Hidden Thoughts

 

 

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.

 

 

You let go, give her a couple of minutes to make her breathing comfortable. When she finally let’s go off her knees and lifts her eyes to yours, you can tell she is ready to keep going. You ask whether she is okay and she ignores you and makes to start running again. She prefers not to speak when she is running, maybe, it is scientific as one of the way to conserve energy during a morning jog.

 

 

That last look she gave you before she started running settles a little longer in your mind. It is as if she is angry and the jog is some punching bag for the angry emotions. For a moment you think it is a look you have never seen, not once, in the last three years, you have dated her. Strange. What could it be? Is it something you said, something you did not do, something you did? That last one shreds your serenity like an electric guillotine. It is always about something you did.

 

 

Unknown, you start replaying your activities the past few days in your head vividly. It has been a while since you brought her flowers, red roses. She loves those. You make a mental note to correct that as soon as you can. There is no record of foul play in your head the last six or seven days, so you move on to the past two weeks. Still, nothing. You give up. Truth be told you do not, you just get distracted again by her bubbly ass. You reach and smack it playfully, but she does not even turn to look at you. You are disappointed.

 

 

You put your mind back to the jog. You like the vapour your breath causes to the air in front of you in the early morning breeze. You try to make some fun shapes with it like an expert smoker. She glances at you a little and then back to her front path. You can almost swear she gave a little fuck about what you are doing. One small little fuck.

 

 

Just past the river when you are about to make a turn to start the uphill track, is when you first see him. He is cold, he has been crying, and you can tell he looks very unsettled. He is a small boy. Barely eight years old. You turn to the lady who by now has also already discovered the boy. She slowly comes to a halt very close to the boy. She loves kids. She could leave you to play ball with the neighbours’ kids. And from the window, you can hear them chatting and counting goals like they are age mates. Kids dig her. Kids do not dig you.

 

 

This one time, you had an argument, and she stormed out of the house, and went outside for ‘fresh air.’ Moments later, through the window, you could see her seated with one of the neighbour’s small kid by the stairs as she poured her heavy heart to him. The boy was only five years old, but from the expression he had while listening to the conversation, you could tell he understood everything. To this date, whenever you meet the small boy, he tells you not to beat Esther again, or he would tell his father who is a policeman. Once or twice, you have tried to explain to the small boy that you did not actually ‘beat’ Esther, but your defence is always treated with absolute contempt. So you walk around knowing that you are a branded enemy of the neighbourhood’s five-year-olds because you ‘beat’ one of them. The other day he had a new water toy gun, and as you walked home from the grocery market, he pointed it at you with the gun and sprayed water to your face. From his look, if it were a real gun he would have shot you. You know better than to cross Esther now as she has a battalion of five-year-old guards with guns.

 

 

Today, however, is a different story altogether. She squats next to the boy by the roadside and begins an interrogation in a calm and concerned voice. The boy’s name is Kaniaru. He had been roaming the streets for the past three days. His mother woke up one day and left – no goodbyes, no nothing. She just vanished into thin air like the NYS funds. Since then, Kaniaru has been looking for his mother. He inquires on whether you have seen his mother, a woman in long blue dress and a PCEA women council headband. Of course, you have not seen his mother, but you somehow wish you had better news for him. Your heart melts down like a toffee candy in the mouth. You could swear by your good eyesight there are tears in Esther’s eyes.

 

 

In situations like these, she always comes up with a plan. She asks Kaniaru whether he has other relatives and he says he has a grandmother in Murang’a. From Nyeri to Murang’a is a comfortable one hundred kilometres. She turns to you, and a single look confirms her decisiveness. You have to get him to his grandmother. She says, and you agree. You both terminate your morning jog with hearts heavier than the sins of hell.

 

 

Esther and Kaniaru walk a little ahead, and they go on chatting about where he studied. The subjects he loved and all that. They become fast friends, and before you can say Usain Bolt, you become a third wheel. She brings him to the house and tells him to take a shower as she excavates for clothes that could fit him. All this time you make pancakes. That is all you can do; she has the rest figured out. She makes calls, to the police, to the chief (you never even knew you had a chief). At last, she tells you that the both of you have to get Kaniaru to his grandmother personally. You do not agree with this because you had other fun plans for a Sunday but you do not want to be the Satan in this whole situation.

 

 

Kaniaru eats breakfast like it is the first meal he has had in days and both of you watch him. None of you touches the pancakes. You just sip coffee a little and off you leave the house to Murang’a. None of you has been to Murang’a, but Kaniaru says he can remember the way to his grandmother’s home. The matatu ride to Murang’a is a silent one. Kaniaru places his head on her lap, and she puts her head on your shoulder, and they are both fast asleep. You stay wide awake thinking about the activities in the past few hours.

 

 

There are moments that your problems must cease to matter and put other people ahead of your needs because that will not only be a kind action but evidence that humanity has not lost all its goodness. You become an advocate for the 7.5 billion people on this planet.

 

 

Two hours later find the three of you in a small dusty Probox headed to Kandara town in Murang’a, then Kigumo village where Kaniaru’s grandmother lives. His memory turns out to be a perfect compass, and you find the grandmother just as she is about to leave for church. She is overjoyed. She tells you that Kaniaru’s mother has a mental problem and she has been praying God to have her grandson back. She welcomes you and spits on her chest severally, a custom of blessings among the Agikuyu. She gives you tales and tells you that she had to go to church and thank God for bringing her grandson to him.

 

 

All this time, you try to explain to Esther what is happening. She is Meru. She only knows greetings in Kikuyu. After tea, Kaniaru and grandmother are headed to church and you are headed back to town. It is late afternoon when you get to town, and you dive into Unity Café for lunch.  Mukimo and fry meat makes the long journey ahead manageable.

 

 

Again, you travel in silence. An uncomfortable silence. You can tell that there is a lot in her mind. You can never dig for information from her. The only way this works is to make her comfortable to want to open up to you. Do you want to lie on my shoulder? You ask, extremely determined to lift off the weight of her troubled thoughts. She does not respond she just places her head on your shoulder, and you consequently place your head over her hair. No one sleeps, you just cuddle like that in silence occasionally adjusting your position to get more comfortable. The scent of her shampoo fills your nostrils, and you fall a little deeper in love with her.

 

 

Eventually, you get back home. She stops momentarily for a small chat with her kid friends by the stairs and then joins you as you get the door. She walks in, and you follow closely. She loves to kick off all her clothes away after a long day, but she does not even remove her shoes this time. You walk to the bedroom throw away your trousers and shirt such that you are only in your vest and boxers. You let the cold house air of to bring back sanity to your mind. After a while, you decide to join her in the living room.

 

 

The moment you walk in, she just races into the kitchen and disappears behind the kitchen door. You do not understand what is happening. All over sudden, she breaks down unexpectedly as you try to convince her to open the kitchen door for you so that you can speak. She sobs uncontrollably, and you approach the situation like an alien lab dissection. You had felt this was coming all along. You had only hoped it did not have to be this heavy.

 

 

Ultimately, she opens the door slowly and lets you in and after a long hug and hot chocolate; you are both seated on the floor of the kitchen opposite each other observing each other cautiously trying to pick cues from each other’s expression. At this point, there is not much to do, but to sit and watch her tears flow quietly from her face. She looks like she has some serious weight holding her down but to avoid saying the wrong thing; you just hold on to dear silence.

 

 

She finally opens up abruptly, like an unpredicted hail storm with a short statement, I am pregnant.

 

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri.

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The Gatekeeper

 

 

 

They come in a little after midnight. Just about when it begins to get chilly, when the air reeks desertion, and the haze of darkness accepts its fate making the grandeur of the environment look insubstantial and unreal. They are always dropped off by taxi, each time a different taxi. They stagger past my small habitat avoiding my gaze as assiduously as if I was a forbidden fruit they had been warned about. A single look at them tells that they are well buried under the magnificent alcohol haze. They hold each other, always in couples, either trying to keep away the cold, supporting each other from the lack of balance or as a sexual foreplay ritual before the main thing.

 

 
On most days they are four of them. The two masculine figure are not residents here, who I am supposed to stop but I no longer interest myself in the dedication of arguing with drunk people. So I let them pass, I actually think they like me for that. They walk with footsteps slowed to a jarring and unmistakable cadence like zombie footsteps. Past me and into the hostel lobby and later to their rooms and minutes later after the laughing and indistinct loud statements die down, I can hear heavy breathing and low moans. Sex. I always try to create a mental picture of what goes on in that room but over and over, my imagination fails me.

 

 
The rooms are fitted and furnitured for four occupants. Their room particularly has two other roommates when they walk in. Meaning that when the pangs of love can no longer themselves, the action happens in front of two innocent roommates, probably sleeping and another couple who most likely are engaged in the same activity. Somehow, I find myself hoping in between the moans that these two couples have the decency to take upper bunks. I have no idea why that to me assumes the possibility of being more private.

 

 
On more than one instances, I find myself thinking about this situation. My interest predominantly lands on one of the four. I tend to overthink people or situations sometimes. Often I find myself unable to hold back from asking myself about the appearance of circumstances until I am in my humble bed, flipping from side to another unable to solve a conundrum in my head. I do not have much education, you see, I never had a chance for university, therefore, most of the lifestyles people I guard live, are either new to me or coveted greatly in my subconscious.

 

 
Her name is Lucia. A young brilliant tenant from one of the rooms on the ground floor. I find myself under the spell of her plain facial expression when she is sober. A masterpiece of calm, an appearance of strange and dangerous fearlessness. For the two years I have manned the gate since she moved in, nothing appeared to ruffle her or make her upset. When there was a strike in school and students threw stones all over breaking glass and burning grass, she just strolled by me like she was talking a walk in the park. She has a stillness so powerful that molecules and atoms appear to align themselves systematically when she walks into the lobby. This often makes her look more mature than she actually is, older even. However, all this disappears like the sun in winter on weekend nights when she staggers past my watch kibanda. Then, she looks susceptible, open to suggestion and unguarded.

 

 
Yesterday was on a Sunday. She had been out partying with her three other friends and came home later than usual drenched in alcohol like a headless chicken ready for plucking. Her supposed boyfriend held her right arm around himself, half of her weight well on his shoulders. They came in at around three in the morning and after a few amateur moans from room C16 on the ground floor, everything was still and the night went on as usual.

 

 
The following morning, just about when my shift was to come to an end, Lucia comes from the lobby full of grace and glamor in a stripped somehow long dress and make up that must have taken tonnes of patience. My evaluation was that she was headed to church. As she walked past me, she turned her gaze slowly towards me, smiled and waved at me. The usual calm had returned, her ebony oval face revealing a particular kind of smoothness like the bark of a guava tree. This was the first attention to me in two years.

 

 
The other opening day, her parents brought her to school, dropped her off on their usual Toyota Corolla. I have seen her get dropped by her parents each time a new semester begins. They always come in shopping bags and suitcases, walk up to room C16, help her get settled in and then make a family prayer before a series of hugs and goodbyes. That room has seen more mood and moral variations than a husband to a pregnant woman.

 

 
After the parents leave, it is usually not long before her horny boyfriend swaggers past me on the gate. I can almost see two weeks’ semester break dry spell written on his face. They meet in the lobby, hug and kiss passionately before they leave the lobby into C16. The last time he held a small bunch of red roses in his hands. For once, I gave him points for effort in my head.

 

 
Today is on a Monday, my shift begins at six in the evening. I have not been able to let Lucia out of my mind all day long. I should have been sleeping but sleep comes with difficulty these days. I lay in the wake of my distracted mind trying to bring perspective to fantasies. My room is humble, my gatekeeper salary goes to my savings because I do not plan to be one my entire life.

 

 
Financial limitations can only keep a man grounded physically but not mentally. So today, just about the time Lucia comes from town with her boyfriend, a bag of fries for supper in her hands I will do it. Something I have thought about doing for as long as I can remember being a hostel guard. I will request the boyfriend to give us a minute, walk up to her and let myself feel the scent of her presence. It will be the closest I have been to her. I believe myself to be good-looking and a good speaker, so I do not expect presentation to be a problem to me.

 

 
I let her boyfriend past the gate at weird ungodly hours, so I do not expect him to be an issue. He owes me that much. I will let her pretty face reflect all my insecurities and reveal a shine of hope, brighter than the sun in summer. I will have to be quick not to draw a lot of attention from other students passing through. I will be in the best of dressing and smoothness of tongue. It won’t matter how many times I have heard her sexual moans in room C16, or that her parents look as protective as a lioness to her cubs. The only variables will be me, a gatekeeper, and her, a taken a girlfriend standing in the doorway to the hostel.

 

 
This evening will be the day I ask her to be my girlfriend and we will all be here when I narrate to you how it goes tomorrow.

 

 

 

Feature Image of Mukiri Gitiri Captured by Gathige.

Dear Mother. Part One. By Mukiri Gitiri

 

 
Mother, today I would like you to listen to a story that happened many years ago. I would like to suggest that you lose that judgmental temperament you are always carrying around the house, at least until I am done.

 

 

 

What was that mother? You promise? Okay. Now, it was five thirty in the evening. I remember feeling awfully tired but also happy and excited for my first weekend in the University. I had just survived a five-hour lecture on calculus. Math was never my thing, I will not lie, and I only pretended to like it so that I could make you happy.

 

 

 

Mother! You promised you would be silent! If you start judging this early, I will take this story to father instead. Okay? In my defense now that you asked when I applied for a course in campus I specifically signed up for intense Chemistry and Biology. To this day, I have no idea why there was Calculus, Algebra, and Statistics in my unit courses. To be entirely honest University was a disappointment, I had expected to be marveled by the lecturers, the lecture rooms and the students, turns out the lecturers were just old and tired educated heartless morons, the lecture rooms were similar to the ones in Chogoria Primary, only that the seats were sponged and the students were just a bunch of competitive social climbers trying to figure themselves out. That is a long sentence mother, let me catch my breath.

 

 

 

I hated small talk with my classmates. I disapproved a lot of things. Come to think about it; I was probably a sad and frustrated girl doing more observations that associations. On this particular day, I left the class in the company of a girl friend of mine, headed to the hostels. It was a silent walk. I loath silence but at the moment, my inexperience would have had me talk about Calculus differentiation and broken test-tubes, so I held on to my silence like a mother does her child. I did not want to be the buffoon that brings the classroom out of class. This was University, studying ended the moment you swept across the classroom door frame.

 

 

 

Alternatively, I would have started a chit chat about lipstick, weaves and camel toes but I did not even know what a camel toe was.

 

 

 

What was that mother? No! I am not going to tell you what a camel toe is. You can google after this story is ended. Now, as I was saying, I was really bad in conversations. I had stayed away from the close girl to girl friendships because I could sniff trouble and drama from a mile away. Another reason I was bad at this kind of engagements is that my knowledge outside the classroom was as tiny as a teacher’s pension. I could not even tell the difference between Beyoncé and Rihanna. Yes, mother, I could not tell shit!

 

 

 

I am sorry. Yes, I will mind my language mother. I had cool roommates though. They assimilated me into a gang we called the Room 3 divas. We even had a Whats App group. I had always felt that they were to cool for me. I mean, they could rock a thigh long dress and six-inch strappy heels on their second day on campus. Oh! And Rihanna’s signature red hair covering one eye. They were clearly absolute divas.

 

 

 

Mother, correct me if am wrong, but there is a scowl expression on your face. Can you wipe it off? I do not like it. As, I was saying before you rudely interrupted with that damn scroll, I was one of them, not by any qualification, but by the geographic existence in the same room. They would dress for hours as I watched and learned and then they would ask me how cool they looked. My opinion mattered mother, I was important. I was their coolness thermometer, measuring how cool or hot they looked. When you do this for a while, you are bound to pick a few tricks, soon I had to throw away my baggy trousers and flat shoes you bought me, no offense, and I just had to. I started becoming more like them and less like me. We would dress up together for class now, and take selfies later. I would have shown you those selfies mother but my phone mother, my phone was the Huawei Ideos you bought me, its pixels was almost zero mother. Not that I am complaining, but I needed something that would flatter my face and put some beauty filters, something that would paint me to their standards mother. I am not a liar; I just needed to fit in.

 

 

 

Now this particular Friday Evening, most of the people were headed out from the hostels for drinks and stuff like that.

 

 

 

No, mother, the drinks were neither coffee nor tea. Others were strolling chatting loudly in English with some occasional loud laughs hugging, smooching and touching. Yes mother, touching. I was bored, so when I got a call from my cool friends, the ones from the land of fish and English, I did not even think twice about it.

 

 

 

See what I did with the words mother? Fish and English? Come on, you can laugh a little. This is a funny story mother. That day mother, I rocked a 1950’s floral skirt. Its length would have made you kneel before God. Don’t curse mother; I had a pair of stockings inside, everything was well covered.

 

 

 

When the boys called, I was overwhelmed. All my life I had been a good girl mother, a little backward and uncool, but good. Your kind of good. I was a determined uncool girl. It was the first time a boy had called me on my Ideos Phone mother. I love to stand out mother; maybe I got it from father’s side of the family. I hoped back into my cubicle, took off the stockings and put on grey boots. As I said, mother, I was a determined uncool girl with pretty grey boots, a short skirt, a tiny top that would make you ask where they had taken the rest of the material and an immensely adventurous spirit. That day mother, I left my decency in my dressing cabinet together with the rest of the material for the top I was in.

 

 

 

No. No mother, do not gasp like someone just died. I am still here, am I not? Shall I move on with my story?

 

 

 

Okay, mother. Now, I got to the boys’ hostel across the school. You will not believe what these boys gave me; they handed me a FIFA pad! A FIFA pad mother! You know what that means? They did not look at me like the sexual object I had tried to transform myself into, mother. To them, I was a bro. Maybe my grey heeled boots did not make me tall enough, or my legs were not long enough to be sexy, or even I had always overestimated the prettiness on my face. I was disappointed beyond words.

 

 

 

Do not look so relieved mother; the story is still far from over. These boys mother, were not only from the lake but also from Nairobi City. The good side of the city where there are tarmac roads and gated communities. The kind of Nairobi that is green and cool, colored by flowery yards and fences. The kind that they do not have to use Mwi Sacco or MSLs matatus. A different kind of Nairobi where their fathers made collection cabinets of wines and expensive vodkas. Alcohol that was more expensive than the school fees we paid at school.

 

 

 

The kind of girlfriends these resourceful boys had used to put gel nails; you know what gel nails are mother? I too didn’t know. The only gel I knew is that one girls in my primary school would use to force their hair to curl. Oh and silica gel from my chemistry class. I was a sad little girl mother.

 

 

 

When a boy from the next room came in and invited me to the next room for a private party, I thought that it was your prayers mother, which had landed me such an opportunity. I hear you praying for me in the middle of the night mother, make sure you will never stop mother.

 

 

 

So your prayers landed me to a private party. By the time I got there, there was smoke from all kinds of smokable drugs, even bhang mother. It turns out bhang is not only for demented, hopeless people but also cool kids too. The smoke was mixed with the stench of alcohol that made me flinch with inexperience. In the room, there were guys already rubbing their crotches viciously on the behinds of other cool girls with even lesser material on their clothes than me. It was fucking awesome!

 

 

 

Sorry, sorry mother, I got carried away in the heat of the moment, I will not curse again. Well, if you want me to finish the story here, I can.

 

 

 

What was that mother? No, I am not ashamed of myself. Your tone is rising mother, take a deep breath mother. I would like to continue with my story. Now, this guy, that had been sent by God, courtesy of your prayers to save me from the bro-zone, poured me a drink, and another and another. Only the first gulp was nastier than the look you give me when I pile dirty dishes in the sink. The more I drank, the more my clothes felt loose, and the more I became a better dancer. I swung my hips in all kind of angles, and the boys loved it. They loved me, mother! I swear they did!

 

 

 

I was so drunk that when the party ended, and one of my male party mates carried me in his arms to his room and started to work on my clothes, I did not have the brain capacity to stop him.

 

 

 

Tears mother? Really? You are going to start crying for something that happened four years ago? Well, if it gives you any peace, I did not lose my little pink flower. At least not that day.

 

 

To be continued…

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

Grass Ain’t Greener

The greenness in the grass of Nyandarua highlands should be the ninth wonder of the world after the wildebeests of Mara and the ego of Jeff Koinange. I say this with utmost sincerity and honesty to those that have never set foot in Nyandarua. I was born and brought up there, my parents’ marriage was there, I met Kate Njenga there in 1995 when she was three years old, and I was three minutes old. She became the first Njenga I knew, and I got fond of her faster than our mother and our father. I called her Kate, her name was Catherine, till it stuck like super glue and nobody else knows her by any other name except our mother, who when angry screams her three names in her Identification Card. She looks nothing like a Njeri, but you can never tell that to our mother who in anger is a force to run away from.

I was a naughty boy, but our mother has got angry even for far less, things that if I called petty and she read this article, I would have to move to a rural village in Nyanza, change my name to something less conspicuous, without a ‘s’. The letter ‘s’ makes names too noticeable, something like Dennis Peters has everyone noticing it. Kanye West, Chuck Bass, Neil Armstrong, Jackson Biko, Moses Kuria, Nameless, Miley Cyrus, Jack Daniels and William Lawson are names everyone here is familiar with. If you never knew, it is because they have a ‘s’. If your name does not have a ‘s’ then nobody knows you, you think we know you, but we do not. I mean why else would our esteemed socialites have ‘boss’ and ‘sidika’ in them? I will leave it at that for you to marinate.

Meanwhile, every day we walked to St. Richard Primary School with my sister Kate Njenga. School buses just begun recently after 2002 after the former president, Mwai Kibaki made the roads. Back then, it was much quicker to get to school by foot than by any automobile. Nyandarua was cold in the morning so we would be all dressed up heavily in gloves, legwarmers, long coats on top of an infinite number of layers of clothes beneath. On occasion, during March, April and September, our shoe wear was gumboots. When you live in such life threatening conditions, you learn discipline. There were a shoe and a coat for each month, and a dress code for each time during the day. Disobedience only caused pneumonia and colds worse than any imagination I can instil to your mind.

During lunch, the weather was often friendly, and the girls and boys would sit on the green grass in circles of small groups. The girls would sit on their side of the field and the boys on theirs. I was a boy back then, but I had I tough time coming to terms with that fact, so I followed my sister to the side that belonged to the girls. I was not bothered by the fact that my dressing was a short and not a checked dress, I just went wherever she went. Surprisingly at her age, she never seemed bothered when I joined the circle with her friends and classmates. She never asked me to leave even when her friends made discomfort body language, so I became a girl. A seven-year-old girl when I should have been a four-year-old boy.

I remember our mother had a tough task reminding me that boys pee while standing not while sitting. I wonder where I am headed with this story but let’s see.

My memory of all this mainly dwells more in the greenness in the grass. It was not just any green; it was emotionally green. Poetic. We would sleep, roll, play on the grass and go back home, shoes still shining, clothes still pretty clean. Dust was a thing I never came to know of until I joined Naivasha Boys Boarding in class five where everything was the exact opposite. In Naivasha, we had to water the fields, the sidewalks and the highways each morning because anything else would mean sand storms in our classes, dormitories and dining halls. I loathed that place. If hell is anything like that, then I am joining Dr Awour’s flock.

Through the years, I have been to other parts of Central Kenya, like Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Limuru, Wangige, Nyahururu and to be entirely honest the grass is not greener on any other side.

The other day a discussion rose up about why men are bound to cheat regardless the aspect that their wives or girlfriends are Beyoncé or Hillary Clinton. It was supposed to be a discussion on Systems Programming because of a test that was coming up real soon, but the topic about all men being dogs could barely be held down. The interesting part about this discussion is that it was by men alone, so we were discussing if indeed we are all dogs on not. I do not understand why we have to give dogs a character in such a nasty metaphor. I would be for the opinion that if the metaphor ‘All men are dogs” has to stay then let there be a specification whether it is poodle dog or a mongrel. I would not mind being a poodle; they eat better food than most people, have shampoos and smell like teddy bears, go for walks and have names. If you came up to me and told me that I am a poodle, my only offence would be that you did not specify the gender and race. Mongrels, on the other hand, is a story I cannot talk about without my anger rising like a thermometer on Lucifer’s armpit.

So, the points were that one girlfriend is never enough, that you have to test a few Toyotas before you settle on an X-Trail. That there will come a time that a man will be done doing the testing and he will grab his curiosity by the neck and choke it to death and then settle down with that one woman. That life will be perfect after that because there will be no much curiosity, neither too much desire to accomplish the undone. That this man will be the perfect husband and father, he will buy roses and kiss his loved ones on the forehead. He will have a nasty past but what matters is the future. He will be a dog but a retired one. He will have fulfilled his pants desires in every aspect. He will be a mega-man.

Then it got me thinking about the grass in Nyandarua when I was four. The way Kate Njenga never ditched me for her new clique of friends to fulfil some kind uncharted completion in her life. I thought about us now; we are still best friends. We gave each other time and space to grow, but our friendship remained constant through the fights, the loss, even when another Njenga emerged in 2005, she had a tough time catching up with us.

In the same way, in this discussion, the lady or gentleman you holding hands with right now could never be greener. You might leave him or her to look further in Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Limuru, Wangige, Nyahururu but to be utterly candid, the grass will not be greener on the other side.

Feature Image: Trica Ciku.

Little Ciku. Part Two.

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Eventually, little Ciku and her friend arrived to the destination of the survivors. The number had reduced significantly but the cold had multiplied in hundreds. The destination was a police station where they were received by the men and women in blue handing each of them a blanket. They were then led to a shed where they were to spend the night. Ciku and her new friend combined their blankets and cuddled into the night hunting for sleep, perhaps morning would make more sense. Her friend fell asleep first but Ciku’s mind was with mother, where was she? Was she looking for her? That scream she had heard at Huruma Junction, was it mother? Had the men with spears and arrows caught mother and father? At this point Ciku sobbed uncontrolled not because of mother but because she had lost a mother and became one in a single night. She wondered what the future had for them.

The shed got silent eventually and beyond the shed wall Ciku could hear hushed deep voices of men mostly discussing what had happened. She heard that no one had survived beyond the fire, that they had been slaughtered mercilessly by the strange men in arrows. How Ciku hoped it was a dream but her ice cold feet kept assuring her that it was not a dream. She heard the reason for the attack was the election outcome and quickly she connected the dots to the loud stereo at Huruma Junction, it was the election results. Her mind was too young to comprehend who was fighting who but at least eavesdropping put her thoughts into perspective. Ciku was tired and soon after she was on the teeter edge of a sharpened razor, somewhere in between deep relaxation and unconsciousness.

***

She was not sure what had woken her up, but it was still dark when she woke up. She had been dreaming of the men in cow skin holding long spears and arrows who had been chanting something in a language she could not understand around a bon fire, big as the one in Huruma Junction. When she woke up, her mind was in a temporary state of amnesia and one by one she recollected her thoughts to where she was, what had happened and why it smelled like cow dung where she had fallen asleep. She remembered her companion and ran her hands in the blankets trying to feel her with no avail. She was all alone beneath two blankets. Her pillow had been a black polythene paper with it sukumawiki and tomatoes, the one mother had sent her to fetch at Huruma Junction. She was surprised she had held on to the package for this long. She wondered where her stranger friend had gone and it was then that she realised that she did not even know her name.

Slowly and steadily she lifted herself painfully through the joint aches from running and lying on the floor to an upright position. She veered her eyes through the darkness to establish the doorway until she saw a burst of light through a half open door and came to the resolution of the possibility of that being the way out. Occasionally bumping into sleeping people she made it to the door and took a deep breath, perhaps hoping for a burst of fresh air but what she smelled was the reek of burning. She adjusted her eyes and indeed there was fire in a structure around fifty meters from where she was standing. A horrendous inferno accompanied by screams and the smell of roast human flesh.

She did not even realise when she let out a shrill scream and again and then again. People woke up fast and it was then that they realised that the burning structure was a church where the group from Huruma had split into two when the shed had run full. The church had been set on fire with hundreds of displaced people sleeping inside. People tried to put out the fire with buckets of water and soil all in vain, people choked and fell unconscious, other succumbed to the burns and fell into their painful death.

Ciku stared in disbelief. When she could no longer stand she sat. She stared at death right into the eye as death swept over like a swarm of locust on a cold season. She did not move, she did not even speak until the morning light appeared from the skies. Medical aid came and took the injured to hospital and the rest to the morgue. Death had had a feast under the cover of darkness leaving behind wailing women and children whose lives would probably never be the same.

When it was morning, the self-appointed instructors of the group Ciku had spent the night with explained the insecurity that lay beyond the police gate. Even them, that were supposed to shed light and show the way to young ones like Ciku, could simply not hide the melancholy. They shed tears as the names of the dead were read out by the police officers that had not taken off already. They wailed when it was established that aid from Nakuru was not coming because the roads had been blocked by trees, stones and burning tires. Each one of them stared blankly into the other not knowing where to go or what to do, worse, what to eat.

Meanwhile, outside, the birds welcomed the new day with coordinated rhythms, the sun brought out its smile unaware of the crimes her brother had done in the cover of the dark. Little Ciku still planted by the doorway to their new place of residence felt the morning light fall on her face and she turned away from it, her feet had been cold the entire night but not even the sun could bring a sensation of warmth to her heart. She had even forgot mother and was too busy replaying the horror of the night in her mind such that she did not notice a truck full of people stop at the gate and people come in through the police gate entrance. She was too engrossed in her despondency that when mother came and stood in front of her blocking the sun from her face she did not look up.

***

THE END.

Submitted to the Commonwealth Short Story Prize Competition 2016.

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

Edited by Essy Wanene

Written by Dennis Peters and Inspired by real events.

Little Bird

Tell her I am a mummy, living in the depths of my desolate tomb, numb from love, astounded by beauty and terrified by darkness and emptiness. Tell her that her eyes are my conviction, her smile is my bondage and her words are music from a harp, playing smoothly close but beyond reach. Let her know that my heart niggles, my mind flops and my life is a dry pond that once had cool water running deep.

 

 

Give her my letters when you see her, take out your smart phone and record the giggles she makes as she reads. Let her read out the poems I have written for her, line by line absorbing the weight of words and the emotions of the context. If words like annihilate and stimuli confuse her in pronunciation, do not help her through, stay put as she struggles to get the right pronunciation, do not laugh, she hates that and her wrath is legendary among her tribe.

 

 

Give her my love, vast as the Ocean, wide as the Nile, long as Mugabe’s presidential term and soft as wool from sheep. Write it, draw it, paint it, sing it or narrate it, make sure you mold it just right, neither adding out or leaving behind any emotion.

 

 

Let the hundreds of miles standing between us not baffle her. Remind her that the Red Sea once stood between the Israelites and Canaan yet they still got to the Promised Land. And when she bends down in prayer, eavesdrop on her conversation with God, let me know whatever she needs and I will deliver it to her door like Jumia Shopping Mall.

 

 

Remind her of the fights we had, then maybe she will obtain a perspective about this love. Like superheroes create super villains, like the beauty of Helen, led a thousand ship to the beach of Troy, like good inspires evil and like politicians mobilize riots, death and poverty of their own countrymen so do these nasty gruesome fights propel our love.

 

 

Draw her tears when she lies on her bed in the evening after a day’s work when she gets lonely, feeling the desire for something she once had. Make sure the pencil shading does not misrepresent the tight hug she gives her teddy bear while she naps, against her bosom. Leave the room when she awakes in the morning and realizes that Teddy has no broad chest, Teddy has no deep breaths and Teddy never hugs her back like his life depends on hers. At this point, her sadness outweighs the sins of hell and the glory of heaven. Run, run while you still can.

 

 

And when she is bored, amuse her with your audience as she narrates her ordeals. She loves her stories and her stories are often to the very detail. Listen! Please make sure you do. Do not be like me, I failed to listen, I gazed at my laptop while she spoke, I walked out on her as she spoke, now I only have a distant memory of her tales. Her childhood tales in the sloppy hills of Eastern Kenya, her responsibilities in primary schools, her struggles in high school and her wildness in university.

 

 

At this point, she will inquire about me. Keep the details frail and dreary. Lie that I am doing fine, tell her twenty-two is just a few days away and it never looked so good. That I am focused, objective and got my shit in order. Girls love men like that. Tell her that, because I hope to be that soon although it is very difficult to see the stars when my eyes are always cloudy. Still, her memories are embedded in my brain like shrapnel. Love music makes me flinch like it is tinged with bitterness and regret that stings my wounds like juice from a lemon.

 

 

Then walk away, bid you goodbyes and cross the Red Sea back to me, little bird. Bring me everything you got on her. Display it before my eyes that I might see and feel love boiling in my veins and my heart throbbing with ineffable anticipation. You will not have brought her back to me but a piece will have to do just fine, at least for now.

 

Feature Photo: Joe Kimani.

 

 

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Dennis Peters

 

Beginning of an Era. Part Three.

 

Getting back with Daisy was a mistake but in my defense it was an idea propelled more by nostalgia and guilt than on love and friendship. We had both done so many mistake such that getting them out and trusting each other was a distant impossibility. We laughed and had fun but deep down we repelled like like poles of a magnet. She failed to convince me to trust her and I felt that her mistakes were too much.

 

Yet we continued dating. Hoping that the magic would come back and spring back life into our drowning souls. The magic never came and we had an even nastier break up than before that involved breaking of furniture, packing of clothes hastily, insults and even getting violent physically. Everything was just lost into an irrecoverable abyss.

 

All this time, I had managed to keep in contact with Liz and we had become great friends. As friends, I opened up to her, told her things that I had never told any living soul. For the first time in a really long time I found a semblance of peace and tranquility. There was no more doubt, things with Daisy would never work out. I invested heavily on friendship instead. It was late to save my campus grades but I was never really interested in Business, so whatever.

 

Eventually when I thought myself ready, we got back with Liz, this time with the right ideas and in the right way. It was not without some difficulties, it would not be worth it if it was easy. She inspired me and I really hope I did inspire her.

 

Campus ended a few months ago and as I toasted to four years it was to the pain, the torture, the missed classes, the heartbreaks, the hard lessons and experiences and to me for surviving it all. As I write this I am at home in Nakuru a fire burn beside me and I am slowly burning my campus books and everything I owned in campus. It is a fire to signify a new beginning and a new era. To meet people and to be fine while they leave.

 

It is the end to strenuous four years that I would rather die than relive them even a single second. So many wrong things happen to us so that we can have a good story to tell but this is not one of those ordinary stories. It is a story of self-discovery and like discovering diamonds, it could be met by falling stones and collapsing mines.

 

Maybe I will never get over Daisy and I will always be looking for a Daisy in every girl, even worse, perhaps a relationship with Liz might never work, one thing that is clear as day is that I should have never have noticed a girl in sneakers, and a purple hoodie which matched with her purple tight trousers four years ago. Neither should I have taken note of her side burns or her unearthly glamour.

 

Love is as beautiful as it is also ugly, the important thing is self-preservation at the end of the line when everything turns to shit.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

***

END

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Dennis Peters