Category: Experiences

Christmas Eve (by Blessing Abu, 13, Nigeria)

IT was a very busy day. Our compound was filled with people engaged in different activities. A group of men were setting up canopies at the front of the compound. Some women were at the back of the house, cooking. The youths were decorating the house with Christmas lights and setting up Christmas trees. Some children were playing in the compound while others made themselves useful by running errands for their parents who were working.

It was Christmas Eve and all preparations were being made for the Annual Christmas Feast that takes place on Christmas day, the 25th of December. The Annual Christmas Feast, is a ceremony that everyone in my community looks forward to. Indigenes of my community, that live abroad or in other parts of the country, would travel the long distance just to attend the ceremony. Families took turns in hosting the ceremony. This year, it was my family’s turn to host it and we were really prepared for it. We had renovated our house. It was a well structured and lavishly built, three bedroom flat. It stood out from other houses like a lump of glass amidst blunt stones.The rooms were spacious and beautiful. We had a store by the side of our house where we kept unused furniture and broken utensils. We had trimmed the flowers and grasses around the house and placed a banner outside our house to inform everyone, that we were the ones hosting the ACF (as it was usually called). We couldn’t afford to give the impression, that we were not capable of hosting the event. In my community, it was more like a competition, every host wanted to do better than the previous host.

As I walked through the compound that evening, greeting everyone, they all had smiles on their faces. I assumed it was the spirit of Christmas.  I could hear the women chatting and laughing as they cooked. And I could see the smoke rising from the backyard. In no time, a truck arrived carrying crates of assorted drinks. And a group of young boys took the drinks to the store.

I walked straight to the front of the house where the youths were and joined them in decorating the house. My mother was cooking with the women at the backyard, my little brother was playing with other children in the compound and my father had gone to pick up the clothes we had ordered for the occasion.  I was still working with the youths, when Mum called out to me.  I left what I was doing and ran to the back yard to meet her.

“Your Dad has returned with the clothes. He’s in the living room,” she told me.

“Ok Mum,” I replied.

I went to the living room. I met my Dad and he handed me a dress. It was very beautiful. More beautiful than all the dresses I ever had. It was even more beautiful than the dresses my friends had. I ran to mother’s room changed into the new clothes, stared at my changed image in the mirror and stepped out coyly with a smile on my face. My dad couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw me. ” You are very beautiful, ” he said still looking at the dress on me. “Thank you daddy,” I coyly responded.

I admired the dress as I looked into the human size mirror . It was a foreign dress. A pink flare short gown.  I didn’t want to take it off.

“Thank you very much Daddy. I really love this dress,” I said, excitedly as I knelt beside him.

“You’re welcome dear,” he said with a broad smile on his face.

 “Take it off now. I think they still need your help, outside,” he replied, sternly.

“Alright Daddy. Thanks again,” I said. As I carefully pulled it off and took it to my room. I went outside to continue with the decoration. They were almost done with it when I arrived. I just helped to do the finishing. In a short while, we were through with it. And they left leaving behind only the women cooking at the backyard and their children were left in the compound. I could perceive the aroma of the numerous meals they had prepared and the ones still steaming on fire.

My thoughts strolled back to my dress. I smiled as I remembered it. I couldn’t wait to wear it. I imagined how the event would look like.  My mother’s voice cut through my thoughts sharply like a dagger.  I ran to the backyard to meet her.

“Please, lead the women to the store. So that they can keep the food there,” she said. As she walked to the front of the house and into the living room. I led the women to the store, where they carefully placed the pots of the  different meals they had cooked. I could hear them chatting and laughing as they went back to the backyard to share the jollof rice that was left in the pot. Meanwhile, the children were still running and playing around the compound.

My Christmas dress was the only thing on my mind. I rushed to my room, took  the dress and wore it. The mirror in my room was a small one. So I couldn’t see the dress completely. I wasn’t satisfied.  I wanted to have a full view of the dress. There was a large mirror in the living room but I couldn’t go there. Because my Mum was there and she would scold me for wearing the dress before time. Then I remembered that there was a mirror with a faulty frame in the store. I sneaked into the store, turned on the light, dusted the mirror and raised it up. Supporting it with my hand.

I looked into the mirror, admiring my dress and smiling to myself. Suddenly I heard a noise from the door. Someone was trying to open it. I got scared. Wondering who it was. Could it be my Mum? If she sees me in the store, she would really scold me. I could still hear my Mum discussing with my Dad, in the living room. It couldn’t be her. Who was it then?

Jumping over several obstacles, I tried to make my way through to back of the store, where unused furniture were kept. But before I could get there, the lights suddenly went out. Revealing the blinding darkness. I got confused. Really confused.I didn’t know whether to stand still or keep moving.  I stood there, wondering what to do next. Suddenly the door opened wide. My heart pounded uncontrollably.  I made up my mind, forcing my way through the direction of the unused furniture. My dress was caught by an old furniture. I tried to pull it off. But it was stuck. I pulled it with all my might. And I fell massively to the ground. Landing heavily on my hind end. For a while I felt paralyzed. I wanted to cry out as the pain spread throughout my system. But, attracted everyone in the compound. I heard several footsteps approaching the store. My senses were quickened. As I realized the big trouble I would be in, if my mother should find out that I was in the store.

Quickly, I tried to stand up to my feet. Holding the nearest object for support. Unfortunately I held the stew pot. Pulling it towards me. It lost balance spilling its hot and peppery contents on me and on my Christmas dress.  I couldn’t bear the pain anymore. I screamed at the top of my voice. The footsteps quickened. This time I heard the voice of my parents, outside. My Dad asked the women,  what was going on while my Mum was screaming my name. As they all  rushed into the store with torch lights.

There I sat covered in stew. My dress, completely ruined. And there stood my Mum, my Dad, the women who had just finished cooking, their children and my little brother who had opened the door initially. Everyone, wearing a confused look on their faces. I raised my hand, to cover my face from the rays of light that came from the torchlight.

I had beaten the drums too loud.  And I was definitely going to face the music.  “It was a memorable Christmas Eve. One that I would never forget,” I concluded.

*

“Wow! This is the most interesting story I have heard about Christmas Eve,” Nelly, my six year old daughter, said.

“Well, that’s how I remember it my dear,” I replied.

“I’m sure you were really spanked,” she said, jokingly.

“You can’t begin to imagine. All right, go to bed now. We have a big day, tomorrow,” I said, patting her on the back.

“All right, Mum,” she said, settling into her bed.

“Merry Christmas in advance,” I said, with a big smile on my face.

“Merry Christmas, Mum,” she replied, smiling back at me. I stood up from the bed and walked out of the room.

*

It was exactly twenty years after the night of that unfortunate incident.  It was Christmas Eve. The moon was in the sky like a giant diamond ball. In the distant I could hear the sound of explosives in the midnight air.


Happy holidays!

LAST CHRONICLE OF A NEW WRITER_25

If for a moral teaching, the gods shouldn’t have disposed me to encounter that episode. If for retribution for my misdeeds, the payment surpassed the principal deeds.

I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room down in Dagoretti; now eight months since Jane and I separated. I am not quite in the frame of mind to tell the details of the separation, but I only mention that Fred heard that Jane had given birth to a baby who half resembled him, and half me, and thereafter visited my house to claim his blood. There was a clamor in the house, when Fred came one evening, as Jane swore that she’d never marry him, even if a DNA test should wipe any doubts. In my tribe, people never feud over a baby, for it might spell ruination for the innocent soul. Despite this, it is also law, customary, that a man’s child can never be raised by another man, especially one born out of the circumstances of a love triangle. To shorten this tale about Jane, the three of us agreed to the DNA test, which was conducted a week later. To my relief—I am not sure if this was right—it turned out that Fred was the true father. Jane, distraught, went to her mother’s and has never spoken to Fred since, as far as I know. She has called me several times, and we have talked over general stuff. I have never known if the step I took was the best. We only grow wiser in retrospect.

Anyway, as I said before, I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room in Dagoretti this Sunday, after leaving the church, where I deposited all my confessions. Yesterday, my crew (Ken, Peter, Eric, Adam and Alex) and I, went to town, to celebrate a huge sale we had made Friday evening. At the end of the transaction, each of us, became entitled to at least two million shillings each, and more to come in the following days. This Saturday now, the day of celebration, Ken, being our supervisor, drove us from the shop there at River Road, to a club in Westlands. And we partied all right, for most part of the night.

On our way back, from Westlands, Adam, who was less drank than the rest of us, drove. He would drop each of us in our estates, and then would ride the car to his own place, and return it to Ken on Sunday. During this drive back to town, as we had to drop Peter somewhere along Jogoo road, we passed through Uhuru Highway, and then turned to Haile Selassie road.

Dear reader, I believe you know that this world carries many surprises within its late nights and early mornings, when the gods and spirits traverse the streets in cities.

The car that we drove in, a white Toyota Harrier, Ken had bought it a week earlier. Who ever knew that it would seem (to the police) like a stolen vehicle? Who ever knew? Ah!

As we coursed through Haile Selassie, I heard a siren warn behind us. In our casual manner, we said the policemen could go sleep hungry, as we wouldn’t hand them a shilling in bribe, for whatever charge they may raise. In consequence, and in playful manner, Adam accelerated the car, and we soon passed under the footbridge near Times Tower, and headed close to the roundabout, joining Moi Avenue.

A bullet, or something like it, blasted behind us. I heard a clink on the back window, and then Adam threw his body upon the steering wheel, and a deafening honking began, as the car careened towards the roundabout. He was dead.

At that moment, none of us knew what was happening, and I at one point imagined Adam to be pulling a dangerous trick on us. But when the car sped close to the roundabout, and the sirens grew louder, I realized trouble surrounded us. In panic, Ken stretched to the steering wheel from the middle seat, in an attempt to gain control of the car. In seconds, the car knocked the bounding of the roundabout, and I believe I was thrown off the car.

The police then must have realized that they mistook this car for a stolen one, else I would have found myself at the Central Police Station—which would have been a better option, I swear.

What happened is, reader, what happened is, I found myself among the dead at the City Morgue.

I am a fan, reader, of the television series The Walking Dead, and I fancy watching the zombies stagger after trapped real characters. I am a fan, of horror movies, and I like to see the lead characters struggle against the bad ones. I am a fan, of dreadful novels, and I revel in reading how some characters suffer at the hands of antagonists.

Let me tell you however, my dear reader, concerning that night I aforementioned, that at the sight of the scene in the morgue, I died. Not in the literal meaning in particular, but suffice it to report that all my senses died, apart from my senses of sight and touch. For a duration that seemed so long, I remained among the bodies, upon which the officers must have thrown me, earlier in the morning. Fear burst my heart, but I couldn’t twitch; sweat poured out of my skin, but I couldn’t wipe it; a word, a cry, a shout, of the screaming and cursing and repenting kind, rose inside my throat, but I couldn’t talk. On my back, as I had laid supine, I felt gummy flesh and fluids associate with my cloth and skin and hair.

I cried in silence, and offered prayers to all the gods of my lineage. I petitioned Taifa the first, first of his name, and asked him to spare my life. I cried in silence, and prayed to the true God, He of the Christians, that He should redeem my life, and thereby spare me the agony of purgatory. I confessed all my sins, all of them, of both omission and commission, and those I might have committed while an infant, and even in my mother’s womb, so that if I should die here among the bodies, I would sit by the right side of the Saints when I cross over on the day of rupture; with the Abrahams, the Moses, the Jacobs and all. I cried in silence, and vowed I would run to a Father of the first Catholic Church I would find, confess my sins and join the brotherhood.

Be careful what you ask for. This statement is recorded somewhere.

I am not sure if the morgue attendants caught my silent confessions; I couldn’t hear the confessions myself, but I said them anyway, in my heart. I am not sure if they heard me, but I recall some hand flung the main door open, as though he (or she) forgot a living soul inside, at which instant some godly strength filled my muscles, and I rose from the pile of the dead, and bolted outside, in the course of which the attendants shrieked and scampered to directions I don’t remember.

I am now nearing the end of this long recount, which I started months ago to speak about my experiences, as a new writer.

It was early morning when I left the morgue. It was very cold outside. And it was drizzling a little.

Soon I regained my sense of location, and I realized I walked near Kenyatta Hospital roundabout. Towards Ngong road I then hurried, and boarded a matatu which contained a few passengers, coming from town. The passengers scrutinized my aspect, and I suppose they suspected I had drank myself to unconsciousness and fell and slept in a sewer hole down in Muthurwa. One of the passengers paid twenty shilling for my fare, as she thought me of the deranged kind, I believe, and pitied me therefore.

Anyway, I alighted at Dagoretti roundabout, and ran to the church behind the shopping centre there. There was a mass going on at this hour, and I burst in through the door, followed the aisle, and knelt before the Father when I reached him at the dais, him who was issuing the sermon now, from which book I can’t recall.  I clung to his leg, and entreated him to pray for me, as I needed massive prayers at once. He never asked what happened to me, but placed a hand on my filthy hair, and prayed a very long prayer, as I had ever heard, hitherto.

Thereafter, feeling relieved and pure, I went and sat on the front row, on a space a choir woman had left for me.

When the mass ended, I united with Father again, at which point I recounted my life experiences, and my experiences as a writer, upon which he advised that I should blog about it, for the sake of other sheep like me.

#The End.

Thank you very much for reading these recounts. You are my fan, always.

Regards,

Taifa Mkenya.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_24

They say a cat leads nine lives; a butterfly, several; and a true Christian, two: here and hereafter. I do not know about a drug peddler, whom I had become. Anyway, what I had become I didn’t know anymore, in the manner of understanding myself as before. And what Jane might say about my new tendency, I didn’t mind anymore. And what neighbors would think about my abrupt wealth, well…they could have written a gossip column about it, for all I minded.

I worked and walked more at night than day. I slept more during the day than night. I bought a sweatshirt with a hood to cover my head and face, and shades for my eyes too. I walked with my head stooped; and I became wary of new faces, which I often supposed detectives, or avengers, who might have prowled after me, in desire to locate my house, or place of work. These maneuvers I employed, partly out of my choice–for obscurity, and partly  out of a directive from Ken (my supervisor), who oversaw the distribution business.

At home, Jane had become livelier, as she neared the end of her pregnancy term. Three months had passed, since I discovered that  JLK Regional Suppliers Company, for which I had earlier worked as an accountant during the day, peddled cocaine during the night. One of the conditions Ken issued to me after the discovery, included: not sharing with anybody, related to me by blood or spirit (as he knew at one point I went to church once a while). So, when Jane asked where I got all the money, to furnish the house, and buy her a small car, all within two months, I said I had worked harder than any man in the city ever had.

The change in our station inspirited her, and she dropped the militant tendency, which she had acquired not long past.  One night, she said, “Taifa, Bae, what would you do, say…if, for example, ah—let me put it this way. Would you accept a kid that is not yours?”

I said children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t instigate a dispute. She said I had dodged her question. I said again, that children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t cause a party, to dodge a responsibility upon the other party. She said I had dodged her question the second time, but that it mattered little at the time. In this I read a possibility that the soon-to-be-born baby might be Fred’s, my former roommate. Anyway, we counted down the days, to a week or so.

By now I had acquired a muscle, what you may call ‘financial muscle’; and I did remit funds to my uncle in Maili Tisa, once a week. He would appreciate, and then castigate me for refusing to marry a good girl, whom he and his wife had hunted for me. I never revealed to him, that at the time, Jane had choked me so, that I had not a breathing room, nor decision making capacity, nor any freedom whatever.

About the lecturer, Caren’s husband; our friendship flourished. He gave me, for free, a book he had published, on writing styles. I found it (the book) engaging, and mind-opening. I never discontinued the routine (even in my change of fortune) of writing articles and submitting to the lecturer for review. These later times, I wrote about our drug operations at night: how we, Alex, Peter, Eric and I, and sometimes with Ken himself, drove to Dandora, or Eastleigh, to ferry coke. I wrote about the times policemen would stop us, and one of us, mostly Ken, would leave the car to talk to them. I wrote about the instance when a disagreement arose between us and the guys from whom we bought drugs down in Eastleigh, and Eric chose to burst the head of one of them with a bullet, before my eyes, to scare the rest of them into an understanding. I wrote about how I (using other characters of course) often feared for my life, as we had obtained intelligence, that rival gangs plotted a revenge against us. I also wrote about my domestic affairs; mainly about Jane, and how she had changed, and behaved more wifely. All these I wrote, and submitted to the lecturer myself, without Jane objecting, as she had done many weeks before; and the lecturer said, if I continued with the same fervor, I would make a  fine novelist someday.

The day of labor arrived, one Sunday morning, in the month of October. I drove Jane to a hospital in Nairobi, and admitted her. This being my first experience in childbirth, I called Jane’s mother, that she might apply her experience in this matter. I stayed with my mother-in-law in the hospital till evening. Meanwhile, many thoughts danced in my mind, and the lady noticed my agitation.

“Taifa, it will be fine,” said she.

“Yap,” said I.

“I know you will make an excellent father.”

“Yap.”

I never worried about the success of the procedure and all, to say the truth, but whether  the kid would be mine or no.

Jane became a mother, at 6:45 pm, and at once named the boy, Taifa Jr. And she maintained that that name would stay, even against the playful persuasions from her mother, who hoped the kid might be named after her own father (Jane’s grandfather). The nurse permitted us to see Mother Jane, sometime in the early night.

When I laid my eyes upon her, I felt a different level of reverence for her, that I had never felt before. I saw her as a mother, and not as a wife per se. I felt some form of triumph, and excitement, to have been attached to her.

Then the turn came to look at the baby.

She had covered it in a shawl, everywhere, but its face. I bent to observe its face, and noticed that half of its nose looked like Fred’s, and the other half, looked like mine. Then I scrutinized the lips, and accepted that the upper lip resembled Fred’s, and the lower, mine. I said, “Hello toto, hello toto,” so it might open its small eyes. When it did, I noticed it had a dark left eye, like Fred’s, and a brighter, right eye, like mine. I then searched for one of its hands within the shawl, and said, “Toto, say hi to daddy, say hi to daddy.”

Meanwhile, Jane looked at my face, and all the while said, “Bae, isn’t he cute. Taifa Jr., isn’t he cute?” and I would nod and say, “Yap, yap,” when in truth, a foreign feeling crept up my gut. I found the tiny hand, at last. I fished it out of the shawl, and said, as I looked at it, “Boy, aren’t  you cute?” I observed that its thumb resembled my thumb, and all the other fingers, resembled all the fingers that Fred, my former roommate, had.

I have never thought it possible that a man may at one time in his life need to betray two opposite and strong feelings at the same time. It would work, if a man could split his face into two, I think. In my case, I say, one side of my face, or of my brain, felt the reverence and pride for Mother Jane, and urged me to stay in her life; yet the other side of my face, where my left eye sees from, felt confusion, and betrayal, somewhat, as I found it easier to believe the beautiful boy wasn’t mine. I looked at Jane with both my eyes, and I could see that she received conflicting signals.

“Honey, are you very happy, or very scared?” she said, “Do you need to sit down?”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_23

I coiled back into the car and Alex drove on; either Peter or Eric (at the back), having greeted one of the officers through the window.

On this second leg of the drive to Dandora, none of us spoke. I looked straight on upon the tarmac this night, as it raced backwards underneath our probox, and well into my memory. I thought of my folks in Maili Tisa. Uncle, and his wife—and the seven daughters; of what they might say about me, if they knew, that at this moment, I sat in a car that headed to Dandora to ferry Coke. Of how Joan might wail, if she heard that I enrolled myself into a gang. And thus, the story of Teret shot in my mind; the young man whose father owned a big garage in Eldoret town. The story goes: when Teret joined a university in Nairobi to study Psychology, he studied for the first two semesters then terminated that study business. Some people said he’d traveled abroad to continue his study in a foreign university; but my Uncle’s wife, who fellow-shipped with Teret’s mother, said he did join a gang of robbers in the city, and the police shot him one night in the right thigh, and so he walked with a crutch since.

Then I recalled the story of Debby, which went thus: she left her home, which existed a kilometer from ours, on your way to Eldoret, and she traveled to Nairobi to work as a house-help. She worked for her employer for six months, then one moment, when schools reopened, she thieved twenty thousand shillings, which her boss had entrusted her with, to pay school fees for the son (the employer’s). Her boss, being a rich woman in the city, tracked her with the aid of the police. So Debby had no place else to hide in the city, and she fled to Mombasa. There in Mombasa, the story goes, she joined a nightclub, and danced around a pole for tourists. By and by, a mzungu, the story says, married her, when she’d danced like a snake one night, a deed which impressed the man so. Thereafter, the man bought her a big house in Mtwapa, and furnished it with all the house-things  a woman might desire, which Debby saw and knew of, and a load of drugs in one of the cabinets, which Debby never knew of. The tale goes on to relate, how one night, when Debby’s husband had traveled to Nairobi on business, police officers raided Debby’s house, and searched nowhere else but the cabinet with sacks of Coke. The police hauled her and her goods to the station, and while there, she called her husband, but discovered his phone off, and so has it remained since. Nobody knows what happened to Debby afterwards; if she ended in one of the prisons at the coast, or whether she paid a fine for freedom, anybody could guess.

These stories and more; and agitation, swirled in my mind in my silence, so much so that Alex noticed. He touched my hand, but I pushed his away. Silence then followed, as we slowed down, on account of the traffic, as we had reached Dandora; and Alex begun to navigate to its dark outskirts. At a dumpsite we then stopped, and Alex turned off the headlamps; then he, Peter and Eric exited the car, having instructed me to remain inside. A while later, another can drove up the same route we followed, and stopped behind ours, then switched off the lights. What exact place we stopped I couldn’t tell; in front of our car however (what setting I had noticed as we drove in earlier), the dumpsite existed; on one side, a high wall; on the other, a fence of old iron sheets; and darkness everywhere. Away from here, you could see lights twinkling on the buildings yonder, and hear hooting of vehicles and the din from nightclubs.

While seated in the car, I wondered what my role entailed in this transaction, and what I might relate to the police, should they ambush this party, on account of a betrayal, from…from I don’t know whom. At one instant my hand reached the steering wheel, that I might honk with all my fear and might, and thus reveal our hideout, and thereby secure my escape amid the confusion; but my hand froze upon the wheel, when I imagined that such an alarm would startle everybody, and no one ever wants to scare a criminal who placed a finger on a trigger.  I was crushed by fear; I was crushed by tension; I was crushed by apprehension, that I began to self-talk:

“O, Taifa. Son of Mkenya, grandson of Mkenya the First. I am a gangster.

“O, Alex, friend in my youth. A brother in all times. You have betrayed me?

“Eh. Alex Matano, son of Matano, when did it start?

“Tell me then, tell me now, tell me how—” I saw flashlights sweep across the darkness.

Occupants of the second car had discharged themselves from it, and I now caught murmurs and grunts. I turned my neck to spy on them, and counted five people in total, as far as I could note, whenever a flashlight blinked, as to illuminate a packet of Coke, or a bundle of cash (which I saw Eric hand the other two fellas at the end of this transaction). At the end of it, I heard the boot of the car fly up, and packets of substance drop in, after which a hand shut the boot close, boop!

My colleagues returned, and entered the car; and this time, Eric Kama would drive. As he ignited the car, he turned to me, under the light in the car, and said, “You are one of us now. You are part of the family. Only death gets you out if it, nothing else.” I understood him well, as he meant that the family possessed the capacity to track me wherever in the country, if I ever should disclose what nature of transaction I witnessed tonight, to any soul. I turned my face away, and out the window, and wept. We left the site first, and had driven for a few minutes, when we perceived a gun shot behind us; and I figured one of the two fellas we’d transacted with, had murdered the other. Alex, Peter and Eric, began to laugh.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_22

In a marriage, as in any other engagement between male and female, whether formal or come-we-stay-put, it is not always Valentine. I arrived at this conclusion months after Jane Shish had revealed to me her pregnancy, by me. During this period, our relationship had mutated into something else, which drained my emotions and altered my sanity. Since the moment she caught wind from Maili Tisa that the folks there wanted to fetch a wife for me, as they remained opposed to my marrying a Nairobi woman; Jane limited my communication with them. She stayed with my phone, and checked any logs whenever I received a call or message, when she delayed in the bathroom or somewhere else.

Further, she whined that we needed to get more money, in readiness for the baby, who’d come in two months. This meant that I should press Ken, my supervisor, to raise my pay, or hunt for another job, which would pay more, or get an extra gig on the side. This pressure discomfited my life in that house, and I found a way to talk to the folks at home about it, by means of Caren’s phone, which she gave me in secret. Whenever I talked to Joan (Uncle’s last daughter), I told her I didn’t understand how I ended up living with a lunatic, in the name of a wife. And she would tell me that I complicated the whole situation, when the option of walking out of the house at once, existed. In my response, I told her that the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most; that I couldn’t walk out, without considering the repercussions. What if the baby was indeed mine? What if Jane should drink rat poison, as she had threatened, should I abandon her?

These worries and thoughts thinned my body, I had to belt my trousers tighter, and wear older shirts, which fitted my reducing frame. These developments I wrote about, and submitted the writings to the lecturer, who in recent months, said I had improved my writing. Other times, when he’d marked my work, he would call me to his house on the third floor of this flat, on Caren’s advice I supposed, and ask me how I did. He would then tell me that if I needed any kind of help, be it counsel or else, I should not delay to consult him. I found him an interesting fellow, despite my initial reservations.

I had mentioned before that Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a supervisory role, where I supervised some night-time activities at work? Yes. I had now worked for several months in this position, but he hadn’t raised my pay to match the rise; and so I reminded him one Monday evening. Ken said he would raise the pay, and that I should remain patient, as he reviewed my performance, under that probative period. During these night shifts, which lasted from 7 pm to 11 pm, I recorded the number of goods in small cartons that Peter and Eric and Alex brought in a Probox; which goods we then stored in the room behind the shop.

The following day, Tuesday, Ken allowed me to accompany Peter and crew, to wherever they obtained the goods which they brought in to the shop. Alex drove the vehicle, and I sat by him, while Eric and Alex talked at the back. We left River Road, and headed to Dandora. Alex and I didn’t talk at first, but when Alex did, he asked me why I enrolled for the night shift. For the first time, I shared with him my domestic affairs, and told him how Jane suffocated me, and he pitied me so. However, he said I shouldn’t have chosen the night shift business, however much I needed an extra coin. I asked him why. He raised the volume of the radio, so the men at the back couldn’t hear us, and said, “We are going to bring drugs. Cocaine.”

In college, Alex pulled pranks on me many times that I got immune to them. I told him to stop playing with me, as the reasons which directed my decision, meant something to me. At once he fished a small packet out of his jacket pocket, and dropped on my lap. I lifted the thing, and checked it in a subtle manner, so as the men at the back wouldn’t notice. As certain as my name is Taifa Mkenya, I had inducted myself into a gang of drug dealers, where the odds of catching a bullet, or a knife, or a lot of money, or sleeping in jail, remained high.

We came to a police check point as we neared Dandora, and Alex stopped as instructed. Without being discovered, I unlocked the door, and made a start as to jump out at the feet of the policemen; but Peter—or Eric, stuck a cold metal on the side of my stomach, and I at once knew what it meant.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_21

Three months had passed since I met the lecturer, Caren’s husband, he who now guided my writing classes; I say three months had passed since, in the course of which Jane had fallen pregnant; and at work, Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a position upon which I supervised some night operations; while back at Maili Tisa, Uncle had (by what means I didn’t know) discovered that I’d never flown to Eastern Europe for studies, and had thence disowned me.

Once the folks in Maili Tisa had uncovered my treachery, Joan, the youngest of Uncle’s seven daughters, had called me one night, and entreated me to travel home and ask for pardon from Uncle. She said, that her mother—Uncle’s wife that is, would implore Uncle on my behalf, for he to grant this forgiveness. She revealed too, that her mother held the opinion that, the girls in the city had polluted my mind and altered my disposition, to that of a detestable young man; and that, solution lay in finding me a decent young woman from the village, who’d care for me, in the customary way, as did wives of yore.

These developments about me formed most of the themes I practiced on, as I wrote passages to the lecturer, who read and rated my work. I wrote about the night Jane, while cooking, informed me, in an unforeseen manner, that she’d become pregnant. I wrote about how, upon this revelation, confusion confounded me, meanwhile wondering, how this could have happened, since I owned a packet of a hundred condoms, and never failed to use one, whether in a sober position, or a drunk position. I wrote about how I swore and cursed, and told Jane that the baby should belong to Fred, her former boyfriend anyway. I wrote about how Jane turned wild, and tossed spoons and knives and pans and semi-cooked food my way, and how she shattered glass and plates and yanked the kitchen drawers and yelled and insulted me and caused such havoc I had never seen before. I wrote about how neighbors, having heard the racket in our house, and in fear that I might harm Jane, or she me, called the janitor to check upon us. I wrote about how I hurled a stool in the direction of the door (which had remained unlatched hitherto), when the janitor appeared, that he presently retreated, after which I bolted the door from inside. I wrote about how Jane picked a thick rod from the kitchen drawers, left there by the builders of this house I think, and pursued me to the sitting room; and how she hunted me with it, and how I avoided her by revolving about the table, and sometimes the couch, all the while denying responsibility, and she saying, ‘You think you can deny this baby?’ touching her belly, ‘Just like that? Huh? You don’t know me. I swear!’ and she’d strike the table with her rod, as I maintained utmost vigilance, should she decide without warning, to hurl the rod at me. I wrote about how we stayed in this state of combat for long, one dancing for escape and the other for capture, with knocks and bangs at the windows and door, of neighbors’ pleas. I wrote about the attempt I made, of jumping at Jane, to snatch the rod, when I thought she’d grown weary of the dance around the table and couch; and how she had dodged my coming, like a cat, and I had thus missed her and fallen to the rug, at which opportunity she struck my back with the rod, and I issued a cry that every creature in the five-floors flat heard.

I wrote about how Jane snubbed all voices from the windows and door, entreating her to stop the beating; but waited for mine, for she’d asked me more that thrice now, accompanied by a strike on my back after each question, if I would deny or accept responsibility, and I hadn’t responded yet, but suffered the strikes in silence. I wrote about how her voice turned shrill and her anger intensified, as she asked the same question many times, without accessing a satisfying response from me: ‘Huh, Taifa? You deny this baby?’ doof. A hit on my back. ‘Taifa, say it! You deny this baby?’ doof doof! ‘What kind of man are you? This. Is. Your. Baby. Get that! You hear, Taifa?’ doof doof doof!

I wrote about how I felt my spine crack. I wrote about how I heard, at length, a familiar voice of Caren, calling from the window, and beseeching Jane to stop her business. I wrote about how Caren spent the night in our house, as a peacekeeper and mediator, to thwart the possibility of another episode of violence erupting during the night. I wrote about how, after that incident, I questioned my role and status in that house; and how Caren had mediated between us—the warring husband and wife, and how she asked the wife to remain submissive to the husband—as the Christian ethic required, and for me, the husband, to love and respect the wife, notwithstanding the new militant side of her I had now witnessed, which of course posed a security threat to my well-being (as we waited to confirm, after eight months or so, by look of nose and fingers and lips and eyes, the paternity of the baby).

I wrote about how a new order established itself in the house, under which I assumed, without choice, the second position in command. Under this arrangement, I’d tell Jane beforehand, any plans I had, of visiting friends or of doing whatever I wanted, and then she’d grant full permission, under which I’d do as I pleased; or half permission, which now included some caveats, as of the time I should return home, or the amount of money I should spend, or whom I should visit or no.

I wrote and submitted these works to the lecturer, sometimes in secret, via Caren, she who’d grown averse to Jane’s new temperament, by and by. I wrote how I began to miss the folks back in Maili Tisa, and thought Joan’s suggestion, of me going to ask for pardon from Uncle, made mighty sense; and how melancholy ruled my mind, and sadness crowned my face. I wrote these works and submitted to the lecturer, who read and rated them. He’d make red marks in the work and include comments in minute font, which I failed to understand sometimes what he meant to say. He’d cross whole sentences, and claim they made no sense whatever; and advise instead, that I rather used strong verbs and nouns. He’d say, in his comments, that, the story’s sad tone notwithstanding, it should, the story that is, in the least, capture the attention of the reader, and bear some human truth in it. Having reviewed a writing, he’d return it to me, via Caren, in secret sometimes, and ask me to redo, especially for the writings he thought had the potential to improve.

In this style, I continued to sharpen my writing, until one night, when Jane and I lay in bed in silence, and a call rang on my phone. Joan, Uncle’s last daughter had called, and first had asked if we could talk (for this was her way of determining if I was alone and could so speak freely). I said yes. In truth, I had turned on the speaker of my phone (one of Jane’s new guidelines) so Jane could catch the conversation. Joan began to speak on the phone, and I only responded with mnh, eeh, I hear you, very well, thank you, ah? Is it so? Very well, mnh, thank you  and silence at her last words, and a disconnect of the call by me, and a subsequent powering down of the phone, for she had said at last, in Jane’s hearing, that her mother had located a suitable and decent girl for me to marry, and that I should go home Saturday to evaluate her.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_19

An agreement had been struck, that when ready, I’d tell Caren—she that lived in the lower floor (I lived on the upper floor), in that flat along Ngong Road, to invite her husband, a lecturer of literature, for a gathering. In this gathering, Caren would employ her charm upon the man, and persuade him that I, Taifa Mkenya, her friend, needed critical training in the matter of creative writing. Well, do not think that this matter had reached the stage of life and death; for I had never written a word hitherto, but worked daytime, in that firm along River Road. Proper to say, that Caren had a way of converting thoughts and wishes into actions; mostly the thoughts and wishes of those souls about her, among whom I belonged, I suppose.

Aside from advocating for my learning of the writing business, Caren pushed for the unity of Jane Shish (her friend too) and me. As it happened, a quiet mode of living had been started, a month old now, between Jane Shish and me, as of husband and wife; though to reveal the truth, I itched from day to day, that I should mine a reason whatever, for termination of this arrangement. If you must know, Jane Shish had dated my former host, Fred, the person who hosted me for some months when I stepped upon the city for the first time. Then, by and by, Jane (as she visited Fred’s house in which I stayed, sometimes when Fred delayed at work for one thing or other) and I grew closer. One day, in a house warning party somewhere in Umoja Estate, which all three of us attended, besides Caren; in the name of I don’t know what, under the influence of I don’t know what, under the guidance of an agile black monkey on my left shoulder and a sleepy little angel on my right shoulder, and in the merry influence of a first-time beer (for me), Jane and I saw a forbidden fruit, and jumped at it, and plucked it, and bit it. So it began.

But now, in the course of these end months of 2014, I began to suffocate under Jane’s presence. I would want to visit Magomano Bar for a bottle but she’d want to visit someplace else for dinner; I’d want to stay out on Friday night and she’d want us to snug ourselves on the couch for a comedy; I’d want to visit the church to repent all my sins for the week and she would want us to travel to Machakos; I’d want to see my friends some evenings and she would tell me to grow out of boyhood, and into manhood, in preparation of husband-to-be business. In this manner, our union grew apart. However, Caren, in her element, favored the confirmation of this union; and, often she’d say, in a jolly manner, that she’d relish to play the role of maid of honor.

In this manner, Jane and I lived. Towards the very end of 2014, mid-December I think, I resorted to short speeches and grunts, as the primary mode of communication, to avoid elongated arguments, most of which Jane won. I discovered, late in time however, through trials and fails, and some pain, that I could avoid squabbles with Jane if I shut up, or if I issued one-worded responses, and one-lettered grunts. For example, she’d come home in the evening, there at Dagoretti Corner, and upon opening the door, and finding me watching an episode or whatsapping, she’d would start talking at the door. Mostly she spoke over themes that culminated in a word ‘marriage’, or ‘wife’, or ‘husband’, or ‘wedding’, being dropped somewhere within the long sentences. I remember one evening, the same evening that Caren’s husband came. This evening, as standard, Jane unbolted the door (I’d locked it from inside), and found me lying on the couch, quarter-asleep. I didn’t open my eyes when she stepped in, but raised my snoring.

From the door she said:

“Hey hun, I went to town today, after work. Guess who I met! I met…I met”—I heard her unstrap her sandals—“hoosh. I met Apondi. You know what, she is marrying Ken!” I wanted to ask which Ken she meant; for I worked, there at River Road, under a supervisor called Ken Onyango; moreover, she and I both knew the lady called Eve Apondi, who, as a matter of fact introduced me to Ken during those days I stayed in Fred’s house in Kawangware. Which Ken she meant I wanted to ask, but feared  she should drag me into an argument I had avoided in the last few weeks. Therefore, I snored more; but she spoke more: “Can you imagine that! She is marrying Ken, of all people. Who would have imagined that, mnh!” I heard her step upon the rug, and head to the fridge on the other side. “Hun, I know you can hear me. Can you imagine that? Ken—of all people, marrying Apondi. Who would have seen that coming, mnh!” I heard the fridge click open, and a bottle ping, and the fridge click shut soon. Next, I knew she’d walk over to me, at the couch. In consequence, I stiffened my body, and snored louder, and paused the snores at some points, and filled those points with heavy grunts and snorts, and shook my head in short jerks, and twitched some of my toes and fingers, to give the impression that I suffered a nightmare at this point.

Despite all these mechanisms, Jane came and sat on the couch’s arm, upon which my head lay, facing up, and cupped my chin with her palm. “I know you can hear me, hun. You see how easy it is. To get married. You just wake up, and, there! You have it. We should, can you”—she slapped my cheek—“can you hear me, hun? Haiya, are you ok, hun? Haiya—he is not, he is not,” said she in a whisper; for I had by now held my body very still and suspended my breathing altogether. “Haiya, he is sick, he is sick,” she said to herself. Then to me, “Hun, wake up.” She tapped my shoulder. “Hun, wake up now.” She swayed my head. “Taifa, wake up now.” She tugged at my t-shirt. “Taifa! Wake up!” She punched my chest with both fists and a ball of spittle choked me so, I sat up quick and coughed my tongue out.  She rapped my back with her palms to ease my agony. And kept saying, “Hun, are you ok? Are you sick?” upon which I raised my right hand (as I coughed further) in a gesture to mean, ‘give me some time, girl, give me some time’.

By and by, my coughing eased. Jane fixed herself on the couch and let my head rest upon her thighs. She fed me some of the juice she drank. Then she said, “Hun, are you ok now?”

I shook my head.

“Are you sick?”—she felt my forehead—“Your forehead isn’t hot. Your temperature is normal, I guess. Do you feel any discomfort anywhere?”

“Mmh.”

“Where, your eyes?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Your mouth?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Your…your back?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“Where?” she place a hand on my stomach, “You stomach?”

“Mmh,” I said, nodding.

“Oh, pole, should I get you some Actals?”

“Mnh-nh.”

“O God, you will be ok without the medication, you mean?”

“Mmh.” I nodded.

“Huh. Ok.” She held silence awhile, meanwhile running her fingers through my young beards. At length, she said, “Well, hun, as I was saying—I don’t know if you heard me, did you, did you hear me?” she turned her head round to observe my face.

I shook my head, in the negative.

“Well, hun, as I was saying, Apondi and Ken are getting married, can you imagine that?”

I began to cough again, harder than before. Jane gave a start, saying, “I think you need some drugs.” She began to settle my head on the couch (off her thighs), so she could fetch for me those drugs, but I held her hands, and stopped my coughing business for the moment. “You don’t want any drugs, you will be ok?”

“Mmh.”

She took another round of silence, running her fingers through my young beards. By and by, she said, “Well, hun, I went to town today, and guess who I met? I met Apondi. She was shopping for some stuff. And she told me she’ll get married soon. To whom? Can you guess? Give a guess, give a guess—”

My phone beeped in a message. From the table I picked it and displayed the message upon its screen, for Jane to see too, that Caren had messaged me, that her husband—the lecturer, the man to impart critical writing skills into my head, had come, and would leave within half hour, and I should rush downstairs to Caren’s house, to meet him.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]