beaten up together. We will end up in the same hospital room. I will probably have a broken arm because of all the frantic waving for surrender. You will probably have one of those pirate eye-patches because one of the huge women fighting us had eagle claws masquerading as manicured nails and almost took your eye out. Hopefully we would both have styled-locks or afro-puffs that day; #teamnaturalthings so no ‘Oh my gosh, she pulled out all my extensions’ stories. And one day we will tell our grandkids about the day you almost got both of us killed.

At this point of my story you have probably figured out I do not eat nails for breakfast, I don’t walk on hot coals for sport and you have correctly assumed that I am deathly afraid of anything with more than two legs (or no legs) that creeps and crawls. I had a recent encounter with a flying monster (read cockroach) in my bedroom a few weeks ago. My first instinct was to quietly walk out of my room and let it enjoy the comfort of my soft mattress and warm blankets. It was late, we were both tired, and it had probably had a harder day than I did so why not, right? Before you call me a huge woos, I am happy to report I actually faced it head on (with shrieks and jumps and a Bata slipper) and I prevailed!

Yet another fateful day, I was visited anaconda-sized slugs in my bathroom. Well maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but they were huge! I only saw them after I had stripped down to my perfectly tailored birthday suit ready to take a nice warm bath. So at that point I’m thinking, it’s cold outside, they just came inside to get a bit warm and it would be rude if I kicked them out and also did I really ever need to bathe, like ever again? So I quietly wrapped myself with my towel, slowly backed out of the bathroom and out of my room, went to the kitchen, found our gracious house manager and whispered that there are slugs trying to kill me in my bathroom. I then proceeded to put on my clothes even after she got rid of them and left bathing to the warriors.

 

Now that we all know this girl isn’t exactly the best at confrontations of any kind, I would love to hear your story and especially some of the lessons learnt from incidents like these…..

P.S: I will be taking self-defence classes soon, preferably kick-boxing or muai tai but I wil be praying I never get to use them in real life.

She writes about everything. We were having an argument the other day. She had said something really mean to me. I was angry now,she was angry about a different discussion I had walked away from earlier. I don’t like engaging too much when am angry,I may say something I’ll regret to someone I love dearly and that is a bridge I’d never want to risk burning. I stopped talking and went on doing what I was doing;watching TV or something. She stayed for a moment then disappeared into the bedroom with her book. I followed her a few minutes later. I found her scribbling into that thing like her life depended on it. I did not envy the poor journal. I asked if she was ok. She said she was just thinking. She was so calm by then,it was actually a bit scary. I think her notebook always gets the worst of it. I heard about this guy one time. He came home late,his wife was already asleep.He quietly got into bed and fell asleep too. At around 3am he stirs a little and wakes up only to find his wife staring down at him with a calm smile on her face,saying nothing. The man got out of bed,packed an overnight bag and went to stay at a hotel for a few days. That’s how you get knifed in your sleep, he would tell his friends later. It was hilarious.

Anyway back to her.I went over to where she was and kissed the back of her left hand; she’s a sucker for affectionate physical contact. She put away her book,looked at me with that look that makes my heart melt. Are you ok? I asked again. No am not,she said and we finally settled the argument.

She got a call yesterday;from family I guess. It wasn’t a pleasant call. I could tell from her body language. I let her have a private moment. Aaaargh!! I heard her grunt after the call. She was not happy. Everything ok?I asked. Hmmm? She let out an absent minded reply then disappeared into the bedroom. I was at a loss; torn between following her to make sure she’s ok and letting her have some time to herself. I settled for a sneak ‘drive-by’ peek after a few minutes. She was writing. Her eyes were red and puffy. I didn’t hear her cry. She was clutching a pillow with her other hand. She does that sometimes;cries or screams into pillows so she doesn’t freak me out. Even when she’s going through turmoil she would still put my feelings into consideration first. She closes her notebook with the pen still open inside. She looks up at me and smiles. She is ready to talk because now she can do it without crying.

One time we were trying to get through an awkward conversation. She kept fumbling through her words. I needed her opinion and I needed it quick. I was getting impatient. Let me think please,she said and once again disappeared into the bedroom. I went in a few minutes later, I’m not the most patient person really but she’s teaching me to be. I found her seriously engrossed in her writing. I watch her from the door for a few seconds. She’s do beautiful when she’s serious. She turns everything else off when she’s in her head. She didn’t even notice me come into the room. I go over and lie next to her and just keep gazing at her softly.  She looks up at me and gives me the warmest smile. Would you like to read something I wrote? She asks. I hesitate. It’s ok,really,she says. I couldn’t articulate myself too well before but this is what I was trying to say. She passes me the book. I read through and almost tear up. I understand, I say and give her a peck on the cheek. We didn’t need to say anything more.

She has long discussions in her head sometimes; while we are talking like in the middle of a conversation then she gives me the conclusion. You know you actually have to say the words right? I tell her. She let’s out a loud laugh,apologizes and tells me what she was thinking. She’s weird.

She writes when she’s happy and she’s had the very best day. She writes when she’s angry and can’t even look at anyone. She writes when she’s confused and needs to work through something. She writes when she’s in a foul mood and afraid she may throw a big tantrum or say something mean. She writes when someone does something sweet and unexpected for her. Not even just for the big gestures; it’s mostly for the little things. You know the little things that make you know that someone really really cares? She writes when I do/say bad stuff too. Bad stuff about my present and my past. The stuff that makes her jaw drop and her face cringe. I can be weird too. Can I tell you something? I would say. She would know a bomb was about to be dropped. Ok,wait! she would reply. She’d cover her face with both hands and let out a tiny squeal. She’s an emoji waiting to happen that one. She’d then take in a deep breath; Ok tell me, I’m ready, she’d say.

She writes the dreams she remembers sometimes. They read like epic movies. She writes after failed job interviews and tough client meetings.  She writes when she’s wasted. Those read like comic books. You could practically picture her talking to herself in the mirror with this big bottle of something super strong in one hand and a pipe in the other. Don’t ask. She writes when she’s anxious and can’t sleep. When she has something really big to think through. She writes to get through awkward social situations. She’s a little shy. You’d think she’s seriously texting someone. She isn’t. She’s just writing about how awkward she is feeling and how she wishes she could just be one of those ‘life of the party’ ‘hit it off with anyone’ types.

She is a writer so I let her write. She’s always real th herself and the world in black and white. Maybe if I let her be real in her journal,she will always be real with me. Sometimes that may mean waiting half an hour for a one minute long answer. I don’t like the wait but I’m learning to because it’s always worth it.

She walked down the aisle thinking that was it. That was the moment she had been waiting for. The dream she had always wished would come true. The smiling faces filled the pews to capacity. The flowers, the ribbons, the tiny umbrellas hanging from the church ceiling; everything was perfect. The pianist played her favorite love song of all time as she slowly walked down the aisle. She felt like all her life, everything she had gone through had all somehow led to this moment. It had to have been written in stone somewhere in heaven. It was meant to happen, meant to be, meant to last now and forever.
She got to the front, found his hand and they knelt before the altar, before God. They went through the motions; the vows, the rings, the ‘I dos’. Hand in hand, they walked back down the aisle toward the church doors. The smiling faces of family, friends and church still filled the pews to capacity. The flowers, the ribbons, and the party rice everyone flung on them for good luck now covered the freshly polished, hardwood floors.

The church doors flung open. They opened out to a new life, a new reality…and May? May wasn’t supposed to be here. Not today. She said she couldn’t come; that she wouldn’t dare. She said she couldn’t bear watching him marry her. Not after everything that had happened between them. May was an emotional wreck when it ended and so was she. But it had to be that way, they both knew it. That wasn’t the dream, this was. And isn’t love in its purest, most ideal form supposed to last forever? Isn’t it supposed to transcend circumstance and distance alike?

As the sun rays hit the new bride, something else did too but not as suddenly as you may think. Gradually, slowly, she soaked it in. She looked around at all the beauty, the joy. She heard the laughter; she felt the warmth,the love. She looked at her mother and she could see her face change from a smile to a worried frown. Mothers can always tell when something is terribly wrong with their babies. She looked back at him, her new husband. He was the love of her life, her now and forever. That was the last time he saw her. She left him, she left all the smiling faces in the pews and no one ever knew why, and even she didn’t. Not really. He walked back through the glorious church doors and down the aisle, knew that that was it.

It was over even before it even began.