Archive for the ‘Nairobi’ Category

I used to be the coolest person you knew, I know how you laugh loud and boisterous, they used to say they could hear us from six floors up and they would know it was me and you, how you smile such a huge smile it is, how you walk even how you cough when you are sick or just clearing your throat, sneeze, yawn, chew. See I still love you, I still pray for you and yes I still feel uncontrollable rage sometimes, it bubbles up inside me and I can’t be near you for too long, small doses of you are enough.  That look grinds my teeth to dust, that shrug reduces me to a pile of nerves and that turn-away when you see me coming a mile away turns my heart to shreds so I take the long route to the water dispenser so I don’t run into you. I have made up Monday-morning-sickness so I don’t have to sit across from you for a hour during weekly staff meetings.  I have filled my roster with client on-site visits so I don’t have to see you all eight hours of the day at the office. I take long walks at lunch time and avoid all invitations to group lunches that I know you will be in. Basically my life still revolves around you even though I’m not with you. How’s that for hopeless? I know you know why it had to end but I don’t, I feel, I feel, I feel like..

I want to love and be loved. I only wish it could happen without all the complications. You love someone and they hurt you beyond measure. But so what, did u think u would be the exception? Well as stupid as it sounds, yes, yes I thought I would be an exception. So you have to go with it and you know you should because halloooo!, someone else’ life should not affect yours right? Yeah well someone should tell that to my heart coz it keeps finding itself constantly connecting, attaching, attracting, it’s like it can’t help it. No matter how many times I teach it the same lesson. So this is what’s left every time, just me and my writing and one heck of a mess to clean up coz I just made a fool of myself again thinking it’s me when it’s so obviously is not. No one really understands how much their lives affect those around them. You may care less but there is someone who does care and they hurt when you should, they cry when you don’t and they love you anyway funnily. I guess that’s on them though, I mean you cannot be responsible for their feelings too, not with all you’ve got going on. So you know you are sorry but there’s really nothing you can do. I mean this is who you are, if they are your friends as they claim, they should understand that and if not then screw them, you don’t need them, you were just fine before you knew them and you’ll be just fine after. Your world will keep turning and that’s all that counts. It feels selfish though coz every time it’s always me getting hurt, me getting left, me getting pushed aside, me confused about something, me not understanding why they act that way. So why not just turn it off? Coz it would mean turning off a part of me and nothing should be worth that. I will try though, try not to hurt so easily, try not to let that look break me, that ‘oh my gosh look at u getting hurt at every little thing when everyone else is just fine’… that look. I’ve gotten it so many times I see it coming a mile away. It’s selfish to always play this tug-of-war with people. Who’s stronger now…who needs who more; games we play with each other’s hearts every time there is conflict. It’s just pride causing strife where there was peace. The unspoken human affinity and craving for drama.

End of rant….

The lit mosquito coil scent soothes me believe it or not. It reminds me of days gone by,  a past I cannot get back and part of which maybe I wouldn’t even want to get back. Some find it choking or simply irritating, backward even.

‘Can’t you get one of those plug-in mosquito repellents?’ one would ask as they see me unfolding the metallic holder.

‘Or maybe even a net?’ another would ask as they saw me struggle to separate two coils so gently so they wouldn’t break in half (that was a very valuable skill back in my day). You wouldn’t want to break a coil in pieces and have your mother scold you about how you now want the whole family to die of malaria because of your carelessness.  Melodramatic much mummy?  Times were simpler then.  Back in Primary school, when the only real worry, at least for me was finishing homework on time. I also worried about how I was going to get in the popular girls’ good books because that would put you at the head of the juice-line at break time. The juice line wasn’t anything official. The popular girls created it every break time underneath the big mango tree at the centre of the school compound. They would have ready to drink juice that came in packets with fancy flavors like tropical and mixed berry. I remember vividly standing in line to take a sip from the juice box and a tiny piece of chocolate chip cookie. I savored every bite (it was just the one bite though). Even now every time I buy myself a juice-box I feel like I should pat myself on the back like I’ve just achieved something big.

I used to wish I could be one of the popular girls; but maybe not, I’m sure I’d be drunk with power, make the little brats build me a shrine or something. Maybe that’s why I’m not a millionaire now? Haha! Yeah, maybe not.

Anyway, Scents can take u back to a very specific point of your life. It’s like you are back there all over again.

I remember the soap I used to use back in high school. I was a real tomboy back then. A sleeveless ‘School of hardknocks’ tee, black bandana (I had a collection) covering my short hair, baggy side-pocket pants; the ones with the zipper at the knees that you could turn into shorts (I had a collection) and sketchers was my signature look. I also had a pair of those shiny, reflector Sean John jeans, if anyone still remembers those. They were baggy of course and I had a plaid blue shirt to match and a blue fisherman’s cap, because, why not.  I loved blue and grey and black. I only discovered other colours in college and I kinda went colour-crazy when I did. The combos I’d wear, eish! I wasn’t happy till I had the whole rainbow on in one outfit.  One time, still back in high-school,  I remember I went with my mum to buy school uniform and the guy behind the counter asks ‘Kijana anavaa size gani? (What size does your son wear)? I honestly should have been offended but I just smiled to myself as if to say, “Mission accomplished!”

I remember the lotion I used to put on back in 2005 to 2006, just after high school because that was when I fell for a basket- ball player. He was my neighbor.  I could sec catch a glimpse of him and he of me even if just for a few seconds. It’s true, I was hopeless.  He had an interesting African (specific country hidden) name that still echoes in my mind sometimes, 10 years later. Let’s call him Nani for purposes of this particular story. Back then, Nani was a phenomenon in my books. He was 6 feet something tall, he had a beautiful physique; a tight six-pack, chisel shaped biceps, well-toned legs, a jaw to die for and amazing eyes. He was somewhere in the middle of a dark and light brown. He had this deep, coarse voice. I could listen to him all day even though all he really seemed to be interested in talking about was what party he was going to and who got trashed last weekend and bla  bla bla. I, know, I’m ashamed that I would shut up just to listen to that but a girl was sprung sha. Even now if I smell that lotion anywhere I get the chills. Sometimes I buy it just so I could remember but also because it’s very good lotion.

This was my journal entry the day we met…

Sometime in January 2006

So we met these two guys Arnold and Nani-it’s French. Two of the sweetest guys I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of meeting. And no, I was not the one who introduced myself in some odd, corny way but Nani started. I almost collapsed, believe me. He is polite (courteous),sweet and drop dead gorgeous and so is his bro Arnold.

Suffice to say, I was whipped from the get go so when he asked me out soon after, February 2nd 2006 to be precise according to my journal, how was a girl supposed to say no?

I remember the smell of his sweat mixed with Deodorant after practice. I would probably find it gross now but back then I even contemplated getting one of his sweaty t-shirts from his gym bag and maybe not giving it back. You know those times when you really aren’t a stalker but for a second you come down with a case of stalker-tendernitis but logic kicks in soon after?

I’m not a basketball fan but I used to sit through hours of his practice sessions just daydreaming of being a flippin’ basketballer’s wife and having cute basket-balling children.

He turned out to be a complete jerk in the end though. Have you ever been phased out of someone’s life till you are completely out but you still think you are in? Once in a while, he would pop back into mine, flash that award winning smile, give me that signature bear hug, plant just one amnesia inducing kiss on my lips and in that moment I could swear that if he had asked me to go back to him I would have. And then two minutes later he’d go back to being a jerk and I’d kick myself for even thinking about going back.

I got stood up a lot in our, I’d estimate 3 week relationship. I could be wrong about the length. My journal tried to warn me but I didn’t listen.

Journal entry Later in February  2006

I just have one question; it’s recurred in my mind more than once. How come a guy can know a girl for just a couple of weeks and already fall for her? I mean he’s even told me he loves me a bunch of times. I mean, I do have feelings and can sometimes like a guy a lot after just one or two days but I would never say anything unless I’m sure I want to really go out with them. I hope he just doesn’t want sex because that’s a no-no. I need to really get to know him better, the swimming date will be a great opportunity to do that. I hope it works out. Hope I get a swimming suit and swimming cap. Hope both are fly and fit properly in and out of the pool.

Later that week…

Oops! Got stood up on the swimming plot. Ouch! I was devastated. Who can blame me? After gathering psyche for 1000 people for just one date. Anyway there must be a good reason why he didn’t show up. Hope he kujas (comes) with it soon coz I’m running out of guesses.  

You know how sometimes you don’t listen to your instincts and then that whole decision comes back to bite? Well, this one bit and chewed and regurgitated my sweet behind. You live and you learn though.  Let’s just say I have a love-hate relationship with that particular scent.

I look back at 14-17 year old me in high school and I am in awe of her confidence. Being a late bloomer (the hips, boobs and booty kicked in way way later) wasn’t exactly fashionable in high school but still she was so comfortable in her own skin and her own style and her own awkwardness. Fast forward to 18 year old me who had just lost her mummy to cancer and moved from a laid back, evenly paced  life in a Coastal town to the ‘Big,Fast’ Capital City. She was struggling with identity and self-esteem issues mixed in with a major crisis of faith, basically at her wits end. Somehow she survived.  I think maybe as the years went by the two finally found a balance, each learning from the other. Her faith kicked back in, full swing; she discovered her beauty inside and out and she continues to discover very interesting parts of herself. She is still an emotional blob but she owns it. Haha!

I can’t wait to get to 35 and look back at 30 year old me. I already have a few scents I will definitely be talking about!

P.S: Watch the kind of mark you leave in someone’s life while you are in it and if/when you leave it. Those things last for a lifetime.

“Hi my name is Stellah and I survived.”

“Hi Stellah!” came the chorus reply that seemed to echo endlessly in the dim-lit basement hall.

This was the first time I actually stood up to share. I would come every Monday of every week, sit in the corner of the back row and listen as people gave horrific stories of abuse; years of physical, emotional and psychological torture. I would cry and ache for them but I wasn’t like them. He didn’t force me to do anything. He only ever slapped me once. Even after he did he came crawling and I mean literally on his knees slapping his own face over and over screaming “I was wrong!” “I was wrong!”

I had had others before him, I wasn’t naive. I had heard the stories, I had friends who had suffered in the hands of their abusers.  Some survived; if going through life feeling like a broken empty shell is what you would call surviving. Others were not so lucky but maybe they are the ones we should be jealous of; at least they found peace in death.

I knew how to protect myself so I did not know what abuse really looked like as I had never experienced it. Maybe if I had I would have seen this coming. Maybe I would have sensed that that’s what it was even though it did not follow the typical pattern, even though I didn’t have the scars on my body as they had, both self-inflicted and others to remind me that I was being abused.

When I first met him, he wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t promise me the world, he didn’t promise to love me forever, he just wanted to know me. I didn’t have much either but I was comfortable. He asked me out on dates a few times. At first it was just for coffee. He liked his black, no sugar. That soon turned to lunches, then dinners. You know the drill. Sometimes he’d pay, other times I would, most times we’d go dutch.  It was two-way at least it felt like it was. How was I to know he wasn’t showing me the whole hand?

He didn’t treat me extra special; he didn’t make me feel like a queen in that sense. He didn’t treat me like trash either.  He was just normal I guess. Maybe that’s what threw me off because I expected the extreme, I was experienced in the extremes but not this. He simply slid so smoothly into my life that by the time I thought I needed to leave I still wasn’t sure why.

He started accidentally leaving stuff at my place; a tie, cuff links, a watch, documents he’d need for work. It was cute so I let him. He’d always remember to pick them up the next time he was over. I must admit he put the time in. He never asked for anything but I gave him everything anyway, not all at once, just drops at a time really so I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. See everyone seemed to know what he wanted from me but less was said and known about what I wanted from him. I’m a simple person. I rarely ever demand for anything.  I get comfortable very quickly.  Some of my friends joke that I come pre-domesticated. I would be offended by that if it wasn’t completely true. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted from him, not really.  I was comfortable but he knew what he wanted from me, knew how to get it without asking, and because he didn’t ask, I didn’t know what I was giving.

He came over one night, we watched a few movies, I fell asleep on his lap, and he carried me to bed, tucked me in and slept on the couch. Next morning, he made me breakfast, we had it in the dining room. I found his toothbrush next to mine; “How did he know he was going to stay over?”

He said goodbye after breakfast, he was running late for work.

A couple of weeks later he came over again. We had dinner which he made, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed, tucked me in and went to sleep on the couch again. I got up, watched him toss and turn on the couch, I slid in next to him. Next morning, I made him breakfast and asked if he was coming over again that night. He said he would.

I cleared out a drawer on my dresser for him.’

At that point of my sharing I knew most of the people in the room were wondering why I was there. Why I was claiming to be a survivor yet I had the proverbial (mythical) ‘perfect man’. That’s why I had never spoken up; there were no scars to prove it. It was the same look they gave me at the hospital after they pumped my stomach. They asked me why I took all those pills, why I slit my wrists and I couldn’t explain.

‘I had a big project coming up, one I had been passed over for about sometime before, actually around the exact time I met him. I only figured out that particular connection later. It was worth millions. The guy they had put in charge had scammed the company and ran off, but they needed it done. I had a spotless record so I was chosen. I was ecstatic that night and couldn’t wait to share the news with him. I blocked out a few details but told him everything else. He didn’t ask any questions, he told me I was the best for the job. He made dinner, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed and as he was walking away to go sleep on the couch, I pulled him back and showed him his side of my bed. He slid in next to me. It felt right. Next morning I made us breakfast and asked him to move in.

He said he needed some kind of guarantor so he could still keep his old place; maybe rent it out, more income for us. I signed the documents. I didn’t read anything.

He changed his forwarding address to mine. I received a few packages for him, my signature on all of them. I didn’t open them, I wouldn’t. He didn’t ask me much so I didn’t ask him much either, that would be rude.

I talked to him about my big project, he offered advice, and every time I followed it, it worked out so well I asked for more and more advice. I even showed him a few of the plans, just to get a few pointers really.

He asked me to marry him, I said yes. Two months later he was gone. He didn’t take anything with him, not his clothes, not his shoes, not the espresso machine he had bought; nothing. He just disappeared.

Just days after he left, I was dropped from my project; the company found someone better who knew a more efficient way of doing it. That was the official story.

Turns out he had developed the same project only better in another country and patented the license.  He then somehow  blackmailed the company that hired me into letting him take over and so it would be kept quiet I was offered a handsome severance package but the company blacklisted me, I would never be able to find a job in that industry anywhere in the continent.

I have no physical scars to prove it, not even a dented bank account. I met a woman a few months ago, she has a son, 8 years old, we became friends somehow but she told me it wasn’t by chance, she had been tracking the man for 4 years now and the trail led her to me. We weren’t the only ones either. We don’t know how many are out there or how many there are still to be.

The bouts of uncontrollable rage started coming later, when it finally sank in. I’d have panic attacks every night just before bed and every morning like clockwork. I spent those moments sprawled on the cold bathroom floor, unable to move, clutching at my chest unable to catch my breathe. Sometimes I’d sing to calm myself, most times I’d just cry, cry until the moment passed. I wasn’t able to keep anything down in those moments, any food I’d try to eat would come right back out. It felt like my tummy was permanently stuck on a roller coaster. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family or my closest friends.  What would I say? How would I prove the damage? I thought I was losing my mind, that I had dreamt it all but he was real, it was real.  I willingly gave him everything so I honestly felt like I had no one to blame. You can blame a rapist, a burglar, a kidnapper, a serial killer, a wife-beater, an emotionally abusive friend. They take, by force, with devastating consequences for their victims. But how do you blame someone you loved and who seemed to have loved you back. Someone who gave you five beautiful years. The heavy drinking came soon after and eventually the suicide attempt. That brings us to now.

I have a son too, he is 4 years old and he looks exactly like him.”

 

 

 

“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

 

 

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.

It’s not a ‘what if’ anymore. It is actually happening. Half the time you are at a loss on how to behave, what to ask, what to say, how to respond.

Love is a weird feeling/emotion/state/ whatever it is you believe it to be. Why? Well because it transforms itself sometimes. Indulge me would you, as I explain myself….

Watching National Geographic a few days ago I ran into this episode; ‘World’s deadliest animals underwater’. I see this octopus; this particular one is a harmless eight tentacle creature yet to every one of its predators, it is a ferocious beast. The commentator called it ‘Octopus Prime’. Yes, I laughed too. So turns out, Prime (let’s call him/her that) can change color anytime it senses a predator nearby. Only it doesn’t transform to camouflage itself but rather it depicts the colour of that particular predator’s worst enemy. How flipping cool is that?!! So say a predator is deathly afraid of sting rays, dude changes into the colour of a sting ray. Say another predator’s predator is some brightly colored but super poisonous sea snake; dude turns into that exact same color. The guy has fifteen (I think) colour combos of this kind. You should have seen predators up to five times Prime’s size swim off tail (fin) between their legs (other fins?) in sheer panic. I’m sure they got home like;

‘Hun, kids (all 1000 of them) gather around while I tell you how I escaped death by a whisker today.’

That’s love for you right there. Depending on the circumstance or situation, it transforms into what you need to deal. Sometimes it’s nice; sunshine, rainbows and sugar plantations. Sometimes it’s calm; blue oceans, picnics and boat rides at the park. Sometimes it’s fun and harsh at the same time; like dancing in the freezing rain, jumping across busted, overflowing drainage lines and landing in potholes disguised as cute polite puddles. Getting home soaking wet because you did not carry an umbrella and Nairobi’s surprise flash floods just won’t let you prosper.

But sometimes…sometimes it’s fiery and fierce. It transforms itself into a flood of savage jealous rage; an insatiable feeling of complete loss of control. A feeling you try to tame but it ends up overwhelming you with such a sense of wildness that you forget who you were before they walked/jogged/sprinted into your life. Before they touched you and ruined how you touched yourself. Before they comforted you and you forgot how you would cry yourself to sleep. Before they kissed you and you forgot how single and satisfied you were. Before they talked to you for two straight hours at 2 am and you forgot how much you loved your sleep. Before they held your hand to cross the street and you forgot how to cross roads on your own. Look right, look left, look at the person next to you…wait, how does it go again? Before they watched you cry and held you so tight that you forgot how to cry into your pillow and use it to muffle the sound of your screaming. Before they made you laugh so hard you forgot how you need reruns of The Big Bang Theory to sleep. Before they let you into their heart, their world and you forgot to consider just how deep your two worlds combined would be. You are not that good a swimmer; Ms/Mr Not-Michael-Phelps.

Or maybe it’s like the Flamboyant Cattle Fish. A tiny, seemingly harmless, beautiful monster. This little guy has hundreds of color combos it can change into. This one too doesn’t use all these combinations for camouflage but rather for hunting. These little guys (they only grow up to a couple of inches long) actually hypnotise their prey with their colour-changing. The poor things don’t stand a chance. As they are stuck gazing into the cattle fish’ magnificence, watching the show of their lives, the finger sized sneaky bugger brings out its elongated tentacle (tongue) and the main performance is over in seconds.

Love is like that sometimes. It’s not always easy to find and sometimes (most times for some) it finds you. It is a beautiful thing. You bask in its splendor. You don’t notice it pulling you in. You barely saw it coming in the first place. You clueless little thing. As it drags you into itself, it might feel like floating in space, I think, I’ve never been, to space that is. You let it carry you. You are still aware of everything around you but it’s not an inhibition anymore. You are still you but there is something else, something almost intoxicating around you, in you. The world doesn’t disappear. It doesn’t feel like it’s just the two of you that exist. No, you are not that cliché. But it definitely feels different.

Then love takes you in, engulfs you, and swallows you whole. You die into it.

I wonder if the tiny little fishies feel any of it. Or do they just die peacefully gazing at the most beautiful thing they have ever seen.

I wonder if you felt it.