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.

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!

 

To be human

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We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident.

We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident.

It is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade.

But, learning to forgive ourselves and others, because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human.

We make horrible mistakes, it’s how we learn and it is inevitable.

Nayyirah Waheed

Last night’s star

I saw you.

Yes, you.

I saw you walking down the road, hands tucked in your pockets, earphones plugged into your ears. You had somewhere to go.

I saw you.

Yes, you.

I saw you at Nakumatt, wondering which deodorant to buy- pacing back and forth, Axe, Nivea, Fa. You had something you needed to buy.

I saw you.

Yes, you.

I saw you at the bus stop, you were eating roasted maize. You were talking to another guy, the story he was telling you made you choke on the maize you were eating. You had something to laugh about.

I saw you.

Yes, you.

I saw you talking to her. She wore a turquoise sweater, black skinny jeans that revealed that firm behind. You were talking, she was shouting. You were pacing back and forth. She was folding her hands across her chest. She left, and you turned to punch the wall…and then you saw me.

You saw me.

Yes, you.

You saw me and walked away.

The Visit (Part Two)

“She would return to her home at five o’clock in the evening every day. She would pass the gate, the neighbors, the children and walk on to her door as though the sanctuary was beckoning her. Her eyes took in everything that her ears heard. She would always return wearing a red scarf around her neck. Mama Daisy once asked her about her husband and all she could say was “he is not here.” When the lights would go out in each house, Ruth would keep hers on. She would sit on the balcony with a thermos full of black tea. Each night, their cries, Thomas’s smile, his laughter, his conviction before the trip, the police, the border, the land cruisers, the masks, the dust and the blood would envelop her like the dark. Anna would be five and Tim would be three. Thomas, well, he would be in this country, in her house, in her bed, in her thoughts. He would be whole. His hands, legs, head-all of them would be there and her little Anna’s heart would be in her body, radiating the warmth that filled her life.”

“I know what you are trying to do and I have had enough.”

“There is just one sentence left Rose and then I can stop.”

“No, leave it like that. Not all holes have to be filled and once you learn that, then you would be well on your way to being a great Writer.”

“What if I want something else?”

“A person who writes is a Writer.”

“But what if I just want to tell stories?”

“You cannot sit down and speak of such things. You spoke of tragedy, but there is nothing tragic in what you have read out.”

“Don’t you see it? Ruth is traumatized and she lives in the past, is that not tragic?”

“No, tragedy is thinking that she can wake up one day and forget everything. You are heading there if you continue reading it to me because she is like a housewife, all happy and neat and full of love, but when the night comes she is haunted by demons that are embedded in her memory.”

“I was thinking of writing some mystery or crime fiction about what happened to her family, wouldn’t that be awesome? I mean, like a crime story.”

“It would be a disaster.”

“What? I think it would be great, imagine picking it up and reading it to find out who killed her family and why, wouldn’t you want to know what happened?”

“See, that’s your problem and I think all those classes you have been taking have been deluding you into a fiction-high. Do you know why the full stop was invented? To put an end to things and stop people from babbling just like you are doing right now. When you say too much, you lose my attention. When you say too little you lose my devotion, but when you say just enough, you have my respect. Which one would you want?”

“Your money”

“Too bad, this hospital is taking my money. Think about it, where are you going with what you are writing?”

“I don’t know. I came here thinking that I would read you something and it turned out to be crap, and I don’t know where to go from there. This assignment is due tomorrow, what if I fail?”

“Good”

“You are my sister. You are supposed to help me with this! Now you are saying failing is good? And then, if I fail, mom and dad would be on my neck about all the money they are paying for my university, and everyone would hate me and it would be too much.”

“Hey, that is exactly what you need. You need to fail.”

“I can’t believe this, are you okay? My very educated sister, the one with a Masters in English Literature is telling me that I should fail? Are you listening to yourself right now? Should I call the doctor?”

“You should probably call the Priest because that’s the only person I need right now.”

“Rose…”

“No, we have to face the truth, these tubes and needles and the nausea. The whole world is sitting on me and I cannot stand up.”

“Rose, you promised me you’ll fight this, and besides, I have not yet…”

“You have not yet failed. How many letters are there in the English alphabet?”

“Twenty six, but…”

“But nothing! You have twenty six letters and you can arrange them whichever way you want to form words. Do that. If you had told me that when Ruth sat down on her balcony, she saw blood, Thomas’s head, hands and neck, I would have seen it too. The trouble with knowing too many words is trying to use them all. Tragedy knocks people off their feet. People become speechless; they do not utter so many words or think, ‘wow! This is really happening!’ They are there but their mind is busy prompting them to either flee or participate. The best kind of trauma is where one is an unwilling bystander. Fail. Own your mistakes. If Professor Otieno tells you to deal with clauses, do so. I miss crisp narration.”

“You are trying to turn me into you Rose and I don’t know if I can do it.”

“You can be so many people before you are yourself. For the record, you can never be me. You would have to give lectures and grade papers. I don’t think you can mark two hundred scripts in seven days.”

“I don’t want to fail Rose. I have to get this right.”

“Anything that’s right takes time, but while you are at it, you can leave me a copy of the story and I can always get Nancy to text you any comments I have.”

“Thanks, you are the best!”

“I know, now, you said something about the last sentence, and what is it?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Do I have to beg you to read it out to me? No, in fact just hand me that paper and I will read it.”

“I will read it for you. You don’t have to move Rose.”

“I’m all ears.”

“So, the last sentence is: Ruth would be in the kitchen, Thomas would come in and say “We should go and visit my parents this holiday,” and she would stop washing the plate and sigh, then nod.”

“That is really great. So, now you can get back to campus and attend some lectures. I need some rest before those nurses come bearing needles. And Rose, you will get it right some day, when you do sis, please remember this visit.”

PS: This was my 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize submission. I did not make the cut, and I am grateful the Judges read it and went on to choose the best out of the over 6,000 submissions they received, can’t wait to read the regional winning stories!

Bloom

Hi.

Hi.

What are you doing?

Me?

Yes, you, tell me…what are you doing?

(Trying to cross the road while listening to Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, and you called right when I was planning to sing along.) Nothing.

Really, I missed you.

Seriously? But you saw me like, ten minutes ago, kwani?

You mean I can’t text to say that I miss you?

(You can call to say it, say the words!) Nah…it’s not like that, you can miss me and text me, a girl’s got to smile sometime.

So, what are you doing kesho?

Why?

Okay, is this like a bad time or something?

No, why?

Nothing, I’ll talk to you later.

Sure, bye.

I miss you, bye.

bloom
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If these thoughts fill me with gloom, then let it be known that my heart’s doomed.

A word, a text, a slight remark…it’s all we have, you and I and words,

they flow out your mouth, your heart bleeding into my ears.

Black t-shirt, blue jeans, black converse…brown eyes, set jawline, a dimple on your left cheek right above the smile you greet me with.

“Hi,” that’s how it started and now here we are, I am in my smurfs pyajamas being bitten by mosquitoes as I tell the world about you,

or is it the idea of you…

Because,

we both know, I see you, I hear you, I feel you,

but

I’m not the one who is blooming, it’s her…

and that is why your texts and calls wither,

for this is meant to die for the one whose heart you hold is already in bloom.

 

My kind of love

It is a day unlike no other, the price of chocolate has tripled, red dresses are sold everywhere, sloppy music is playing and restaurants are busy preparing menus for ‘table for two,’ and the best part is ‘I am single!’

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Thank You Gratisography

Well, it’s not my fault, it’s just that I am picky.

I do not appeal to anyone out for a visual treat. You’ll not catch me in a dress, heels or make up- especially make up! I have no idea what the difference is between a concealer and foundation and why they have to cost more than four books at #BooksFirst.

I’m the one you saw walking with a spring in her steps. The one who has read earphones on and a backpack the size of a suitcase.

Yes, that one in sketchers, black shorts and a red-tshirt…yes, that’s me.

But, the hype around Valentine’s has never been my kind of love, not even when I was in a relationship. It’s a beautiful feeling to be in love and be loved in return, but to spend and demand for so many things on one day, reminds me of a two year old throwing a tantrum in a candy store, we can’t buy all the candy!

My kind of love is:

  1. Reading a book (in peace) and this would sometimes involve listening to Emeli Sande or Rebecca Ferguson…while sipping some coffee
  2. Writing, this depends on inspiration, you might be telling me something and I might just reach out for a notebook and start scribbling, or you might turn in bed at night and find that I am seated on the bathroom floor writing something…please do not interrupt me when you find me like this.
  3. I do not like confrontations and if you love to argue a lot…may the heavens send me a daily dose of tolerance, because I walk away just as fast as I smile.
  4. Eating chocolate cake. Please, let’s not argue about this!

 

5. I have some kink in me, and I don’t know if it comes from reading all those BDSM novels  but there are many ways to enjoy champagne, cream, and grapes.

6. Getting on the road, simply carrying a change of clothes and getting on a bus or train to an awesome destination.

7. Children, there is something about spending time with toddlers that gets me smiling and when I am off to volunteer at some childrens’ home, please do not interfere.

8. Chapati. We shall not argue about who makes ISO Certified chapatis.

9. Fried chicken, mine’s finger licking fantastic! End of story.

10. I’ll listen and watch a football match with you…I will swoon over the handsome players, before the game, and after, I will wonder who does their laundry…and that’s about it, kindly do not involve me in your #SportPesa predictions, if you lose, you do so on your own, and if you win, you share your spoil with me.

11. Ignore everything and you’ll be in trouble, but allow me some kink and writing time 🙂

xoxo

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