Next Time you Fall…

July is here already. We are still breathing and reading and we thank God. July is my favourite month by the way, for no particular reason. I think it’s its orthoepy, or maybe because it is a birthday month of a girl I once loved; for a very long time. She kissed my best friend, and then she confessed. So I left her. Actually, before she confessed, I already knew about the kiss and everything else. I asked her about it, she denied. I confronted her, she denied. I believed her every word. That’s what love is- believing every word your person tells you, trusting them and being deaf to the rest of the world, right? Months later during one of our deep heart to heart conversations I asked her if she has ever lied to me since we met. She said yes. I asked her when. She said she kissed Tom, my best friend. She confessed. So I left her. I walked away like I never knew her at all but I did hurt for months. It was painful. After the break up, her next birthday (July) was beyond endurance. We had already made plans to celebrate. It was all blown by the wind. I remember typing to her a long lovely happy birthday text that was never sent. She broke my heart with her wandering lips and her slack loyalty. During her tenure in my life, she was an angel, that’s why July is my favourite month. When I think of how she broke my heart, however, July swiftly becomes my worst month.

I am sorry I didn’t have to share that. July is here. We thank God. Happy new month! Today is one of those days I don’t step out of the house, unless entirely necessary. I just take the weight off my feet and write, or read, poems in particular. I am reading Johnswick’s Hesitation and I can’t help but think about Becky; a girl that smelled love. Oh Becky, where art thou?

First year in campus, innocent yet garrulous; that’s me. I’m not fully animated as I thought I would be but yes, the new environment, the new life, is as momentous. Classes are kind of different here. They are bigger and brimming. I learn they are called halls. Lecture halls. Not classrooms. In fact, no one uses the word class. It’s only during the first weeks of admission that one would say “I’m headed for a class”. After that things change and you hear “I’m headed for a lecture”. IRD 100 is my favourite unit. Every talkative person, one that loves making new friends and being a voice to the voiceless would love IRD 100. The lecturer taking us through this course is as interesting as my grandmother. He has funny jokes at the middle of his lectures. I love funny jokes, especially about short girls (they are my favourite, the short girls). He is the first person I heard make a joke on short girls. He says that short girls will never struggle when it comes to finding a tall guy, you know, tall dark and handsome. He goes on and says on Valentine’s Day, when they put on red, they all look like fire extinguishers. He is mean, and funny.

IRD 100 groups are formed. My group comprises three gentlemen and four ladies. Becky is among the four ladies. She is breathtaking, at least according to me. They say beauty lies in the beholder’s eye, which is true but even they guys in the group affirm my opinion on her. In my previous learning life, I hated groups. So damn much. I guess it was because we were all boys. Here, we are all; Lions and lionesses. Cocks and hens. Bulls and heifers. Dogs and bitches. Boys and girls. It is a free world. We are adults who’ve come all the way from kilometres away to quench our thirst for knowledge. We know what we are supposed to do here. We know. We came here to learn, to study hard to get jobs (biggest of scams). We came here to make connections, lifetime connections and inevitably, we came here to fall in love and to display our hearts out to be broken, or cherished.

Stealing glances at Becky is the best thing about this group meeting. Our eyes meet and it is a different level of pleasure. This girl is dark and spotless. Ever seen a black spotless girl with the whitest of teeth smile? No you haven’t. Trust me; if you haven’t seen Becky you haven’t seen beauty. I make plans to approach her, in our next meeting.

 At my room I stand in front of the mirror to see myself say “Hi Becky, how much do you love ice cream” a thousand times. I don’t even know if she loves ice cream but I’ll shoot my shot (If I die I die). After all, I haven’t heard of a lady that hates ice cream- a fresher especially. So I get prepared, psychologically and verbally for step one of a possible love story.

It’s an afternoon; the discussion is heated and lively. It is so lively I hardly get a second to steal a glance at her. After concluding the discussion, she walks toward the gate. I follow behind.

“Hey, Becky”

“Hey”

I don’t know if you guys understand but when a beautiful girl melts your heart and you want to make her yours so bad, the amount of fear that creeps to your heart and head is unbelievably colossal. Sometimes, you shiver. Throat dries and a power cut occurs in the brain. Words flee and you freeze. I magically forget the rehearsals at the mirror and all the sentences I had memorised evaporate. I am not even thinking of ice cream anymore. I am thinking of hiding and screaming. From an amazing lovely girl she turns to some goddess who nature proscribed any man from standing next to her. Standing with her feels like breaking the law. She is smiling but all I see is a lioness unperturbed, ready to listen to an offer from a Chihuahua and then calmly reject it. I am scared of rejection.

“Hey, today’s discussion was lit” I finally say what I never rehearsed.

“Yes, it was”

“The reference you made on ‘Empathy’… can you lend me the book, for a day or two?”

“Of course, as soon as I’m done making some notes I will”

“Okay, thank you. See you”

“See you”

I bounce. I flee like a gazelle running from a cheetah. I hate myself.

We meet again a few days later. I get every chance to say something but my lips go numb. It’s shameful how I am shy. The confidence I have in making new friends and laughing loud in a lecture hall must be pretence. Maybe the chatty me is not the real me. Maybe I am shy. Yes that’s me; shy. Do you know how many group meetings happen in a semester? In all those meetings I never talked of ice cream or coffee. Each time I prepared to, I relented. I hesitated. I tensed. Whoever taught me to be afraid of rejection, I hate you.

Semesters passed, academic year passed and Becky is still splendid. We are in second year and she is dating Karim. He is a guy from a different class and a different course. It is a taboo for men to compare themselves but I was a better shot here. It is funny how deep inside I am mad yet I never tried. It is weird how I expected she should have chosen me over him when I (stupidest of freshmen) never asked her out and never offered the ice cream or a cup of coffee, or lunch at the campus mess (we had a classy one). Poor me!

Weeks later…

It’s a mutual friend’s birthday party and both Becky and I and invited. The house is too crowded and so I step out with my glass of juice and biscuits. She is already outside too. She is seated on the next door stairs that connects the veranda. I join her.

“May I?” I ask as I point next to her. I don’t wait for her to respond- I sit my butt next to hers.

“It’s overcrowded inside, needed some fresh air” I say

“Me too. I also want to sneak out, the sun is setting”

“What? There is an after-party.”

“It’s sad I’m gonna miss that. Represent me please”

“You can stay then chuck early enough with me. I’ll see you off”

“Not today, another time maybe”

We sit there as we enjoy the dying heat of the setting sun. I imagine how life would be if she was, you know, mine. Imaginations are sweet, too bad they don’t last. She stands up and bade me goodbye. She walks away as I follow her with my unblinking eyes.

“Hey Becky,” I run up to her, “you know, uuuum… way back last year during the IRD 100 group meetings I was carried away by you and I couldn’t help but fall for you. I did not tell you so because I was afraid or something but I always wanted to tell you… but I’m telling you now…is it too late to… ask you for a date?”

“Hey… why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know. Guess I was afraid. Is it too late now?”

“Yes it is. You know I am dating Karim and you’ve met him”

This time, it is not fear that I feel. I am not shivering and I’m not scared of this goddess. My throat isn’t dry. I’m just heartbroken and she is not responsible, I am. The shy me a year ago broke my heart and I hate him.

“If I had told you this early enough, would you have…uuuhm… chosen me?”

“Mmmh. Who knows? Maybe I would have. You are a nice lovable guy, but, next time you fall for a girl, do not hesitate to tell her. Maybe she is yearning deep inside for you to say it.”

“Of course. Goodbye Becky”

I go back to the stairs to wait for the night party. I need it after all.

I am More, Amor

“So, boobs or ass?” She asks.

“What?”

“Are you a booty guy or a booby guy?”

“What?”

“Do you prefer a girl whose butt is packed or a bosomy one?”

“What?”

“Robert!”

“Okay! Aren’t there other options? Like neck and legs?”

“You are either a booty guy or a booby guy!”

There is one thing the book of Creation misses out to mention. It talks about how the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. It talks about how the light came on. It talks about how God created humankind in His own image. It misses one thing though. One crucial thing; crazy friends! For every man that God breathed life into, he gave him crazy friends! When I was born, God breathed life into and gave me an epitome of madness; Isabella. What a sweet name! Try pronouncing it slowly and see how fragile it is, how it’s held in the mouth and keeps getting moulded into something brittle that might just tumble off your lips and sprinkle shards across the floor. Any short form of this name is morally unacceptable. Unfortunately, this is not her real name.

 I’d wish one of my granddaughters be called Isabella, though. I already have a name, or names, for my daughter(s). I just hope the one that will come out of my rib will be on the same wavelength. I hope she won’t start a stupid argument like “Is that your favourite ex’s name?” We, men, are sane beings. We think deep and our daughters are our gold. Not even gold, our heaven! No sane man will ever call her daughter a name of an ex just because she was his favourite. That’s what women do! Haven’t you heard this anywhere; a woman calling her son Max just because years ago a Maxwell made her life a paradise of love, gifts and cuddles? I am not in any moral position to tell you this but; don’t ever allow her to name your son. All children’s first names should be a father’s job, or family friends! If she can’t agree to this, then one can always do without an English name. It’s just an opinion, ha-ha.

Isabella.

Isabella and I are seated on a bench outside an internet cafe. We both came to apply for some county jobs but KPLC had other plans. So we are outside, waiting for power to come back on. She is talking about everything she sets her eyes on, from cars to men, to me.

“You see that guy? That’s a good height for a girl.” She points with her lips some dark mechanic guy. She points everything with her lips. Her fingers don’t serve this purpose, perhaps!

 “For every girl?” I ask.

“Most girls. But I bet every girl would prefer a tall guy like him.”

“What of mine?”

“Your girl?”

“No, my height”

“Well, you won’t miss one that will love it.”

My uncle mentioned that height wasn’t an issue a few decades ago. We came along with it. Girls made height a basic need. I hear there are men who google ‘how to increase height in months!’ This pressure is detrimental.

“Has no one ever loved your height?”

“What height? No one has ever said so”

“But you have a girlfriend, right?”

“Hey, look at that” I point with my lips at a girl on blue high waist jeans. Pointing with lips is just brilliant, people. If you get caught they’ll think you are kissing through the air.

She is 4’9 or 5. She walks slowly and wears courage from the way she’s chin up. The specs on her boost the confidence. Ever realized girls with specs have some bizarre courage? This type of four-eyed species intimidates men with an eye contact! Their valour is more than the Dutch courage. They’ll ask you for direction, and the look they give you as you explain with every gesture will make you nervous. They are good people though, most of them. Don’t ask me why but normalize not asking them to take off their glasses (I am saying this from experience). This one I’m looking at is an exception; I already figured her face without the glasses. That’s a talent some of us possess- to see someone beyond what’s visible. We can look at a head and tell what’s in there. I know heads of wisdom. If you’ve ever seen my head, then you too, know a head of wisdom. Her face with no glasses on is just as cute.  I don’t blink, I don’t wink, I watch. You know there were times I thought staring at a beautiful girl and watching how she lifts her right leg and sets it down as she does the same to the left was a despicable behaviour. I was convinced that observing her head, neck, torso and everywhere was lack of etiquette. Not until I was liberated, mentally. Gentlemen, it is okay to look. It is okay to give your eyes what they want; it doesn’t matter if you’re holding your fiancee’s hand- it is okay. Feed your eyes, and please, only your eyes. Don’t take it further than that. Again, an opinion, ha-ha. I can’t stop watching this four-eyed girl; her every part is filled with selflessness.

“That’s your taste?” Isabella has been watching me all along.

“How am I supposed to know that?”

“You just observed.”

“Maybe I’ll know if I talked to her. That size is admirably perfect, though.”

“So she is your taste! You love the hips?”

“She is curvy; I bet every man would prefer that.”

Who the hell hates curvy hips?

“So, boobs or ass?” She asks.

“What?”

“Are you a booty guy or a booby guy?”

“What?”

“Do you prefer a girl whose butt is packed or a bosomy one?”

“What?”

“Robert!”

“Okay! Aren’t there other options? Like neck and legs?”

“You are either a booty guy or a booby guy!”

She is trying to limit me to only two parts and that’s unfair. There are other many parts! Many! I have never been keen on the two. Sometimes the voice drives me crazier than the hips. Sometimes, it’s just the lower lip. I once accidentally dialled a wrong number; the voice on the other side stuck on me and gave me a feeling so strangely sweet I called back two days later. A face never seen, a hip never seen, nothing seen, just a voice heard and I was wild! So you see I cannot be a booby or a booty guy. I am more, amor!

Isabella has no margins in her conversations. She asks anyone she knows about anything, personal or not. And she needs answers! She demands them! Weeks ago she wanted to know my take on homosexuality. She forced me to respond when I did not want to. She predicted how one day the LGBTQ community will rise in number and society will have no option but to accept them and make it legal.

“It’s just a matter of time before it is legalised. Would you legalise it?” she said.

“I don’t know about that. As a sinner I would say that’s not my type of sin.”

“Is it a bad thing to let one express their love to whoever they feel attracted to?”

“It’s a bad thing not to have any culture, or religion.”

“Religion is a scam but a new one will one day sprout, one that takes everyone in.”

“There a number of them already, but they got rules.”

She told me I am not yet liberated, mentally. She said I am traditional and I am scared to open my mind to the new age.  She said one my grandchildren might turn out to be one and there is nothing I will do. God forbid! She said one of my friends could be but they are scared to show because I am homophobic. I really am! I told her what her take was and she said she is living life like it is legal and she has no problem with it. Isabella!

“Hey Isabella, here, it might never be legalized. What will be legalized soon is weed. A weed nation is rising like dust and they’ll have a space soon, publicly, like drunkards.”

Isn’t weed legal already? Half the nation is smoking. Leaders are dealers. Ballers are stoners. Scholars are pedis. It’s unstoppable!

What kind of a guy am I?

“I am neither.” I told her.

“Robert, you either love one or the other. A man is either a boob guy or an ass guy.”

“I am character guy, Isabella.”

“So you love neither?”

“No. they are just not what attract me to a girl. I don’t get attracted by just looking.”

“Don’t act perfect, Robert.”

“What now!”

You see, well sized and well placed boobs are awesome. A curvy hip with an attractive butt is admirable. But I am a character guy. I have always been a character guy. An irrefutable possibility is; boobs will one day droop and an ass might magically disappear. What will she be left with? I choose things that last, in case I last with her.

But hey, dear future wife, shape up! Ha-ha.

Power is back on. Let us apply for these jobs. Wish us luck!

Freaky Friday

There are a thousand things to say about Nakuru, from the Lake to the Park, from the Crater to the Museum to some castle. I can share every experience I’ve had in that town. I can talk of its latosolic soils and Merica Hotel’s breakfast. I can talk of the nights we’ve danced our troubles away and sipped in Sebs. I have had good times there. Every dude I know who’s been to Nakuru has had beautiful experience except one; Michael. I mean, he has interesting stories about Nakuru like most of us but a certain Friday night damaged him. Only one Friday night!

He took his meal in town and headed to the house at around 8:30 P.M. Bachelors who cook in their houses are like gold dust. One thing with cooking is in the process of preparing meals appetite can decide to go on the lam. No one wants to waste their energy like this, or their food. He got to the house and the first thing he did was to find the remote and switched the TV on. He took the day’s second shower (yes, some men do this) and placed his butt on the couch. Surprisingly, he is the type to sit for half an hour watching news. It is kind of weird for anyone of his age to sit and watch repeated stories of corruption and poor leadership of a third world country. He watches anyway!

He felt sleepy and glided to bed. The news had nothing new after all. A few minutes later, when he had already switched off the lights and dozed off, the phone rang. He didn’t pick it. He couldn’t. He was far away from that phone. He already had his one foot stepping in slumber-land. He heard the phone rang, but it was more of a dream than a reality. He let the dream be. Whoever called must have been one stubborn hell of a person. He called again, and again. Michael tossed and turned and with a clack stretched to his phone. It was Kamau. He wondered what had happened to him. It couldn’t be nyama choma again, not at around ten in the night. Maybe he was in trouble, maybe he was calling from the police station. The nights sometimes can be prohibited, even without the curfew law.

Oya Kamaa niaje?”

On the other side of the call, Kamau’s voice wasn’t the only thing he heard. He heard music too, some tech house and what seemed like voices from a crowd.

“Mike, jamaa, uko wapi kaka?”

Nishalala nko kwa bed,”

Wacha ujinga, unalala aje Friday, kuja Sebs.”

Of course he declined. He was not going to sacrifice a sweet sleep for some party he wasn’t prepared for. He had already assured his duvet that he was going be there by her side until the break of dawn. Kamau acted like an agent of some divine power. He lured Mike in every way possible. He talked of girls who were more in number than boys. He talked of whisky and music. Mike might have escaped the girls’ temptation, but whisky and music? This was a whole different level of fun. He tossed and turned. He called a cab. He couldn’t let his crew enjoy the night as he slept.

The club was full. The boys were present. He took a space at the table. By now, Sia’s Cheap Thrills was playing and Kamau was metres away from the table. He was dancing with every part of his body, holding some lady around her waist who perfected swinging only the lower part of her body. It was like watching a scene from Stomp the Yard movie. He didn’t regret betraying his duvet. It was worth it.

Heeey brother, pewa tot kwanza,” Kamau came to the table.

The party began.

Michael was a whisky guy (he drinks no more) and a tot of whisky wasn’t enough. He took another after another and he was lifted up to the heights of Dutch courage and dance skills. You see, liquor isn’t as bad as your parents told you. This is something you discover as you grow old.  I realized liquor doesn’t spoil or disfigure anyone after I met people who take it. On the other hand, being alcoholic does. There is a difference. Liquor is like food. Is food bad? Hell no! Is over-eating a bad thing? Oh yes! Liquor, just like food, should be scheduled. There is a time for it. There is a perfect quantity for everyone. There is a reason for it. Those with no reason should not drink. And it should lift you up to a certain level, not drag you on the floor. If you need more on the art of taking liquor, get to me through the comments section.

Michael got lifted beyond expectation. Whisky talked to him. It enticed him. It told him he was the most handsome man in the club and his dance moves were magnificent.

“Are you gonna let those girls dance alone?” A voice in his head whispered.

In a moment of hesitation and doubt, one of the girls looked at him suggestively. With her eyes she called him to the floor. Do you know how they do that? She looks at you with a half smile, from head to toe. Her eyes don’t stop at your toe; they slowly travel along some imaginary line on the floor that connects you and her. When her eyes touch her toes, she turns and makes sure you watch her butt as she swirls it to the music. Brother, this needs a certain level of knowledge in psychology. Michael isn’t as dumb as his face looks; he stood on his feet, half steady, and stepped on the dance floor.  He loved her, from the way she talked to the way she moved. Everybody must have been watching her. He enjoyed the dance.

“She looked like a movie and sounded like a song.” Mike used Adele’s line to describe her.

The night dawdled. Morning was scared of showing up. It felt indebted to Mike and the swirl girl. At around 2, exhaustion kicked in, as desires escalated. They were now at Michael’s table; drinking like it’s their last. He wanted to leave and take her number but whisky had better ideas. He doesn’t remember the words he used on her but he remembers he didn’t convince her much. A cab was called, and the two headed to the house, completely inebriated.  She asked if she could take a shower, he said yes. He asked if he could join her, she said nothing. He took that for a yes and joined her. She wasn’t shy, she acted like she was but she wasn’t. He said when water rolled down her body with her hands stretched almost touching the shower head the scene was indescribably graceful and erotic. For a second he was sober. They played under the shower like otters and splashing each other. He felt every right to touch and tease her. He wasn’t going to wait another second. The desire was unbearable. Right there at the shower they kissed… I am going to stop here; apparently my little sister reads my articles! Dear adults, whatever you think happened, happened.

Through the window, the sun rays touched his face. It was ten already. He stretched his hand to touch her but it landed on a cold pillow. In fright, he opened his eyes and her side of the bed was empty. He sprung his head up to sit and she was standing in front of the mirror, already dressed up. He calmed. He watched her as she made her hair, she wasn’t exactly what he saw last night but the beauty was undeniable. She was ready to leave.

“Hey, morning.” she whispered.

“Hey, morning. You’re up early.”

“It is late. I’ll get fired today. I’m late for work.”

She said she was the head of promotions in some company. As Mike admired her, she came to him, gave him a peck on the head and dashed outside the room.

“I didn’t catch your name.” He shouted.

She was gone. She left him with nothing but a memory. No phone number, no name. He stretched to his phone on the bedside table to call Kamau. He thirsted to know how the night went and what happened to the boys. He wanted to ask about what he couldn’t remember. He had those after-party questions. He was deeply shaken when he found eighteen missed calls from Kamau and ten messages. He opened the first message and the room suddenly darkened. His head spun. Beads of sweat broke out on his brow. His hands trembled and his body shivered. He wanted that room to collapse and sink a thousand miles down with him. He wasn’t thinking anymore. He wasn’t breathing. He was on the edge. If that room had a rope he would have strangled himself to death. He would have overdosed anything. He read the message again.

Oya bro, hope you didn’t take away that girl. She is bad news

He was petrified. He kept reading the rest.

Mike, be careful man. Be very careful na uplay safe

He read them all. He knew his mistake. He also learnt that the girl worked in a different club in town. She was a neighbour to some guy in the club who walked to Kamau and told him to warn Mike not to go further than dancing. Kamau told Mike when it was already too late. The neighbour described her days, her nights and her men. He knew more of her displeasing habits than virtues. She was a dangerous one, or perhaps those that knew her thought so. Mike was scared to death. He didn’t need proof to be scared. He was scared.

He called Kamau, still seated on his bed and desperate. He told him to go over his place. Kamau rushed like lightning. He met Mike with tears on his cheeks. He remembers heading to Nakuru Medical Hospital with Kamau. In there was tough. He was admonished and confronted before he was given the antiretroviral medicines. He was glad he got them in time, but still scared. Taking PEP for 28 days isn’t something to smile about. He had the most tormenting month of his life, both physically and psychologically. He swore many things but one I’m certain about is he’s never tasted whisky since.  He hated that Friday night. He hated that whisky so much he bought a guitar to play every Friday night. He hopes the guitar is not just a rebound.

He not only hates that night because of the drunkenness and his sloppiness, he also hates it because he has never known the truth. He does not know if the swirl girl was as they painted her. Guess he will never know about the girl. He will never know if the swirl girl got scared too and went for PEP. He will never know if he was really in danger. He will never know. He will only hate that Friday night, and learn from it.

It’s a Pleasure, a Love-making

Storytellers never miss a story to tell, and if they do, they will re-tell one and you will still fall in love with it. How they do it is a magic you might never fathom. How they incredibly make a story out of anything, I mean anything, is unbelievable! These particular beings are sent from heaven. Frankly speaking, I know more writers than readers- they are all readers anyway, so technically, I know more readers. Every writer is a reader, but not every reader is a writer (that’s a quote right there, paste it somewhere). Writing, for them is therapeutic; it is going on a safari in Serengeti and watching the sunrise from somewhere in Naabi Hills- intriguing!

There are days, depending on environment, emotions and a number of circumstances, when a writer just can’t write. A story just won’t create, if it does, words flee. These are hard times for a writer, yet they have to endure. They have to go through the pain and by hook or by crook create something, for you. A writer can write a story of 1500 words in thirty minutes! He can also type the first sentence and get stuck for 24 hours. Yes, it can be that devastating. Ask a writer if stories are always at their fingertips, some might affirm, but ask them if words flow like a river every time they write and they’ll shake their heads. There are times when words are like wind, you know they exist, but you can’t get hold of them. Worse is, just like one can type some deep message to a lover and erase it before sending, so can a writer create a story, dislike it, and brutally delete the 1500 words. I create characters and breathe life into them, and before you get to meet them, I kill them. I have murdered some myself. Forgive me!

Today, for me, is one of those days. I don’t know which story to tell and words are just not as close to me as they were yesterday (wish I had written yesterday). I feel like writing about a very close friend who picked a girl from a club at 2 a.m. and almost messed up his whole life but he gave me no consent, even on condition of anonymity. I will press him further though and hopefully one day I will share the story. I feel like writing a story about some particular politician but I will be uncontrollably emotional and I might use strong and disapproved words, and I don’t want to scare you by a story telling you that you have a leader who sees a fool in you. I feel like writing about my love-life, but it is as private as Kevin Wyre’s. More so, I’ve only dated three senoritas in my life. Those others were just friends, and friends’ friends. There is nothing much to write about me and love, unless if it’s agape love.

If I were to write about me and God (nothing scares me more than typing God with a small letter G) I would break down at some point and cry a river. My relationship with Him is, well, complicated. I believe He exists and I know He is powerful. On July 2013, I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, and I dived right in with both hands and legs to the kingdom of saints. The first two years were heavenly until waywardness kicked in. This is where I snivel. This is where the hymn ‘Lord I’m Coming Home’ weakens my bones and my eyes get soggy, because I am a thousand miles away from home. I can’t write about this, not today. I feel like writing about some absent father who consistently gives his children and their mother empty promises; a man so stingy to his children, and unconcerned. I don’t know his side of the story and so I can’t comfortably write about him.

I decided to make a phone call to some few writers I know. Never have I ever talked to any writer and got jaded; the last thing I want to do always is hang up. They are absorbing and amusing. Try it one day, call a writer, talk with them and you’ll know how it feels to meet a therapist! For those I spoke to, I asked what writing means to them- why do they write!

One common thing they all have is this; they write because they love writing. They are deeply in love with words; a kind of love not even mtaachana crew can curse. They love stories. One told me if she does not write then her head will explode. The words inside her head insist on a life of their own, they just want out, to be independent. Another said he writes because stories won’t leave him alone. I felt this. Ever loved someone so deep you can’t sleep at night? (80s and early 90s fellas will relate) The only way that hot lava in you can be released is by telling her how you feel, or you will melt to death. Stories are like that to a writer- they burn in the inside and if not shared a volcano will erupt and this is dangerous to him and everyone around him.

I write to entertain. I write because I have no choice, one said that. Writing is power. Stories are powerful. For some of us, we feel at home when writing. It’s a pleasure, a love-making in a dark room with burning candles and a hot flower bath on the side filled with rose petals; it’s a passion and anger. We have messages to share in ways you will appreciate. We have characters in our head that talk to us and would kill us if we don’t let them out. That’s why writing will always be therapeutic. You should see how relaxed we are after writing. We find peace.

We write to influence you to take action, because we feel you.  We feel compelled by some divine power, to write. We have something to say that must be told. When you read a story and get healed, you are not the only one, we get healed too. It helps us get rid of the murmurings and unending irritation around us. Be it a phrase, a paragraph, a story or a quote, we enjoy getting emotional response from people, even just one. We quench readers who might die of thirst if we don’t come through. It keeps us sane. We feel empowered.

 After writing, the voices are quieter, and right now, I am unruffled. Unfortunately, I won’t be at this state of tranquility for long; I can feel characters from a distance approaching with a fascinating story. If I don’t kill them, we will meet them next week. Adios!

Can I be your Friend?

Charity Kalacha. That’s her real name. I call her Chacha – I knew her when everyone else called her by the sobriquet. A Wednesday evening in Eldoret town, she is walking along Stendi Kisa- Yala Road, a name I bet not even Kiptonui (a friend of mine born in Eldoret) has ever heard about. In Eldoret, no one uses road or street names, because no one is interested in them. If you ever visit the Uasin Gishu city and you want to feel like a mwenyeji (native), master every hotel in town. People there love hotels. They love tea actually. They really love tea, hot or cold weather. Maggies Hotel is one you can never miss to know. If you set your foot in Eldy and within a week of staying there you have no idea where Maggies Hotel is, then you must be some special type of an introvert. Everyone there has to know Maggies, and if you stand in front of Maggies then you are standing on Stendi Kisa- Yala Road. Kiptonui, you know it now?

The clouds appear angry and ready to burst. They seem infuriated by the humans below, or something, which is weird because the air pollution drastically dropped to the point where some Oppo photographers can see Jerusalem from Zion. There is a mall called Zion in Eldy. The sky should take it easy on us. Chacha cannot make it home without being properly baptized; she has to come up with a shelter plan. She is a few steps from Maggies and tea is what they serve best, after samosas. I know you’ve been wondering why I mentioned Maggies out of all hotels- it’s the samosas, the SAMOSAS. You can call them sambusa in Eldoret na huwezi fanyiwa kitu. No harm whatsoever. They make the best sambusas in town, and who hates them! Best part is you don’t have to get inside the hotel to have them. Aaah!

It crosses her mind that she will get home and empty another flask of tea and that would be too much in her body. Coffee, she will take coffee instead. When it comes to coffee she knows the right place; Members Premier, opposite Maggies. She loves the place too much I wish I was it. She is about to cross the road when a boy, probably 10 years, stands in front of her. He looks faded and weary like he last slept weeks ago. He smells no dirt nor stinks but it’s palpable he has never been in good terms with water. She is not taken aback or upset, they are always here. Chokosh is a name they’ve acquired.

“Nisaidie kumi nikunywe chai,” he desperately stretches his right hand as his left holds his torn green pair of shorts. It’s hard to tell from his over sized grey sweater how lean he is.

She watches him, with the same eyes I use on Clementine when she is about to lie about the guy she just had an hour conversation with on the phone. Chacha can tell the genuine ones from the merchants, those entrepreneurs that when they don’t get the ten shillings they’ve asked for, they will throw at you words like ‘mchoyo wewe’ or more horrifying terms. This one is for real, she can tell, she can feel. I think she has that spirit of discernment. I have it too but mine comes and goes.

“Twende tukunywe pamoja,” her heart felt for his stomach.

“Hapana naogopa,”

“Mbona?”

“Watanifukuza,” he explains, evidently from an experience.

Her beauty, of course a part from the charming baby face, the dark chocolate complexion and her fountain of kind and humorous words, is her power of compelling and magnetizing. She tells him no one will dare touch him if he is in her company. It doesn’t take her sixty seconds before she crosses the road with the boy, to Members Premier.

At the entrance, they adhere to the Covid rules and wash their hands and enter. The boy is kind of scared but the rain falls and his fears are washed away somehow. They take the second table form the door and sit facing each other, like a date- a proper date, Kiptonui.

Utakunywa chai na nini?”

“Chochote tu”

Kebab iko sawa?”

“Eeeh.”

She orders for him tea and kebab. For herself, same thing, so as to feel as a team or something- a thing she learnt in Psychology, or church. He was indeed hungry, he bites the kebab with such vim and vigour she can’t help but stare with a smile. She looks around and judging eyes ray from every corner of the hotel, probably asking how a lady so beautiful and well-dressed can accompany and share a table with a chokosh. She knows how not to care what they think and she has perfected the art of minding her own business. She sips her tea.

Unaitwa nani?” She engages him.

“Nyarii.”

Nyarii nani?”

“Nelson Nyarii.”

She asks him if he inhales glue, he denies and says he’s never tried. He used to go to school until when his mother vanished. His father is a topic he has no idea of. Here in town, in the streets, he found a family of age mates. Some inhale glue, some steal, some have families but escaped- reasons unknown, and some, like Nyarii, had no other choice. She stops with the personal questions, she knows him enough for today.

“Umeshiba?”

“Eeh niko sawa. Asanti.”

They hang out a little while before the rain stopped. She looks at the time on her phone and it is forty minutes to curfew time. She spends ten more minutes with him. She asks him if she can be his friend and he nodded with a wide shy smile. She makes a promise to him that when she next comes to town she’ll pass by the same place; if she meets him then they’ll have a date again, or something more, who knows! She pays the bill and they bounce.

“Wewe Unaitwa nani?” Nyarii asks as they step out.

“Charity Kalacha, ama Chacha”

The Light of Dawn

Waking up as early 5 a.m is not as easy as motivational speakers put it. I wake up most days at the hour nonetheless. My phone alarm is one that can be compared to the noise produced by the boilers when excess steam gets released in a power plant, or the bank security alarm- you can never go back to sleep, no matter how drunk you are (I don’t drink). It’s startling though that I have managed to snooze the 5 o’clock alarm more than once, which makes me a modern Rip Van Winkle. My snooze interval is ten minutes – if I don’t wake up at 5 on the dot I will at 5:10, or 5:20 or 30. I never go beyond 5:30 because my snooze goes on three times only. If I don’t wake up at 5:30, I will be like Rip who slept before American Revolutionary War and woke up 20 years later; long after American Revolution. I will wake up when the sun has touched everything else, a thing I personally believe as a bad luck, or just bad habit. The sun should always find you doing something other than sleeping, my grandpa loves saying that. Not waking up by this hour means I will wake up three hours later- 8:30 a.m.

Let me give a thumbnail sketch of how dire waking up at 8:30 is-  for me. It feels like the world moved on leaving me behind, with or without Covid-19. It’s more gloomy than being offline for two weeks. Guys in the house are like strangers, creating in me a feeling of an alien who just landed on earth. It dawns on me that breakfast was taken hours ago and utensil are cleaned already (If you are not staying alone), and you know how uncomfortable it can be to start taking breakfast alone after everyone else has, especially when cups have already been washed. Those with wives understand this, but not more than those that still share a roof with their mothers.  My eyes will feel like I did not get enough sleep. Irony. With all my works and activities of that day, I get confused on which to start with. I might end up doing nothing at all. I become disorganized, disoriented, confused and worse, a stranger on earth. That’s how awful waking up at 8:30 (or your kind of late) is.

You see, each time my alarm goes on, especially during this pandemic season, I have two options; to get out of bed or snooze. I must admit the latter is more tempting, there is something gratifying about snoozing. If I get out of bed, I’ll have multiple choices; to work out, make breakfast, read a book or tune in to Al Jazeera (watching this channel comes with age). At all cost I will avoid opening any app on my phone, especially twitter or YouTube because this means my 30 to 60 minutes will be stolen like an eagle snatching a fish from a clear lake. Okay, this is a bad comparison. Have you ever been to a clear lake and witnessed an eagle snatch a fish? No? What did you say? Nat Geo? Oh, I thought so. Me too. I saw that on Nat Geo. What we might have all witnessed is this; you attend a wedding somewhere in Kericho where reception is outdoors, and the queue is longer and slower than molasses (almost all Kericho weddings are like that). Self-service or not, your plate is filled to the brim and as you walk and balance your plate back to the tent (your seat), a guy shouts “cover, cover”. Before you utter the word “what”, the big meat you meticulously picked is missing from your plate. The eagle already winged its way. That’s what twitter and memes do to my 30 minutes! Snatchers!

I don’t open any app. I wake up and sit on the bed for a few minutes; something some old guy told me and I have never understood the explanation behind it. I found the sitting useful though, in the sense that it’s enough time to think of what to do next. I decide to go jogging. I get out of bed and dress to run. Getting out of the house is like a swift shift from Venus to Neptune. I walk to a crew already waiting for  me a few metres from my place.

“You’re almost late today,” the shortest of all who joined the team 48 hours ago says ‘good morning’ in his own strange way. I wasn’t late though, I was almost. Did you know that almost is a very dangerous term in the English diction? Two words designed and strategically combined to form the biggest oxymoron in the history of mankind- All and Most. A poet named Ezekiel once said that ‘the devil will only tell lies when they’re almost the truth’, gee! By the way, it also represents a fiasco. All and Most are just two words meaning ‘it never happened’. Weird, right? I almost kissed her. Haha. No kiss my friend. I almost won the race. I almost  got the job. I almost married Mary. Hehehe! This word though, there is nothing All or Most about it.

“Is everyone here?” I ask them.

“Yes, except Caren.”

Caren has been amongst us and consistent for two weeks now. We were six in number before she boarded. Now, we are still six, plus her. She is no one’s anyone here, just a beautiful girl trying to shape up. We wait five more minutes for her and she doesn’t show up.

“We can’t wait for her till sunrise,” the short guy again.

“Yea let’s jog ahead, if she comes she’ll follow along.”

We decide to jog and leave her. There was a little pain that cut across my torso when we left without Caren. It felt like a break up. I must stop being this kind of emotional creature who feels everything, it’s disheartening. The speed is as low as two steps per second but the steps sound like a stampede. It’s still dark, but thank heavens, or the government, for the street lights. The speed escalates gradually.

“Heeey guys,” a sweet voice rejuvenates my spirits.

It’s Caren. I almost said ‘aaaaw’ but I once told my boys (not my children) that if I ever use that expression let them put me in a dungeon and lock me down there for 365 days, or worse, seize my phone for a week. No one heard her steps as she caught up with us but a guy here was happy she made it, some guy.

Three kilometres later we all stop. Most of us are wet, with sweat. We don’t stand, we don’t sit. We jog on one spot. This is something we learnt way back when we had a football club that disappeared like 2go, remember the app? We walk back 200 metres to a flat large spot where we normally work out and get a chance to talk. We do pretty much here; star jumps, frog jumps, squats, planks (I hate this thing. I have never gone beyond 60 seconds), push ups and a lot more. Some even don’t have names, or I don’t know yet, like one that you squat, sprint up as you kick your legs straight on the air, touch your toes with your hands and gravitate back to a squat. Caren cannot squat, no matter how deep you go convincing her. Her weight isn’t light enough to allow jumping and squatting, but she loves the normal squat. She does that more than anyone here.

“You guys don’t like squatting,” she says.

“Yea, we’d rather grow biceps than butt,” the short guy says.

Laughter.

“That’s not the only reason for squats idiot, and yes you need some butt so you don’t look like a muscle-less  Mr Incredible.”

Laughter, again.

Thirty minutes of jogging is up and so we head back. The speed we use back is that of a father pretending to chase his three year old inside the house. We reach where we started. We stop for goodbyes.

“The sunrise is breathtaking today, it’s just heaven.”

“Yea this is beautiful, wish we had a camera here.”

“See you later Caren,” the lid of my right eye nictate.

We part ways. It’s around 6:50 in the morning. A few people here and there are walking to work. Those still in bed are going to miss the picturesque sunrise.

To the Bachelors, Only.

Dear bachelor,

I hope this finds you well. I have been planning to write you this for quite some time now and I’m glad today is an opportunity. You and I will share one or two critical things. I am not certain if you have plans to get hitched, I have met a number of Pauls who believe they can live without a spouse. If you have plans to (after Rona probably), then that makes the two of us. I hope you already know who to betroth. If you don’t know yet, take your time- it’s a lifetime alliance. I got Clementine, so far so her. If nothing changes, then I hope she is the one to walk down the aisle with “YESes” and “I Do’s”.  I also hope you haven’t slept with an entire football team of girls because it has been known to cause psychological disorders in future (I will share on this next time). That said, I have been learning about women and marriage as a preparation for what’s to come. I know, it sounds funny but I guess we both desire to be the best husbands and fathers when time comes and it is best I share the little information I have come by-  from books, professionals, observations and memes (constructive memes exist, hello!). A fraction of this information came from my experience with Clementine, which might never help you but I’ll share anyway. Have it in mind that it might not work for you but it will definitely help someone, in one way or another. So put your eyes here and keep your head open as we share this.

You can decide not to marry by the way. With all means make it your personal decision to marry or not to. I know your father might stone me to death if he learns I’m telling you this but to marry or not is entirely your decision. Usilazimishwe. If you already decided you’re not going to jump the broom then it is okay if you choose to stop reading this here, unless if  you want to help a brother who hopes to be a husband one day (a husband to a woman. It’s a strange world this!). So Jamaa, marriage is a choice.

If you won’t marry her, or at all, but have a kid out there, then nigga, take responsibility. You know a friend of mine juzi told me about one Mike (not his real name); a dude who planted his seed on a girl’s womb then left her (kipetero kiyesu) and now keeps yelling to everyone that he will NEVER marry a woman with a kid! Nigga what? He gives some shitty phrase like; a football game never starts with one-nil scores. Mike, you are unfair and a fool, and if your football game of nil-nil scores ever kicks off, it will be in a larger stadium and rain will pour and cause floods, lightning will strike those balls and it’ll be game over! Swallow your words and change your stance, boy. It’s a curse to give someone a child and preach to other men to start a game with nil-nil scores! Nonsense!

I’m sorry but my heart wasn’t going to rest without dressing down Mike. Don’t be like him.  Let’s get back to the topic. Marriage isn’t as hard as they say and it isn’t as easy as we think. No advice is best for marriage, of course apart from pray and put God in it. Every marriage is a different movie, with a different setting and characters. Scenes will never be the same and plots will twist differently, but women are women and there are things they all have in common- things they all need and wish for. There are ways to talk and treat them. Knowing a thing or two about this gender is of great importance.

Most need simple things that most men fail to offer, like attention. This is not the kind of attention that we give to our hustle out there, nope. This is a so simple type of attention that it can be faked (I hope no lady goes through this). Sometimes she’ll talk about how the waiters in some restaurant are not beautiful, or how the woman in the hair salon laughs horribly or anything and she will need your ears. Brother, listen. I know how petty these things can be to us and how irritated we can get, but just listen. Laugh even. They love that. But be very cautious for some will test the man in you, to see if you will cross the line. The moment you start listening to her mushenee and participate actively, that woman will see another woman in you na atakanyaga kubwa kubwa (She will leave you). If she is washing the dishes, be around there for a few minutes then chuck. Let her know you are aware of what she does and what she goes through. Ask her about her day and listen to how Becky was unfriendly to her at the work place and those other long tales. Just listen. And brother, if she dresses to kill on a Friday morning and you deny her the compliment she deserves then you’ll know all the spirits that possess her. After all, giving her that “babe iyo dress imeweza” compliment releases oxytocin in your brain, making you feel good, too. 

By the way dude, before you give her attention make sure she is an alpha-woman; the one that most men get intimidated by. Someone once said, dating and marrying powerful women is like big game hunting. Hunt for tigers and panthers. Not… Chihuahuas!

Women can be very scared, don’t be just a man, be the man. Let her know there is a lion in her life. A woman who feels no sense of security (in all aspects) from her man will hit the road, Jack. She will hit the road and she’ll come back no more. Physically, show some strength. You don’t have to visit the gym for this, just be sure to have some manly muscles in you, ata kidogo. Walk gallantly (bila maringo), talk slow and authoritatively with fairness. Let no one lie to you that they don’t prefer deep voices, they do so much but don’t strain yourself on this though; they can manage Mweno’s voice [https://wp.me/pbELs1-1u]. Financially, be literate and know how to grind. You don’t want to be the guy who always wishes he had money and that’s all; wishes. Strive to be financially stable, learn about money and its management. They all need such a man. Entertain poverty and she’ll date a bodaboda guy and you’ll forever think there is something wrong with her. Tafuta dola kaka. Be knowledgeable, well-informed, educated, acquainted… whatever word, just be the guy who knows some of these and some of that. Intelligence is a power that women, the alpha-women, go crazy about. Feed your brain bro. Once in a while explain to her (not exactly show off) how corruption has affected the Kenyan economy more than Rona ever will, or support Langston Hughes’ thoughts on the sense of racial pride, anything.

They have a thing with them called periods. You have to go and learn further about it. Sielewi sana pia. I’m sharing this courtesy of Clementine. She told me they are still pretty traumatized about their periods, even as they grow older (before climacteric of course). It doesn’t get any easier for them with age; that womb-shit for them? It’s nuts. There is an evil spirit that comes with this thing. It comes as a mood, a feeling, an irritation or an emotion. This is where men are required to put aside their pride, ego, temper and bitterness, and invite in the spirit of understanding, love and tolerance. Just like the bad-ass pregnancy hormones, these evil spirits will want you to be there holding her this minute and expels you the next. Ni noma bro. She will whisper sweet nothings to you and the next hour she is throwing every word at you. She will complain about everything, including you never doing laundry yet she loves doing it alone. She will even throw shoes at you and tell you it’s over between the two of you. She will complain that you ignored her call in November 2nd 1999. Her moods will shift gear and brother, understand that woman, understand. Assure her when you discern she needs it, step out of the house if your face suddenly becomes ugly (or uglier) to her, hug her at that moment of pain, and walk with her through that tunnel of demons, for joy cometh in the morning. But if you feel she is overdoing it, exile yourself, go hang out with Justine (or is it Justin?). Bottom line is, in their period of trauma and discomfort, be there.

There is more to say, a lot, but it is best I use less than ten minutes of your time. All the best and I hope you find a woman meant for you, so you don’t divorce after two years, ergo corroborating the haters’ statement of ‘wataachana tu’! Cheerio.

Warm Regards

************

Go Ahead, Call me a Mama’s Boy

We were in a coffee shop in town. The six of us (all men) sat around a large square glass table talking, laughing out loud, lifting hands, patting shoulders and laughing even more. We never planned to meet there that evening. Eli and I went there for a cup coffee. We were later joined by a guy from our work place before three other guys joined the table. We welcomed all, friends and acquaintances.

In the midst of a conversation, my phone rang.

“Excuse me guys, it’s my mum,” I excused myself as I walked from the table.

Mentioning my mother was necessary so they would know how obligated I was to take that call, plus it’s courteous especially when men come together; there are calls we don’t take when we are having a conversation (formal or informal). In less than five minutes, I was back at the table. It did not take long before she called again. I excused myself and picked the call. This time our conversation took a little bit longer (There are things when mothers begin to talk about you have to listen until they’re done). I came back to the table. I had hardly sat when someone uttered something unexpected.

“Mama’s boy, uh?”            

That utterance was followed by a laughter that sounded like thunder in my ears. I smiled and sipped my coffee.

“You talk to your mother almost every day man, you really are a mama’s boy,” Eli, my friend, said. They laughed again.

This was not supposed to annoy me but I got offended. I took a long breath and exhaled. The kind of strength I used to calm my spirits down was enormous. I looked at Eli and I wanted to hit him with my mug. I looked at the other guy and suddenly became a tiny image kilometres away. I wanted chew and swallow him alive but I breathed in and exhaled and kept my calm. I didn’t say a word, but I so wanted to tell them this;

If calling my mother every single day to check up on her makes me a mama’s boy, then hell yes, I am a mama’s boy. If I listen to her on phone talk about how her back and legs ache, how my little sister is not constructively using her time to study, how the crops in the farm are doing, how the loan she borrowed is overwhelming her, how she needs me to talk to my cousin in high school who allegedly smokes weed… if she takes an hour telling me all these and it qualifies me to be a mama’s boy, then hell yes, I am a mama’s boy.

I did not tell them this. It would have been too intense for an evening coffee meeting. So I joined them in laughter and acted normal, but feeling offended. In less than an hour, we were out of the coffee shop. I paid everyone’s bill. Mama’s boy paid everyone’s bill. Let’s say it was one of those days when one’s cup (wallet) is overflowing.

On my way to the house I couldn’t help but think of the negativity the phrase ‘mama’s boy’ carries. They way it’s more of an insult than anything else. It is unfair how people use it. If my friends at the coffee shop ever come across this article then this is for them;

If mama’s boy means loving my mother unconditionally, then gentlemen, I am a mama’s boy. If visiting my mother 100 kilometers away every weekend means I am a mama’s boy then I am. That woman is the only woman that can sacrifice everything for me, and I have witnessed this. Man, I have seen her struggle; I have seen her deny herself comfort and luxury so I could have a life. I have seen her hide her pain just to assure us everything was alright. She has cried in the nights, she has lied in bed with her eyes open thinking of what tomorrow holds. She has worried, really worried.

I don’t need anyone’s permission to celebrate her every day. She kneels, she kneels every night before she goes to bed to pray for us and her prayers still follow me. I messed up a thousand times, both in school and home, but not a single day did she give up on me. Eli, you once told me I am one of the kindest men you know. I was raised to be kind. I was raised to stand up for others. I was raised to respect women. I was raised by a woman, a woman who taught me to love and to be brave enough to cry when in pain, because tears kept become poison.

She was my first teacher. She knows my fears. She reads my silence; she understands everything I don’t say. When I call her mother, or mum, that name still sounds supernatural just like it did when I was a kid. She has been a teacher, a god, a father and a friend. She can replace everyone else but no one can ever take her place. Whatever I am, whoever I am, she made me. She made this gentleman out of a young boy. Her love is one that makes you strong and independent, and that’s exactly the kind of love she gave me.

So Eli, Tony, Ben, Jonte, Fred and you, I will love my mother whichever way I feel. I will be on a call with her for as long as it takes, I will visit her anytime, frequently. I will buy her flowers and sugar. I will hug her. I will tell her I met Clementine. I will do whatever I can to see that woman happy because she did everything she could to give me a life she never had. It’s my turn to be her guardian, even when she is still my guardian angel. If this is what a mama’s boy means, then I am a mama’s boy. I am a very proud mama’s boy.

So go ahead, call me a mama’s boy if you want. After all, whose boy would I be if not my mama’s? Yours? Hell no!

*************

Happy Mother’s Day, mothers. We love and respect you all.

He Needs a Hand

 I’m not supposed to share this but Benjamin is in a quandary.  He called me last night after Lord knows how long, and we talked, after months, like a day never passed. He did not call to say hi or check up on me (it would have been strange for him to do that anyway), but to share the puzzle he is in hoping I would help him out. Yes you can call me doc or counselor or guru or anything, but they always come to me. Not all friends, most of them. He is in deep shit, as some of you would say. The kind of shit familiar to most lovers. Part of me believes he put himself in this dilemma but it’s difficult to blame him. His is complicated.  I can’t believe I woke up at twelve midnight to listen to his troubles, but he is my friend (an old friend), one that we’ve come a long way with, and listening to him was not an option. I had to. This is his story;

In his fourth year in the university, he met Carol. I knew her, way back. She had a cheerful character and a svelte figure. Her smile is one unforgettable magic, not even those that met her once can forget it. She shaved her hair short and usually wore drop earrings with gemstones attached to them. There is something utterly attractive about drop earrings and a long neck. Men with taste understand this. She loved khaki shorts and jerseys. It is an undisputed fact that only girls with nice legs love shorts, wewe don’t argue- just put on your trousers, abeg. She had a collection of jerseys. White were her favourite. She adored sneakers since she walked comfortably and confidently in them. Her sporty outfit had this charm that made most men go crazy. Did I mention she had a pure flawless complexion?

You might think I was in love with Carol from how I describe her. I wasn’t. She was my friend’s girl for crying out loud! Benja met her first, and then he introduced me to her. Okay, let me confess. I liked her. A lot. I mean, she was fiiiine! Never have I ever been so magnetized by a face, a beauty, a smile so sweet my eyes couldn’t move an inch from it. An angel, a rose, a berry…she was all, but Benja had taken ownership and she was but a dream. I had to find a way to fade the thoughts and the feelings that were about to create. I found a way. I was later comfortable to call her shemeji. This wasn’t the shemeji we call every girl we see with Denno. No! She was a real deal, a genuine one. A shemeji as the name means. So yes, she became like a sister-in-law and I lived with the reality, comfortably!

Where were we?

Oh, yes. Carol. She was something. By the way ladies, when a man describes a girl saying she is something then she really is something- a gem, a diamond, a rose flower, a Bella Hadid. Be warned though; don’t ever refer to a girl as something in your mother tongue, unless yours is English. Carol was one hell of a beauty.

Immediately after graduation their relationship soared. Nakuru to Eldoret isn’t far, especially when you’re crazily in love. He was from Eldoret and he would visit her in Nakuru whenever he could. He visited her every weekend. After a while, he visited her once in two weeks and eventually once a month. Now look here, after college, before you get a job (a JOB), there is a phase called the tribulation state. Rich kids won’t relate. This is a stage in life where everything goes against you. It is a stage where you have a phone but cannot call anyone because you are often without airtime. At this stage, restaurants become expensive and you realize there are food joints called vibanda. Losing twenty shillings becomes a tragedy. Parents seem to be pushing you away from home with lines like ‘tuko wengi hii boma siku hizi’ and there is no newborn, or one night you come home from watching a Manchester United game and oops! No supper for you, and you’re told something along the lines of ‘we thought you’re not coming.’ Your circle of friends and your language change. This is where you google every miracle on how to make money. You even google ideas as if you were entirely dysfunctional. This is where you perceive yourself as insignificant and suicidal thoughts cross your mind. Benja went through all these and visiting Carol frequently became harder.

Carol was there for him. She understood- not everything, but she understood. She would visit him in Eldoret with love and assurances that things will fall to place. She talked to him all the time and made him laugh. She told him to stop worrying. She was present. She stood by him. She never left and he felt better and stronger. He believed there was something out there for him, and he loved her.

I feel like ending this story here so that ladies reading this can know how it feels when we send fare to them and they switch their phones off after telling us ‘niko kwa mat’ (I’m on my way), Nkt! I feel like ending it here but I am a fair storyteller and I must finish what I started. Nous allons continuer.

Benja. Where is Benja? He is still in tribulation phase. Breakthrough is not an existing word in his dictionary.

After a year of struggling and hoping for the best, his family moved to Kitale. The distance between the two lovebirds suddenly became unbearable, but could meet once in a while. They had to live with it as they hoped for better days.

In Kitale, Benja met Joan. He had accompanied his parents to church one Sunday when Joan accidentally dropped her bible at the church entrance and he was just at the right place to pick it up.

“Thank you. I have never seen you before. Are you new here?”

Benjamin remembers her first words and he even mimicked her. Introductions were made at the entrance and he won himself a tour guide. She later, after the service, took him around the church compound familiarizing him with the place and her friends. That Sunday afternoon, they went to town. She told him that there are places he needed to know.  In every new town there are places you should know before the rest, hotels for instance. I didn’t catch all the names of places he was shown but I heard names like Iroko, Khetia’s, Mid Africa, a museum somewhere… he was rapping the names so I didn’t catch all. I’m not even sure if I have spelled the ones here correctly (apart from Khetia’s, I know Khetia’s). Let’s move on. Of importance is he had a lovely day of orientation and it didn’t end there. It was to be continued. He went home that evening carrying with him some kind of joy. Oh I almost forgot! They had lunch together that day; French fries and drinks- soft drinks. He was happy. The feeling of making a friend in a new place is thrilling.

They met again. He learnt a lot about Kitale through her. He told her about Eldoret and chegets. They laughed. They parted ways in the evening. They met again and again, and again. Their friendship flourished. The bond became steel. Trust grew and he talked to her about him. He shared his sorrows and struggles. He opened his book and let her peruse his chapters of tribulation. He laid himself naked for her to see. She knew him. She understood him. She felt his pain and helped him. She had to; they were already friends after all.

Joan is firm and straightforward, beautiful at heart and cute on face. Benja also told me she is herself and is skilled in creating a happy atmosphere for everyone. She is that friend once you have you can never stay without. She began asking him what he loved doing the most, what his dreams were, what he had done so far and what he planned to do. She asked him to try anything; everything.

“She learnt I could make sweet, soft-layered chapatis and mandazis. She literally forced me to cook as she connected me to customers,” he told me.

The first day he prepared fifty chapatis and sold all of them. Never had he felt such ecstasy and contentment in his life. They made thirty more the next day. Days, weeks and months passed. In less than a year he owned a kibanda in town serving chapatis, mandazis and basic meals. His life changed, literally. He even employed workers he said. He didn’t really say much here but right now as you read this, he works for an insurance company in Eldoret; one of the jobs that Joan propelled him to apply after several unsuccessful applications.

“I was with her when I got a call saying I secured a job. I hugged her so tight in celebration and I don’t know how but I kissed her.” He told me.

He kissed her. Did you hear? Benja kissed her.

“She didn’t push me or drew back. She kissed back, holding me tight. When we stopped kissing, she looked at me and said ‘you’re a great person and I’m in love with you’. How I told her ‘I love you too’ was as natural as a river falling over a rocky ledge into a plunge pool below.” They were in love. They’ve been in love all along, he believed.

“What about Carol?”  I asked.

“We are still a thing,” he said.

“You still love her?”

“Feelings have never changed.”

“And Joan?”

He gave a long sigh.

“I can’t help falling for her.”

“Does she know about Carol?”

“I never told her, and I can’t do that now. Not when she found a way to my heart,” he said.

“You’re botched up man. What are you gonna do now?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I called you.”

He doesn’t know what to do. He has to choose either Joan or Carol before it’s too late because the idea of losing both is insufferable. He cannot date both either. You cannot tell him to follow his heart; it’s divided. I am not sure I can help him. Maybe you can. All he wants to know is if it’s wise to choose the one that stood by him when he had nothing or the one who helped him to achieve his aim.

You Haven’t Met Jona

If you are irritated by drunk old men with their stories and off tune songs then you haven’t met Jona.

 It’s 1:30 P.M, around the time I always take the cows to the river. My father’s cows. The cows that will one day be given to another man, for my rib. If you look at it from my angle, the cows are mine. They must take water before I take my lunch, that’s a norm that started with my father’s forefathers. I untie kipkuino. Kipkuino is that  law-breaker cow. You know the cow that behaves well under pressure? That’s kipkuino . You must tie it, lest it gets tempted at the sight of anything and wanders like an evil spirit. The cows know it’s time to kill their thirst. All I do is direct kipkuino to the path that  leads to the river and give a rhythmic whistle, the rest will follow him. I don’t have to be their shepherd to the river. They can peacefully go drink water and come back home without much drama. But I must accompany them in case Matayo’s cows are in the river quenching their thirst too. Without me and Matayo on the scene an epic clash can occur. If you come from up country where cows are reared, you know that their fight can be fatal especially when most have horns, like kipkuino. By the way kipkuino is a large horned cow, in Portuguese or something.

Behind them , I follow to the river. After a few strides , a branch of a tebeswet hits the ground a few metres away from me. Between me and the branch is a fence. I wasn’t in any danger.

“You got scared?” Mweno, a neighbour, asks from the top of the tebeswet– the croton tree.

His home and my home are separated by a fence. That’s how we describe neighbours here. You don’t say ‘we are neighbours’, it’s wrong. You either use the fence or something like ‘they lend us salt when we run out’. Mweno and I went to school together and we were deskmates at some point. And yes, ‘we borrow each other salt.

“No. Why are you cutting them?”

“For fencing the other side,” he says.

He lifts his panga to cut another branch when Jona, who lives three house away,  appeared from nowhere, singing some ancient song.  He is drunk. I prefer him drunk. I love him drunk. He is not just an entertainer when high, he is King Solomon too, full of wisdom. Difference is, he has one wife and no concubine (I am not sure about this). He never takes off his black coat. Never have I seen him with a shirt without a coat, a black coat.

“He went too early today,” Mweno notices him.

He went too early to the other ridge today, to visit Esther, a famous  old mama in the village. The village connoisseurs  say she makes the finest brew. She has clients from over five villages and her business is rocketing. Of late, perhaps, due to high demand, the brew runs out early. That would explain Jona’s early party.

“Jonathan. Isn’t it too early today?” Mweno shouts from the top.

He goes on singing. He looks at me with widened eyes. He moves closer. He has snow-white hair if thoroughly cleaned, planted on a timeworn and wrinkled face. Unsteady as he is on his feet, he has a strong voice. He is an inch taller that me and he seems like his fragile body can anytime fall on me. But he never falls, even if he had no center of gravity. On a closer look, his black coat is moth-eaten and expels a certain antique smell. Not a good smell. Old and unpleasant, but one that you can live with.

“An early bird..I am… an early bird,” he says.

“How many glasses of worms today?” Mweno laughs.

He takes a staggering step back. With much effort he lifts his face to the top of the tebeswet. He squeezes his eyes to zoom. The image isn’t as clear. He widens his eyes and still can’t recognize him. He squeezes them again. He takes time to look then turns back to me.

“Your voices are alike.”

He thought I was the one who spoke at first. He is for sure drunk for he should  know my voice. I have an admirable deep voice while Mweno has a voice, just a voice. There is a huge difference but this drunk old man can’t notice.

“Is it true you went you went to Makerere University?” I remind him the depth of my voice.

“I went to Makerere University in 1974 and…” He raises his right hand and words evade him.

It has never been confirmed that he studied in Makerere, or if he went to a university at all, but his demand of English impresses me.

“What did you study in Makerere?” Mweno asks him as another branch falls on the ground.

“In Makerere University in 1974… I…I know a lot about women and…” he pauses to think.

“Are…are you married?” He looks at me.

“About to.”

“Before you marry you should know one thing,” He raises his voice and Mweno is now keen.

“Okay,” I wait.

“Women…..are women,” he says.

“I didn’t know that,”

“You should marry early enough, when you are still young and strong. Women …”

“Jona, when did you marry?” Mweno asks him.

“I know a lot about women,”

“When did you  marry, Jona?”

“A woman, is like an investment. She is an investment.”

“Jona!”

“You have to put something in to expect returns.” He calms down.

“Were you young when you married?” I ask.

“I am young even now. Women are fragile and soft. Discplining them,  allowed. Laying a finger on her? No no no.” He wags his index the KANU way.

“Where did you meet your wife?”

“My wife. I met her in Makerere University in 1974,” he responds.

“Where is Makere University?”

“I know a lot about women. They never grow out of wanting attention. Be she 18 or 88.”

He starts humming. This time a different tune. He walks past me, still unsteady. He leaves the antique smell behind for me to deal with it.

“You never went to Makerere university,” I tell him.

“Makerere University… 1974.” He bades us goodbye.

I lose sight of the cows and run after them. Kipkuino is calm as he drinks the flowing water like a thirsty athlete right after a game. I observe each one of them as they take litres in. I look around and the serenity here is admirable. No mooing, only birds chirping and the soothing psithurism of the trees. Matayo’s cows are not on the scene. I came earlier than him today probably. The first cow gives up drinking, the second, the third, kipkuino… and we all find our way back. The walk back is slow and hilly. Everyone is full but me, the shepherd. I worry not, for the sleep of a labouring man is sweet. Near the croton tree I meet Mweno. He is now down collecting the branches and twigs.

“Do you think he went to Makerere University?” I ask him

“Yes, in 1974.”

We burst into laughter.