Posts Tagged ‘African Authors’

I met a guy a while back…

PhotoGrid_1420705305879He boarded the matatu I was on, sat right next to me on the back seat. He was simple and very stylish; nice checked shirt, matching khaki pants, matching belt and shoes. Clean shaven yet still a little rugged. He wore a chain around his neck with a shell and bead pendant and as he bowed to get into the car and make his way to the back seat it dangled seductively. He had a backpack, black i think.  He sat in the middle, between me and other-random-guy.

Thing is from the moment he stepped into the matatu and our eyes met, he had this huge smile that just lit up the whole van or maybe it was just my whole heart…hihi. He sort of radiated a kind of goodness, like those rays of sunshine in the sunlight washing powder ad that make everyone ‘see colours’. My lips strained to maintain some kind of sexy aloofness but I couldn’t help it, within seconds I felt this goofy grin start to form and I quickly looked out the window and giggled on the inside like a little school girl. That was the extent of our conversation the whole trip. Not one word, just a symphony of no-eye-contact silly smiles. I was bubbling up inside and from the corner of my eye as I was too shy to look his way with the now Grinch-grin plastered on my face, he looked like he was about to burst. Neither of us spoke to the other though in my mind I was having a whole conversation with him about how maybe I knew him from somewhere or how maybe was he an artist. When he glanced down at my bracelets I knew he was having the same conversation in his mind.

The three minute ride came to an end; it was time to alight at the last stage of the route.He glanced at me though only for a split second. I think he wanted to be a gentle man but it wasn’t going to work since he was in the middle so he would have to get off first.Silly boy. He patiently waited for everyone ahead to get off then got up to make his way out. He was scrawny and had this gentleness about him even in the way he maneuvered through the seats to the door. I must qualify here that scrawny, artistic gentlemen give me the chills. The good kind.

And then came the awkwardness. He was walking slower than I think is his usual while I was still deciding whether to take a brisk walk seeing I was late for work or a slow stride enough to catch up to him yet not get too close to seem too obvious. Oh to be 28 and still shy around cute guys. Sigh.
We now walked at the same pace about 6 feet parallel to each other still  smiling like idiots.After a quick debate with myself over what a bad idea speaking could be given past experience, I mastered up the courage and decided to say something.

Of all the 20-something sexy ways to say ‘hallo’ that I had read on in some magazine or rather just the other day, all that came out was a whispered ‘hi’ muffled in a giggle and an immediate shy look-away.Silly girl. Then the craziest thing happened; he did the exact same thing!!

I think he needed to cross the road so he slowed down while I kept going debating whether I should do the sexy look-back or just keep going because I would most likely ruin that too by tripping over my own feet. I even tried to change my walk a little, you know, to make sure my ‘endowments’ were swaying seductively but all I ended up doing was a confused ‘does the right foot go first or the left one’ walk.Those who have been there know exactly how that looks. For those who haven’t; just imagine a duck and a chicken in a three-legged race. Yup, that bad.

I walked on to the lady who sells smokies and eggs at the intersection and stopped for my usual biting. I was grateful for my routine today because it would give me the chance to take one last look at the ‘smile-monster’(that’s what I call him now) without being too obvious. So I stopped and turned only to see he was actually heading to the intersection to cross over. We exchanged smiles again and wasted the next few seconds both wondering if we should wave to each other and he was gone. Across the zebra crossing, past the boda-bodas parked on the side of the road and into whichever lucky place. I watched him walk away still with a grin on my face and that is how my face has been till now.

I prayed for him as I walked to my office. I thanked God profusely for bringing him into my life for those few moments. I had had a sort of nightmare-filled night, one of the few times a dream would get interrupted by a visit to the loo and still continue from the last point ‘watched/dreamt’ like a flipping movie. I dreamt Kenya had been taken over by a dictator who was a cross between Mugabe, Idi Amin and Gaddaffi and that I was part of the rebellion yet my own father had sold out to him and had received a high-ranking government post and was about to sell me out because to him I was an immeasurable disappointment and had tainted his image for the last time. I had woken up grumpy and scared so I was badly in need of a pick me up and there he was; the smile monster.

I prayed for success in all he did today and for the rest of his life. He could be anything, a painter, a poet, a writer, a musician or maybe a business man, an entrepreneur,a builder (well maybe not that,haha); whatever he was, I prayed for 100 fold increase. I also prayed he wasn’t a stalker (just to cover all my bases) and that he was as decent a man as he looked.

Finally I prayed that if he did’t know God then that God would make himself known to him because if he can light up my world in just three minutes with just a smile, imagine what he can do to the world with the love of God.

Tell me what I want to hear. Lie to my face, twist the truth into so many knots I could never hope to untangle. Keep the pain and the truth; I do not want it. Let’s pretend for a few hours, maybe days. Let me lick the sweet deception off of you. Let me swallow the lies. Pull both my legs. Let me spend the night in a cloud, a bubble, a world of our own. Half-truths, white lies, twisted logic,shove ‘em all sweetly down my throat, one after another and let the syrup drip down my lips. Hypnotize me with your B.S, don’t hold back. Don that mask, let’s have a ball, a masquerade of sorts. No, don’t you dare bring down the facade, you beautiful two-faced monster. I don’t want the real you. Don’t shower me with your real emotions, your true feelings, don’t show me your heart. Fool me once, twice, a hundred times over. Be the snake you were always meant to be. Smile Mr. Fox, show me your fangs Mr. Snake. Plunge the knife deeper, I could turn around, draw a target on my back, make it easier for you. I’m at your mercies trickster. Let me turn the other cheek, once, twice over. Break me. Let me feed your ego, fuel it with my humiliation at your hand, make it grow, make it soar. Screw me over. Let me be the butt of all your jokes. Poke, prod. Here’s a hammer, and a few nails, have at it. Take all the time you want, until what is left of me are only shreds of what I used to be.

*Sometimes we find ourselves unwittingly addicted to certain kinds of pain. *Sometimes, we unknowingly let people, situations walk all over us because we feel we do not deserve better.

‘I’m not worth loving’

‘I’m not good enough’

‘He/She is too good for me’

‘Where else would I go’

‘Who else would love me’

‘He/she hurts me but I need him/her’

‘It could be worse’

‘If I leave this job, then what?’

*I know we were created for more; to multiply, replenish, restore, have dominion over the earth put in our care, over my little sphere of influence yet sometimes all I seem to be able to do is wallow in self-pity, doubt, fear and hurt.

*Sometimes all I want to do is curl up in my bed, hug my pillow and just hide out for a bit.

*But how can you conquer if you don’t fight?*


selfie time

Playing the ukulele

Amana’s father asked her what it was that she had put on her head. There was a look of disgust in his eyes as he said it, almost as if there were worms slithering out of her scalp instead of her now six-inch dreadlocks; black with golden-brown tips. Amana had had to use the Chinese brand hair dye twice. Her kinky African hair just wouldn’t bite the first time even though the instructions on the box said the dye would work on all types of hair. They must have forgotten to add ‘Asian’ somewhere in that statement. Amana and her friend Jianni had laughed so hard when, after the anticipation of trying out hair dye for the first time in their lives, they had come out of the shower with their hair looking like they had just rode through a dusty town in one of those old, rickety buses. The ones shaped like loaves of bread whose radio was switched on by connecting two naked wires. A week later, they had gone to a different store and gotten a different brand. This one promised a bright, glossy finish.
The last time Amana’s hair had a glossy finish was when she was younger, after a hot-comb treatment. This was years seven through twelve. Calling it a treatment makes it sound way fancier than it actually is. Every Sunday her mother would take out the scary black, heavy, metal-comb, a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly and the charcoal jiko (stove). She would then call Amana and her sisters, out on the veranda. Each would sit on the ground below their mother who sat on a short three-legged stool and go through a grueling session of hair straightening. Every time that hot metal comb straight from the burning coal came close to the scalp, Amana would hear the crackling of melting Vaseline. Any sort of movement at this point was curtailed quickly by the tightening grip of her mother’s strong legs and a stern warning of ears getting burnt off. It was all worth it though when later, Amana would strut into Sunday school in her lacey, layered dress with a matching purse filled with two shillings for offering and her straight, glossy, shrinkage-free hair. She would proceed to sit at the front and do a hair flip, forget the fact that her hair would never respond, she did it anyway.
At age twelve, Amana opted out of the struggle and cut her hair short. The tom-boy phase kicked in soon after that and lasted all through high school and the four years of her bachelor’s degree at a local university.  For as long as she could remember, she had always admired women in dreadlocks and always wondered when she would get her own. Her father had always been adamantly against it and maintained a strict ‘My house, my rules’ policy.
As fate would have it, at age twenty-five Amana would win a scholarship to study a master’s degree abroad. It was there that her new dreadlocked friend sitting on a stool above her, comb in hand, made Amana’s dreadlock dream come true.
Amana loved her new look. It wasn’t glossy. It wasn’t silky. It wasn’t straight. It was just what she had always wanted. It’s funny how living in one of the fastest growing economies came with an expectation that the locals would have some level of general world knowledge about different cultures and peoples of the world.
Are you born with your hair like that? Do you wash it? Does it untangle when you do? Can I touch it? If I pull it, will it come off? How did you twist it? Can I do the same to mine? Can I take a picture of you?
These are the questions Amana had to answer from the locals for the rest of her time in China, on every subway, cab, train, bus ride she took; in every store, park, office, class she went to. She practically had a script in mind for it.
Yes, all African children are born with their hair locked; it’s just that some decide to untangle it when they grow up. Are you crazy? , I never wash my hair, I just air it out and it’s good to go. Don’t you dare touch it; not unless you want to end up with strands of locks in your hands? Of course I can do it on your hair, we are all born experts. Sorry, in my culture, no one takes pictures, it is bad luck.
Not all she met were like that though, thankfully. Most only asked out of innocent curiosity as they had never had such close interaction with an African. For those who were just plain ignorant and rude, Amana would deliver her lines without apology.
The worst was when she would go looking for part time jobs to supplement the allowance her scholarship gave her. On several occasions, the interviewer would comment that she was too black for the job but have the audacity to ask to touch her hair.
Living in China however was a real eye opener for Amana. She had never been abroad, she only read about life there in magazines, watched it in movies and heard stories from friends of friends who had been there. Amana never envied them, never dreamt the American dream, never desired to take photos on the Eiffel tower or hear the gongs of Big Ben. She loved being Kenyan, flawed as the country was. She longed for change, as any person her age did. Corruption scandals were in no short supply. Millions of shillings were stolen here, billions there. It felt like one of those whack-a-mole arcade games, the scandals being the moles that pop up randomly and the bat being the commissions of inquiry supposedly formed to get to the truth. One mole pops up, you try to hit it and another pops up, you try to hit that then the previous one shows up again, you go back and try to hit that then three pop up at the same time. It’s exhausting just thinking about it but sadly that is how many of our beautiful countries operate. Amana was an optimist though even when her ex-boyfriend, Tafiti said Kenya would soon fall, Amana would just shrug it off and tell him he did not know what he was talking about. She would tell him that change was coming, and if she were lucky, she would get to be part of that change. But at times, she wasn’t sure.
Amana had read many writers refer to corruption as a cancer eating Kenya from the inside out. Her mother had died of cancer when she was 18; breast cancer. It kept recurring over the years; she fought so hard, she was just fourty seven when she passed. Towards the end, it ate into her legs, one after the other; she eventually had to use a wheelchair. While she was on chemo therapy, one night she had asked Amana to help her shave her hair, it was falling out. Amana never saw her mother cry, not over the cancer. She was the strongest person she knew. She moved to Eldoret, a city pretty far away to try herbal treatments that some doctors were experimenting with there. Amana wasn’t there when her mother passed on but she remembers the call. Your mother is dead, her father had said. She didn’t hear anything else, just passed the phone to her younger sister and went up on the roof and wept for hours till there were no tears left.
Amana wondered if her country would survive this cancer.  Either way, she wasn’t about to look for a green card or some random rich blue-eyed man to marry her just so she could escape as some of her girlfriends had done. She was going to stay and fight. If the ship was going down, she would go down with it.
December, 2012; after three years study in China, it was time to go back home. Amana knew her father would be against her hair but hoped he would see reason. She was 28 now, practically a grown woman. Being so far from home, by herself had given her a sort of confidence, an awareness of who she was, of her identity. Her locks had become part of that identity, an outward symbol of her inner person. She had seen them through that troublesome phase where they just wouldn’t lie flat and were so thin like little twigs sticking out of her scalp. She would make concoctions from hair oils she had sent from home specifically for dreadlocks and spray them into her hair religiously.
After the friendship between her and the girl who locked her hair ended in what felt like a lovers’ spat, even though they were not lovers, Amana had to do her own hair. She liked that girl, maybe she had even unintentionally fallen for her. In retrospect Amana knew her only mistake was that she had confessed her feelings to this girl and that though non-sexual, her confession was met with a stern rebuke and instruction to go find a boyfriend.
Her locks were a reminder of that too, of the strength and sense of self-worth she had gained after realizing that she had erroneously allowed her world to revolve around one person.
Her father called for a meeting, a month after she got back home. He said he had hoped that Amana had seen sense in that time and had gotten over whatever stress or depression she was in. Amana told him she was neither stressed nor depressed. She said that her locks were not a show of rebellion. Children, if anything rebel when they are in their teens, Amana didn’t see the need for rebellion then so why would she do it now. He told her that some who fought for independence wore their hair like that but that the times of revolution are gone. She would never get a job with that hair. She should go take a walk in town, look at all the women’s hair styles and just try to be average, try to be normal.
Amana could not believe what she was hearing. All through her life her father had insisted on his children striving to be above average in everything they did. The lectures they had received on the topic were countless. Yet, here he was, her hero, renown in his profession, respected by his peers, telling her, his daughter to just be average.
He would continue to repeat this statement a while after. On marriage he said, on her 29th birthday that she was getting old (er) and that she should try and be normal and not marry too late.
Amana would cry into her pillow yet again that night, wondering if she was truly not acting normal or not being normal. And whether her father thought of her as a disappointment, as something that needed to be fixed?
Amana woke up the next morning and after her shower, as she stared at her naked body in the mirror. She ran her hands gently over every curve, every scar, every spot, and every un-waxed tuft of hair. She smiled at how her left breast was bigger than the right but both still small. She counted every pimple on her face and wondered why one eye seemed bigger than the other. She ran her fingers through her locks, took up her spray bottle and sprayed every strand. She put the bottle down, poured castor oil from another bottle into her hands and massaged it into her scalp for what felt like thirty minutes. As she tied her hair up in a ponytail she vowed she would never let herself be; just average.

I sit at the gazebo and dream. Of course it’s about a boy; dreams about taking over the world are for after office hours. Yes, I have scribbled down our names, all the combos you can imagine plus the ones you cannot. Mrs.X, The Xs, Mr and Mrs. X, Mrs. Awinja-X, X Junior, A+X, I could go on for days; ok not days, just minutes.

I’ve pictured us sitting on a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g; at the park holding hands watching the puppies pee on the tree, at a random coffee shop sharing a milkshake because how else do people drink those things, under the moonlight counting the stars; naming the brightest ones after ourselves. I have pictured the grand proposal; because every romance movie needs at least 10 small mushy scenes that lead up to that one grand romantic gesture which is completely integral to the whole production. There was a cello, 4 violinists and one bassist because you know I’m all about that. It was in the Mara in one of those exclusive luxury tent-rooms, the ones that open up to the vast expanse that is, the wild. The elephants watched and the lions roared for an encore. The band obliged because, well, they were lions. It costed you a pretty penny but who can put a price on love? Well am sure your accountant did but who cares about him when you are trying to make a statement? We’ll deal with it later, with the joint accounts and joint credit cards because yes, we will be joined at the hip and we will shower our unsuspecting friends’ timelines with photos of our every waking moment. Our lives will be the inevitable talk of the town and you will love it; the love, the marriage, the triplets in the neutrally coloured baby carriage, the whole nine yards and then some.

I have pictured us in the bedroom (no silk sheets please), the bathroom (with all the steam of course), on our Persian hand woven living room carpet (it’s not as soft on bare skin as they claimed on the ad), on the kitchen counter which I have now imagined how unhygienic it will be. We’ve been in my X-5, your Q7; I didn’t know the seats went down that far. Like the wise men said; ‘Baby, you and I are nothing but mammals so we do it like they do on the discovery channel.’ Of course we cuddle after, I watch you sleep, I run my fingers down the side of your face, your lips, and you don’t even shift. You already know I watch you sleep sometimes so you no longer get freaked out when you wake up in the middle of the night and see my black form and white eyes staring. Remember the first time you bust me watching you, you almost jumped through the window. Thankfully you remembered we were on the fifth floor just in time. You slept on the couch that night so I brought you breakfast in ‘couch’. I knew I’d have to go through your stomach to speak to your heart so I made you the whole spread; English, American and Kenyan combo. By the time you were done, you had told me I could stare at you the whole night so long as I don’t do it too obviously so I don’t creep you out next time.

That night as I fell asleep on your chest, hearing your heart beat, feeling your chest rising and falling, you kissed me goodnight and I truly felt one with you, heart, body, mind and soul. You saw the weird in me and you stayed.

I have pictured every kiss and every time our lips touched, I would feel a tingle in my toes. I see your smile every day and it tickles every fibre of my being. Every time you call my name even if just to ask for a pen, every time you giggle, laugh and especially at my jokes, aiyaiyai I can’t even! Remember those times I’d call you then claim I forgot what I wanted to say? I just wanted to hear your voice so I have material for my dreams that night. Why do you think I’d always ask you to send a voice note instead of texting? I have some of them on my playlist and you will also find them under ‘recently played’ and ‘most played’.

I’m not out of mush yet. Here is the thing; I think of you before I sleep, replaying almost every word you spoke to me. I pray for you and yours sometimes more than for me and mine. I think of you when I wake up. When I pick out clothes to wear, at the back of my mind I picture how you would see me. I have caught you staring at me a few times, you denied it of course but I know you. There is a sort of gentleness in your eyes, mixed in with the desire; a desire fueled by respect, honest admiration and what I hope is a pinch of love.

It’s really not a big deal, these are just random and sometimes intentional thoughts that run through my head, material for my stories I call them because who are we if we can’t find the story in every waking moment.

These are the things I think about at the gazebo. I also think about world peace, poverty eradication and the overall wellbeing of mankind; it’s not always about you.