Majid

He was like fudge – sweet to the tongue but bad for your teeth. The only reason I remember him is that he once said very bad-mannered things to me when we met during music festivals, stuff I’d not repeat here because I’m a former Presbyterian – confirmed and irrigated. I keeled over in shock, which also sent the message that I was cool but not as cool as THAT. That relationship was as strong as boiled spaghetti; we didn’t go far.

I haven’t thought about Majid in years; he’s been in the same forgotten brain compartment with Agrarian Revolution, Mole Concept, and Matrices. I remembered him on Friday.

It all started with mopping floors and my hatred for the task. I’m a working-from-home mom who hates washing dishes as much as I hate mopping floors. I prefer cooking.

After years of mopping floors, I decided, even the cow that is not mooing has to be ‘thaurirwad.’ (For more information, contact a Meru near you).

I said, “this is the 21st century; I’m buying a vacuum cleaner!”

I drove to City Mall, straight to Carrefour, and saw the one I thought looked coolest. I couldn’t make jack of what it said it did, but it was written ‘Vacuum cleaner,’ and I was getting it. It was “dry only, bag-less, cyclones, motor, megawatts, blah blah blah, suctions and lots of physics.” I took it.  

When I got home and opened the box, I momentarily thought of making an “unboxing” video for Youtube. I then remembered my phone camera is as good as the Kenyan government. I perished the thought like it was a text message from Kamiti.

I tossed the box aside, and guess what? The vacuum box had a sticker on its side, written in large letters with a blue small-point BIC pen – Majid! I chuckled to myself at the memory.

Back then, I was trying to do bad all by myself, ‘dating’ (and I use that term very loosely) a Muslim boy, yet I was the Christian Union Praise and Worship leader. Once he gave me his watch, I gave him something as well – I don’t remember what. I wore that watch until it disintegrated. I highly doubt he’d remember me.  

I don’t remember Majid and I breaking up. A few weeks after Majid and I ‘stopped talking,’ I heard he was kicked out of school. He was stealing students’ Bibles and selling them to the lowest bidder.

Anyway, I returned Majid to Carrefour on Saturday. He wasn’t what I needed; I should have concentrated in my physics class. I’m getting a new box today with suitable cyclones and megawatts. I hope it doesn’t come with a sticker that says, “Erasmus.”

I’ll never tell you that story, even if it does.

Karma is a child

My mother was (is?) a teacher. Teachers don’t retire; they just change the venue from the classroom to your everyday life. Have you seen older people who used to be teachers? They exude the same authority they did when they were teachers. You meet them as you drive home to greet your folks with your kids in the backseat, and you start wondering if you have finished your art and craft homework yet. You still feel like you want to duck into a bush until they pass

Everyone still calls them ‘Mwalimu,’ and they hold your hand with both of theirs when they greet you. They still remind you that these fingers that are now signing deals and contracts with abandon trained them to hold a pencil.  

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She looks Chinese

I know it’s none of your business, and you’d rather be eating avocado, cursing Jayden for the lockdown or sanitizing your vegetables, but I’m interrupting your Tuesday to tell you that I’m seriously contemplating not getting another baby. I’m only telling you this because … I actually don’t know why I’m telling you this. But it’s about a Kisii.

As it is, I don’t understand how God thought it was wise to let me have kids. I mean, me, who’s always in-over-my head and can barely control my cravings for licking the sufuria that made fried meat, me who still misses patco, goodygoody and dextrosol, me who hasn’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up and who hates adulting – has children. Two! There’s a God in heaven.

The world is overpopulated, there’s a virus roaming the earth like the devil looking for someone to devour, we have debt we will never be able to finish, and the ozone layer is thinning – yet I brought two humans into this world. God is still working his miracles.

I do not have an economic or even environmental reason why I will not get another baby. My excuse is very simple. It’s a Kisii man. Specifically, the Kisii man who was my anesthesiologist when I delivered my second baby.

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Priorities

My duvet is ruined. I mean, a duvet I bought for a song in Kasarani hunters where they sold everything on the streets – from ugly burned chapatis, mandazi, fish to all species of cereals, suitcases, clothes, witchcraft paraphernalia, and drugs.

I didn’t see the last two; I’m a Christian, saved and immersed in many waters, struggling and failing terribly at praying and fasting and waiting for angel Gabby to do his thing with the trumpets. But I’m pretty sure someone was selling those on that stretch between the first street and tenth street. Hunters is not an estate; it’s a market where people never leave.

One of my greatest hopes is that there will be grapes in heaven; my love for grapes is on an illegal bar by now! Haki, if there are no grapes in heaven, I’ll have to see Noah aside and tell him we start a kitchen garden just outside Elijah’s mansion. Elijah is our best bet; we’ll need to appease him so that he doesn’t go all Ahab on us. We need the rain – if it rains there.

As much as the heavenly grapes are a cosmic tourist attraction for me, I don’t want to see them soon. I’m just fine with waiting for the Naivas offers for me to hoard grapes. I love heaven, I want to be there someday, but that day is not today. And when I woke up this morning, I almost felt like it was, which was not a very comforting thought, especially because I was to burn my way there.

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Bottomless Pit

Suicide is a grave matter, and that guy you admire so much, the one who is life-goals and looks like he never gets irritated by slow WiFi and has attained nirvana — he was probably thinking of it last evening as he marked his son’s homework. I know of a loved one who has consistently said that he cannot attend the funeral of a person who dies by suicide; that it’s selfish and cowardly. I have my own theory dotted with horrifying personal experiences that I don’t think I’m ready to open to the world yet. Me, who write stories about my past boyfriends and embarrassing life struggles, still has things she can’t talk about. Life is a bottomless pit.

I have seen a loved one attempt suicide, and it wasn’t once. Witnessing a loved one attempt suicide and living with the thought that they were at a place when even you couldn’t help gives your heart a fever so high that medication can’t help. This memory has remained stuck at the back of my mind like chewed gum under a desk, decades later.

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Grey Ticks

A coupe of eye-glasses ago, little Miss T turned my spectacles into double amputees. She came holding the severed arms on the one hand and the ‘eyes’ on the other, feeling very accomplished. Her orthopedics dreams are very valid; she did a pretty clean job amputating the spectacles. I had to shop for new ones.

I roamed the online streets, looking for something that will not cost me many zeros — and we all know eyeglasses frames cost a little more than a Suzuki Alto Engine in these streets. I scrolled up and down Facebook haphazardly, like you do when you’re at the supermarket with plenty of money to burn. When your pockets or bank account is bursting at the seams, you don’t check prices; you don’t check brands, you don’t check for offers and budget packs; you just pick and drop things in your trolley like you’re cleaning out the shelves. You look at Geisha and Rexona soaps the way you look at the beggars on your car window; today, you’re only buying Dettol. Later, you thrust the ATM card into the PDQ machine without missing a heartbeat.

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Of Neighbors and Feelings

Feelings, like people and dogs, have names. That feeling like your head is swelling like a dam in the long rains; when you can feel your skin harden and your eyes redden like you’re about to become The Thing from the fantastic four and go smashing through walls and breaking glasses with your fingertips; you can almost feel the smoke coming from your ears and veins the size of baobab tree trunk appear on your temple – that feeling is called rage.

Or when your intestines are in knots like a yarn a cat played with; you get an instant urge to pee and in extreme cases, the muscles in your bowels get a brain of their own and open without consultation. Goosebumps appear on your upper arms like you missed your measles vaccination; your hands and feet are vibrating like a Richter scale in an earthquake, your heart pumps on your throat and you’re breathing like a dog in summer – that feeling is called terror.

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Ka’Fuu

Moving towns feels like getting an amputation. When you leave a town (or a country, but that is above my paygrade for now. I’ll let you know in a few years 🙂 ), you’re not just leaving your landlord that you probably hate and have been tolerating the parasitic relationship between the two of you — where each of you believe the other is the parasite.

You’re leaving the memories and the familiar – the mama mboga who you send a text when you’re stuck in traffic and you find your spinach well shredded into wormlike threads that are impossible to stir, they intertwine like overcooked spaghetti. When you eat them, one end arrives in the duodenum while the other one is still on the plate. But she’s your mama Shiro, you can’t trade her for any other Sukuma wiki shredder.

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He has lost it again

Winny shared a photo of her and her Dad taking a walk to celebrate World Mental Health Day. She said she vowed to celebrate with him, even if it meant ‘kuokota makaratasi pamoja.’ I love such people, such stories. We had a zoom interview for me to get her story, but the network was so bad; it sounded like the radio chewing the tape back in 1990. So I sent her questions and requested that she writes something.

The interview came back in sheng and with 17 emojis. This is my attempt to decode millennial speak. 

Everyone knew a mad man in the village; for Winny, this man was her Dad. 

One day, I came home from a school trip and went to look for my mom; I had bought her some yogurt as a gift. She was away at a neighbor, sharing the latest breaking news in the village. After a few words, she told me, ‘dad nacungire kiariki.’ That was the code word for, “He’s lost it again.” This is my earliest memory of my Dad’s illness.

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Be Nice

I’m no Mike Ross, but I have the memory of a dolphin. Did you know dolphins can remember their friends even after 20 years? There are things that infant amnesia hasn’t touched, stuff from my childhood that seem like they just happened yesterday. I have these snippets of my childhood that just got superglued to my hippocampus. They sit there like a rock in a stream, never moving, never getting erased, getting smoother and harder as I grow older. 

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Confetti

He’s born in 1972 while Kenyatta is president. They are poor, the kind of poverty that doesn’t need an adjective to describe. But poverty was a common denominator in the village then, the rich were the odd ones out. His Mom is a dynamite. She’s the reason “when mama prays’ was written.

Soon, he’s supposed to start school. It’s the 20th century, there’s no kindergarten and sijui baby class and pre-primary. You just arc your hand over your head and touch the other ear. If your fingers don’t reach the ears, you’re not old enough to go draw on the sand and make chapati with mud. When his tiny chubby fingers touch his ears, he’s enrolled into nursery school. School is fun because it’s all play, dance and making pick-up trucks from wires and spectacle frames from maize stalks. There’s no homework and they go home at midday. He likes it.

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The richest of stories

One of life’s greatest errors is to look at a child and imagine that they will amount to nothing – especially a child submerged in poverty. Poverty is one of the most convincing costumes; when a person is dressed in poverty, it masks any other attribute that they may have. You can’t even be wise and poor, it’s assumed that if you don’t have a mind to make money, you simply don’t have a mind. But a child is like a dormant volcano, you should expect anything.

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Imposter

You see a man, maybe a lawyer, sharp like a brand new razor and feisty like Bongo, the honey badger. He cuts his hair in those classy barbershops, which have got women hyperventilating every time their husbands go for a shave. But they are so good with the razor, he emerges from under their hot towels and silky hands looking like Michelangelo himself sculpted him.

He’s eloquent, shoots straight, and his life is straight like type 2A hair. He has already removed all the kinks from his life. He’s the kind of guy you’d think has no cares in the world. Even such a man, with his Armani suits, struggles with the imposter syndrome.

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A Wedding and a General

They met at a prayer center. She always loved breaking her fasts at prayer centers, it felt like they had a higher concentration of heaven.  We’ll call her Jojo.

Peter* was the kind of person who greeted people with “Praise the Lord!” He’d just exclaim ‘Hallelujah’ in a normal conversation. He was among the dying breed of people who don’t say “shit!” after every sentence. His showers always turned into full-blown Pentecost moments when he started singing.

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I left my shoes here

She was dating a seminarian. Yes, those guys you see in the pulpit giving little holy communion in flowing robes, pious eyes, and lips that look like they only kiss the rosary, well, sometimes they kiss girls called Gigi.

The seminarian had his eyes set on the priesthood. A few years into the training, he got his reverse Damascus moment and abandoned the rosary. I think having one foot in the seminary and another one occasionally inside a beautiful girl was a tough balance. He chose the streets.

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Losing and Gaining

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Today, our guest writer is Mary Nyawira. She will kill me for saying this, but Mary was the girl every person remembers from our High School class. If someone doesn’t remember you, we just tell them, “Oh, I was in Mary’s class.” And they’ll go, ooh!

For some reason, she was in the naughty corner most of the time. But I don’t think Mary looked for trouble, trouble just found her. Today, she lets us in on a snippet of her life as she grew up — the losses and the gains.

Guess who else found her? Jesus! 

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Bring on the Lemons

Olive sat across the gynecologist’s chair as he gave her the results of her ultra-sound. Like all gyna’s offices, his was predominantly white. Various diagrams of the human reproductive system hang on the wall. She sat there, recounting the torturous periods she had been enduring since she was a teenager.

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Zulu

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He lies on the cold Sao Paulo ground in the park outside the cathedral. It’s cold. I’m used to the sweltering heat in Mombasa, anything below 25 degrees is cold for me. But I’m told it’s summer here. These people have not seen the summer, I muse.

He has a blanket. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look very dirty. My host, a catholic seminarian informs me that they are supplied with blankets and food by well-meaning Brazilians. Mostly Christians because they somehow see the face of Jesus on those once clean and handsome faces.

He’s not alone, but I note with interest that most of his ‘roommates’ are men.

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“Cousin”

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She emailed and said this was the kind of conversation that required a quiet corner in Java at 11 AM. Apparently, there are not many people there at such a time. She can speak without straining to not whisper, and I can tell you she whispers like a cat that saw a dog.

You don’t want to be hiding with this one in any situation. She can’t whisper to save her life.

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Holes

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I’m a good girl by the basic standards. No, allow me to just say it this one time. I’m a good girl. I’ve never been drunk (does wine count?),  never smoked (not even weed) and never did the walk of shame.  I was proud of it all. Until I was not so proud of it.

Josh Harris is no longer a Christian. And he’s getting a divorce. I don’t know if you understand the weight of those two statements, but I can make it simpler. It’s like saying the pope is no longer catholic and he’s getting married. Although that wouldn’t be so bad.

It feels like my whole youth life was a lie. If you’re still using a yahoo email account, Josh Harris is (was) a pastor and an author. He wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl.  For a Christian girl who believed Sidney Sheldon was evil and never read Mills and Boons, Josh Harris was my dating and sexuality compass.

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