Shadow in the light

There is a part of me that demands an audience. It is a dripping tap in an enclosed space. Each drop summons my conscience to utter words to an unavailable audience.

“It’s like running into a wall every second and I am tired. I will not call or remind him of what he needs to do for his son because I am tired.”

She sank back into the chair and reached out for my hand. I held her hand and waited because a dripping tap will not stop until you fasten it. Sometimes, it will give you the illusion that it has, only to drip again when unfastened.

“How much pain can a person take? Is there a limit to what one endures, where they say okay, no more pain and that’s it?”

I desire to tell her that she will feel the pain but it won’t be an everyday nightmare. She will take care of her son and he will get the best in life. She will also have to deal with unexpected invites from the son’s father because even the most irresponsible people do ask themselves “what if?”

“I changed my phone number because I want to start afresh. If my son ever wants to meet his father, then I will organize a meeting but that’s it.”

I nod and look at the little boy. He’s got his legs in the air and he is waving his hands and drooling as he smiles at me.

His father is a fool. He is one among many but who is to pull his ear and tell him that he is going to regret this? Who can beat some sense into him when he is out with his boys bragging about a son he has never laid eyes on. Or how he says that his baby mama is driving him insane and the guys nod in assent because they only have his version to go by.

It is the ultimate turnaround.

She smiles and wipes away her tears then reaches for the son and breastfeeds him. He is suckling with his feet up in the air. I need such flexibility in my life.

“I don’t know what the future holds but so help me God, my son won’t be a bailout. If he at some point gets his girlfriend pregnant, I will make him take responsibility and even go a step ahead and care for the girl because it is not easy. Sometimes I wonder did his dad really mean to marry me? How can you get your fiancee pregnant and then say ‘I’m out’ when she tells you that she is pregnant?”

There is a part of me that demands an audience and when I close my eyes I can name twenty single mothers I know. I can also name the fathers who spend their time and money on everything but their children and sometimes I too do wonder just how much pain a person can take.

Shadows in the forest

If you would have asked Henry what being caught between two women felt like; he would have told you, “like Samson, standing in the Philistine temple.”

It is the kind of feeling my mother says makes monkeys flee when a storm is brewing.

Henry remembers the numbness he felt when he first met Grace. She was poise, charm, beauty and intelligence. He remembers taking her in as though he was working in a vineyard, tending to berries that would produce the finest quality of wine.

He could not bring himself to speak in her presence and for two weeks, this unnerved him. He walked into a room and people got to their feet, but with Grace, just one look, or the awareness that she was around him, rendered him helpless.

He did not as a result, later on, tell her about the wife and kids. Leah belonged to another realm. He attended to her in that realm and cherished every daylight with Grace.

“We are not as the world would seem,” he would say to Grace every time she raised an eyebrow or tilted her head to the side as she watched him.

He did not unravel the mystery that were; Daniel, Samuel, Jonathan and Delilah; his children.

If you would have asked Henry what it felt like when Grace told him “Don’t” and turned her back to him, he would tell you he didn’t know what you were talking about.

It’s like my mother says, “There are so many ways to break a man, but a man who lets himself be wounded is the kind that forests never speak of.”

Ghosts in the forest

If you would have asked Grace how she felt in that moment, you would have glimpsed at something. My mother says it is like the oldest tree falling in the forest at noon, when the sun has fully kissed the earth.

Grace.

Henry.

He always said that he was named after a missionary. He brought good news, conquered her heart, toyed with her will. When he called she ran. When he said, “I want to see you,” she packed an overnight bag.

Grace was his light. She felt like his partner, the one drug strong enough to numb his nightmares, but nightmares called wife and children can never be wished or kissed away. If Grace were to ask anyone, or tune into any local morning radio talk show, she would have received her judgment. She was too smart to feed her brain such mush, instead she took it as it came; the love and kindness, but of all, she lived for the way he cherished her.

Dinner after a long day at work.

Career recommendations and the phrase he kept saying “never change yourself to suit a man, change to suit yourself, keep your dreams alive and never stop working.”

It’s why eight months later seeing Henry at a dinner party walking with his arm around her made Grace desire never ending sleep. When he found the courage to walk up to her, she shook her head firmly, as though each shake could wipe away the images that were playing in her mind.

He reached out for her hand, “Grace.”

“No, don’t,” she said and took one look around the room, but even then she knew. She knew that his wife knew and that is what my mother says is like sharpening a knife.

Okwan

Everybody knows Okwan.

You’d be a fool not to when you reside in Kisumu for where else in this sunny city would you get the best pilau and beef stew? There are things about Okwan that the world does not know like how she had to leave her husband’s house at 2am for fear that her brains would be splattered all over their sitting room wall. Or how the neighbors, Mama Peace and her household kept their doors locked even as she wailed long into the night. They don’t know that in running to avert a blow, she had lost not one, or two but three unborn children all the while being taunted by her in-laws whose wives kept popping children out of their wombs like defecating goats.

However, there are things about Okwan that matter to people in Kisumu like opening the restaurant from Monday to Saturday as early as 6:30am. People also want her to pick up their calls and remember what they had for lunch two days ago, because the usual is not a guarantee in her restaurant.

One thing is certain this is not just about Okwan, but it begins with her.

“Would you hire me?”Okwan laughed.

She laughed so hard that the fat under her arms danced as her chest heaved up and down. The people around her turned to look but what they could see was Okwan and a young woman. The woman’s skin glowed like the darkest of nights and she had the kind of figure that fit in every piece of clothing. She was wearing blue jean trousers and a white chiffon blouse. Her face was as smooth and soothing as her smile. She stood until Okwan turned to her and said, “No.”

Hey, can I ask you something?

It’s 10:36A.M. as I start writing this. If you are in Kenya, chances are you are seated at home alone, or maybe with friends, or family simply watching a movie because the news on TV is either depressing or never-changing. You are not on Facebook because since August 8th, you’ve come to tap the unfollow and block icons on your smartphone so much so that you don’t even know what your threshold for isht is.

It is refreshing that Kenyans love to be the bearer of news. First, most of our politicians took up the roles criminals and comedians. We thrive on just how foolish they can get, and especially when they deny uttering statements in public even as they are watching a clip of it. Now, we all have smartphones and bundles! Lawd, what would we be without bundles and powerbanks! Wi-Fi ni ya watu wa Nairobi…some other cities are yet to have that stuff in their homes, oh mercy! I know not the future of journalism, but hey…if in one minute you can get ten million different updates on the same story, well… I digress.

So, this morning I was woken up by two texts. See, here’s the thing world, I am a morning person. Yes, I wake up at 2am and write till 4am then pray to the gods of slumber to allow me to enter their world until 6:30am where I exit their world for that of another dawn. So, receiving a text at half past four in the morning is like being summoned to the world of daybreak, and that my friends, is like trying to get a cat to have a bath!

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Google Images

I reach for my phone and then I see “would you please tell me if I am doing the right thing?” Of course, I’d read the second text first. So, I sat up and went to my messages and the first text was “hey, can I ask you something? How do u knw uv lk made the right dsn? I mean, how do u knw that sm1 the 1 4 u?”

I thought, “not with that kind of communication!” and sent her a text message “call me and tell me what’s up.” She called and somewhere between conversation I dozed off. I know I did because as I was going through my phone at seven in the morning, there were three missed calls from her and eight text messages. I could try and tell you what they were about, but given that she’s not the kind to use words while texting, we’d both be at a loss. My fingers for doing the typing and you for struggling to read what you’d consider a drunkard’s slur.

I’ve always known a couple of phrases to be conversation starters for people at a crossroads. When someone says “can I ask you something?”, “can we talk?”, “are you busy?”, “can you do me a favour?”, “listen…”, “I have this friend,” then know that it’s not going to be a declaration but rather a call for your full attention, because there’s a dilemma that needs a solution.

I happened to fall asleep in the middle of the discussion of one. It’s pretty obvious that I had to call and make amends, but it also reminded me of something I have been taking for granted for the past one month. My instinct.

I’ve been struggling with writing Ushanga and all the while there’s been the feeling of giving my characters room to grow and breathe life into the story. In a way, I am working on that, but I love control and no, I am not Mr. Grey who exercises control in all things…I am learning to let go and sometimes working with an outline can really stifle your writing.

Have a good day people!

TMI

Reading: 

Listening to: 4:44 by Jay Z

Drinking: Black coffee (my first cup of the day)

Cathy

Grumpy met a girl.

He says, “she told me to call her Cathy, but she looks more like a Katherine to me, but you know how girls are, they can be a Cathy to me, a Lisa to someone, Nancy to another, Sweetie to many more and when the time’s right a Mrs. to just one man.”

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Atichart Wongubon took this!

 

The one who never came

Nancy knows why Gina never smiles. She’s got that car loan to pay.

She also knows why Helen is gaining weight; she says Helen is about to launch baby number three. Why? To keep her husband of course.

What about Pam? Have you heard from her? Yeah, I did like a while ago…she nods, sips her juice, connects to the Wi-Fi and smiles…”you won’t believe me when I tell you?”

She throws back the weave that’s clouding her vision of me and grins.

“Don’t you want to know?”

“No.”

“Why did you ask then?”

“I asked about you in the beginning. You told me about Gina, Helen and Pam. How are things going on with you?”

“Great! I just managed to clear my exams last week and I was appraised for a promotion at work. But, enough about me, I have to tell you about Pam because trust me, you won’t believe a word I tell you, aki dunia hii?”

Glass cannot be ignored, not even when the light strikes it at an angle. Nancy knows what should be done when your man is not acting right. She knows whom to call when things don’t seem okay. She knows who needs a wake up call and who needs to straighten out their life.

It is how she says it that brings memories back to life. She’s never been in any of the situations that Gina, Helen and Pam are in. She’s always the observer; the light that illuminates the glass. When she reached out to cover my hand with her own, I knew two things to be true; there was something she was hiding and she was trying to tell me by speaking of her friends.

“What is it Nancy? Tell me what is really happening with you.”

“Hey, I have been talking for the past five minutes, didn’t you hear a word I said?”

“No, I am sorry I did not.”

“What is going on with you?”

Glass cannot be ignored indeed, for when it cuts, it slices the skin in a neat line, leaving traces of red. I sipped my coffee and reached out for a pen.

She smiled and then leaned back into the seat. When I lifted my head to hand her the note, I saw the waitress smiling at me. “Are you okay Miss? Would you like something else?”

“Um…no, I mean, yes…yes, I am okay, thanks.”

“No problem.” She smiled and walked back to the counter. I looked at my note and reached out for my coffee. I wondered how I was engrossed in a conversation with the one who never came.