Somewhere in California – Eastleigh there is a line of stalls which has a long and wide corridor. At the far end of the corridor there is a pub. It’s labelled wines and spirits. There are a few guys gathered outside the pub. They have cups with contents that look like water or cola but they are not glass full. It’s 1630 hrs and a bit sunny. There are other guys inside seated in a bench conversing in the popular Sheng slang language. Everyone in here knows everybody. They grew up together. They are from the same hood even though most had relocated or rather were on the hang of it.
Outside the pub, there’s a line of cars. Some people preferred to drink their alcohol in the privacy of their vehicles with their legs rested upon the dashboard as they chewed khat. They mostly listened to reggae and rhumba. A few select choice of dancehall music would be included in the playlist. Others would just open the right hand side doors of the car and sit half partially in the car with their legs dangling outside as they listened to the ongoing banter. This was a wild lot. It was on a Saturday.
The car I was in – a hatchback; was the last in line. The corridor was what separated us from the pub. There was a bottle of vodka on top of the car and some cups surrounding it. Nice soft rhumba music was playing out of the car’s well tuned music system. There was an ongoing talk on who was the greatest rhumba maestro. People argued if it were Ferre Gola, Werason, Koffi Olomide, Fally Ipupa, or Les Wanyika. There were other occupants in the car, a guy and his so called girlfriend and another girlfriend. Then there was her.
She sat on the cockpit. She was the co-pilot. Or maybe she had been loaned the seat for a while. Her skin was caramel in color, her eyes had an almost bronze like color. She had a mark that ran halfway her left arm. I asked her if she suffered from any burns earlier in her life. She said it was her birthmark. The temperatures were high and it was getting stuffy in the car. The other guy with his girlfriend were in a not so okay position. I left the car and stepped out for some fresh air.
The girl with a birthmark followed me and said, “let’s leave the love birds.”
“Ain’t they three?”
“Yes, maybe they’re the folks who don’t mind having a third wheeler to spice up whatever they have going on.”
“Three-some?” I asked.
“Three is a crowd.” She said.
I replenished my cup to the brim with vodka. It wasn’t so bitter after all I felt it was getting sweet. I passed the bottle to her. She wore a grey sketched tank top, aqua blue denim jeans and Blue Sketchers. She returned the bottle to its original resting place.
“Ain’t much of a talker. Ain’t you?” She asked.
“Depends, though I mostly prefer to observe.”
“Interesting. So what do you do?”
“For real? That’s good. I do write personally but I don’t have a platform or medium.”
“You can do that via your own site, or your social media pages.”
“I’m not in social media nor do I own a smartphone as for now.”
Well, that’s strange or rather quite absurd. I have never met anyone who doesn’t use social media platforms for one cause or the other. We stood facing the pub with our backs slightly leaning on the car. The sun had almost set. Grey clouds covered the sky as it beckoned the darkness to come and take over the presiding ceremony.
Sometimes you know a good story when you see one. I knew it a few minutes into the conversation. You don’t have to forage to find it nor entice it with arts of seduction.
“You’re a strange bird free from the clasps of the village global market.” I said.
She sighed and took a long look at her glass, then in one shot she gulped all the contents. She took the bottle and added some more then took another swig. Then she began on telling me the reason why she didn’t own a smartphone. It was because it got damaged the previous day before. She got into a fight with some chille because it had ‘kueleweka’. She couldn’t lock herself up in her house just because some mad woman was afraid that she would snatch her ‘love life.’ She looks up into the sky. She sees the early evening stars twinkling and says that she wants to move away as far as possible. She says things would have gotten messy had it not been her sister who intervened. She would either be daggered or one of them would have gone down. She chuckles slightly and said that she had her enough shares of issues.
That Saturday was her last day in Eastlands. The next day she would be going home. Home to her son and father. She would commute from home till the day she would find her stability.
“What will you be doing while you are at home? Watching baby shark?”
She laughed a rich laughter. Her laughter was deep and musical. It was outstanding. You could pick her laughter from a room full of people. She had nice set of milky white teetch and speckles of brown on her two front upper teeth. My back was literally craving for a seat. I stretched a bit.
Two more bottles of vodka were brought. I opened the rear door of the hatchback so that we could create room and seat at the back. It was getting livelier. The other guys in the other cars who had sheltered themselves in their cars had begun to come out. These people were nocturnal animals.
She said that she would be writing. She is writing a memoir to help her calm down and focus on what’s important to her. She preferred to move back home because she could not keep up with having to avoid people. She was not much of an interaction person.
“What do you write about?” She was curious.
“Life, sex, death, astronomy, the little fears people have and live deep within them. The little victories of our day to day life, moments of joy and criticism.” I said.
“Well that’s a lot. I wish I could share my story with someone. It’s a tad sad that I’d be leaving tomorrow.” She said.
I told her that we had the whole night to our disposal.
“A toast.” She said.
“Toast to?” I asked.
Her: To life.
Me: To good stories.
Her: To memorable moments and pity shags.
Me: To making new acquintances.
She poured more ‘sweet’ content into our tumblers. She took a long breathe and exhaled.
“Conceal my identity please if you’ll decide to publish my story.” She said.
I told her that wouldn’t be an issue.
She says that she came from a broken home. Her father was an on and off guy. Her mother is a nurse at a local popular hospital. They’re four kids in their family. Her mother struggled raising them up, occasionally leaving their older sister to act as parent whenever she was not around. Her younger sister and her were in lower primary when all that happened. Their little brother was a toddler. So her younger sister rarely went to school as intended.
As time passed by, her mother grew close to a man. The man was a cousin to a lifetime friends of her parents. Their relationship blossomed and grew close till to a point where their mother would leave them under his care. Everything went well and they were fond of him. One lazy afternoon that man decides to call her into his house so that he could send her to some errands. She joyfully went and when she entered the house he saw him half naked with shorts. There was no one in the vicinity. Poor girl was turned into an errand. She was between the age of 9-10 when he pounced on her.
She kept quiet and didn’t have the courage to tell her mother. She avoided the guy like plague.
“Is virginity white?” She asks.
I told her I don’t know the color of virginity. She thinks that virginity is black. If she ever intends to get married she’ll have her wedding gown in a black color. She had an easier time hiding the fact that she was hurting inside because she seldom interacted with other kids. She had a contempt feeling towards men at that time. They changed base and moved on to another place. She was one of the top perfmomers from her local area when she finished primary school. She went to a Catholic school during her first years when she was in High School. It was a mixed boarding school. So she declined it. Her past haunted her. Every young man always looked at her with lustful eyes. Her hormones were rummaging and she wasn’t sure of what was happening to her. She tried to convince her mother so that she could hamishaa her from that school but herother never heard of it. Her pleas always fell on deaf ears. It’s like a smart TV with no internet connection.
She became wild and mischievous. Her grades dropped. One day she was suspended for two weeks due to insubordination. She went home. She found her father seated on the sofa. She was shocked. She never expected her mother to reconcile with him. After all those years of abandoning them. She didn’t bother hiding her dislike towards her both parents. She feared her father. She feared that maybe he might turn onto her just like the other guy did. She was afraid to trust. So she stayed out late everynight until she made sure that her father was dead asleep. It worked for a couple of days until one day as she sneaked in she found both of them waiting for her in the living room.
Her father almost beat her up. Her mother insisted that she needed to talk to her. She requested that she should be changed schools. She never gave in. She was taken back to the same school. Her mischievous deeds graduated to a whole new level. She did anything to get her into trouble. She did her cats but never did her finals.
Her parents were summoned to school. Her mother came alone. She was given the last warning. She asked her why she wanted to kill her. Then at that point she broke down and told her everything about the rape ordeal. How she was afraid of getting raped over and over by the guys in her school. She was tired of the baggage and why she didn’t want her father to be around.
Her mother agreed to have her change schools. On a condition that she should ammend bridges with her father. It was difficult for her because she was daddy’s little girl. All her other siblings had ironed out their issues with their father. It was hard for her because that would mean if she forgave her father then he’d have to stay or have them move to his place. Her father had found residence in Arusha.
She cleared school and found her self in a musical band. Well; she was talented. She wrote songs and did short play films. Her mother was never of the idea that she should spend the nights outside. They never moved to their father’s place. She found her first crush while she was doing music. All was well until he pestered her for sex. She refused, then ran for the hills. A month later she had that her crush had flown off to Netherlands. She felt sad and broken. There was never closure nor a good bye.
She changed bands and her mother supported her by enrolling her into a prestigious music school. Progress went well and she found another love. Things were rosy. He was the one that bought her her first phone. Her new found love rarely talked despite buying her a phone. His shifts were tight and scheduled. She fell out of whatever she had. She repackaged the phone and returned it to him. She had enough bucks to by herself a new one. The money was not that good neither that bad. It was just enough for her. She didn’t have responsibilities.
She fell head over heels with a certain guy named George. He was from her music class. They went steady for a while. George always wondered why she never let him eat the cookie. He always wondered why she never liked going to his place. After his relentless nagging she decided to go to see his place. He texted her the directions. She knew the area very well. It was on a lazy Sunday afternoon when she decided to pay George a visit. After all she was his boo’ and she was feeling some type of way.
She knocked on his door for a while, and when she decided to turn her back and leave, she had the door creak open. There was George. He had opened it halfway. He seemed distant and worried.
She wondered why he wasn’t surprised to see him. After all they had a thing. She pushed him to the side and went in. She was shocked, should I say flabbergasted? She saw her best friend on his bed. She took a U-turn and went home crying. Not caring if anyone would see her. She was broken and devastated.
At this juncture we had done a couple of drinks and my eyes were feeling a little bit tingly. I knew that was the time for me to take a short break. I stepped out and strolled round the car and went back to my original position.
She promised her inner self that she wouldn’t put any feelings into a relationship. It had been long since she felt like a woman. She wanted to enjoy sex. She wanted to overcome her fear. She said that she would only have sexual pleasures but would not attach herself to anyone.
She decided to step out of her cocoon and ask out a certain mutual friend they shared with George. His name was Melvin. Days went by as they talked and went for more dates. Melvin was outspoken, talkative and intimidating in some way. Things got heated and the first time they made out it was in a matatu.
She felt that she was ready to give herself to a man. That night was the first one that she slept peaceful. Her past never came to haunt her. She felt at peace and happy. Even though their affair wasn’t love based; she was happy. She says Melvin knew how to get things done. They had a friends with benefits type fo arrangement. Even though she fell in love and stayed in love, she knew her place.
After a year or so after she had joined campus, her father requested the whole family to move to Arusha. Four years later after she had completed her undergraduate program – she got a job as a teacher in Mozambique. The pay rate was good. She found love and dated for two years before all hell broke loose. She discovered that she was pregnant. She was very happy and told her boyfriend. Her then guy didn’t reciprocate back the same happiness. The guy requested for an abortion. She refused and insisted that she would keep the baby. That night he packed his shit and left for the hills. She requested for a transfer. She was posted in a school that was deep in the villages.
On a certain Monday morning she was summoned to the principals office. She frowned as soon as she saw her runnaway ex. The guy had traveled all the way from Maputo just to confirm if she was still paged. She was given the day off so that she could sort out her tiff with her unwelcomed visitor. He said that he traveled a distance of 780 kilometers so that they could talk and get to an agreement on how they could take care of the baby. They talked about it that day then he left the following day. The calls and texts became less and less. During one long weekend she had informed him that she would be coming over.
She found a different scenario awaiting her. His house wore a mask of a feminine fragrance. She knew that she wasn’t the only one in this game. She confronted him, he did not bother to deny his sins either. She went back to the village. Things got tough for her. All work permits for foreigners were being revoked. She was handed her letter and paid all her dues. She moved back to Nairobi. In a single day and night she moved from Independent to Dependent.
Adapting was hard for her, she felt like she was a burden, insignificant and pretty messed up building up a guy only for him to turn his back on her and his country kicking her out. She battled it out with her ever diminishing self esteem. She went back to Arusha to her father after she had given birth and her son had grown to 2 years of age.
“What’s your son’s name?”
“Like Ziggy Marley?”
“Yes. I didn’t know what to name him. It just came to my head.” She said.
“Has the father of the child ever tried to contact you?” I asked her.
“He came last month. I don’t know how he searched or found me. I found him outside my sister’s place. He had watched his son playing for a long time. He asked what him his name and how old he was. Ziggy didn’t tell him a thing. Instead he just looked at him strangely. Ziggy asked her who that man was. She kept quiet. She told him that if he’d commit to his son and upkeep she would be okay with that. She’d introduce him to Ziggy at an appropriate time. He said that he wanted both Ziggy and her back in his life. She declined. She sent Ziggy in. After that they got into a huge spat of words. He went away. He has never called up to date.” She says.
“Do you still sing?” I asked.
“You want to take me for karaoke?” She asked in a sarcastic manner.
“I didn’t quiet catch your name.” I said.
“***Amina Khedira Njeri***.” She says.
“You?” She asked.
“Pleasure meeting you. I hope my story features some day in your site.” She says while smiling.
Amina Khedira Njeri*** is currently undertaking her masters in Mount Meru University.
P.S: Name that has a star has been changed to preserve identity.