Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Love or rather being in love is a beautiful but deadly force. It goes into the very depths of your soul. Your spirit holds on and your body yearns for that one touch. That daily dose of closeness and intimacy that is only yours. And when you don’t get your fix, you have chilling episodes where you can feel the pain crawling on your skin like a caterpillar leaving a trail of allergens all over you. I’m not making sense I’m I? And such is the concept of love.

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But lust, well lust is much simpler. It starts with the eyes. Sometimes with a voice in the next room. Sometimes with a scent that whiffs past you on the street and somehow sticks to your clothes. Sometimes with a touch, even just a slight graze. He sat too close to me in the matatu. Maybe on purpose? I don’t think so. The PSV was packed to the brim with a few people standing on the aisle. It was raining and water was sipping through the hinges on the window and onto his seat. He shifted to my side slightly and some water dripped from his wet umbrella onto my grey pants and some onto my black boots. He apologized. I said it was fine. It was more than fine. He paid my fare, citing the ‘inconvenience’ he had caused me. Wawili (two). He said to the conductor. He held up two fingers,left hand, his index and his middle. There was no ring on the third. Don’t ask me why my mind chose to emphasize that fact and write it in bold but I think you know. Veins, well defined, criss-crossed the back of his hand and disappeared under his black Calvin Klein watch and then under the sleeve of his leather jacket. He checked the time and sighed. Late for work? I asked him. I needed more words from that beautiful mouth with a hint of a beard. Yeah, but I got my friend to open the studio so it should be fine. He answered. An artist! My legs squeezed together. Reflex. It wasn’t just the streets getting wet. The prospect of discovering someone’s art, a stranger nonetheless has always enticed me. It’s like going on an adventure in some virgin island. You know you might find mosquitoes the size of your hand or get bit by a 6 foot snake no one’s ever seen before or fall of a cliff and into quick sand but the thrill of spending even just a few minutes discovering new beauty is just too alluring to pass up. I digress.

Traffic was a mess, bumper to bumper.

Two posh cars were in the middle of the road, not moving. There was some kind of a minor accident. Neither drivers had come out to even look at the damage. Maybe they didn’t want to get their designer suits and shoes wet just for a minor scratch. The irritated police officer just made sure they exchanged insurance information and waved them through. Excuse me. My seat partner said and pointed toward the aisle. He was alighting at the next stop. Nooo! I wanted to scream. Instead I  moved my legs to the side and gave him way. Sorry again. He quickly said and walked down to the door. I watched him move like you’d watch a baby taking their first steps, soaking in every moment. Weird analogy, I know, but you get my point. I probably was never going to see him again. Not physically anyway. But in my dreams; Yoh! On a horse going to war for his kingdom; Or in a blacksmith’s stall beating hot metal into submission ; Or on the beach,shirtless,sweaty,bringing in his catch; Or in a wizard’s den mixing potions and calling on powers above and below.  I have strange dreams(fantasies) sometimes. But such is the concept of lust, it lingers on, it evolves, it sticks onto you until your eyes latch on to another.

Intimacy is yet another complex entity. Into Me See. Closeness. Not necessarily romance as many believe. Just the very act of allowing another or a few into the most intricate parts of your life, your heart, your mind, your being. it transcends social rules and norms of relating, spits on them sometimes actually. You slide in gradually. It’s never forced, never coerced,never shoved down your throat and always years to be reciprocated. You see her/him/them and it’s an instant connection. She’s out of your league. She’d never be friends with you. You know how awkward you get around new people. Remember how that one time someone said they liked your pen and because you were crushing on them you went ahead and bought them a whole set of assorted pens, matching pencils and marker pens and a matching set of scribbling pads?

Plus, she’s really serious. Looks very together and you are a mess. She’ll never give you a second look. Crap! She just did. Well, smile back you idiot! Don’t just stand there. Oh my, now she’s walking towards you. Can we take a photo together? She asks. Yeah sure. You mumble back. I mean, we,are at an art exhibition anyway and they are allowing photography and it’s raining outside so it’s not like we are going anywhere and we both look pretty good, not that I was looking or staring just that when you were walking toward me you were in my line of sight and …..Geez! Stop rambling and just pose! You tell yourself when you realize you’ve been talking for 3 straight minutes and She’s been waiting for you to finish so y’all can take that photo. You go home that night reliving that moment over and over. You text that you got home ok. You have a long, unexpected chat. You sleep with a smile on your face. You are convinced that that night is the start of a long and beautiful friendship (something). Come over for lunch sometime,her last text said. Sure, I can cook a mean fried chicken, actually any type of chicken, chicken is my middle name. You text back then realize that you just called yourself ‘chicken’. Lunches,dinners, sleep covers, out of town camping trips,long chats, ridiculously long calls,family visits. Soon you realize, there is nothing about you that this person does not know. Even those deep dark secrets that wake you up in the middle of the night. Even the weird stuff like how sometimes on your way to work in the morning you kinda wish you’d get slightly hit by a small car so you’d just break a leg because you really hate your job and you just need a two-month “accidental” break from it and life in general. Bffs,soulmates,peas in a pod, birds of a feather, flocking all over town painting things red and mixing in other colors in the process. Always defining and redefining what levels of intimacy you are on or going on. Like I said, it’s complex. Mix it in with love and eish, that’s a roller-coaster ride you never want to get off from.

Until it ends and then..heartbreak. But that’s a story for another day. For now, enjoy the ride.

 

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality”

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

He turned off the alarm, pushed his black Egyptian-silk sheets to the side and sat at the edge of his custom made mahogany king-sized bed. He looked back to the other side of the bed, it was rough too. He tries to sleep on both sides now. He looked up to the ceiling

“Get out of bed

Brush your teeth

Take a shower

Get dressed and go to work

It’s a beautiful day!”

Those were the words written on the poster his therapist had advised he have made. He glued it top the ceiling above his bed so it would be the first thing he saw when he woke up. That was his mantra. He lifted himself off the bed, at least it took less time now. He walked into the bathroom, turned on the hot shower and tried to scrub the nightmares away.  He dressed up in his navy blue Armani suit, and as he fastened his tie in front of the mirror, he felt the loneliness start to creep in.

“Not today, not today, not today” he mumbled to himself repeatedly and quickly walked to his sock drawer. He can’t stop moving, helps to shut out the voices in his head. He has a quick breakfast, leaves instructions for his housekeeper and gardener on the platinum double door fridge and walks out to the garage, gets into his black, Audi Q7, opens the garage door and drives out. He is grateful for the buzz of traffic and a city awake.

Before, just a few years ago actually, he couldn’t wait to get home, now he worked overtime every day and spends the better part of the night having drinks or barbecue with his boys. They were his rock. Without them, he would have jumped off that bridge a while ago.  Therapy was working well and he had found faith somehow.  He prayed a lot. He still thought about her. Four years of history is hard to let go especially because of how she left and the mess she left behind. The mess he had been cleaning up for a whole year now.

Theirs wasn’t a story with happy ending but it had a beautiful albeit quick beginning. They had met in college where they were both pursuing master’s degrees in different fields.  It wasn’t love at first sight, far from it actually. He hated her, well hate is a strong word though that is what he felt for her now, back then it was more dislike. He should have stuck to his gut feeling but he was in a dark place back then which probably wasn’t the right time to get into any relationship but especially not with her.

He had lost his mother a few months before they met. She had died in her sleep. The autopsy said it was a brain aneurysm. There was nothing anyone could have done. At the funeral, Shaka had stayed back as everyone left for home. He fell to his knees beside the freshly filled grave and wailed. She was a mean soul but he loved her to her dying breath. His father had run off with another woman when Shaka was just 11 years old. He had left Shaka, his baby sister then only 3 years old and their mother alone. They weren’t destitute; she was a career nurse, doing well at a local private hospital. They lived in a nice house which they owned and lacked nothing, nothing but the warmth of love. His father had left him something, something Shaka wished he could scrape off; his face. Since he was a baby, everyone knew who his father was. He had his eyes, his nose, his jaw even his hairline. He truly was his father’s son. At the beginning this was something he drove great pride from because even as a child because everyone around him would make such a big fuss of it. But then that night came when an eleven year old boy’s life was turned upside down.

It was late but Shaka had always been a light sleeper. He heard his parents arguing, it was loud and pretty heated. As a curious kid of course he went out of his room to eavesdrop. His sister was asleep in her room. He walked to the staircase and sat on the top step. He could see both of them in the hall way downstairs. They were both very angry, screaming over each other like they were competing who could scream loudest. He had never seen either of them this angry.  At the time, he couldn’t really understand what was going on exactly. They would always fight in their bedroom if ever and even then, it would be in hush hush tones.

“Wacha iishe basi! (Let this end then!)” He heard his father say.

“ Sawa! (Fine!) Kwani wafikiri tutakufa ukienda kwa huyo malaya wako?!(You think we will die if you ran off with that prostitute?) his mother shouted back.

Shaka saw his father walk toward the staircase. It was too late to run to his room. His father stared at him for a few seconds at the bottom step, sighed then rushed up the stairs to their bedroom. Shaka ran to his room. A few minutes later, he heard a door bang shut, someone going down the stairs and the front door open and bang shut. He ran to the window and looked outside. As his father walked up to his car, Shaka silently willed him to turn around. Maybe if he saw his grief-stricken son’s face he would come back. He did turn around, their eyes did meet, he did see the tears fall down Shaka’s face but he did not come back. Shaka never saw his father again and his mother, well, any specks of gentleness she had left walked right out the door with that man. Shaka knew she tried so hard to shield them from the darkness that slowly crept over her over the years that were to follow and so he always tried to be a good boy. His sister tried too. They both did exceptionally well in school, did all their chores on time and essentially just stayed out of their mothers way. The hugs, the ‘I love yous’, they all stopped soon enough and all that remained when a little boy and a little girl hugged their mother was a quick pat on the back and instructions for the next day’s chores. After a while, they all just stopped trying.

Now as Shaka watched his woman walk away, he racked his brain trying to figure out what he had done to make her leave. It must have been his fault somehow. People don’t just leave, right?

End of part one…..

 

 

 

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I went for an RA meeting last week.  We meet twice a month because two weeks is all it takes for some of these guys to fall hopelessly in love; me included. We share war stories about grand-gestures gone wrong and romance stories we have enacted in real life that should have been left in rom-coms and romance novels of the damsel in distress and prince charming kind. This one guy, for Valentine’s day, because his girlfriend once mentioned that she would love to go to Paris, the poor fellow, unable to afford to take them on a trip to Paris went ahead and built a model of the city, Eiffel tower and all, just for her. That thing took him a total of three months to complete. He you-tubed the heck out of it. He really should have stopped there but of course he didn’t. Hopeless romantics never just stop at the one grand gesture. It’s all about the series of gestures that would lead up to the ultimate grand gesture. Bigger is always better.  So for dinner he takes her to this fancy French restaurant in a leafy suburb an hour drive away, gets a table by the pond and has a violinist play for them as they ate food that he ordered in fluent French. The guy couldn’t even say ‘Bonjour’ just a few months ago! What does he get in return you ask? A generic ‘happy valentine’s day’ card and a tie. A flippin’ tie! It wasn’t even one of those fancy knitted ties the cool guys wear nowadays, that he actually likes. Nah; the lady just got one off the street that cost like 200bob at most. It was black with grey stripes. Yes, he wore it to the meeting because we love to make points. We all burst out laughing at the end of his share, mostly because we would have done the same thing in his place. We advise him to stick to chocolates and teddy bears next time and maybe an Eiffel tower key ring but we all know we’ll be seeing a model of New York City next time because he said she mentioned that that was another place she would love to visit. I can’t wait to see what colour tie he gets next year.  I saw a few people taking notes while he spoke. We are truly hopeless romantics.

The next share was from another fellow. Now this one was downright hilarious. So this guy (let’s call him Mike) has a girlfriend, now fiancée that he’s been dating for about three months. Yes, three months is enough to date and get engaged and get married for a romantic. Their wedding was in two weeks. Who needs months or years of courtship and planning? When you know, you know.  In their defense, they did know each other briefly in high school. I use the term ‘know’ loosely because Mike just kind of saw her perform a narrative at a drama festival; chatted her up, got her name and school address and proceeded to send her love notes for three months straight, every week, like clockwork. Of course he used the flowery writing pads, and splashed his cologne on every envelope. He only got one letter back. The girl soon transferred to another school and didn’t give Mike the new address so they lost touch and reconnected just last year. You should have seen Mike at the meeting after they reconnected. “I found her guys, she must be the one!” He announced. We tried to caution him to take it slow because he didn’t know where the girl stood or even if she was available but he hit us with a “You know the saying guys, If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, marry it!” We laughed through the whole meeting and congratulated him on his upcoming nuptials. We all knew he was going to propose soon.

So on this random day he takes his girl out on a date. We romantics don’t know special occasions or holidays, we pretty much just smother you with love all year round. I don’t use the term ‘smother’ loosely. She had mentioned in passing that she had always loved camel rides down at the coast, on the beach, when she was a kid so of course Mike went ahead and hired a camel for the day. They went to a park where camel rides could be made available at the request of the visitors. They were at the gate waiting for said camel because the park has you sign a release form incase anything goes wrong and you have to pay a small caution fee. As the camel was arriving, this bike-rider (bodaboda) started taunting the animal. He roared his engine loudly and even tried to run it off the road. I kid you not; the camel kicked the guy off the bike and sat on his face! The camel’s caretaker quickly came to the idiot’s aid and got the camel to calmly get off his face. The bike-rider had to apologise to the camel from a safe distance. I have never seen a man so embarrassed. Camels don’t play. Suffice to say no one rode on that camel that day so they had a picnic together instead, fed it apples and petted it. Some of children who were at the park also came in to join the fun. It was delightful and a definite win for Mike; his girlfriend said she had never laughed that hard in her life.

I won’t be able to attend Mike’s wedding but I can’t wait to hear stories. We all know ‘grand’ doesn’t even begin to describe what he has in store. Why bother getting wedding ideas from wedding magazines or watching wedding shows or hiring a wedding planner when all you really need is a romantic to dream up your wedding from start to finish. You might have to scale it down a bit but you can be sure it will be like nothing you’ve ever heard or seen before and it will blow everyone’s mind.

Those were the only two shares we had time for that evening but they were more than enough. I like going for the support group meetings; they help me understand I’m not crazy, I’m just a loving human person who chooses to show love in outrageous ways sometimes; and that’s ok.

RA sayings:

  • * Bigger is always better
  • * When you know, you know
  • * If you love something, set it free, if it comes back, marry it!
  • * Camels don’t play

 

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The incredible hulk saved my life yesterday. He took the syringe from my hands and threw it out through the open window. You know those were for the dog right? I asked him in shock. The doctor says I have to give him injections thrice a day. I hate doing it because he always looks at me dead in the eye with those sad puppy eyes, like you are right now. I said to him and sat him on the edge of my bed. It’s ok, you’ve had a long day, why don’t you go watch some TV as I get dinner ready and prepare for the guests. I told him as I led him into the living room area and turned on the TV. He just sat there flipping through the channels, I think it relaxes him. We all know we need him relaxed; no one wants a giant green thingy terrorizing the neighbours. My relationship with the landlord was already dicey after a few incidents I would rather not get into right now. I took out more medication for Papi, my puppy. I had to inject him through the neck. The vet said that the medicine would get into his system quicker that way. Just three more days of it and the poor thing would be in the clear. I found the little guy abandoned down the street, next to the overflowing county garbage bin. No one really emptied it anymore after the last workers’ strike. Every last civil servant and county staff were fired and new ones quickly shipped in from the neighbouring countries in the region to take over. Of course they were paid as expats and the country was practically oozing dollars all because the government refused to yield. This ego business was soon going to bring us to our knees. I wish I could say it wasn’t my circus but the bin was a few hundred metres away from our apartment building, I had to go by it to get to my place. I would always rush by to get minimum whiff of the stench. There was a rundown settlement right next to it. I wondered how people lived there with the smell from the bin and busted sewer lines that sent waste flowing in the shallow trenches that ran beside the shacks. They had to keep digging them regularly or they would have the black gunk flowing into their houses.

On that day I slowed down because I heard a muffled sound coming from the other side of the bin. I moved in closer to check after I picked up a rock just in case. It was a tiny rock, the size of my fist; not really the kind of thing that could protect you from say, a rabid dog but hey, it did give me a false sense of security. The tiny thing was lying in a box covered in black goo. I teared up soon as I saw it. I didn’t even know if it was a cat, a dog, a rat or some mutated animal thingy. I took off my scarf and scooped it up. I managed to wipe of most of the gunk and that’s when it opened up its eyes and looked right into mine. I can’t explain what I felt in that moment exactly but I think I saw a glimpse of myself in the wretched animal. It fell right asleep in my arms like it somehow knew it had found a home. I took it home, bathed it, fed it, called him Papi and I guess the rest is history. Papi fell sick often for the next few months but the vet said that was because of all the filth he had been exposed to and also because he never really breastfed at all. I wondered if his mother ever looked for him.

Catwoman saved my life last night. She came in through the fire escape on my balcony. I didn’t even hear her come in. She knocked the bottle of pills from my hand and held me for what felt like hours. You don’t have to do this Anike. You’ll be fine. She said in a whisper. Ummm, I just had a headache and needed Panadol and I kind of mixed everything together in one bottle so I had a lot pf pills in my hand because I was trying to get the right ones. She let go of me quickly; I could see the embarrassment in her eyes. What’s for dinner? She asked quickly desperate to put that awkward mushy moment behind us. I followed her cue and gave her a breakdown of the menu. Right, so I will need to borrow your pants, the ones with an elastic band at the waist because this leather costume will not be able to handle what’s about to happen. She said and went straight to rummaging through my closet. They are right where you left them last time woman! I said as I pulled them out of a drawer and handed them to her. She proceeded to undress down to her underwear. Well that escalated quickly, I said with a chuckle and briskly walked to the kitchen. I mean who wants to see their superheroes naked? Don’t answer that.

So what’s up with the little-big guy? Catwoman asked pointing toward the hulk on the sofa. I didn’t even hear her come into the kitchen. Maybe we should put a bell around you? I said jokingly. She wasn’t amused. He had a really bad day at work at the lab. I started to tell her the story. This other scientist had been using the lab’s funding and equipment to create some kind of freaky robots. They looked like human-sized dolls made of silicon but with a computer brain (I was simplifying it because I didn’t understand the science jargon he used but I got the gist). Anyway, this mad-scientist had them in some bunker not too far from the lab and claimed they were the ‘greatest breakthrough in artificial intelligence applications in warfare’. Soon the robots could talk like humans, walk like humans and even hold real conversations. He would have them watch all kinds or war movies and train in war scenarios. A few broke loose and slaughtered the guards and a couple of doctors that were there but thankfully did not escape from the bunker. Violence was all they knew after all. They had to shut down the project and destroy the robots. It was gruesome. They also screamed like humans. Hulk or rather Bruce Banner (his human alter-ego, the brilliant scientist) was there for all of it as lead supervisor. It took a lot out of him; I have no idea how he managed to keep calm. I finished. Cat woman looked at me and winked. I knew what it meant. The rizzlers and grinder are on that shelf and you know where to find the rest. Do you need a pen or something to help roll it? I asked her. She rolled her eyes at me and sighed. Do I look like an amateur Anike? She asked. Relax, my bad. I told her and blew her a kiss. She’s so touchy that one.

I heard the bell ring and went to open the door for the rest of the dinner guests. My younger sister Amina and her boyfriend Batman, who had to introduce himself every time he walked into a room even though we could all see the costume and he would always forget to put the bat-mobile in stealth mode. We could hear him coming from a mile away.  Shoes on the rack, drinks are on the table and no one talk to Bruce till he’s had his fix. I announced as I ushered them in. The landlord had come too with Mrs. Maanake nonetheless. They both tried to hide the fact that they came together but I got a knowing look from Mrs. Maanake. I couldn’t wait for that story. A couple more people from the apartment building came too even though I do not remember inviting anyone else. It must have been one of those polite ‘I’m inviting you but hoping you won’t come’ situations. There was more than enough food and drinks though so, the more the merrier I guess.

Soon the room was filled with music and chatter. Batman was showing off his latest tech and bragging about how not even Ironman could come up with half the things he did. Oh, how I wished Ironman was here, and then we’d have a ‘tech’-measuring contest right in my living room. And I only say ‘tech’ because this is supposed to be a PG story. Ha-ha!

Catwoman busted me staring at the hulk. Stop drooling and just tell the man how you feel. She nudged. Yeah, well you couldn’t tell Batman how you felt five years ago and now he’s engaged to my sister so you are one to talk. I nudged back and quickly regretted it when I saw the sadness that had crept into her eyes. Sorry love; I guess some wounds never heal. I said and gave her a pat on the back. I’ve never been much of a hugger. Whatever; here’s to past ‘what ifs’ and women in love with angry green giants (he’s never been a monster for me and even he was, I’d still be madly in-love with him)! She said as she handed me a glass filled with a mix of everything. Here! Here! I said and downed whatever that was. It didn’t taste good at all.

Like he knew we were talking about him, the hulk looked up straight at me and smiled. I lost the feeling in my legs and almost dropped the salad bowl. Cat woman just burst out laughing and took the bowl from my hands. I really should get new friends; superheroes can be mean.

“Argh! It feels like this is going to go on forever!” She cursed.

“Am counting on it,” came his reply. She looked up at him surprised that he would want it to continue pouring cats and dogs but when she caught his gaze  on her she  quickly realized he was in a world of his own and wasn’t in the least bit, concerned about the weather. He had barely taken his eyes off of her since the second they had met for their date that day.

“You are such a weirdo you know,” she joked and playfully nudged him.

“Well don’t blame me, I’m helpless when it comes to you; everything about you is enchanting, I can’t get enough,” He answered rather seriously.

He was in a weird mood today; he kept feeling like he should make a mental note of everything. Everything about her; everything about the day. ‘Must be the weather,’ he thought to himself and shrugged it off.

He had to get home, it was getting late. The buses seemed to have stalled in traffic because there was no sign of any buses going to his place. He’d have to go all the way to Muthurwa, another bus terminus on the immediate outskirts of the city centre to get a matatu instead. It was a bit of a long walk.

“I hate the rain!” he said out loud as he looked down at his now wet and slightly mud-stained white jacket.

“Serves you right for wearing that on a rainy day,” she jested while pointing at his jacket.

“I’m dating the most beautiful girl this side of the pacific, I have to impress,” he joked back.

“Sweetheart, you could dress in a sack and I wouldn’t notice any other man in this town,” she said as she pulled him down by his tie and planted a big one on his lips.

He was sure he lost the feeling to his legs for a second. If they kept this up, neither of them would get home that night. He had to be the man, ensure she got into a mat ok and then had home himself.

A No.108 matatu pulled in followed by two others, the line of commuters they were on moved swiftly till it was her turn to get on.

“I love you so much, you know that right?” he said to her putting more emphasis than usual.

‘What was going on with him today?’ She thought and felt urge to assure him she loved him too.

“I know honey and I love you with all my heart, my soul, from the top of my head to the little beauty spot at the bottom of my foot, always remember that ok?” she smiled up at him as she gently brushed his cheek.

His legs went off again.

“What are you smiling about?” she asked him.

“Nothing, you better get on, that old guy behind you is giving me this angry look, I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?  And the day after and that and the day after that and, well you catch my drift.”

“Shhh…..you talk too much sometimes you know,” she said as she put her finger on his lips and immediately replaced it with her own. She got on the Matatu and off she went leaving him with her sweet scent and beautiful memories of the day. Muthurwa was a long walk off.  It started drizzling again. He had to hurry.

The streets were bustling with hundreds of people trying to get home at the same time. Hawkers packing up their wares on seeing that not so many commuters were interested in buying today. A few were still shouting their offers, trying to persuade that last buyer with the “Bei ya jioni” offer, others still with the desperate look of still trying to find their first buyer while inwardly admitting they might have to go home empty handed yet again. There were a lot of women carrying bags of shopping as is characteristic of the first week of the month. Stress lines on their faces knowing that that won’t be enough for the month and yet no more money was forth coming. Some had the plastic bags wrapped around their heads. He stopped for a moment to shade himself just outside a bank. There were a few other people there too. He overheard a couple of men cursing at the government. Something about receiving an already small pay cheque, seeing the tax cuts and various other deductions, thinking of the due and long overdue bills plus a nagging wife awaiting them at home. Yet still having to dodge potholes and scramble in crammed streets as matatus and pedestrians both fight over the same tiny pavements; wondering about the government that promised 8-lane superhighways, new bus terminals and state-of-the art stalls for hawkers at market places. Of course that was during their campaigning period before they actually get into power. I mean, can we really hold them to their promises after they come into power? You’d just have to wait for the next campaigning period.

This was Tomboya Street, one of the oldest in the city. Right across from it was Moi Avenue which looked like some alternate reality version of Tomboya. Same Kenyan people yet they were seated comfortably in posh coffee houses, sipping espressos and eating fancy-name cakes that were worth as much as a family across the street had to survive on for a week. There was no scrambling here, as the patrons slowly drank coffee and waited for the rain to let up so that they can get into their big cars and drive to this club and that club for a night of partying. They did not curse at the government. Sometimes they would laugh at how some politician messed up his speech by mispronouncing all the words or struggling to even construct a proper sentence. Oh such silly politicians we have, they would say, but mostly they would talk of the latest I-phone model, Lupita Nyongo’s dress at the Oscars and Beyonce’s latest album surprise release on I-tunes. But such is the irony of life, two babies would be born the same way, naked and wailing yet they would live totally different lives but both will be buried in the same earth six feet under.

He was fast approaching the bus station; he just had to cross the road. There was a flyover though it had long been unofficially declared redundant. Two reasons; One; No one who after having to walk all the way from the CBD to get a matatu at Muthurwa would want to waste even more precious minutes going up and down a flyover that looked like it was being held together by chewing gum. Two; there had been several brutal muggings that had taken place up there. He’d have to cross the highway; yet another death trap though luckily, there wasn’t much traffic at that time. So there was nothing to worry about except for that one oncoming bus that seemed to be precariously moving really close to the pavement. There was a crowd of people around him all waiting to cross the road so he couldn’t move back. The bus was getting close, the driver kept swerving left then right each time driving closer and closer to the pavement. ‘Was no one else seeing this?’he wondered. He needed to move back but still couldn’t. It was noisy, the rain had gotten worse but no one budged, instead they kept pushing forward.

Suddenly it was like everyone noticed the speeding manyanga at the same time! The sudden screams confused him and for a moment, he didn’t really know which side to move. A bulky man pushed him from behind and he almost fell forward but managed to find his footing in a pothole; now turned puddle. The bus headlights flashed several times and the horn was deafening. He needed to move back now! But just as he did he realized his foot was stuck, he had stepped into a drain and his leg was caught. He tried pulling it out, pushing and tugging several times but it didn’t budge. All kinds of screams emanated from the crowd around him, some were shouting for him to get out of the way, others were calling out to their gods and praying for the poor boy’s soul. It was useless, the more he tried to pull, the deeper his foot went. He couldn’t believe this was how it would all end. He closed his eyes. Everything happened so fast in the seconds after then it was all over.

“White was a really bad choice today huh?” One of the men helping to get his foot out of the drain said. He opened his eyes and looked down at himself half expecting to see only half his torso. He was ok, just much wetter than before.

“Haha,” he chuckled. “You are the second person to say that today”, he said to the bulky man and thanked him for helping. His foot felt a bit sore but he was more than grateful that that was all he had to worry about. The manyanga was now firmly secured in a ditch just a few feet away with a few good Samaritans helping to get the passengers out. They looked shaken up but it didn’t seem like anyone was injured.

“Looks like a lot of people will be thanking God for getting home in one piece today,” he said to no one in particular as he stepped into the road to cross.

“Hey, thanks again for….”

“AHHHH!!!Oh my God!!!AHHH!!!,” he was interrupted by a gut wrenching, ear piercing scream and the excruciating pain that shot up his spine a second after and then darkness.

Mbugua hadn’t even seen the man get on the road as he drove up Muthurwa Lane that late evening on his way back home. It had stopped feeling like home and more like a prison to him for some time now. A ten-acre lavish jail cell; imported bricks, imported marble tiles, imported carpet grass, even the water that ran in the state of the art eternity pool was imported. But this house was cold, it had been for six years but it wasn’t always this way.

Mbugua’s wife was a beautiful woman, the envy of many her age and even younger. But even with her stunning natural beauty she had to make sure everyone noticed that she, Mrs. Sheila Mbugua now lived the life of a queen and would never go back to the mud and mabati shanties they had once called home. That she was now above the flying toilets and scavenging for scraps of leftover food from big hotels and lining up for hand outs from NGOs. That place was far behind her. Now she dined and wined in the same big hotels and they called her ‘Madam’. Nothing was going to ruin this life. Sheila had worked hard to get here, even her husband’s constant nagging about having children fell on deaf ears. She was not going to be tied down with children.

But Mbugua loved his wife with very fiber of his being, lavished her with all things shiny and beautiful. But he wanted children.  She said pregnancy would make her fat and ugly and she wasn’t about to ruin her figure for some little brats. He suggested that she at least get a job then so she wouldn’t stay home all day calling hair dressers and stylists and her loud-mouthed friends who only came to gossip; she accused him of wanting too much from her. He asked her why she didn’t love him anymore and wasn’t willing to satisfy him as a man; she accused him of having an affair and swore to strangle any woman who so much as breathed near him. He stormed out, got into his two month old metallic-black Chrysler and drove off, drowning out her screams and accusations with his favorite tunes from George Michaels.

By the time Mbugua heard the scream it was too late. The man flew onto the hood of the Chrysler and hit the windshield hard almost going through then got thrown back onto the road. Mbugua panicked, he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see or hear anything for a few seconds but knew he had to get himself together. He prayed aloud to anyone listening that the man’s life be miraculously saved but even he knew it wasn’t likely that the man had survived the impact. He opened the car door and ran out to where the man lay.

Her chest tightened as the matatu passed by the accident site, everyone peered out of the windows to see. The rain was down to a drizzle. A small crowd was slowly gathering around the scene though most people just passed quickly, shaking their heads but still rushing to get home. There was a manyanga few feet away from the crowd in a ditch. A metallic black Chrysler was parked in the middle of the road with the driver’s door wide open and a man with a sharp suit was walking toward the man on the ground in the middle or a small crowd. He looked distraught.

Then she saw it and realized why her gut was wrenching yet she was safe, seated in a matatu. The white jacket! She only caught but a glimpse of it, but she was sure. It was him!

She couldn’t breathe, all sounds around her faded like whispers into the background. She got off the matatu not really knowing how her legs were moving. She felt like a zombie staggering toward a light only she was running.

Cars honked and edged through as some crazy woman ran into the road.

The light in his head kept going on and off like a torch running out of power. ‘Why was everyone screaming?’ he wondered. ‘And why is there a man in a sharp suit leaning over me telling me he’s so sorry but that everything will be ok?’ But the thing that puzzled her the most was her. What was she doing there and why was she crying? And that’s when it all came flooding back; the manyanga, his foot in a drain, the bulky man and the posh car.

He wasn’t sure what to think or say. He looked up at her. Maybe she would know.

He remembered how they first met, it wasn’t the fairy tale love at first sight kind of meeting but they had both felt the connection. He remembered when she first spoke to him. It wasn’t ‘Hi, my name is…’ or ‘You look familiar, have we met before?’ She had just asked him to help her carry some speakers to the concert venue and that is how their journey had begun.

She remembered when he first gazed into her eyes and knew there was something there. He remembered when she looked up at him one time, smiled and he knew if he didn’t say something he would explode!

They did the craziest things together, one time they just cooked dinner, packed it in containers and went to the flyover at the university’s gate, sat on the steps and ate. It wasn’t a candle-lit dinner but they both admitted later that it was one of the most romantic nights of their lives. She remembered how one time he came, picked her up at her dorm, they took a long walk which was usual for them as they could stay up till five in the morning sometimes just talking. Anyway that night they just lay down in the middle of one of the streets in the school compound at around 2:00am and just gazed at the stars. He remembered how they would write letters to each other and to their future selves depicting their dreams for each other. She remembered how they had started writing a story together taking turns and now it was almost as long as a Lord of the Rings novel and they were still writing.

He remembered each time she laughed, each time she cried, and each time she jumped into his arms when they met.

“Aaaaargh…,” he moaned as a surge of pain brought him back to reality. He heard the sound of a siren, she heard it too but in their minds they had very different endings to this story.

She knew he was pretty banged up both inside and outside but she held on the the last strand of hope that he would make it through this.

He too knew he was pretty banged up. He felt the blood trickle down his forehead from where his head had hit the windshield. Every time he tried to move there was pain everywhere and he could barely feel the lower half of his body. He felt his organs slowly giving in to the numbness that was creeping up from his toes. He knew he was broken but as he looked up at her, seeing her desperate tears and that glimmer of hope in her eyes he couldn’t help but pray for a miracle.

“The ambulance is here,” Mbugua spoke his first words. He also saw that the young man was pretty banged up and it made his insides churn knowing he was responsible. Someone gripped his hand from below.

“It’s not your fault,” the young man said to Mbugua. “I’ll be fine,” he finished. And even though both men knew the last part of that statement wasn’t true, both held onto the slim chance that it could be.

“I’ll go with him,” she said, her tears now running freely down her already wet cheeks. The rain had started up again.

“I’ll follow you in my car,” Mbugua said as he tried with all his might to give the young man a reassuring look as he let go of his hand and the paramedics lifted him into the ambulance. Life had never felt shorter to him. He knew then that he was not going back to that jail cell he called a house tonight or any other night. He had seen what true love was and his marriage to Sheila was so far from it.

Inside the ambulance, the love shared between the two was so heavy. It seemed to transcend all the pain he felt and dispel all the helplessness she felt.

“His blood pressure is dropping fast! We are losing him!” the paramedic called out as he went through the motions of trying to save the young man.

All the while, the two in love just gazed into each other’s eyes so intently, so endlessly you would think they were reading each other’s minds; maybe they were. His grip on her hand loosened, his heartbeat on the monitor slowed down. She didn’t want to lose him but she knew she would have to let go.

“Amy,” he muttered in a whisper so low only she heard him.

“Steve,” she muttered back in an even lower whisper.

Thunder roared a flash of lightning and it was over. The rain stopped and the sky cleared and the two in love let go.

Matatu- 14 seater public service vehicle

Manyanga- 25 seater mini bus

Bei ya jioni- a price discount hawkers normally give in the evening when they are about to close business

Mabati- steel sheets used to build houses

 

 

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

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.