This Earth, My brother – Part 2

flatpic1So, as I was telling you the other day, Cindy did like she did and I had to accept and move on. I realized this country is bigger than someone taking my potential running mate in matters love. I said to myself, “Mungu mwenye amempa ndiye ameninyima.”(The God who gave him is the same that denied me).

Continuing to stay on Mutua’s plot was torturous because every time I tried to concentrate in my mind’s eye I would just see that boy child doing things to Cindy. So I decided to  pack a few clothes in my backpack and locked my small house securely with a brand new solex padlock – I just bought it the same day and I guess it was feeling elated that the hour of its ministry had come. Or, is it this padlock that brought me bad omen by locking my chances at getting Cindy?

I passed Cindy’s house with a heavy heart, my head stooping low like the hands of the clock at 6:30am and noticed they had actually increased the volume of the music in the house; clear indication that two adults with ID cards were busying launching a social gymnastics project. I remembered a khanga I saw at my friend’s plot somewhere in the coast that had these words:

“Ukiona mgeni kaingia kwa jirani kisha redio ikaongezwa sauti, tumia akili”(if your neighbor receives a guest and they raise the radio volume, please just use common sense).

I silently went my way.

I arrived at my cousin’s place, somewhere in Eastlands and I have been here for a couple of days. I have realized in this city people have unique problems. So let me tell you a story that has motivated my precipitous return to Mutua’s plot:

There is a group of individuals the government should recognize alongside MauMau veterans and slot them either for compensation or tax exemption.  My cousin should be number one on that list, for over a week, I have lived in his house and walked in his shoes. These are individuals that are or have ever lived on the ground floor of a flat in this city.

There are things that happen to you in this city when you live on ground floor – things that are beyond your control and you just look and say, “Ya Mungu ni mengi, ya kuku ndio mayai.”

You can imagine those days you are tired and just thinking about things that confuse you like the humility that comes upon you whenever you compare your ID photo and your terabyte of fine selfies on  your phone, things like why the government has proposed to shut down bars and drinking spots on election day and on the contrary they are advocating for ‘high voter’ turn out, things like what is the power  that comes with independent candidates in the forthcoming election, What are the implications of the President missing the presidential candidates’ debate since he is already president and only the others who attended are presidential candidates, then from nowhere you just hear someone shouting, “Maaaare, mare, mare, mare” and then some house-help a floor up is sent to call in the guy over the balcony.

When the guy comes in, the barter trade happens outside your door and for some reason the Mare Mare guy never talks in a low tone. You will find yourself listening into their stories and how the guy is even trying to‘put into the box’ someone’s mboch or wife and that silly laughter the victims give as they try to brush the vibes away. During this session your hunger pangs are sort of aroused and you just decide to walk lazily into the kitchen to prepare something.

Maybe you were listening to some music and you decide to increase the volume so that you can still listen and sing along while cooking. That is the time the guy who sharpens knives decides to show up and sets his monocycle right in front of your door. All the neighbors from the other floors come down in numbers to have their knives sharpened as they catch up with their friends. They make noise as if to tell you there is need to go upstairs next time you are looking for a house.

You finally manage to make your food and bring it on the table. You say your silent prayer or even assume you prayed while cooking and fill your plate right away. The time you lift the first spoon or handful, you hear a slight knock on the door – you ignore the knock. Somehow the other person persists to knock one more time and you decide to take them serious, so you stand half-heartedly and pace lazily towards the door. All the time, the doors on ground floor are rusty and hard to open (I don’t know why). You finally open the door to meet some lady with about three kids the youngest of them on her back.

“Hapa ni kwa mama Bryo?” She asks.

You realize even in the spirit of Nyumba kumi initiative you know not of any Mama Bryo. Somehow you try to think.

“Alizaa mtoto juzi” she adds to aid your memory.

Still you can’t you decipher a Mama Bryo. You often leave this place before sunrise and are back long after sunset.

You decide to forward her to the next house to try her luck.

As she leaves you walk back to your food and half way, you hear another knock on the door. You go back to open and this time it’s the caretaker. He tells you the pump is not able to pump water to the guys on other floors so they will come down to draw water from the tap next to your door – some more noise is coming.

Then he adds that the guys who collect garbage have missed to pass by so probably it will have to wait till the next week’s collection day – meaning all the garbage from all the other floors will remain on ground floor for a week!  Why won’t you wish for Jesus’ second coming at this point?

You don’t even answer him except a mechanical nod of your head in agreement. At this point you feel like telling God politely, “Hey, we need to talk.”

Your food is now cold but you must eat.

You finish eating your food and decide to stand outside to be ‘beaten by the wind’ a little. While you are standing outside your door, there is a happy kid on some floor up. The parents have bought him soda and he is playing with it on the balcony. Somehow I think it’s the work of the devil or something, he decides to tort a little soda on your promotional t-shirt from the company you work for. Something inside you asks you to look up and your face meets a happy creature with about two teeth missing on his upper gum, smiling at you and then ducks into their house after you visualize a threat to them.

So you decide to just get your clothes off from the line and get back inside. Another shock hits you when you realize those clothes you paid Mama wa nguo to wash have been discolored multiple times by some neighbors on the floors up there who also shared your intentions of having their clothes washed on the same day.

Before you can register your anger properly and even beat yourself for choosing to stay on ground floor, some mboch up there is cleaning and now just doing her final touches with the balcony. You just notice some milk-tea-colored water gushing out of that ka-drainage pipe peeping above your door like a security camera and spurting on the concrete floor depositing on the ground some remains of sukuma wiki, rice grains, burnt out match sticks, buttons and other things that you can’t even identify. You just jump over your slippers at the door that have already fallen victim to this instant flood.

You enter your house and switch on the TV and there is poor signal – then you realize that your Gotv antennae must have been messed up by the neighbor’s kids playing on the top most floor. You decide to go and sleep so that maybe Jesus will visit you and whisper to you in a still voice while in your trance, the reason why you are going through this predicament and which sins particularly you need to repent and change your ways so that you can receive his blessings both in the country side and in the city, according to his word…

 

This earth, my brother!

lockedI was never used to getting back home early. I would dilly dally in town for the bus queue to move and also for fare to go down. Sometimes, I just find myself watching those guys who pull crowds in front of the national Archives center. On some days it’s acrobats or preachers or dancers selling their new album and other times it’s politics. This last group is incredible! They have the facts and they make you wonder why they never made it to parliament or other public policy agencies. Can they at least open some portal or even have their own manifesto launch?

As I was saying, it’s only until two weeks ago that I started getting back early. Nowadays, I take the train and since there is no traffic on the rails, am always assured I will get home pretty early. The only motivation has been this cute girl with dreadlocks that newly moved into door number 6, which is just opposite my door number 12. We have been very good neighbors, occasionally smiling at each other without a word. Let’s be frank here, she is beautiful – this one even if she stepped on my food intentionally, I would still eat it and probably apologize to her that my food carelessly got in her way.

She plays very soft music. She cleans her small house all the time often making me look bad because my house sort of self-cleans. Carol used to help a lot but since she got that whatsapp message from Tina referring to me as ‘Bae’ things haven’t remained the same. I called her two days ago to come so that we can talk and she told me, “utangoja sana.” (Meaning: you will wait). So am just patiently waiting.

This new neighbor cooks nice things that make the worms in my tummy keep wondering what my plans are as a normal human being. I noticed rodents and pests in my house are braver lately– the other day I was watching news and a rat came from without, went up the TV stand, raised its head and pecked the TV screen severally. I made noise to scare it but it shuddered not. I then stood up to chase it away but it just got off slowly and disappeared behind my books arranged against the wall. See my life!

Pato, my boy advised me how to get this girl’s phone number. So the other day I waited patiently for her to pop out of house number 6 almost all day long. I had partially secured a little part of my window curtain using the window knob so that I could have a strategic view, sat back and monitored my victim minute after minute.

When she finally came out of her number 6, as usual cleaning, I was also at my door. There is something I noticed when she cleans that is good for me. Well, this daughter of Eve comes out with her ass out and arms stretched on the mop, remember she has this skin color that is easy to spot even in stark darkness and a generous sitting allowance, then she turns to wring the mop to rid it off dirty water. At this moment she is usually overt with her boobs that stick out stubbornly that if you don’t notice them you are just not fisically fit. She then stands to full posture and puts her mop on the clothes line that passes between our houses so that it can dry. Seeing isn’t bad, looking is what is bad – so I just allow my eyes to see.

I stood at my door and made my face look really confused. Then I just found myself saying, “Excuse me”

“Yes.” She replied with her usual smile.

“By the way, I have just misplaced my phone, can you please beep it for me I locate it?” I asked just as Pato had advised me.

“Sawa” She voluntarily answered.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that is how I have managed to be chatting her for a week. Asking her about work, about her day in entirety, telling her how mine was and how work was boring that I just needed someone to talk to. Much of the time her responses are just, “Really?” “Really”  “hahahaha” “mmmh” and those emoji things that I don’t like but I just smile and feel good because somewhere in this same city there is a boy child who hasn’t received any blue ticks for days.

This Saturday was a bright one. As I went to get some eggs to make breakfast, I met Cindy and she smiled at me, swung her braids to the back and gave me a high five. Then she varnished through the gate and locked it behind her back. I gazed back a little more and all I saw was the writings on our gate:

“Gate must be closed at all times for Security.

 Closing time 10PM”

I was happy as I made my breakfast. Cindy’s picture was left with me and I saw her beautiful face every time I closed my eyes. A message popped on my phone and I reached for the phone on top of the fridge. It was Cindy. Wow! I quickly entered my password, entered my second password for the message vault and I was there. I wish I knew this password thing early enough, we wouldn’t have broken up with Carol. Cindy’s message was asking me to go and meet her at the gate for a small favor.

I suddenly felt my stomach was okay and that I didn’t have to eat a lot. So I left my breakfast there just like modern girls left petticoats, put on some better T-shirt, some nice sweat pants, some presentable open shoes, sprayed some deodorant under my armpits and stepped out – the hour had come for the son of man to be glorified in Mutua’s plot. I had lived here for two years now the gods were appreciating me.

By the time I reached the gate, Cindy was just getting off a boda boda and had a gas cylinder.

“Haki help me carry this to the house” she spoke softly.

Before she even finished the words my hands were already on the gas cylinder like iron filings attracted to a magnet. I knew this gas cylinder was a decoy, I knew Cindy just wanted me to enter her house. I was equal to the task and was prepared to submit my nomination papers as a serious independent candidate once inside her house. I appealed to my heart to maintain calm and assured it I will leave no bedsheet unturned.

“Okay, just leave it hapa and haki thanks” she softly said to me as I rested the gas cylinder at the door. I suggested willingness to get it real inside but she also wore that ‘am-okay-now’ face. I heeded.

“You are sure you don’t want it inside?” I fisically asked.

“No problem, imagine. Here it’s sawa” she answered as she grabbed that curtain in her door.

“Babe, come and ingiza it inside” she spoke with her head peering into the house.

Before my own eyes I saw a boy child with a built frame come out of the house in a tight fitting vest and some short. The man grabbed the gas cylinder like a bag of feathers and went back into the house without a word. Cindy followed and the door was closed behind them. Number 6, is all I saw on the green-painted door that gave me a mute, blank face.

Books and Pain

crying man

He wore a well pressed belly-bottom trouser with a neatly tucked in shirt whose large collar fell freely on his lean shoulders. His head had a well-kempt afro, dark and shiny with a glow of ebony and the smell of coconut oil. His feet in well-fitting platform shoes blew the dust off the ground as he maintained an upward look; his eyes white and black behind his bifocals. Joe had come back to his village, a PI teacher from a distant teacher training college. Every one respected him because at the time, being a teacher was one of the noblest professions. A teacher was everything; a light to the society.

A man was not a man if he had no house – a wife for that matter. So, Joe got himself a lovely lass by the name Trizah. They were so deeply in love and their dreams were broad like the embrace of the sea. Them like innocent pebbles wetting in the deep rush of the waves to the shores, they clung together. Joe was such a perfectionist, a metrosexual and a lover of good things. He loved style and loved everything that made life good and loved his woman. Trizah admired Joe a great deal. To her, he meant a lot, he knew everything, and he was the best and most adorable.

The country was just healing from the failed military coup of 1982. The national radio from the Swahili service to the General Service was always throwing patriotic songs in to the air of the early 1980s. But Joe’s house had an extra sound in its air – the sound of their first baby – a boy. Trizah was now a mother and she was already cemented into deep intimacy with her new born baby. She would sing lullabies to the small thing, thrust it delicately into the air after a warm shower and give it breast milk. The little thing suckled as Trizah looked on, admiring its palpating fontanel and marveling at the incomplete ossification and partially formed sutures. This baby was clearly the newest summit of her joy. She loved the baby.

The rains had seized a little and the maize crop in the farm was beginning to firm up and the air was full of pollen. Gigantic arms of clouds and mounts of the same littered the blue skies but the rains still lingered. Jolie Detta had just paired up with the TPOK Jazz band under the patronage of Franco Luambo Makiadi to release their new song ‘Layile’ which played on the transistor radio with a mono speaker over and over. 1986 was surely a good year.

Joe would be called off from school to attend to an emergency. His wife Trizah had lost her mind and was acting up crazy which was becoming pretty dangerous for their baby boy. Joe rushed home confused and perplexed.  His mind was plain and his heart was running on a higher gear, he feared it would pop out. A blissful marriage was crumbling as days passed and Trizah’s condition hopped restlessly from worse to worst. Joe was too young to handle this. He wasn’t prepared for this eventuality. Their dreams were now becoming hollow woods stuffed with stubbornness. The affection they had cultivated was now dangling freely and carelessly like a lost veil trapped in a leafless tree.

Trizah would be forced to return to her parents anticipating to be back when she got better. Sadly, this never happened on God’s holy earth. For Joe, it was a wrap and he had to start all over again. To whom God had given books to teach, now he had added pain to ponder.

After years of mourning lost love, Joe picked his broken pieces up and married again. He tried to love again but his star was stuck in his past and his present was stark dark. Every attempt to love again crumbled like a paper boat cast on water, drenched and smudgy.

To kill the memories of the sweet years behind his back, Joe often drunk. He drunk his memory out and when daybreak came, the memories still glared at him like broken chandeliers in an abandoned home. He lost the picture he had for his future in tears for love but gallantly he soldiered on with books and bookshelves. The best teacher in him refused to die until death took his deluded soul away three years ago.

 

R.I.P Uncle Joseph. 

Loving again…

Love againThat night the rains pelted furiously on the roof and winds blew hard. The curtains in the window would occasionally warp inside as if the winds collected in like jinis then fled away mysteriously. Flashes of lightning cut through the room and left fear, silence and a disturbing darkness. Oscar turned in bed again. It was about 1am and he hadn’t gathered even the shortest nap. Now his eyes ached, his back felt exceedingly tired and a sudden numbness caught his left arm. He awoke and groped in the darkness for the door. He leaned on the woodwork with a completely blank mind and tears began gushing from his eyes.

It had been three weeks now since Rita left. Oscar hadn’t shared this with anyone. So Rita’s parents as well as Oscar’s knew their marriage was doing well. Oscar was so talkative, such a chatterbox but on the contrary he kept his private life really private. They had been married for three years now and they had two handsome boys to show. The younger son was barely a few months old. Rita left both of them.

The more the rains pelted on the roof, the more Oscar’s eyes released heavy tears as if they worked in agreement. He wanted to speak words, but which words? He ended up mumbling things he couldn’t even comprehend and the tears above his lips would flow farther down and sweep the words and wet the words and dissolve the words and feed them back into his mouth. The world was turning around so fast. Oscar turned the lock and groped further into the dark out of his room. He had lived in this house that was now imminent in a few months or so he would be probably kicked out as rent owing was growing, for three years, so he could go about it even with a blindfold and lights off.

The boys curled badly into each other and the light from the bulb poured mercilessly on their abandoned faces almost waking them up. But did they really know mum had left perhaps for good?

“Shhhhhh lala baba….lala…” Oscar spoke softly to the sleeping boys as he tried to get off Brian’s right leg that was now almost choking his elder brother Sunny by the neck. Sunny breathed hard as the weight gave way. Oscar covered his sons properly then took a long look at them, blinked hard and shut his eyes for a while. Stubborn veins almost bursting with blood shot from the corner of his shut eyes and disappeared into his hairline. He left the room and went back to bed.

“They will grow….one day at a time.” He uttered these words as he covered himself to give sleep another chance.

He needed to be up quite early to beat the traffic and deliver his papers at the city office. He hoped against hope that he would get the job and turn things around. But his immediate prayer was that his sister Leah would actually make it early morning as agreed to take care of Brian and Sunny while he went to town. Perhaps Rita would return if he got a job and could again take care of his responsibilities as a father and husband. Rita wanted it to work but she could not sit there and eat love – that is what she said in the note that rested innocently under the pillow until Oscar ran his fingers into it. The note was now smudged and distorted with tears.

Its five years. Five years of fighting. Five years of sacrifice. Brian is grown, Sunny is grown and Oscar is still Oscar.

Nairobi is pretty cold. The July cold is just dying sometime in August. This cold begins in the month of July every year and ends in August but the people of Nairobi refer to it as the July cold. The staff van pulls at the office gate and Oscar disembarks. A lady greets him and he answers as he goes through the security screening at the gate.

Oscar meets Kate, the lady who greeted him the previous day at the gate. This time round at the tea area in the office. They both exchange pleasantries and each go their separate ways but Oscar goes with Kate’s smile. Again and again they meet and meet mostly at the office and in the staff van back home or to work.

The deep blue skies of December bow down in a graceful arc to two brand new lovers. Lovers that are so affectionate for each other but so scared deep inside their hearts. Their hearts both oceans of secrets – secrets of stolen dreams, gutted fortresses of peace and gaping trunks of love. Love that was stolen by circumstances leaving them dangling precariously like broken marionettes.

The hot sunshine of January burns their hearts together and glues them perfectly to seal the broken parts. Kate and Oscar find a new thing. They learn they can love again. They can live together. They complete each other’s universe and illuminate their faces time and again. The resounding peace of loving and being loved today resides so close between them. Barrels of tears have been wiped and bales of tenderness traded. It’s good to love again – that’s their new story – written by the brilliant strokes of the pen of resilience and a daring to love again