in my feels.

BLURRY

Chinua Achebe once said, “Blind People do not learn to walk, they just do.” And I felt that.

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You probably read that twice. Then realized it does not make a whole lot of sense. Because blind people, and learning to walk and they just do? What is that? No sane person says things like that; Chinua Achebe certainly did not (are you kidding, lol.) Also, there is nothing to feel from that jumbled mess. And for purposes of full disclosure, I haven’t felt things in a while. I am talking about things being really numb, and not just in the annoying way my feet lose nerve sensitivity when I sit on them. Anyway, that statement is a spectacular summary of what my mind has been going through these past few weeks – jumbled and confused with a hint of seriousness and a whole lot of fake-deep.

So what is the point of this short rumble? Probably nothing. But also a reminder that if your mind and life currently feel sticky and all tangled up, drink some lemon and ginger water. It helps clear your wind pipe and lungs and stuff with Covid-19 (or whatever Mutahi Kagwe said). And also you are not alone. Hang in there.

Stand your ground.

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I stood in front of the mirror, bare save for my sleeping shorts. My focus at the moment was on my love handles, very recently formidable and at that very moment spilling generously from the waist of the crumpled shorts I was wearing. The flinch that previously always accompanied my weight gain was long in the past. All that remained was offhand nonchalance. Over the past couple of months, as layer after layer of fat settled around my ribcage, there had been no guilt. No alarm or concern as more of my clothes got uncomfortably tight. The only concern arose when my heart heavily protested the numerous sedentary days and nights I spent lying on the sofa in my room. But the concern had been slight, so slight it was quickly buried in sleepy days spent lounging on the sofa and tucking away platefuls of food. When people goggled at the bunching of my (previously baggy) pants between my thighs and the pronounced sway of my rumbling hips, I chose not to care. I toyed with the idea of becoming a “big girl”. It could not be that hard, I reasoned. And either way, it really was no one’s business. I would drop the weight when I chose to.

Until I tried and could not last five minutes of beginner’s yoga.

What had started with season after season of terrible news had ended with me waking up at 11 a.m., alone and with no clue from where my next cheque was going to come from. The profuse weight gain and utter self-loathing seemed natural considering I was stuck in a hole with no clue or real desire to climb back out. Why the hell did everything have to revolve around money anyway? The attempt to get some semblance of order in my life was met with the realization that I had stayed down too long and dug the hole too deep. Climbing out was proving hard.

Thinking back, the climb down had been easy and well attended; encouraged even. They said, those nondescript twitter handles, that it was perfectly okay to eat away my feelings and stew. That if it was not working out I should walk away and that it was okay to feel the pain and desperation and hopelessness and stay in the comfort of letting things be. It was all normal; many people had been through it. Few mentioned how difficult climbing back out was. That the longer you stayed down, the harder it was to get up. Practically no one spoke of the fact that moping and self-pity was definitely not the needed response.

My advice, as we get into this second half of 2020, is that we fight. And hold on. That we try as hard as we can to stay afloat. The way I see it, putting in the work is the way to go. And even then, the fruits may never come; or they may come late and shrivelled and a pitiful downgrade to all the work you’ve put in.

(Side note: Fuck 2020 and adulting and this shitty miserable life. Maybe the remaining half will be better? Either way, to hell with all of it; entirely too many people are suffering and that is never okay.)

The Gift

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There probably existed some rational explanation behind the immense mystery that continued to shroud this particular topic. And had anyone cared to explain, Meriena would finally be put out of her misery and let into the loop. As it turns out, no one did; choosing instead to dance around, tiptoe through or flat out refuse to engage in conversations involving the topic. The few times Meriena had dared ask questions, she had been met with anxiety, discomfort and mild annoyance. What she knew, you could ball up in a fist and swallow in one small gulp. She did know that the topic involved what was considered to be a gift; a really important gift (because, surely, whatever managed to elicit that kind of fear and mystery had to be important). She also knew the gift was an essential part of her, in the sense that within it lay her entire worth. On her own, Meriena had learnt that the gift was whimsical and could throw mean tantrums; that there were buttons to be pushed and corners to be explored. The gift also could tamper with her hormones. Mostly though, it sat quiet and dormant.

The many questions she had she had learnt to hold back because they made people squirm and nervous and had earned her serious tongue lashing from her mother once before. There was no written or confirmed interpretation of the gift. And it always surprised Meriena that no one ever questioned this astonishing ambiguity. The fragile foundation upon which the interpretation of the gift stood had not a single clearly written or openly spoken about or formally passed on directive. You learnt about it in the whispers and the casual jokes and the mildly dire warnings peppered in day to day conversation. The misfortunes that befell those who misused this gift was spoken of more. It was emphasized by women as they went about their chores and men as they clucked and muttered importantly about all the otherwise perfectly good children who had strayed. Meriena still struggled with understanding to whom the gift was meant and why it even was considered a gift.

Hard as she tried, she herself could not remember at what point she had come into the knowledge she had. The one and only time her mother had spoken about something involving the gift had been the time she told her to be careful around men now that she was a ‘full’ woman. This was when her periods started and the blood stains in her underwear seeped through to her school uniform and left a large stain which she washed off later that evening. The true stain, however, had been the embarrassing hooting and catcalling by boys and girls in her class as they fell over each other in mirth while pointing at the discriminating stain. This was the one and only time her mother talked about the gift and it was in such few words it was over before it even began.

It also marked Meriena’s introduction to the whims; most notably her monthly cycles.

The first sign was always the patch of dry skin between her eye brows which turned up exactly ten days before the flow. Then there were the moods which teetered in and out of her days with destructive abandon. And finally the pain which, like clockwork, came two days before the wet mess. It was uncomfortable pain which ravaged her lower abdomen and gave her diarrhoea and often caused thought-scattering migraines. On relatively good days, the barrage of painkillers she took allowed her to function through the hazy pain. Ugly days were spent in bed keeling over in pain and praying for the passage of this seemingly senseless pain. With each cycle, Meriena questioned the “gift” title more. She knew all about the gore and pain that came with conventional childbirth. Really, how could a gift bring with it this much pain? Her mind boggled and her questions piled with each unanswered question.

Every so often she paused to give thanks that she possessed within her the one thing that continued to fascinate her so. Did other people struggle with the kinds of questions she had? But she had since learnt, because she had made it her business to always know. She had flipped through books and listened keenly to the unspoken words whenever conversations touched on this taboo topic. And when the answers continued to be elusive, she launched into her own quest for knowledge. The books she read laid outrageous details and flabbergasting points of knowledge and when she exhausted the books, she ventured into her own exploration. It is in this exploration that she made discoveries. Her fingers, in the darkness of her room and the hardness of the mattress she slept on, introduced her to the pleasures of the gift; this suddenly precious gift. She was just now discovering unknown pleasures from mysterious depths that gave and gave and gave and gave. There was mortal terror that she would be found out. And anxiety that by the time she was ready for presentation to whoever her father deemed good enough, she would have used all the honey.

Because, surely, the infamous gift had to involve this dripping pleasure.

Just life. Or is it?

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Outside the building I live, right outside the gate, there is a stagnant gaping ditch full of black thick water; likely the product of several misdirected drainage systems. It smells, especially when it rains and it often bubbles over, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT RAINS. This gaping unsightly mess has been here probably for years. I personally cannot remember it not being there. Jumping over this muck each morning as I and many others scatter to various destinations has been my life as long as I can remember. That and blisters, horrible employment conditions, terrible houses, terrible hospitals, exploitative policies, seemingly paralyzed leaders and never working facilities. Days then weeks then months then years roll by and this life that continues to drag us through the mud goes on; together with the dormant ditch which seemingly no one ever thinks about. Not a single person ever wonders how it is that this eye sore continues to exist. No one. Not the little kids who play football inches from this sludge, or the mama fish who sells her products beside it each evening or the masses of people who would rather be inconvenienced than deal with clearing or covering it.

And so it has always been. Each frisky morning, having jumped over the first hurdle and as I join similar people wrought with purpose and determination, I encounter the usual. Near the matatu stage is Salome who sells chapatis. Her entire enterprise comprises of a stool, a jiko, a bucket, wheat flour, salt and cooking oil. Her livelihood lasts roughly four hours every morning. There is also Rehema who sells doughnuts next to Salome. All over the place, stray dogs wander; wary of getting in anyone’s way lest they get kicked and/or have stones hurled at them. As the day progresses, Maina will open his grimy hotel doors and across the street Safrima will set up her Chips Mwitu stand. Two feet away, the noisy salon and kinyozi shops will open up and so will the video shop. Things come to life slowly then quiet down late at night as everyone fades into their houses for the night. Generally, it is a tough, simple and robust life.

And here is how simple, robust and tough this life is. The other day when Mama Otis threw her fourth-born son a birthday party, I listened next door through a shared mabati wall as kids celebrated. The children, called out from whatever games they had been playing, crowded around the table, washing down cake with over-diluted orange juice while singing “Happy Birthday!”. Little Otis stood at the centre of it all, savoring the moment and completely over the moon. Later that same day, we half-watched half-listened as the women from door 7 and 9 exchanged loud and angry words over clothing lines. And when our hated landlord came (as he does at the end of each month) and locked out two tenants who could not come up with the Ksh 3,000 rent money, every one watched and waited until the fuming landlord left. Then Baba Naomi retrieved the iron-cutter from his welding shop and drilled open the offending padlock. Whenever KPLC employees came and cut out electricity for houses which hadn’t paid, someone later called a retired electrician who would promptly arrive and loop the cut out houses onto the ones still connected. And when Mainde from the furthest house lost his ailing father who had been living with him for months, everyone gathered and fund-raised and stayed up all night while drunkards danced to loud music until burial arrangements were completed.

It is not that we are chummy buddies and content to swelter in the collective misery that is poverty (in case that was implied). No. Not at all. We hate it here. Late at night while resting our exhausted limbs, we often dream of a better tomorrow; about some vague land filled with milk and honey. And to show that we are living up to our end of the bargain, we offer endless tithes and continue to fast. What we absolutely do not tolerate is insolence and cruelty. Everyone leads their lives but when Door 5 starts clobbering his wife, we all get out and yell at him to cut that shit out. And when Rukiya with her five children is unable to provide food, various houses put out extra plates for them. In these same rickety streets, brotherhoods and lifelong friendships are formed. Blissful, albeit lacking, children are brought up here. And our nights are long and satisfactory. Really, we just want to rest for the next round of assault.

Obviously, for those who insist on lumping us under one statistic, we feel pain and injustice. When we watch our young ones writhe in pain while stuck in long queues at public hospitals and later have to bury due to sicknesses that could have been treated, or when food is so scarce and we witness our kids look up to us for food we know we do not have, or when we endure countless and repeated humiliation at the hands of horrible employers, we feel all of that pain. More than you could ever imagine. Often I think about how extremely appropriate it would be if we had taps; let alone the kind that have running water. Or how helpful it would be if the relevant authorities did their job and ensured that when landlords erect houses they have the presence of mind to put up structures that will not come collapsing on our heads years down the line. It would be so nice and simply right if people who know absolutely nothing about the lives we lead would not sit on their high horses and seek to dictate how they think we should live our lives. Because right this instant, there is a raging debate about the stupidity of women from poor households who continue to give birth to many children. And this debate, as blindly and passionately as it is approached, reeks of privilege and self-righteousness. Poverty and most of the circumstances leading up to it, as I assume is common sense by now, is hardly ever the individual’s fault.

Let’s do better. All of us.

And in case it was not clear, I repeat, this kind of life is not easy.

be kind.

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It is discomfiting right? That nervousness that started mildly but has been gaining steady momentum with each episode of yet more bad news? The worry. And the nerve of our leaders! Them not rising to the occasion and handling things on time. (And us thoroughly birdboxing the fact that this is the same script we have read so many times before). It really is disconcerting. This having to live with not knowing what will/could/might happen. Witnessing people go through absolute uncertainty and being reminded how control really is an illusion. The helplessness may not have gotten to you yet. Because granted, you may still be able to hold your head above water. But surely you can see the destruction all around. Of people sick with worry and hopelessness. People not knowing what tomorrow holds. People still flaying for stability and whatever can pass for firm ground. And yet more terrified at whatever awaits them on the other side if at all.

Started out like a joke. Back when Corona was a far off cry; safely contained within China borders and associated with horrible images of wretched Chinese folk chomping on rodents and bats; when theories of Africans being immune to this flu were floating about. And you all smiled. And swapped yet more bizarre theories while turning a solid blind eye to our open borders and airports. Then they came and said the first case had been reported. And that, for what it was worth, you ought to be extra vigilant. At this point you worried, slightly, about your little kids and elderly family members, then settled in yet another theory that the government was reporting this case to gain access to grant money. It was all going to be alright. At work, you and other agitated colleagues started calling for staying at home directives because, well because you wanted to stay home and Corona was as good an excuse as any.

Around this time the first email came. Filled to the brim with corporate bureaucracy; these are very strange times- we are together- the company is adjusting and setting in motion emergency strategies- wash your hands- do not touch your face- be vigilant. With each confirmed case though, the worry escalated. Schools closed, various industries virtually halted, people stayed indoors. And a series of measures were put in place. The effects echoed and reverberated through the economy and ultimately slinked right into the corporate corridors you believed were safe. A second email was sent. This time they put non-permanent employees on unpaid leave and the rest of you were sent to work from home. Such relief! It all sounded great. That evening you stocked up on supplies and promptly locked you and your family home.

And each night, as rain rumbled and tumbled through the night, you turned in the safety and warmth of your bed; absolutely oblivious to folk who now have to worry not just about this deadly flu but about flash floods and mud slides and malaria and relocating to higher ground. During the day, with self-righteous indignation, you go on your usual twitter rants sending strongly worded tweets about the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of our government, the heroism of health workers who put their lives at risk each day and the sheer stupidity of people who continue to go about as if these very strange times are a joke. What in the hell was wrong with people who insisted on getting out? Do they not know how serious this thing is and that they could die? Ha.

But there are people who chuckle in pained amusement when they are told they’ve got to wash their hands with running water. Because they have never had running water. People who are normally crammed and stacked in ramshackle structures without the help of being asked to stay indoors are being told to practice social distancing. Many many people who fall under the informal sector umbrella and depend on meagre daily wages for survival are now watching as our leaders spend millions on tea and snacks. It is tough, all around. Kindness is needed, and thoughtfulness. Much more is needed in the way of hope and patience. And above all, the capacity to sit in the uncomfortable truth that it is okay to simply not know what will happen.

Slinky Sylvia.

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Any other time she was able to forget. With remarkable efficiency, she was always able lock away the thoughts in the darkest and least used crannies of her brain. Any other time except when she was in the shower in the safety of her house right after the act. Enclosed within those four misty walls, standing underneath the flood of scalding hot water, alone and bare, is when the thoughts poured in. With detail and film-like play by play. About the glitz and grime and shame. During these particular showers, absolutely nothing could convince her that she was worth more than dirt. And the water never quite managed to wash off the film of self-loathing that stuck to her like second skin; no matter how hot she let it run. The disgust was not so much out of the fact that she had done it; it was in the knowing that she would do it again and again and again. Just as he and all the others expected.

The thoughts always came in waves; tumbling over each other like bubbles dispensed from their machine. The first thought was his face; always his bulging and sweaty indelible face. The face was a study; unpleasant in an unsettling way. He had, with no exception, the meanest mouth she had seen. His teeth had initially scared her; with their shark-like sharpness and childish delight every time they closed on her left nipple (never the right). This fear she was however able to put to rest; mainly because most of what they did left little room for face gazes. Then there was the suffocation she felt each time he pinned her onto the foreign mattresses they used in the numerous lodges they turned to for their illicit meetings. In these foreign beds when she would be trapped in his bulky arms with his tongue wedged in her ear like wet cement, her mental counting of seconds until he would be done started. It was always the same process. There was sloppy licking and slurping meant to pass for kissing then his chubby fingers probing at her genitals intrusively and often painfully. When he finally came around to mounting her, it was always unapologetically possessive and never with protection. When it was all done, she would scramble to the bathroom and he would lay there spent and delirious with pleasure; content with the world and in the secured knowledge that she would always be around, ready and willing, provided he kept his purse strings open.

You see, Sylvia was what essentially passed for a prostitute. The bottom line was that she had sex for money though she and many others liked to shroud this activity with liberal names. She did not go out stripping or escorting or road-side hailing. And she did not allow into her bed more than one man at a time. What she was, was a kept woman. Purely for sex. The arrangement was that she would sit by the phone and go running whenever he summoned her. He on the other hand was supposed to answer to her financial needs. It was an arrangement which worked perfectly for him and his marriage. Only she hated it; with forceful singularity that often made her question why she kept doing it. Her friend, stuck in stripping and bar-tending, puzzled over this because in the cold and murky world where sex equalled money, this was considered immeasurable luck. This kind of arrangement was envied because it came with assured money and what was considered very little work.

Prostitution, for her, had started as a means to an end. Her growing up did not involve sexual or physical abuse. The one factor that stood out was poverty; deep in the slums, bottom of the chain, scavenging-for-food-in-trashcans poor. Her first sexual encounter was when she was barely ten. It was with a twelve year old boy in a dark alley at around 08:00 pm. Just two kids eager to try out the pornography they had watched in a grown-up’s phone. For her, sex did not hold the mystery and foreboding common with tended to kids. There was never the “stay away from boys talk”, no sermons about sexual purity and no notions of a prince charming meant to sweep her off her feet and worship at her feet. Her life was cold and the only instinct she learnt was surviving day through day. That and hatred. Hatred for power and the people who wielded it. It was hatred spent and too old for someone so young.

At 16, a gangly girl too big for her age, she was sleeping with a 27 year old man. A man who made it clear he was with her for what they did behind closed doors. It was the first time Sylvia realized sex COULD amount to money; that her womanhood was appreciated by certain kinds of people. Her energies henceforth were directed at perfecting her skill. And she got good at it; at least the men who kept coming back said so. There were quick lessons; basic knowledge for anyone looking to thrive in the world she was choosing. The first was that lighter skin was better than dark; so creams and lightening agents promptly formed her routine. And that long and limp hair was the way; enter relaxers, weaves, wigs and extensions. Then there was weight which she was supposed to maintain in certain areas and not in others. So she got into endless work out regimes targeted at particular body parts. At 24, she had changed; transformed herself into the poster girl for all things sexy. She was naturally picky and sold herself only to the highest bidder. The money flowed and in the flawed world where staged snapshots were taken to depict the whole picture, she was envied and quickly elevated to a role model for girls, young and old. But she hated it all.

The man she was keeping now, was, from the look of things, on his way out. Not out of Sylvia’s choice. He was getting bored. And there was nothing Sylvia could do apart from move onto her next prey. Not once did she ever think of herself as the prey. They paid to be with her and that, to her, was enough.

this post is about harassment; the sexual kind.

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This may come as a surprise to those of you who may or may not live under secluded little rocks, but on an average day, women get sexually harassed more than your local leaders were yelling “BBI!” before The Rona scared them into their mansions. By sexual harassment, I should explain, I mean unwanted sexual attention; the kind that women get simply because they happen to be female. It is so rampant that women and many men do not even recognise it as harassment or abuse. From the gropers, the gapers and drools to the vulgar flirts and rapist boyfriends and finally the men who direct their words at our chests instead of our faces, there really is no catching a break.

Take Mary, who works a clerical job at a struggling start-up. When she leaves for work each day, she can always count on the overly helpful man, practically falling over himself to help her navigate a reasonably empty aisle in the matatu. His hands, for whatever reason, are always glued to her waist and the small of her back. Mary has since grown accustomed to the unabashed stares and catcalls and “appreciative” whistles from drooling men. At the office, each and every place she has worked, there is always the self-proclaimed ladies’ man who mistakes embarrassing abrasiveness for forwardness. The man who lives for the inappropriate comments on the length of her skirt and the fit of her dress and her body shape. The kind who flirts with her across the room, eliciting stares, theories and sniggers.

At forums which surely do not warrant any kind of attention, there will be that one man. Hovering over her and flashing little snarly smiles. We have all encountered them; the kind that do away with all boundaries once they have downed a beer or two and then go about harassing women in the name of inebriation. And then there are the ones that come with marriage promises because that is how low the husband bar has been set. The only qualifying factor is that the man should BE a man. Then women will be lining up for the great token of being called wives.

Listen. Men (and women). If you know you are in a position that leaves the girl vulnerable, just do.not.hit.on.her. Period. I said this to a man who was coming on to a waiter at a night club and the man responded with “mEn aRe nAtuRALly vIsUaL”. That if she did not want to be hit on she would not be wearing the tight number she had on. He was convinced that ladies love these advances and only act like they do not to play hard to get. I personally still do not know how many times one can say no before the message hits home.

Most dabblers are generally within the law. Which creates the illusion that it is alright to catcall and “mistakenly” graze women body parts and gloat. It is not. It is harassment. And no one should be doing it. Regardless of your naturally visual tendencies (lol).I can assure you, dear man, that no one is agitating for a peek into what you keep in your pants, baseball bat or shrivelled carrot notwithstanding. Used to be that mothers warned their teenage daughters against dressing a certain way or sitting a certain way or walking a certain way(or you know, simply existing) in a way that might have been misconstrued as inviting the demons that live in some sick minded men. And we obeyed. And did that thing where we always had to put our legs together when sitting down and tried so hard not to play with boys and were taught early on that humility, modesty and shyness were the point-gaining qualities. So much so that to date, outspoken women stand out; like sore thumbs which must be admonished and pushed back down. All of that still did not help. Because the creepy uncle still came around and did his thing. And the grown man still stared unabashed at the sway of young hips.

Am I saying that men should not hit on women (and vice versa)? No. Not at all. Just do not be a prude while at it. And listen to words. No really does mean no people.

Birthdays! Of Special people and Special days.

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I try not to think (too hard) about the mysteries of life. But there are certain things that never fail to inspire some level of confrontation with the opaqueness behind the reasoning of some life mysteries. I, for one, often wonder how we get to end up in our families. Because in that particular respect, I came up lucky. I really did get the best. There is the purest of intentions, the absolute sincerity in acts and simple undiluted joy in having my siblings. My sisters especially make it a little easier to swallow all that life keeps shoving my way. Today, my sister, the authoritative one who is most thorough and beautiful and of the quick comebacks, turns thirty. Early last month, as we ushered in 2020, she announced unceremoniously that this was the year she would turn 30. And I felt apprehensive on her behalf. “Do you know how long you have to have lived to be thirty?” I asked her and she answered, simply and with dismay at the stupidity of the question, “Obviously 30 years, lol.” I am still wondering where all that time went.
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There used to be a time when all that mattered was maintaining loyalty when out playing and establishing territories. Hellen, I will have you know, was a protector; absolutely formidable in dealing with bullies. I particularly remember her getting into fights and solidly shielding me from the harshness that is often common when out interacting with hurt little rascals who bring that hurt with them to the playing field in form of bullying. (P.S I was scrawny and scared and sucked on my right thumb until I was like eleven; basic pure fodder for bullies). On whose side she stood was never in question. This was way back when I was still learning my ABCs and she in the esteemed upper classes level. When she was a KCPE candidate, I remember having half day school. I mostly remember her coming back to the house at around 08:00 pm from some organised private tuition, carting around a huge denim bag filled with all these revision books which were ultimately dutifully passed on to us.

She has since grown. Obviously. And it is not only that she was the first to introduce me to what it felt to be appreciated and thought of because of the goodies and gifts she brought back when coming from her boarding high school. Or the fact that it was she who sharpened my interest in reading books because of the many pacesetter stories she told. Those I gained simply because of the privilege growing up with her afforded me. It was more; a whole lot more. There is so much she covers simply because she is here. Anyone you ask will tell you there is undeniable loyalty in her actions. The love she has for her boys; her adorable sons (and I am not just saying this; those boys really are the cutest), never ceases to amaze me. Her words, often quick and not exactly easy to take, have always been factual, thought out and to the point. When I asked her what it was she felt about turning thirty, in one of very rare moments, she paused, unsure of the answer. I later realised it was me projecting my insecurities onto her.


Because in the life we are living now, after classes in movies and Instagram and Twitter and yes Facebook, we are conditioned again and again to measure our achievements at unrealistic (and very often unreal) standards. At each turn we keep getting reminded of our shortcomings. Because there is some introverted sixteen year old somewhere raking in billions from, as YouTube will have us know, the comfort of their cosy and perfect home. And there is all kinds of goals now; couple goals, sibling goals, money goals, body goals. Then there is us; the barely staying afloat ones when everyone else seems to be prospering. It is all so overwhelming; especially when under the conviction that you need to achieve certain things before reaching a certain age.
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I do not know how easy it is to stay above all this or what it feels like to be thirty (at least not yet, lol). I do know though that my life and so many others are better because of you. That there are babies involved here and a love for shoes and hand bags and self-love I always admire. Really, with the kind of determination in life and self-giving to your little boys and husband that you posses, it is practically impossible not to admire. So this post is meant to remind you that you are adored. And admired. And needed. And loved. Happy birthday Hellen. Get to blow many more candles.
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P.S: I have included this many photos because, well because I know you like photos and because I want to put them here. And because you are too pretty.

seline.

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There really wasn’t much to be said for the house. Except for the fact that it possessed the curious quality of being typical and fascinating at the same time. The house which by fair description was really just two rooms, housed a total of 11 individuals by night. By day, it was anyone’s guess the amount of comings and goings its wooden doors witnessed. The first room, slightly bigger than a shoe box, was officially the living room but it underwent all kinds of rearranging to accommodate the various needs its occupants imposed on its limited capabilities. Whenever there was food, usually in the evening, the table and three seats would be cleared and present members settled for the food. Each morning, fish was laid out on the same table and sorted before being taken out for peddling. At night, when it was time to sleep, a rolled up mattress would be retrieved from the other room where it was stuffed every morning and it would be laid on the ground. Exhausted bodies rested here intermittently. At random intervals during the day, select girls wandered in with men and if the room happened to be empty, they stopped here. Usually they proceeded into the next room and did what it was that happened when money, among other favours, was the exchange for sex. The second room served as the parents’ (and toddlers’) bedroom and kitchen and dressing room and store and hiding room from occasional police raids.

The one main task the house performed at length was housing men; the kind who enjoyed being drunk and did not seem to have any reservations about drinking first thing in the morning. These were men who had long given up owning up to any kind of responsibility or making anything for their lives. It was enough for them to sit around and discuss politics they did not understand, exchange crude words and crawl back to their homes (or holes) whenever NyaarMama, the matriarch, announced it was time to leave. The alcohol they endlessly consumed was illicit, brewed and sold by NyaarMama, who swore that whatever she served was cleaner and healthier than whatever else they bought. Nothing, she often announced, was illicit about the brew she worked at every night.

The selling of the liquor was and had always been NyaarMama’s reserve. Only she handled the money. Serving fell to Seline, the youngest. Of the four girls hailing from NyaarMama’s womb, Adhis, the eldest, always peddled fish. Belinda was a wild card whose whereabouts were never fully known. Sharon, Belinda’s twin, was more grounded but Seline suspected that had to do with the two children she tended to in the house. There were brothers; two of them. But they rarely ever spent time in the house. Junior tended to be gone for days and was suspected to have another roof somewhere. Otis was more around and was even known to buy the occasional sweet for his child; the one whose young mother had dropped off at NyaarMama’s when the baby was barely a month old. The father and NyaarMama’s husband was said to be a little crazy. When he was not fitfully dozing off in one of the chairs, he was out and not a single soul knew where it was he went.

It was not that the house was dysfunctional. No. It operated on a seemingly complex maze which was navigable only by its occupants. There existed only a single rule which NyaarMama enforced with an iron fist; no one was allowed to steal from her or anyone else. Everything else passed. And a surprisingly whole lot happened within those four walls. There was that one time when the supposed wife to the man that had fathered Belinda’s first child came into the house breathing fire and baying for blood. The ensuing argument started with ugly words, led to exchanging of very unwomanly blows and ended with both women at Kenyatta’s emergency room. Then there were the occasional police raids which inadvertently ended up with a cuffed Otis being led to the back of the police truck with a pleading NyaarMama following closely behind. There was also the many times fights broke out between the drunks when one failed to agree with the other. In all these, NyaarMama stayed unfazed and sturdy. The only other always present witness was Seline; a timid, unnoticed and fully absorbing presence.

Seline, whom NyaarMama often jokingly taunted for her big bones, could not, in her 14 years of living, remember a time she did not hate this house. The first time she became acutely aware of the disdain and contempt; particularly towards men, was the time a man casually rubbed his fingers over her small chest while she poured alcohol into his empty mug. She had just turned eleven. It was contempt which had since grown mechanical from use and a developed anger simply too old for someone so young. When she sprouted breasts, barely visible swellings, the men noticed. Suddenly their gazes would linger a little too long and snide comments about how “watoto wa siku hizi wanamea haraka” became common talk. The casual rubbing quickly graduated to outright assault; especially when it was evident she was “too big” for her age. These men accosted her, carelessly grabbed and painfully groped her with absolutely no regard. NyaarMama watched and often reprimanded the men. Generally though, she dismissed this abuse as harmless fondling by harmless drunk men.

The first time the rape happened, she had been left alone in the house. NyaarMama was out tending to some errand after leaving strict orders that money had to be collected before the alcohol was served. By this time Seline had gotten used to the stares, the comments and the inappropriate touching. She had learnt whose touch was softer and which ones were particularly hard. The first customers were two men who drunk continuously for an hour before one suddenly left. Seline stared at the remaining man whose speech increasingly got slurred with each emptied mug. His name, she would later learn, was Mose.

“Wewe Seline hebu kuja hapa,” the demand came after a few minutes of staring.

She ignored this and moved to the next room hoping the man would leave. When the man followed her and pushed the door shut, she panicked. Some part of her believed she would be able to ward off these unwanted advances; she had done it so many times before. Only the man was not interested in talking. He crossed the room backing Seline to the end of the room. She stopped short when she hit the clothes drawer. Mose loomed over her; a hideous smirk pasted on his face.

“Let me out!” Seline demanded, the tremor in her voice betraying her fear.

“You know what I want.” Was the slurred reply.

The attempted shove would have worked had Mose not been so big. It did not and Seline found herself pinned to the ground struggling for air. Mose worked fast; obviously familiar with undressing unwilling women. The skirt she was wearing was half-torn, half-dragged off her and the first pain hit when his fingers dug into her thighs. She let out a scream which was cut short by a blow so vicious she tasted blood. She fought, God knows she did, but after the sixth blow, she stopped struggling. With each forceful gyrate, Seline swallowed her cries and hoped it would be the last. The whole ordeal lasted exactly three minutes. Mose got off after he was done and stumbled away with his zipper still open. On the floor Seline lay still, feeling her lips swelling and excruciating pain from somewhere between her legs. It was NyaarMama who found her on the floor an hour later.

Part two will be up soon 😊.

Of Unnecessary Change and Writer’s Block and 2020 Sentiments.

2020

Towards the end of 2019 I assured myself it was alright to put this blog on hold. I promised myself and anyone who cared to listen (mostly my sister who unfortunately always bears the brunt of my self-assurance rumbles) that I was refuelling for 2020. The year 2020 was supposed to be the magical year which would see me put to rest all the habits I had been trying to shake and firmly acquire new desirable ones. These I would achieve with the stroke of midnight. This year really was supposed to be the one. By this time, the plan was to have had two posts up and running and have logged in at least 15 hours of working out and be well into my second book for the year and a myriad other goals too embarrassing to put out. Obviously, since you are reading this towards the middle of the month, it did not happen quite how I expected. 2020 rolled in and it thoroughly embarrasses me to say, I did not have the energy I assumed would automatically flow with that 12:00 a.m. gong. I am not sure how I expected that to work. And I, more than anyone, should have known better. Because I have been down that road before. It just doesn’t happen in one day.

It wasn’t the numbing inactivity with no plan to lift myself out of that rut that shocked me. That stayed; heavy and unbothered. It was the hours and hours of sleep I put my body through that surprised me. The fact that I would get through the day half asleep and be out by 10:00 p.m. snoring away never failed to amaze me. And my body did protest; through exhausted bones and a mourning heart which only caused mild worry. A really good friend suggested I might be experiencing some kind of writer’s block. Two problems though. I generally don’t expect to experience this thing because I really do not qualify as a writer. Secondly, I was in simple denial. The convincing arguments I debated within me as week after week went by with no real motivation or push to get the words flowing will astonish you. It was work, then holidays, then no story. Then I sort of stopped caring. I have no less than 5 drafts lying idle in my documents; some no more than measly half paragraphs and one burgeoning particular one that I kept doodling on without any distinct direction. It really has been ugly; and not just in the writing department. Might be I was going through that old writers block phenomenon. Or some kind of burn out. Or whatever it was.

Which brings me to the point of writing this post. This will however only make sense to the fully aware of their imperfections and whom are keen to get better. The rest can respectfully bow out at this point and look forward to the next post (haha). Seriously though, the habits we form start in smallest of ways. Never anything too major. You start by tossing your bag and coat at the sofa closest to you when you walk into the house from work. No worries. Because you ultimately always get them to the hangers where they belong, right? The distinction is usually subtle but very final. Because somewhere along the way you stop and nothing strikes you as outrageous when you quickly get into the habit of rummaging through that sofa every morning as you are rushing out of the house. Same with the eating and the forming or breaking relationships and the reading something other than curt tweets and all those habits you know you need to be working on or banishing as far from you as is humanly possible. Saddest bit is that the ones we casually form are so hard to shake.

All in all, welcome to 2020. This post here today is meant to get things going. And to remind you, sweet reader, that some change is mere adjustment with no actual improvement. Think through your robust and comprehensive 2020 goals lest you are running in vain circles.