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Won’t Back Down!

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Gun shots rent through the crisp cold night air, there was a screeching of tyres and the choking stench of burning rubber was in the air. Tyre lit bonfires cordoned off the street. A sound of breaking glass followed by screams and pleas for help! Car after car sped off almost causing more accidents on the way attempting to serve past the machete wielding women in the streets.

The women were garbed in vests, with the words, “She was my daughter too!” There were ululations and more stones thrown breaking glass. The woman sang and danced machetes in air with periodic gestures of hacking as part of their dance.

Another shot in the air, followed by a hiss and a cloud of smoke, screams and choking filled the air. The women were dispersed by the tear gas. Wailing ensued, voices painfully calling out the name of Allah and Jesus, it had been a long 5 days of protest.

Some women ran in to the supermarket and in jiffy were back with bottled water, people doused their faces with water to relieve the irritation. More shouts.

“You have no place here! Go home to your husbands! And be honorable women!” A voice called out from the megaphone from the police side. It was a stand off. Officers in riot gear and women protesting the rape and murder of a teenage girl right outside the police station less than a week before; they wanted justice.

Police officers watched the girl as she pleaded for assistance they did nothing. The girl’s mother sat still day in day out on the tarmac in the middle of the road. She was in shock and that was the only way she could find justice for her daughter. Despite the police’s argument that it occurred at night, it was outside their premises and it was barely 9pm.

Just a year earlier a similar case was reported of abduction outside the police station of a 16 year old boy who was found gagged, beaten, sodomized and left for dead. The boy was fortunate enough to survive, but has never spoken since. There was increasing cases of abuse and assault of teenagers, specifically, and the mothers on the street wanted to know why. And have whoever was perpetrating this act, stopped and jailed.

“You have done nothing! NOTHING! You call yourself the police? Yet our children are killed at your doorstep.Why should we respect you? Why should we listen to you? You don’t care about our children…US! Throw as much tear gas as you want! We are going nowhere till Miriam finds justice, even if it means jailing all of you!”

Miriam’s mother had arisen and spoke through her megaphone for the first time in 5 days. She wasn’t going anywhere, if it meant going down with the cops she would.

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Smelly Doppleganger

Good Lord! It is 11.20pm, I swore to myself that I would be in bed by ten showered and cosy. Here I am typing away wondering what in the world I am going to write about. My back hurts, it has been such a long day and it seems like it is going to get longer.

I haven’t written to you in a long time so maybe I should fill you in on what has been going on with me the last couple of months. It has been a rough year, for some reason people don’t seem to want to pay, so I have been doing this dance with my landlord, the debt is building. Any cheque I get now goes straight in to clearing that mess.

You know the last time we spoke I told you that at times, more often than not, I feel that I have experienced more pain and disaster since I set foot in this country right? I don’t hate it, I just feel like things weren’t meant to work out for me. OK, maybe I am exaggerating but you know where I coming from? We have had this conversation a gazillion times.

Anyway, so a few days ago I was walking in the CBD minding my own business when out of nowhere my eyes began to sting, heck if you have been in the Nairobi CBD around the “commoners” streets you know what that means. The city council officers are around with the cops; the tag team of civilian harassment.

I got caught up in the melee of teargas, coughing, screaming, sacks tossed on peoples backs running with their wares leaving a trail of where they were headed. I did what I did, I stood still coughing, to avoid being confused for a hawker or loiterer or whatever crappy charge they like to slap people with.

But alas! Everyone within a meter radius of the melee was whisked in a smelly council van and charged for loitering. I shouldn’t have been surprised, it is January after all, the dossers needed early year bribes to get them through the month. Well a crappy pay of US $150 can’t even sort out rent and meals.

Anyway so there I was awaiting to be charged and this really smelly beggar walks up to me and calls me by ALL my names. Yeah! The names that are a document in itself, I was stunned. Who was he? He called me by ALL my names again. I spoke to him in Luo and he nodded. His stench was choking me. I asked him who he was and as usual, miros, he was offended.

And in the midst of his reprimand, when he waved his hand I froze. I knew those hands any day. And it scared me senseless. There was no way, 20 odd years, later that that smelly man would be my dad. He looked like a skinny spitting image of my father. I am still confused trying to wrap my head around him. How could this man look like my father, know me by my name know and ask for every one of my close relatives. I was so confused.

I was charged and paid my fine of 1,000 shillings for loitering in the council court, but I am still baffled how that man looked like my father’s doppelganger. How? What in the world is going on?

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Looming Death

The gentle rustling of leaves in the distance, the eerie hooting of the owl from nearby branch gave Verah goosebumps. Since she was a young girl she had been warned that when the Owl hooted that was a sign of death.

Verah’s family had been decimated by a mysterious illness, no one knew what to call it, the nickname it received was Chilo, dirt. It was a disease that not only put people back in the dirt that they came from, but also caused a mess. Victims’ skin would erupt in blotches of unusual colours and cause faces to look dirty, tongues would discolour and heavy sweating would stain clothes instantly.

No one knew what caused the disease. Even the so called Village MD had no idea how to cure it. Those who attempted to assist the afflicted would contract the disease and die. Now people simply died because everyone stayed away from them.

Verah had spent most of the moonlit night speaking to her ancestors as she stood at the graves of her parents and eight siblings. She was the only one alive. She was abandoned by the village and feared, villagers called her Mudho , as pitch dark as the night. But her darkness was her heart.

They never understood why a young girl nursing her entire family who contracted this unusual disease survived. They saw her as the cause. The earth was fresh over her father’s grave; he was the strongest of the lot, having fought the disease for 2 months. No one else was known to survive past 3 weeks. The mzee opted to dig his own grave and sleep in it to avoid anyone touching him when he died. He instructed Verah to cover him with earth as soon as he failed to ring his hourly bell. The bell was a reminder to feed him. At night, she tossed a blanket for him to cover himself.

Soon he was gone and Verah was all alone, isolated from the world. The numerous trees in the homestead swerved from side to side gently to a rhythm of despair and uncertainty. Verah didn’t know if she was next and if she was how would she go? Would she eventually contract the disease that plagued her family? Or was she going to live? And if she would, how would she survive in the hostile environment? She would probably starve to death.

As she thought through the possibilities of her existence, she heard the owl hoot again, everything fell silent and Verah burst in to tears.

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Come Home to Me!

I had missed him, it had been so long since I had seen him, three months to be exact, he had gone to volunteer in some remote place whose name I couldn’t pronounce.

Lord! His skin smells so great, being in his arms once again…Ah! There is nothing like it I never want to be away from him ever again. I felt safe, warm and genuinely cared for.

There he goes again, there is this way that he lifts his chin and rests it on my head just before he plants a warm wet kiss on my forehead. “Yes! There it is!” I can’t stop chuckling, for some reason, that kiss physically tickled me. Hahaha! Damn I love this man. I don’t care that we are in a public place, his arms round my waist, my face buried in his vast chest. I am lost in his overwhelming warmth, may he never let go.

People milled by us, mummers from all directions, soon the voices were lost, gone, silenced. It was just the two of us, nothing else mattered. Jesse and I together in each others arms once again, inseparable, at least for the moment.

I sighed, he sighed, I sighed again, he sighed again prolonged, his chin gently resting on my head for a few seconds his chin lifted and then I felt the heat of his breath once again on my forehead. I shuddered. I smiled, he chuckled, it shuddered both our bodies. I chuckled and gently pulled away.

Jesse and I stood and stared in each others eyes, the world even stiller, I blushed and sheepishly bowed my head, he bent over me, enveloping me again. I felt the heat of this breath in my ear, it tickled, I laughed and shrugged my shoulders. Jesse continued to whisper nevertheless, chuckling and teasing. I didn’t want it to stop…I…I…I…think….I…Think….I think I love…we love…he loves…we are in….shhhhhh!

Jesse whispered in my ear once more, and the laughter turned in to tears, I was filled with fear and dread. I wanted those thoughts out of my mind. I needed to be with him, not now, why now? He just got here; we had only been in each others arms for a moment. A moment not long enough, we were plugged in the same position, a position I hoped we would stay in forever.

Jesse! Aaaah! He leaned in and I felt the warmth and suppleness of his lips on my cheek, he nibbled on my ear lobe. I shrugged my shoulders and he leaned in and kissed my neck. I pushed him away I didn’t want to be teased anymore. What was this? He started with a whisper of sweet nothings which gravitated to news of departure. I only had this one moment, in this one place, I had so much to say, but he was going to leave. I didn’t want to ruin the moment, I needed to remember his warmth, his caress, his…his…his…my…my illusion of who he really is.

Jesse peeled away, kissed me softly on my lips and just like that he was gone.

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Darkness

The beep at the till rang through the supermarket, Hannah had stood at the yoghurt section of the fridge for 10 minutes without realizing. Her daydream was cut short by a gentle hand on her shoulder. Juliet was startled and turned, she was greeted by a warm smile, teeth radiant and breath fresh. Her stare shifted from the supple round lips to eyes, she began to smile then everything went dark after that.

Juliet awoke, eyes struggling to open as she heard muffled sounds in the background, it was a mixture of screams and rowdy cheering, when she eventually gained consciousness, she begn to feel excruciating pain all over her body, with one last blow to her rib cage. Juliet was now curled up in the fetal position, she was bleeding from her mouth, she spat out blood, her upper lip had cut open. Her knuckles were bleeding.

She felt hands scoop her up and she screamed attempting to wriggle her way out of their grip, she managed to, but once she got on her feet she fell again. She was not able to run, her shin was bust open revealing bone, Juliet screamed. Then everything went dark once more.

Juliet awoke to the beeping sound of machines around her and right in her face once again, were the lips she has smiled at earlier. Now she wasn’t smiling, she jolted and attempted to move. She was frozen in her position. Juliet had one hand and one foot plastered and raised. She couldn’t move. When Juliet realised this, she began to scream. She felt a prick and once again everything fell dark.

A loud sound awoke Juliet an hour later, the lips and smile of the man she had feared was all gone, she looked around her. She was in hospital, and her father was seated right by her side. Just when she was about to ask where her mum was,

“Hello Pendo!” Mama lovingly called out. She kissed Juliet’s forehead and handed dad the day’s newspaper. Dad looked at Juliet, “You want me to read the newspaper to you?” Juliet nodded, Dad used to do that when she was younger, it made her feel good. As he finished reading the second article the doctor walked in.

“You are such a fighter; I don’t know how you did it?” He said examining her, she cringed as he thumbed his way round her sides. “You’ll be fine in a few weeks.”

What happened? How did she get there from a supermarket? Why was she so badly injured? Only time would tell, because everyone was mum about it everytime she asked.

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Inferno of Despair

Mum was out cold on the plastic chair in the corner of the shack. Her clothes were wet from all the washing she had done today. That is how she made money to feed, clothe and school the children. She cleaned people’s laundry by hand washing. By the end of the day, she had washed about close to 15 to 20kg of clothes coming home with about 2,000 shillings.

Gitau and his brothers creaked the door of their shack open, at 4.30pm. The usual time they got home. The mud walls painted white and plastered with polythene to keep the cold July weather from oozing into the house.

“Wake Mama up, get the money for dinner Kama and Maina clean up the house.” Gitau directed.

Mum was completely exhausted opening her eyes was so hard. She grunted then, “Kama let me sleep, I am so tired. Do your homework.”

“We don’t have homework today Mama. Wake up, go and sleep on the bed,” Kama said as he peeled back the sheet hanging in the middle of the room separating the living room from the bedroom. The bed was three huge planks of wood arranged against a wall, a 4 by 3 foot bed, not big enough for their 5ft 11 inch mother. By the foot of the bed, there was a kerosene stove which served as the kitchen with the aluminum pots and pans piled up next to it.

Maina’s effort in tiding up was futile, there were metal boxes all over the floor that served dual purposes; as a coffee table, chair and suitcase for their clothes and storage of food from ants and the water that seeped through the walls of their shack. The floor was cemented adding to the cold at night.

“Mama, please change your clothes so that you don’t get sick.” Maina called out to his mother who was inching into the bed completely worn out from the day’s work. Gitau walked through the door with some shredded collard greens in a transparent plastic bag with two onions and a tomato in one hand. In the other hand in another transparent bag, looking like diluted urine was paraffin.

He grabbed a funnel and nodded at Maina. Maina grabbed the stove and brought it into the ‘living room’. They watched as Gitau filled the tin stove with the paraffin. He stepped outside to light it. Kamau brought out an aluminum pan and a knife and a small 5 litre jerrican of water.

Gitau peeled the onions in his hand and washed them with water from the jerrican. He diced them in his hand and into the pan, he washed the tomato and added it to the pan, they didn’t have any oil or lard to fry it, so Gitau dashed about two tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt to onions and tomato. He covered it and it let it simmer, and then added the shredded collard greens.

When the food was ready, Gitau steadily lifted the pan, and then out of nowhere the stove blew up, blasting him and his brothers who stood by observing, through their front door and setting their whole house and sleeping mother ablaze.

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Love Denied

Tabitha sat up late watching romantic drama movies; she had devoured two entire tubs of ice cream now sobbing and in an emotional mess. Her blanket was now soaking in her tears. She was 35 years old and alone, she didn’t understand why. She didn’t seem to have much luck in her love life. She was a balanced person, she worked hard and excelled, she also played hard, she knew how to have a great time without relying on alcohol to embolden her.

She would always meet great people, hit it off with them, but it never went past a certain point. Word would come back to her through friends and acquaintances.

“She is an amazing woman!”

“She’s adorable, why has no one scooped her up?”

“She is so approachable, the kind of woman I would be proud to bring home to my Mama.”

But there was always a ‘but’.

“But she is too confident for me.”

“She is too blunt and opinionated, that won’t sit well with my friends and family.”

“But I like a woman who will submit, she is too strong.”

“That works best in corporate world not at home. I want a woman who won’t question my every move.”

The list grew day by day, she earned too much, she was too beautiful, she was too this, too that. That was the reality of Tabitha’s life, because of her uniqueness she was a threat. She was a light that attracted, but seemed to also destroy. She had spent the last 35 years of her life shaping herself to fit other people and situations. She recently gave up on that strategy and decided to find out who she was and to love herself as she is. She wasn’t out to please anyone anymore.

Her family loved her nonetheless. They stopped asking when she would get married. Tabitha shelved that all together. She knew there was more to life than marriage and career. She was out to find herself. She was on the right track, up until she plunked herself with dessert and the need to watch a movie. She slipped in “P.S. I love you” and it went down hill from there. Then she watched “The Notebook”. She was weeping by the time she got to the end. She could barely see the TV screen anymore. She kept sniffing the snot back in. She did what most women in her situation and emotional state did.

“What’s wrong with me? I am a good person; I have so much love to give…why doesn’t anyone want me?” Tabitha was a pile of pity by the time she dragged her swollen eyes and Rudolph red nose to bed. Her eyes stung as she shut them with tears still streaming down her cheeks on to her pillow. Tabitha had been in the cyclic crash wondering what life was really all about, even as she sort to love herself and live a full life. She still wondered whether anyone was really out there to love her.