So on that day, the weather already told tales before she could. The sun seemed to want to hear nothing of it. He covered his face with the clouds. The clouds couldn’t hold back her tears. Like a little girl who had just lost her doll. But well, maybe I was the only one willing to hear and hear it raw.
These words from her mouth had never seen light of day. Just like we all have things that have never left the chambers of our hearts. Hosting dragons in our dungeons that we fear if let out, cities will be devoured by fire from their breaths.
Well she had conquered her dragon. Or at least this was one of the prime stages that was paramount for absolute freedom. In her words, keeping it to herself was like pressing a pillow on her face. She was drowning in the middle of the sea with nothing to clutch on. But she had an option; to rise to the surface of the water and stick her head out in confidence.
She wants to face the world with who she thinks she is and has always been. There is no more air in the cocoon she has been in that she no longer thinks is really who she is.
That Sunday afternoon clocked when she was in the house. Like all Sundays nothing was loud. No one was shouting at the other. Even the dogs didn’t bark. If they did, they barked in hymns from the Golden Bells. The TV was on but none but one was watching. As if it was only on to curb the silence that perhaps would be sickening. Everyone’s heart was soaked in meditation. The sermon on that day wasn’t any less sharper than the two edged sword the good book says it is. And people prefer to host the nourishment of the soul in silence. They’d let it spread through and through like hyssop on a piece of stained fabric.
Besides, we are all stained fabrics in some way and pretentious is the best word for anyone who thinks they don’t need nourishment. Her eldest sister was in the kitchen flavouring the family’s lunch with everything nice including hummed tunes from the orchestra of her saved soul. No lie that Jesus is indeed the sweetest.
Upstairs were her two brothers massaging their manly egos with a game of poker. No one was in a rush to play the magic card. It’s a jump me I jump you twice, kick back I kick back twice game until the joker decides to laugh and throw an ace or two to change the game. Behind them is a fan, slowly turning by it’s neck, left to right then right to left; unleashing a cool breeze that is perhaps meant to calm their boyish – mischievous nerves. A stereo system softly plays songs by Dr. Dre. He’d be rapping about how ladies still pay homage even when haters say that he had fallen off.
In the living room was an old man, feet up on a puff, a pair of slightly thick lensed glasses hanging by the bone of his nose and with a Sunday Nation newspaper in between his hands. He is lost in the world of words, unseemly of his surroundings. He navigates his way through the sinuosity of humanity through news stories and people’s opinions about this and that.
On the other end of the three seater sofa set is her fourth born. He calls her Badedongo. He is the apple of his eye. He hears her heartbeat wherever she is. His guts block whenever her heart beats fast in fear and anxiety. He’d randomly call her five years later after she joins University and ask, “To nyara be idhi maber kawuono adier?” (My daughter are you doing fine today?)
Let’s call her Jaber. (Read it in Luo you mjango.) Her innocent 13 year old soul was unagitated as she sat gazing at the TV. She had just cleared her exams for a certificate in primary education. Nothing else in this world worried her more than the exam results that in those days took months to be released. Some individuals in the name of teachers must have been somewhere cooking her fate for her and she could do nothing else but pray. Pray that the heavens award her with a spectrum of flying colours and her dreams would always be colourful from then henceforth.
Her adolescence was not on a turbulence. Not yet, we may say. Like a Land Rover that was cruising in oblivion because it had never journeyed on a rough terrain. Well the rough terrain was around the corner. In fact, just at the estate’s gate.
All her life, she had been like potassium. She was just about to be exposed to still waters and their her innocent soul would go on an exothermic frenzy for the first time and would probably never stop.
The front door swang open letting in a slight breeze of mama’s love. Her mum walked in, clothed in her best attire; a smile that exposed her unashamed toothlessness at the front of her mouth and a radiant heart that had just been rejuvenated in church earlier that day. She broke the unflurried atmosphere with Luo saturated greetings that bombarded everyone out of their mental parking lots. The joker in the poker game upstairs would not dare laugh in the midst of mama’s entry.
As is custom in their family, the children would go to welcome their parents or elderly relatives and receive any visitor they came along with. Nearly every Sunday sees them host a visitor or two. This one was not an exception. Except, this visitor had not come to peep like the others. This one had come to stay with them until mum and dad knew when.
The daughter, born of the lineage of Ramogi, seated at the couch lazily stood and headed towards the door. Of course the arrival of mama meant it was eating time.
For some reason, she stopped and froze like a chameleon in between branches before she got to her mum. Her mum wasn’t the trigger. It’s the visitor she had come with.
Her name, not her real name, was Valentine. She was born of a Luo father and Kikuyu mother. She had however taken the complexion of her mother. Their parents were good friends. Valentine’s parents had been abroad for six months. She was set to join Moi University which was just within town for January intake. Jaber’s parents had agreed to host their friends’ daughter as she settles in the university.
So before Jaber, was a light skinned girl, medium height, slightly slim but blessed with the curves of a typical Luo woman. You’d go for skiing on her curves. A soda bottle had nothing on her. The icing on the cake was a slightly dark lining around her eyes. Sort of a beautiful eclipse on her face.
Never in Jaber’s life had she ever beheld such beauty. Yes now the Chemistry that had established its own lab in the secretions of her heart was happening. Apparatus must have been her entire body because she bets she felt her heart fall into her stomach, her intestines tie knots, her knees knocking each other and the riverbanks of her womanhood begin to burst. Dexter was probably doing his thing in her and he was going nuts.
Ever since she first sported a growing chest, boys have stepped on each other’s heads to win her attention. Like every other girl she enjoyed the entertainment and materialistic favours. Today they call favours like those ‘kutumiwa fare.’ So in today’s language, ‘alikula fare, ‘ countless times mjango. But none of them, be it the numerous favours, stunts to swallow a razor blade or a wink from a cute faced boy – made her tick. Yes mjango, she could tell apart a good looking boy. But for her, it ended at telling apart.
She had however never found reason to raise questions. For all she knew she was safe from the emotional drama especially for her young and naïve heart. Her background and upbringing had installed in her mind that she would one day be spotted by a prince charming and it will be another happy ever after tale added to the books of history. But until then, she would just chill and not worry about what was or was not happening in the core of her being.
She stood and stared at her like you would when you behold an angel in your sight. If it was not for her mum, who definitely did not realise what was happening, she would have probably never snapped out of it.
During lunch, she sat next to Valentine. She could barely hold her spoon without shaking. She let it rest on the plate from time to time not to raise eyebrows. She spoke less, way less than she normally would. But it being a Sunday and everyone’s moods were on the ceiling, everyone had something to say. Furthermore, all the attention was on the visitor. You bet the boys were restless.
“So definitely she was going to share a room with us, that is my sisters and I. But one of my sisters was not around. Whenever I found myself in the room with her I’d kinda be so anxious. Whenever she was changing and I couldn’t leave the room, of which obviously if I left it would start raising suspicion – I would just look away or pretend to be very busy.
I mean I simply couldn’t understand why I was so overtaken. I don’t know whether it was just her presence or what. But you know the way you’d behave when having a crush on someone?”
“That’s how I’d be when around her. How? I don’t know. Rather I didn’t know by then. But now, I have learnt to know why.”
As you’d expect mjango, she never said a word about it to anyone. She figured that it would just pass and for sometime after Valentine left, she thought she was over it and it was just a weird season.
“I have never met Valentine up to today. She was five years older than me.” She sighs. “It just didn’t make sense.”
When she was fifteen, she made a new friend in the neighborhood. They had grown to be partners in crime.
“I never felt anything for this friend. We were just good friends especially because we spent a lot of time together. So this one time we were chilling in a spot we used to hang out around the neighborhood. We started talking about boys and things related and then she asked me whether I had ever kissed anyone before. I said no. She said she had never as well. She paused then asked, “Would you like to try now?” I said, “Uuhm! Okay.” And that became my very first kiss.”
She said she felt nothing. No electricity and no ounce of a chill. But it was worth her experience.
“If you don’t mind me asking, I have heard people say that a kiss can light a fire amongst wet leaves. So to say, some people’s love is triggered by a mere kiss. Like the kiss casts a spell on you. You might end up kissing your frog. So that kiss, could it have propelled the fire if not kindling it in you?”
“To be honest, no. It didn’t do anything. It was just as casual as it was meant to be.”
In high school, the common fear would be that what happened when Valentine was around would most likely reoccur again. The news is that it didn’t. She dated her first guy when in highschool. But like all if not most of the highschool love stories, theirs didn’t end with a happily ever after.
She joined university and this was nature’s way of throwing her into the deep end of freedom. The only thing that connected her parents with her was a phone call and prayers. Otherwise, in her family, only her sisters knew she got into a serious relationship with a guy towards the end of her first year.
Come on R Kelly, let’s sing along together again that when a woman loves, she loves for real.
“I remember there is a time you mentioned, lightly though, that you had been in a toxic relationship and you were still recovering from it.”
“Yes. It was the one. Well I am glad it ended. So here is where the music changed. In a relationship I was once in, not once and not twice my man by then would tell me, “Hey hatuwezi kuwa wanaume wawili kwa hii relationship.” It used to hit me like, Wah! Damn! I should actually stop acting like the man here.
It disturbed me for sometime because I couldn’t understand just how I couldn’t simply chill and let him do things for me. Like the manly things. As a lady, it should even come naturally to just stick to my lane. But for reasons I didn’t want to confront, it just didn’t. If I did, it’d take me most of those times to just talk myself into keeping calm and letting the man be the man.”
After unsuccessful relationships with dudes, she decided to take a self searching break. It was within this break that she began the quest to uncover what, as she put it, her heart really wants. To find out what exactly makes her burn with a pop sound.
“So what were you able to establish?”
“That I want to be the one to take someone out on dates. Do all the nice things and treats that we would call ‘kukatia.’ Staki kukatiwa tena. I think I would and do find fulfilment in that.”
“Is there anything that happened that added fuel to you coming out openly about your orientation?”
“Maybe yea. I have a very good friend of mine. He is older than me though. Almost way old. We were hanging out one night he had come back to the country for sometime and you know men. I started to notice that he was trying to shove in some advances on me. After it was evident that I wanted none of it, he asked why I wasn’t budging. One of my answers was that he is a married man but that was not the most dominant reason. Imagine he is smart because he figured it out and trapped me into admitting it. When he realised that, he kinda apologised for making advances. He was really interested to know more and wanted me to be open about it.”
“Does anyone in your family know? And if not, are you planning to tell them?”
“My eldest sister only. She was so pissed. Nobody else knows. I am on my way there though.”
“Your way there?”
“Yeah. I’m still at the edge of really defining myself and what I want. But so far we both know which direction it’s all pointing to.”
“Very well Jaber.”
I took one last keen look at her. She was smiling. She sounded like someone who had unloaded a burden. Because for sure before she began, she said she wanted to release something. I thought she’d take out her guitar and start to play in the middle of the street as she sings about how alive she feels.
So apparently, Generation Z just wants to feel alive.