The Honourables

On the other side of Afueni Hospital, Anna, a bubbly short woman with an air of importance, laughed at something her customer said. Widely known as Mama Ndizi, Anna was popular for her healthy ripe bananas that screamed your name, and her infectious, cackling laughter that had a pause to it. Those interacting with her for the first time always thought her laughter had morphed into a yawn, only to be surprised by her final stretch of roaring laughter that left her chest heaving and shoulders rocking as if she were in a traditional dance. It was foolish laughter, some said, the kind that made one laugh at their mother’s funeral. Long after her funny customer had gone and she was adjusting her white head wrap, a boda-boda flew past, leaving a trail of floating dust. Anna cursed loudly in her mother tongue, blaming the rider’s mother for giving
birth to such a useless son.

‘I wonder why she insisted on keeping him,’ she said, as if she had been present when the boy was born and had even suggested he be buried together with his placenta to save the world from his impending foolishness.

Agnes smiled. She was watching Anna from her ward’s small window, enthused by how she was able to switch moods like unpredictable weather. The woman belonged to the acting theatre, she thought, yet here she was, wasting her time inhaling dust from the roadside. After a while, Agnes turned to her husband who sat with his face buried in his hands. They had not uttered a word to each other, but she did not need anyone to tell her what she already knew.

‘Sweetheart,’ she mumbled with great difficulty, ‘we will try again.’

Juma raised his head to look at her. Across his face, a feigned smiled tried to conceal the sadness he was caked in. He reached over and placed his palm over her hand. ‘Now is not the time’ he said, ‘let’s focus on your health and worry about other things later. Besides, I still believe God’s time is the best. He will give us children at His own time.’

He spoke as softly as only he could, but the words did nothing to comfort her. It would have been a great idea for God to prevent her from falling pregnant if the time was not right, rather than “blessing” her womb with a baby and then taking it away just as the joy of motherhood started knocking on her door. If the timing was not right, He should not have allowed her to fall pregnant the second time and then the third time, knowing too well the fate that befell her first pregnancy sat on a stool waiting. She could not claim to know all that God knew, but she was sure God was aware of more polite and less painful ways to let them know it was not yet time for them to be parents.

But she was not ready to discuss God, His timing and methods; for Juma was a staunch believer who despised anyone who questioned God and His ways. She instead nodded in agreement, faced the other way and shut her eyes to discourage the tears from welling up. She could not help but worry about the fate of her marriage. Juma was being easy and understanding now, but soon the words of his relatives would get to him and he would change his mind. He would forget his belief that children came from God and start demanding to know why she was unable to keep a pregnancy. It was hard to imagine her loving husband of five years giving her a hard time because of her miscarriages, but she knew every man had a breaking point.

She was admitted for three days. On the evening she was discharged….

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The Honourables

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The Deal-Breaker

I know of men who claim the size of a woman’s ass is a deal-breaker for them, but the same men will salivate at a woman’s big ass only to take off once they notice one of her upper incisor teeth is too big for her to shut her mouth. Or men who say if a woman is light-skinned he will pita with her even if her boobs are the size of pastor Ngang’as brain, only to take off on realizing she has crooked eyes so, to see what’s on the West, she faces East.

Anyway…

I went into this club to have one or two for the road. I hadn’t touched alcohol in a while and wasn’t going to but I was stressed because my phone needs fixing and this fundi everyone had described as the best iPhone fundi, and who always seemed like he had ants biting his buttocks, had said, “I tried my best. There’s nothing I or anyone else can do.”

It was devastating because now all the nudes on my phone were gone? Haha? Because, let’s face it, unless you are Bakari, you don’t backup nudes. You just don’t do that. I needed to forget about that phone for a minute and alcohol was going to deliver results. I had had a couple of beers when I looked to my right and saw this lady in a short black dress. She had really brown thighs, and I say really brown thighs because even her face, still brown, wasn’t that brown. I must have stared at her thighs for far too long because when I looked up I met her curious face.

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Mama’s Boy

He had long noticed how her forehead wrinkled and mouth frothed whenever he talked about his mother, but he thought nothing of it. Or if he did, he said nothing of it. Why would he when not even once had a kangaroo court been convened to settle a feud between his wife and mother? Why would he when he and his wife slept and woke up under the sometimes moody sometimes bright Nairobi Sky, while his mother yawned all the way in Shinyalu, wrapping her head with a white wrapper before milking her cow, Rose?

He decided not to fix something that wasn’t broken until last December when she told him she didn’t want to tag along to Christmas in shags. He was in the shower when she said this. At first, he wasn’t sure she was talking to him so he stopped scrubbing his buttocks and, with squinted eyes, asked, “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes.”

“What did you say?”

“That I am not feeling this idea of going to your shags for Christmas.”

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9 Daughters

“Where in Nairobi do you live?”

“Pardon?”

“You said you are from Nairobi, right?”

“Right.”

“No offence but I am struggling to believe you. So if you don’t mind, can you tell me where exactly in Nairobi do you live?”

“I am from Nairobi, believe me.”

“Only after you tell me the name of your estate.”

Watching this exchange between the caterer and this middle-aged woman depressed and tickled me at the same time. The caterer, a tall dark skinned woman in an orange shirt and black jeans, had a no-nonsense face because if you attempt to feed mourners with a smiley face they will eat you alive. The woman she was picking a bone with had no legs to stand on. She was obviously not from Nairobi. All she wanted was food and seeing as the line for ordinary village folks was not moving, she and a battalion of other hungry moaners decided to join the Nairobi queue and now they were being called out for it.

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The Writing On The Wall

The writing was on the wall. In black and white. You couldn’t miss it even with squinted eyes, but Mariam believed in focusing on the good side of humans. So for a long time, five years to be exact, she looked past the constant beatings her boyfriend unleashed on her. They were so many, these beatings; she had to recount the major ones otherwise Java would have offered to lock us in as everyone went home. She told me of the day she visited his house only to find five condoms when she left ten, and when she confronted him he offered nothing but a resounding slap across her cheek.

“I have told you before, you just don’t use that tone on me,” he retorted. “There’s a way you talk to me!”

He’s a Kalenjin man, born and raised to be the Alpha male. He wears his rage on his sleeve and he never shies from unfolding his sleeve to set free his rage. She understood him even when she didn’t have to. She apportioned some blame on herself and with that, dusted herself off, smiled and continued to love him the way an ‘African’ woman should.

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My Husband Was The Other Guy

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When she met her husband, Metrine was still mending a broken heart. Her first love, the man she met in her first year on campus and whom she dated up to two years after their graduation, was not only a drunkard but abusive. He turned her into his punching bag and because he was her first love, the man she lost her virginity to, she held on to this broken relationship until he knocked her up and gave her the one thing she doesn’t regret about that relationship—her daughter.

You would imagine that with the entry of their daughter, her boyfriend would think maybe it was time he changed his ways. But turned out he is not the guy you place in front of the camera and ask him questions about how fatherhood changed him because he has no inspiring story to tell. He continued beating her, occasionally threatening to kill their daughter. One day he took their baby to a pub and showed her off to his fellow drunkards like you would a trophy. Metty’s male friends came together and after minutes of foreheads touching and whispering, they decided to corner her boyfriend and proceeded to give him a beating of his life. From there on, he never touched her again. But even that was not enough to keep her in that relationship. She left.

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Ebeneza

It’s my fault, really. I should have known with a name like Ebeneza, the services in this Barber Shop will be mediocre. I know… I know… It’s a Biblical name that shows how the business is grounded and aligned to the word of the Lord, but no serious trade names themselves Ebeneza, unless they offer Repentance and Healing services, which I wasn’t looking for at that time. When the barber was done with me and suddenly my neck looked longer and the remaining patch of hair on my head resembled that of a Kulukulu (Bata Mzinga), I knew I was fucked. I watched him shift his weight to his right leg and tilt his head in a manner suggesting he was proud of what he had done.

“Boss, I was hoping to walk out of this place looking sharper and dapper. Now I just look like a Kulukulu that’s hit menopause.”

“Excuse me?”

“No, you excuse me. What the fuck have you done to my hair?”

“It looks nice, what are you talking about?”

I was looking at him in the mirror but now I had to turn to face him. He is a short, muscled man, wearing grey sweatpants hauled to the knees, a floral jacket and a beenie. He is also wearing flipflops and my first impression of him was that he tried to be a gym instructor but all his clients ended up looking like Johnny Bravo and so he was fired.

“It looks nice? You think with this hairstyle a girl would agree to marry me? What kind of dreams do you think I will have at night?”

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Find God

One day she goes to one of those high-end salons where ladies read magazines as some gifted fingers work on their hair. When the hairdresser is done with her, Tina stands before a wall mirror to admire her braids. She delicately runs her palm over her scalp, a smile lingering on her face like gathering clouds. Someone touches her on the shoulder and when she turns she sees a lady in a long black dress that wounds down her curvy body like a river. Tina notices her dress first because it pronounces her body features. Her nipples stand out like a pair of antennas threatening to poke holes on that lovely dress. The second thing she notices is her short hair. Simple yet elegant. And then she notices her smile.

“Hi.” Tina was the first one to speak.

“Hi, my name is Gathoni and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful you look in this blue pair of shorts. Is blue your favourite colour?”

“It’s not. But it could be once I get bored enough to discover something as mundane as a favourite colour.”

The lady laughs then looks down. When she looks up again she asks, “What’s your name?”

“My name is Tina.”

“Tina, I see you are done here. Have any plans?”

“Yes. I plan to go have at least four bottles of Guinness, smoke weed and go home”

“Such a well thought out plan.”

Tina smiles.

Gathoni joins Tina in her drinking escapade. Only she doesn’t take Guinness. She says Guinness is too strong. She instead takes Tusker Light. They sit close to each other, occasionally Gathoni leaning over to whisper something in Tina’s ear. Tina smiles. She then fishes out a roll of weed and points it at Gathoni’s direction.

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Ready Yet?

What happens is you assemble all your machinery and go after this girl all guns blazing. You load enough airtime and stand on the balcony to call her, measuring your words and laughing with swagger as a proper, potential boyfriend should. She laughs too. The sound of her cackling laughter filling you with hope. Your conversations are usually smooth, an indication that the feeling is mutual, but somehow she’s always playing hardball. You close your eyes, think for a minute and say, “Just be honest with me. Do you think I stand a chance with you?”

“Martin, I thought I told you that you are not the problem. I am simply not ready for a relationship.”

“So, is that a no?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“What did you say?”

“That I am not ready.”

“When will you be ready?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t know when I will be ready.”

You sigh. You have been on this earth long enough to know when a woman isn’t interested in you. You’ve known this for a long time but somehow nothing about her makes you want to give up. She awakens something in you with her eyes and with her upright posture that makes her breasts and ass bounce in rhythm whenever she walks. Until you met her, you never thought a woman would pass the sexy exam with her mid-length hair always held up in a pony with an elastic band. Or when a hoodie is her fashion trademark. Then you met her and that night you went home and edited your definition of sexy.

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Lights Are Out

That night, one of the neighbours woke up to go to the washrooms. It was one of those plots with washrooms on the other side of the compound, a small gate separating the houses from the washrooms. The moment he opened the gate, he had a commotion coming from one of the unfinished houses and he ran back to his house because we all came to Nairobi to look for money and not to play heroes. But if there is anything greater than fear it is the urge to poo. Village cowards have been known to brave grave nights just so as they can poo. And if your village is anything like mine, then you know latrines are usually on the other side of the world, wedged between thick bushes that also acted as doors.

The neighbour tiptoed, ass clenched, towards the small gate. He stuck his head through the gate and looked on the other side, sniffing for any sign of danger. He spotted something…errr… someone. He carefully approached the unfinished house and no sooner had he come face to face with a body dangling from the roof than he broke into a wail so loud the Kapenguria ancestors patched on top of their graves and mumbled to each other, “What the fuck is happening in Nairobi?”

Lights turned on and doors jerked open as everyone, yanked off sleep, scrambled to get out, either to find out what was happening or to run for their dear life, no questions asked. Soon sleepy eyes were gazing at this dangling body of a woman they all knew too well. A neighbour. A woman they laughed with. A woman married to a man who cast a figure of a polite and harmless man, only the opposite was true. He punched her often. Kicked her countless times. Her screams had become a soundtrack too familiar in that Dogoretti Corner plot. Or ploti, as we call them.

No one knew what woes their marriage was suffering from. No one knew why she never left, the same way we never know why those in abusive relationships rarely leave. Everyone was shocked, yes, because when you see someone you knew too well dangling from a rope lifeless, tongue out and eyes popping, it’s only natural to be shocked, but I doubt few of those who were present can say they were surprised. She left behind two children in the hands of this husband who did not waste any time to marry the prostitute he was cheating on his wife with.

No, I am not calling her a prostitute to be disrespectful, I am calling her that because that’s what she was. We all knew her. We knew what she did for a living because it wasn’t as if she was secretive about it. Back then I knew many ladies of the night who were in normal relationships and every night they kissed their boyfriends before stepping out to make money.

He moved on. Like he wasn’t the reason his wife took her own life. He didn’t even bother to move out, no, he brought the other woman to the very house he shared with his wife and probably to the same bed.

There were murmurs. But life happened as life must happen. The same way there are murmurs right now about the slain Eldoret lady. The murmurs will die down. The same way they died down after Sharon was murdered. Two days from today, the people who have been the loudest on social media streets justifying the murder of Ivy will put on their Sunday best, occupy the front pews and sing the loudest in praise of Jesus Christ, the son of God who died on the cross so that our sins can be forgiven.

Obviously, Jesus died for nothing. The people He died for are not only sinful but also stupid.

Someone asked me, “Have you heard about the Eldoret story? I am not sure what people are smoking nowadays, man. How can you kill someone like that?”

I wanted to ask, “Like how?” because the shock seems to register after story of how he hacked her down is told. It’s not the death itself that’s shocking if you are keen enough, it’s the how. Because killing our women is now a normal thing. For us to raise our eyebrows you need to up your killing game. Then we can crack jokes about it. And create memes. And print T-shirts. And call radio stations and ask, loudly, “IF YOU TAKE A MAN’S MONEY AND THEN IGNORE HIM, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?”

Women too are asking this question. You raise your voice above the melee and say, “Look, this guy was a stalker!” People hush for a second, look around, and then as if they didn’t hear you, go back to, “But sasa if you infect someone with HIV, what do you expect?”

Look, I don’t know what it means to be a woman in this country. I don’t know what it takes to remain sane if you are a woman. I don’t know who you turn to for protection if you are a woman because we are all glaring at you and wagging our fingers in your face when we are not the ones plotting evil against you. I don’t think the people saying you deserve to die care for your innocence. I don’t know if you will still be alive two days after reading this; the fact that you are breathing free air means someone needs to stand up and put an end to this nonsense because kwani who are you? I really don’t know.

And if I am feeling helpless yet I am a man.

I wonder how you, as a woman of this country, are feeling.

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