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Embarrassed & Guilty

Dad looked like a shoe; he was painfully ugly. Looking now, it s flabbergasting to see Mum and Dad’ wedding photos. It looks like a super model next to the huge special needs looking guy from the 1980’s movie The Goonies. One eye was rudely bigger than the other shoved into an oblong piece of dough, called his head; teeth crooked and jutting out of his mouth. He looked smelly, but the fitting of his tuxedo at the wedding was impressively impeccable for an ogre like build.

Growing up Mum and I never saw much of Dad, he like some hardworking fathers was home late at night and out early in the morning, and he traveled a lot. I only got to know of him when I was about 5 years old. The day he came home early for the first time in close to ten years. The door bell rang; I ran to it and waited next to Mum. She lifted me up to see who it was. Mum was smiling; I genuinely didn’t know who it was. As mum reached for the door, I recall spreading my arms and legs in front of her leaning on the door saying, “don’t open the door, it is a monster.”

Mum was surprised, “That is your father!” She retorted harshly, it couldn’t be. How could that…no way. No way…Mum and…that…it…him? Unbelievable, Dad finally vocalized his concern, “Aren’t you ladies going to let me in?” He said in a husky alluring voice, I peeled myself off the door to meet this other man who had shoved the monster away from the door. Now that sounded like my Dad. Mum opened the door and the monster was still there. I couldn’t help myself sneer.

The poor man overjoyed to see me whisked me into his big hairy arms and tossed me high up in the air a couple of times. And then he rubbed his nose into my belly. I couldn’t help myself; I laughed my guts out. That was fun! He put me down and then whisked Mama into his arms and kissed her as they danced to silence. I saw the gaze that Mum gave him. It was so tender, so attentive, she was putty in his hands, I saw love, even though then I didn’t really understand what love was.

It was true after all, he was, sadly…Dad. After smothering Mama’s face with more kisses and gazing intently into her eyes. He pulled away and backed up a few steps to where he had dropped some bags that he was carrying. “This is for you”, he handed me a bag. I opened it and there it was; the full Wonder Woman costume; leotard, lasso and boots! I was in heaven. Then he handed something to Mum that left her in tears, I kept hearing her say over and over again, “You shouldn’t have! You shouldn’t have honey…”, as I ran to my room to try out my gift.

From then on my relationship grew with my father, I loved him, he loved me, he had a heart of gold. But my deepest regret now as I look at the videos of ourselves together as a family, I realize I was still ashamed of being seen with him publicly. Because I saw how people looked at him. I knew that look, It was the same look I gave him when I first saw him. And now 30 years later as I stare through the looking glass of his coffin, I feel shame for not loving him as much as he loved us.

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Bitter – Sweet

I felt the stares from across the room. There is nothing Mukami could say or do that would undo how I felt; awful. It was my first day at dance class, I was excited, I had been looking forward to finally dancing off the fat that I had so “joyfully’ earned. The past few weeks I had kissed the sugar goodbye and now a few kilos lighter, I was ready to take off the pounds even harder.

The dance instructor walked in and gave everyone a warm welcome. Thank God he didn’t ask us to introduce ourselves. I wasn’t interested in making lasting relationships here. I just wanted to melt the fat and the problems that accompanied it away.

He cranked up the music and we were off. I was a bit itchy about 15 minutes in; my body had not experienced such activity in so long. It was fine, it was very Zumba-esque in the beginning then the complications began.

We were asked to partner up, now when you are 5’1” and weigh 90 kgs, you are less likely to have anyone running to pair up with your heavy self. The instructor paired with me, it was embarrassing. Everyone was looking at us for the instruction, I could feel their eyes stare at me and judge me. It was like school all over again. “Fatty Fatty Bamboola” they used to call out when I passed. In that class one guy, I later found out was called Francis, a real piece of work. He never really said anything so much as what he did.

Francis would do really juvenile stuff like hide my water bottle and towel. And constantly block my view of the instructor. If I was at the front to see the instruction; Francis would find a way to dance me out of the front. I had dealt with his crap long enough, I decided to hit back. This was me, the non confrontational one, confronting. I made sure Mukami was there for back up; what are friends for anyway?

Class began as always, we decided to start at the back and work our way to the front that was the plan, first we needed to be concealed by the rest of the class as we laced Francis’ towel with pepper. The next stop was his water bottle which we laced with laxative. And finally; my pride and joy, taking back the front row, where I needed to be to enjoy class.

After the first two set wrapped up, Francis, went like clockwork to his towel and smothered his face in it. The yelping began and the class burst into laughter, I made sure Mukami and I didn’t let on too much in our laughter. The second set of songs kicked off as people still giggled here and there. Instead of running out, Francis stuck his head through the window rinsing his face with water from his bottle, then took a swig at it a few times.

It was only 5 minutes later that Francis started to pause in the middle of songs, occasionally puffing his face as he hunched over, palms pressed hard against his knees. Whatever it was, it was coming and it was coming hard. First a fart emerged, the whole class stared at him, a second fart, the instructor turned off the music asking Francis to step out, then the third, that shit oozed out of his pants, streaming down his legs. That wasn’t funny anymore, that was catastrophically embarrassing.

Francis ran out, I felt guilty for a moment and then finally smiled, my best friend Mukami patting me on the back, I had finally got my revenge on that skunk. Needles to say, I moved to a different dance class to avoid Francis’ stupidity and potential revenge. I am happier, lighter and healthier now!

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Detained

Mogaka the plumber knocked on the door waiting as he looked around. Fancy neighbourhood this time; he was accustomed to unblocking overflown communal toilets in his neighbourhood. A place where people would still try to negotiate on price despite the shitty work, quite literally, that he was left to do and clean up afterward. The hot poo occasionally scalded Mogaka, leaving the skin on the back of his hands scaly and burned.

Ding! Dong! Mogaka rung the bell again, someone pulled the curtain and peeped out with one eye. “Muuuuuuum! He’s here!” a little voice yelled. Mogaka looked around him again, as if he was running away from something. He was just finding it unusual to get a phone call for his services in Suburbia. Mogaka’s funky ‘fro and side burns made him even more conspicuous in that neighbourhood. His blue over sized bell bottom overall made him look like he was stuck in a time warp, all he needed were platforms. He wore boots instead; “you never know what flows out of the abundance of drainage”, was the slogan written on his overall.

The door lock turned and as the door opened a flowery scent escaped and gushed into his face. Mogaka smiled sheepishly. “Mogaka thank you for coming,” a stunning Amazonic woman uttered. She stood at about 6’5” towering over Mogaka. Mogaka’s smile was shattered with shock written all over his face when he laid eyes on the woman. “What is this?” He said.

Her hair was cropped and neat, natural in fine curls, her square face was made up, she looked like she was pulled out of a photo shoot. Her blouse was buttoned up but sleeveless showing off her ‘canons’ for arms. Her pencil skirt cupped her curves just right. Her calves, stunning firm, toned and her toes manicured yet eerily hideous. They looked like a witches; bony and crooked.

“Did you say something Mogaka?” Mogaka sheepishly shook his head to deny any utterances. “No wonder she called me,” Mogaka thought to himself. He couldn’t believe this woman. “Does a woman like that even have a husband?” Mogaka’s mind wondered with a lot of questions not paying attention at all to the brief that he was receiving from the woman who had just let him into her home.

“Mum!” That familiar voice from the front door emerged from a little girl about 5 years old. Her hair was as long as Rapunzel’s; jet black and kinky and held in two puffy pig tails shoulder length. Her inquisitive eyes fixated on Mogaka’s fancy tool belt. She cracked a smile to reveal missing teeth. She reached out for a pair of pliers, “Mum can I use this to remove my other tooth?” Mogaka quickly pressed his pliers closer to himself. He wasn’t sure slapping a Suburban child’s hand would be ideal; especially if Mum was King Kong.

“Akinyi! No leave that kind man’s belt alone! Come here, have your breakfast.” The lady uttered. “I am so sorry Mogaka I haven’t even introduced myself, my name is Angel. This is my daughter Akinyi, welcome to our home. Can I offer you some breakfast before you start work?”

Mogaka was dumbfounded he was just staring at Angel. “Mogaka?”

“Yes, yes, madam! Yes.” He had no idea what he was saying yes to. “Please have a seat at the counter.” Akinyi was staring at him as she shoveled cereal into her mouth. Mogaka was stunned by the kind of paintings he saw on the wall. Images of death, and more curiously men being put to death by women; one was crucified upside down, one was decapitated by guillotine, another was castrated. The images were gory. And neither mother nor daughter saw anything wrong with that.

“Here we are…enjoy!” Mogaka was nervous and wasn’t quite sure whether that was art or an omen. He chugged down his tea, in the process burning his throat, causing him to tear. “Nianze wapi madam?” That was the first thing he had said aloud.

“Down the hall way to the left,” Angel directed.

Mogaka’s stomach was turning, he wasn’t sure if he had been poisoned or he was just being paranoid. He wasn’t going to take his chances. His 5’6” frame needed to be protected. He grabbed hard on to his tool belt, anything could happen, he needed to be ready.

Finally got to the door and he could hear a swarm of flies feasting. He flung the door open, it was baffling. It was pristine. He flushed the toilet and it was fine. He pulled the shower curtain and run the shower, the drainage seemed fine. Where was the sound of flies coming from? And what was going on here?

Mogaka turned and looked behind him, he jumped and screamed, out of nowhere, there hung a half dead man with maggots oozing out of his eyes and mouth, his clothes unusually clean, like they had been changed. Mogaka ran to the door to get out, he shoved the lifeless hand to the side and attempted to open the door, it was locked. Mogaka screamed.

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An Anthology of Diary Entries About Nocturnal Escapades

As I said in my previous post, I have a new found respect for anyone who has and continues to author novels. It takes time, discipline and lot of internal wrestling to get the job done. I know it is only fair to review at least one book from the Authors of the festival. I will try my best.

Let’s be honest here, as long as you can read, you can have your opinion about a book. Case in point, a friend of mine defined Ben Okri’s novels as overzealously full of agonizing spirits. And another friend was in love with the depth of African spirituality he exudes, taking us back to our roots. Have I read Ben Okri? Crucify me if you want. No, I haven’t. I won’t pretend to be deep and profound about it either.

Since I read slower than ‘Turbo’, I am wrapping up, yes after a month, less than 150 pages of Tony Mochama’s Nairobi: A Night Guide Through The City-In-The- Sun.  The name says it all, it is Tony Mochama alias Smitta Smitten the pseudonym he uses in his column in Kenya’s Standard Newspaper’s Pulse; Entertainment pullout.

It is a night guide, self explanatory; the end  – enough said. I should have figured that one out when I picked it up.

I just honestly thought that I would get a different flare of Tony’s writing. I felt that it was an anthology of diary entries over a few years of nocturnal escapades. It is interesting nights out in a city he loves; Nairobi, as the Night Runner, laced with escapades in his Russian, wider European and American trips.

nairobi

I just genuinely didn’t like the texture of his writing; it threw me off more than it kept me engaged. Not just the shift from first to third person, the story felt like it was jerking. From Good times, Sanford and Sons to Russian escapades, then prostitutes in a bar, to European Premier League football matches, expat parties, the World Cup. Each chapter revealed something new, but like I said earlier it was more like each chapter was a standalone scenario and not necessarily connected to a fluid story.

You know what? Maybe I don’t get it, but to each his own, I guess.

There are few moments that will make you smile and reminisce what Nairobi nights and streets and joints were like in the early nineties, but that’s it. The Sundowner Show on VOK then KBC to the Sunday’s watching “KTN Classics” took me down memory lane, taking you to a world of innocence away from the drunken dens of these cities, he spoke a lot about. Well duh! It is a night guide right? But there really wasn’t any oomph that made me want to keep turning the pages.

First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com

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Raising Damien

There was screaming and shouting all around Mutua. Children kicking balls, riding bikes, screaming as children picked themselves up from the ground with scraped knees and elbows. Girls skipped in a distant corner from the curb that Mutua sat on. Mutua sat in silence observing the children play. He was sad, he really wanted to join in but no one wanted him to be part of their game. That was the daily routine; you even wonder why Mutua left home in the first place when he knew very well what the daily routine was.

Mutua would emerge from the house at 8am like all the other children, ask if he could join. That would then be responded to with a violent shove from one of the boys. He would stumble backward almost tripping over, then timidly walk toward the girls. “Miss popularity” with the long hair, newest dresses and dolls would size him up from head to toe and respond, “Girls never play with boys.” And just like that this 8 year old would be forced to sit on the curb and watch the other children have fun.

There was nothing physically wrong with Mutua, he looked any normal eight year old. Cute chocolate baby face, slightly chubby, dressed like any other eight year old, just slightly bow legged. But that was it. Why no child wanted to play with him baffled his own parents. The neighbours liked Mutua’s parents and would call their children out on the segregation of the boy, but it still continued.

It was a public holiday on this particular Friday, that meant three whole days of nothing but fun and games. Parents on one street in the neighbourhood decided to throw a street barbeque party to bond and just have fun with their children. It was potluck for most of the food and the men roasted 5 goats on a spit for all to see. The food was delicious; there was a lot of laughter. Then the fun moved from the table to the playground. For the first time all the parents saw how Mutua was treated by their own children.

Mutua’s parents nudged Mutua off the curb he always sat on and decided to whip up the skipping rope for him. Mutua was hesitant, “That’s Stephanie’s skipping rope, she will be mad if you touch it.” His parents looked at him with pity in their eyes and called Stephanie to remedy the situation.

“Stephanie would you mind if we skip with Mutua for a while using your rope?”

“No,” she responded twirling her dress around, pretending to be innocent.

Mutua was still hesitant, but after a little convincing from Mum he gave it a shot. Dad and Mum began to swing the rope around and began to count his jumps.

“One, two , three…ten, eleven…”

The higher the number went, the faster Mutua called out for his parents to turn the rope. Mutua began to scream wildly and babble as he skipped. When he got to fifty, Mutua yanked the rope like a wild animal and began to snort, spit and rip his clothes off. Everyone was in shock, except the children.

Mutua’s parents pulled aside Mutua, now kicking and screaming, staring at each other wondering what just happened.

“I told you Mum, he’s weird,” Stephanie said out loud. “It is as if something always sets him off. He hit me in the head with a tennis ball the last time we played with him. And he tripped Karanja. He hurts people when he has fun…”

The street had fallen silent and everyone heard what Stephanie said, as the other children nodded their heads in agreement. Mutua’s parents felt embarrassed and shocked. They apologised profusely to everyone especially Stephanie and Karanja and excused themselves, whisking Mutua into the house.

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Kenyan?

My intention was to attend the ‘Guerilla marketing for writers’ session at the 2014 Storymoja Festival. But unfortunately that went sideways when the tents changed. I was at the dome already and ‘Kenyan to the Kore’ was the discussion. It was fireworks and I couldn’t leave.

There were so many sober and pertinent things that people said, trying to coin and figure what being Kenyan is really all about. But what really slapped me in the face was this, “Before we get to the ‘we’, we need to be conscious of the ‘I’”. Profound!

There were several consensuses; first, what brings us together is our differences and second, it was time that we as citizens of our great republic, Kenya, should no longer rely on government or politics to determine what being Kenyan is. We need to define what that is and means by ourselves.

Another pretty interesting scope at understanding who we are, was what really makes us who we are ethnically. This part of the argument got me tickled watching people fumble over themselves. Think about it, just because your parents are a certain ethnicity, you speak the language and your rural home is in a certain region in the country, does that really constitute who you are ethnically? Think about it for a minute before you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

That is up for debate, but that really got me thinking especially when Morris Kiruga pointed out what kind of culture and traditional practices our great grandparents and grandparents went through. There is a lot that has been lost over the years through urbanization. So who then are we really?

Like Kibali Mureithi concluded, “we need to allow ourselves to interrogate who we really are and what does it mean?”

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Dumbfounded

“You scare me.” Ted started.

“Ok? How exactly do I scare you?” Noreen, was a bit confused, she thought he wanted this.

“I can’t really explain…”

“Try to, because I don’t understand what may have made you feel that way Ted.”

“Like…like..what you have just done…”

“What? Stroke your back as I kissed your face?”

“No…”

“Then WHAT? WHAT Ted? I am confused, I show affection, you say you love me, now I scare you. What exactly do you mean scare you? You need to be clear…”

“That right there. Is what I mean!”

“Huh?” Noreen shook her head as she walked away, holding her temple like she was checking if she had a fever. This conversation was frustrating and going nowhere, and Ted really wasn’t helping. He just couldn’t articulate what was in his mind.

“Ted, do you need me to give you time to put your thoughts together?” She let out with a sigh of disappointment.

Ted nodded, then, “Wait!” He rushed to Noreen who was walking away. “Listen” He gently turned her as he held her waist.

“It’s not….not… that I don’t love you. You are an amazing woman; I love you with all my heart but…”

“BUT WHAT TED?” Ted lifted his index finger and gently pressed it against Noreen’s lips. Then he kissed her gently. “Let me finish honey. He whispered in her ears after the kiss.”

Noreen closed her eyes and tears began to streak down her cheeks. Ted kissed her forehead and held her in his arms. Noreen began to sob.

“I am not breaking up with you, and you don’t need to go…I love who you are, I love your drive, your tenacity….Honey, you are intense.”

Ted gestured again with his index finger, Noreen looked into his eyes pleading, scared, like a lost puppy. Ted kissed her forehead tenderly again. Noreen closed her eyes and steadily began to break from the embrace. Ted reached out for her arms, and looked at her intently.

“Noreen, you love hard, you fall hard, and that is a beautiful thing… at times it is scary and intimidating. You give fully of yourself and at times I don’t know how to respond. And at times I even ask myself why I deserve such selfless love. It at times almost feels unusual…”

Noreen broke off completely and walked to a nearby bench and plunked herself on it. She had nothing to say, but she sighed, expelling what seemed like relief. But she was still confused. Did Ted want her to love him less? What exactly was he asking of her?