9 Daughters

“Where in Nairobi do you live?”


“You said you are from Nairobi, 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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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.

We Were High

Someone, we’ll never know who, nicknamed our high school deputy principal ‘Albino’ because he was too brown, and the nickname stuck like a grim memory. When we joined form one we found him being called albino and so we jumped on the bandwagon and passed on the name to the new form ones who proudly whispered the name to the form ones after them. It was in bad taste, obviously, and you may choose to descend on me, but it didn’t feel right when I tried to write this story without using that nickname, so here I am, praying that I will still be alive long after this blog post is up.

He did not like that name. The naive form ones who were too dumb to realize it was a nickname would use that name near him and they would end up being slapped so hard till they had nightmares at night. But it wasn’t just the nickname that he hated, he also hated me. I can’t tell why, but he hated me and I hated him.

One night, in form three, a strike broke out and people were baying for his blood. I can’t tell why we were striking, all I know is that the school goons had decided they wanted to have albino’s liver for dinner. He was a staunch Luhya guy with a huge potbelly, so the goons had figured his liver would feed them for the remainder of the second term. As the goons chanted ‘Albino!’ while charging towards his house hurling stones, I decided I wasn’t ready for this shit. I had witnessed so many strikes since I joined that school and I knew the moment the cops arrived, things would be messy, noisy, and there would be casualties.

Muli Vasilu Sana

This is what we should do. We should grab guns and pangas and any other lethal weapon we can lay our hands on, hunt down those we are disappointed in and kill them in cold blood. Yes, because we are angry and our anger can only be eased if the people we are angry at are no longer breathing. That’s the only logical thing to do. That’s what our ancestors, when they meet for evening porridge under a huge tree, recommend we should do. That’s what God in heaven would want us to do. I reckon God wakes up every morning shaking His head, disappointed that a few mad people keep asking Him to give them the strength to forgive those who have wronged them when it’s easier and wiser to just kill them.

It really gets His goat, this nagging prayer from His flock. He angrily kicks a tin of water resting at the foot of his bed as He storms out of his room, shouting archangel Michael’s name.

“Where is this Goddamn Angel? Michael! Michael!”

Michael comes out of his hut, tightening his belt. “Everything okay, God?”

“I want you to deliver a message to those idiots calling my name, sijui asking for strength and wisdom to forgive those who have wronged them.”

“Why can’t Angel Gabriel do it? He’s the one in charge of delivering your messages.”

Make A Plan

That morning she won’t talk to you. While brushing her teeth, you’ll nudge the small of her back with your elbow in a bid to elicit some reaction from her, but all you’ll get is a sharp stare. A sharp cold stare. You’ll steer clear of her path and even when she’ll be struggling to zip up her dress, you won’t offer to help because you already know she’ll shoot you down. And why? Because you didn’t have an answer to, “Where is this relationship going,” question?

The question came out of nowhere, in your opinion. You had spent time indoors the whole Sunday, watching movies, making love on the carpet, and drinking passion juice. At some point, she went to the kitchen and emerged with a plate of rice. As you took a spoonful, she popped the question, “Where’s this relationship going?”

“Why? Did it tell you it’s going somewhere? Has it packed its bag?”