Our Last Name

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My parents arrived on a Saturday, a few hours shy of midday. They came bearing maize floor, fresh from the kisiagi, boiled sweet potatoes and millet porridge in a five-litre kibuyu. They said that a little bird had whispered to them back in the village, told them of my transgressions in the city, and they had come to see if it was true or not that the boy they had brought up so diligently and patiently had changed as much as they had heard. They mentioned the alcohol and the women and even went ahead to show me a box bearing a white cock for a ritual they had prepared. They asked…

 

Is this the road you have chosen our son?

 

And when I did not respond, they blamed witchcraft. They said that not most people were happy when the entire village congregated in our compound for my graduation party. They went on and on about this and that while all along I was thinking of the naked drunken girl tucked away in my bedroom. I prayed that she would at least throw a piece of cloth on herself if she decided to walk out of the bedroom. I squinted below the couch and sure as hell, that was where her panties lay unattended. The previous night had been lit like the fireworks of New Year’s Eve.

 

When I discovered I had been silent for too long, I asked about the crops and the cattle but they shrugged it off knowing full well it was a diversion. I did not give a flying fuck about cattle or crops. They said to me…

 

Get yourself a woman, a wife from the village who will take care of you.

 

I had women alright. I had lots of women. I had Agnes, Tasha, Anna, Lydia…  I had so many women that they outnumbered my problems and an aggregate of their problems too. I could not even tell if the one in the bedroom was Agnes or Lydia. I suspected the panties below the couch had been there from the previous weekend, so they must have belonged to a different woman. I am a very open-minded person but I did not see how adding one more woman from the village would fix my problems.

 

I remembered the discipline I had learnt from them and asked whether they wanted anything to drink but they said that they had brought their own food. I suspect they did not want to eat my food and get bewitched too. They slaughtered the chicken in the bathroom, although they would have preferred to do it in the backyard, but, sixth floor has no backyard whatsoever. They flushed the blood from the toilet bowl and packed the feathers in the box that had been used to carry the chicken. They said they needed to take back the feathers and the head with them so that the ritual could be completed.

 

We sat to eat, but not before they poured all the whiskey in my cabinets into the toilet bowl and flushed continuously for about six times as if the contents had left a stain on the bowl. I will not lie, that hurt me like a pound of a wrecking ball on the forehead. Regardless, I had planned to be as calm as possible throughout this charade. We then sat to eat but before we had taken the first bite, my charming naked princess came tearing through the door.

 

I froze.

 

They turned their faces away in dismay as she commented on how something smelt delicious. I advised her to get dressed and be on her way but she insisted that she was hungry. As if her hunger and not her nakedness was the elephant in the room, they said…

 

Get your girlfriend some clothes and a plate, today she will eat with us because she is family.

 

I froze some more.

 

I was not even sure of her name. I got her some baggy t-shirt and a pair of coloured shorts and in a hushed tone recommended she behaved well since the people in the living room were my parents. She okayed me to mean that she understood. She smelt like a brewery. I probably smelt like a brewery too. We walked back and took our seats. They led in the grace and we dug into the meal. They notified us that a preacher was on his way but I did not pay attention. I was hungry. Furthermore, the most a preacher could be called for in such a situation was to lay his hands on our heads and pray for us. I rolled my eyes at that thought. Typical village Christianity, too serious and unnecessary.

 

I asked about the crops again and this time they hushed me up with a stern look. I felt offended, I had thought we had all become friends after the meal. They did not understand the weight of being young, wanting and knowing that you are so much more and you could become so much more yet failing to know how to get there all the same. It is the futility of young age, an uncomfortable, uncontrollable noise in your head that makes you prickly in your own skin. They did not understand but I did.

 

They asked who her name was and where she was from. Initially, the question was directed to me but I was blank, who even asks where anyone is from, in Nairobi? She answered so gracefully that for a minute I saw their eyes light up. Her name was Lydia and she came from Othaya in Nyeri. They also had roots in Othaya, Nyeri but owing to the fact that they had seen her naked, they were not overly excited about having anything in common with her. We are all naked under our clothes, I thought, but kept it to myself.

 

The preacher arrived just around the same time awkwardness had taken a seat on the empty couch. He came with a doctor who brought a portable kit which had an HIV testing kit. Things had started escalating in a manner I did not like and the promise to stay calm was teetering by the balance. I protested against the HIV test but I did not anticipate it when a slap landed on my cheek and my ears went deaf for a minute. Everyone was shocked, Lydia, particularly, looked even paler than her former hangovered self.

 

The test was done and while we waited for the analysis they ordered that we get cleaned up and in proper dressing for the wedding. At this time I was so freaked out and scared to be surprised that this was my wedding day. We hurriedly left the living room and did as ordered. Lydia was the first to go to the shower and I could hear her crying. Poor girl only wanted to get drunk and ended up getting married. She wore her tiny dress from the previous night which I supposed they would tell her to go back and fetch the rest of the material for it. When we were ready we found them seated with distraught faces, waiting. Honestly, at this moment I did not care whether or not we were HIV positive.

 

We were both negative.

 

We recited our vows after the priest and when we were done, signed papers declaring each other wife and husband. Barely four hours since I had woken up, I had discovered that I am bewitched, humiliated by a slap on my face and got married. All, which I had never planned for.

 

I would have thought that this would have been the end of this charade but then they went ahead to call Lydia’s parents and informed them that their daughter was now married and probably expectant. I just wondered where that conclusion had been fetched from as if they could smell a pregnancy or see a baby in her stomach. I kept these side comments to myself. Lydia’s parents asked to talk to their daughter and my parents threateningly gave her a dangerous violent look as she told them that she was married, one wrong word and a slap would have landed on her face too. She was scared, my wife looked like she was face to face with the devil.

 

Anyway, I do not have much to say apart from that I am married now and Lydia has my last name. She says that she loves it.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

 

 

Author: Dennis Peters

When I was I younger, my mother told me not to do drugs. She said something about addiction and it sounded so distant. I never did drugs, instead, I read and wrote and I still got addicted. Now I am here, and you are here too because we have to be here and there is nothing we can do about it. | ©Dennis Peters.

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