Tag: Experiences

BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_04

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered 01 to 03)


TO TELL A STORY_04

At the bench I arrived earlier than Biel and the girl he’d talked about. Biel came next, and after salutations, he gave me his practice writing, and the story ran thus:

On and on the four walked. And after an hour they reach The Nile Queen restaurant, though they were on the western side of the White Nile, and they had to take boat to cross to eastern side, on Gat’s suggestion. On the western side of the river there was bushes and shrubs; while on eastern side there was settlement and rough roads. Luok and Adut had walk together, and now they stand together near the bank of the river, and Gat walk to them, leaving Deng a distance away. He said to them, “Me I think we need to cross to the other side and take something, me I know you stomach is hot.”

“Yes, we’re hungry,” Adut say, “but we shall use separate boats. Luok and me, and you and Deng.”

“My sister,” said Gat, “that is no necessary. We can fit all of us in one boat. No need to use two, and waste money for nothing.”

“Why do you think I did not want Deng to come?” said Adut, “it is because of this. But you let him come.”

“My sister—” said Gat.

“No, do not say ‘my sister—my sister’ and you do not do what I want,” said Adut, waving her hands against Gat. Now Gat look at Luok who had stood next to Adut but looking at his own feet, and wink to him when he look up, for him to do something.

And soon Luok step close to Adut and said, “My dear,” and he touch her on the waist, “we are going to get Gat’s sister. Let’s climb the boat and go, it will not harm—”

“You have never,” said Adut to Luok, though Gat could hear, “you have never asked me what he did to me, that beast. Do you know what he did?”

“My dear, this is not the time. It is not the place. Let’s go and we will talk about it in the evening. Please,” said Luok.

Meanwhile, four boat riders had risen from the water and climbed the bank to talk to Deng, who had stand alone in the distance. Those boat riders they wore shorts, or trousers cut into shorts at the knees, which looked jagged, and orange life jackets. They seemed to bargain about the prices, but Deng could not pick on any of them, and he keep looking at his colleagues, since he was uncertain whether they would continue with the journey at all.

With the other group, Adut now agreed to climb one boat with the rest. And Gat whistled to Deng to arrange for one. The boat rider who Deng chose, rush to the water to untie his boat, and immediately push it close to the shore where the four could board. Luok and Adut entered the boat first, and she and he sit on the plank at front-most part of the boat, and Gat and Deng entered next, and sat at the back of the boat, so that the boat rider rowed from the middle, and separated them so. And so the cross-over started from the west to the east, all of them four silent, only the oars pushing and slapping the grey water of the White Nile, chwaa chwaa.

The quality of Biel’s story had improved, and I told him so. “Biel, this is getting better—”

“Thank you, my Friend,” he said.

“—probably you need to make it clear,” I said, “why the four characters have difficulty traveling together, and if there is any history to, and why Gat wants them to be together—”

“Yes, me I understand. The reason why Adut does not want Deng on the trip is because—”

“—no, don’t tell me now. That you will capture in the next writing.”

“Me I understand.”

“Then.”

“Yes, my Friend.”

“Then, also work on the setting. Make the place where the story happens as real as possible—”

“Like a true place, my Friend?”

“—no, no. Not necessarily a real place. Whatever the place, make the reader live it. Then—”

I stopped at this point, for someone had tapped Biel on his back, at which point he turned his head, and induced me to do so. There, behind us, stood a tall and a dark girl, of slender body and modish clothing, who carried some goods in a black polythene bag. I supposed her Ayen, and what she carried my books, and soon Biel confirmed this. ‘Ayen!’ he said, ‘I had beginning to think you will not come.’

‘There was something that delayed me at the Centre,’ she said, in a soft and level voice. She now walked round the bench to the front side, so she faced us. Waiting, and suppressing smiles, she expected Biel to introduce her, and seeing that he did not, she issued her hand to me, and said, ‘I am Ayen.’

Her hand I shook, and returned that she could call me Taifa. Now Biel tapped the space between us on the bench, he sliding away, that Ayen should sit on the space so created. After sitting, she unwrapped the books from the black bag, and raised them to me. But, Biel snatched them, saying he hadn’t finished reading them. And a period of silence began.

Biel perused his books, Ayen kneaded her fingers, while I tapped a foot of mine on the dust, waiting for Ayen to state her reason for seeing me. The reason however, never came and we’d have remained thus till nightfall, had I not said, “So…Ayen.”

“Yes, my brother,” she said.

“How do you do?”

“Fine, my brother.”

“Aah…you wanted—you are a friend of Biel?”

“Yes, my brother,” said she, and another duration of silence followed. In the interim, Biel perused the books he had, and whistled as he did. And then when he noticed Ayen and I had quieted, he said, “Ayen, tell him what you wanted to say.” Upon this, Ayen kneaded her fingers the more, and focused her sight on my shoes, that I stopped tapping the ground, and then she said, without raising her head, “My brother, do you have any friends out of the country?”

#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. Attempterof 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]

A BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_03

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered the first and second)


TO TELL A STORY_03

On scorching days, as was the case in Kakuma Camp then, and even now, time crawled. On dusty days, as was the case everywhere you stepped, inside or outside the camp, the eyelashes thickened. And if you lived with allergy like I, you sneezed tsia tsia tsia. The sun rose and fell, Wednesday and after; and my work progressed, Thursday, Friday through Sunday. Meanwhile I hoped Biel read the books I gave him Tuesday evening, for I saw him play basketball at the court most times of the days that succeeded. And we would meet Monday.

On more scorching days the brain sleeps, and the body wears and whines, and begs for rest. Up until then, for the time I had stayed outside the camp for my assignment, no day had scorched as hard as Monday, and I went to meet Biel at the bench that evening, a weary man. However, on his part, he displayed such agility of body and spirit, if by adaptation or mettle I couldn’t tell then, that it activated me at once. So then, he and I having sat at the bench, he never handed back any of my texts (though he had come with his practice exercise book), but said, “My Friend, how was your week?”

“Very good. What have you been up to?” I said.

“My Friend, listen, the books you give me, I give a girl. She come to our house one day, in the evening, and I give her all books. She was very happy. She will bring back tomorrow, and I will bring them to you, my Friend. That is not make you angry?”

“No, no. That is perfectly ok,” I said, tapping him on the shoulder, for he had sat close to me on the bench. Then I waited for him to speak further.

In a while, he said, “Me I have not write many words from last time…”

“Ok…”

“Listen, my Friend, me when I want to write, there in our house, this girl called Ayen, who I give the books, she come and tell me stories. She is Dinka. Me I am Nuer. But you see, my Friend, she come from her camp to our camp, and enter our house there.”

“How do you relate?”

“Me I cannot say. Because, because first time I see her in the Arrupe Learning Centre. She was learning Computer. Almost one week ago. The second day I go to Centre, I see her. The third day I see her. When I leave the Centre she also leave. When I walk slowly she walk slowly behind me. When I walk fast she walk fast behind me. So, day go and day go, she do so. But me I did not know that she see where our house is.

Image: Google

“So, the day you give me books to read, I go home and sit and read. Then I hear nok nok on the door. And I say, ‘Welcome!’ then the girl come in, head first, and I see the head of Ayen, then her body. She say, ‘Biel, can I come in?’ but she was already in. So I say Yes, and I stop reading. And I start wondering why she come?”

“Go on, go on—” I said.

“I wait for her to say something. But she stand there not saying anything. I tell her to sit down. She sit on the plastic chair near the door, but still saying nothing. She touch her fingers and smile a little. Me I wanted to give her something to eat, but there was no food that day in the house. You see they give us food for fifteen days. When it get finished we wait for next round. She saw me looking at the house as if I wanted to make food for her, and now she say, ‘Don’t bother,’ in voice like that of very small girl. But she does not look me on the head. So I say, ‘What brings you to our house?’ and she say, ‘I want to be your friend’, and I say, ‘Why?’ and she say, ‘Just like that.’”

“Ehe…how old is he?”

“Me I don’t know. But she is almost of my height, and size. She has big breasts also, and small waist. I tell you, my Friend, so we sit like that without talking. She then say, ‘What are those?’ putting her hands forward, and I give her all the books which you give me last week. Me I had put them on the stool by the chair where I had sit. She open one book and look inside. The second she open few pages and look inside. The third, like that. The fourth. Then she say, ‘Please give me these.’ And I say, ‘No, books are not mine.’ She ask who they belong to, and I say ‘To my friend.’ And she say, ‘The one who carries a bag and camera, and wears black cap?’ So me I wonder how she know. And I so ask her if she follow me everywhere-everywhere. But now she tell me she think you are a journalist. And she want to talk to journalist—”

“If she wanted to talk to me, why couldn’t she just approach me?”

“She say she fear new people. But me she say she does not fear, even though me I am Nuer, she see me many times so she is not afraid. So, my Friend, she send me to ask you if you can agree to meet her. If you can tell me to tell her to come here in this field, because she want to talk to you. Can you accept that, my Friend?”

“What does she want to talk about?”

“Me I don’t know. She just tell me that she want to meet you. Because she know you are journalist.”

“Ok. Come with her tomorrow evening.”

“Thank you, my Friend…here, me I write few words for the practice. Here, take,” said he, handing me his practice writing.

I opened the book and followed the story of Gat, who, with his friends, one morning began the journey to Lul on foot, to locate his sister after the South Sudan war. The story continued thus:

Gat and Deng walk behind Adut and Luok. Deng carried a backpack with things inside, and Adut, the only female out of the men, carry no bag, no purse. They walk for some minutes, all of them not talking. They walk fast along a path, which was raised, and down yonder when you look you saw the White Nile, flowing slowly. They walk to the direction where the water was going, down, down, toward Egypt. After some minutes, Deng say to Jack, “My man, why you bring these others when you know you and I can go to Lul ourselves?”

And Gat say, “The war is over my friend. Me I want us to return to be friends the way we all were. We are young people. If we become friends again, we cannot fight again.”

“Let me tell you, Gat,” said Deng, “if you don’t know, it is friends who fight badly, and cut off heads of each other, I tell you.”

#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. Attempterof 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]

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_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]