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.

 

Spotlight

When your life is illuminated, you cannot say that you do not see the shadows.

Sandy could have fooled everyone, but me. Fourteen years of smiles, laughter, disappointments and fear, that was us. She was the one who beat up that Louisa girl who stole my blue fountain pen in class six. She was the one who climbed the mango tree in kibuye Estate, and threw down mangoes for me to eat, and even when we were caught, she said it was her idea. I could tell you that she was the one who knew where my dreams ended just as much as where they begun.

The spotlight was on.

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Sandy called me and when I answered she said, “I am done!”

I knew.

I knew, deep down in my coffee-filled heart that she had come to this decision because she was ready. We met outside Avenue Hospital at 2pm. She was in her “stunnerz” as she calls them, and was dragging her blue suitcase struggling to save face while steering clear of the boda boda men. I opened my arms and she walked right into them.

“Twende tukule chipo kwa Frank!” She whispered in my ear.

I flagged down a tuk tuk. We got her suitcase in and then we were off to Frank’s place, a small coca-cola kiosk directly opposite our house. Once there, we ordered chips and a litre of Fanta Orange. I waited for her to tell me everything, because I am impatient when it comes to confessions. I thrive on pain and can hold onto pain like someone holding onto dear life, it is why I did not pursue Counseling as a profession.

I hurt easily but do not forgive as easily as it should be.

I also bear the burden of everyone who opens up to me and that is destructive as I learned that depression is the silent partner who accompanies you everywhere, unlike your shadow, she becomes one with you over time and you know and feel something is wrong but getting out is like sinking deeper into it.

Sandy just kept stuffing the chips into her mouth and commenting about the vehicles that drove past us. I looked at her hands, long slender fingers, and smiled. We had been through this three years ago. She came fed off my support and went back to the hell hole she called love.

I looked at her again and then said, “are you going to take off those glasses?”

“Why, do they bother you?”

“No, not at all, I want to see your eyes.”

“Why? Kuna shida nikivaa stunnerz zangu?”

“No, there’s no problem unless you want to continue creating one.”

“Eish! I have had quite a long night, so spare me the lectures, because frankly speaking I do not need them. By the way, this place has not changed much.”

“No, it hasn’t.”

“So, how’s work? How do you like the whole eight to five thing?”

“I’m doing what I can with what I have.”

“Don’t you miss being on the road? And how are things with you Odhiambo, did he ever make a move? I know that guy’s had it for you since like forever, and you, you are so stubborn to see it! Have you talked to Tru? We have to meet! It’s been ages!”

“Welcome back to earth and we are not talking about my love-life or the lack of it. We can talk about a road trip, and this time I have my eyes set on Kakamega…that place has been calling out to me for ages!”

“Kakamega? Pssh! You should aim higher, let’s go to Zanzibar!”

“I have to save for that to happen, so let’s pay for this and go to the house.”

“Is your Mom around?”

“Yes, it’s the holidays and she’s there. I already told her that you would be staying with us for a while.”

“Look, I don’t want any problems but here’s the thing, Jared proposed. I cannot pretend that everything is okay, because the guy had the nerve to ask me to marry him in front of everyone at the office.”

“And…”

“His baby mama was standing right there, they both thought that I had no idea, Arch, they just…take my advice, never let anyone take your love for a ride…you know my Dad was never there, but to choose me over his kid, Jared ni mjinga sana…I just couldn’t stay there, and when are you coming back to Nai?”

“Let’s go home and we can have some tea then I’ll tell you.” We walked to the house my thoughts still going to Sandy and her resolution.

Getting back on track

April’s not going down as I envisioned it. I know that challenges are part of life but in terms of writing, it’s not been an epic month for me. I managed to write 30,000 words of a story. Things were getting better until I sent it out for review and it was shredded to pieces!

Literally, it came back all red with one bold comment, “I thought we’d graduated from this kind of writing.” So, I set the manuscript aside, walked to Moha’s shop, bought a 500ml Fanta Orange, and had it while watching Spongebob Square Pants.

Ever since, I have not been able to write or better yet work on something else, until this past weekend where I decided to go with my gut feeling. It hurts when you write up something and it is met with such negativity, sometimes the criticism helps, but sometimes it wears you down.

I understand that not everyone would swoon over what I write. It’s just as well because as a reader I also find some genres not to my liking. As a Consumer, I stick to some products because of the value I feel they add to my life- hence my love for a sugar high with Fanta. I am not a Coca Cola person. It just isn’t my kind of beverage. So, in writing I use the same perspective to appreciate criticism.

The Crown of the Sea is out now!

The Crown of the Sea by [Dora Okeyo]

It’s so short that you’ll wonder what I’m talking about in just 12 pages! Wonder what ideas will come into your head as you read this, and whether you’ll feel for the Narrator like I did, but all in all, it’s got me out of my funk and I am relaxed.

It’s free on Amazon, so how about you check it out here–> The Crown of the Sea

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.

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Courtesy of StockSnapio

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.

 

Glass

It comes to me in pieces; that day after the party, at your place, outside Naivas Supermarket, the Family Kitchen Restaurant, the church and sometimes…sometimes when I try to shake it off, it comes at 2 A.M.

They say it takes time.

They say, “You are still young, you’ll move on and find somebody else.”

It’s easy. You know, you are like a Mr. Berry bubblegum wrapper, disposed just as easy and fast after you’ve got the gum. You chew for a minute and dispose of the gum and unwrap the next one. It is true, you can never just have one Mr. Berry gum…five is a start.

How would they know? I saw you walking into Mega Plaza today. You were wearing that blue shirt that gives you the Corporate look and you were carrying that awful laptop bag that needs a wash more than a truck ferrying sand. You were talking to someone, ‘her’ I suppose, but there you were…two steps ahead of me and I could hear you, see you and if I tried hard enough, I could have taken in your scent.

It’s never the same.

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It is never about who was wrong or who felt betrayed, but more about what happens. I wish it was more about us back then. You never listened…passion trumps rationale, and you would never know it, but I lost our child. Baby Emmanuela, a gem, the one you longed for…and what hurts even more is that you never gave me a chance to share the news with you.

They told you I was with your best friend. They said,‘you can’t trust these chics, they can definitely bring you down, kwani is she the only one?’ What’s worse is that you listened to people who were surrounded by liquor they never brewed or produced. You took in the word of people who never invested in our relationship and you refused to listen. You threw away a friendship because of your inability to deal with your fear…the fear that you could lose me to James. He is an awesome guy, a great listener…but he will never be you, but you never cared to listen.

I walked behind you until you stepped onto the escalator and descended to the floor below. The lady was now holding your hand, leaning into your embrace and you were smiling at her.

They say I will get over it…and things will be okay, have you ever broken glass? Have you ever looked at the shattered pieces and seen how the light strikes each piece?

I need the light to illuminate my heart. I need it just one more time, because a part of me would like to face you and tell you that on the day you saw me with James, he was calming my nerves because I had just found out that we would be having a child. You were down on finances and the thought of telling you about the baby freaked me out…so much so that I was talking to myself right outside Alpha House…and James was passing by…

Would it matter? I don’t know.

You are happy. You are glowing, a smile upon us mere mortals who betrayed you, and sometimes I reckon losing both you and Emmanuela was a gift, a reminder that life was still bright and crystal clear like glass even after your heart’s been shattered.

For Helen…hope this shines a light on you. 

xoxo

 

 

The place you call home

The bravest man is the one assured of his death. Wakoli, the village cobbler, was such a man. You never met him, but Wakoli could look at your shoe and stitch it in one motion, but the same hands could not hold a woman’s hand without his knees shaking.

It came as a surprise when he suddenly said that he wanted to return to his father’s land. We sat with him as one of his hands went into the shoe and the other the needle, pulling and fastening and fixing. He would say, “A man has no friends in this world,” every time he talked about his ancestral home. He would pick another shoe, look at it and smile.

“You can tell a lot about a man’s shoes. How he takes care of the things that protect his feet as he leaves footprints on the earth. Some shoes speak of love, others, misery, but my Father’s home is awaiting me.” Wakoli was not a day older than your Father, but his back was bent from all the stitching he did. He carried his sack of shoes waiting for his clients to come for them. The sack was old and torn but never did a shoe fall from it.

Wakoli was the wind. He came and went as he pleased. Everyone at home knew him, but even so, he was the only one who saw me beneath the busaa. No, that is not true, he was one of the few who saw me, your mother- Nyanam, was the other. She was the only woman who could carry ten pots of water and not complain of a stiff neck come dusk.

She would laugh until you felt as though Heaven was with you. When she cooked, the food would warm your soul, and she never let me sleep hungry. She would come to the busaa den looking for me, “Shemeji, you have to eat what I made today, you know you are the only one who appreciates my cooking, eh? Now how about a few mouthfuls then you can continue quenching your thirst?”

An excerpt from The Place you Call Home a short story published on Smashwords

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My aunt Millicent

My aunt, Millicent, could smell pregnancy a mile away. It was no surprise when she knocked on my Mother’s door at six o’clock in the morning. She had just got off the phone with Milka. What she had to say could not wait. I stepped aside and she walked right past the sitting room to my Mother’s bedroom ignoring the greetings she received along the way.

Milka, Aunt’ Beryl’s daughter, is the first girl to get a direct entry into the University. She is going to be the first doctor in a family of teachers, priests and counselors. Aunt Beryl speaks of Milka during breakfast, lunch, and supper. She sings her praise in the toilet, while washing dishes, walking to the market or negotiating fare at the bus stop. The touts, boda boda men and market women know her as ‘Mama Daktari.’ Milka is just in her first year. I hear that most people never make it past the second year studying Medicine. She could slaughter a chicken, so maybe she can stand the sight of blood and meat.

Aunt Millicent stomps into the sitting room with my Mother in tow. I am dismissed to quickly serve them tea. When I return with the tray in hand, Aunt Millicent begins, ‘I know you all think I have nothing to do except brew trouble, but something tells me that Milka is going to pile buckets of shame on her mother.’

‘How can you say this after just one phone call?’

‘The voice does not lie. You should know this! Listen, someone has to go to Nairobi and check on that girl, I am certain that Beryl would not take it if her daughter disappointed her.’

‘So, what do you think the problem is?’

‘She is pregnant.’

‘Milka? No! She cannot be, are you sure?’

‘Listen, you have had six children, more than the number of fingers you have on one hand, so you know how children love to make their presence known. There is the nausea, vomiting, demand for certain foods, the stretching and blowing up until you push them out only to have them do what you least expect them to.’

‘Milli! You are crazy to say let alone think that Milka is pregnant and until she confirms it, no one will go to Nairobi or speak to her mother about it. Is that clear?’

Aunt Millicent looked at my mother, smiled and gathered her lesso, fastened it around her waist and walked out the same way she walked in. Mother shook her head and continued sipping her tea careful not to spill any for her hands were trembling.

‘Do you think Aunt Millicent is telling the truth Mom?’

‘She has never lied about anything in her life, but no mother would want her daughter side tracked from her dreams and I am certain that when the truth comes to light Milka’s mother will not be able to handle it.’