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An ingenious idea on how to gain new followers…Join in and let us make new friends…check out the link
Community Development Program- Gain followers like never before – http://wp.me/p702fa-1bY
I have seen the devil’s grin but I miss the angel’s light.
“Ii mchezo yetu tutacheza wajaluo wawili na wakikuyu watatu,” the first kids says.
“Kwa nini wajaluo wawili?” another kid questions.
“Si huyu acheze, wakue wajaluo watatu,” another kid chimes in.
“Apana huyu si mjaluo…ni mluhya,” another kid is more than happy to set the record straight.
* * *
That introduction is not fiction. It happened. A eureka moment for me. The sheer joy (No wonder that eureka guy ran around naked). What is the discovery? You ask. Let us go back to the beginning. All the way back.
We were brought forth into the world. Innocent minds (blank cheques, if you can allow the imagery). Ready to be moulded into anything. Then the sacrilegious. You are male. You are female. You are black. You are white. You are Christian. You are Muslim. You are this…You are that. They taught us to be proud of who we are. Variables. They did not tell us they were poisoning our minds to recognize the variations.
Later on, after laying the foundation. They told us one group is superior. Another one is painted as inferior. Be proud of who you are. They told us. The acrimony grows. Soon we are looking down on one another. In a heartbeat we are ready to kill the other’s heartbeat. Where is our humanity?
Let us all unite and change the narrative. Let us rewrite our own story. Let us say no to all of it. RACISM. TRIBALISM. DISCRIMINATION. TERRORISM. GENDER INEQUALITY.
“Democracy is a continuation of war by other means.”
* * *
There is chatter from the back. It is filling the room making it hard to concentrate. It did not help the situation that all the dailies had featured the story on their headlines.
THE DAY OF RECKONING IS FINALLY HERE. Another one. IT PROMISES TO BE THE BATTLE OF THE MILLENNIUM. Yet another one. THERE IS EXPECTED TO BE BLOOD ON THE STREETS.
The reporters had already arrived in earnest. Notepads were already ready for scribbling. The cameras ready to start clicking and flashing away. The video cameras were rolling already. There was no moment that was to be missed.
The public was also present. The public gallery was full. Once in a while a curse was thrown in the air as someone was pushed or shoved. Most had no particular interest in the case. It promised to be a spectacle though (who doesn’t love a free movie once in a while?)
“…court is in session,” the bailiff concludes.
Those words are followed by a sudden silence as everyone gets on their feet.
* * *
Judge : You may be seated.
(A moment passes, the judge waits for the courtroom to settle down).
Judge : We are gathered here today for the hearing on the matter of Case No. 1820 of Nature versus Man pertaining to criminal charges against man.
(Nature and Man are seen to be nodding in agreement).
Judge : I also see that the both of you have opted to be your own representatives. The prosecution may make their introductory statement.
Nature : Your honor, thank you. As the prosecution, I will present evidence to this court to support the criminal charges against man of destruction of the planet earth. It is my hope that this court finds Man here…(points at Man) guilty beyond any reasonable doubt and pass the worst form of punishment.
(Fumbles with the pile of papers on the table).
Nature : If found guilty, the prosecution will move to have Man served with a jail sentence. Also I will move to have the court compel Man to immediately seize the destruction and start conservation of the environment. That is all.
Judge : The defense may make their introductory statements.
(Quickly jumping to his feet).
Man : Your honor, I would like to begin by saying that the defense will do all in its power to show that the accusations brought before this court are nothing but malicious allegations.
(Pausing for a moment, composing himself).
Man : I will also strive to prove that, actually what my learned friend is referring to as destruction of the environment is nothing more than us surviving. We are simply doing all that is within our grasp not to be wiped out by some of environment’s extremities. That is all for now.
(Before Man is even seated Nature fumbles with documents on her table. She gets up ready to address the court).
Nature : Your honor, if you may. I would like to present some new evidence that the prosecution has just obtained.
(Springing to his feet).
Man : Objection your honor, the prosecution cannot be allowed to present evidence that the defense has not yet reviewed.
Judge : Is this true?
Nature : Your honor, we have sent them this evidence and told them to review it.
Judge : What is it?
Nature : Witness statements your honor. Statements from normal people and experts on matters environment. It is a clear documentation of the history of destruction that has been and is continuing to be carried out by man on the environment. If the court may allow me to quote one of the experts who says that, “the planet is literally being bled to its death.”
Man : Your honor, I do not think it would be prudent to allow this evidence to be submitted while the defense is still reviewing it.
Nature : But…Your honor, we sent them the evidence sometime back. Also the prosecution feel that admission of this evidence to the case would make this case a Prima Facie.
Judge : Elaborate…
Nature : Your honor, this evidence will show beyond a reasonable doubt how Man is destructive and could also point to either insanity or…
Man : Objection! Your honor, I request that you find my learned friend here in contempt of the court. She seems to be out to defame me…
Judge : Sustained, Nature I will not allow you to use words in my courtroom that are to say the least insulting.
Nature : Pardon me your honor.
(A member of the defense team leans in and whispers something to Man. He quickly gets up).
Man : Your honor, I would also like to bring forward a new development in the case.
Judge : Elaborate.
Man : The defense has launched investigations into allegations of bribery and witnesses recanting their evidence. We suspect the investigations will reveal that really all Nature has brought to this court are nothing but foolish accus…
Nature : Objection!
(There is giggling from the gallery. Things are heating up).
Judge : The both of you, approach the bench.
(They approach the bench and lean in to what the Judge has to say).
Judge : (speaking in low tones). I will not have the both of you turn my courtroom into a stand up comedy. You have to be civil and professional or else. Have I made myself clear?
(They nod in agreement. The Judge signals them to go back to their tables).
Man : Your honor, with the latest developments the defense would like to request the adjournment of this hearing. This will give us time to complete our review and get the results of the pending investigation.
Nature : Objection! Your honor I don’t think that that is necessary. The defense is only trying to stall.
Judge : Overruled. The prosecution may proceed and submit the new evidence as exhibit. Also in light of the new developments, I adjourn this hearing to a later date.
(The judge leaves the courtroom. The noise fills the air almost immediately).
* * *
In the media stand, one of the journalist is already typing away furiously on his phone. He hits publish and the headline goes online. THE BATTLE LINES HAVE BEEN DRAWN.
Don’t take this letter the wrong way (your words, remember?). I have been thinking, long and hard on whether it would be appropriate to respond to your earlier letter. Of course, there is also the issue of gathering enough guts to go against your wishes (but that is not important, or is it?).
I have also been in consultation. With who? You ask. Some of my friends. To be honest, the advice I got from a number of them has me worried. About what? Their sanity to start with. The rational ones told me to let it slide and not respond. ‘Just let it go,’ they said.
The others, had a different opinion. They said I had to hit back. Never back down (that is a quote I presume, right?). You have to show her who is the man between the two of you (I swear those are their words not mine). I told you their sanity is in doubt. So here I am responding to your letter (does that make me insane?).
It’s hard between me and you. Life is not a straight path. I like to imagine ours is even worse. It is like walking down a winding road on a gloomy day with not even the slightest hope of sunlight. Don’t mistake me for a pessimist (heck! Even the Everest was conquered eventually).
I told you I have been deep in thought. About what? You ask. Us. The future. The consequences. Hope these thoughts also cross your mind (in your stubbornness you might deny). I even had some thoughts about me and you and forever (as one thought, just to clarify).
Emotions. I hear they cause some sleepless nights. Lately, someone accused me of not harboring any emotions (vile accusation. In my defense). Am I like that? Be honest. In case the verdict is guilty, in the words of Frank Ocean, “A sad man may not cry in front of other men,” (can you then imagine an emotional man. He may not even give off an aura).
The issues of building and crossing bridges. Rest easy. The other day I looked at some designs. Looks easy. All I need now is the right material. I have it covered on that end. We will meet halfway (these days it’s all about equality).
In conclusion, you left me a challenge. I did not even take the easy route. I came up with a poem. From where? How on earth? From the confines of my being (despite the accusations). Here goes:
My dear Rayya,
You shine like the moon,
Your sheer beauty,
Makes my heart race,
The look in your eyes,
A few cliches later you have to give me some credit. At least I tried. You can call it a working progress. Hey! We are also a working progress. Love.
Recently, a close friend (Cera Kieha) of mine challenged me. She simply posed to me the question, ‘What is the life of a writer like?’ I scratched my head and pondered over the question. I did not have the right words to answer her question.
Days turned to weeks. Then, my Aha! moment came. I expressed myself in the best way I know how. I came up with the amazing (you be the judge) post below:
The books are sprawled on the table. I am scratching my head. I have to come up with the next story, fast. What do I write about? Where do I start from? Will it be good enough? Will people like it?
The table vibrates startling me. My phone’s ringtone fills the air almost immediately. Who could that be? Couldn’t they pick another time to call? I stare at the screen. It is a new number. For a moment I think of ignoring the call. I pick it on the last ring.
(A brief moment of silence, the person at the other end says nothing. I was in no mood to be the one to start off the conversation).
Stranger : Hello…
Me : Hello, who am I speaking to?
Stranger : Who is this?
(From the voice, I can tell it is a man on the other end of the line. The guy clearly had some nerve. I want to scream. I keep my composure).
Me : You are the one who is calling me. I am the one who is at liberty to ask that question.
Stranger : Oh! Pardon me. I got your number from the internet and I wished to talk to you.
Me : What exactly did you wish to speak to me about?
Stranger : You are the witchdoctor, right?
Me : (gasping) What do you mean? Have you called to insult me?
Stranger : Sorry…Sorry. That is not what I meant.
Me : What did you mean?
(I am getting agitated. I contemplate dropping the call).
Stranger : What I wanted to mean is that you are like a witchdoctor.
Me : Why would you insinuate that?
Stranger : I am speaking to the writer, right?
Me : Who wants to know?
(I was going to also give him a hard time).
Stranger : I came across a piece you wrote sometime back that is why I am calling.
Me : How does me and my writing equate me to a witchdoctor? ( The puzzlement in my voice clearly apparent).
Stranger : If you allow me to, I will be glad to explain it to you through a series of questions.
(A brief moment of silence. I have to make up my mind on whether to continue with this charade. I decide I have nothing to lose).
Me : Okay, go ahead.
Stranger : The questions I will pose to you will be in regard to your writing process. Or simply your journey as a writer. How would you describe the life of a writer, in regards to writing?
Me : Generally, I have come to find writing is to a large extent a solitary life.
Stranger : Very good. Why do you write?
Me : Because I have to. Half the time I feel that I write because it is necessary for me to do so. I do not need a reason for me to write. Also, a part of me feels that I am fulfilling my service to humanity…
Stranger : Where do you get your inspiration to write from?
(The conversation started to feel more like an interrogation).
Me : Mmm… from a lot of places, actually. My surroundings for one. Events and experiences in my personal life and of some of my acquaintances…
(He disrupts me mid-sentence).
Stranger : Do you also suffer from voices speaking to you in your head?
(I burst into laughter).
Me : Yes, it has happened a couple of times.
Stranger : What would you say you hope to achieve with your writing?
Me : Over and above anything else, I want to touch lives through my writing. I also wish to inform, entertain and inspire.
Stranger : I see…anything else?
Me : Through my writing, I also want to preserve moments that to me I feel are too valuable to be lost in time.
Stranger : Would you say your writing has power?
Me : Power to do what?
Stranger : Before you answer that one, which topics do you focus on?
Me : A wide range of topics. I do not want to confine myself to a specific topic. I am ‘no genre’ kind of writer.
Stranger : You know, the power to affect lives. If you can allow me to give an example, the power to break a couple of hearts or inspire action.
Me : That depends on the people my writing reaches. But, coming to think of it I actually hope it possesses such power.
Stranger : In conclusion, you will allow me to explain to you my earlier comparison of you to a witchdoctor.
Me : Feel free.
Stranger : Well…in your sort of solitary confinement, if I could call it that.
Me : Mmm…
Stranger : From wherever, you come up with your writings in a similar manner a witchdoctor comes up with spells and concoctions.
Me : (I find myself nodding in agreement. I bring myself out of that reverie) Where are you heading with this?
Stranger : Be patient…
(Clearly the guy had some nerve).
Stranger : After you are done coming up with whatever piece you cook up, what do you do?
Me : Obviously, I publish it.
Stranger : Exactly, you release it out into the world. Much like the witchdoctor when he casts out a spell with the intentions to do evil or good.
Me : You could say that…
Stranger : I hope I have proven to you my point. Later.
(He drops the call).
I stare at my phone’s screen. Some nerve that one. His words ring through my mind. I can’t bring myself to ignore them. There is some truth to what he said. I get back to my writing.
I got a chance to be featured on her fashion blog as a guest writer on her lifestyle segment. The above post was featured with the same title. Be sure to head over to her blog ‘Cera Kieha’ and check out the amazing things she is doing. Click here to head over to her blog.
When I see the youth fight each other because of politicians, it bothers me.
Have you ever woken up with a hollow feeling? You feel as if unknowingly at night you survived an earthquake. You have woken up to the aftermath. The death and destruction around you is sickening. That hollow feeling in your stomach is leaden.
It was a little over a week since the University of Nairobi was closed over riots at the institution. It was on the 12th of April to be exact. I woke up apprehensive. Something seemed to be bugging me. I had no idea what it was. I hated every moment of it. I was on the lookout not to come across a black cat that morning. Paranoia.
I decided to distract myself. Whatsapp seemed like the perfect choice. There is nothing as annoying like a slow internet connection (I hear a nagging wife is worse. They could be malicious rumors? Right!). A few curse words later under my breath some messages were received.
Two days earlier the school had sent out a public notice of a list of suspended students over the unrest. I had quickly scrolled through that list of unfamiliar names uninterested.
One message immediately caught my attention. Another list had been sent out. I tapped on the link. My only interest at the time was just to see the number of those affected. Impatiently I waited for the link to load on my browser.
Slowly I scrolled down. The list was longer than the previous one. That moment when the sound of glass shattering as it hits the floor having slipped from your hands, is most damning. You wish to take the few seconds before it happened back. To at least do it differently.
I got to the end of the list. No.140…and literally my eyes almost popped out. I still cannot recall exactly what I noticed first whether it was my name or my admission number. The horror. My heart raced. How did my name turn up on that list? Was it a typing error? Is this a prank?
Oh Lord, let it not be true. I rummaged through my mind trying to piece up the events leading up to then…
* * *
Saturday, April 2, 2016.
It was a dull morning. A little chilly but bearable. There was tension everywhere. It was the morning after following the hotly contested SONU elections. We had slept to gunshots fired late in the night to quell a disgruntled lot.
We were ready for the worst. I am no pessimist but African leaders are known for not going down without a fight. They just don’t take defeat like a real man should. They tend to cry and whimper and expect everyone one of us to stand by them and stroke their wounded egos.
It was no surprise when at around ten o’clock I got a call from a friend. There was a confrontation in front of their hostel between two aspirants who were running for the post of chairman to the union. On a normal day I would have let it slide but not that day. There was a blackout and I had nothing better to do. Plus, I felt like experiencing a spectacle for once. I rushed out.
A large crowd had gathered by then. The two camps stood on opposite ends. There was this space that separated them. A no go zone you could call it. I chatted up some few people on what was transpiring. Apparently, one of the aspirants was not pleased to have lost to his bitter rival. There were even claims of election rigging. (Bam! I told you. Sore losers these ones).
I didn’t stick around for long. There was stone throwing involved and I was in no mood for disfigurement. My stomach was also rumbling from hunger. (A man has to eat).
As midday approached it almost seemed like the protesters were burning out. The next thing I see is smoke. They had gone out and barricaded State House road and lit a fire. Now, if you have been in these parts of the woods for long when things escalate to that level, you know the GSU guys are not far-off.
I grabbed my towel and headed to have a shower. As the cold water ran down my body,I was there thinking to myself, no way I was going to be arrested and have my mug shot taken me looking shaggy (you have to be ready for those moments that only come once. First impressions you know).
Refreshed and with the electricity back I settled to catch up on a series. I had been watching Scandal the third season of the TV series that week. There is something about the character Olivia Pope plays. A woman who has got her shit together. A woman with ambition (Heck! She only settled for the most powerful man in the world). A woman who can take charge and dominate (If you pictured whips and cuffs, kindly get your mind out of the gutter.*wink*).
The first gunshot. Everything seemed to have come to a standstill around me. Looking outside through my window I see the boys in uniform. They had finally arrived. Students were all over the place scampering to safety. In all that madness there were a few madmen. Some students seriously had the time to stop and hurl stones back at the officers. Talk of arriving to a sword fight with a stick. In no time I had changed into suitable clothes and shoes (Preparation is key).
By that time the sounds of gunshots had become like a melody. When the stinging smell of teargas first hits you, it catches you completely off guard. Your eyes start to tear. You shut them. Then you take a breath and suddenly your throat is also on fire. The agony. You try to think of a way to end it. You hold your breath. You start taking this labored painful breaths. Taking refuge in the halls is no longer an option. The scapegoats who are usually caught and paraded as the perpetrators of the unrest are the ones who remain in the most unlikely of places, like the halls of residence and the library. I rush out.
Outside it is no better. The smell of teargas is all over the place. I run in the opposite direction to the shots. I find myself in the midst of a large group of boys all doing their best to wash their faces to reduce the effect of the teargas. There were those who brought water in buckets and bottles, and everyone was game to splash some water on their face. Talk of unity at the most unlikely of situations. I wash my face and wet my handkerchief and wrap it over my nose. I was ready for what was to come next.
Truly, a mob is a foolish bunch. You would think they would back down after all those bullets and teargas cannisters were hurled at them. Far from it. They seemed to have suddenly gotten this new energy. It was like the bull that gets angrier every time it misses the matador. They were rearing for more. Only the paranoid survive. You do not need to tell me that twice. I looked for the safest exit in case things got even worse. This was just the appetizer in a full course meal.
Running battles ensued. The students throwing stones and hurling back the teargas to the officers as soon as they landed on the ground (Cunning you have to agree. Giving the officers a taste of their own medicine). After sometime things cooled off a little bit. Everyone seemed to have retreated. The battlefront was deserted.
Then all hell broke loose. The officers seemed to have received their reinforcements. They were back guns literally blazing. It was every man for himself. No place seemed safe anymore. I had seen bullet casings that had been collected from that first wave if we may call it. There was no way in hell I was remaining behind to catch a bullet. The jokes in this side of the sahara of people being in the way of flying bullets I was not about to be a statistic. The ruthlessness of the officers also cannot be understated. They will catch you and the beating you will receive walking away with a few broken bones you are considered more than lucky.
Before I know it I am running as fast as my legs can manage. I find myself at the back of a motorcycle. I walk in the rain and board the first matatu I find at the bus stop. I get home worn out. It was drizzling outside but I was sweating and hot all over. Every muscle in my body is tired and aching. It had been a while since they were stretched to their limits. At that moment all I could think of was how fortunate I was to have escaped.
* * *
I blinked a dozen times. Staring at that screen I could only think my eyes were playing with me. It was like hearing a cruel joke and you don’t know how to react. I didn’t know whether I should break down and cry (Would the macho in me agree?).
It slowly started to sink in. I would be out of school for a while. A thousand academic days? How long is that? Confusion. Was this a punishment? Why was my name on that list? Was it for me not getting caught? Was it because I valued my life and security? Could it be that it was because I stood for ideals different from the status quo?
Students had taken to the streets. For what purpose? For who? To what end? To fight for the so called democracy. To fight on behalf of politicians. The scum of the society (You should spit on the ground if you agree with me). All we get to see are their flashy lifestyles. The fuel guzzlers they cruise around in. The dapper looks they done handling the latest gadgets. The foreign trips they get to go on. The airtime they receive on major television stations to air their grievances.
What will happen to me? Has my quest for education just come to a close? Is this the end for me? Who will listen to my weak cry? A cry for help? A cry for justice? There are some reading this thinking I got what I deserved. You hid behind the excuse that your car was stoned and your business closed due to the unrest. Please, give some of us a break. You car has insurance so quit yapping. Do you for a second think my now ruined life came with an insurance policy from the Almighty. You made some losses? Well, it’s not like you will employ me now, what with all you business people only hiring people with years of experience equal to my age (Seriously, what is it with that?).
This is my present. Don’t weep for me.
” Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
-Winston S. Churchill
April Fools’ Day. Hey! Wait up. Please don’t leave. If someone woke you up on the above said day with a proposition, you would be slow to accept it? Right. Now, imagine being asked to carry out your democratic right on that day. Weird? (Eye roll…tongues clicking…sinister laughs. All are justified reactions).
On a serious note, I got to witness elections. The euphoria that was in the air was almost sickening. You could see it in how people walked and feel it in how they spoke. They were expectant. They wanted change. The build up to the election day was anything but grandiose. The old dogs (pardon my language) were in a struggle to maintain their power. The new kids on the blocks were out to get them.
You have probably also participated in an election. You would be mistaken to assume they are the same. On the election day, bright and early, we were all woken up to banging doors and whistle blowing. A call to all and sundry to go and vote.
Despite the biting cold people got up excitedly. You would think they were headed to the promised land. We all line up. Some pushing and shoving. A few terse statements were exchanged between supporters. Last minute efforts to get new followers were also in play.
Moments later. Hours later for the really patient ones. Votes were cast. Fifth fingers were marked. Joy. A mark of honor. A civic duty carried out. A right exercised. Victory dance rehearsals begun in anticipation (Yeaayyy!!!!).
Hold up. There is a catch. I was torn right down in the middle. I had this hollow feeling within me. I felt dirty. That feeling you get when you have committed a sin. I was apprehensive. What had I done? Could I take it back? Was it wrong for me to have cast a vote? Oh Lord, will you save my soul?
Our leaders are rotten to the core. They are willing to do anything to get to power. Some are even willing to sell their souls to the devil. They will go that far. I recalled a conversation I overheard of one the aspirants have on his phone, “Usiku yote nimekua nikiongea na msee wa election committee na ameniambia kila kitu iko sawa…usisahau vile tuliongea,” (I have been speaking with an official of the election committee and he has assured me that everything is okay…don’t forget what we talked about). My heart knotted in anguish. Is this the crop of leaders I just elected? What will their main mandate be once in office? Representing me or paying their dues?
The corruption is anything but rampant. Today it is possible to take corruption stories to the bank. The dogs already had us along time ago. The mismanagement is everywhere. The stench of their irresponsibility is nauseating.
Who is to blame? Are the leaders solely to blame? Are we the people also to blame? Yes. The people are hungry. No. They don’t need bribes to buy food. They are hungry mentally. They need to be fed. Are their leaders ready to feed them? Let them take a cue from the savior. He fed people first before teaching them his ideologies. The people are currently on the wrong diet. All they are fed on is cheap propaganda and petty politics.
I looked to the skies. Dark clouds. No sign of better days. Should I run and wash my hands like Pilate did?
Who is fooling who?
“It’s hard but you move one…’
Abby is sweating. She is almost out of breath. She is now gasping for air. She turns in her bed. She is falling through an abyss. She struggles to wake up from the dream but some force is holding her back. This feeling of helplessness is making her heart race. She closes her eyes in the dream and braces herself for impact.
* * *
Abby is trying to open her eyes. She is sore all over. ‘Oh Lord, I hope you can hear me,’ she mutters under her breath. She tries to call out to her mother but she finds it hard to move her lips.
After a little while she manages to open her eyes just slightly. She tries to make out where she is. The small room she currently is in is unfamiliar to her.
The smell of smoke mixed with burnt flesh lingers. It is rife and she can’t bring herself to smell anything else. What has happened to me? Is it that bad? She can’t bring herself to concentrate on recalling the recent events of that afternoon. There is a lot going on through her mind. Did they make it out alive?
‘You will be okay little girl,’ a voice whispers close to her ears. They are now touching her all over. This banging headache is preventing her from opening her eyes to see where the voice is coming from.
‘She will have to be moved to a real hospital. Her situation is too dire for us to deal with,’ comes another voice from a distance.
Fear grips Abby. That second voice sends chills down her spine. She tries to sit up. The pain that courses through her entire body is unbearable. She gives up. A real hospital? What is happening to me?
That was sixteen years ago.
* * *
It was the New Year. Not just any New Year. It was the turn of the century. A new millennium they called it. Abby’s childish mind didn’t grasp the fuss over this new era. All she cared about was the festivities of the season that were almost coming to a close. New hopes. New beginnings. New dreams. The adults went on and on.
The first week of the year had just come to a close. Soon she would be back to school. She would finally get to meet her friends. They would share their experiences during the holiday. Even better they would finally get back to playing their favorite break time games.
‘Abby follow your aunt back home,’ Christine said.
She hesitated. It was on a Saturday afternoon. She was playing on the steps outside the salon. Abby was in no mood to go back home. Her mother was not yet back from running an errand. She preferred waiting for her to get back. Besides, she felt uncomfortable in the presence of her aunt.
‘Let’s get going,’ Mary her aunt called out to her from across the street.
She paused for a moment. Shrugging her shoulders she got up and ran after the aunt and her cousin Martha who was in tow. Their neighborhood in Dandora was unusually deserted. (People still in denial about the end of the festive season. Bosses must be getting tired of excuses being given for delays returning to work).
They got home. The aunt went straight to the bedroom. Her cousin ran to some other part of the house. Abby was eager to catch up with the programs going on on the TV. She went to fidget with the socket trying to make the connection. If only you could take back some moments in your life.
Is hell really a place? Is it full of an eternal burning fire? Do the lost souls those condemned from heaven go to burn there? There was this flash of light followed by an explosion so loud Abby thought she had gone deaf. The whole house was engulfed in flames.
The initial blast had knocked her to the ground. There was fire in all the directions she looked. She tried to get up and run outside but this force was holding her back. She struggled but to no avail. The heat was becoming unbearable. Talk of hell on earth.
As she lies there on the floor all her energy spent trying to escape her clothes light up in flames. In a panic she passes out.
That was sixteen years ago.
* * *
‘Tomorrow you are finally being discharged. You get to come home finally,’ Abby’s mother told her with a smile plastered all over her face.
‘Really, but I…,’ Abby responded stopping midway getting lost in her thoughts.
Is there anything to go back to? I already have a new family here? Will it be hard starting from scratch? Conflicting thoughts for such a young mind.
Six months had elapsed since she had been rushed to the Accident and Emergency wing of the Kenyatta National Hospital. She had been in that burning house for close to two hours. After getting some first aid from a dispensary in their area she was brought to the hospital. She was more than lucky to be alive. Miracles really do happen.
If you stay at a place too long you are bound to get attached. She had come to grow fond of the hospital. The smells and dull colors of the place had become her new normal.
For three months she was bedridden. She had sustained burns all over her body. Being in a burning house that long you are not even left with a strand of hair on your body. They were agonizing months. Her mother was always there taking care of her.
After the three months she still had a tough time using her feet and she had to use a wheelchair to move around. That proved to be a problem as they had to share it with John, another fire victim of about her age. They always wanted to use it at the same time and it always turned out to a fight between them. At first there was no love lost. Later they became friends. Talk of diplomacy.
When she finally got around to use her feet she did best what a five year old would do. Be mischievous. She explored the place. She got to know the doctors and nurses. She would see the nurse on duty and know that that would be a bad day.
She had friends in almost every ward. Not the maternity ward, the kids ward, even the HIV ward. She even made a discovery. The emergency buttons all over the hospital didn’t work. Heck, she even got on the canteen’s credit list. Talk of being a regular.
It was hard leaving. Unbelievable even. A part of her had gotten so used to the hospital she wanted to remain there. Even among rubble sometimes gold has been found. She had found a silver lining in a dark cloud. It was time to go back to face the world.
The nurse on duty that day helped her pack. On that walk from the hospital she was torn. Not sure whether to be happy that she was going home or sad for leaving behind what she had come to regard as sort of a family. Bitter mixed with sweet.
Walking through that door to their new home was daunting. She was reluctant. All her olfactory functions were directed towards checking if there was a gas leak. It was a situation of once bitten.
Everything in the house was new. Her aunt and cousin had managed to escape and survived the fire. There was nothing else that had been saved from that fire. They were literally starting their lives from scratch. Every belonging of theirs had been razed to the ground reduced to ashes. There was fanfare at the new house. What are the celebrating? Is it the opening of the new house? Or is it the fact that it happens to be my birthday month? In any case what is the fuss about? Abby wondered through it all.
She had lost her most prized possession.
That was fifteen years and six months ago.
* * *
She had heard a lot about him. She never knew him personally but deep down she felt as if they had been friends all her life.
Abby only had one picture left of her father. She cherished it. It was a black and white one. It was taken way back in the ’90s. In it he had this short afro and those tight trousers the men wore that suddenly expanded out at the ankles. The man had class during his time.
She always smiled whenever she took out that picture and stared at it.
‘Dad,’ she said.
Would he have liked me calling him that? Do I say it right? How does it sound when I say it? How would he have responded every time I called him that? Would I have been his favorite? Would he consider me his princess?
Sadly, there was no one to answer her questions. He had passed away when she was only three months old. Later she was told he went through suffered a bout of sickness and succumbed. All she was left with were her dreams and that picture. Her most prized possession.
That was seventeen years ago.
* * *
Abby jolts awake from the nightmare. She is drenched in sweat. Her heart is pounding. She grips her sheets. She heaves trying her best to slow her heart. The giddy feeling is still there.
She does not move. She stares into the dark at the ceiling. Ever since that afternoon the nightmares started. They were less frequent now than before. She hated them.
The memories came flooding back. Her eyes filled. She let the tears fall freely till she could feel them reach her ears. They were not tears of joy. She was glad to have lived another day to tell the story. However, she was sad and angry to have lost her most prized possession that fateful day.
Her heart knotted in pain just thinking about it. The only picture she had of her father was lost that day. Burnt to ashes. Now all she had were the dreams and even those were getting hazy with time.
Would he be proud of the woman I have turned out to be? Would I be his delight? Would he approve of the choices I have made in my life? Would he be proud of my achievements so far? The list of unanswered questions only keeps getting longer.
‘Should I also have been turned to ashes that day?’ Abby cries out to anyone listening to her at that ungodly hour.
This is the present.