Salt…Too little too late…Too much too soon

She remembers that  brown patch of earth just behind their home in rural Eldoret. There is this banana tree that grows next to it. She ate a ripe banana from a bunch of bananas she was told came from that banana tree. They were interestingly sweet, they have always been sweeter than any bananas she has ever eaten so much so that she could tell just by the scent of them whether they were from that signature banana tree.

Her grandfather was a sweet soul.God rest his soul in eternal peace. His grave is shielded from the scorching sun by the shade of this defiant banana tree. She flirts with the idea that just may be the sweet bananas are her grand fathers way of still sharing his sweet soul with the world. The brown patch of earth she remembers is next to where her grandpa is buried. She recalls her granny telling her and her cousins in their native tongue, “I want to be buried here, next to my sweetheart.” It looked like just one of her stories. They would all shrug and say “Gogo wewe bado uko na miaka mia moja!” (Granny you still have a hundred years left in you!”) Granny would smile at their ignorance of life and how meaninglessly short she knew it to be. She would, of course, never let them in on her thoughts. Even in her old age, she knew that childhood is a blissful fantasy that she should never take away from her grandchildren.

She recalls, growing up in the village, how her granny would insist on having all her grandchildren around for two weeks. She argued that they needed to know their roots. Granny would gather them all round and tell them tales of how their grand father was a fearless mau mau warrior. They never got to see him, but the stories made them feel like they knew him all their lives. Granny would tell them stories about her childhood and how things were simple. How they all lived at the pleasure of the work of their hands and how school was an option back then. Sometimes she would gather all the girls together and talk to them about boys and men and keeping the home. She would call the boys together and tell them about how a man should carry his weight in society. She shared pictures of her husband, their grandpa, and answered all the questions that they asked. Times with granny were golden and grand. It was like living a life of endless joy without a care for tomorrow. She always made sure they were not troubled because she believed that childhood is best when cushioned from the raging pressure and tides of this demanding world. The fondest memory she has of granny is when during holidays her cousins and herself would team up and teach granny Swahili and some English. They would have such joyous laughter at granny’s attempts to speak whole sentences in English.

They are all grown up now. They all know that the world is not such a good place but appreciate granny’s effort to shield them from the realities of it all.

She is at the morgue in the waiting bay. Granny died two days ago. Her diabetes got complicated and her organs failed. Two days before her demise she made her son take a picture of that brown perch of earth next to her sweetheart and the renegade banana tree. She told him that she want to be buried there and that they should do a quick job about it too. She stares at the picture in the family whatsapp group from her phone screen and tears sting her eyes. Her cousins, uncles and aunts were all seated in that lobby waiting to view what was left of granny. Silence. Salty silence.

Image result for salt

Loss is a salty mess on an open wound. Painful but necessary. You never know how to process it all. You tell yourself that you will learn how to do it all soon, that it will be okay, that you will make it through it all. The truth is, you never really do get over it all. You just learn how to take it all in an ounce of salt at a time until it is mostly gone.

To all those who have lost their loved ones, may time and grace accord you some semblance of healing and closure.

 

Advertisements

Habibi

“Back in Sudan, if you are my friend or boyfriend or husband or even a dear one of mine, I would call you Habibi.”

“Can I call you that?” I asked rather playfully. “wouldn’t it be Haram to have a Habibi who is Christian?”

She shifted her gaze to the dark star cased sky with a disposition that seemed to say ‘ why did you have to bring me back to reality?’

It was a smooth evening somewhere along Thika road in the inroads of the Kenyatta University Conference center. She was 5 feet,  and give or take an inch, tall and she was beautiful.

She had this smile about her. It was laced with stern seriousness and wit. It was like it came with a disclaimer; “I may be overly in love with you but i will knock myself out of it because it just cannot be”

We didn’t talk much after that. She pulled her hijab into place so that it covered her hair. The seconds of silence were filled with the noise of her head scarf rubbing against the smoothest and longest hair I have ever seen. With each pull and nudge, I felt the differences between us being more and more pronounced. For a moment, it was like the conversations we had were unmeasured. Soulful. Free spirited even. But, each time something said or done would remind her that I am christian and she is Muslim and it would all just fizzle out. The magic would all go away. I became a cautious mess around her. You know when you have to take a photo and you dont know what to do with your hands? That was us now, only for us it wasn’t about hands, it was that I did not know what to say.

Image result for habibi muslim woman

photo courtesy of  BBC.

This one time we sat next to each other over a training session at Brackenhurst in Tigoni and I swear it was the fuzziest feeling ever. We didn’t even talk, we just sat their looking ahead at the instructor. Do you know how when you sit next to someone you have the feels for you are so conscious of their presence that you can feel the warmth their bodies radiate? Or how you really want to steal a glance at them but you just cannot bring your neck to make that tiny inclination their way? Aah!

I remember one time we teamed up for a climbing challenge. ” Please dont touch me unless I am falling and cannot help myself.”

“Okay. Sure. I will asses and only help when necessary,” I answered. Honestly I was just glad she talked to me. Up until then I couldn’t tell if she was avoiding me. So we climbed to the 4th beam. She was just about to get to the 5th one when she slipped and I had to rush in and help her out. I grabbed her trouser from the back just below her back where the belt fastens at the waist and lifted her up. She flushed pink at the cheeks. She was a bit embarrassed when I apologized much later. She brushed it off.

There was this lobby at the KU conference center that was a buzz of activity after 8 pm each day. This day, she was there, with her Sudanese friends, dancing to their music and eating homemade cheese. It was akin to those times in lower primary; you know, when a group of kids, toddlers really, are having loads of fun and you look at them  and just want to join them but they look so exclusive you would feel like an intruder for just thinking to join. You do not realize it but you are staring and one of them looks at you. You probably looked away or ran off. I didn’t know she had noticed me staring at them from a place I thought was covert. “Habibi!” they all shout as she comes over and pulls me from wherever it is I am perched straight into their  midst. They make her dance. She teaches me a habesha dance. They all get up to dance and some Congolese guy comes in to dance too and that was our cue to leave. We walk out of the building and into the cold of a clear night sky.  There is this weird silence between us.

“Did you know the Habesha dance is for people who want to get married?”, she breaks the silence.

“No I did not know… but I do now Habibi.”

“Don’t call me that!” She protests playfully as she gives my shoulder a nudge. She draws in for a hug. I pull her in and wrap my arms around her shoulder and neck.

“I leave for Sudan in a few hours. My flight is at 6 am.”

“I will miss you habibi.”

She giggles, “I know. I will miss you too. Will you come to Sudan?”

“If you invite me, I will” I said, knowing all too well that it may very well never happen. There was a silence of sorts for what seemed like an eternity of anticipation. We just sat there and listened to the different groups of YALI participants chatter in the background.

She reached into her pocket from under her buibui and brought out a bracelet with the engraving ‘From Sudan with Love’ on it and fastened it around my arm.

“Each time you see this, remember me.”

The cold begun to sting. We went back and ate some more cheese and danced some more before she went to pack.

A Kenatco taxi came by for her at 2:30 am. She never liked it when I touched her anywhere so I had refrained from doing it. But, there we were, unsure of the already deem prospects of ever meeting again and i guess all the restrictions our religions gave us didn’t matter in that moment. We hugged. It was nice. It was needy and long and warm. It felt like it was long overdue.

Hello habibi, if you ever get to read this, I just want you to know that sometimes i reminisce and smile.

A man must nod…

There is this countryside picturesque characteristic that looms around your thoughts each time you imagine the freshness of the countryside. If today you were asked to close your eyes and imagine all the things that make the countryside tick, I am almost certain the picture of an OX driven plough will come to mind…no?

Picture the fatest oxen pulling a plough through muck and dirt making furrows in the soil; where seed will find rest and death and then life. Every once in a while, a man will come up to the ox offer them a platitude of grass or hay and spank them right back into action. Each morning these oxen will be on the fields ploughing and tilling.

In the beginning, the ox imagines its life is worth much more than just a pulling a plough through dirt. Those that own the farm will struggle a lot with a new ox before it gets accustomed to its job. With each dawning day the reality of this plough pushing fate  will gradually sink in until one day all the farmer has to do is just lift the harness to the plough and the ox assumes its position. Clockwork.

I digress.

What do you see when you look at men cheering at this team or that team after a day at work? Have you seen how two complete strangers share a beer and watch a game  and in that moment, they are like two lost brothers reunited back home after a fatal war? Women will never admit it it, but the truth is, they admire the type of chemistry that men have. Most even struggle with how two men can be in a bitter fight over something completely insignificant one minute and then buy each other a round of beer the next.

Image result for being a man

photo credits : Brandon Gallagher

Men die. It is what we know how to do. let us put the dead beats out for a second and look at the men. Our fathers for instance; they toiled to provide for their dependents. Yet for us the dependents, it was perceived that a fathers duty is to provide and that gratitude is good but not compulsory.  Most of you can relate to this. Why is it that when your mother bought you something or spent her hard earned money on you you felt a huge degree of indebtedness? It almost felt as if you have made her spend unnecessarily. Now, how comes when our fathers spent a substantially greater amount of money on us the degree of indebtedness is not commensurate?

No. This is not another plight for the man as a juxtaposition to that of the woman. Its just that i was analyzing the just concluded fathers day celebrations and asked myself if we truly do appreciate the men in our lives. Social media was awash with images of Young-uns  sharing one liners of gratitude to their fathers who were standing right next to them. I could see the grey in most of these men’s hair. a clear sign of the degree and depth of sacrifice they have had to bear in order to secure many a future.

As a man, it is a silent truth to us all that provision is our cross. It is one we cannot put down or pass on to any other man. It is this cross that is the source of the chemistry we share. It is this burden we recognize in each other when we meet after a long days work and share a beer or watch a game or crack odd jokes. Just like the ox, it may take sometime for this reality of sacrifice to sink in but once it does, clockwork. It is this burden that makes men overlook whatever thing they argued and fought over two nanoseconds ago and just bury the hatchet and move on like they never had an argument a day in their lives.

We recognize the struggles we have and the expectations that are laden on us by society. It is for this reason that when a man sees another do their grind, he nods knowingly.

A.MAN.MUST.NOD

(Dis)honorable scars…Dos

“Hi…Is it okay if I said thanks for the add? Or do you consider it a cliche? :-)”

Is a weird way of hitting on a lady. Atleast i thought it was. I found myself smiling as the subtle soft edges and cautious tennets of this message sunk in. “This is an interesting one,” i thought to myself as i reread that message. I couldnt call him out on how weird it is when someone says ‘thanks for the add!’ Because the way he puts it,he has made known the waywardness of this lazy way of chatting anyone up by asking if it is okay to say thanks. 

Photo obtained from pinterest

“Since you have already said it,i guess i will have to be curteous enough to oblige, no?” I chimed away on the keyboard and hit send as i opened his profile on another tab to see who he is.

**********************************************************************************************

When you are a mother of one child, a son, who your baby daddy had left you to freeze in the cold with, you see men in a whole different way. Mostly you are bitter about the whole lot. You even secretly want to tell them as they try to hit on you (yes. They don’t stop even when your are full and expectant and don’t care one bit for a single thing they might have to say) “hey papi,I know you! Your ilk and all your intentions. I saw you from a mile away.this warehouse is closed for renovation. Go bark down  another rabbit hole.” But you can’t.I can’t. There was something gentle and subtle about this guy in my inbox. He asked these questions about me with the genuine curiosity of a child. And no, its not that that was what I wanted to hear. Trust me,the person who came up with ‘once bitten twice shy,’was a woman done wrong and left in the cold most likely by a guy she would have died for.

Okay. I promised.No sob stories.

When I was approached to write this blog post, I was confused. Robbin had told me that he could write the story but it wouldn’t be credible.that to another single mother out there,this story would just be another mans attempt at telling a woman how to live her life. Its true. As a single mother,you experience a lot of setbacks. In between raising an infant on close to nothing but peanuts received from shitty jobs,you have to contend with the shade that’s thrown at you. The mama mboga who used to be pals with you now only sells stuff to you with a plastic smile and keeps asking you questions in a bid to find facts to make her gossip of you juicier. Sadly, it is only the very few genuine men you meet who will offer to help you without insisting to know who the father is. God bless your souls. All the women you encounter will almost demand to know who the father is before they can give you a helping hand. And its not like they will do anything about him even after knowing who he is. Its almost like they want to know or determine the reason why you would go so far as to have a kid with a man who cares less. I mean, was he a rich guy whose money you were after? Was he a famous guy whose personality clouded your judgement? Were you just plain naive and stupid? Were you raped? 

Different single mothers have different stories. My name is not important, but I will try and tell my story and possibly that of other young single mothers. Keep it here.

(Dis)honorable scars…uno

There is this beautiful Lady who keeps popping up on your feed on face book. “Add friend”, facebook insists, each time you log in.She is all the beauty of four clear night sky constellations, but, without the mediocre pretentious aura a woman with remotely the same beauty and age has. 

No. She doesn’t post photos of her dressed to impress ,striking a pose that accentuates her gluteus maxima with a caption like, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all righteousness’ . You know that type? The One that somehow, in the confines of this life and universe, finds a correlation between a quote in the holy book and the magnanimity of her derriere.

There is a silent promise in her eyes.She wears glasses and that makes you wonder if, for some reason the universe aligns and, you ever get to meet her whether you would be able to hold eye contact with that silent burning fire in her eyes.Like there is wood being choked by fire silently…patiently waiting to be the finest specimen of charcoal in the market.

Have you seen how charcoal is prepared? Did you know that the finest charcoal is the one choked for longer with little or no air under heaps of soil?

In bouts of curiosity, you prowl through her timeline. Casually, you try to construct her life from her Facebook feed but you cannot do much without sending her a friend request.

You send it. Flash forward. Three days later you receive the notification that she has accepted your friend request. For some reason you are filled with joy.You realize that you have been anticipating this silently and subconsciously, but it doesn’t disturb you a lot. A few minutes later you are knee deep into her profile.

About. You scroll. Check her age. Nothing. Just a day and month of birth.No year. Places she has lived. “Hmmm…she is well travelled’, you think to yourself.

Photos. Now you have access to most of her photos.You scroll through her albums.You pick a few info bytes here and there, and with those you are able to deduce that she is at the edge of her mid twenties if not on the onset of the second half of her twenties.

Moments later,you see a photo of her and a sweet kid.Immediately, you head to the comments and you determine, she is ,indeed, a mother.

Just like that, your ability to seek out for her truth sips out through societal crevices constructed in your perception process called prejudice.

You figure, “no wonder she is humble! I knew it…no Kenyan woman this beautiful would have this calm disposition without having been knocked up with a kid or two” , your thought process has already bagged and tagged her.”damaged goods”, the tag says.


Photo credits : suzanne McCorkell

But, you take a step back from the auto pilot setting societal constructs have built into these eyes you used to see her. You figure,”but I know that she has a story behind those firey  eyes.” 

You set out to know the truth. Her truth. Her story as told by her. You refuse to be the same as that mama mboga who ,probably, sees her at the market with a child and no husband and immediately says,”ona mwingine! Afathali Malaya analipwa….” Which translates to, “look at another one! At least prostitutes get paid…”

And so you set out on the journey to establish her story.

You begin the conversation on her inbox with an open mind…

“Hi…Is it okay if I said thanks for the add? Or do you consider it a cliche? *insert smiley face*”

a story of (lost) love…3

”Have you ever been in love?” …silence. It was raining in the streets of Kampala. There was this golden evening haze the sun let out that enveloped the city, it was magical, as though the clouds were amicably telling the sun that they can share the space…that it doesn’t have to be ‘either’ ‘or’. Men on bodabodas were hurdled up together in sheds weathering the storm all the while making fun at damsels in distress as it drizzled away. “They are all the same anywhere you go,” I thought to myself. Just close by was a guy going about making Rolex, completely oblivious of the drizzle. He was a jolly chap this one. He would make six chapos at ago on one pan and omlette on another.” Ogamba chi sebo?…dis one is very sweet bambi! should I give you and the madam one each? Straight from the fire, good for this cold sebo!” I looked at Z seated right next to me snuggled up in a black jacket, one that was not so long ago covering me from the cold. She looked indifferent; like it was an unwelcome interruption. “thank you sebo…may be next time,” I said to the guy.

kampala-rains

“robbin…I asked you a question…have you ever been in love?”

Fam…I didn’t know what to tell her. There we were, in the rain, in the laid back city of kampala.i was waiting to head back to Kenya and she was waiting for her aunt to pick her up. I sighed. I wanted to tell her everything. I wanted her to know that I have been in love from the first day I set eyes on her. I wanted her to know that the world could be ending right there and then but right there with her was where I would want to be.

”yes…I have known the fuzzyness of love.once. a beautiful torturous feeling that one”

“how did you tell her?”

“I didn’t…”

“Do you regret it?”

“no…”

“why not? Are you sure it was love?”

“is love…its still there…and I still have the chance”

“well! Unangoja? Firimbi? Mimi sitapanguza mtu machozi hehe!”

I pondered for a while.

“its you…I have fallen in love with you.”

“ sebo forgive me  eh? nothing expresses love like a hot rolex straight off the fire!” this guy! As if on cue. I nodded and he handed us two  neatly rolled rolex with serviettes to hold. Our eyes met as I handed her piece to her and she flushed. We ate. Silently.

rolex

”nipatie phone yako,”she said, looking up to me. I handed it to her and she started to punch the keys.

“unado?”

“nakupatia  number ya MTN, sitakuwa natumia ya saf for a while. I will be in kampala for a week or three.” And then she gave me this warm smile as if to say, ”its about time you confessed! I could see it in your eyes…I feel the same way about you.” or…atleast i hoped thats how she felt.

A toyota harrier came into the bus station and parked a few yards from where we were. that was her ride. She stood up, as if to leave but I held her hand and she sat again.

“sa umesemaje? I just confessed my innards to you and all you gave me was a warm very reassuring smile, but, I am not one to draw conclusions. What is your truth?”

“well robbin, I cant say I didn’t know about how you feel. but, my aunt is already here and she doesn’t like to wait. You have both my numbers now. We will talk about it, I promise. I like you too…a lot. “

Honk! Honk!

We stood up.

“baby steps?” I said, as I drew her in for a hug.

“baby steps!” she said as she gave me a fleeting kiss on my nose. She went into the car and waved as her haunt drove off.

Fam! Have you ever been kissed by someone you love? A crush even? on the nose? sigh! If two wires were tied to my ears, I would have effortlessly given the Ugandan national power grid a run for its money. I was charged. It felt like I was living. Like I now had found purpose.i could write a whole book on “how to find true love”.

“sebo…nice pick dat one. Very beautiful girl!which region does she come from? She looks like a Muchiga. very good women dos ones!
“kare sebo…she is my muchiga,” i said, as i paid him for the rolex we had eaten.

the  journey home was going to be a happy one.

Zuena nopima nola la kwagala yani….” radio and weasels song churned in my ears from the stereo in the bus.

i checked my phone. there was a message from z.

” 10:32 pm : goodnight you shy sweet thing you…xoxo”

i was headed home for the 2nd term holidays of form 5. our holidays were , on average, 2months long. this meant that i would be around long before Kenyan schools had closed, and long into their new term.

this holiday was different.i was in a relationship!

we soon found out that making calls was expensive. so we would constantly talk on Facebook. our inboxes were filled with sweet nothings and discussions on assignments we had been given for holiday. yes. we were nerds like that.

but the moment of reckoning came when everything just fell apart. it all started with my dad.

my phone rings.

“hello? how are you gentleman?…”

“Dad…i am fine”

“i just got informed by a friend at JAB that you have been selected for a course at Moi University. please check that out, halafu we will talk nikikuja jioni. sawa?”

“sawa…”

that evening, things happened that changed everything. i was, quite literally, put between a rock and a hard place. i had to chose between heading back to Uganda and proceeding with college in Kenya.

of course, i chose continuing with form 5. but, in a family where you are given all your options, their merits and demerits and a day or two to make a choice and “die with it”; i was in for a struggle.

naturally, i shared it with Z.

in the end, i enrolled for campus in Kenya. what i didn’t know was that, it was the end of my relationship with Z.

why? well…she went back to school for another three months, and i wasn’t there. everyone else was.including the Rwandan guys who were baying for her attention.

sadly…with time, any communications i tried to make begun to appear desperate (even for me…hehe).

right now?

well…like i said. she is in India finalizing on Med school.

*********************************************************************************

that’s it folks….sorry to have burst your bubbles. i have left out a lot that i didn’t feel was necessary. for instance we had had a few arguments here and there over some things. but feel free to comment and share widely, i would be eternally indebted. if you would love to know who Z is, interact with me via whats app on +254789521512….don’t worry…its a business line, so i will reply in due time. thanks and cheers to a good year ahead!

 

a story of (lost) love 2…

the Ugandan country side is one full of life. you travel there for your first time and you immediately fall in love with the people, their music, their warmth…everything about them is just humane. i remember crossing the border in a Kampala coach bus. i had only recently received my KCSE results and i was convinced that i wouldn’t qualify to uni for engineering, which was my dream profession as at that time. so my old man,(have you met him? find him here), in his wisdom, sat me down a day after results were out and gave me three options. But, being the adventure seeking young Turk i was, back then, i chose to travel to Uganda and take a jab at a form 5-6 education.

Image result for welcome to uganda

you get to the border and immediately you cross over there is an immediate shift in culture. you will find these fine mannered gentlemen seeking to change all your Kenyan money into the Ugandan currency but don’t be fooled, cons are real even in a country with a people as warm as Uganda. then there are these guys selling mishikaki only now its a quarter or a half chicken hanging from those stick tips.

Image result

 

its a day after i am registered in the school and i am beginning to get used to the glances from my classmates. i was the only Kenyan doing a science combination and that meant that i was picked on in class to answer questions just so they could gauge how (not so) clever i was. but more than anything, i hated the preps. we would wake up early and be in class by 5am. i never used to look forward to those mornings.

but all that changed the day ‘Z’ came to school. all of a sudden, i started to look forward to preps. i remember, i would wake up very early and clean up really well; even to the point of ironing my uniform.

i remember her first preps. she came to class like 5 minutes before it officially started and scanned the room for a place to sit. the second our eyes locked, she casually strolled over and sat immediately next to me and said, ” niaje Robbie!”

fam, you may never understand this feeling. let me give you context. imagine you are stuck right in the middle of the north pole,  with nothing but the Eskimos to talk to and they treat you okay, but you come across someone from Kenya and they just greet you in your local slang! home has never been that close. i felt like i was at archives and a long lost  friend just said hi. sigh!

from that point on, school became fun. we would go to classes pamoja. crack kenyan jokes and laugh at how clueless our tanzanian,Ugandan and rwandese friends were. the most fulfilling of all our classes was Kiswahili, mainly because their form 5 and 6 syllabus is class 4 to class 7 work here in kenya so it was childs play. we ridiculously aced all our swahili exams and it felt good, considering none of us were able to write home about our KCSE kiswahili results.chemistry was a bother ( sorry Cation). even in Uganda, chemistry was just a headache waiting to happen each tuesday morning and thursday afternoon. we would struggle to understand the exchange of ions every tuesday morning and relentlessly watch as our group members schooled us seriously on how a practical is done. i remember this guy called Mandali, he would titrate and suck those weird fluids into those tubes with such accuracy that it made me wonder what i was doing with my life.

anyhu…so ‘Z’ and i had a really awesome time acting so Kenyan away from Kenya. Sunday afternoons were particularly interesting, we would meet in the hall and watch telly  with our friends, of course, and listen as they basically misspell every single word in the Kenyan lyrics that we loved and sung along to much to their awe.

fam..the point is…i had fallen helplessly hopelessly in love with this fine mami and, i figured she knew. for some stupid reason, i figured i didn’t have to say it out loud and that, si “actions speak louder than words ?”

the sad truth is that, we never really got to make it official. we were just another quasi influential ‘couple’ who everybody assumed was together because the chemistry was breathtakingly ‘Titanic-ish’.

and where is Z right now? well, she is currently finishing up on her medical studies somewhere where elephants are friendly and spices are in everything, including tea.