Fatherhood

My mother once threw a shoe at my face. It was a nice sneaker, she had bought it for me as a birthday present from town together with the cake, but when she got home, I was nowhere to be found. My friend had invited me to an adventure to the forest, so without the permission of the house help, I disappeared not to be found for the entire Sunday. That day when I came home with a dry skin and filthy clothes from swimming in the river, I saw the freak on my mother’s face, and I could have almost sworn she had been worried sick to the level of tears. She could not even speak to me, she just gave me a blank worried stare and there the shoe came flying to my face. The house help took me to the shower before she threw the other shoe or the cake. The memory I hold on to from that day was her the expression on her face, scared and resigned.

I have a son now. He is seven years old. It is just him and me now; his mother left when he was five. She said something about feeling unfulfilled in her life. That motherhood was not going to be her eternal task. She wanted to travel, discover and build her career.  Before she left, she took a piece of my sanity away by dragging me through court hearings with regards to the custody of my son. She said she wanted to keep him and that he would be better with her because I was always working and the judge agreed.

Deep Dives. Part Two.

After primary school in Nakuru, she had gone back to Narok and undergone the Maasai girl rites of passage. Had it been a few decades earlier, the rite would involve the cutting off of the labia in a four-day ritual. She would have been dressed up in the best clothes and the finest of the traditional jewellery. She would get blessed by the elders using milk and cow blood to represent the way of life of her people. The whole community would sing songs; while their mothers would teach them how to please their husbands sexually and socially. All this would be beautiful, but earlier in the morning of the fourth day the same knife would be used to chop off the clitoris and labia of more than twenty girls. Nataana would have been expected to be strong; she would have been expected to be a warrior woman and not scream when it came to that moment. Her mother and other women would continue singing about Emuratta and Enkiama. Good girls get circumcised and then married, the song would say.

As the blade cuts off her numb skin, Nataana would be shaking profusely like a twig on an elephant’s footpath. She would be shaking not only because of the time she spent submerged in the cold river water but because of the pain of having surgery without an anaesthetic. She would try to scream in pain, but no sound would come out, and she would be glad because her mother did not have to hear her become weak. It would be over now; a few scattered stitches would be put in place to replace the chopped off body parts. Sometimes these stitches will go all the way making urinating tough, but at least it would be over now. From that, all that follows is food, good healthy food in a closed room for a month until she healed. On a good month out of the twenty girls with Nataana, eighteen would heal completely without an infection.  Nataana would be among them because she is a fighter. She would leave her hut and never see the door of a secondary school classroom because she would get married off immediately. She would know what pain is, not by reading or by tales, but through experience. A strong woman who would then be expected to give birth to a baby less than a year after such an ordeal.

But days like those were gone and forgotten. In 2009, she was lucky the Emuratta of girls had been banned in the country. Now there was just Eokoto e-kule and Enkang oo-nkiri that consisted of meat and milk from cows and not humans. After primary school, Nataana joined other girls in a three-day long session about sex education, human rights, and self-confidence. Instead of mountains being set on her education, she was empowered to study and compete alongside her male age mates. She wanted to be a pharmacist. Off she went to secondary school back in the city and then to university where I met her.

Damien

Moved to Nairobi last week and found a journal in the clothes cabinet of my new apartment. I am as pleased as anyone would, to find out that the previous owner of a place I now call home, was contemplative and took time to write a journal. Other people find possessed dolls and hidden cult caskets, I found a journal. Reading another person’s life in their own handwriting, to a writer is like discovering treasure. They are honest, vivid, raw and bare. It might be against the law, but if the law was a little bit interesting, we would all read the constitution on vacations.

Well, we are a family, let me share, a little for everybody. No gluttons please, there is enough to go round…

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.

No Witnesses

When I met Maria, I had just come from the Rift Valley. I had been there for three days, working. This assignment was special. It involved a very important man. My contact, the person who had handed me the assignment also sounded important but identity was not any of my concern. So on a misty Tuesday morning, as a helicopter sailed an important person to the plains of the Rift Valley for an occasion, I lay flat on a raised ground one eye shut to put all the juice on the other one that was looking on a tiny aiming hole of my father’s M21 Sniper Weapon machine…