Mama I’m Sorry

She fell asleep for the first time in five days, and the universe conspired to make sure she was well rested by filling her sleep with nice dreams, alienating her from her tragedy. The next morning she woke up to loud murmurs from somewhere in the house, now a normal occurrence. In her village, when death visited your compound, with it came distant relatives, neighbours and strangers who talked like they were in a talking competition, only stopping to look at you with pity and mumble ‘sorry for your loss’ when they saw you. She glanced at the window and the morning sunlight shimmered from behind the bright coloured curtain, begging to be let in. She closed her eyes again, filtered out the murmurs and reminisced about her father, now lying dead in a morgue. How could he die just like that? And why did it have to be on the same day she had hoped to make peace with him? She found it difficult to believe that her mighty father, who walked with a walking stick because his ego was too heavy for him to carry alone, could simply fall in the bathroom, hit his head on the floor and die.

She knew she was being unreasonable but she had not expected that her father’s exit from this world would happen so unceremoniously. She had refused to accept that her father would go out like that until she saw him at the morgue. They had gone there the same evening and though the attendants and security guards turned them away, asking them to come the following day, they stood their ground and Maasai finally managed to persuade one of the attendants, a thin guy with yellow teeth, to let them view the body. The attendant had looked at his two other colleagues with asking eyes and they had shrugged before letting them in. But once inside, Amara refused to open her eyes. Once she saw that it was truly her father lying there, there was no going back. Her belief that this was a mistake would be wiped out. She covered her eyes with her hands till Masai placed his hand over her shoulder and said, “If you are not ready, we can always come back tomorrow.”

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Mama I’m Sorry

“I was wrong about you and Masai,” her father said, “No doubt he makes you happy and I am sure he will be a good husband.” Amara could not believe this was her proud father admitting he was wrong. Arms folded, she looked at him with teary eyes.  They were standing near the gate, the morning sunlight shining on their faces. She had made peace with the fact that her father was always going to treat Masai with indifference and it was a relief to know he had had a change of heart. She unfolded her arms and embraced her father who wrapped his left arm around her waist and patted her back with his right hand. Amara closed her eyes, lay her head on his shoulder and beamed when her father broke into a song. It was strange to hear him sing because she could not remember ever seeing him hum, leave alone sing. In his arms, she felt like a little girl again. Like his favourite daughter again.

She flashed her eyes open when she heard the sound of water patting the floor. She recognized the elegant curtains running down the bedroom window and the familiar voice of Masai singing in the bathroom. She rubbed her eyes, looked around with fresh keenness and threw her head back on the pillow in exasperation. It was just a dream. But a smile returned to her face when she remembered that though it was only a dream, it was a good one. Since moving to the city, she had never talked to her father and only mentioned him in passing in her conversations with Masai or Achika. She was yet to get over the fact that he slapped and drove her out of his house. Even worse, that he had never bothered to call and apologise. “He is your father, you are the one who is required to take the first step to reconciliation,” Masai had told her not once, but she would have none of it. Now she thought different. She had a yearning to make peace with her father, and the dream couldn’t have come at an appropriate time because she and Masai were travelling to the village.

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Meet Paula Norah—She Makes Pen & Paper Talk

I haven’t been heartbroken enough in my life, which is a surprise because I always wear my heart on my sleeve. When I like someone, I don’t know how to keep it to myself. I tell them. The same goes for those I don’t like. Because I spend most of my time online, I get to meet boring people in the streets of Social media, pretentious people who suffocate us with stale moral stories that begin with “A poor man once knocked on a rich woman’s door. .,” religious people who remind us that no matter our huge following, we are just mere mortals, and then smart people who write beautifully and you can’t help but stalk them online, people like Paula Norah. If you pronounce her name wrong, you, Mister, are going to have a problem.

In her Facebook Profile photo, with a background of green trees and maize plantations from a distance, Paula is seated on a rock, dressed in a black sleeveless top, a yellow flared skirt and black shoes. A black necklace stops right above her cleavage and to finish off her elegance is her lovely smile, which she wears like you would your Sunday best back in the days. Her ebony skin glows and I reckon if I were to wake my little Natasha up from her sleep, show her this photo and ask her what she sees, she would say, “Angel?”

Angels, by the way, are black. Jesus too.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Nyathiwa, her hairdresser, had brown hair under her armpits. But as hideous as it was, Amara did not mind because she was in awe of her skills. She loved how her fingers moved with precision, leaving a trail of beautiful lean braids. Occasionally, she would stop braiding to hold her waist and dramatise her exaggerated gossips, providing a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stuffy salon reeking of human hair, body sweats and hair chemicals. Amara had stared at the two fans standing on the opposite corners of the salon to see if they were on; they were but made no difference. The slim lady seated next to her, holding a copy of Eve Woman Magazine, laughed at something the hairdresser waxing her dreadlocks said. It was a high pitched laughter that pierced through the air and left a ringing sound in Amara’s ears.

She hated that laugh.

“I wonder why these people running the Maendeleo Ya Wanaume group have not come to my neighbour’s rescue. That man is suffering!” Nyathiwa was saying. Her English was flawless, Amara was sure if she asked her, she would say she had a bachelors degree and was only hairdressing for lack of ‘decent’ jobs. “You should see the way his wife insults him. I hear he does all the house chores while she catches up with her friends online.”

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Mama I’m Sorry

Masai was smiling. He leant against the wall and asked, “Is now a bad time?” in a lifeless tone. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She had not expected a smiling Masai, was she dreaming? Searching his eyes, she hoped to catch a glimpse of hurt in them but his eyes were blank. She cast her eyes down at first, and then looked him in the face and said with a chuckle, “Don’t be silly, sweetheart, it’s never a bad time.” She had hoped to diffuse the tension that was building up faster than a buttered bullet and when the attempt failed, she stepped forward to hug him but he did not wrap his arms around her like he always did. She could as well have been hugging a tree.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Samuel, the taxi driver, adjusted his flat grey cap before negotiating the corner and driving through Amara’s estate’s gate. Amara was disappointed their short journey had come to an end because he had regaled her with stories of his dubious ex-wife who ran away with all his belongings while he was away for his job as a long distance truck driver. Of how he came home to his apartment, only to find that it was rented out to new occupants. “Women are devils,” he had said. But then remembered he was talking to a woman so he added, “But not all of them, of course.” Amara pointed at her designated parking spot where he parked. She paid him and dragged her shopping bag up the stairs.

She opened the door, placed down her shopping bag and took a moment to admire her elegant living room, proud of her sense of style. The shades of red on her brown ragged carpet matched with her red striped pillows. Her 40-inch Smart TV mounted on the wall had two long speakers on its either side. It was still amazing to her just how much her life had turned around after only two months of working in radio. She now had an apartment of her own, could afford a car (even though she was yet to buy one) and everyone bowed in respect when she introduced herself. She was also glad she took Achika’s advice regarding her social media pages because they always flooded with Likes and Comments.

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Darkened Sun

The lady, who worked for the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in Kakamega County Government, looked like she was in her late 40s. She was elegantly dressed in a black skirt with a slit running up her thigh, you suspected if she bent to pick the piece of paper lying on the floor, you would see her knickers. A part of you wanted her to bend, even though you knew that was never going to happen. Her heels made a clacking sound as she paced the podium, banging on and on about how you, the youths, should take advantage of the opportunities brought about by the New Constitution and County Governments to venture into entrepreneurship.

You loved her youthful voice. You loved how she wet her lips with her tongue. You loved how her eyes looked like they were still in bed. You loved her enthusiasm, too, but paid little attention to what she was saying. You had tried taking advantage of the purported opportunities brought about by the New Constitution but the rough hands of government’s bureaucracy held your upper arm and pushed you away. Now you only attended County Government seminars, including those organised by the NGOS, for the free meals and allowances that came with it.

She had stopped to drink a glass of water when your phone buzzed to life. Mariam, your girlfriend, was calling. All eyes turned to you. You disconnected the call and sent Mariam a text message, telling her you will call her later because you are in a seminar and she replied, “One of those you attend for free meals and allowance? Don’t worry, babe, you will get a job soon.” Her optimism put a smile on your face. You loved her more because you didn’t understand why she loved you. She was from a well to do family. Her pocket money was enough to pay your rent for the whole year and remain with some change to pay the thin Maasai guy masquerading as your hood security guy, even though you were not sure why he thought you needed security. Chances of thieves stopping you at night were next to zero because the echo from your empty pockets was too loud for thieves worth their salt not to hear.

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Mama I’m Sorry

Friday night, after Achika concluded her last show, her co-workers threw her a small office party. Pieces of cake and drinks went round amidst chants, laughter and sometimes long sombre speeches. Amara, watching from a distance as Achika was pulled into one hug after the other, words whispered in her ear and arms tightly holding onto her, was not surprised by how much Achika was loved. She raised her glass of wine when their eyes met after Achika glanced her way, and she guessed what was going to happen when she came and held her hand. Achika dragged her to the middle of the room and proposed a toast. “You have been my family. It’s sad that I have to go but at the same time, it’s satisfying to know that I will be leaving you, together with my show, in the hands of this gorgeous and brilliant woman. Amara, I promise you, will make us proud.”  She paused, looked around and broke into a smile, “Yes, I said ‘us’ because no matter what, this will always be my home. So here’s to us and to Amara!”

The room echoed with applause as everyone hugged and welcomed Amara to the team for the umpteenth time. It was a small intimate team, one which Amara fell in love with. She liked everyone she had interacted with but it was Jack she liked the most. He was a skinny guy who dressed in skinny jeans and shoes the size of Noah’s ark, but his voice was deep it surprised Amara everytime he spoke. He was the assistant producer of This Is What I Think Show, but from what she heard, he did most of the work since Fred, the producer, was always busy. Achika told her that Jack joined the radio as an intern, and he showed tremendous talent, making it easy for Fred to trust him with the planning of she show alongside Achika.

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Mama I’m Sorry

She wanted to wake up beside him every morning. But he was always gone when she opened her eyes. She would roll off the bed and walk into the kitchen where he would be fixing breakfast and with a smile stretching the corners of his mouth, he would hug and kiss her, savouring the warmth and sweetness of her mouth. She once joked that he was spoiling her by never allowing her to wake up early to help with the chores. He shrugged off that thought, claiming she was still a guest in his house, two weeks after moving in with him. So today she was surprised to wake up with him beside her, lying face up as if he was examining something on the ceiling. When she looked up the ceiling too and saw nothing, she touched his thigh and watched his lips break into a smile.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning. I am glad you stayed in bed today.”

“I was thinking.”

“About how you are going to make my morning?”

He laughed, “Now that you have mentioned it, yeah, but also about something else.”

“Okay?”

“On second thought, I think you should take the job.”

She sat and drew up her knees. The evening that Achika told her about the job offer, she was so excited that she told Masai about it immediately they walked back to the hotel. He said he was happy for her, but only because Achika was there with them, searching his eyes, keen to see his reaction. As soon as they saw Achika off and her car was out of sight, he turned to Amara and said, ‘you will not accept the offer, will you? ‘The way he asked made it clear that he was only going to be okay with a ‘No’ for an answer. Amara, still walking under the bright light of his forgiveness, mumbled, “You sound like you want me to reject it.”

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Mama I’m Sorry

Couple Holding Hands

Her father’s eyes were angry. He wagged his finger threateningly as he spoke in a high and clipped voice. Shaken, Amara cast her eyes at the space between him and the wall, but it was too tiny for her to squeeze through and escape if he started beating her. The only other time she had seen him this furious was the night he admonished her for fooling around with Masai, a man he considered a nobody. But even then, she did not feel like he would pounce on her and rip her skin apart like she did now. Her heart pounded so hard she felt its pulse on her neck and with every word he uttered, she felt as if he was closing in on her like a predator on a prey. A small voice in her head told her to beg for his forgiveness but her lips trembled when she tried to speak. She clasped her hands and pleaded with her eyes.

“Why are you determined to embarrass this family? What haven’t we done for you? Tell us now so we know!”

“I-i am sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” she finally managed to speak, though her words were frail.

“Do you know the insults your mother and I had to take because for a long time we only had you for a child, and you were not even a boy? Do you? I made it my mission to face those naysayers and remind them that we were proud to have you and, look, this is how you turn out? A lesbian?” He shook his head vigorously as if by doing so, he would realise this was a nightmare and would snap out of it. “When you started seeing that useless boy, I thought there was no stupid mistake you could make that would top that, and you went out of your way to prove me wrong!”

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