Of Chasing Whirlwinds

I’m watching a movie on my laptop as I sip tea. Tea brewed in a lot of milk is all I take nowadays. I don’t like tea but I have no choice for without tea and enough fluids, the newborn won’t have anything to feed on. So I’ve learnt how to take tea all the time because if I don’t my mother will call and ask, “Are you taking tea? What did I say?” Today is a good day, the baby breastfed easily, burped almost immediately and took a nap. I also don’t have any of the many friends who visit to check on us often. I’m pretty much impressed by myself, and by the peace in the house. Then he comes in. I know it by the stench of cigarette smoke that repulses me to the core. This would never have bothered me on a normal day of our relationship but since I became a mother a lot of things annoy me. And most of what annoys me is what I feel directly affects my baby. The baby wakes up, I don’t understand. He tries to go for him but I am paranoid about where his hands have been. The year is 2013.

Me: Don’t touch my baby.

Him: He’s mine too so I’m taking him.

Me: I need you to wash your hands. You know we do that for the baby. And change those clothes too.

He washes his hands and in defiance, picks the baby.

I facey palm. I’m so angry. I don’t know what to do but I go for the baby, cautiously. This man has not only threatened to hit me once or twice or more times but he’s always saying that he will leave with the baby.  He gets angry. He actually holds his fists in anger. Too much for a peaceful day.

Him: Okay. You think I’m not worthy of carrying my own child.

Me: It’s not like that. I need you to stop smoking. The child may catch a cold or asthma.

Him: Excuse me? Did I ever ask you to quit smoking when you were doing it so religiously? Is smoking a problem to you now?

Me: It’s not about me. We’re parents now, he should be safe in our hands.

He storms out. The child is crying. He never likes it when the atmosphere is tense, he doesn’t like it when we shout at each other. He’s only two months old. I’m angry. I can’t hide it but as usual, a friend pops in and I have to get back in character. To being the charming host again. I hate being in character but my mum tells me not to waste my energy on anger because it will affect my milk production. Being in character isn’t bad after all.

Months pass, the baby grows older but me and him never grow older. We argue all the time and I hate everything he does. I hate how he holds a spoon while eating, how he sips his tea, how he holds the baby and soothes him to sleep. I hate it. I even hate how he writes my name starting with a small letter in texts. He’s so disrespectful. I resent him, it’s a bitter resentment. He hates everything I do so the feeling is mutual. We drift apart so much and sometimes I throw his stuff out in the rain. I’ve done it severally. He calls me a dramatic fool and comes back even later in the morning the next day. I start locking him out, he moves to her house. That’s where he shelters when the heat becomes too much. I don’t know her. I’ve never bothered to know her but I kind of like that she keeps that man away from me. I enjoy my days without him around. Because he’s such an expert at taking care of the baby that he argues about which side the baby sleeps on. That lying him on his right side makes the child’s eyes weird. I want this man out. Out of our lives and out, he goes.

We get into 2014.

He decides to show off his other woman. Me and him are no longer together but we seriously try to be civil for the sake of the baby. His other woman is of the same build as me, same body size, same complexion, same facial features and whoah! She reminds me of me. She’s beautiful. That’s a weird thing to say alright. But nothing strikes me as different. Nothing really strikes me in her, maybe the fact that he’s proud of her or the fact that they get along. I don’t know. I know he wishes that she was the mother of her child. He’s not mentioned it but I listen to the unsaid things. Each time I allow him to take his baby out for a bonding session, he takes the child to her. The three of them bond together. I cannot take it anymore. It dawns on me that the man has no regard for me or how that would make me feel. I pack my belongings and go home. Where I’m always accepted despite my many shortcomings. I cut off all communication.

Then he sends me this message where he’s regretting why he never hit me when he had the chances. He’s regretting why he didn’t do it because he’d have taken the child with him. I laugh. My first reaction when I’m seething with anger is laughter. Then it all kicks in and I speak 1000 words per minute and even write more. My hands start shaking. We’ve had our time apart but during that time he has never thought about his actions. We never speak, he has never asked about the child for a year yet he’s wishing he had beat me then. I can’t reply to that message. I get into my feelings and cry. Crying is the only reaction I can manage, at the moment.

2015. I get into my perfect relationship. I’ve learnt that anger and reacting to anger are never good for a relationship. I accept my person with all his flaws and we have my most perfect relationship ever. We don’t argue, unless it’s normal political talk. At least with my almost perfect person, we hang out with his friends. I like them. They are reasonable. He’s all he never was. Only that he’s separated from the wife. At least that’s what he said and my memory serves me right. It’s funny how sometimes we never really know who we are with because they edited their story. They’re acting from their script which we never know existed.

One time we’re hanging out then one of his friends comes with the wife. I think it’s beautiful that person X has brought the wife to the club. She dances the night away, they’re happy. My person asks him why he tags her along, he replies that she deserves just as much fun as he can have even now that they’ve got their first kid. I’m in tears. He asks my person, “Why should I dance with other women when I have a queen whom I can dance with?” I run to the washrooms because someone may think I’m mourning someone. I’ve listened to just a few statements and I’m emotional. She follows me and asks me if I’m okay. The only thing I say is that she has a beautiful relationship and I’d want one like that in future. She’s full of grace and beauty and charisma. She assures me that one day I will.

We get back home after everyone else has left. I’m in one of those moods where I feel like penning something before my thoughts evaporate. I take my person’s laptop as he sleeps and do the necessary but before I shut it down. I notice a folder with her name, the supposed separated wife. I note down her name for future background checking when we’re apart. I have no reason to suspect my person, I neither have one to stalk his “separated wife” either so our relationship thrives. We’re celebrating a year together. Huh!

Around mid-2016 as I’m going through my notebook I find her name. I search it on Facebook and I don’t have to search through the 5 people with the same name. Her profile has his picture as her profile picture. What?! I’ve been the other woman for a year now and I missed all the chances to know it. I stalk a little more. My head is spinning and I make myself a cup of coffee, coffee helps me maintain a cool head. I read the comments on that photo. One reads, “When’s the wedding? We’ve waited a long time dear.”

“It doesn’t matter, we’re living well, we’re at peace. That’s all that matters.”

I don’t understand why someone would feel the need to ask another about a wedding but to each their own. I love her reply though. I check the dates and the comment was made in mid-2015. Wow! I check her photos, she’s gorgeous, the same complexion as I am. I don’t understand why he would cheat on such a woman who wants everything to work. I feel a little pained that I’m probably the cause of their rift. I didn’t know, I didn’t bother to find out if he was truly separated or that’s just something he followed from his script. I cut off all communication once again and choose to stay the way I am.

I wanted to let her know that the man in her profile picture was not worth that honour but what do I know about wives marking territories. It wasn’t my place to tell her of his philandering ways. I’d most likely widened the rift between them and I wouldn’t meddle anymore. I wouldn’t have her ask herself why she was not enough, no she doesn’t have to ask herself why he had to go for someone who had the same features as herself if she was all he needed and wanted. So that night I wrote him a letter, long enough to bring him to his senses. Of how instead of devoting his time, energy and money with the one woman he should commit to he was out there chasing dust while the diamond slipped farther. Of course, he said that it couldn’t work but I told him that he never tried. The twist in his script changed and it gave me perspective. I sincerely hope they’re good right now if their relationship wasn’t damaged.

Some days, people who get to know me for the first time ask me about my baby’s father. I really don’t owe anyone answers but some genuinely ask if I would get back with him for the sake of the child. Most of the time, I say, I’ve never given it a thought. Other times I say no, we can’t. I’ve spent some good moments of my years thinking about it. And now I know it’s a no. The damage done is irreparable, we had irreconcilable differences and all I get from him nowadays is “I’m sorry I let you down” or “I’m sorry” or “I’m sorry I let the baby down.”

He does not know how sick the word sorry from him makes me feel. It is a sorry sick word. Because when he’d have said that sorry, he didn’t. He was out there, spiting me. Showing me that he could still get someone with my features, even better ones instead of going down to apologise for what he did or didn’t do. Our time apart never helped because he still felt the need to remind me of what he should have done then. Sigh. See I try going down sometimes, I speak with him when the need arises and all he does is raise my hopes then hang me out to dry with “I’m sorry I let you down.” Of course, with a very disrespectful mention of my name started with a small letter. I guess I haven’t gotten over this issue of a proper noun starting with a small letter.

I’ve had my fair share of shortcomings in what was our relationship. I learnt from them, the what to do and what not to do. That’s why I almost had the perfect relationship I had with my person, what our relationship was gained me a new perspective. And if at any point my baby’s father ever decides that he wants to be a part of raising a child, of course without arguing about every single thing, I wouldn’t stand in the way. Even though that would be akin to chasing dust in a whirlwind. Maybe just maybe, he’d have to be content with “I’m sorry Brother.” Of course with a capital letter to begin the word Brother. Time really tells and when a lot of it passes, it heals and it makes people strangers. Sometimes starting or rather flipping a new page is what time in its kindness and lessons would never allow.

Story By: Guest Writer (She insisted on anonymity)

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Mama I’m Sorry (Final)

Victoria, the female cop whose name Amara did not know yet, lowered her gun and placed it back in its holster before walking in, eyes fixed on the three criminals seated on the floor. She bent in front of Abdi Hassan, raising his chin with her finger so she could look at him, but she quickly lost interest in him. She turned to Masai and noticed he was holding the area on his chest where he had been cut, and blood was leaking from between his fingers. “Doesn’t anyone here know that his wound needs to be attended to?” Worried, she walked to him and pulled his hand away so she could have a look at his cut. Without waiting for an answer, walked Masai to the couch, picked his reaped shirt from the floor and gently wiped out the blood with it.

Everyone turned to Amara who wasn’t sure how she felt about this. She loathed how Victoria had swung into action, attending to Masai as if she didn’t know she was his girlfriend, yet she had done nothing when she had the chance. She looked at Masai and he had his eyes shut. She hated him too but did not why exactly. She felt that she had forgiven him too easily. That he had not proved in any way he was worthy of her forgiveness, yet she had given it to him, and now she wished she could take it back.

“Can I have water in a basin and a clean washcloth, please?” Victoria asked.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Alexis held Amara’s legs tightly immediately she placed him down as if he was afraid she would run and leave him in the hands of these gun-wielding people. Amara bent and reassuringly ran her palm over his head until he broke into a smile, heedlessly tugging on her dress. He did not look hurt or famished, only relieved. She looked up and all the three men had their guns pointed at Hassan who had his hands lifted in surrender. The air was thick with tension, and she felt a little bit hot under her dress. She swooped Alexis from the ground and walked towards the door while patting his back, but one of Abdi Hassan’s bodyguard pointed his gun at them and Amara took a step back. She looked at Alexis whose tired eyes innocently stared at the barrel of the gun like it was a toy he could play with. Her eyes wondered to Hassan as if to remind him that now was the time for him to put his plan into action.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Amara sat on the floor with her back propped against the wall and a pillowcase between her thighs, fighting hard to stop tears from rolling. Her mind was being tormented by her mother’s voice, cursing and crying, wondering how she could be so insensitive that she hadn’t bothered going to the village to help in the search for her brother. Visions of where and how her brother was, came and went out of her mind in a flash. She imagined he had already passed out from crying a lot since Alexis hated being in unfamiliar places amid unfamiliar people, even when Amara and his mother were around. He loved home. He loved being in a space where he could play freely; disorganize everything in the house without backlash, other than a warning look from either his mother or Amara. He was probably confined in a dark room somewhere, where he would occasionally be given a plate of suspicious-looking food until something happened; something like giving Masai up.

She glanced up to see Masai pacing the room, her phone on his ear. He snapped his fingers and mumbled something under his breath as if willing for whoever was on the other end of the phone to answer. He turned to Amara and their eyes met. He froze for a second, before looking the other way as he paced around. Moments later he sat next to Amara without saying anything. Amara was crying silently, her head thrown back against the wall. He stroked her dreadlocks and later rested his hand on her shoulder, pulling her closer.

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Mama I’m Sorry

The last bit of her scream was muffled up with a sigh of relief when she ascertained that it was Masai in her house. Neither of them said nor did anything for the next few seconds. They stared at each other in silence, his red unblinking eyes showing he had been crying. His hair, just like his beard, was unkempt, one would think he had been living in a forest. But even in the midst of all this mess that was him, she couldn’t help noticing that he had grown more handsome. His lips moved with a twinge of a smile and hers trembled with both excitement and anxiety. When he stood and started walking towards her, she took a step back, almost as if she was terrified of him. He stopped and threw his hands up in the air.

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Mama I’m Sorry

While applying lipstick, pouting her lips towards the mirror, Amara felt guilty that she was only going to church because she was in trouble and wanted pastor Andrew to pray for her. Granted, it was her mother’s idea, but she did not object to it when her mother said she would talk to pastor Andrew so he can pray for her and cover her with the blood of Jesus now that she was famous and enemies of progress were out to destroy her. She spun in front of the mirror, taking a good look at herself to make sure her dress was not too tight. Even with her baby bump, she still wore fitting dresses because she hated walking around in a dress that felt like a balloon, ready to drift into the air at the slightest blow of the wind. She tied her dreads behind her and as she took a final look in the mirror, was surprised at how her skin glowed, despite everything. It must be the pregnancy, she thought. She slipped into a pair of black flat shoes and walked out of her room to find her mother and Alexis waiting for her in the living room. They both stood as she entered the room, a sign that they were ready to leave.

From the way her mother looked outside the car window and waved at everyone she recognized, Amara was convinced she didn’t just want her to come to church for prayers, but also to give her the opportunity to drive through the village in her car, showing everyone that her daughter had made it. This thought filled Amara with joy and it was because of this that she said, “Soon you will have your own car, Mama.”

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Sweet Sin

She stares at his portrait photo. A photo that has been on her desk ever since she got promoted to Creative Director at the agency, a position that came with the coveted corner office. Her office sits on the fourth floor of The Mall in Westlands and, while at her desk, her back faces a huge glass window overlooking Waiyaki Way. She could hear faint noises of speedings cars and a few daring hawkers shouting the interesting names and benefits of their products. She smiles when a tiny voice in a surely old speaker mounted on a moving car narrates how lethal their bedbugs pesticide is. She doesn’t see anyone openly approaching that car to buy a bedbugs pesticide because that would be an open confession that they had bedbugs, and no one wants to admit that they have bedbugs, especially those with bedbugs. His smile is broad. She tries looking away but she can still see his smile and thick sideburns from the corner of her eyes. It saddens her, this smile. It saddens her because he doesn’t smile like this anymore.

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Mama I’m Sorry

She remained rooted to the spot long after they were gone. Shuddering with fear, she held her waist with one hand and her cheek with the other, occasionally pinching herself, hoping to wake up from this nightmare. The cologne of the man who had, not long ago, threatened to shatter her world by killing her brother or cutting Masai open to retrieve his kidney, lingered in the air that was heavy with tension, and it sickened her. She began pacing the room as she tried figuring who these people were and how they knew Masai. When she failed to come up with something meaningful, she turned to Google. In the search bar, she typed, ‘The most dangerous men in Kenya.’ Google search brought forward names of people she knew nothing about and so she narrowed her search to ‘Wanted Human Organs traffickers in Kenya,’ but that too brought names and faces of people she did not recognize. She stepped back from the laptop, thinking, and then walked back to it and typed, ‘Wanted Drug Lords In Kenya,’ and to her horror, the face, and name of the man she was looking for popped up.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Amara shifted to the very edge of the seat and leaned against the car’s door. She hadn’t known what seeing Masai would have amounted to, but she hadn’t expected it to fill her with more pain and emptiness. Nothing Masai said made sense and it was worse he had already given up on her by declaring he would be okay with her moving on with her life. She raised her head and stared outside the moving car. It was hot outside. The women had a few buttons of their blouses loosened and the men held their jackets in their hands. She was envious of them when she imagined that maybe the hotness of the son was the only thing bothering them. James sped past a speed bump, throwing her in the air, her head almost hitting the roof. She turned to look at him with scolding eyes and he apologized profusely without turning to meet her gaze. From the way he held the steering wheel with a firm grip and how his eyes deliberately refused to look her way, she knew something was eating him up.

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