See You Never

Wallpapersxl Good Bye Nature Of Sad Girl Uploader Anonymous Licence Category Others Tags 172064 1280x720 (1)

Whispers. Questions. Conversations.

Njambi watched, from behind her desk as Muinde, the obvious new face around, opened a web page and placed an order for a new phone through Jumia. It was the first time that Njambi had called him to her office. Njambi, being the Credit Manager at the bank, was not so adept with the latest stuff in the tech world. So, she figured a young guy like Muinde might know a thing or two about which phone to get. She summoned Muinde and he told him all he knew about phones; but she just let him do all the work for her as she watched. That was the first time she noticed his faint manly scent. With his chest leaning against the desk, beside her, she couldn’t bear to let it seep into her mind. How hard she would find it hard later on to let go of his natural scent.

Muinde, who was still in university, had taken his chances to work at the bank, on a little pay, during the long breaks. He hadn’t wanted to spend weeks at home, watching more and more series, instead of earning some cash in his pocket. His friends were doing it and so he had to apply for the job.  

In the weeks that passed, after Njambi got her phone delivered to the office, she would call Muinde, first to open it up, then set it up, then configure it. Muinde would find himself, entering her office more than once a day, to help her do something on her phone, or show her a new feature on the device. There, in the office, the two of them, in that space, made Njambi become fond of Muinde. His small, neat afro. His fitting shirt under his skin. His favorite blue or grey suits. His height, a bit more than hers. His tiny beard, peeping out of his chin. Yet, he himself seemed so detached from it all. The blankness on his face was so raw, so young, so innocent. With his sureness about himself, it was with Muinde that she first fell the hollowness.

***

Njambi lived in her two-bedroomed apartment in Magana, with her sister, Njoki. They were the despicable duo. Between them, they had no boyfriends. They vowed not to get involved with anyone until they had achieved some level of stability in their lives. And it was working. Njoki and Njambi were consuming themselves with themselves, talking about their work and news, and books, and issues. They listened to podcasts about love, and life, to keep themselves at bay with a world that they thought was not part of theirs. Severally, Njambi and Njoki sat under the moonlight of their balcony, eating ice cream, and laughing about childhood. Njambi reminded her sister about the time a certain boy followed her liked a vulture, and eventually, she let him have his way. The boy was called Mugambi, and little did she know that he would later propose to her.

“I wonder where he is right now?” She said to Njoki as her tooth bit the ice cream in her cup and snaked its way into her bones. The cuddled often. Under a blanket. Gazing at the stars. Dreaming.

In their little space, Njambi found herself crafting lines of rhyme and poetry in her journal. She would scribble endlessly into the night, into her sleep every night. She let it be her salvation. From this world. From the false prophets of the earth. It was her ritual. She tried to share her poetry with the world and she received lots of replies. She got invites to various poetry events and contests. And she became part of another world apart from her work, that filled her with such a sense of fulfillment, that she never doubted.

***

“I like your taste in African print.” That was the first time she heard Muinde like something about her. “Your bag, its beautiful.” He said. She looked at it and smiled. It was also beautiful, the way he said it. With a sense of trueness in his voice. As she sat in her office, alone, she reached out, from her drawer, a mirror. She, slowly, faced it, and with her eyes firmly hooked to the reflective glass, she stared at herself, at her eyes and face, as the morning sun reflected on her face, making it glow in a golden awe of light. She looked past herself, into the inside of her memories, her thoughts. It was the first time she felt a weight in her heart. That someone would use a small detail in her life to manipulate her like that. She knew she had allowed that compliment to flood her emotions and blind her will. Muinde was trying to break he down, and he was doing it masterfully. She couldn’t allow herself to give in to someone else. Not after…

But she found herself with Muinde, in her office, showing her how to download songs into her phone, playing music into her ears. The sweet melody. He had such a varied taste. When he started singing with her, she wouldn’t stop laughing. And giggling, even after he went back to his desk, at his untuned voice, and although she couldn’t hear what song he was listening to in his earphones as he sang along, she suddenly felt such a lightness with him, that she couldn’t get over the moment.  

As weeks passed, they found themselves one day next to each other, against the dusk of the monolithic shadows of the city, waiting for the same bus home. He strode, from behind her, and just stood there, alongside her and whispered a hello. In the bus, they sat next to each other. Njambi paid for her, sometimes, the first time. It only seemed fit that she did so. She felt warm next to Muinde. It became a usual thing that they would leave together.

She read out her poems to her, one day, as she let him sit on her seat at the office, and as she leaned against the wall, pretending he was a crowd watching, telling her how she was saying her pieces. Njambi found a trust in his words, that she invited him to Kwani? Open Mic, the following night, where she would be performing. She really wanted him to see her other world. Muinde, rather kindly, said why he could not go. Because he had to do something else that evening. While she strolled the streets, after the event, she thought of him, his warmth and spontaneous jokes about her hair, or her clothes, or her illiteracy on technology. She hated the fixation on everything in her life. She hated the rigidness in her emotion to turn to him. Next to him, on the bus, under the florescence of the blue light she could feel the vibe, tugging at her. She leaned towards him. Her hair brushing past his face. She didn’t know if he had noticed. He was asleep that time, but she was awake. She looked at his hand, that was splattered over her lap, unknowingly, and she wondered whether to hold it. To feel it. In the office, as they passed each other at times, Njambi bit her lips. They were burning with the urge to push him aside and kiss him. Yet, she wondered if he felt the same way. And for that reason, she didn’t. Because she didn’t understand him. The more he got to know him, the more she found out how complex he was, layered like a firewall.

***

Njambi is shopping now, and Muinde has gone off back to campus. She wonders what she lost, in those moments with him, because she decided not to care, to let it pass, not to have any expectations. Her doubts have started to form. As she looks outside, all the way home, she sees the lights pass outside her window. What if?

Seeding Minds

tattoo---metatron-cube

Nothing is safe in that place. Not your half-used container of shoe polish or your half-utilised piece of soap. Neither your clearly-labeled cup nor your worn-out pair of socks with holes on them. It became sort of a culture that by the end of the school term, no one is wearing his own pieces of clothing. The thievery had seeped into the very fabric of school culture. Students, mostly juniors, had even resorted to lock their clothes up on the hanging lines with a padlock just as an extra layer of security. This was futile as they came to discover when all they could see on the lines were their padlocks. And so, it did not come as a shock when Ole woke up one morning and found out that of the clothes he had hung just next to his bed, including his three pairs of underwear, the only thing left was the little drying drops of soapy water on the floor. Damn, those night crawlers who pilfered his belongings were in super stealth mode. But the weekend had just peeped in and so Ole didn’t worry much, because the weekend brought with itself, its own forms of relief.

***

He strides along in slow, paced and seamlessly calculated steps. In his movement, he drags with it a deep rooted demeanor of hype and groove. His non-smiling face and clean-shaved head deflect off the four-o’clock sun rays of that Friday afternoon. His goggle-like spectacles bounce up and down his nose as he turns his head from side to side like a bubble head, probably to the beat he will later play in the ‘club’. His sweater has coiled around his neck, much like a scarf, and his shirt has found its way out of its rightful place inside his trousers. It is Mwamba. In his left hand, he wields a HD digital radio, which he has borrowed from his Kiswahili teacher, supposedly to listen to recordings of Kidagaa Kimemwozea. But it will not serve its purpose for this particular day. It will be superseded by a much more innate desire.

As dusk engulf the day, and the preps die down, the devils of the night seem to roam freely in the air. When the stillness has had enough of its time and some early sleepy-heads have sunk themselves deep in between their sheets, there is a small crowd gathering somewhere in one of the dorms somewhere. There sometimes feels like a whole other world in the school that only some people are aware of. In a common room, the lights are turned off. There are a few hushes and whispers as the device is plugged in. People are uneasy. They have come in their vests and topless selves, in crocks and sandals, but others still have their full uniform.

“Weka doba!!” Put some dancehall.

The radio coughs out a beat. In a whimper, the guys are in the zone There are dancers and there are watchers. But at the point in time, in full darkness, it is the dancers who steal the show. In the little light penetrating the windows, Bilal is in a corner, moving his chest and arms in a wayward manner. Fabian has moved his stick-like legs like a jelly fish. Saalash has just joined the party and the music is at max. If one looks closely, he sees another one dancing himself wild as if some chick in his imagination was under his spell. The room is sweaty. Fifteen minutes of this club-like intensity and Nzomo takes over the radio. With that, enters all the house music. Everyone knows that Nzomo will one day be a DJ, and so, why not let him take over.

You could feel the goose bumps tear apart your skin as trance beats rise up in a crescendo. The beats are slowly turning people into energy-filled pieces of pure brutal verve and vitality. Swedish House Mafia. Heads are rolling, hands are raised and bodies are jumping up and down. You could hear the sound weaving its way into your skin and into your brain, making you surrender yourself into the rhythm. In that place you had no choice but to leave the world behind you. It’s a psychedelic nonsense. If one wasn’t so drunk in the flow, one could see the grey gas rise up from the floor, and creep its way up into the whole room. It was now a real life club. With all the ‘party smoke’ surrounding the bodies. It was not until they started losing their breaths that they noticed. Fucking Carbon Dioxide. It was all too hyped up, and some fool had opened up a fire extinguisher while everyone else was in the trance. People scattered, unable to loosen themselves anymore. Like a riot, after the air had cleared, there was no one.

Shhhhhh. Don’t tell.

 

***

 

It was two days now. Ole had decided to go on with life but he couldn’t ‘burn’ his underwear for another day. That Monday morning, as he showered, he washed his boxers thoroughly, so that they could last him a week now. Ole placed it under his mattress, a safe-enough spot. But now it would mean that he would have to be careful for that day, in order not to cross paths with any of his teachers.

As the day waned towards the afternoon, Ole could now feel his but ache against the brutal flat hardness of his wooden seat. He tried sitting on his thighs, but curse his emaciated thinness for robbing him of his weight. Ole had thought once about mass gainers, and how the school rugby team had gotten into a frenzy with that stuff. They were mixing the stuff with everything, from breakfast tea to the stew at supper. In their defense, it was a better way to get into the first team. However, Ole was quite contempt the way he was. It was while he up and down, that he could feel his thing tagging along, in between his legs, freely. Somehow it clicked in him, that for the first time, he was a ‘bell ringer’.

***

The process is insipid. Drifting. It starts with one person. Maybe the one seated right next to a wall where the body can lie at peace. At first, the sounds become like waves that translate into a slow-tuned orchestral piece. They lose pitch as they come out of the teacher’s mouth. Then, as the eyelids slum shut, it becomes sort of a wrestle with conscience. With the body, depleted of its reserves of energy, one cannot do anything but simply give in, as the heads oscillate up and down like a pendulum. This turns into a force of sleep that its tendrils engulf even the strongest-willed person. Ole felt himself drifting.

It becomes a state whereby the body lets the mind wobble away into the unknown, transcending the being and ploughing into the sub-conscious of the self, and into the inner-most fears and desires. It takes the person into a journey, across time and space, where everything is limitless. It is at this time, when the mind has deliberately sought a path of its own, that it seems to leave the body in such a sweet slumber.

Flickers

fade

Dan is standing right there in the middle of the field. There is a throng of people moving in circles around him like vultures. Boys and girls. They have all been brought to this particular moment in time by an open tournament of basketball. Dan feels the weight of the sun baring down on him at full awe. Its slightly past midday. But he still has his sweater on. His second year in high school has not made him change much in toughness, for he still bears a little baby-face; not even a single strand of beard has peeped out of his chin. Dan always waited for a beard. Most of his classmates have already shown signs of ‘manliness’, with partially-grown beards. Others who have barely a millimeter of hair below the nose are foreseeing a moustache in the next couple of years. It’s a sign that you are actually superior. Dan laughs sometimes at this aspect of growing teenage boys. His friend Nzomo, who crazed over his little beardy chin, has now had an overgrowth of pimples under his chin as a result of the efforts to cut his hair without asking for any advice from any of the seniors. Dan would see him, with just soap and a shaver, desperate in his efforts, in the middle of the night, shaving. However, he himself has maintained a stoic face in this particular situation.

On the basketball court, there are teams sweating their asses off for a win. Teams interchange after every as they rest to catch a breath. Dan knows that he would have made the cut for the team had there not been taller guys than him. He loved the sport and Dan was really skillful at his game. During games, he would make other members of his class look stupid. They say that Dan would breeze past them like a wind. He was a little maestro. The cheering was musical. With both the girls and boys joining the fray, they sang for their school teams. Dan knew that although he wasn’t playing, their team was formidable enough to retain the title.

The music is blaring. From the raised conspicuous speakers placed right at the corners of the basketball courts. By popular demand, and as a matter of occasion, riddims pierce through the atmosphere and into peoples’ veins. It leaks into people’s emotion and grabs their minds into a frenzy. A feasting frenzy. It becomes like a demon getting into people’s heads. Slowly by slowly, it is as if people begin to get into pairs. In the open field, a boy is behind a girl. The boy’s shirt is completely untucked and his tie is swinging from his neck as if he has just come from a drinking party. The girl, with his long braids, holds his hand and bends in front of him and in the intoxicating music, begins twerking his ass on him. So random. Dan looks away. Here, he can see girls from different schools. It has blended into a mosaic mixture of colours. As the DJ mixes between Vybz Kartel, Konshens and Mavado, it gets intimate, even in their incomprehensive dialects. The heat is immense and from simple small talk, people are grinding off in a corner. It seems quite odd to be a lone ranger at this moment. Dan knew that even though he hadn’t talked to any girl, at least he was trying. In real sense, he was very choosy. Dan didn’t want one of those girls with no swag or sense of self to approach him. So, he avoided them. In the back of his mind, Dan knew that some anti-social, bookworm was hiding himself somewhere in the classes, probably immersing himself in loads of books. He knew they were ass holes. And for them, life would be very boring.

A whiff of sweet perfume grazes past his nose. Dan closes his eyes to embrace the scent. It compels his spirit into being. He feels a pat on his back and he quickly turns around. That was the first time he met Amani. Her outrageous afro with a touch of brown dye was quite something. She was the one wearing the perfume. It was a statement of her porsheness as much as her gusto. Dan was confused for a moment and lost his breath before regaining it again. Amani, as she introduced herself, had a short purple skirt that showed her flawless legs. She was stunning. When she asked him his name, Dan blushed. And Amani giggled. She was funny. They talked about everything. Music, movies, school, teachers, exams, and fun. Dan offered to buy her a bracelet. And they each got bracelets written each other’s names. Amani held Dan’s hand, and Dan felt warm for the first time. Amani held his hand as they found themselves against each other in a bathroom. He closed his eyes as their lips met. As she smeared lipstick on his shirt. She felt him kiss her neck. Slowly, with their hands entangled. Dan felt the cold tiles of the bathroom wall as he reached underneath her skirt. There, for some time, they felt each other in such openness. They drowned themselves in each other- chest to breast. It was a first for Daniel. He had heard stories but never told stories. Amani gave him her sweater, filled with perfume, as a souvenir. He would later smell that sweater and show his friends proof of his prospects. They exchanged numbers and promised to write each other letters before they finally embraced.

***

For several weeks, Dan lived in his own delicate bubble. He was not his old self anymore. He waited eagerly for half term so that he could call her. When he eventually did, the line was out of service, mteja. He began worrying that something bad had happened to her. Or that she had wrote down her number incorrectly. So, when they went back to school, he wrote her letters, but there was no reply. His friends started to make a mock of him, that he could not catch a fish and actually bag it.

So sometimes he wonders, whether Amani was really a one-time thing. She had made him feel so right. Was she really gone? Every time he wakes up from bed, he now knows that he lives life in flickers, such as that one with Amani, and that they really do fade away.

Shaving the Overgrowth

all-have-secrets-facebok-cover-jpeg-t2

The steam rises from the hot shower of water falling onto his body. It fills the tiny bathroom and the little space inside looks like a cloud of mist. It is a cloud of mist that has engulfed him these couple of days after returning. A cloud that he cannot simply swipe away. Thick and blinding. He lets the water run down his body, dripping from his skin that has been soaked in that shower for the past half hour. And now, it has been rid of all its natural elasticity and brownness to become a shade of grey. He lets the water fall off his body, watching it as it falls to the floor and down the drain. It has become a ritual -Looking and watching the water glide from the shower head and onto him and into oblivion. For in this way, he looks to the water to wash away his secrets and find redemption.

Mulé has been doing this while his family was away. His two sons were off to school and his wife was working all day. He especially showered in the hot afternoon, when his heart felt heavy enough. He had not mastered the will to work since he got back from his journey to Isiolo and said that he needed a couple of days of work.

It was three days now and his wife, Chebii, started to feel that something had happened in Isiolo. They had not sat down and talked about it because every time Mulé seemed immersed in his work. All the time. And she did not want to distract him. In truth, Mulé had deliberately painted this picture for the whole of his family, as if he was working on something really important and his wife had avoided disturbing him. She even held back the children from running towards their father for a story after a long day at school.

As the night fell above their home in Kikuyu, Mulé hesitated accompanying his wife to bed. Siting that he would join her later. Chebii had missed his warm embrace. She had missed his gentle kiss on her small lips. She had missed how he would hold her and never let go. How he tightened his fingers into hers as she towered above him in bed. And how the feeling of Mulé’s strong dick discovered hidden places in her body. Like an enchantment. She longed for him again. But that night, Mulé found himself drifting off into sleep on that hard two-seater couch in the living room downstairs. Under a single light bulb over his head. Truly, Mulé had never found the couch in any way a comfortable place, with all its hardness and rigidness. It was not a well-designed couch. However, at four in the morning, he found himself pulling himself from the couch and wiping the saliva from his mouth, jolting himself upright. He caught his neck, feeling it for some time before noticing that he had to stretch his neck a bit before it became less painful for him to turn his head.

He had for the first time, since they got married, not shared a bed while they were in the same house. Mulé knew Chebii would take notice but somehow the though was not strong enough to drive him to bed. Instead, Mulé stepped outside in the dewy darkness and smelt the air around him. Like a cold freezing breeze. That was how he felt life had become to him. He wanted to be blown away like chaff.

Mulé looked at the overgrown grass in the lawn against the dim light and took the slasher. He decided to let his mind go, to wander off into other places. Into his church where he preached. Into his past and present. But not into the future. Because he was afraid what it held for him.

***

It was a simple journey. A short visit over the weekend. Mulé had planned on visiting his church that he was funding in Isiolo. It was during this trip that he would also visit Moraa, his child who was in the care of a Mr. Ambrose. Moraa was six, and was a hiccup in his life left to him by Jen. Jen was lovely company during his visits to Isiolo. She had been there to show him where to buy his food while in Isiolo. She had advised him on who to avoid while buying land and getting a license to plant a church. And so when Mulé found himself with Jen, he couldn’t resist her soft touch and sweet smelling perfume. He fucked her and fucked her hard.

Three months later, when she confronted Mulé with a pregnant belly, he said that he would take the baby and protect her. Mulé found a friend with whom he could trust to take care of the child in Isiolo- Mr. Ambrose. He was a good man during the first few days of their acquaintance. Later on, they betted on games and ended up winning money of each other. Therefore, while Mulé was away, he left Ambrose with little Moraa, sending him money regularly in order to feed the extra stomach. This way Ambrose would tell everyone that Moraa was his own child instead of Mulé’s. It was a well-balanced agreement. Moraa would now have turned six when Mule made his most recent visit to Isiolo.

But when Mulé got there on Saturday evening, he landed on an empty house. Ambrose was not there in his house. The little feeble mabati structure was deserted. When he asked around, he found out that Ambrose had packed his bags about two months ago after his child, a girl, was knocked over by a vehicle and died. Mulé felt his heart wanting to rip itself out of his eye sockets. He felt anger. That night he searched every street and alley of Isiolo. Until at the watchful hour of the night, a short man with a tiny afro and some overgrown beard opened the door. Mulé grabbed Ambrose by the collar, pushing him back to the floor in the process.

“You killed her!!” Mulé screamed.

“No… No… Please!”

“You devil! How can you be se cruel?

“It’s the drugs man… She took them…!!” Ambrose rose to his feet and took a defensive stance towards Mulé. Mulé was outraged. He couldn’t take betrayal for an answer. He thrust Ambrose backwards with a push, as he felt the anger course through his veins. But in that single action, Ambrose staggered backwards dancing away, and hit his head on the edge of a table. When he fell down, blood oozed from his cranium. At that instant, Mulé stood still. And for once he wondered how had anger got the best of him. Like a demon that had possessed him.

Ambrose had been a drug addict much to the ignorance of Mulé. Mulé had failed to notice the reddish eyes every time they talked. Mulé had not noticed that sometimes, Ambrose would laugh at anything he said. Mulé did not notice that Ambrose had pokes on his arm. So blatant. And so, while he left Moraa under Ambrose, one day Moraa found some white fluffy substance hidden in a container in the toilet sink. When she opened the container and smelt the coke, Moraa went into a trance, stepping out of the house, in broad daylight, and onto the highway and in front of an onrushing trailer. When Ambrose came back home that evening, he immediately packed his bags and left his house. Because he was afraid.

That same night, Mulé took the next bus home and arrived the next morning, back at home in Kikuyu. A changed person.

***

As he slashes the grass outside, Mulé wishes some things did not exist. His love. His pain. His anger. Mulé has to hide his secret even from himself, in order to move on; never letting it emerge into his consciousness. Darkness has crept into his soul and he decides that he can no longer serve in the church.

He hasn’t looked at his wife or his children in the eye since he came back. How could he? How death is painful to those who haven’t experienced it. Every time his phone rings, he stands still for a moment, taking a deeper breath. Because now he has fear overcoming him. As the dawn gallops slowly, the beams of light land on his skin, warming his cold skin. He will take another shower today. In the house, his wife is preparing tea that she will leave for him on the table until it gets cold. Mulé bends down again, to try to shave off the green overgrowth.

Free for Life

download

Opere walks down the streets, into down-town Nairobi. The sun is in its full glare. He breathes the air in his surroundings. Opere purchases a banana from a street hawker. He feels his head wobble from side to side. He turns up the music in his head phones, feeling the nerve ends of his body tinge with a drop of excitement. He strolls down the street path. Even at such hours when the energy of the people has been drained by the tropical temperatures, Opere seems in full throttle. He looks at the banana. With one eye closed. Holding it up to the height of his nose. He takes care to notice the blemishes on it. The little strips of imperfection that stain the fruit. He hears the tempo of the music rise in a crescendo. Slowly. Beat by beat. An afro beat rhythm. Takes him into a trance with the banana. He imagines himself in a club. He feels the music cause goose bumps on his skin. He moves his head in sync with the beats. In exact configuration. Like a bubble head of a vehicle. His body follows. But with the banana still raised up with one arm. As if it is the only observer of how the music is moving him. He opens his mouth. Looks up to the sky. Lifts the other arm up. Then returns and focusses his gaze on the banana. His mind goes into overdrive. Opere imagines himself in the flow of rhythm. The up-and-downness of it all. A deep rush of blood. He loves every bit of this. Sometimes he wishes that everyone else could join him in this journey into sound.

Pealing it slowly and eating it, he knows, the banana, though short-lived, has experienced something with him.

Opere walks to a salon in this thick and busy part of Nairobi. It is where he will meet Moraa, his sister. He doesn’t enter but he waits for her to get out. He does not want to enter the salon although his sister owns the place. Beauty planet-. Her sister had picked that name. Of course Opere had no say in deciding what to call the place, otherwise he would have tried to convince her that beauty is not something we can just manufacture. Opere waits out for no longer than ten minutes before a short, dark and work-oriented woman with an apron emerges from within the door and places the three thousand shillings in Opere’s hand, folding it out of view and hugs him. They later part. Opere walks toward the bus stop where he will take a matatu home.

As the vehicle gradually fills up, Opere scrolls through his playlist. Some chilled music, not to get him to sleep, but rather to get him to think. The matatu jerks off with a screech. Opere is seated right in the middle of the van. As they move on, the driver occasionally stops to pick up a passenger or two. Until the tout tells him ‘imejaa!’. As if it was not full in the first instance. Approaching toward a steep gradient, the vehicle begins galloping up the incline. Its slowness amplifies the silence in the air. Opere removes his head phones to listen to the silence. It creeps into the vehicle. He can feel its weight on the people. The old vehicle’s parts are screaming out. People are looking at each other as if to suggest that they should hold hands in case the vehicle decided to roll back down the hill. The matatu is in full gear- Upwards.

This little moment of looking is when Opere notices the little posters plastered all over the matatu’s interior. Si gari imechelewa, ni wewe. Hakuna stage inaitwa “Hapo Mbele Dere”. Posters of Alicia Keys. An advertisement for advice on love and relationships. He is interested by this one in particular. This Beta versions of life, perpetuated by false precepts of life’s truths are what make him mad. He thinks that such is what life has to offer for free. Love, for free. Laughs, for free. Friends, for free. Rather, life, should be Free for love, free for laughs, free for friends. Lessons of life, for freaking nothing. Because you cannot teach someone to love, to laugh, to cry, to smile or to feel. It’s what life has in store for each of us. At least. If not the pleasures that come with life.

Mweni’s To Do List

How to become a typical Kenyan in 21st Century Kenya.

    1. Don’t follow your dreams because they are paths straight to suffering and despicable poverty. And you will pay lots of cash and take crazy loans (This is to say that you will sign your death warrant) before your song is just aired on radio or your book is even considered for publication.

The drops of water, as clear as newly bought glass and as perfect as newborns, reflect the deep yellow Sulphur touch of the overhead street light as they fall onto the puddle of water in the sink. Mweni listens. They drop in rhythm. Much like an orchestrated masterpiece. Drip drop. Drippity drop. Drip, drip, drippity drop. Mweni starts to bounce her head as she listens to the rhythm. Maybe it is only her who can listen to the water drop in such an organized grace. She takes care to listen to the frequencies underneath all the noise that the city has to offer. It is never quiet in the city. Even at night (I mean in the darkest times of the night, when no one would be sane enough to roam the streets) when you would think that it would be sullen, silent and calm; underneath all that she could hear them. She could hear them shouting. She could hear the muffled voices crying out to something. Dreams. Hopes. Ambitions. Loves.

Mweni leans on the City Council sink, with her back facing the tap. There wasn’t anything that she could do to quell her thirst. Even if she tried opening the tap further, the thing was always broken. What was the point of it all then? She looks at the night sky. A usual one. Like always. She loves looking at the bodies move. Bodies of people and bodies of things in people. These people are moving away from the city. Because they do not belong to the city at night. Because they are not welcomed at night. The city belongs to the bodies of things in people at night. Things that have happened to people that they are no longer people. Things that have sucked the life out of people.

Mweni sees such things in people. You can see them on their faces. Laughing. Crying. Indifferent to the lives that the people wanted to live. Some hold papers in their hands sometimes. Staggering off into the darkness. Papers of promise. Rather, more specifically, papers of job application. But even more specifically, papers of promise of a better future if they would do away with their ‘ridiculous’ urge to play some music. Or draw. Or dance, and take the 20 billion-price tag, four-lane super highway to success Mweni usually sees them. Mostly tattered pieces of paper folded up nicely into a ten-shilling envelope but ending up as fatal dreams. Most of them do dream. Or rather, most of them have their dreams dreamt for them. As if they do not have brains of their own to get out of the random, useless eye movements that other people have preconceived for them.

Mweni had never known what she wanted to become. She had never known how to dream for herself because life had become her. She feels goose bumps forming on her uncovered arm. She has a sweater, but it isn’t really a sweater- with all the holes on it. She cuddles herself.

2. Please do give the conductor 1000 bob when the fare is fifty shillings. This is to show that you are not a person of petty mulla.

She gets lucky sometimes. A man walks out of a bus and drops the loose change in her arm. But at other times, she wonders. If something happened. She overhears such stories from people. It is a skill that she has learnt. To listen to conversations. Of others, while walking behind them or in the restaurants. That is how Mweni has learnt to make sense of her world.

“Ati alidai kumpatia punch!” He wanted to give him five hundred shillings

“Alafu?” Then?

“Si nilimlipia tu. Ilikuwa tu 30 bob Ha..ha Huyo konda alikuwa karibu alipuke…”I just paid for him, just thirty shillings, before the conductor got mad. “Alafu mjamaa mwingine akampatia punch. Hehe. Si alijam mbaya.” Then some other guy gave him five hundred shillings. He got angry

“Alido?” What did he do?

“Alisaka hizo madoh zimechapa akampatia kama change” He looked for the oldest of notes and gave him as change.

“Alizikubali” Did he accept them?

“Huyo konda alimshow asiwai mpatia pesa za bank hapa tena!!” The conductor told him not to give him bank-like money again

“Ha ha ha!!”

3. Make sure your phone is stolen at least three to four times because how the hell do you expect to learn how not to fucking use your phone in public.

As the night gobbles on deeper, she sees the flock of faithful workers pour out of the mammoth buildings like ants. Some of them tired as hell. Mweni thinks of them as slaves. Working their ass of for some other people. As it stands, they all disperse, like glass falling to a floor. Perfect. Some are still working on their way home, making call to who-knows-where. This is how the streets survive. On preying on people such as these. People who walk the streets with their eyes closed. Unknowing. Naïve.

The one time Mweni took somebody’s phone, the innocent victim had it crying out for someone to please steal it from him. Sometimes she wonders whether the person really did want it stolen. I mean, really? She only got some money to keep her fed for a week. After that, she had to change tact. Find something else to pilfer.

4. Buy another pair of shoes because maybe the other pair you bought last week doesn’t match the clothes you have just bought.

Bright night light

Incandescent Luminous florescence

Epic sights of Dopamine-filled exchanges

Calling out the weak and strong

To fill their non-self-effacing egotistical smiles

And wave them bye bye

The night and day seem to be all but the same in the excessively lit soiree in the city. This is Mweni’s favorite time. For she watches at the little businesses try to lure people into their little tiny stalls that somehow seem to contain more than they can hold, to buy at least something; A watch. A wallet. A hat. A shirt. A blouse. A shoe. Its hectic but its melody. Someone became a celebrity out of all this. And it is the voice of the one person that speaks loudly in the speakers, advertising. Mweni wishes she could meet that person. In person. Maybe he is famous. Mweni doesn’t know any famous people. All she sees are strange people on large paper all over the streets in the city.

People walk past the shops, some looking at the items in the stalls, with their bodies already farther away. Some finding their bodies following their eyes and back into the stalls. To look but not to touch. Often the look turns hands against the minds and into the pockets and handbags to make the exchange. A brief but impulse split of a second. A moment of victory and pain. Of capture and sane insanity.

5. Don’t give money to beggars because they will keep on borrowing and never stop and make you poorer and poorer

Mweni struts onto a couple. A man and a woman, who look like they have just landed a wholesome dinner or come from the club. They struggle to keep up the pace with the rest of the world because they were in their moment. She stands in front of the two of them holding out an outstretched hand.

“Nisaidie…” Help me.

Then, like some piece of chaff, the man, not even looking at her, pushes her to the side with such a brutality that she lands hard on the pavement, into a little puddle. Mweni, a soft spoken little voice, pure in her intentions feels her mojo escape her. Unwilling to rise up and try her luck again because that action of denial has shown her that life is not at all pretty. She feels her sinuses heavy with regret and pain. She feels her arms and chest heavy with despondent irreverence for the actions that have been shown to her. She sits there, in the corner and starts to feel tears from her eyes. She rarely cries. She is rarely brought down. She rarely falls

6. Pray to God to become richer. Because He will see that you have worked hard and make you richer

A silent cry rises from the souls of those in fine form. A prayer of the tax collector. Here in the city, people, rich people want to own the world. And they think that a higher power will help them to that. That is why souls gather in churches even at times when the devil’s agents have been working in them, so that they may seek. So that they may be ‘blessed’. So that they may be given the courage to take from others what ‘they should have in their possession’. Mweni hears them. Every night

7. Eat and Eat and Eat as if you are preparing for a global apocalypse. But own a fitness kit just in case they start saying you are growing too fat.

No wonder the city lacks air to breathe. It is taken. All of it. By those obese creatures. It is said that the number of obese people is growing every new dawn. It is as if they are feeding themselves like pigs. The ministry of pigs. Moms and dads gobble up mounds of food. Simply because they are African. And it is how they will show their children how to eat. Like this. Mweni doesn’t remember ever having a mom or dad. But if she had, she would wish that they would look like those fatsos. All round and fluffy like a ball. Then she would be sure that she would eat well.

She also sees those same fatsos race all the way into the shops to buy stuff to keep them in shape. Maybe it is because they cannot simply go to the gym and do it there. Why go to the gym only to be rendered a hopeless cause? Si,’ We can just show them that we can buy the whole gym and the people inside it’.

8. Go to a five-star hotel. More precisely: The Villa Rosa Kampenski-For Valentines; And do not finish the food on the plate. Because it shows that you have class and that you care for the dogs.

The time nears for Mweni to make her way to the nearest hotels. It is close to the time when the hotel is at its busiest. With buffets and fully occupied tables. And so Mweni’s friends meet her at Sarova. They wait for the left overs like vultures. Mweni knows that she cannot wait for the next morning because by then, there would be nothing. And so she waits now.

For the fresh, juicy steaks and ribs and uneaten food that was too spicy or too plain for their liking. But food that they still paid for because they cannot afford a sideshow and taint their reputation in front of their friends and bosses.

9. Own a car. Because in it, you can fuck whoever you want, whenever you want and especially in the middle of a jam.

Here in the city, the jams can enter your mind, and rip your mind apart piece by piece, while you stand and watch. Most people prefer buses because they have music. Music that pumps through into your ears distorting the reality of the time. But that is most people. In case you are not most people, Mweni’s favorite kind of people on the road, she advises that a personal vehicle is the perfect thing for you. Mweni likes it when such people blatantly hold out their middle finger to ass holes on the road. The likes of slow cyclists or matatu touts. Mweni blames the behaviours on the cars and not the people. Because people are not capable of such.

Mweni always wonders what goes on inside those vehicles, when the traffic jam has stretched for hours. When the rush hour has caught up with them. Where time moves really slowly. She wishes she was inside one of the vehicles. She imagines the atmosphere. The thoughts the conversations. But really. Maybe they could have been well off listening to the radio- To some news of a failing nation. Then it was a chance to let themselves be free in their own cocoons. Fuck Kenya. Or maybe they were listening to an arsenal game and some French overhyped striker missed an open net. Fuck Giroud. Maybe even listening to a badly produced hip hop single. Fuck Nikki. Whatever it was, it was grounds for the freedom of expression.

10. Lastly, make sure that you pay your taxes. Do not open a secret account in Switzerland or one of those places where you know you can legally evade taxes. How else will you fund this very exciting ongoing live game of politricks?

It’s everywhere. Like a scourge. Infecting like a virus.

The tall Times Tower stands like a warrior. Its magnificence a delight to the radiant night sky. It’s just there. Even after the stories that Mweni heard. Stories that it had fallen down once. But Mweni doesn’t believe it could ever fall. Especially because of its don’t-touch-this attitude. She ever wonders what make it such a place to behold. In reality, it is the source of Kenya’s downfall. The illusion that the nation holds far much more resources that in publicly known has blinded its leaders, chocked them with greed to eat. With fictions of insecurity and development; creations of government officials, they are fattening their security and infrastructure budgets. We have been played like pawns, against each other like animals. So weak in our long term silence. And when they tried to speak, they killed them. So others, decided to flee. Form ni majuu. But home sweet home lies here. It’s hard to deny that most of them have read The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of war, not forgetting the Art of war. It is truly an art. For a chosen few. Who possess the quality if inhumanity.

Blood Vessels

Today, I’ll tell a happy story. Happiness of a kind that brings peace and satisfaction. Happiness that we sometimes feel but seem not to embrace.

Wanjiku gazes at the little blocks of plastic perfectly put up into the miniature house on top of the desk in Thuo’s room. She looks sharply at the building blocks, piece by piece. Then as a whole. The little grey structure is lit up gracefully by the rich morning sun rays that pierce through the tiny window of Thuo’s room. She hasn’t gone to work today. She couldn’t find the energy to go to work today. She is still in her pajamas, a bare and disheveled form of herself. Wanjiku is dissatisfied. With herself. With her life. With what has happened to her. Specifically, with what has happened to her son. What Thuo had constructed was pure and clean, and flawless. An irony to her current conception of her life. Wanjiku feels the rage and sorrow; a lethal mix of both; creeping through her skin and take over control of her. She lets herself loose and pushes the little house of building blocks to the floor. They shatter with a clattering, a childish but surprising splitting of the building blocks, into endless pieces. They scatter all over the room, covering the floor in a sort of debris-like manner.

Wanjiku stares for a second, covering her mouth with her hands. She is shocked by what she has done. She is shocked at her actions towards reality. Where had this anger come from? Wanjiku drops to the ground, mumbling, hurriedly as if someone is after her. She brings together the pieces in one wave of motion with her hands, bringing them all to pile up at the centre. She is confused. Tears form on her eyes. Her chest feels heavy. Right now she won’t sob. She has to see Thuo.  Somehow she wishes life was a lot like building blocks. Then she could just put the pieces in place even if they broke apart.

***

At the hospital, she becomes weary. Before she enters his room, Wanjiku notices that she didn’t bring him his favorite banana milkshake. She halts, thinking about whether to go and get one for him. But the restaurant was fifteen minutes away. She decides that she would ask him if he wanted another drink. One that wouldn’t force her to go all the way out of the hospital. The heat is unbearable that day, but Wanjiku still has her coat on. She pushes the door into Thuo’s private ward, gingerly.

Inside, the nurse had just finished fixing a needle into his skin and is clearing the room. Thuo is in the bed, in blue, patient clothes, with one hand connected to an overhead intravenous medication. The other hand is holding a remote. He turns up the volume for her to hear. Thuo is watching cartoons. He always loved cartoons. To her, Thuo seems perplexed by her visit. She hadn’t visited him in a week and there she stands, beside the bed, all righteous and apologetic. But what else could she expect from him. Thuo was only eleven. Yet the disease had taken the past two years of his life away from him. Just like that. He hadn’t gone to school because she wouldn’t let him be thrown into stigma by other children. He hadn’t played outside because she feared that he might fall down at any time and lose him. Now Thuo was gazing away from her, intently.

“Hi dear.” She could feel her son pushing her away. She forgets all about his milkshake. Wanjiku went on around the bed, to the other side and sat there, also looking at the TV. She would sit there until he broke and finally look at his mother’s face. But Thuo simply turned to the other side. She didn’t want to see him that way. So heartbroken. So fragile. So brittle. She wanted her son back.

The doctors thought it was leukemia at first, but then even after treatment, he got worse. The first time Thuo broke his leg, he had tripped on a stair, while going to sleep. She rushed him to hospital that same night. The doctor said that he should eat foods rich in calcium or vitamins. She tried to give him those multi vitamins. But then the seizures started. In the morning when he was just about to board the bus to school. Wanjiku had already turned her back to him when she heard the screams.  The tiny and feeble screams of ten-year-old kids. She took her son in her arms once he stopped seizing. Bringing his head close to her chest. Then one day Thuo came home and when she tried to hug him, Thuo pushed him away. With such brutality that she remained speechless. Aghast and horridly shocked. He didn’t know who she was. He didn’t know that she was his mother. She didn’t know who he had become. When she tried to grab his hand and pull him to her sight, she could see in his eyes, the thing that had consumed him, eating into his life; into her life.

There, at the side of the hospital bed, beside her son, she could feel his pain, she could conceive him as the doctor had told her, in her mind. They said that it was only a matter of time because the ’disorder’ made his veins pop like popsicles. She smiled at the imagery. She knew she was breaking from inside. Like an implosion. In truth, she had tried. To be there for him. From when he was admitted five months ago.  For the first time, she wanted him dead. She didn’t know why but she did. To relieve him of his pain. The thought of ending him crossed her mind. Did she really have the right to choose for herself; Did she really have the right to think of him that way? Did she? Should she?

She ran out.

Timelapse

 

 Nuru sat on her bed at home, with her legs crossed and several photo albums with her. This particular day, she would really like to look at pictures of her big brother and maybe others. But mostly of him; just a few years older than her, Kibe had just called her that morning. To ask her how she was. She just said she was fine. Although in real terms, the Calculus test she was about to do at that time was not what she would describe as being fine. She had hardly concentrated in class, sometimes staring blankly at the lecturer, sometimes thinking about something her friends told her or texting. Nuru didn’t know why she didn’t concentrate. While in actual sense, she was really bright and would really willingly take up any challenge coz she knew she had the balls.

Flipping through the pages of the old pictures, she saw ones of her father. One particularly where he was all cool with huge glasses and an neat afro. Beside him in the picture stood her and her big brother. Both on opposite sides. She saw herself and her bland clothes, maybe a little over five, maybe six because of how calmly and well behaved she stood. Nuru couldn’t remember what they were doing on that particular day. Whether it was a special occasion or just another day out, she couldn’t pin point. Her brother wasn’t focusing on the camera. Maybe on something else that had caught his attention. Kibe was never really one to be kept attentive by something he has already seen. Kibe always gazed his eyes everywhere. Looking for something new to discover and later go and research in his big encyclopedia in his room. That was the type of curiosity that made him go to America. The kind of insatiable curiosity that made him not stay here in Kenya. Because he had the whole world to map out for himself. And not even she could stop him.

Her father was a whole other cocktail in the pictures she saw. In the pictures, he is much younger and taller. Perhaps even more handsome. She admired her father in the pictures. He looked more open and careful. His father at the moment is still wise, but he is a bit burdened by age. He rarely smiles at times because his teeth are not particularly in the best shape. At least that’s the reason she thinks. Or maybe he has seen everything that there is nothing funny anymore. His father is also at times too careless. He often wears his torn socks or his unpressed shirt to work. He comes home after work and sleeps on the couch while his tea got cold. She doesn’t like him that much

Sometimes she wonders about her father. And her wonder takes her to her little universe of photos. She looks at them for answers. She looks at the old to explain the new. As if it will open a whole new other gateway to the questions she asks.

Nuru turns to one particular picture where she sees herself laughing off with Kibe. Nuru smiles to herself. It’s so beautiful the way her teeth open up to free her happiness within herself. It’s so magical how one single picture can capture that delightful moment. Sometimes Nuru feels as though the pictures have stolen something away from her. Like they have that splice in time when life is complete. That some of her happiness has escaped from her, into the pictures. It’s like the images had caught a part, a piece, a slice of her spirit; taken them away and freezing them in time. And yet somehow. Nuru felt as though it gave her some control of time, a kind of freedom; that she wasn’t just a passerby in life but an onlooker. To how life grows in and out of someone, like it was doing to her father. Maybe that’s why she always wanted to be a photographer and was saving to buy a new camera. To begin to capture time as it lapses and look back and forth; experiencing the mystery.

Backspace

Mikki always had a feeling that her husband was always going to go. Although he regularly came home from work, she always had that feeling that he would soon go. It was a feeling that brushes past her like the wind sometimes; making the back of her neck get goose bumps. It was the feeling that came and went like the PEV. And although Mikki was always a good wife, making him happy and giving him good sex when he wanted or when she thought he needed it, Kantai always seemed detached. Kantai, her husband, was a driver for an international Chinese company that made all sorts of chemicals and detergents. It was Kantai’s work to drive trailers from the port to the factory, which was in Industrial area. That was almost a whole day’s work. So Mikki couldn’t really blame Kantai for missing dinner. But rather, she was glad that Kantai was working his ass off to provide. Mikki would stay at home and cook. Clean. Take the kids to school. And pick them up from school.

Mikki didn’t like everything in her life, especially the house. It wasn’t even a house. It was a collection of wood and iron sheets all jumbled up in an unartistic manner. They lived in a place called Kibra. Where life was all but simple. Shanties were as close to one another as if they were somehow attracted to one another. From above, in the skies, the hundreds of iron sheet roofs had surrendered to the all incumbent and unforgiving rain to turn into a mosaic of brown, rusty metal. At night, all Mikki prayed for was that it would never rain because if it did, they would wake up soaking wet. The congestion in the slum made the place all sticky, smelly and filthy. She had dreamt of more. She had dreamt of a big house when she was young. She had thought of a better life when she was young. As all the young girls of her age in high school, they all dreamt of marrying off some rich or well off guy in order to have a better life. Mikki had even planned her wedding with all the pomp and grandeur. But Kantai happened. She couldn’t blame Kantai or herself but rather got herself together each time she broke down in tears- alone: while the kids were in school and while Kantai was away, working.  Because she didn’t have a perfect house, or a perfect husband, or a perfect life. Because Kantai couldn’t afford to take the kids out on holiday or even have the simple luxury of valentine’s day.

She wouldn’t tell him about the moments when she would cuddle herself in the corner of the bedroom and she would feel her heavy chest, and the tears in her eyes would make her clothes wet. She was wistful. But she took hope from these moments that she could live and love.

Okumu and Sheila were two lovely kids. Both in primary and showing promise. Okumu, who was two years older that Sheila, was a lively boy. Mikki always laughed at his silly questions that he would ask his father each time he was home. Okumu made the home lively. Sheila on the other hand was an artist, drawing on whatever she could-the floor, the walls, earth. And Mikki loved that they could find peace in their tiny world, naïve and oblivious to reality. And soon, she could herald another newborn into this wretched world.

Those long rides had given Kantai time to think. Since Kantai had made Mikki pregnant again, he knew he had to work twice as harder in order to sustain the life they were living, which was already dreadful. However, it was during the long hours that he got, driving trailers, that he got bored of the repeated music of his CDs that he turned to the radios. It was then that he all changed. He had heard of Kenyan stories, and the poor Kenyan economy but he hadn’t really listened to before. He hadn’t listened to how the dwindling value of his bank savings was related to the dollar, and the yen, and the pound. He hadn’t listened to the reality that Kenya, his beloved country, was just merely a puppet under the mastery of foreign powers who simply controlled the politics and rational of his nation. He hadn’t listened to how his nation was being depleted of its potential by hungry so called ‘investors’. He had become bitter. He had grown angry. Kantai began questioning himself. He began doubting his work. He began to search for some answers. But what could he do, he asked himself. For months this bitterness grew and began to consume him, turning into fears and nightmares. Even when he got home, he couldn’t seem to find some sleep. Even though Mikki did the best that she could, Kantai was burning inside. Of rage. Slowly by slowly, he drifted away from what he really had- a good wife and a family.

When he needed something to get his mind off things, he decided to turn to his little gang of trailer drivers. After all work was finished for the day on that Friday evening, He asked Kihara if there was anything that could help.

“I have just the thing my man.” Kihara withdrew from his pocket a pack of cigarettes. He gave him one. “You have to try these things sometimes.” He said as he lit it for him, took a puff and handed Kantai the lit cigarette. He took it gingerly. He was never a smoker, or a heavy drinker. Kantai had loved his simple life before. But his life was no longer simple. He coughed a little, beating his chest while staggering two steps behind. He had felt the smoke snake down his throat, threatening to choke him. In reality, he still had his fears in his head.

“I need something stronger.” He muttered.

“Seriously Kan!! Seriously!! I can’t help you then.”

“Please Kihara! PLEASE!”

Kihara looked at him. He gazed deeply into his eyes. He couldn’t understand what Kantai had needed. Yet, he saw in his eyes, in his soul, a desperate man.

“Okay, okay. But this is completely off the record. If word get out that I was part of the deal, I’ll come for you.”

“Thanks man!”

“First, you have to pay me, this isn’t a favour.” Kantai paused for a sec then grabbed his wallet. The little exchange was rather quick since Kihara didn’t want any unintended persons to find them out. Kihara gave him four rolls of weed.

“Smoke only a little at a time. I gave you four so that you do not disturb me again. These things are not easy to come around.” Kantai dragged off home. While the night was still young and growing into pure darkness, and the only thing guiding Kantai’s way was the brilliant golden lighting of the Sulphur lamps, Kantai withdrew from his pocket the first weed roll. Slowly lighting it, and breathing it.

He at first didn’t feel any effect. Thinking he was conned by Kihara, he took a second puff, the a third and a fourth.

“Freaking Kikuyus!!@@## All they think about is money.” Kantai could have been given a roll of leaves of Sukuma wiki or grass for all he knew. He cursed to himself. And smiled. He continued to smile. But when he realized that he couldn’t stop smiling, he knew that Kihara didn’t side step him. The giant house flies that he ‘saw’ circling around him were a testament to that. The drug had now snaked its way to his cerebrum and all he could do was to wave his arms in the air. He felt right at that moment. He felt weightless at that instant. He was suddenly free. His mind spiraled out of consciousness into limbo.

Kantai almost didn’t realise that he had bumped into the door of his house when Mikki opened the door for him only to touch her face as if he were blind and trying to identify what was in front of him.

Mikki doubted herself for once. Who was really outside that door. It couldn’t be him.

“Mikki, please oo…oo…pen th…the do…or.!” It is him.

“What the fuck have you been doing Kan! This isn’t you!…” Mikki had just began to bitchplode in front of him. All this time Kantai was smiling sheepishly at the little firefly on top of her head. He mumbled to himself a little more. She slapped him.

“Listen to me!” Kantai stared back at her blankly, like a zombie. He forced his way into the house only to be met by the fearful gazes of Okumu and Sheila. That night, Mikki slept with the kids, leaving Kantai all alone. For the next few weeks, he would come home like that- lifeless, senseless, thoughtless. And Mikki would let him in, but she didn’t feed him. She didn’t ask questions. She would just lock herself outside in the middle of the night and cut her hair with scissors as tears formed scars in her heart. She would keep on doing this hopping he will stop- she convinced herself. Until finally, her hair was short like his. She didn’t know what had happened to him. She felt as if her life was imploding and a black hole was sucking her into despair. She couldn’t let him do this to her and the unborn baby. She tried to remain happy. She tried to force a smile to Okumu and Sheila who also forced a smile back. At these times, Kantai would just leave without so much as seeing them, in the witchy hours of the morning.

“Ma, where’s daddy?” Sheila would ask each morning.

“He’s gone to work.” Her mother would answer her, never looking at her face because maybe Sheila would detect her mother’s worry. In truth, she never knew where he was going that early in the morning

Mikki thought he was possessed. She didn’t know what he had become. He didn’t even come to see her deliver the baby. He had become careless and she had hated him for that. She still had her feeling that Kantai was never really there for her and that he was going to leave.

When Okumu would come home a bit later than expected, Mikki would try to talk to him. But Okumu had now turned into this lifeless form, like her father. Okumu would sometimes forget to take off his bag and he wore it all over the house. He just wouldn’t put it down. His mother began to worry because all the time it felt as though Okumu would run off somewhere at any time. He looked like he didn’t really belong in the house. And his mother threatened him once. Okumu just ran out of the house, leaving his mother and sister in disbelief.

Mikki felt her world tumbling down piece by piece.

When Okumu showed up the morning the next day, all muddy and dead beat, his mother just hugged him. For what else could she do. She had scared him away once before and she wouldn’t do it again. She promised herself.

***

The night was still, cold and sinister. Kantai was on the wheels. For the first time he was behind the wheels of the trailer alone. Usually, he would have a partner seated beside him to ensure the load was delivered safely even if one of them was temporarily ‘incapacitated’. He was alone this time. The wind breeze blew past his window and swept past his face. The sky twinkled above him. The trailer engine roared each time, coughing a little after some time. He was a master in his driving craft. Sometimes, he felt as if he was in love, while driving the vehicles. The beauty and mystery of a chain of gears and buttons made him ecstatic. They worked with him in such perfect harmony that he dreaded ever ending a job.  This time, he was carrying behind him, a tanker of liquid nitrogen. The chemistry in action meant that the whole vehicle was freezing and Kantai had to cover himself up as if he were in the cold, teeth-shattering, sub-zero temperatures of a Russian winter.

Kantai wanted some relief from his world but the fact that he was still worried about the current state of his country had taken a toll on him. Weed, he needed again. With one hand on the wheel, he dipped his hand into his pocket, looking for more of it. He scoured his pockets. Nothing. He began to feel a bit light headed. He had become addicted. He badly desired some of the drug. It hadn’t occurred to him that he was now depending on it to get him into euphoria, into a place where he could free his mind from the worries around him. He hadn’t realized how selfish his choices had been. He had forgotten all about the kids. He had forgotten all about the new baby. He didn’t even know its name. How could he do that. How could he forget? He no longer knew Mikki. He no longer felt anything for her. What was happening to him. He continued to search in the vehicle. In the cabinets and under the seats. Finally, he got hold of something. It was a small fragment of an already smokes weed stick. But what the heck! Kan quickly lit it up and literally ate the damn thing. Ahhhh! He could see the smoke from this sinuses rising against the cloudless sky, and vanishing into nothingness. He could from afar, listen to the whispers of the night in the back of his ears.

He could visualize himself drifting away from his body. He was now out of his body. He was observing this figure of a man driving this mammoth of a vehicle. He wondered how the life of this man would be had he chosen right, had he done right. He saw forms of people forming in the mist on the road side. To Kantai, they seemed happy. They seemed okay. Maybe he was looking at his ghosts. The ones that haunted him at night. The ones that made him afraid. The ones that fucked him up.

If he could stab them to death, he could, and he would.

This state of trance seemed to go on and on. A bit longer than usual for that particular amount of weed. He didn’t seem to be in control. In truth, Kantai had stopped being in control. He was no longer in limbo. He had lost touch.

He didn’t know it but he had veered, taking the load with him to the steep valley along the road. Rolling and rolling a little before hitting some trees and leaking. While Kantai was still in the vehicle, the liquid nitrogen creeped over and above him, slowly but surely. The whole accident was all too well orchestrated as it turned out to be a sparkling spectacle of Kantai’s frozen fall into a deadly abyss.

***

When Kantai didn’t come back home in a week, Mikki began to worry. He had never been away from home after a week. Never. Even in his little drug stunts that he pulled, he made it home always. Mikki convinced his children both Okumu and Sheila, that daddy was away for some time. In her heart, she knew that something was very, very wrong. It was not in Kantai’s nature to just go away. At least he would tell her. She had refused. That Kantai was gone. Although she knew that it was the case. She still convinced herself that with their short food supply, Kantai would be back. He couldn’t have gone.

Sheila began coughing. Okumu was turning pale. It was evident that they were malnutritioned. Mikki, however, had no way of getting them more food. Kantai had kept his account personal and so Mikki had no way of knowing how much money he had. That he could not access them until he was declared dead and a death certificate presented to the bank. Was he?

Mikki started to ration food beyond the little they were eating.

“Daddy will be back soon.” She kept telling herself and her children. Okumu and Sheila were getting thinner day by day. The neighbours started to worry. One day, a neighbour angrily banged her door only to see him with Okumu, holding him like the thief he was for he had sneaked into his shop and stolen a mango. The neighbour warned her that the only reason that Okumu was not burned to death in mob justice was that her mother was known. Her mother took her in but didn’t even look at him. She was the one who was responsible for him. She was the one who was supposed to feed him.

When she decided to look for him, she asked around for where he worked. Before then, she didn’t even care where Kantai worked, only that he provided for her family.

“Get out of my way, you good-for-nothing! I want to see the person in charge!!” The guard had not allowed her in. He wouldn’t let her into the building. “Where is my husband? Eh?

Where have you taken him?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, you cannot see the person in charge. He doesn’t see beggars.” The guard promptly replied. And Mikki answered him with two lightning slaps. Before she caused any commotion, the other guards quickly helped take her away from the sight.

“Where is my husband you foolish dogs? Where is he?” As the guards overpowered her, the sound of a woman in pain cried throughout the day. She knelt there, outside the building. She would not go. If he was dead, she would mourn.

When Mikki returned home, she found only Sheila with little Amina. When Mikki asked her where Okumu was, she remained silent. Her mother begged Sheila to tell her, she just looked at her. Her children had now become devoid of life. Okumu never came back. Their mother began to have nightmares. She became disturbed. She shouted in the middle of the night. While the baby cried, she continued to sleep. All the while, Sheila teared up in her sheets. Their lives had overturned in a matter of months.

When Mikki woke up in the morning, Sheila was gone. They had all gone. They had all left her. The had all decided to leave her. She took Amina with her, and would look for them, even if it would kill her. She would ask anyone, everyone. Like an imperfection in the Nairobi pedestrian traffic, she begged, she cried, she pulled and tugged everyone, anyone who seemed like they knew something. How hope had consumed her. How life had let her live to this point of despair. When she got home, she held little Amina, tight in her arms. She was such an innocent soul to witness all that had happened.

Mikki watched as madness and foolishness took the lives of the people around her and her neighbourhood. Like an angel of death One man, who was a motorcycle mechanic, had just come from dealing with fixing a leaking petrol tank of a motorcycle when he felt the craving and lust for the feel of smoke roll down his already blackened lungs. Mr. Kalele strolled down the murky Kibra streets. He felt the night breeze carry with it the stinging stench of rot, the smell of dead and decayed micro and macro organisms in the hidden shadowy corners outside most of the houses. Most people couldn’t even tell if they themselves smelt good. Rubbish filled and heaped garbage culminated in years upon years of lawless societal disarray.

He slowly weaved his way through the mess. His arms and shirt stained with oil from the local black market petrol-which was way cheaper than what the government inflated in the petrol stations. Kalele felt soothing on his neck. The slow pain. A little pinch that felt small at first. But now grew into a torrent of gushing nervous painful injection. Fucking mosquitoes. He slapped the life out of the little manner less creature. Couldn’t it even ask before biting him? Here in Kibra, even the mosquitoes were becoming mutant-Developing resistance even to whatever kind of insecticide man had developed. They couldn’t simply die. These thing were simply tiny monstrous petulant puny brats.

They had evolved.

Kalele watched himself, making sure he didn’t stumble and hold himself against one of the rusted iron sheet houses that coloured the place- for he knew they had received torrents of acid rain pounding recently and any disturbance could cause them to simply topple over and flatten themselves and the contents inside. -naked women, babies and the like. For the outside world, it was hard for anyone to find anything let alone houses in this delicately disarranged conceptualisation of a village. He smacked open the loosely fitted door, almost bringing it down with that action. His little compact abode left little room to hide anything so he quickly reached for the last remaining cigarette stick under the mattress. He withdrew the cigarette lighter from his drawer. Placing the stick in his mouth, he lit up the cigarette. As he stood there, he drew in his breath, sucking in the air from the outside as if he hadn’t breathed for months, making the cigarette butt burst with red fury hotness. Then with its vicious characteristic, the shirt on him caught fire. He himself caught fire and turned into a fiery fierce piece of human fireball. He screamed so loud as to wake even the ghosts that were known to fall asleep

“Moto!!!”

“Aki saidia!” Kalele fell down on his back. He rolled around like a decapitated lizard setting ablaze the whole room. Then the entire shanty. It lit up like fireworks, sparkling and rising consuming what Kalele had taken, well –only two days to put up. All his ‘careful effort over the years was being razed down in seconds.

The other neighbours were quickly out, not to help put out the fire but first of all make sure that there was no way that fire could reach their homes. After that they grabbed buckets of water and tried to contain the fire so that it wouldn’t be big enough for the media t even care to report. The water simply wasn’t making the situation any better. One of the neighbours carried his blankets with him as he was known to do so at night. When he felt that the evening breeze was stronger is when he realised that his blanket was the next target in an aim to put out the fire. He saw as the bellow flames fed from his blanket and grew into a colossal monster. All they knew is that the next morning the place would be swarming with the police coupled with the fourth estate. The fire seemed to laugh at them as the shanty feel down into ashes. They watched. Some with a tear in their eyes as the yet another life within their little world was taken from the realm of existence. Some stayed to see the burning embers.

Sometimes, Mikki wished that death would take her as it had done Mr. Kalele. Then she would be peaceful. Little Amina was hungry now. She was still breast feeding. Mikki gave her child her breast to feed, before realizing that she could not produce any more milk. Still, she let little Amina suckle. At least she thought she was feeding.

The little elements in her life that made it complete had been deleted- Kantai, Okumu, Sheila. And now she feared for Amina. As if someone was deliberately and intently pressing backspace in her life.

***

Waking up every morning is to come to one’s senses that throughout the night the cold – ice cold unforgiving evening breeze has been crippling the skin; reducing it to a paler darker more lifeless-like version of the skin. The goose bumps have become permanent. Sheila sits up against the hard cold wall. One hand supports her from the back while the other hand strokes her hair. Or is it her dreadlocks. It’s hard to tell. Ages of little consideration to what keeps on growing in her head have left her hair into a wreck less spiral of bushy overgrowth that linger and glitter with the little specks of dust and the bright drops of morning dew. Despite the obvious inability to get her hands onto a handsome meal, she still maintains one of the most beautiful faces around. She stares. She stares at nothing.

She lets her mind roll and spin staring at the infinity.

The world has ceased to make any sense for her. The world has lost meaning to her. For her, she simply allows the days to move past her and overtake her, leaving her in her own little pickle jar, where she can figure for herself why she doesn’t need to exist.

She begs from time to time, she gets from time to time. She thinks of her brother Okumu sometimes, whether he is still alive, whether he ever eats, whether he went back home.

***

Okumu, now a little bit older, now a little bit harder in the world, had become a sojourner. He had travelled. He had dared to find some way out of his former life. At times he would be lucky to get some food in the rubbish bins. At times he would beg. At times he would get. But most of the time, he was just brushed off by people. He wondered why it was so hard for people to give- That ten shillings that would rather have been too tiny an amount to feel the pinch. People were cruel. People were heartless. Okumu found himself at times cozy on a card board box at night.

When he became delirious, and starving, and hungry, he looked at the ground beneath him, all green and full of life. He fell down on his knees and smelt the vegetation. He touches the little blades of grass that were sparkling against the midday sun. Hu looked up to the heavens for a second and then down to earth. He bends his head further down, his face now on the grass. He closes his eyes. He takes a bite on the grass underneath him. Chewing, hmm.

He never knew grass would be so tasty

LOL

 Petty is seated on top of Fiona’s desk, with her hands supporting her back as she pushes her chest outward to show the figure of her now-forming breasts against her blouse. Petty has her head facing the classroom ceiling looking at the punctuations of white paper stuck on it against the blue paint.

“I want them to grow bigger.” Petty says to Fiona and Ivy. Ivy, who is seated on the desk opposite bursts. Not the kind of little laugh that would go unnoticed, but rather a raw mixture of a loud array of rhythm and fun that she recently chose to act out. Since Petty’s boobs and Ivy’s but grew bigger, she had to find a way of catching up. Her laughter not only changed her but it overtook her, taking a new form in her life. When she laughed, she did it with such conviction, with such panache and spirit that even the boys wanted to hear what gossip deserved such amusement.

“Those boobs are just fine. Careful what you wish for. You don’t want to become a spectacle.” Fiona concluded. Petty looked at her with eyes blazing. As if she had stolen something from her. Had she?

“Bitch!” Petty shouted as she grabbed Fiona’s hand and tore from it the bangle she had given her a few weeks back. She did it with such a venomous hate that her sharp manicured fingernails sank into Fiona’s skin like a sword. Fiona let loose a hell of a scream before grabbing Petty’s hair and twisting it around and around like a piece of rope until Petty cold literally feel the scalp burning with pain. Before Fiona could condemn her to baldness, she jolted back as if she was struck by lightning as a cane met her back. It was Mrs. Moraa. The little crowd of children that was innocently on looking quickly dissipated into thin air.

At the deputy head teacher’s office, Petty knelt next to Fiona as they were both struggling to keep their hands up, supposedly ‘calling the rain’ for an hour. As Mrs. Moraa stormed into the office, a shrill rushed through their veins as goose bumps covered their bodies for a minute or two before disappearing under their skins again.

“You two little troublemakers think you want to start a riot under my nose?”
They both tried to hide their giggles as hard as they could, making their faces turn into different expressions every few seconds. How had she turned a simple girl fight into a riot? They could not even want to start a riot. Besides, if they would, it would not have been picked up by such an old brain like Mrs. Moraa’s. They bared a few more wasted minutes of their lives listening to a lot of blah blah blah before receiving some strokes of supposed correction which in truth seemed like she took pleasure in making them cry.

“I think that Mrs. Moraa gets an orgasm every time she canes us.” Fiona said as they ran off from the office.

“And why is that?”

“She seems so happy just lashing our tiny little hands and backs”

Even though Fiona and Petty had rumbled, their pinky swear friendship pact between the trio of Ivy, Fiona and Petty could not be simply broken by an exchange of words or fists. It would take really something to tear them apart. Fiona and Petty rushed towards the school gate to meet Ivy who waited for them.

“Mschew! You two are so girlish.”

“Kwani you are a boy?” They all laughed themselves silly at each other, embracing each other as the day ended. Off to home they went, but not until they would pass through Jama’s home. They had so much yearned to peep through Jama’s bedroom window. Jama was the tall, muscular boy in their class who every girl noticed. Noticed that his voice, had over the past few months, turned into a deeper, much scintillating version of James Bond. Noticed that his chin held a small, growing beard that made him look like a new mystical creature in class. Noticed how his chest had puffed up a little. Notice how he became different from the other ‘toddlers’.

As they rushed past Mama Antony’s shop, they took caution to go unnoticed while they sneaked into the bush aka fence, that was between them and Jama’s supposed window. They giggled. Crouching. Opening their eyes. Through the leaves, Jama appeared in view. All manned up. He peered through the window as if to wait for the sunset. Ivy choked on laughter.

“What are you laughing about. He’ll see us!!!! Nkt@#!!” Petty mumbled.

“Jama! Oka!” They all heard Jama’s mom call for him possibly to help in doing something. Jama’s mom sent him to do the easiest of things. It was as if he had become a slave.

“Fuck!” Petty cried off, gripping her hair a bit.

“It’s probably you who tipped his mother off!” Fiona smacked ivy with the words as they bounced off. They were as close as they bounced off.

“Well. We can always ask him to show us?!”

“And you think he’ll tag along!?(:”

“He might. Boys always listen to us. Remember Jack and how we all kissed him when we all wanted to kiss for the first time in Class One!”

“Yeah! But that was when we barely had any sense of our bodies!”

“We want to see the real stuff”

***
Jama had watched.

He hadn’t had any desire to look at anyone until his eyes suddenly became opened. Not by his choice but he blamed God. He blamed him for letting him look. For letting him want. For letting him feel himself while he was alone in his bedroom. Jama noticed that the girls in his class were changing. But not in the usual shedding of teeth or new hair. Jama this time felt funny. He wanted to look at the girls all the time. And so, at break or lunch time, he would sit on his desk. Sometimes pretending to be reading a bit. Or he would use his newly found towering height to look over to the girls’ washroom. He wanted to listen.

He remembered how easily he would talk to girls, maybe to ask for an eraser or an extra pencil. He remembered when he would pull a girl’s hair in class one or two and all that they would do was either pinch him back or laugh. But he could not even dare to try that now. For fear of being looked at in a way that made him uncomfortable. Or for fear that the girls would run off and begin talking about him.

Jama wanted to know what the girls talked about these days. Jama wanted to know what made them speak in such shallow voices to one another’s ear, in secret, that was so much so as not to be heard. Jama wondered what were those whispers that floated in between the female conversations that he simply couldn’t catch a glimpse or whiff off. Jama even wished he was a girl so that he would know. It had become a sort of a new tribe of gossiping girls. So, he would even try to follow the girls sometimes as they headed home. To try as hard as he could.

All they do was laugh. Especially Ivy. She was the one who would drive him crazy. Her laugh had achieved an air of ecstasy and fun. A tinge of discovery of something grand and crazy. It had begun one day when the science teacher was teaching about reproduction. Ivy laughed at the science teacher who said something wrong.

“He doesn’t even know that men have their own ‘menstrual cycle’” Ivy whispered to Fiona. But Jama couldn’t hear this. He just couldn’t. It was as if they spoke in a coded language since their voices had grown softer and more lyrical. From then on, Jama heard only laughs. It was as if laughter had become their mode of expression. LOL. He heard once. Luckily that was not Chinese. He gathered that once in a note addressed to Petty. All he began to hear was LOL. It was driving him nuts.
Jama always observed how ivy, Fiona and Petty laughed together. In class. Out of class. During P.E. At lunch. And on the way home. Laughter had not only become a way of showing joy, but it had become them. Boys could not laugh the way they laughed. Boys could only watch or listen. If they got close to knowing what the girls talked about, the cards changed again.

As Jama sneaked into the girls’ toilet once, thinking that he would find out the answers behind the toilet doors; all drawn up the way boys drew in their toilets. But all he could hear were giggles. In the air; in the bushes; in the trees; in his head.

LOL

He would never know