It was not even raining when they came. There was nothing to indicate the impending…
You stand there when the storm comes. You smile at her. You make promises…
After primary school in Nakuru, she had gone back to Narok and undergone the Maasai girl rites of passage. Had it been a few decades earlier, the rite would involve the cutting off of the labia in a four-day ritual. She would have been dressed up in the best clothes and the finest of the traditional jewellery. She would get blessed by the elders using milk and cow blood to represent the way of life of her people. The whole community would sing songs; while their mothers would teach them how to please their husbands sexually and socially. All this would be beautiful, but earlier in the morning of the fourth day the same knife would be used to chop off the clitoris and labia of more than twenty girls. Nataana would have been expected to be strong; she would have been expected to be a warrior woman and not scream when it came to that moment. Her mother and other women would continue singing about Emuratta and Enkiama. Good girls get circumcised and then married, the song would say.
As the blade cuts off her numb skin, Nataana would be shaking profusely like a twig on an elephant’s footpath. She would be shaking not only because of the time she spent submerged in the cold river water but because of the pain of having surgery without an anaesthetic. She would try to scream in pain, but no sound would come out, and she would be glad because her mother did not have to hear her become weak. It would be over now; a few scattered stitches would be put in place to replace the chopped off body parts. Sometimes these stitches will go all the way making urinating tough, but at least it would be over now. From that, all that follows is food, good healthy food in a closed room for a month until she healed. On a good month out of the twenty girls with Nataana, eighteen would heal completely without an infection. Nataana would be among them because she is a fighter. She would leave her hut and never see the door of a secondary school classroom because she would get married off immediately. She would know what pain is, not by reading or by tales, but through experience. A strong woman who would then be expected to give birth to a baby less than a year after such an ordeal.
But days like those were gone and forgotten. In 2009, she was lucky the Emuratta of girls had been banned in the country. Now there was just Eokoto e-kule and Enkang oo-nkiri that consisted of meat and milk from cows and not humans. After primary school, Nataana joined other girls in a three-day long session about sex education, human rights, and self-confidence. Instead of mountains being set on her education, she was empowered to study and compete alongside her male age mates. She wanted to be a pharmacist. Off she went to secondary school back in the city and then to university where I met her.
It begins in a bar because of a girl. A whisky glass dangles loosely on my fingers and I stare at it, looking unresponsively at its content which is running low for the umpteenth time. The more the number of times the base of the glass gets into view the deeper my mind sinks into a drunken abyss. My eyelids become heavy, constantly fighting off the increasing demand for sleep occasionally teetering on the razor edge between deep relaxation and unconsciousness.
The bar is poorly lit with party lights blinking on and off in unison with the raucous music playing from the bar’s loud stereo. It is rap music, which on usual circumstances would have had me listening closely to the lyrics in an attempt to obtain a unique rhyme to use as a Facebook status but not today, more so, I had heard the song more than a hundred times making all discoverable rhymes already exhausted.
Moved to Nairobi last week and found a journal in the clothes cabinet of my new apartment. I am as pleased as anyone would, to find out that the previous owner of a place I now call home, was contemplative and took time to write a journal. Other people find possessed dolls and hidden cult caskets, I found a journal. Reading another person’s life in their own handwriting, to a writer is like discovering treasure. They are honest, vivid, raw and bare. It might be against the law, but if the law was a little bit interesting, we would all read the constitution on vacations.
Well, we are a family, let me share, a little for everybody. No gluttons please, there is enough to go round…
She pants a step ahead. You follow closely behind as a dog does to a master. Her pace is slow, too slow and you secretly hope she was faster. You cannot outdo her speed for two reasons; one, you do not want to be an overly competitive moron and two, you like how her ass bubbles up and down before you as she jogs. She is exhausted. She signals you for a break, and you oblige. She places her palms heavily on her knees and breathes fast and heavily. You are scared she could pass out. You stop a distance away from her and observes her with eyes full of pity, like a sympathiser in a slaughterhouse. Unsaid, you quietly envy her determination.
Running three kilometres has never been a problem to you but today is her first day. She is not accustomed to such kind of resilience. You want to be helpful; you do not want to look like a self-gratified arrogant buffoon. You do not want to be the guy who sneers at her effort. You ask her to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. She squints at you from the corner of her eyes as if what you are saying is Calculus. Regardless, you persist, breathe in using your nose and then breathe out using your mouth. Nice and easy. The look she gives you makes you sure that that gibberish is not going to cut it.
Elections found me working for an aspiring governor. A big man with a big smile for the crowds and deep pockets, deeper than the boreholes he dug for the locals to aid in their water problems. He knew what to say and when to say and the exact ways to mould it when saying it. And when he said it, even when it was gibberish, the red flags went up high, and the locals pledged their loyalty. He had made his fortune from his family wealth, but when he spoke about himself, which was quite often, he said of how his intellect had made him a successful business person. He gave us tales of his big cup of excellence, and like the dummies we were, we sat by his feet sipping slowly in coveted admiration.
The March long rains came and fell with both hands, the water gouged out deep channels and swept away twigs, leaves and the top fertile soil. With it, we marched into the rural areas and dived into the locals’ conscience and asked for their votes in the primaries. We met them tilling their gardens, feeding their babies, taking out urine drenched mattresses from last night’s atrocities by the young boys, basking, and drinking. Sometimes we met their dangerous unwelcoming dogs or abandoned houses, but we never relented. The Jacaranda beautiful purple flowers collected into small groups on the murram roads beneath the intrepid trees and with it, the beauty of Central Kenya shone like the morning star.
When I met Maria, I had just come from the Rift Valley. I had been there for three days, working. This assignment was special. It involved a very important man. My contact, the person who had handed me the assignment also sounded important but identity was not any of my concern. So on a misty Tuesday morning, as a helicopter sailed an important person to the plains of the Rift Valley for an occasion, I lay flat on a raised ground one eye shut to put all the juice on the other one that was looking on a tiny aiming hole of my father’s M21 Sniper Weapon machine…