35 years of experience – Part 1

images (18)

In June 2019 I turned 35 years old against all my wishes. I wished I was younger, 19 just out of high school and spoilt for choice of a career. Handsome without a paunch and a bald. Full of energy and sporty I can eat a whole loaf of bread without getting worried of overweight. Still believing in love. Being that little prince charming every lass wants to lay. Going for trials for football and having all these ideas money can do such as owning a Ferrari and a Lamborghini cruising the world with a model like girlfriend with the waist of a wasp. A teetotaller because alcohol is for the ill raised kids. A loud sin.

A life well planned out such that by 23, I will be out of undergraduate, at 25 with my postgraduate and having proposed to my high school girlfriend. Marrying her in a garden wedding with invites only cards and taking off to a month long honeymoon to Seychelles, Malaysia culminating in a fortnight stay in Maldives. But life is –

Rough.

In 1989, I joined Muslim Nursery School at the edge on Machakos town an institution that fills me with nostalgia when I happen to pass by. This is where it all began. This is where hope bred. This is the place where life was roughly borne. This is where I first saw a boy’s eye gorged out by the sharp edge of table it nearly fell. That an eye was like ripe fruit, fragile and ready to fall at the slightest disturbance. That is the only memory I carried from that school. 

In 1990 aboard a canter truck I bid the hilly side of Machakos goodbye for the last time. I carried with it childhood memories. A disfigured third finger nail tip from a stone crush, the sight of a boy who had rubbed the itchy caterpillar all over his body jumping on top of an anthill calling his mother. The nights at Muthuna ithei butchery where we hovered around for empty bones to chew, no wonder his name. The nights spend watching factual films, ikusanya, and going home rotten from the rotten eggs that were thrown from the crowd. The evening spend counting the last of my mothers cabbages and potatoes at the market stall while she counted her total sales then tying them at the tip of her lesso.

The sight of Gitau the neighbor who locked his keys in the house daily and had to crawl through the opening between the roof and the wall to pick them and ask any of us around to open for him from outside.

The huge wooden black and white TV of Benard the mech who was my godfather during my baptism at Machakos Cathedral a church I only remember going there once with my father. Ben, whose kids we schooled together and his first born son the smartest boy to ever live, becoming a doctor and dying in a horrific car accident while working in Turkana a few years ago. Smart because that boy scored 617 marks out of 700 in 1992. I remember it because it is a long standing unbroken record. I remember it because I saw him get awarded so many gifts, I envied him. 

We left Machakos, our three roomed corner house at the farthest and perhaps the darkest part of the plot. We tagged along Lota, our househelp and her son. We loaded onto the truck our spring beds and tiny velvet clothes and spiderman jump suits and our green Avon bicycle. A bicycle that took me to Housing Nursery School in Tala in 1990.

Tala where I would spent all my schooling days. Carrying bread soaked in tea in tiny plastic container and half an exercise book. Tala, where we passed by the local bakery to hover around like we hovered at Muthuna ithei butchery in Machakos but this time for rejected bread. Rejected because it was burnt toast which we were given for free and ate it with our saliva throwing away the burnt parts. Getting so full on the way home necessitating one to take a nap by the road only to be startled by passersby who would accompany you to your home. 

Joining Tala Township a year later after an interview of joining dots to make a picture. A school where I was among the few who started year one to year eight without changing schools or repeating class. 

In 1992, the only memory is that of becoming position one for the first and last time in my life and being head over it. Back at home, the memory of a tractor driver being given a thousand shillings by dad in one hundred shilligs notes for delivering construction sand. 

In 1993, back at school, and in class three, reading the stories by Pamela Kola and Barbara Kimenye. Being whipped mercilessly by the man who today leads that school, with whip made of hippo hide and yelling our lungs dry after yelling for being dismissed too early to go home. 

1994, the feeling of joining upper primary and joining the school choir to sing a vernacular set piece that went as such, ‘riwo riwo ndoyo, chakum gun nyonenyi ka’ I don’t remember what language this is. Uncle John taking me to face the cut and instead of tying a lesso to heal, I wore a long jacket for two weeks during the August holiday. After untying the tiny penis exposing the pink tip nevertheless feeling man worth impregnating a girl only that it couldn’t cum no shit. My only favorite tee from this year is the promotional Hedapan painkiller tee which I wore days on end. 

In 1995, struggling with reading the hand clock and addition and subtraction of time wondering why time had to end at sixty and start at 0000. That night when Elisha told Ruth that they had come from drama festivals at midnight and some pervert interpretted it as let’s meet at midnight sparking a beating on accusations of being love birds. We were only 11. It is then I also had identified Ruth as my girlfriend and never telling it to no one. I wanted to kill Elisha too for wanting to meet my girlfriend at midnight. I also met George, a man who has always been my friend for 24 years now and counting. 

In 1996, I identified Yvonne as my girlfriend now that we were separated by streams with Ruth. Cate was also beautiful but her mouth was deformed to one side. Viola was dark, tall and Luo. Gloria was humble to a fault but she wet her bed. I can’t remember a damn boy. No, I do, Eric, noisy as a hornbill. Got me in trouble when we coined the luhya folk song sang at the drama festivals in our Kamba. Ms Kamwanza the drama teacher spared us a beating but begrudgingly held the coining such that she used it against me when I was caught stealing bread from Cates locker on visiting day when my folks failed to show up. Mr. Ngati coming to my rescue and taking me to the kitchen to get served with the staff meal which we all coveted. Mr. Ngati rests in peace. Boarding was the worst choice I made in my life for I envied how boarders always had hot spiced githeri with a touch of blueband for lunch while we struggled with cold ugali from yesterday’s supper. Sometimes stale for overstaying. Sometimes we had nothing to eat for lunch. So I boarded, washed my own clothes and had hot meals. At first had sugar, blueband and quencher orange juice, and cocoa. With my first tin of blueband finished, I asked Rachel, the only person who knew where I came from, to pass by our home and ask mother to give her another one. My mother giving her butter filtered from sour milk. Yellow but tasting awful with an odor that flew to high skies. I regretted for once, only for Japheth, a pitch dark abagusii boy, feeding on it with school meals like a starved hyena. 

It is also in 1996, that we opened our shop. And the first person to buy from us was this boy who came for cooking fat that went for three shillings. I was there when those doors opened for business perhaps the reason why I find myself still selling at a shop at 35. 

Back at school, my sister(she rests in peace), our househelp, Nzilani, and another neighbor Rosalia came to visit me unofficially on a Sunday carrying delicacies now that they didn’t make it on Saturday being sent away by Mrs. Wambua, the coldest teacher to ever grace the face of the earth, with all the food they had come with, making me dejected seeing my sister and Nzilani walk away. 

Not to forget this detail that it was Mother and Rosalia who took me on my first day to boarding. On a Sunday afternoon, Mrs. Mwangangi held guard that day and she handed me to Mbaya, the no nonsense ever drunk patron. 

A patron we would later catcall in sheng that his manhood was erect hence getting ourselves in flying elephant shit when Abdalla the dorm prefect sold us out. We were beaten to a pulp, to near death and guess by who, Ms. Kamwanza, the drama teacher! We were physically assaulted with twigs that our tiny asses took weeks to recover making it so hard for us to seat on the metallic chairs, this is in 1997.

We pilled sweaters on the seats and some girls kind enough would offer us their sweaters to add on the seats. This again was so horrible making my decision to board the worst ever. 

1998 is full of memories, why can’t I continue from the next post? 

 

Nathan @2019

One story is good until another is told.

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Help somebody cross

IMG_20190720_064349

What happens when the sun shines after a long period of rains? The land brightens with the lurch greenery of foliage. Water pans dry out leaving behind a cracked earth. Small valleys sink where the rivulets from the rains flowed. There is a new hymn from the birds of the trees. A hymn I have heard before but it feels new at the turn of seasons. The sun burns like it burnt before the rains. It picks from where it left. This is the metaphor of his life.

******

One early muddy morning as I manned the entrance to the school as the master on duty, I saw him running barefooted and sullen. His sunken cheeks and protruding cheek bones evident of how sun beaten he was by perhaps something else and not only the sun; poverty. His lips dry an indication that he had hardly taken any meal that morning. The hems of his torn short  khaki pants undone to make them hide his ashy knees in vain. An old overused green nylon PIL bag carried his books and probably his soul. The threads of his sweater  falling off on the elbows and his shirt, clean, had a button, sewn with a thread color that completely mismatched the white shirt, holding the two parts and his body.

A humble boy of no measure and brilliant at it in spite of being pulled down by indigence. He looked destitute. Not the poverty of mind but a physical impoverishment that bit him hard and refused to free him.

But one thing made me admire him, his unceasing pursuit of excellence and his pinched smile. His down to earth and submissiveness when he talked to me made me weak. He slant his neck with resignation written all over his face and reverberating within his soft words.

When not in school, he spent his time in coffee plantations picking berries at thirty shillings per bucket of seventeen kgs. To fill a bucket that size took upto two hours. The berries were delivered to the factory before midday and that meant he would hardly pick two buckets. The little money he could make went to buying a meal for himself and a packet of flour for his mother. The flour would last them three days and they had to wait for the lorry on Saturday to ferry coffee pickers to the plantantions. It was not an outright casual job but that edged on luck. Sometimes the farms would be invaded by human souls as early as 4 am marking their territories and by the time you got there, only a few bushes were left to be picked. Or if unfortunate enough, you were assigned to collect the fallen berries.

His afternoons and Sundays were slow and empty. He would spent his time in their wooden two roomed rustic house working on some homework. Some of which I had given them in class while I on the other end spent these afternoons in Keg drinking dens watching football matches and when not, listening to the stereotyped local music and when not,  darting at the nearby church hall.

I would meet him again on Monday with my language books tucked beneath my armpits, nursing little hangovers while he nursed the wounds of privation, hopelessness and indignity.

I thought I was poor from the pittance I earned but he was poorer because he couldn’t afford a regular meal, a proper meal, proper uniform, proper stationery and little shit.

Insolvency had robbed him his dignity but not his resolve. I don’t know who was to blame for his situation because I didn’t want to find out. You see, when you are poor somebody is responsible for it just as when you have a ballooning bank balance. It’s the law of cause and effect.

So Ngugi, worked hard in class. He was always position two and the worst three. He scored every sum in a maths paper, that which he didn’t score, he appealed and often he was right. His performance in language was outstanding, I hardly found grammatical mistakes in his compositions neither spelling mistakes. Every composition was unique and with newly acquired vocabulary meaning that he read widely.

Like any other school during that time, no one had time to implore the social lives of the students. Whether you had supper or had breakfast bothered no one indeed. It was about your appearance in school and cooling your horses in class when it was class time and breaking them outside when it was breaktime. And good enough obeying the school rules and regulations among which, each student had to bring twenty shillings on Saturday for additional tuition. I hardly saw him on Saturdays that meant he and his entire clan were piss poor that they couldn’t afford the twenty shillings. What else on earth could they afford?

His brilliance drove me to pity. His fate hung on a balance and he wasn’t sure whether he will register for his final exams. He was sent away over and over and when I couldn’t take his absence anymore, I broke my wallet, I owned no bank account, I wanted Ngugi to sit for his final exams and excel and maybe fate would have mercy on him and take him wherever it so wished.

I paid the exam fee and all outstanding balances for him and the joy in his eyes was palpable. He couldn’t believe that finally he was going to sit for the coveted exams. I went on and assured him that I will share my little wages with him. That he should never go hungry as long as I was around.

However, I didn’t tell him that it was a burning guilt of my time to payback, that drove me to him but I wanted to help him cross. I wanted to pay back to the help of one Hellen, the Chief Principal at College, who, having heard my predicament when I lost my mother and the only fee provider when I was in my last semester in college, sent for me and as I sat on her office narrating my story of how my family had crumbled down into smithereens within a short span of time, I could see tiny drops of tears dropping down beneath her spectacles. She pulled a drawer on her left and drew a cheque of the fee balance that was standing between me and a future coveted. I couldn’t hardly believe it. She footnoted the voucher with the words, ‘pay and keep it to yourself Nzioka’. 

That piece of paper lies beneath a pile of some other papers in my repository as evidence that the world once had good people.

And with that, I felt indebted, I had to give back and help somebody else cross. I helped  Ngugi cross and I told him the same words, but in a different arrangement, ‘don’t tell the world who did this’.

His case was one too many in this school. Perhaps the reason no one else felt obligated to help him cross. The old staff with an experience of no comparison would have come to his assistance but I felt they must have seen it all and their hearts hardened. I, at 23, and freshly from college, had a soft heart and the fact that I made it out of college, I owed it to a stranger I was never going to meet again.

Days later I extended to him my traveling bag to use it for his books since I was no longer traveling and even if I wanted to travel, I didnt want to go to the haunted home notwithstanding that all my earthly belongings fit in that strap bag.

His dignity was slowly getting back into its feet and when I later handed him some shirts that I had outgrown but were still new, I saw that boy’s smile change. He had such an infectious smile that made me well afraid of blinking because that would have shown my weak side. I would stare away from his smile and gaze at an empty space and plead with my eyelids not to shut. I always lost that battle.

From henceforth, I never met Ngugi in any other outfit on Sundays where we both worshipped. I hadn’t had much in life at that age but I was contented I had touched a boy’s heart. Ngugi always came to me after church service while other students he schooled with shunned away and only pointed at me with their snouts. He had become a personal friend.

As time would have it, Ngugi cleared school and I never saw him again. I never left him with my contacts but I was convinced I had altered the course of his life. He must have excelled because when I asked of his whereabouts I was told he had joined Kanunga High School. I had left the school where we had met and only went back to visit my folks who lived in that region after an eternity.

Days turned into months and into years, my frequent visits to my folks in that region sufficed and eventually stopped. I went on my own and started life. I moved jobs and jobs until I finally dropped the white piece of dust into oblivion.

Got into business and rekindled my old age dream of acquiring a University degree and ran with it.

It is at the university while I took some rest on the concrete benches one dull afternoon that I was startled by a familiar voice which I couldn’t register instantly. It called me teacher in a slang almost shenglike. I turned and there stood Ngugi. I was dumbstruck by his appearance, his towering height and that infectious smile. All other attributes had left him apart from his smile. A backpack stuck on his left shoulder and he had a phone in his right hand.

He joined me on the bench and it was then that I learnt he was in his final semester pursuing a degree in economics while I was in my first semester pursuing a literature degree!

However from his deep soft spoken voice, he had some remnants of the indignity poverty had slapped him with. His outfits were not all that good and he didn’t have a scent of affluence. Life hadn’t been so good to him but he hadn’t lost his resolve to make it in life.

We sat on this bench for about half an hour on an eight year palaver when he stood up to leave. He looked at me straight into my eye and I stared away again into that old emptiness I had stared at eight years ago. I knew what he was about to tell me, and when he did, I blinked.

Thank you teacher for helping me cross. I will forever be grateful to you. Then he left, I stared at him dissappear into the young human traffic along the University corridors and felt a sense of self actualization. If I was ready to die at that point I would have done so, but I wanted to help many more people cross.

This story is my story, maybe yours is much better but it would be best if told. I chose to tell this story because I believe we all can help someone cross. It could be that poor kid in the estate block who doesn’t go to school. That man at the far end looking for anything called work. That woman sitting by the roadside hawking her wares. But we can’t help everyone, you would say, the world is so cruel and cold that everyone minds his own troubles. Help one person at a time. Don’t t expect they will return the favor but that is the ultimate goal of being human. There are genuine needs cases around, don’t go looking for them, let them cross your path and help them cross. Somebody may help you cross one day when you cross their path. It always comes back.

Last, I found about Ngugi when I wanted to meet and interview him for this post, I was told he works for a certain supermarket as an attendant but time and other deadlines couldn’t allow.

This story is inspired by Tyler Perry’s acceptance speech for the iconic personality of the decade during the BET awards 2019. When he says, ‘Help someone cross, there are people whose life is tied on your dream.’ 

The major theme of Perry’s 4½-minute sermon-esque talk perfectly summarized the guiding force of his career: to “help somebody cross.”

Perry has spent the entirety of his career being intentional about creating opportunities and offering aspiration for Black people. Whether it was hiring celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis and Idris Elba when they struggled to get jobs in mainstream Hollywood, or opening his studio in one of the poorest Black neighborhoods in Atlanta, “so that young Black kids could see that a Black man did that, and they can do it too.”

“While you’re fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own,” he later said.(Chicago tribune, June 24th, 2019 )

Help somebody cross.

@Nathan 2019

One deed is good until another one is done.

 

 

Betrayed

He was funny. The kind of funniness that awed without sounds being heard. A spontaneous funniness that always showed up unexpectedly.

We never saw him train to be funny. It was in his DNA. He pulled it when it was least expected. And it sounded just right.

We would be in Sunday school training for the competitions. He was in the class ahead. Class 2. I was in 1. Not the academic ones but sunday school ones. In class 2 they had set piece songs, and a concert. Until years later I knew it as konzat.

His role always came up every time a new concert was drafted. His role, that of a cap draped to the eye brows, high walking, lad who betrothed the bride in the concert was the climax which he executed ingeniously. He won the concerts single handedly for the whole team. He would be the talk of the event during and days after it was done. And for weeks until another one was set up.

He is Bigger. My eldest brother. I walked in his shadow. And his shadow offered me the shade I so much needed. Needed because his theatrics gave me an identity and a personality and a threshold too high I struggled to reach. Which I never.

His left hand was prolific with the bat. He remains the undisputed table tennis champion across the villages and yonder. Man, did this boy play so cool I was validated as his brother. When he won which he always did, I thrived in his praises. I would interupt conversations where he was the subject of discussion by saying he is my brother. Then eyes turned towards me. Everybody wants to be associated with success.

Time wasted away. He joined high school. He changed high school. Our dad who was a pillar to the two boys, died.

He got depressed. A term and condition I only learnt and acknowledged a few years ago. After high school, he came home, stayed for a couple of weeks and then disappeared. He disappeared for so long that I got worried he could have died and buried like an unknown man. Like we had buried Nyata an unknown man so many years ago in my grandfathers homestead.

It was so long that schools opened and closed so many times and every time I came home from boarding school, the first thing I would ask is where he was. I was met with a mournful silence.

Nobody had bothered to report anywhere of a missing person not launch a search for him. Maybe because our mom’s hope was so strong that she knew he would show up one day or she was too tired to look for a child who had become delinquent oblivious of the fact that he was depressed and that he didn’t want anything to do with a home where the only image of a father was a grave.

We got used to it. We guessed where he was. He was not in Kiambu our mother’s birthplace. He was not at our father’s birth place either.

I had two men in my tender life and now I had no man. I was clinging to the absurdity of seeing my father again because the priest who conducted his funeral said we will see him again. And now Bigger was missing. And there was no promise of seeing him again.

Then, he showed up. Lord, that boy showed up after what seemed like an eternity. There was no celebration or event to mark the return of a prodigal son.

He returned and picked up from where he left. His ox-cart and the oxen seemed to be the only living organisms that appreciated his long absence for they worked less.

I did not show him how much I had missed him neither did I tell him so. I was afraid he might have known how much he mattered and then leave again this time for good. I only inquired from him were he had been all the time. He was and lived with his former school buddy and best friend. I wondered how he had done that without feeling burdensome to him and his buddies parents not asking him about his return or whether his folks knew about his whereabouts.

The good thing is that he returned home in one piece. That he brought himself. Unlike being reported as dead and his body lying in a morgue with a tag on his toe printed, ‘an unidentified African male’ .

He came back home at a time when our family was slowly disintegrating. My mom having sunk to depression, having lost quite an amount of the inherited wealth. The public van having been stolen never to be found. Her shop having been broken into repeatedly the thieves helping themselves to half drunk sodas and one bite of loaves and pouring flour on the floor as if to mock us. In the contrary they should have ferried the goods away and not to destroy it.

Her precious dairy cow having been hit on the neck with a blunt object and blood clotting and eventually dying.

Our house broken into a few weeks after burying our father and the robbers threatening to lynch her by pouring kerosene on her.

Our larger family relatives from my dads side distancing themselves as far as they thought we were a bad omen. And cursed and our fate one. Death. None visited, none consoled with us save from our grandfather who I later came to know was a step dad to my father. Making it more complicated.

Mom, moving from mislead to mislead. Crossing borders and terrains in such of her disappearing wealth while it was underneath her nose. Spending nights and days away from home unaware it was all futile. She went to Mwanza in Tz the furthest I remember she told me. When she came back, she found a scalded kid. This kid here had scalded his left foot with boiling tea under unclear circumstances.

Every day her back broke. Every move she made came back against her. All the balls she hit the wall with smashed on her face. It was horrible.

She went and came back with old gaily dressed men with paraphernalia to cast away the supposed bad omen. They did their magic and added more misery.

She lost Jose Mutie. The kid she was heavy with at our dads death.

I watched with despair. Bigger got depressed further. He drunk himself to a pittance. He smoked bang and cigars with abandon. He talked back to mom and mom talked back to him throwing profanities. It was chaotic. The amount of insults and bad words thrown across was sickening. They stung me like a gimlet upon flesh.

I tucked in my room on the far right trying to fill wax into my ears. Helpless. It broke the man I wanted to be. It smashed my boyhood. I wanted a functional family. A family that stayed together prayed together and laughed together. The one I had was a mental hospice.

It broke me into pieces. There was no ambition there was no humanity. Just bodies walking around like zombies none talking to each other. None going to church or inviting a man of god to pray for us. Only men from deep anals of misery walked in and left more misery.

Death was not done with us. Two were down and shortly after my most beloved sister Winnie, went down. Misery added to misery. My family was split in the middle.

I got depressed and scared. I was certain we were all going to die. It was just a matter of time. We were branded as that family where death sleeps and wakes up. Where people would not be shaken to hear of another dead body. Where our far living relatives waited for a member and most likely Bigger to bring news of a dead person.

However I didn’t lose all hope. I was clinging to something unknown. Maybe the only remnant and believer of hope still lingering around inspite of all this.

I chased school. And college. Hard enough that I was determined to change the narrative of my family. And while at it, one night the call came through that mommy was dead.

The following Sunday I stood at the pulpit to thank those who supported me during the mourning period of my mom and told them. It is quite hard to lose 4 members of your family in seven years. Life would never be the same. It is so hard to take this in. I dont know what I will do. I am afraid than ever before I would be the next victim.

Fortunately, death woke up, packed its belongings and left with mom. Never to be seen again in my small family.

Bigger sombered up. He knew shit was becoming real. He had informally married. His wife came with a small baby girl and she was heavy with his daughter. Two years later she became heavy again and bore a son. And then disappeared the same way she has appeared leaving a trail of four kids. The last having been born of another man. Total madness.

Bigger deteriorated at an alarming speed. So fast that I kicked him from our family home and erected a structure for him far away. I wanted a peaceful homestead regardless of the missing humanity.

I got it then its desolation scared me.

Bigger would come to disrupt the peace and more often than not I would wrestle him to the ground. He threw profanities to my deaf ears while standing kilometers away. He drew arrows from a bow sure enough he wouldnt let them loose.

He knew he was my brother. He couldnt live up to being a big brother and that haunted him. He hid under depression and all kind of threats. He drew pity and got zero chills. He was and still is a man I have tried helping. A man I have given a mantalk but he is the Bigger of former self.

He has failed to quit the bottle. He has failed to raise a family. His family is dispersed. His former wife’s whereabouts unknown for the last eight years. He is a failing man. The man who was supposed to be my hero, I am the guardian to his children. His children laugh at him. He hasn’t lived up to be a father. I have told him he betrayed me. I feel betrayed by him. But still he is my only brother. I have none other.

@nate 2019

This story is not good until another one is told 

 

Last night your mom died

 

IMG_20190216_001820

God created the world. And then my mother died.

She slept with unaccomplished dreams that bordered on raw ambition. She slept and all those dreams, all that hard work in raising a family, -alone, all that hope she instilled in us was covered by six tonnes of soil.

No matter how much I may want to ignore this week every February for the last 13 years, it always hits me that mom should have been here if a time machine existed.

My mother’s demise makes me question existence and whether there is an importance to it. Whether really life matters. Whether there was need to be born if in turn I was to grieve so much for flesh that balanced on born and carried a soul, as a certain writer puts it.

I hate to imagine that my kids would have to undergo the same grief for years on end if their mother goes before them. I hate to imagine my kids grieving and again question my very decision to sir them.

There’s that region in our souls our mothers occupy. Your mother could be that hawk-eyed hawker playing grab and run against county enforcement officers  in the CBD who hawks fruits or sells innerwears, part of which keep falling with each run, but she’s still your mother. I would trade anything to have her hawk withered oranges along Tom Mboya street than to have her dead.

I would trade shit to have her hawk avocados on a wheelbarrow at the drop off stage than have her dead. It is that serious.

Mothers hold a special place in our hearts and that is undoubted. It could be because of the milk we suckled from their breasts for months on end without being told or taught how to suckle. The only true evidence of our DNA. Our fathers DNA only made ours that night after the coitus. The rest was left to mothers.

I watched my daughter begin suckling when she was barely a few hours old and I couldn’t help but wonder what she had been learning inside the amniotic sac. Who taught the little thing how to put a nipple in its mouth and suckle? That could be the reason we always weep for our mothers longer than we will weep for our fathers.

Mothers will always be there to cook for us. To wash us. To reprimand us and spank our asses while we curse but we will still call her mom the following day. If our dads did that to us we will refer to them as that man who beats me. That man who enters the door and peace exits. But mommy will always be mommy even if she refers to us as dogs. Or cows. We are her dogs and cows.

Our mommy will always be there when we are incapacitated and we can’t do shit for ourselves and our spouses and siblings have shot through the window.

Mommy will always be there to hustle for you a job by talking to a friend who knows a friend who has a connection in a big company. Mommy will appear for the job for you and the picture on her face will land you a job your papers notwithstanding.

Mommy will be there at the hospital queue because she knows a nurse who she goes to chama together who will cut queue for you and be treated faster that you came.

Mommy will be there to protect you against prying relatives hell bend to witch you because you are a bright kid and your relatives want you dead. She will tell you not to eat in so and so’s house without giving you reasons. Because a mother’s intuition is stronger than the concrete pillars holding the Prism towers in shape.

Mommy will be too tired to wipe your clogged eyes and your food stained mouth with water and use spit to have the dirt wiped.

Mommy will wake up early in the morning while you are snoring and doning a morning erection to milk the cows, wash your piss dirty clothes and make breakfast for you. She will burst into your room and shout at you pulling the blanket away saying,

‘Wake up or go and look for your own place to sleep as much as you want!’

She will take you to school on the first day, talk to the teacher while she crosses her hands on her buttocks while staring at you and the teacher. Because she’s your mommy and your mommy wants the teacher to take care of you as she does.

One day she will be summoned to school because you were caught puffing weed behind the toilets and she will plead with the teacher to have you back to class after threatening you with dire consequences. Which are just that. Threats. And because when mama pleads, every living thing bows, you will escape lucky.

Back at home mommy will be busy weeding, harvesting or winnowing grains. During the evening, mommy will be so enterprising and will boil maize and beans and sell by the roadside. Customers will call her ‘mathee wa Githeri’ ama mama shiko. Hungry young men will cry over her generous portions and mommy will be generous enough to add them half a cup of githeri. Because she’s a mom and she has children who are boys.

Mommy will be in five chamas. A chama a day for all her life. She will save her proceeds in these chamas and the day you are about to go to school you will ask her about the school fees and she will talk about the chama lending her. You will not understand why but it is the chamas that have kept you in school. And fed.

She will give you two hundred bob for your pocket which won’t be enough but you can’t tell her. Because you know two hundred bob is her daily profits from selling a sufuria full of Githeri which in most she doesn’t finish selling.

Then one day, that woman you have called mommy from the day you knew her will be taken ill. You will be in school or college or working. You will have talked to her at length the previous night and promised her you will come home at the end of the month.

She is too ill and people around her are busy helping her fight for her life to call you.

You will be having a relative uneasiness that night. You will go to bed a few minutes past midnight. You will toss and turn in bed. You will pull the blinds and it will be pitch dark. The atmosphere will be still and there will be an unnecessary calmness. A cricket will squeak from a distance. A slow passing zephyr will blow the trees eastwards and disappear. Your mother will be dying.

Then the call will come. Last night your mommy died!

And with her death your world will crumble. It will take years for you to put it back together.

For my mom who died on 12th Feb 2006. Continue resting in peace in our hearts. 

@nathan 2019

A tale is good until another one is told.

 

I want to come back

IMG_20190211_085756-01.jpeg

What do you whisper to your subconscious when you leave your house in the morning? In my case I say, to no one, to no deity in particular, ‘I want to come back home to my kids.’

It is on this background I write this essay. It is a few minutes to 5 am. The apartment is deathly quite. My dark bedroom is vaguely illuminated by the back light of my phone which I am using to write. I would have wanted to write on my computer but I do not want to stir a hair trying to reach for it.

Then, I hear a slight movement. There is a person, two, who are walking down the stairs to the parking lot. I can tell they are two because I can hear their distant murmurs. I can tell one of them is a lady because of the sound of her high heels. A car door sound goes off. It revs. And hoots.

I should be going on with my writing but there’s something out there that can’t let me focus.

The guard is fast asleep. That hoot was meant to startle him. Another hoot and the lady goes ballistic. Ballistic because there’s a car that is blocking their way and they are traveling to God knows where and the guard didn’t record the car owner’s house or his contacts. I know it is not my car because I parked mine where nobody was blocked. Nevertheless I move the blinds with my toe and try to see maybe it is my car that parked too close and she can’t access the passenger door. It is in the cause of this altercation I register their urgency to leave.

Then back to my writing.

I ask myself whether their subconscious spoke to them or they spoke to it. The answer is obvious. Because if it did, they wouldn’t be shouting at a sleepy guard who was probably dreaming of being a CEO of a top security company. I don’t hear them leave but what follows is a characteristic silence of the calm after a storm. 

It takes me aback. 

A couple of days ago while driving from class to call off the day at the shop at a speed of about 60kmh along the smooth highway, the driver in front stepped on the 5kg iron spring rod in the picture motioning it upward and backward shattering the windscreen of my car landing on the foot rest of the passenger seat. I saw the car infront step on something and a slight stumble and the next thing I was staring at was a cracking windscreen and an uninvited guest in my car. Well, I may not proclaim my belief but even non believers would shout or yell or scream the word God. Then followed by the F word. Hundreds of them. 

I hooted at the driver knowing very well that was not his fault. He stopped. We talked and he couldnt come around the fact that he stepped on the metal rod. He couldn’t imagine how. Formalities followed after while that MF iron rod lay on my car like a very important guest. Unaware it would cost a man his life, two kids of their dad and well a lady his first husband. 

I was so angered by the damage as compared to the life I was still clutching on. If only that 5kg rod of iron hit the side I sat and drove from, well, this post would have never seen the world. It would have never been told. 

My kids would have lived a life I dread most. A life I lived through my teenage years. A life of being without a dad. A life of pure destitution in spite of affording a meal, a roof and rags to hide our outward nakedness. Our inner most naked to the marrow. The pitiful and judgemental eyes of the world preying at you. Perhaps wondering whether you will turn out to be human beings of substance or you will forever remain a statistic and a societal burden. And regret why you were born. And possibly sue your surviving parent of giving birth to you. 

Well, It is not a guarantee once we step out of the doors of our houses we will return. It could be the last. And this is the reason I always want to leave my house at peace. I want to leave all my inadequacies behind. I want to leave all my anger and my spouses shortcomings in that house. I don’t want them to follow me. Because they might follow me to the grave, well I wouldn’t know though or be able to mind. 

About a month ago, twenty one men and women left their houses for the last time. They never knew they wouldn’t return to the warmth of their spouses and the soft kisses of their kids. They never knew they will have an orgasm ever again. They never knew that was the day their dreams were to be buried in broad daylight while their kids played, slept or rode school busses from school. They didn’t know that, that unresolved altercation with their siblings will go down unresolved. That their secrets will remain that secrets. Then, a few equal men, brought that to a reality by pulling the lever of a weapon using their index finger. It so absurd how something small like a finger can end a life. It only needs to press the right button. 

It is in the backdrop of these events that I wish that couple that was shouting at the innocent guard for his shortcoming will have a safe travel and  return to their family if they have one. 

The irony of it is that the said guard is at a construction site eking a living to supplement his guard wages while telling his workmates of how he was startled from his slumber by a mouthy couple while he cursed at their rebuke. 

The apartment has now woken. Car alarms are being switched off. Kids are getting ready for school and my alarm has gone off. 

I want to come back and read this article. 

@nathan 2019

This story is as good until another one is told. 

 

 

 

 

IF ONLY……….

ifonly

Perhaps we all wish at some point our lives could have been less miserable, much better. But life was not to, is not meant to, and will never be easy.

In my most recent, I have been reading a lot of philosophy which has in constantly influenced my line of thought. I have watched and listened philosophical videos on the tube. I have had an inclination to philosophy, a subject most of us will pass.

Frederic Nieztscher has won my admiration. Plato, Aristotle, Baruch Spinoza, Emmanuel Kunt and a lot more have towed the line.

But it is Nieztscher (‘Knee-cha’) who, at this point, because some time he may be overtaken, takes the mantle.

Particularly in his ideas of Amor Fati, (love of fate), Uber mensch (super human) Selsturberwindug (Self-Overcoming), God is dead and his books Ecce Homo (beyond the man), Thus spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, Human all too human among others.

This narrative and its title is influenced by Nieztscher as taken from the narrative in amor fati.

Earlier this year, well, it is still early, I was certain that I would book my son a slot in my alma-mater primary school by virtue of being so. But I was wrong. I didn’t. I tried and pleaded pretentious helplessly and instead I was referred and given options. I wanted the kid to learn in a large school where kids fight for their place in the merit. A place where their will to do well in school is self taught rather than fed. Where two extremes meet- the lowest of society and the most privileged. Where no school bus would pick and drop him. A place far away from home that will harden him from the softness he has accumulated from urban life. A school where he is not a client but a student. He didn’t get the chance and had to continue with his former school. He is doing rather well.

If only….I had known when the interviews were being conducted this part of the narrative could not have been written.

In just about three weeks I have sought things to keep me busy. That means I have been idle with abandon. I have tried to seek part time jobs here and there. I have done some in record time but I have been idle.  If only…. I was well connected I wouldn’t  find time to write this narrative for I would be busy chasing deadlines and targets.

If only….I had sought a government job earlier which I was certain to get at some point this part of the story would never have been told.

Then in my idleness and the mouse in my right hand, I did what I do best with it, I clicked sites and type resumes and attached docs and clicked sent. And clicked, ‘apply for this course’. And that is how I applied and got admitted for my post grad degree in project planning and management, a course I don’t know what I will do with.

Clicked a new tab and watched reality shows with abandon. Downloaded music of all genres and ethnicity and transfered it to my phone and still had 8gb of memory unused. Luckily the devil was asleep.

That’s how miserable life can at times be. At some point I suffered bouts of madness. I was literally going bongus. Because I would laugh like a lunatic and when someone sought to find out what made me laugh, they didn’t twitch a nerve (hehe). You see?

If only….I used the time I have now more constructively I wouldn’t regret it in my later life. This is a scary statement which forms part of my regression.

I have written and composed magnificent phrases and pushed brilliant ideas through my dura membrane. I have solved worldy problems such as the mosquito menace, used its sound to form soundtracks. But only in my head. I was literally descending south . If only…. I had found the strength to put it down on paper, who knows?

I have found reading horrid. I hardly read a page to the footnote. I read a blogpost half way. I peruse the newspaper for the pictures. Then, strangely, stop long at the obituary section and read through where the person pictured worked then move to the next. Subconsciously looking for where I can work. Unfortunately none has matched where I would prefer to work.

Wueeh, in my maddest moment I have driven to TSC hq straight to the staffing department and asked them why I can’t get a job where I want to work and I have been dismissed like the madman I have become. On my way down the staircase I contemplated stripping to the toe and run through all the floors to the commissioners office and ask that commissioner, who used to deposit loads of  posting and transfer bribery and per diem cash at my till why he can’t find me a job. For a fact of it, I have called him on his personal mobile and asked him to use his position and get me a posting but he has retorted with 7 no, no, no, no, no, no, no,….I can’t help. A couple of weeks ago he had walked into my stall with two packs of unused airtime of about 10k to exchange it for cash. I gave him 8k clean and hoped he will step up when I called upon him. He is among the things making me  insane. If only…..I had been confident to chide him about his meanness.

The misus doesn’t excite me as I would have wanted. Well, it’s a decade and now everyone has fallen back to their default setting. We don’t converse much. Just the necessities of token zimebaki mbili, I grow mad. Hii chakula haujapika poa, she grows insane. If only I had been more confident with some women…

The kids. Well, these ones are the backbone. The boy’s IQ is increasingly growing by the day. I regret telling him some things. Over the holiday while fencing the compound in shags just past where my dad is buried, he asked me standing on the grave,

‘What lays beneath this mound?’

I told him the evidence of the vanity of life.

He asked what vanity is.

I told him that beneath that mound of red soil is the man who I called dad.

He asked me if he died.

I tell him, ‘yes.’

‘Why did he die?’ he went on.

I tell him cardiac failure.

He asks me, ‘did you cry?’

I tell him a lot.

He keeps quiet and spins his old tyre away perhaps wondering why a man he has called dad and who has been his pillar cried when his father died.

Then he comes back after a couple of minutes and asks again,

‘Did you cry a lot?’

I send him away with, ‘Sitaki hizo maswali!’

He spins his old tyre off.

A couple of minutes later, he comes back with a slice of bread dangling from his mouth,

‘Dad pia wewe ukikufa nitalia lakini sio sana’.

He takes off in perpertuity.

If only I had wished that conversation away I wouldn’t be running mad.

The girl, man, her Afro Kinky hair is out of this world. I hate that she is a girl and she will have to undergo all that crap of being a girl, a lady, a mother  and later a grandmother. I sulk at the boys who will play with her emotions and her physique.

I shudder at the thought she will be someone’s girlfriend, wife, or even mpango wa kando. I tremble at the thought of her first menstrual. And the thought of her going through child birth or even having an incompetent cervix like her mother. I grow mad at the thought of her being referred to as a witch or bitch by a digruntled man like it is prevalent in this sites.

Men, catcalling her for her round ass, beautiful face and short dresses and I being the dad with little or nothing to do about it. At her best I picture her as that accomplished diva. A woman of substance in charge of men and shit. Atleast my madness recedes.

Then in my worst I become an anti-nihilist. The case of not being born. If only I hadn’t been born but that now I was, did I have to sire?

I sum up this rant, in the words of a letter from Nieztscher after he retired into his wooden chale in Salsmaria, to a friend where he says, I am in the mood of fatalistic surrender to God, I call it amor fati.

@nathan 2019

This narrative is as good until another one is told. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junction Hotel

December 23rd, 2015

IMG_20181223_075906

Let me take this earliest opportunity to wish us all happy holidays. Merry Christmas. Enjoy the read. 

A couple of weeks ago, my friends and I, found ourselves in a profound nondescript institute for our residential classes.

We chose in our old age that, that pipe dream of acquiring a university education was not lost. The university as well gave us the opportunity to at last hang a portrait of our graduation day on the walls of our houses. Or better as a portrait in the obituaries page of the newspaper someday.

The institute is the now infamous Railway Training institute. When I received the text asking us to report there, I felt screwed up. Reason, that place is damn far from my digs. And I, D.B. Cooper Sr. cannot fathom the fact that I would board away from home. Not with my ego.

Having become a celebrity because of being in the most influential leadership position that of the Sec Gen, or maybe my skin colour, (these friends are racists) everyone wanted to know whether I would board. They kept asking me about it and the fact that they saw me at the institute a day before the classes began, made it a bit whimsical.

I had gone there to know the place while dropping a friend who came from a deep rustic abode in Kanyamkago. Of course a lady.

Being a celebrity leader is shit. You have to sort all sorts of problems and answer all questions regardless. Like being asked who made that girl pregnant. And does so and so still live with the wife. I have not paid my exam fee to can you register me online through your connections?

These people really got to my nerves. And so most of the ladies who met me around that evening wondered and perhaps got aroused that I was around. They would keep asking me if I was boarding and I would answer to the affirmative followed by the statement –

“The two of us, I have booked two beds, one for me and one for my ego.” I would say.

They would smack. Then giggle because that made them happy and maybe horny. A few believed, most didn’t but when they saw me at the food queue the same evening, they argued among themselves.

The food queue and how I made it there. Another friend who was flying from coast and had missed the bus had asked me to pay for her accommodation. She did send the money and I did paid. On paying I was handed an ATM like thing which was swiped at meal time. That was new.

I  asked the agent on the other side, an old man who had refused to retire and go back to the village and farm and die, what happens if the card hangs or is swallowed. He picked ‘my’ card tilted the tft and showed me what happens when it is slid on the POS. Or rather POF. (F for food). If the bearer of the card hasn’t taken a meal, it reads, “Student allowed to eat.” If he has, it reads,” student has already eaten, Call 911 in case of a double (pun).

So I took the meal for that night and Mama Kamau my grocery vendor back in my digs, was shocked when I passed her Kibanda that evening without saluting her in my broken gikuyu.

A whiff of old age struck me like the rare thin cold breeze. Old colonial rustic buildings roofed with breaking fungi infested asbestos. Squeaking doors and broken window panes hanging on one hinge marked the rooms. Scathed floors with peeling pvc, dusty, bulking chalkboards, saggy perforated ceiling hanged menacingly. The only decent thing were the student chairs. Surprisingly the wifi was very strong and open.

Inside the halls, the walls were briddled with mementos. Written by deeply depressed and stressed students. There is one that featured in all the boys places. “Black Albinos.” I left the place without knowing what that meant. Maybe it was their rugby team.

Then this one struck me like a thunder bolt written just above the tiles of the boys. “Stop frowning because you are holding your future in your own hands.” When I looked at what I was holding, well, it was a pitiful sight.

Later, I asked the receptionist through the pinhole now that the place was called Railway Training Institute, is it the place where train drivers and conductors are trained and whether, now that we only have one train in Kenya, the graduates ever secured a job. He frowned at my ignoramity and told me they also train other courses. It took me a while before I knew what ‘other courses’ meant.

I walked my friend to the hostels which were kilometers away. We almost gave up looking for them. Everyone we asked pointed to ‘that’ direction. We had to leave her luggage which seemed to drag her hopes under a tree. We felt so foolish when a few meters away we saw the hostels.

This place is famed for bedbugs. In the hostels though. I was looking forward to meeting those poor strong parasites that live for upto to three years, that suck us our dignity.

The last time I had seen a bedbug, was at our rural market; and only because it was the result of a brawl. Yes, a brawl because of a bedbug! It was, I don’t know whether it still is said, that when you happen to see a bedbug or a louse crawling on somebody’s back, don’t tell them or attempt to remove it unless the parasites are two! Yes, two. See one bedbug on my back, leave it alone, otherwise you will tell me how on earth can I have one bedbug on my back unless you are the one who came with it. See two, tell me and we are acquintances. Village myth is a load of bs. So two women were throwing blows at each other and the referee, another woman was holding the poor bedbug, as exhibit. I happened to see it then. Last.

We dragged the luggage to her room and she sat on a meshed bed making it squeak with complain. I sat opposite on a spring bed which made me nostalgic of college days. I think I heard some footsteps like a stampede. Then the thought of bedbugs freshened up in me and I was sure those must be the badass old bedbugs. They must have been starved to the bone since the place looked like it had seen occupants ages ago. I thought rather absurdly that the stampede was out of fear or a terrorist scare. That the bedbugs ran into a corner and started peeping  and eavesdropping at us. They perhaps conversed among themselves saying and warning each other.

“Look at that chap there, bug, he’s so brown,” they would say in terror.

“He looks like my skin, seems a good catch here,” they would joke.

“Eh but his head can suffocate you bug if he turns in his sleep and lands on you crawling on his bed. We gotta be careful bug!” the slim one would say.

“And that mama there, she’s so fleshy ,” another would quip.

“That one is mine, no! she’s mine!” they must have argued.

“At least we can have an early Christmas,” they said in unison breaking into a bug belly dance.

Men and women swam in in swams the following day. Desperation embedded on the faces and hope clutched beneath  their armpits. Men whose faces were wrinkled from chasing Sacco loans to pay for an education that they would not put if full use marched across the pavements in haste.

Here men and women do not come for education. They come for papers that would see them climb the social strata. They don’t care about first class degree or second class upper. They care for that piece of ivory paper that will earn them a decent salary and status in their society. And a portrait for their walls to inspire their offsprings.

The only person who does not care about upgrading or decent salary is the person writing this piece. He’s street and street does not ask for papers. It demands shrewdity.

As I walked across the well manicured lawns of this institute, I could not help but notice something awkward. A name tag. At the base of a recently planted tree. The soil was still fresh. Those trees that are planted to commemorate corporate visits by corporate leaders. It was planted by Ashad Meralli. You know him, right? Ashad planted a tree here to make this clear. Had he come here with a new idea that trains can use tyres? Or was he attracted by the vast land and maybe thought he could cut a deal and have a share as a private developer now that his factory is across the road in 22 jump street? What on earth brought Ashad here? Any way that’s none of my business.

I was startled from my thoughts by a skinny kuyu guy friend of mine. I knew he had something in store for me. I expected it especially with all the railway scrap metal that was strewn all over the lawns. He is a funny, witty young man who interacts on an add value basis.

Pointing at the direction of a rusty old cabin, he told me what he thought. That the person who unhooked that cabin from the engine the last time thought that he would hook it up the following day unaware of the twists of fate. That was powerful.

It’s like closing an office door in the evening hoping that you will open it again the following day. Only for that door to remain closed forever.

People think.

Later that day while we were walking to class he pointed at another cabin and his mind fell on the gutter saying he imagined, with the libido of teens, how many sexual escapades took place there.

Lunch was a test that was passed by a few. We had a choice of either to eat fries at a tiny mall adjacent to the institute or the inside café which had no seats or in the shacks in the adjacent slum of Mukuru.

I preferred the latter.

I wanted to test my ego. I knew it would be hard. So we walked through the slum stopping for naked and barefooted children to pass while jumping sewer trenches which is characteristic of slim life in the drill called leap, hop and jump.

A few stopped and stared at us like we were zungus from an NGO in America. Perhaps I caught the attraction. They only stopped following us after they had me answer a call in forced Kuyu.

We bundled ourselves in a small iron sheet built hotel named Junction Hotel (photo credit). The owner a plus size woman, whom I registered to be a Kao, welcomed us and I read desperation and how hopeless the slum life must have rendered her. I couldn’t look at her for a second time because pity would pile up and perhaps my judgment would be wrong.

She needed us as her only option to eke a living as  much as we had options. I thought of slum life and its cruelty. I know it because I once worked in a slum. I thought of her effort and struggle to make a living. And the small hotel she strived to keep in shape. And her sympathetic inquisition on what one will have.

I took a seat immediately and ordered for chapos and a mixture. A mixture here is made of green grams, beans, cabbages and sukuma wiki. And some slim stew with patches of floating oil.

The mixture was served in plastic plates that have been beaten by the sun, soap, scrubber and spoon while the chaos were handed to us wrapped in a hard paper. I hate beans for their flatulence influence but I struggled through the meal.

All this while my ego bulged in my pockets and I, restraining it there. As we gobbled the meal and pushed the ensembled globus down our oesophguses, I took an eye stroll around the dingy and felt it.

Electricity cables hang precariously across the room into a bulbless soot laden holder. The iron sheet walls were sunbaked and inturn baked us from inside. With the feeding activity alongside, streams of sweat were seen flowing down our temples.

All along, she stared at us as we mumbled academic stuff with food in mouth paying little attention to her. For once I couldn’t read her thoughts. I read those of her atmosphere. And they were hers.

The following day I dragged another friend of mine who I knew his pride was larger than his paunch. I knew he wouldn’t take a meal there.

We walked through the slum alleys  while I engaged him. He kept mumbling to himself while throwing his eyes side from side trying to approve his ego. When we stopped at the junction hotel and I told him this is the place, I saw him sneer and cringe with disgust.

He looked at the dirty water flowing on a shallow trench just outside the hotel and turned to me and asked,

“This is the place you are so faming?” “Did you see that wora”? “I better take milk, ” he cried.

And with that he left. I saw that woman look at him leave. And desperately, she asked me why he had left and I couldn’t answer. What on earth could I answer her? That day I took my meal while standing. The place was spilling full. Credit to the soft chapos and the lowest cost. Slum cost.

While leaving for my digs using the public transport on the first day and spending more hours than the time I spent in a lecture, I decided I was born a Kao and I have to be one.

The remaining seven days saw me and that Kao friend of mine from my village walk from South B to town using the characteristic slang of novaa. It’s just here. And here, to us, is longer than you can imagine.

Walking.

Adios!

This story appeared on my Facebook wall three years ago a date like this. 

Timelessness

IMG_20181219_102849

It’s a wrap. 2018 is gone. Gone, gone forever like the dead. It will never happen again even in the mythical afterlife. But imagine if we lived timelessly? If time was not calibrated in numbers? We would be freer with more urgency unlike now. We would be more effective than we are now. We always give dates and deadlines because we have time. We are prisoners of time. Slaves to, and time is the master slave holder.

Surprisingly, to me, it stopped to matter. A lot. Once during the Diwali I read that to the Hindus, 2018 is their 2047 year and to the Jews it is year 5779. You see, to the Jews the length of the day doesn’t matter. What matters to them is that there was daylight and there was darkness. Which means to them any time is time as long as it is practically possible. This further goes to tell us, prisoners of the Roman calendar, that we will always fall short of the Jews because we have limited ourselves.

But how do I live with that? I can’t change a tad a culture but I, we, can re-invent a culture but only if you share the same view. I don’t live no less like a cast out slave. But I strive to live free. Free from timings and free from other people’s thoughts. I want to cook my supper at 2 am and my breakfast at 4pm. I want to go to date at 6am and sleep at 1pm. But can I? It remains to be a far fetched mundane and retrogressive idea. It can’t happen.

I fear time. Because time is uncertain and uncertainty is where fear is brewed. You are not certain of your next meal or your next day health. Your next year peace of mind and your job when you are 59 years old and can’t show shit for it. Well because we thought we had the time but time had us for a short while.

That’s sounds intellectual but you shouldn’t expect anything less from a First class honors graduate. Whether for the show off or for the conflicted self it will depend on how far and deep you can push your thoughts.

But here is how, well, I bow down to necessity, 2018 limited me. In a fabled order.

1. A girl was born to my name.

Jade is her name. We had not discussed her name with her mother but somewhere within ourselves we wanted her name to begin with J like her brother’s. On the second day while she suckled and the hospital registrar was doing rounds, she looked at me and asked me her name. Before I said what I had in mind she told me it has to begin with J. So I said Jade. She was impressed. Jade who? She went on. Wanjiku, I saw her face change but I stuck to it until she calmed. So Jade Wanjiku, my beloved daughter, beloved of my mother, the green jewel, a beautiful lass of no measure, was extracted while I drove a borrowed car to the hospital at 6pm May 1st. She looked frail, pink and delicate in the warmer. The scans had told me it were to be a girl and I expected no surprise. She was born with abnormally long curly hair unlike the kid who slept on her opposite. She was booked in the nursery immediately to monitor her blood compatibility with her mother who is Rh positive, a biological condition responsible for barrenness and perpetual still births, and observe for jaundice. The lass with a long delicate hair turned out very fine. And on the third day we walked home. She hadn’t opened her eyes as yet and two weeks later, I consulted Dr Google when her mother became terribly worrisome. Google assured me and like magic she began opening her eyes gradually.

Her brother, revolted. Became moody at school and pretended to be just fine. He refused to move from my bedroom for one month and then one night, he moved with a ‘Goodnight dad’, and a kiss on his sister’s lips, perhaps whispering to her, ‘it’ s your time little bitch’, without being coerced to. He has since kept it that way. Though sometimes he falls for nostalgia and sneaks into the bedroom early morning when there’s no school.

The girl wasn’t as beautiful as I anticipated. New borns look horrible. They resemble an intestinal vomitted lump of meat. They are so tiny the size of a palm. They look like they have been bathed in bleach and their loose skin feels like wet paper.

You should see her now. She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Kwanza when she sleeps! Man, another will need all there is in the world to ask me for her hand in marriage.

I love her cry such that sometimes I irritate her to cry. How vulnerable she feels and how she lowers her lower lip and folds her face to summon a cry when she’s terrified. Just like my mother’s lower lip. I love her shock smile when I open the door an hour to midnight and the giggles and smile until I grab her, throw her up and kiss her. She smells edible. Something you can ask for a warm chapati and eat with her as stew.

I don’t think she knows me. Or she remembers me immediately after the pleasantries. Kids don’t know neither do they make a connection as to who their real folks are until they are way older at about 5 years. This explains why those who got separated from their parents within the first 5 years can’t really tell who their real parents are. She will know me eventually. My wish is to walk her down the aisle to a man who I will have told that my daughter can’t be equated with cows, goats and cash but by honor and respect. And that he should take those cows where they belong. In the slaughter house.

2. Jabez turned six and graduated from PP.

I always click the top left menu on Facebook and scroll down to  ‘memories’ . There is this particular one I wrote after we lost the first two pregnancies to an incompetent cervix. I said, ‘my eyes well when I stumble upon tiny stuff in the bedroom when I can show nothing for it’ . Today those tiny things(clothes) are hundred fold and I have two kids to show for it. It is the best feeling ever.

If you look straight in my eyes you can’t tell the feeling. It is deep within my soul where it lies and consoles me with, ‘it is well with my soul’ .

Jabez has been growing outstandingly intelligent. He is not the best kid in his class but I wasn’t until now. He has a resolute obsession with excellence and he hates being wrong. After we finish his homework he asks me if he will wrong either of the sentences or sums. When I pick him from school, he whispers to me that he was not able to write the dictated words, ‘umbrella’  ‘draw’ and ‘sheep’ but that he got the rest. It rubs him the wrong way to wrong. He believes he shouldn’t. I have tried to tell him he can’t always be right but he doesn’t get that consolation.

At the shop, where I am a full time shopkeeper, he has mastered the value of money and quantity. He reads the g in 200g as grams and I am shocked how he knew that. He weighs stuff on the scale and is always alert when a customer shows up and my mind is wandering.

He has eventually loved his sister. One night he told me he won’t wish me a goodnight because I didn’t bring any present for Jade. Another day, we were walking in Eastleigh clothing section when I bought for him a nice hood and sports shoes, he immediately asked me what I am buying for Jade. I bargained for a sweater for the girl and when we couldn’t agree with the seller and began that false move, Jabez asked me why I didn’t buy it for his sister. I went back and bought the sweater regardless.

He is kid as of now and what I would wish is that he will never develop bad blood with the sister and or any other that may come. That he and his  sister will live within their being blood siblings and that their personalities will not reign supreme. That, as in, categorical imperative, they will see each other as ends in themselves and not just mere means. That he will be his sister’s wingman and he won’t tire. That his sister will save his number as Best Big Bro and put a love emoji at the end. Like wise he will have his sisters number as Little Cute Sister ❤️❤️. And that their love will be a sibling love.

Dad and mom will be watching.

3. I graduated with a First Class Honors raising and setting the bar too high that I will judged with the achievement.

In the year 2015, I met Nderere along the corridors of the University of Nairobi. He was my student in a primary school I taught in 2007. He was finishing his undergraduate Bcom while I, his one time teacher was starting my undergraduate. Two semesters later he graduated. I never got to see him again.

I met John Waweru too, the best kid in akina Nderere’s class. He came from a very large piss poor akorino family. He has over ten siblings. He was doing architecture. We graduated on the same day. When I told him I got a First Class he was so elated.

In 2014, however vague my memory is, I see quite a number of new admissions who never saw the graduation day. They dropped somewhere along the way for lack of fees and other reasons. Some passed on along the way. Some who were even way older than I dropped somewhere in between. There’s also a number of them who managed to see the end of the course after playing hide and seek with the school administration but are yet to graduate. Some will graduate tomorrow. Some don’t know when. But they will. This is the reason I fault time. The reason I want to be timeless.

Waweru and Nderere were 13 years old when I last taught them. I was 24. Nderere graduated before I understood how the campus worked. Waweru, a very enterprising boy who had started his own consultancy firm, graduated with his one time primary school teacher!

Coming out with a First Class made so many of my past and present friends awe with amazement and highly regard me. Everyone wanted to be associated with me. They couldn’t believe it much like I couldn’t. They all committed to attend my grad party. Those who never did, apologized and offered me drinks. My acquaintance, Bikozulu, was completely blown off. We met over a drink where he would introduce me to everyone in the quiet bar as his friend who scored First Class in English and Literature. I could see some of his friends smack. Others embraced and ordered a double of glenlivet for me. When I stumbled out of my seat, a lass cried out, walk like you scored a First Class!

I met another group of acquaintances at a friend’s place and one asked me what I was going to do with my First Class degree. I said I don’t know. A lady who sat on my side whispered to me she couldn’t believe it too when I broke the news. She thought she read it wrong.

With my advanced age, 34, at the time of my undergraduate, those who I talked to about during my schooling period thought I was doing my PG. I actually told most of them so to slice the long story. So if you will read this story, and I told you I was doing a PG, I lied.

My family, to begin with the missus of 9 years, my big bro, my small sister, my aunts never understood what it is to have a First Class but most of my cousins did especially those who have been through university.

You see, this is a short chronology of my Ed history. I schooled in Tala Township from Nursery to class 8. I scored 507 out of 700 in the final exam. I was ranked 37 out of 256. If I was in another school I would have been the first. Back in the  village and two villages across and beyond I was by far the best. It’s only that I was in an extremely competitive school. That means the leading candidate had 611. There were two candidates below me with over 500 marks. They gave us the green Bible as appreciation.

I was called to Kangundo High school but I wanted Machakos school. I never accepted that school and in my fourth year, I was expelled for being among the delinquent group. It is in Kangundo high school where a bundle of us from the same primary were grouped in the same stream spelling the beginning of our fall. The closest I became to excelling at Kangundo High school was position 10 out of 187. I was paraded among the best 10. My father couldn’t understand my achievement. He died within the next term and with him my pride and determination to impress him was buried.

I left Kangundo High school for a private school in an attempt to rise from the ashes of shame. I didn’t. Our exam was canceled for malpractice and I had to resit it the following year. I came out with a C+. I was devastated. I wanted to go to University directly. My mother couldn’t understand it. I wanted to pursue IT. She didn’t have the money. She pleaded with me to join a TTC for Christ’s sake. I never wanted it but seeing her failing health, I took the gamble. It paid off. She died a term to completion of the course cuddling the dream of seeing one of his kids graduate. And with her burial my dream of a university education was buried too.

I got jobs here and there and at every interview when I was asked where I would want to be in the next 5 years, I talked about university student or graduate.

Then I left the classroom got into a business partnership, the first one flunked, the second one led me to a consistent income and I rose from the ashes, pursued that dream deferred and today I haven’t come around how I made it so excellently. I mean it is not everytime you get to meet a First Class graduate. Go on and count, if you have a handful then you must be one of them.

Soon I will muster up my courage and go for the post graduate. That we will all know. The good, is that it doesn’t matter whether I had a FCH or a SL, in Masters there’s no ranking.

The strangest thing, I also don’t understand how, is that at some point during the course I knew I would get a FCH. Most of my immediate classmates knew it too. They had lost hope with the university and it was my acing that renewed their hope with it. During the last plenary session, I read out what sounded like a valediction speech after we observed a moment of silence for a phenomenal comrade, George Mkimbo, who passed on the day before.

I leave this part with the surprise words of Biko. ‘I can’t imagine you sold gas, made babies, raised a family and scored a First Class! How did you do it? Congrats D.B.’ All the while I stared at him gleefully with nothing to say, like when people are singing happy birthday to you, what do you say?

4. The business is fine. It feed several families and makes sure kids go to school. I once told a complaining customer that every time she buys from us, atleast 10 kids are fed. She never complained again. I have met all types of personalities while trading. Once a certain customer insisted she uses a specific brand of cylinder and she can’t take an equivalent. A couple of years later she died of other causes. Her son sold the cylinder and the cooker to me. That is how vain humans can be.

I have soothed egos and humbled many with, especially my First Class. I posted on Fb, ‘The shopkeeper who scored a First Class in English and Literature’. With quite a number of my customers being friends on the social media platform, it is by far the only post that surpassed a hundred likes in my wall. Just a hundred😊.

5. I had a bumper harvest in as many seasons. The failing rains never failed me this time. They must have known it was my year of harvest the reason I have had mentioned it. Villagers back at home are scrambling to buy the harvest from me.

6. The first time I pledged my desire to write, I began, ‘writing is no easy task, it’s lonesome leave alone being gruesome. It doesn’t pay, if it does maybe after an eternity and maybe  by sheer luck. It’s not surprising that most of us that say they write have nothing to show for it. I resolved to be writing when there’s something invaluable I want to pass across, like what the  2016 Nobel Laureate for Literature, Kashuo Ishiguro says.

The post I did in Feb, A letter to my mother, was by far the one I loved the most. The introduction to, Hang Fe, was another part that most readers loved led by Simbili my European Literature and Black Aesthetics tutor.

I will write as long as it appeals to me and appeases you. Then I will write two books. My autobiography and a high school book on cracking ‘Style’ in literature. Once in a while I will write a blog here.

7. Two things are certain. Death and taxes. You have heard that. And so I lost my cousin whom we are named together, to neglect. He was such an honest guy who once stole my certificates to go and look for a job with them since we shared all most all names. He was so sorry for that but I laughed it off. At the morgue, I saw his brother run berserk and in the beautiful words of Seneca my favorite Philosopher, I rebuked him saying, ‘what need is there to weep over parts of life when all of it calls for tears‘. He cooled off.

8. Where do I see myself in the next five years? Well, I am timeless, I want to be remain so. I can be anywhere or anything because as I wrote in Amor Fati, I have fallen in love with fate.

Merry Christmas 🎄  and Happy Timelessness….2019

@nathan2018

This story is good until another one is told.

 

 

 

12 midnight

IMG_20181107_073308

What you see in that picture is an unfiltered picture of my shags living room.

I didn’t take the picture to brag about that chandelier, or the ceiling. I have done so because I have nothing else to do with the phone. I have read, The Moods of Ernest Hemingways, an article I saved from the New Yorker a dozen weeks ago. I have read all the reading links shared in a WhatsApp group, these:-

https://nypost.com/2017/08/15/vaginas-absolutely-need-sex-or-theyll-become-medically-depressed/, 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/30/well/move/peter-sagal-book-running-without-headphones.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

I have read other stories from another group titled escapades library.

It is a few minutes after midnight. I have changed my sitting position about half a dozen times. I have grabbed a sitting cushion from the couch on my left and used it as a headrest on one arm of the three seater couch.

I spent the day in the farm. We were sowing grains. Ahead of us was a tractor that was mauling the earth with might. It unearthed snakes, frogs, millipedes and displaced locusts. It slit a snake in two while I walked behind it. I jumped sky high at the sight dropping everything in hand. Another snake was unearthed from an anthill. We killed it with hoes and lumps of soil.

Everypart of my body aches. One because of riding the tractor and two because of holding a hoe longer than I have held it in sometime.

Here in this sitting room it is deathly silent. The TV automatically switched itself when I didn’t press any button on the remote within 60 seconds, I couldn’t anyway because I was reading about vaginas.

Normally when I am in shags, a nephew comes to keep me company. This house is huge. I have referred to it as humongous before. It has half a dozen rooms. It scares one by its mere size. With crickets having found their way in here and light beetles hitting the ceiling makes it scarier.

Outside, it is equally grave silent. The nearest home is two hundred meters away on the left. On the right is a massive coffee plantation with no end. On the Eastern side 200mtrs away is the main road. A motorbike occasionally zooms by. On the sunset side is another coffee plantation with mango trees whose shadows turn grotesque at night. So basically I am all alone in the middle of vast land. My nephew didn’t show up today because I came back late and he isn’t sure whether I went back to the city of zero chills because I don’t tell him when I’ll be heading back. I hardly tell people my movements because they, well, matter less. And I always want to be mysterious.

I rode a motorbike from the market after tipping the tractor driver who did a marvelous job. I was impressed. While riding the motorcycle, the rider told me about the latest happenings in and around the village.

My all time and most careful rider got knocked by a pickup truck fracturing his leg. I shudder at the news.

Did he have a pillion? I ask him.

Yes, a lady, he says.

What about her? I ask.

He pauses.

She was killed! He says calmly.

I’m dumbfounded as he goes on telling me who the lady was and that she sings in the choir. All this time my thoughts are doing a doddle in my head. I hate to imagine how that happened. I had rode my biker in the morning and now he is in a hospital bed one of his legs hanging like a pendulum in the ward ceiling.

Of the things that make this night horrible is that crash. The woman who has lost her life, her family and friends.

The men who drove that truck that hit the two and what is going through their minds. Could they be having peace while a family grieves and my guy moans in pain. It fills me with angst that they will be charged with careless driving and not murder. They will tow their truck to the garage have it repaired if at all it was broken which I doubt.

And my rider. Before I sat here I drew the curtains facing his home and his wife had not yet switched on the security lights. I sensed she was still in hospital consoling her husband.

I am tempted to go and draw the curtain again to check whether she has switched on the security lights.

My brother called me to find out whether I had gotten the bad news. He has said he will see me in the morning. He doesn’t know by the time he comes here I will be 54km away.

Another rider too called to inform me. He thinks I am in the city since we talked earlier in the day and I told him I was in the city.

Unlike in the city estates, here in the village everyone has the know about of every happenning. There’s always a person dead waiting to be buried who you know. Even if not in this village but in the sorrounding villages. There’s a social function happening every other weekend in this village or in the nearby villages. Every one knows every one in this village. When he is here and when he is not here. When he has stayed his welcome and what could be happening. You can’t hide in the village as easily as you can hide in the city. No matter how mysterious I may be, someone out there knows I am here.

In the city’s middle class rented apartments hardly anybody gives shit about your dealings, until you a seen with a a gipsy woman then the walls will suddenly have eyes. Your whereabouts, troubles and shit. It is a rough patch. In the city’s middle class you are on your own.

It might not be as bad as I say up there. I know there are socially upbeat estates especially the low class areas.

So what’s the point of writing this. As I said I am lacking sleep. It is almost 2 am. I had to write this now that my phone is not being called. I had to do this to experience that cathartic effect now that I feel disturbed by the sad news. And two that my son called and told me he isn’t feeling well and that he was jabbed.

I am also scared of the unknown in this house and it is only in writing after reading that I will be fine. I think.

Good morning.

@nathan.

One story is good until another one is told. 

 

 

 

Amor Fati- Love of fate

BP2O2094.jpg

Going to undergrad school aged twenty-nine and completing it 15 years after your O levels does not only take guts but balls too. I had both, the balls have since survived, the guts? Well, those ones last as long as you are not gutted.

But, I am a man of amor fati. A man who loves his fate. A man with a resolute enthusiastic acceptance of everything that has happened in his life. A man who hasn’t sought to erase anything of his past but rather accepted what has occurred, the good and the bad, the mistaken and the wise, with strength and all the gratitude that borders on a kind of enthusiastic affection. A man who has risen from depths of despair to incredible excellence.

Having come from a highly uneducated family background in the sense that I am the only masculine being and the second person to achieve a university education in both my maternal and partenal side, and doing so, so excellently is simply, self overcoming! As my favorite 22nd century philosopher Friedrich Nieztcher puts it, selsturberwidung.

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

On a palidly sunny afternoon, I stood at the registrar’s reception as the lady on the other side of the room peeled up a bunch of papers from a file she held with her left arm as her right did the peeling. Shortly before her activity which seemed not to be bothersome, unlike in most cases with secretaries, I had asked her to find out if my name appeared in the final lists of pass which I believed were in her possession- a list which was coveted by a would be graduate.

As she peeled up the papers, my heart raced. Raced because I wanted only to be in that list regardless of what I had scored. Nothing beats that feeling.

She peels and a handful of papers rest on her left side while her eyes scroll down on the papers on her right. She stops and asks for my middle name and then she stops. Looks at me and tells me, I am in the list – I sigh. My heart  beat slows as I turn to leave but, she goes ahead with this,

“They have given you a First Class Honors,” she says rather calmly.

I had turned left the moment she said so, but then I turned back in disbelief and shouted almost loudly,

“God, I knew it!”

Not that I really knew it but at some point I saw it come and then in the homestretch it disappeared. I had been exhausted and my shoulders felt heavy. If I were a distant runner I would have been running swaying my shoulders showing exhaustion since –

Four years of six semesters stretching for eight months per semester was the longest time I had ever spent doing the same thing. And worst of all paying for it and getting half of what I spent my money on. Then God, or if there isn’t that powerful deity, whatever that force could be, I aced incredibly.

I had strived for excellence. But not this kind of excellence. I wanted to prove myself right when I joined the school and that I had assured myself that it was something I wanted. And I was right.

*******

Back pedal four years ago, after somehow settling in business, which was not quite a business of entrepreneurship but working as middlemen buying gas from refillers and reselling it to third parties and it turning out to be a lucrative venture, a dream deferred awoke. I took the bold step and applied albeit unsure whether I would cut chase but somehow I had a date with fate. The man of amor fati!

The confirmation came by way of a text message asking me to present myself at a girl’s school. That told me how the programme I was about to spend half a decade in was carried out, like an etc, a business enterprise!

On 28th April 2014, on a slow, noisy and dusty, which is the way of the urban center, Monday morning we convened at Ngara Girl’s. A large group of strangers at first, friends, foes and comrades later sat restlessly and clueless on plastic chairs in the school’s hall as strangers addressed us in a language we all understood but could not come to, precipitating a barrage of unending questions with contorted unsatisfying answers and before we knew it we were officially enrolled in the School of Distance and Continuing Learning as the meeting was called off by mid morning.

The subsequent questions were answered from tiny matchbox sized coordination rooms converted into offices and soon we bundled again in a classroom as the group who had an interest in taking English and Literature.

We knew no one amongst ourselves and after a long spell of meaningless introduction which of course I led in attempt to cool off my adrenaline we settled for the first lecture.

Well, that first lecture was cathartic to say the least and the old lecturer made use of our expectancy. Sooner than we knew it we became veterans and bonds that have lasted for the four and a half years were formed that day.

Over lunch hour as I walked by the notice board which bore memos of our names and cohorts in which we were admitted with to the program, I found this man who seemed dumbfounded that his name was not on either of the lists. He took strength from those he had scored better in his O levels but his name was not in the list which mattered the most.

We struck a palaver which led us to being two peas in a pod of enchanting grandeur since then backed by a shocking series of coincidences out of this planet. He later acknowledged of having met one of the most tempestuous genius gifted with timely and shrewd answers that made him laugh the hell out of his lungs. He aliased me, The Archbishop of Answers. Later after learning a lot from me and especially the art of not giving a fuck he renamed me Plato.

The coincidences; see this, his middle name is my missus’ middle name, both our parents are deceased, his elder brother is a delinquent like my older brother and we lately both sired kids born on the same month with a difference of about two weeks. Both girls!

That first session ended before we knew how to define linguistics something which most comrades have struggled with since then. Well, the linguistics lecturer had told us rather caustically that, that should not come as a surprise since there are more complex concepts of linguistics that really matter beyond the definition.

Then time began flying, literally. I  attributed this to our minds being preoccupied with things that we cared so much about.

The second time we met at Alliance Boys High school in the little famed  Carrey Francis lecture theatre. It is then that I established that Carrey Francis indeed was a human being who lived, taught Mathematics and died in Kenya. I had taken his name as an anecdote to the difficulty we faced in Mathematics and every teacher and even my father spoke of as such, Masavu ma Kalivulanzis, Mathematics of Carrey Francis.

Once in this hall, I had quite grasped a tad too high than the rest how the program worked. I had registered for my courses online, acquired a students email and shit. All by myself. I would later assist the comrades with registration through my phone at a fee.

They were all too willing because no one wanted to be left out and with that I made some tidy collection and my name was known throughout the whole program which worked to my advantage in the way of asking to be voted in as a student leader which I won in an avalanche.

Because, well, this guy knew loads of shit and could come in the way of helping us settle in the program. And two, that he resided around the vicinity making him the guy to run to when shit hits the fans. Something I promised and lived up to. The only promise I think I have kept ever since I began giving promises. Something former comrades who may come across this blog post can attest to.

In the course of that hotly contested  election foes were made as is the case in most other elections. Opponents were campaigning against my promises and not theirs. They had nothing to offer anyway since I seemed to hold more cards than them.

I had more hidden cards which I planned to unleash at the death. The night before the election I converged all the GEMA, Rift and Coastal comrades in one of the classes where we divided amongst ourselves the posts available for elections and made sure each community got a prime slot. A banal strategy borrowed and embraced from our national politics.

I reserved the Secretary General post for myself since I wanted to be the spokesperson of the whole group a position which had power and control. We called off that evening everyone almost sure of a win. But there was one last card remaining which we planned to unleash a few minutes before the voting commenced.

The sun shown with abandon maybe trying to burn our vain, the day of casting the votes. Lectures were attended with an anxiety that told you of those who ‘would be leaders’ never gave two shits about what the lecturer was saying.

After the last lecture , I summoned my buddy Aris and off we took to the printing shop and printed the names of all the leaders from our camp to be elected against their positions in small sheets famely known as Mwakenyas which we folded and back on the voting queues we gave ‘our people’  the papers.

The act was hacked through sheer ingenuity and soon the opponents noticed what we were upto and they began protesting we were rigging the process. Voting was momentarily stopped as our hearts began racing as the assistant dean addressed the voters and said that there was nothing wrong with that since most of the comrades didn’t know names of their preferred leaders.

Voting commenced and while the opponents rushed to monkey do as they had seen, voting was two thirds done. We trounced over them but promised to include them in running the program and form an all inclusive students council. A lie.

We were sworn in during the next session but we had nothing much of running the students affairs after meeting the assistant dean who told us point blank, that we were only ceremonial leaders who only acted as the link between the students and the school and that we should expect nothing in return and two, our first uni exams were here with us and everyone had their attention on them. That is what it meant to be in a program of Distance learning. Distance being the  default setting.

We had converged at Dagoretti High School a place where we would meet for the next three residentials much to our chagrin.

The fourth residential point was at Alliance Girls High School from where we were sent to Railways Training Institute to Pumwani High School when CUE came to our rescue with a policy that all Uni programs should be carried out within Uni premises.

This precipitated our being converged in the middle of the residential at Kenya Science Campus where we first enjoyed rides on the long blue Uni buses and later to the completed Uni Towers where we met till the completion of the program.

Briefly this is how the program ran. We would meet when schools closed since most of the students were teachers in service. Sometimes we met for a week, sometimes two, rarely three weeks. One week would be for tuition which was poorly attended by the lecturers and the second week we would sit for the exams. Or Cats. Some of the units were  taught while a few were introduced and exams done for them without ever having seen the lecturer again. While for some, we never saw the lecturer even for one second.

However, we were issued with manual study lectures that were written in simple language and first person voice which took the place of the lecturer. We had the units for the entire eight months and so it was upon the student to read or do whatever they deemed necessary with the units. Personally I read mine. Cover to cover. And that paid. Because I was obsessed with excellence.

For the literature part of the course, we had to read several texts. Classical and Contemporary literature. Such as The Autobiography of an Excolored man, The Narrative of Fredrick Douglas, A Walk in the Night, Tattoo marks and Nails among others.

Those that were available in bookshops, I bought, those that were in pdf online, I downloaded, saved and sometimes made a copy. Much to the awe of my immediate comrades. They resolved that I had a lot of money to spend which I can’t deny because everytime I felt obligated not to buy a book, I equated the cost of that book to the price of a double shot of fine single malt whiskey. I bought the book instead.

Within no time of being busy running a shop and stuffing books in my trousers pockets everywhere I went, time was running out. We broke for teaching practice where I relocated to my village home for three cold and silent months.  Cold because there are no humans in my village home and silent because it was cold.

The national general elections came and paralyzed the program for sometime and we had to report in the course of the school term. The Uni was in tension and soon it blew off. One of the former student leaders vying for an elective post in the national elections was apprehended by the cops and the students couldn’t take it lying down.

A face off with the cops was looming and sooner than we anticipated it, tear gas canisters were lobbed inside exam rooms while exams were in progress and we all scampered for safety. We were met with more tear gas outside backed up with being sprayed with itchy water from anti-riot police water boozers.

Our ire rose and we picked stones and pelted the shield and club welding  cold cops who approached us stealthily while we retracted. The few students caught unawares were roughed up and some arrested. There were allegations of rape too.

In the melee, I happenned to collect a tear gas canister that failed to burn which I am planning to use in my apartment neighbor who stole my pants one of these days.

It is around this time the gates to the Uni were guarded by National Youth Service guards who were so strict on students. They demanded thorough searches no matter how many times you walked past that gate.

I once overheard one student, apparently angered by the  NYS guards, while we were running away from the cops, say, ‘ I just want to kill one NYS, I can’t stand those people around me!’ I chuckled as my back pack, always full of books, rose and hit my back as we engaged in running battles while the police lobbed more tear gas at us something I had never experienced so closely. Well, it was said to be the unnamed unit of being a student at the University of Nairobi.

We however completed the exams despite the chaotic circumstances which came to be one of the semesters I aced tremendously thanks to the desperation and the teargas.

Before I sum up this narrative, maybe I will mention a few people here and there who made the journey an adventure, and a moment, because as you have read, to me, life is about moments.

First, the girls, the ladies and the women. There are those who pushed me to the limits and I was left with no choice. There are those who tapped in my ingenuity and I had to do their academic papers for them sometimes for pay, sometimes for favors. There are those who never had the strength to tell me how I overwhelmed them and had to keep small fights within their souls. And well, those who never did, I had my way with them.

Were it not for Aris, which is a shortened form of Aristotle, I would have had it tough. Inasmuch as I was his righthand man, I am deeply indebted to him and his invaluable company. Thank you Dennis.

The acknowledgement is not in any order and this goes to Cate. Working as an admin in the program, she was so much of help in talking to people who mattered and pull me out of quagmires such as that of ‘missing marks,’ clearance and eventual graduation and then she shows up for the party! Thanks  Cate.

To Phoebe, the confiding, the sacrifice, the discussions including the ones held at Jeevanjee gardens when the Uni was not accessible, to the insights in breaking down Native Son and the Color Purple, the confidence you had in me and the respect to matrimony, thank you girl. We deserve one last meal of roasted pork at Pork Center pale Uthiru.

To Sharon, whom we worked together at Tala High School, 11 years after we schooled together at  KAMCO. And Steve who always asked to find out how I was fairing in school. Thank you lady and gentleman.

To my family, Virginia, Jabez and Jade this is for you!

To my former colleagues in all places I worked before this and most importantly Robert Ouko Omwar who encouraged me to join the program, and Sr. Liz, my childhood friend for her prayers and intercessions. When a Sister-in-Christ prays for you, good things happen. Thank you Robert and Liz.

To the customers who never knew their little purchases at Shop 2 Ngara fed several families, and paid for my undergrad school, thank you. Let’s do it for the next level.

Not forgeting Karen of KK advocates, Purity, Nancy, Winnie, Molly, Ezekiel, Reuben, Phantone, Daisy, Beatrice, Justus, Pascal, Okere, Martha and all from the class of 2018. Thank you and God bless us all.

If I failed to mention you, it is not by intention thank you in memory.

And to the random reader who will stumble upon this essay, thanks for reading, amor Fati, love of my fate.

@nathan 2018

In the end we are our choices, build yourself a great story.