Campaign Girls

 

 

 

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.

 

*

 

I got a job as a Data Entry Clerk for the big man’s gubernatorial campaign. I cannot correctly recall how it happened because it took place while I was under the magnificent alcoholic haze. It was in the club back in 2016; our Governor-to-be was having expensive drinks with his friends on a table close to ours. My friends and I had just completed our final examinations in campus, which was the reason we were draining red wine like we had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Our neighbours were getting louder with each bucket of ice they ordered the waiter to bring.

 

It started out as a dare. The big man thought he could make his way to Parliament and his friends sneered in disbelief. A little later, he said bluntly and insistently, ‘I will even run for governor to prove you idiots wrong.’ That is how his campaign started. He bought drinks for every lady in the club that night and when he approached our table, and we told him our reason for celebration, he instructed us to be at his house 8 am on Monday, he would be the first to hire us. Our salary would be Ksh 30,000. That is how my two friends and I got our first job, on the same day we cleared the last paper in campus.

 

His gubernatorial bid was a dare. But then, a wise man once said, it is not how a race starts, but how it ends that matters. The next day, after the hangover had subsided, I called home and broke the good news that I had completed my four years in school of nursing and at the same time got a temporary job. My parents were elated, mostly because they never had to pay my rent again.

 

We worked from his mansion. He had three, so it did not matter that he used one of the houses as the campaign headquarters. The living room was the size of a basketball court and the bathrooms the size of my apartment. The carpenters came on Monday and converted the living room into an open office, and right there we began working. I would receive massive amounts of money and distribute it to the campaign ground workers to distribute to the voters. Every voter we asked for a vote was entitled to a Ksh 200 note. Most of my days would be spent chasing Ksh 1000 loose change in 200s. In a day, around Ksh 500 000 crossed my hands.

 

My other two friends did other things in the office daily, and as usual, there can never be a group of women without gossip. It started three weeks after we started working. The big man walked in rage and flew upstairs, we all stood stunned in awe wondering what the devil had done. A little later we heard struggling and screaming from upstairs from a lady. What surprised me most is that within those three weeks, someone was living upstairs and we had never seen her. A little gossip later we learned that it was the big man’s wife. It was against the rules for the wife to leave the house. She stayed locked up as the big man made plans and money for the family. I was infuriated and just like that my admiration slowly started turning to abhorrence.

 

It was the mansion’s custom to burst open a bottle of whisky at the end of a successful week. The big man’s whisky cabinet was bigger than his bathroom which was bigger than my apartment, so I hope that can draw you a vivid picture of its size. In those parties, I discovered Hennessy, Platinum Label, and Jack Daniels. Beautiful drinks that cost more than my salary. It was in one of those parties that things started to get incredibly wrong. I was standing by the printer when the big man approached me and asked why I was working on Saturday while I should have been enjoying the river of whisky courtesy of the big man almighty. I was dumbfounded that he cared. Then it happened, he put his hand on my bum and made to grab it like I was his. Part of me was immobile, astonished with despair like those rats that lose hope in laboratory experiments and lie down in the maze to starve.

 

His wife attended that party in particular. She was the one going around serving the drinks. I was even more scared about her feelings about my ass in her husband’s hand than the actual big hand that tried again to grope my unlucky ass. I did not speak, I was frozen but moving away from him. I took a seat and waited for my shock to subside before I took my things and left the ‘office.’

 

When I left I was so sure I was never to come back again. As if the night was not yet done with me, as I waited for a matatu to take me home, which was extremely unlikely considering the neighbourhood it was, the big man’s driver pulled over and told me to get into the car, that he had been ordered to take me home. I was one part resistance, two parts grateful so I got in, and he ferried me back to my place.

 

I could not help thinking about my situation. I was certain that this would never have a chance of a good ending. I drifted back to that moment when he placed his hand on my bum and then tried to do it again. I was so sure that other people in the office had noticed. Even his wife. When I called home the following Sunday afternoon, it was to say that I would be going home. Mother picked the call and could not stop ranting about how happy she was I had not asked for rent. That I was a big girl now, taking care of my problems like a grownup. I ended the call exceedingly sure that there was no going back. I had to make a living for myself.

 

 

*

 

 

Monday morning found me debating whether it was all worth it. At 10.00 am when it was two hours past the time I was supposed to get to the office, I got a text message. It was from the big man according to Truecaller. It was short and extreme in brevity. It was like it was typed in a speedy, careless, go-to-hell sprawl, like something I would write fast before going out to the grocery market. It said, ‘report to work.’ The big man was calling; it would be rude not to answer. So at midday, I walked into the office like a loose girl doing a walk of shame on a Monday morning.

 

The primaries came, and we lost. With it, we became an independent party and even pressed harder for votes. The campaign speeches grew longer, and the Ksh 200 notes increased to Ksh 500 notes. We used land cruisers to get to places young boys had never seen automobiles. We promised electricity to people with no roofs and fertilisers to individuals with no land. We even hired bloggers, and I sent them Ksh 1027 to post nasty, made up rumours about our primary opponent. Still, after all that, the poles still said we were 2% behind.

 

It was a battle to the bone. One that had started out as a simple dare now had become a serious life or death situation. Secretly, I hoped he would not win. He was arrogant, disrespectful and beat his wife. That was enough to make sure he would never get my vote. By the time we got to the final polls on 8th August, he had already bedded my two friends and increased their salary to Ksh 40 000. All but me.

 

The final poles threw him off the gubernatorial seat by a 9000 votes’ margin. A very close shave. He had lost but had made a huge impact on the county. He did not seem bothered by the loss. In fact, even before the announcement, he had me allocate funds to a big party of all his campaign staff.

 

I decided to bring my boyfriend to the big man’s party. Partly because the big man smashed my two friends, they seemed to have grown distant, so I had no friends and also partly because I felt I needed security. At the party, the big man insisted that I was to dance with him and when my boyfriend gave me an okay look I let him take my arm to the middle of the room. It was the longest ten minutes dance I ever had. When I came back, I found my boyfriend already ordered a cab to take us back home. He was furious. These young men and their possession pride (rolls eyes).

 

 

*

 

 

A week after the election, after we had cleared out and our contract terminated, I got a call from the big man. I was curious, so after some few relaxation stunts, I answered the call casually. It turns out, they needed to keep five employees for permanent employment and I had been shortlisted, so he was calling me to let me know that I was being called in for an interview.

 

Before I could make a response, he told me to carry my documents, and he would have the driver pick me up within the hour. This smelt like a distasteful disaster but I had to keep paying my rent, so I got ready in my skirt suit, made my hair look professional and put all my documents in a folder. The driver in a Range Rover was waiting as I left my apartment.

 

I got into the car, and the car sped towards town, then past town towards God knows where. I got unsettled and asked the driver where we were headed, and he briefly announced that we would get there when we got there. Without further options, I accepted my fate and drifted back into a fretful doze.

 

The car came to a halt about 200 kilometres from my apartment. It was a colourful modern hotel. A place where green dominated and nature displayed all its beauty. I now wish I had more time to let the beauty sink in, but my legs trembled and my mouth felt dry. I felt like an anchorless red balloon was floating on my stomach. Quickly I got my phone and shared my location on WhatsApp with my boyfriend and my sister. If I died, I wanted them to know where exactly to start looking for the body.

 

I found him relaxed under a gazebo sipping some expensive German Whiskey. He was in a Bahamas coloured short and a baggy checked shirt. A nasty combination of prints but that was barely within my range of fucks to give. He smiled and stood up to make a handshake with me. I was determined to make this an official interview, so before he even ordered me a bottle of 1800 Italian Wine, I handed him my CV. He pretended to read then threw it aside. In a statement that seemed too calm to be a threat, he assured me that I would get or not get the job depending on what I had to offer him.

 

There are points in life when a woman must accept that she is prey yet besides it, be determined enough to be fierce to level up the predators in the ecosystem. For certain, I knew I would never have sex with him, yet it did not matter, I was in the middle of nowhere, and the choice before me was not even a moral one, more than it was a survival one.

 

I was too engrossed in my thoughts that when he enquired whether I had a boyfriend, I just shook my head distractedly. In plain simple bare and definite words, I opened up my thoughts to him. I let him know that I would not sleep with him in any circumstance even when I needed the job this much. I looked directly at him and told him that I had a boyfriend waiting for me at home. That I love him so much to cheat on him (*rolls eyes, we had only been dating three months). I told him of the family I would want to have with him, a family of three or four kids. All girls. I told him of my accomplishments and what they meant to me. Of my rent and my parents. My fears and my aspirations.

 

I was talking consistently for more than twenty minutes that when I was done, I just stood up and made my way to leave. I did not even know a way out. I just walked. I could feel my heart pounding in my arms. I was certain that in the middle of my pressured outburst I may or may not have called the big man a sexual predator. One part fierce, two parts stupid. The elephant in the room would be how to get home.

 

 

*

 

 

As I type this story, I am home waiting for a call to know whether I aced that interview or not. Otherwise, I am just among the 40% unemployed Kenyans out here.

 

*

 

 

***Based on a true story***

 

 

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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.

Moments 2016

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A girl completes a KCPE exam, gets a good grade and proceeds to High School, secures a good college through a decent score. She finds herself on the front bench of a lecture in School of Business, Jomo Kenyatta University. She completes her course successfully.

 

She leaves school, ready for the world full of unemployment, cold-hearted bosses and a paycheck consisting of a figure barely able to pay for decent housing. She moves from Juja to Nairobi, ready to advance her business career by any means possible.

 

The first job is late and disappointing, always is. She works as a secretary for a law firm in the city. The pay hardly holds her life together as it is and after six months, she quits. Her salary had remained fairly constant despite the promise of a gradual pay rise after the third month. Mostly, though, she quits because of the persistent sexual advances of the boss.

 

Again she deeps her feet into the large pool of unemployment, this time with six months’ experience. By the grace of a distant uncle, the girl manages to lie the corporate world and land a position as an assistant manager in a government office. The pay surprisingly rises to triple the number of times at the previous law firm.

 

Now she can afford good make-up, holidays in coast and almost expensive dresses. Her social media profile represents success at a young age to the very detail. The expensive coffee brunch at Java and apartments in Karen can hardly be referred to as anything else but glory.

 

She now has time for boys. She engages in half-baked relationships with a few young men which are often a disaster. Men, like it has been said more than a hundred times, are dogs. She tries a few women too, which also fails terribly, as if to say, women too are bitches.

 

She gives up on her social life and focuses her energy on her career. It takes a short time for her to be promoted to department manager of the same firm. She barely talks about it but her new four wheel drive CRV openly tells the tale to anyone who is interested enough to listen. She buys a piece of land just about the same time that the thirties catch up with her.

 

The thirties are barely any better, pressure from the family begins to amount on her social life. They notice the expensive gifts during Christmas and the new cars but what they want is a man. A man to procreate, and fulfill God’s commands accordingly.

 

He is late. He shows up at Moca Loca Cafe in Nakuru as she is having brunch coffee with her friends after consuming litres upon liters of Italian Wine at Club 64 the previous night. She barely notices him from her mild headache and dehydration but he notices her. He is a fairly handsome tall, dark and handsome guy, with a good car, big soft hands, and a good haircut. The only problem is that he has sunglasses inside a cafe, but since she has been waiting for 35 years, that she can fix. His name is Peters Denis. Denis with single ‘N’ and a Peters that comes before a Dennis.

 

She grows to adore him and rely on him. Nobody even notices the fact her salary is double his when she is promoted to County Business Manager. She however fails terribly trying to make him stop his sunglasses behaviour and in despair, she concludes her attempts. Suddenly, the holidays have more bliss and the house is a bit warmer.

 

Her Denis is more in love with his books and his writing but it never bothers her. She actually joins him in reading his 2016 African favorites like BlackAss by Igoni Barret and Born a Crime, stories from a South African childhood, by Trevor Noah.

 

Eventually, the gods smile upon their union and hand them twins, two beautiful girls. Lee and Dee.

 

A girl is no longer a girl but a mother and a wife. Problems start immediately after this realization dawns on her.

 

It starts with the simple mandatory question of who should quit their job to take care of the kids. Arguments spring up like an active volcano and it is suddenly not a home but a house of politicians where everyone is out for blood. Holidays are no longer done by the family but in secret with secret young male and female illicit companions.

 

Divorce comes around the time the girls turn seven. Our girl suffers and so does his Denis, but mostly the twins suffer the anguish of separation.

 

This was not a happy story, by the way, my 2016 was shit, I don’t get why I should make yours any better. Happy 2017 though, Yes? We’re still friends, No?

 

Happy 2017 people. Dennis Peters over and out.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

 

 

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Dennis Peters

 

Beneath a Suit

 

He gets to the office a little after eleven o’clock on a usual day. Usual days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Monday and Friday are special days, do not even get me started on Saturdays and Sundays. He puts on a suit but what intrigues me is what he has beneath that suit.

First is a smell. A lethal stench that appalls anyone within a twenty feet radius. It is the whiff of fermentation, staleness, anger, hate, boredom and crises. It is the scent of something unwanted and displeasing. A repulsive scent that suggests laziness, bad relationships, failure and neglect. It is the highlight, rather, a drift of the middle age. The smell of last night’s mistakes, arguments, unfaithfulness, overspending, disorganization, chaos and wastage. It is obnoxious.

Then there is his piled up paperwork on his desk. A desk that is accustomed to underutilization. The seat behind the desk stares into space, waiting and anticipating for something that never happens. The computer placed on the desk has its network cable disconnected and the power cable switched off. It is supposed to be processing files, serving customers, fulfilling the company’s mission and vision, instead, it just sits, disconnected from the global village, alone and isolated, feeling odd amongst its peers. The support stuff often dust the desk occasionally but the paperwork is not their jurisdiction so it breaths in all kinds of brown dust.

The first thing he does in the office is to send the guard for the day’s newspaper which he sits in the office for an hour going through. He likes being up to date with current affairs, one would think it is for the noble reason of being informed but a closer look reveals that the paper gives him arguing points amongst his mates in the course of the day. They sit by the office kitchen talking about history of politics and politics of history. Discussing trends, presidents, testosterone and girls.

After lunch is usually the peak of his day. He loudly boasts of the number of beer bottles he poured down his gut during the lunch period. His workmates listen in silence, the scornful ones responding in murmured silences. Deep down they know that he needs help but all of them are either to restrained or solely apathetic. He then engages the office ladies in a heated discussion accompanied in uncanny flattery. He boasts. He loves doing that shit. He thinks of himself as a personality infused with charisma, little does he know how many enemies he creates in every gratification he declares upon himself.

By the time the office clock stops at four, it finds only an after-scent of a combination of his inexpensive deodorant, his ego and his fermented lunch snack in the office. He has managed to get an intern to do his work as well as recruit a peer for an evening politics discussion over two or three. One turns to two then to three and four. By seven o’clock, the peer workmate leaves for his family just about the same time he asks for a half-litre KC vodka to spike his beer.

Eventually, it is only him, a table full of empty bottles and a lot of stories with no one to listen. The clock hits ten and he staggers out to the streets. He heads home to a family he rarely sees or speaks to. He eyes are red as crimson, knees weak as a fig tree, stomach empty as a temple on Friday night and a gut full of toxic death. He gets home on motorbike, barely holding on to reality.

On Fridays, he leaves home directly to his favorite seat by the beer shelves. He never goes home on Friday evenings, On Saturday he comes home, hungry and moneyless reeking of whatever girl got paid to do a job that must never be spoken of in broad daylight.

On Sundays, he is nowhere to be seen while on Mondays he lies on his bed until midday nursing a three-day hangover, occasionally quarreling with his wife or his children who lost trust in him. The people that once looked up to him but now look down on him, waiting and wondering when he will choke on his drink and give them peace because they lost the patience for change. Change is a mere mirage, mainly an outcome of false hope or pretense that never lasts long. People never change. Situations change, relationships too but people hide their wickedness burying the reality behind their dark pupils, but deep deep down, the devil reigns playing catch ball with his horned allies.

Tuesday is the start of this story.

He is a friend, workmate, brother, uncle, dad, cousin, grandfather, follower or ghost follower. We all have someone that needs to slow down on his drink. We don’t want him to do therapy, therapy don’t work on no black man, neither do we want him to join a support group because that’s a Western thing, yet we don’t want to lose him because as much as we have fangs and serpent poison on our tongues, we are still humans before we are anything else. Our cynicism is proportional to the number of times we have been disappointed hoping and praying that he will get better.

He never does, God hates alcohol so he even ignores all words that end in ‘hol’, he spams such prayers and it is then that we have to be little gods ourselves and show that our humanity goes beyond faith and hope. The popular and Iconic writer, Bikozulu, once said, “What they need is simple acts of love from people they care about”. Shove an alcoholic on your bosom and show him love and the alcohol will find the exit on itself. Get him a gift this Christmas that is not a bottle of whiskey or a bible and you will have planted a yearning of sobriety in him.

We all start drinking because it is fun in high school or in college. Turns out it is fun. Eventually, when college is over, a girl walks out on us, a job becomes too hard to obtain, a scar becomes too tough to rub off and life shows us utter callousness and we think to ourselves, maybe we need to have fun like we once did. Maybe we need a little inebriation so that we can reach our fun nerves that make the world soft like toffee and the music fulfilling as paradise. We set on a course that becomes difficult to abandon.

Now we drink when boss man fires us, when girlfriend leaves, when laptop breaks down, when the day becomes slow, when the day was too fast, when we are hungry, when we are full, when we have a lot of work, when we do not have work or any day we find ourselves alive. The scary part is that we cannot stop. Soon we have no any real human connection, yet a lousy job we hate, a toxic relationship, a minuscule salary and a lot of stories with no one to listen.

We are 45 years old now, life is no longer ahead of us but behind us. That is when we get to the office a little after eleven o’clock on a usual day. Usual days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Monday and Friday are special days, do not even get me started on Saturdays and Sundays. We put on a suit but what intrigues me is what is going to be beneath that suit.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

 

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Dennis Peters

 

 

Secret Handshakes

Once or twice in a lifetime, a man must reminiscence on his vitality. That day a man will lay out his laundry to the almighty jury of Twitter. On such a day there is nothing like bedroom affairs or surreptitious handshakes. It is a day like no other. Such a day does not come often but when it does a man has to be heeded.

 

 

The other day I typed twelve hundred words about how I was working for Kenya Power and shit. It was a good story that made incessant hilarious commentaries about how I would get fired and we all laughed about it. News just in is that I have not been fired yet. The adventure continues. I continue to bring the light to your bedsitters, and kitchens. In your bedrooms where whatever happens must never be brought to the light. I continue to rise before traffic in the city to redeem Kenyans from doom and darkness, from candlelight, paraffin lamps and the devil.

 

 

The other day in the office these three gentlemen, well into their prime years, walked into the office. From the old suits these men wore, I could tell they were the millennials of their time. The suits were old, unfitting but neat. You could tell that the shirts had been thoroughly washed and iron using the charcoal iron box because by the mere fact that they were in the office means that they had not received the light. These men are the kind of men you would effortlessly write two thousand words about without breaking a sweat. They spoke, they walked, they dressed the fifties.

 

 

One of them was first to speak up, it was in Kikuyu, deep Kikuyu. It was the language of few, it contained secrets of Gikuyu and Mumbi, the knowledge of the Mau Mau and the pain of Dedan Kimathi. Kikuyus always speak Kikuyu whether in Central or in Western, in Asia or in Europe, in America or in Africa. They always want whoever is on the receiving end to be Kikuyu. So they will not care that your forehead is written Luo or it is sunny outside but you are still in a brown leather jacket, a signature move for Kales. No! You are Kikuyu as far as you are on planet Earth.

 

 

Earlier in the year when I used to work at NHIF. I had successfully established that a Kikuyu who speaks to you in Kikuyu should always get a response in Kikuyu. The opposite will make them hate you for it. I do not like to be hated. Hatred has always sets a cold shiver down my spine. I am a people’s person, I never see a reason why people should hate me. I digress.

 

 

I replied their greeting and introduced myself as Njenga and asked how I could be of help to them. Before such men you are a subordinate and they are your bosses. You do not respond to such men like you would to your peers or a usual customer. You do it in such a way like you do to your boss or to your father. They could fire you and they do not even work there. They could make you lose your self-esteem in an instance. They are men you do not want to be at loggerheads against.

 

 

They explained their problem. They had been supplied with forms for new electricity connections but could not fill them because the letters were tiny. Age always aims at your eyeballs first making it impossible to write or read. I remember in my earlier years my grandma would ask us to read out hymn books for her across the heath. She loved that shit. She hated reading using spectacles. I do not know who reads the Kikuyu hymn book for her now. That is probably how I should spend my Christmas instead of drinking every cent like Jesus was born so that whiskey could ferment.

 

 

Before I could respond, one of them pushed a form across my desk and from where I was seated I could see a five hundred note beneath the form. What intrigued me most was the way he did it, he first made sure I had seen the five hundred shilling note before he casually asked if I could fill in the form. He did it in so much aptitude such that the three of them could see my face melting away before them. My shame tried to hide while my veins gave a standing ovation. I could see them looking right through me, waiting, imploring and commanding. They wanted me to make the right move. They stood on the shore of the ocean hoping to pull me into manhood, for Gikuyu, for Kimathi and for the Jubilee Government. They were good.

 

 

I have never been bought. I have bought others though, I have tried to buy an NTSA police officer when they did a number on us at Nakuru the other day. We were caught red-handed, hands down driving at 118km/h while the limit was a hundred. I have bought a school guard so that he did not have to inspect my stuff as I go through a gate. I have performed poorly out of ten when it comes to annihilating corruption in this country. I have no excuse for my actions, judge me if you must but I have bought people more than thrice or four or five times in my twenty-two years of age. I plead guilty.

 

 

This was different, someone was attempting to buy me for five hundred shillings. Moreover, to buy me to do my work. The world had turned upside down, the monkey had been taken to a plain where there were no trees and it had to learn new skills to survive. I took the five hundred shilling note casually, barely concealing the thousand thoughts running through my head. I was unskilled wondering how bribes are received. Are they received in secret and with a smile? Can you ask for more? Are you supposed to act like you are a bad ass accustomed to such stuff? Are you supposed to say thank you? If your boss sees it, are you supposed to share your bribe?

 

 

I took the money, held it tightly in my fist, took the three form and filled them and returned them to the three gods for them to put their signatures. What they did not realize is all these time I was staring my life in flashes. Wondering what a five hundred shilling note meant to me. A good meal perhaps, a lot of browsing data, a good energy drink or a yogurt to chase of the afternoon heat? That was as much as it went. This is what I did, and I swear am no lying you guys.

 

 

I took back the forms after they were signed, pin the KRA certificates and ID copies. Took the note, pushed it across the table, back to them. Told them that the forms were in good hands and it was my job as a worker at Kenya Power to serve customers and I did not need extra payment. I swear, that is how it went. If you think I am lying, mail me, I will give you the assurance of my voice.

 

 

Then it got me thinking, maybe we do not need anti-corruption units in this country, maybe we do not need to yap all over that we need to stop corruption. Maybe we just need to be us, remind ourselves of the high regard we hold ourselves. Even better, maybe corruption is not supposed to be fought, we just need to experience it to feel the kind of shame, the lowlessness and lawlessness, downgrade and loss of dignity that comes with that secret handshake.

 

 

So Jamuhuri day is here, our resident photographer’s birthday and my dad’s birthday all over again. 2016 heads to an ultimate terminus. Happy Birthday sir, Happy Birthday love, Happy Jamuhuri day guys. We do this again soon, yes?

Moments 2016 coming right up.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

 

 

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Dennis Peters

 

December

When darkness descends, the tarmac gets smoother and the wind blows harder. The music inside the vehicle gets louder and the mood flinches with imminent adrenaline. Your foot adds a little more pressure on the acceleration while you casually place one arm on the steering the other one holding your phone as if expecting an uncertain call. On your passenger’s seat, a newspaper sits calmly, new and unread. The newspaper is not the only thing feeling underutilized, the seat belts too, on their fall-back position stealthy dancing to the tune of your speed.

 

Outside, the headlights glare, hardly blinking, looking at a future that is full of ambiguity. A scent of sweat and speed fills the air around you accompanied by the distinct nasty feeling of uneasiness. The shining stars are either hiding tonight or just tired of the ingrates below them. More than anything, the darkness engulfs everything known to man. The only lights are in pairs of two of different automobiles rushing back and forth the highway.

 

Then it happens, a Toyota Vitz overtakes you. That wounds your pride which even at this speed weighs heavier than both you and your Subaru at an ordinary stationary position. You think of what this means to you. How your Subaru must feel humiliated. You have always been passionate about a lot of things, your beer for instance and your speed. In fact an open can sticks by your dashboard, half empty and the missing half was not libation. A quick calculation could reveal that this is not the first beer you have had today.

 

Now you are determined to redeem your beloved Subaru. A little more pressure on the acceleration. Plus the road is relatively empty at this time of night. You approach a sign written in bold that this Salgaa, A black spot. Where many have prey to the thirst monster of blood and pain. You have seen the same sign so many times, you are indifferent to the antics it begs.

 

You can see the white Toyota Vitz that bruised your ego a hundred meters from you. The road is clear and you step on it even harder and your car responds amenably. You overtake a truck carrying two Maersk containers on a climbing lane. Innocuously, you begin to speculate what the container is carrying. Could be salt. Perhaps we are exporting salt from Magadi to Kampala. We have a lot of salt in Kenya. Couldn’t be salt. Maybe it is coffee, which sounds crazy immediately it leaves your head, what would Ugandans do with coffee? Eat it as fruit? Because it is definitely not to process it. Or maybe Kirubi is tired of Rhinos on his personal park now he is taking two to Uganda as part of a pact with Museveni. You shake your head and laugh quietly to yourself. Rather, it could be child traffickers, taking kids bundled together interwoven with raw fear and desperate gasps to Saudi Arabia to be sold as slaves. That last one sets a shiver down your spine. Death and strife has always appalled you.

 

Fifty meters to the monstrously insolent Vitz. The wind blows even harder against your car, the side mirrors begin caving in as evidence that you are practically half on tarmac, half on air. This is the kind of speed that made the person that invented planes aware that metal could fling into the air and perch like birds or the angels. But you are unaware of this because in the car, it is a party. The music volume is seriously loud, it could awaken the hundreds who have died on this spot.

 

You are slowly approaching your adversary who also seems to have a romantic story with speed. That always sends him to nostalgia any time he drives slowly. If it was not for the pending financial constraints, he too would have bought a speed car, a Subaru, and then he would have a chance to race against you. Right now, he can only intimidate you and nothing else. You have the power and an intrepid car that gets on the road and everyone else squirms in frantic fear.

 

But then again on a plain the proficiency of a monkey to slither from tree to tree becomes impractical. You catch up with him and he has nothing to defend himself. A gazelle on the paws of a hungry cheetah can only present mere prayers to its maker. Last prayers are said, only, they are not said by the gazelle but by the cheetah.

 

A pothole presents itself to fast ahead, impossible for you to change course. You swerve right to escape the impending predicament and you successfully do only to miss a Maersk truck speeding at eighty towards you. Again you swerve left to escape the truck an again you successfully do only that this time, you do not escape untouched, the truck hits your rear hard. The car makes a three-sixty swerve still on its wheels and another and another and just when you think the impact is successfully over another truck speeding towards you from the opposite direction place its entire weight and speed on you and your Subaru and you get off your wheels and spin off the road over and over again until your sensitive Subaru looks like a collection of cheap scrap metal.

 

Everything is silent now. The Vitz has driven away already probably still in the race thinking that you are just kidding and would be back on your wheels in no time. Both trucks stop momentarily and then veer off out of sight to deliver the Maersk containers probably carrying perishables. Several concerned parties approaches your mess cautiously afraid of a possible explosion. As for you, this is the end of the ‘road’ for you. You will not be making it to Eldoret tonight because the gods decided your destination was heaven or hell. Either, they have a wide range of options. We now have a burial to plan, hearts to console, tears to shed and a crime scene to investigate. Even in death you still cause trouble.

 

Now the festive season fills our mouths with the foul taste of blood, metal and death. For the reason of your appetites of alcohol and speed. Yet we told you and wished you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We did so from December 1st because we thought it would give you a sense of wanting to stay alive but turns out that even our wishes were wasted on you, our love was wasted on you because you lay waste to everything close to you.

 

Still, the darkness descends even harder, the tarmac gets even smoother and the wind blows even harder. The music inside the vehicle gets louder and the mood flinches with imminent adrenaline. Please do not put us through this again.

 

Feature Image by Mukiri Gitiri

 

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Dennis Peters