Things I didn’t know

My first sex talk went a little like this:- my mother sat me down and told me that if I did ‘tabia mbaya’ with boys I would get pregnant, and then I would be on my own because she wouldn’t help me raise a bastard child. Boys were the enemy and were to be avoided at all cost.

 

I was 11 when I knew what a pad was. I’d heard it mentioned a few times and joined in the hushed, embarrassed laughter of my friends when they started talking about ‘those things’, but I still left with no idea of what I was talking about. The day I came home at lunchtime bleeding down there is also the day I saw a sanitary towel for the first time.

 

I was 12 when we were first taught about sex in school. By that time I had a lot of theoretical knowledge about it from the books I’d read and I knew of several classmates who had a more practical knowledge of it. What I remember most about the class is the girls teasing the boys, the boys teasing the girls, the teacher trying to silence us, and all of us blushing and looking at the floor. The teacher couldn’t get over that lesson fast enough.

At 13 puberty hit most of us like an out of-control freight train. Voices were breaking, breasts were growing and our skin was breaking out in pimples. Suddenly there were all these voices telling us that boys were little demons here on earth and we shouldn’t even hold hands with them, just when boys started to look really good. No reasons were given, but that seed of fear was planted and watered at every opportunity. It was a confusing time.

It was a simple time back then. Most of us took our parents words as gospel. Most of us feared our parents very much and would never in a million years have thought to rebel against them and that is how most of us grew up not exposed to so many ‘bad influences’.

It’s 2017 now and the world barely makes sense for people like us. I look at my siblings and sometimes I get scared. How does the world make sense for them now?

 

 

How To Raise Daughters

All children are gifts in their own right, but I believe a daughter holds a special place in a mother’s heart. This is a mini version of you who you can dress up in matching clothes and hairstyles with, show off to anyone who gives you a minute of your time and whom you can pass down to all the wisdom you have gathered over the years.

I’m not a mother yet, but I’ve been a daughter all my life and this is what I’ve learned:
1)  Cultivate a free and open relationship with your daughter while she’s still young. Don’t create a situation where she can only talk to you about her periods or that you always have to seek her out for a serious talk. Your daughter should be able to talk to you about anything without fear of repercussions.
Which brings me to…
2) Anything your daughter tells you in confidence should never come up later in normal conversation with other people around, even if you’re arguing. Your daughter needs to be able to trust you.
3) Soon your daughter will not want to wear the frilly dresses you bought her or take matchy matchy photos with you. Soon she’ll be too busy and cool, and you’ll no longer be her favourite hang out buddy. Your daughter is growing up. Let her.
4) She’s bound to make mistakes. Let her make them, to a point. Maybe you know what’s best for her, but she needs to find that out for herself.
5) Your daughter needs to know you’ll be there to catch her when she falls no matter what. Keep the I told you so’s to yourself.
6) You know your daughter,but she knows herself more. Don’t tell her what her limits are.
7) Be kind to your daughter. There are too many voices bringing her down. Let not yours be one of them.
8) You’ll have huge disagreements from time to time. It’s good not to let such things fester in the heart for too long. It hurts both of you. Be the bigger person. Let it go.
9) Your daughter came from you,but she is not you. Leave her be. Give her the space she needs to find herself.

WHAT WAS LEFT

The call had found him in the toilet on another call, the call of nature. It was the day after Timau, a workmate, had told him the tale of how his phone had fallen down the toilet, and so he had promised himself he would stop carrying his phone to the toilet. Bad luck was sometimes contagious. From his perch on the toilet, he could hear the shrill sound of his Nokia tune ringtone and imagine the violent vibrating of the phone on the table. He was usually a fast picker but his body had other ideas this time, and it was only after three missed calls that he was able to answer the call, just in time to save the phone from an untimely Death by Destruction report. See? Bad luck. Whoever was calling was either very persistent or a really nice person. He would have given up after one missed call.

Hello, said the lady who didn’t sound a day past twelve, you’ve been selected for a writing workshop…blah blah blah. How did men celebrate really good news? It had always been a bit of a conundrum to him. Was it weird that he felt like screaming and jumping up and down and shaking his flat booty in jubilation? In the end he’d said a gruff and very manly Thank You and hung up.

It was hot, the kind of hot that created mirages on tarmac and made him question his decision to spend hundreds of shillings every month buying something ‘guaranteed to stop his sweat in its smelly tracks’. Deodorant, meet Global Warming. The matatu stage was bustling as usual. To his left a lady was selling smokies and boiled eggs. Business was good, judging from the line of people still waiting to be served. Most of them bought the eggs, though if it was because they were cheaper or because of their nutritional value, he couldn’t tell. He just marveled at the fact that someone was willing to walk around with egg breath. Across from him two touts grappled with each other, swaying from side to side as two more stood watching close by, calling out encouragements in Kikuyu. He found it difficult to determine if the fight was serious or not, though he could see that no one seemed to be in a hurry to separate the two. A Nissan matatu hit another car and the driver got out in a hurry, face already turning an unappealing shade of red. He was a big man, and as he talked his neck muscles would bulge and spittle would fly from his mouth, some of it congealing at the sides of his mouth. The other driver chose to keep quiet and let himself suffer through multiple threats to his person and insults to his tribe, ancestors and descendants. There was also talk of dubious parentage. A crowd was gathering as the other cars were forced to stop moving as the issue was sorted out. From where he was standing, he couldn’t see what the big deal was. It was just a scratch, and it wasn’t even one of those high end vehicles either. Really, personal cars owners were so sensitive! A matatu narrowly avoided hitting him as it made an illegal hairpin turn; he leaped out of the way just in time. It then went on its merry way, with nary a form of acknowledgement from the driver or anyone inside. The people had somewhere to be, dammit!

It was the music that called to him, like fingers of mist that stroked his chin and beckoned him closer. He could see others under the same thrall and he just hoped to get there quicker. Only when his hand was holding one of the handlebars at the door and he’d swung his feet up off the ground and into the matatu did he take a full breath. The one space left was at the back, the seat he hated most, right at the center.

It was a feat of acrobatics how he managed to fit himself into a seat clearly designed for a toddler and with slightly bigger than average seatmates. He could clearly see that the lady to his left sat on one and a half seats. She kept giving him the evil eye whenever he shifted to try and give both of his butt cheeks the illusion of sitting. He thought it was a travesty that he’d still have to pay the full fare regardless.

The conductor came to collect and he dug into his pockets and retrieved his 1000shs note.

Conda: (looking at the note like it’s on fire) Brathe, lete pesa kidogo.

Him: Hiyo ndio niko nayo pekee.

Conda: Wacha izo,buda! Utatembeaje bila pesa hii Nairobi? Msupa akikuitisha ka coffee date, utado? Nyi ndio watu wa ati ma dry spell…. *some of the passengers started snickering quietly, while he thought about how true that statement was. Oh no, did it show on his face?*

Conda: (taking the note) Ngojea change.

He was left trying, and failing, to win a supremacy battle between his bony hips and the ‘cradle of mankind’. He couldn’t even change seats because no one had yet alighted. Thankfully, he was almost at his destination.

His sore leg muscles thanked him when he got up to leave the matatu. It was at a busy roundabout and the driver seemed to be in a hurry, starting an impromptu race with the next matatu. ‘Kanyagia!’, was all the conductor said and the matatu was already moving almost before both his feet touched the ground.

It’s probably too early for alcohol, he thought, I should probably get a soda or something kutuliza moyo. There was a man with one of those huge portable coolers nearby so he ambled over there, and after a little haggling over prices during which he privately lamented over the state of the nation, he chose the half litre Coke. The fizz of gases when the bottle top was removed was the best sound he’d heard all day. He took a big sip of the drink almost as if he couldn’t help himself, then put the bottle down to use his hands to fish for money inside his pockets. Right pocket. Nothing. Left pocket. Nothing.

Huh.

Strange.

It was the maroon rag at his feet, the same color as the conductor’s jacket, which triggered the memory. It all unfolded in his mind like a movie on loop. He actually took two steps back and started rubbing absently at the pain that had suddenly bloomed in his chest. How could he have forgotten his change like that? What would he do? Where would he go now? He was penniless now.

Panic was a heavily breathing monster inside him, though he tried to look calm on the outside. He looked at the vendor who was looking at him, patiently waiting for his money. He took another sip, and another, and another. He forced himself to set the bottle down after some part of his mind kept urging him to break it and cut something. Or someone.

He looked at the man, in whose eyes impatience lived, and did what came naturally.  He ran, going faster the louder the man screamed for help, and praying not to be struck down by lightning for making a lame man chase after him. He ran until the pain at his side could no longer be ignored, then he started stopping strangers and asking for help, always hoping he wouldn’t be ignored like he had done to countless others in the past.

THIS IS HOW IT ENDS

It starts with joy.
Our love story read like a modern day fairy tale: Girl meets boy on the internet. Girl likes boy’s voice on phone. Girl stalks boy on social media and likes his looks. Girl starts daydreaming about boy. Girl meets boy for real. Boy surpasses girl’s expectations. Girl continues to daydream about boy. Girl secretly falls for boy and does everything in her power to have the feelings reciprocated. Boy falls for girl.

I’d plotted and calculated every step of our relationship, but I didn’t plan to fall so deeply. I mean, I’d never been in love before, so why should you have been any different?

I was wrong. From the start you refused to follow my script. When I wanted you to zig, you zagged. And I loved the unpredictability, but most of all, I loved you. Loved. Funny, I never saw Past Tense in our future.

With you I felt like writing love notes and sending them to you by bird. With you I found myself singing syrupy sweet love songs. With you I understood why anyone would sit down and write such cavity-inducing music, for it felt like I could write hundreds of songs for you.

When you spoke of our future, I saw it. When you told me you loved me, I felt it. You made me feel lighter, freer, better.

It ends with pain and disillusionment.
I look for you. Where did you go? You were with me just yesterday. Why can’t I see you now? I feel your presence here. You are that faint whisper of wind in my ear, that fleeting shadow at the corner of my eye. I always turn around when it’s too late to see you. Do you know why that is?

Where did you go? Were we not having fun? Were we not enjoying ourselves, enjoying our youth, our fleeting mortality? Were we not the best of friends? Was it something I said? I do that sometimes, you know. Give my tongue free rein, say what I mean not, and hurt others on purpose. It is all a test, you see. I need to know who’ll stay, who’ll look deep deep down inside of me and see me. All the damaged, self sabotaging, possessive parts of me. Who’ll love me in spite of myself. But you left, just like all the others.

Should I keep looking for you now? Do you really want me to find you? Did you run away, across freezing rivers and fields covered by swirling grey mists, just to get away from me? Or were you dragged, kicking and screaming, over barren wastelands and dead sea, to rot away as the days pass?
I feel, sometimes too much. I want to hate you, but how can I hate what I loved? Sometimes at 3am when I cannot sleep, I wonder if my lonely thoughts conjured you up. Are you just a figment of my imagination?

#WHATHAPPENEDCLASSATJALADA

It was hot yesterday. That muggy kind of hot, the kind you don’t really register until you stand and you’re sweating in places that shouldn’t be wet without stimulation. Not that I remember what that felt like, but anyway….
I was seated most of yesterday, just writing and being in the company of great people at Jalada Mobile Master Class. So after lunch (they gave us food. That was sweet, and unexpected) still seated, I felt some wetness down there. I got up with the intention of going to the loo try to check out what was happening, but when I snuck a peek at my seat, it was also wet.

SHIT! SHIT! FUCK!

I sat down in my seat hard. I think my heart even skipped a couple of beats.
We were seated in a U-shape, and the toilets were behind me. It was a relatively short distance, but there was no way I could get from my seat to the toilet without being in everyone’s line of vision, unless I wanted to try a lil moonwalking (yeah….Try explaining that)

That’s when I started praying:
“Heh Mungu, nionekanie! Aki you can’t let me be embarrassed like this again
Si you remember KCSE week?
What have I done now? Aki I’ve been sorta good. I thought You had my back, you know. You see what I’m wearing? Yellow. Not even forgiving-maybe- pastel yellow, but HI!I’M HERE! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK.AT.ME yellow.
Aki God, I like these people, and more importantly, they like me. You know how rare that is.
Just kill me now. Sitaki aibu ndogo ndogo.”
We had ten minutes left on the clock, so I thought I would let everyone leave and then stand and access the damage. So there I was,seated listening to the closing remarks to end and pretending to be deeply engrossed in folding my papers just right,when Moses says, ” Thank you for coming, blah blah blah, and since you’re here, you can help me arrange stuff for the next session. ”
Oh, what fresh hell is this? Lord. Jehova. Ngai Baba. Ululululu…and accompanying hand motions. On the inside. Outside I was a calm front of good vibes and harmony.
I had to stand up eventually, so I turned to my neighbour Angela and told her to check the back of my skirt because I was scared I’d made a mess. I could even bare to look with her.
All good, she said, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I still went to check and double check.
It was a looooooong ten minutes.

Moral of the story: #allblackeverything

#REACTINGATJALADA

Maybe they won’t all admit it to my face
but they can all see that I’m a square
trying to fit into the circle of life.
What’s the deal with “fitting in” ,anyway? I’d rather not.

They tell me I’m too colourful, too loud, too opinionated, just too much
does the truth hurt you? I ask them.

They tell me I’m hard
like that’s supposed to be an insult.
They tell me that I’m too picky
like it’s a bad thing.

They say I should lighten up
bleach my soul to match the color of my skin
well, I don’t know if that’s possible
but if you find the ones that blackened my soul
please ask them if they used a pencil.
Maybe then I might have a chance to erase it.

They tell me to smile more
the world has so much to offer people with crooked white teeth like me
but do they ever bother to see if the joy reflects in my eyes?