Run Away

“Now that I could not go back I was not sure, after all, that I wished to go forward. It was a miserable sensation.”
-Anna Freeman

“Run away with me,” he said.
“What about…,” she cut herself short. Too many confusing thoughts were racing through her mind.
“Don’t put too much thought into it”, he said. “Just run away with me.” The implore in his voice was apparent.

                                      * * *
Nashipai had to get up early that dull Tuesday morning. It was cold outside. She had no choice. Actually no one had a choice.

According to the Maasai culture, the women and girls had to wake up at the crack of dawn (pardon the cliche) to milk the cows.

Mt. Kilimanjaro was clearly visible at this time. Narumoru village located on the outskirts of Oloitokitok was just a walking distance to the Tanzanian border with Kenya. It was really hard to appreciate the sheer majesty of the mountain with the nail biting cold sending shivers down your spine. You have to concentrate your frozen fingers not to miss the empukuri and spill the milk.

At around eight that morning Teiya, her father, was outside his manyatta. The sun was slowly coming out. He lightly leaned on his walking stick. He was an imposing figure. He keenly watched his sons, they were all out watching as the cattle were led from their enclosure. Culture dictated it. All the boys were expected to be out. They observed rather than merely watch. Through it they were taught to pick out any animal that might have fallen ill during the night. They had no choice. Or was their father really watching them? Could it be he was marvelling at the number of his cattle, hence his material wealth. No one knew for sure. There were talks of him being a tyrant but those were always hushed.

The boys after breakfast went out to graze the livestock. Nashipai and her sisters were left carrying out various chores around the homestead. They had to go fetch firewood later on in the day with her younger sister, Seiyan. She had mixed feelings about it.

It was not like she had any reason not to want to go to fetch firewood. Aside from the risks. They had to walk to the forest located at the border. At other times they were forced to go as far as across the border. Now, it was all fun and adventurous. They passed through migombani. The name originated from the many banana plantations in the area. It was also equally notorious for harboring a huge number of drinking dens. You would find men and women all seated together enjoying their brews. Scenes like those could never happen in their community. Those were Chagas from neighboring Tanzania. They had to be on high alert when they got to the forest. It was illegal, and the forestry guys were known to be ruthless. There was also that other reason.

Had they made too much noise? By the time they heard the sound of crackling wood it was too late. The forestry guys had snuck up on them and they had nowhere to go. Phew! Korir was among those doing the patrols. That other reason.

Korir was the forestry guy she had met some few weeks back. He was a nice man that one. He let them do their business so long as he got the opportunity to chat up Nashipai. He seemed to have taken an instant liking to her. He had on his signature red slippers. She was confused. At her age she was not sure of what she felt. There was some joy. Beyond that, she could not fathom what was happening to her. The hollow feeling in her stomach was like nothing she had experienced before other than when fear gripped her. But it was not fear she felt. Her skin was burning. It was like a fire had been lit inside her and was radiating the heat through her skin. Oh Lord, what is happening to me? Am I falling sick? Could it be that? No. No. She tried her best to tame her rogue thoughts.

Lately, he seemed to be getting serious. It was like he was courting her. He also had some crazy ideas. They talked for sometime. Seiyan watched from a distance. Then he blatantly said it and caught her completely off guard.

“Run away with me.”

That was thirty-two years ago.

                                          * * *
  “Mum…mum, see what dad bought me,” Claire is shouting. She is happily dancing around.

Nashipai watches as her last born daughter struggles to catch the wind with her new kite. She is seating outside their newly built house. She is in full view of their farm. It is the rainy season and the landscape is covered in a lush of green. They were going to have a bumper harvest. Korir is on the other end of the farm. He seems to be fixing something. Exactly what she does not put too much thought into it.

“Head over to your father,” Nashipai says. “Let him show you how to properly fly that thing.”

Watching her go, she cannot help but think to herself. Was I right to run away to my happily ever after?

This is the present.

Teiya Oloilole

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Crack of Hope

“Because what’s worse than knowing you want something, besides knowing you can never have it?”
-James Patterson

“Five raised to the power of two…,” the teacher said.

The clack of the chalk on the blackboard irritates Ng’enoh. He adjusts uncomfortably in his rickety chair.

**********
He stares blankly trying to pinpoint the crack on the wall that let in the sun. It is still dark outside. According to his watch it is 4 o’clock in the morning. He considers going back to sleep but the goat skin doesn’t hold a promise of any comfort. He decides against it. The night runners have not even finished their rounds. This thought assures him of some company out on the road. Why do they run? What are they running towards? Why does anyone run? Are they running from something? We all running away from our miseries in one way or another. Right?

Today, he has to catch the bus. He does not have a particular destination. Any will be just fine. Can I possibly get away? And go where? Any place that is not here? He rummages through his thoughts trying to see if among the rubble lay a solution to their current predicament. He has missed a button. He mutters a curse under his breath.

He is the first born in a family of six, three girls and three boys. The perfect symmetry. We don’t choose our families. What if we could? Blemishes. The snoring of his little brother brings him back to the present. He feels his way in the dark trying to find his only pair of shoes. Theirs was a dysfunctional family.

Bomet is unusually cold in July. Baby making weather they called it. The biting cold has numbed even his feet. His worn out shirt with a torn collar is still wet in some parts. The sweater he has on is only a formality it does not serve any purpose. He quickly walks through the dark almost breaking out in a sprint. Faint lights approaching from a distance gives him a glimmer of hope. He wants to stand right in the middle of the road. He starts to frantically wave the bus to stop.

“Dad I need money for my school fees.”
“Chukua hii majani chai, kwa saa ii sina pesa,” the old man says leaning down through the driver’s window. The black paper bag hangs in the air for a second. Hesitation. He considers walking away. The anger boiling inside him has completely paralysed him.

He stands on the side of the road confused. The red lights fading in the horizon cuts a piercing ache through his heart. He tastes blood on his tongue. He can feel the pounding of his heart. He considers tearing the paper and scattering the tea leaves to the wind. The thought of his mum stops him. She had sat distraught by the fireside as the tea boiled on the fire. They didn’t have something to eat. The sugarless tea on the fire would have to suffice to get them through the night. The future seemed nothing but bleak. The hopelessness written on her face was unmistakable. She had held back her tears. Rage.

**********
Why can’t they just find a way to fend for themselves? Do I have to do everything? He looks back through his side mirror at the fading figure of his firstborn son. He shifts to a higher gear and accelerates. That large tract of land that I left them with let them do some farming. He wants to reach out and feel the one thousand shilling note sitting pretty in his pocket. His second wife will surely prepare a delicious meal tonight. He smiles to himself.

**********
He hates Maths. There is nothing worse than trying to focus in the afternoon. The classroom is hot. He clenches his fist to try fight off the hunger. There is no rumbling. An empty stomach full of air. The minyoo in his stomach must surely also be on the verge of emaciation. They are probably frantically looking for a way out. Where do they go? There is no excrement. His lunch box is gathering dust at the back of his desk lost among his books.

He tries to focus on the lesson. He wants power. The power to change his past. To undo his present. Rewrite his future.

Teiya Oloilole

The Funeral Committee

This post was inspired by Mwaura Mswati’s post Mwaura Is Dead.
“I will not accept this,” Mike says.

The somber mood on the round table was now slowly getting tense. Ivy, the chairperson, now had a confused look. Hesitant even. She seemed unsure of who to assign to speak after that comment by the father of the deceased.

“Actually we will not accept this,” John says. He chimes in without an invite to speak. Whether he does it out of loyalty for them being age mates, no one is certain.

DEAD MAN.
“It was the man’s last wish,” James, the best friend to the deceased, says. “Don’t you think we should honor his wish?”

“To be cremated?” John asks almost immediately. “Never, this is not acceptable.”

“He specifically asked not to be buried,” Samantha tries to come to the rescue.

“Why didn’t he inform us of this before he breathed his last?” Mike poses the question.

A brief moment of silence.

“If he had, we would have drummed some sense into his head,” John says. “This is not acceptable in our culture leave alone religion.”

Damn that old man. He was proving to be a menace. The thorn in a rose flower that almost makes you forget of its beauty.

CULTURE.
“A lot of cultures and religions around the world are accepting the practice,” Mark says.

“True, world over it is slowly picking up pace,” Jane says.

“That is the problem with this so called new generation,” Mike says. A little agitation in his voice.

“You are all but to quick to abandon your ways,” John adds. “You are going around picking up new cultures without even the bat of an eyelid.”

“But…”

“But nothing,” Mike cuts James short. “You do not want to simply follow the rules.”

“Do you think we wrote them?” John asks.

“We found them like that and followed them without raising questions,” Mike says.

The young members of the committee are all mum. It was supposed to be a simple meeting to plan the send off of their friend. Now their whole existence was being questioned.

“Why don’t you just live by your cultures?” Mike asks the question.

On top of the confusion there is some resistance in the air. No one likes to be put on the spot.

NEW WORLD.
“It is a new world,” Ivy says, “things are changing.”

“They are not as they used to be,” Jane adds.

The others are seen shaking their heads in agreement.

“Bollocks,” John says.

He does not even let them bask in their misguided victory.

“This has always been a new world,” John says, “a hundred years ago it was a new world.”

“Even yesterday it was a new world,” Mike says, “and we have always stuck to our cultures.”

FIRE.
“Does this mean that my son will be burnt to ashes in a fire?” Maureen asks. She is speaking for the first time. A mother’s agony for losing a child can be felt in her voice.

“Technically someone is not burnt using a fire…” James starts to explain.

“What else can be used to burn?” Mike says stopping him mid-sentence.

“You will also not receive ashes per se,” Jane says. She ignores the question asked by the father.

“But doesn’t…,” Maureen says. She stops herself and slumps hopelessly in her chair. Mike rubs softly on her hand reassuringly.

They all stare at each other unsure of what to say.

“What will be the way forward?” Ivy asks.

Teiya Oloilole

Climate Talks (…#1)

“Democracy is a continuation of war by other means.”
-Unknown

image

“All rise…”

                                     * * *
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.
(Standing up).
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.”
(Cutting in)
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.

Teiya Oloilole

Scandal…Where is the justice?

When I see the youth fight each other because of politicians, it bothers me.
-Bob Marley

image

Premonition.

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.

Teiya Oloilole

Pink Socks (Of love, betrayal and murder)

It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.
-Anonymous

image

It was a cold Saturday morning. The sun was nowhere to be seen. The clouds threatened a downpour. Mary shivered. She was seated at the church of the funeral home. The wooden pews were uncomfortable. Couldn’t they consider comfortability for those in mourning? She thought angrily as she adjusted her seating  position on the pew.

She stared at the cross at the front of the church. ‘Lord forgive us sinners that…,’ she began her silent prayer.

‘Sorry for your loss,’ someone bent over her shoulder from behind. She stared up. It was Christine one of Mike’s best friends. She was now rubbing Mary’s back softly.

‘Thank you,’ Mary did her best not to break down to tears. The church was slowly filling up. The mourners all came in a solemn state.

The pallbearers slowly walked in. Everyone stood up. Eyes fixed on the casket. It was brown in colour and the polish finish gave it a metallic feel. It looked majestic.

The man of God signalled for everyone to take their seats. ‘Today we are gathered here to celebrate the life of our dear brother Mike…,’ he began, ‘let us begin with a prayer…’

                                         * * *
The heart shape on top of his coffee was now distorted. Mike fidgeted with his phone trying to figure out the shape formed. What could it be? He watched as a line on the coffee drifted from one end to the other of the cup. Abstract art. He thought to himself. The coffee was probably cold now.

He checked his wristwatch for the umpteenth time. Only twenty minutes had gone by. The honking and blaring music from a matatu  reminded him he would be late getting home. He was seated at Paleo. He had chosen a table nearest but facing away from the door. The chatter and footsteps passing outside the coffee house was like a recreation of the great wild beast migration at the Maasai Mara. It was rush hour.

Should I leave? Maybe today is not the day? He debated silently in his head. What about the untouched coffee? That thought brought him back to the untouched coffee cup on the table. I could gulp it down in one go and be gone from this place in no time. He reached out for the cup. Lifted it slowly towards his lips as if it weighed a tonne.

Just as the rim of the cup touched his lips, she walked in. She walked graciously and sat a few tables from where he was. The cup was already back on the table, the coffee still untouched. She made her order. He couldn’t bring himself to stop staring. She turned to look in his direction. He pretended to be staring at the lighting. Foolish move.

She was now reading a novel. He half stood up from his seat then fell back. He tapped his foot trying to come up with a plan of attack. It felt like the moment a general has to make the choice of whether to attack or fall back. The weight of the world on his shoulders. Here goes nothing. He muttered to himself breathing into his hand to check whether his breath was okay.

‘I am Mike…,’ the light tap on the table stopped her from her reading. Who drinks tea in a coffee shop? He could not help his thoughts staring at her cup.

‘Can I help you,’ she said staring up from the book in her hand.

‘I don’t think you have noticed but they must be putting something in the coffee…’ he said taking the empty seat ‘..as I was coming over here I swear I had it all planned out how it was going to go. I am not so sure anymore.’

He held his breath.

‘I didn’t get your name,’ he said as lightly as he could manage.

It was like experiencing how long an aeon is in just a matter of seconds.

‘I am Mary,’ she said in passing, closing her book all the while staring at something that seemed to be beyond him.

That was two years ago.

                                            * * *
 The light breeze was like a light touch by a lover. Mary was engrossed in Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist. She stopped for a moment to enjoy the breeze. The shadows formed by the trees in the sunset were anything but marvellous.

She looked up from her book and took a look around her. Some distance away from her was this group of girls, all happy and jumping around doing their best to give their best pose for the selfies they were taking. Instagram promises to be a buzz today. She smiled at that thought.

On one corner the smokers were huddled together. They seemed like outcasts. One could not help but admire the unspoken bond among them. They were united in their cause. What cause? To smoke their lives away. These negative feelings creeping up inside her caused her to turn to another part of the Jevanjee garden.

A large group of men was gathered. No one was preaching to them. They seemed to be holding a discussion on a certain matter. Everyone was attentive when it was not their turn to speak. She caught a comment from a member in the group. ‘The corruption in this country has become too rampant.’ ‘Those guilty should hang just to say the least. They are killing our economy bit by bit.’ Another one reiterated in support. Politics. Why aren’t women involved in such discussions? Do they think we do not have our own opinions in such matters? The feminist in her coming out in her thoughts.

She went back to her reading. The flash of a light interrupted her. She thought of looking up but dismissed it to be the reflection from the windows of a passing car. It came again. The lady seated to her right was smiling. She looked up.

He stood a few steps in front of her. He took another shot with his camera. The flash of light blinded her for a moment. She was not sure whether to be pleased or mad. He was stretching out his hand. She thought of ignoring him.

‘Sorry for the inconvenience but not everyday I get a perfect shot,’ he said returning a firm handshake.

‘You can call me Andrew…’

That was six months ago.

                                           * * *
‘How could you do this to me,’ Mike said clenching his fingers into a fist. He was clearly enraged.

‘It was nothing. You were away so much that…,’ Mary said amid sobs. She sat in a corner curled up. She had never seen him this mad.

He paced the room. He almost knocked down her dresser. ‘How many times has it happened?’ he asked.

‘I am sorry my love…please forgive..,’ she tried her best to calm the situation.

‘I don’t need your apology. First it was the pink socks that I found a few months ago. Now this…,’ he said kicking her shoe under the bed. ‘How many times?’ He turned to look at her with this devilish eyes.

She inched nearer to the wall. She was not sure whether he could hurt her. ‘A couple of times,’ she said covering her head with her hand.

The recording in the background of their lovemaking session with Andrew seemed to have hit a switch. He turned around and grabbed the phone. He stared at the screen for a moment. The phone hit the wall so hard if there was to be a burial it would have to be a closed casket. He was like a man possessed.

‘I will kill that guy…,’ he said amid a shout of pain mixed with anger.

That was a month ago.

                                           * * *
The last lady in black placed flowers on top of the grave. The wailing and crying was now almost over. The end to the celebration of such a young life snuffed out fast approaching.

Mary stood at the back of the crowd. She was in black. The black glasses shielded her from all the stares. She had given up on crying. She looked straight as the cross was put in place. Someone gently touched her shoulder and said some words she didn’t get.

The sun had finally come out. It was now a few degrees above normal. The pendant on her neck was still ice cold. She reached under her scarf. The casing of the bullet felt soft under her touch. She stroked it.

The coroner’s report indicated that the single shot to his temple as the cause of death. The police investigations concluded that it was a robbery gone wrong. There were clear indications of the house having been ransacked. Mike’s watch was also missing with a street value of over fifty thousand shillings.

He shouldn’t have threatened to kill Andrew. Mary tried to reassure herself of her actions in her silent thoughts. She had thought of poisoning him. That would have pointed more to a crime of passion and the main suspect would have been her. The idea of hiring a hitman also crossed her mind. But she had no intentions to leave a trail behind let alone a paper trail.

She had stood there unscrewing the silencer watching his life drift away like a smoke. It was hard toppling over the furniture to make it look like a robbery. Some things a lady should never have to do. The watch was stashed away at her parent’s home. Funny a man with such an expensive watch could not just let some dime-store pink socks go unnoticed. She frowned at her thoughts.

‘One day in the future I might consider including it in my memoirs,’ she murmured to herself. Or I could pass down the watch as a family heirloom. Their great grandfather will be a war hero who died for a cause. What cause? Love of course. I will be in control of the story. I will spin that yarn to my liking. The evil thoughts almost made her burst out in laughter.

She lightly pressed the pendant in her hand closing her eyes relieving the moment she pulled the trigger.

This is the present.

Teiya Oloilole

DEADLINE (Would you kill?)

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‘You have to pull the plug,’ the look on his face was of  distraught.

‘But honey…,’ her words were lost as she struggled to hold back the tears. She lightly squeezed his frail hand. ‘The doctor said…’

‘The doctor already gave me a deadline,’ he said interrupting her. ‘Please end my agony,’ he said. A tear streamed down his cheek.

‘I just…’

                                      * * *
‘Kyle you have to go get her number,’ Peter said tapping his friend on the shoulder.

They were chilling on the balcony of hall 8 at the University of Nairobi. It was a boring Tuesday afternoon. Their classes had bounced. It was hot. The temperature had skyrocketed and they were doing their best to catch a breeze.

‘What have I got to gain?’ Kyle asked.

‘You have nothing to lose. Besides, she is a lone wolf and if you do get her number you get bragging rights,’ Peter said shoving his friend forward.

‘She had better not be a false alarm,’ Kyle said pointing at his friend as he ran down the stairs.

                                        * * *
‘Hey! Wait up,’ the voice from behind startled Sheila.

For a second she considered feigning ignorance. She was from a lecture. Her mind was fixated on getting to hall 5, straight to bed. She turned around.

‘I have been running after you for the past kilometer or more,’ said this boy panting.

‘He is faking. But he is cute,’ she was thinking to herself. She watched his lips move too distracted to make up what he was saying.

‘So can I get your number?’ he asked.

I didn’t even get his name. The thought surprised her. Did he even ask for my name. Or have I forgotten telling it to him. Already. Stop focusing on how good looking he is.

‘0…7…2…,’ she said.

Should I lie to him. What have I got to lose. Is there anything to be afraid of. If I give in, what will he think of me. Will he think I am too easy. The thoughts were fleeting. She had to make up her mind. Fast.

He had stopped midway. He was now looking straight at her. The look of expectancy written all over his face.  He was waiting on her.

                                       * * *
‘What is forever?’ Kyle asked.

‘What kind of a question is that?’ Sheila answered with the question. The feeling of irritation creeping up inside her.

‘It’s a simple question,’ he protested.

She eyed him suspiciously. Considering whether to answer his question. She thought against it. She turned to watch the sunset. The trees were swinging in the evening wind. The view was serene.

He was  a new graduate with an engineering degree. She had graduated with a degree in economics a year earlier. They were still together. Years had gone by. Feelings had grown. Love had blossomed. Cliche.

They were seated at the balcony of their rented one bedroom apartment. They had a whole lifetime ahead of them. Dreams yet to be fulfilled. It felt like it was them against the world.

It had been a good day. She was in no mood for a fight.

‘Would you consider being my bride?’ the question was unexpected.

It hit a chord. The tears flowed. Some details after that moment were still hazy.

                                        * * *
‘The results came back positive,’ the doctor said casually.

A ringing in his ear. Fear. Uncertainty. ‘What does that mean doctor?’ Kyle managed to ask.

‘After a series of tests it has been confirmed that you have leukaemia,’the doctor said scribbling something on his a piece of paper on his desk.

‘Is it bad?’ Kyle asked.

‘Unfortunately it is chronic,’ the doctor said.

The world shattered before his eyes. They were just newly wed. It had only been a little over a year since she had accepted his proposal.

The symptoms had only appeared a few months back. He had started feeling fatigued from time to time. He brushed it off as being due to the pressures of his job. Then he got a fever that refused to go away.

Sheila had insisted that he sees a doctor. Here he was. His world crumbling all around him. How will she react to this. Will it devastate her. Will I survive this cancer. The thoughts came flooding in. They only added on to the feeling of hopelessness that had taken over him.

‘We should start chemotherapy as soon as possible…,’ the doctor was saying. He was too distracted to get anything that the doctor was saying.

                                       * * *
‘I just can’t,’ she pleaded.

Six months had passed. The chemotherapy did not help much. He had slowly wasted away. Now what was left was only a shell of his former self. The doctors had said he did not have much time left.

‘Do you love me?’ he asked. He struggled to sit up from his hospital bed. He had no energy left. He soon gave up and fell back on the bed.

‘You know I do,’ Sheila said. She was now trembling. Her tears flowed. Her sobs were now uncontrollable.

‘Don’t make me do it,’ she was pleading. She placed her head on his bony chest trying to feel his heartbeat.

‘Do it for us,’ he said lightly stroking her hair.

‘For us or for you?’ she asked. She did not get up. His heart was beating faintly. It seemed to also be giving up. ‘Please don’t give up on me.’

‘Please…,’ he implored.

She slowly got up. She placed a trembling finger on the switch of the life support machine. He squeezed her other hand.

She closed her eyes as she heard the click of the switch.

TIME FRAME…(how far are you willing to go?)

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Saturday, February 20, 2016, at 4:09 pm.
‘Are you James Peters?’
The husky voice shook him from his reverie. He looked up from his desk. These two huge guys were there hovering like vultures over a wounded lion. He suddenly felt  boxed in.

5:25 am.
‘Please spare me,’ he pleaded.
James was kneeling down on the cold hard pavement. The muzzle of the gun was pressed hard against his temple.

It was dark. He tried to make out the face of his attacker but all he could see was that he was in jeans.

How he got himself in such a predicament was still a mystery. He tried to move. It was futile. He was numb all over and it was like he was glued there on the ground. His heart was on overdrive. Fear gripped him. Damn. Shit happens.

5:30 am.
A sharp ring.
A flash of bright white light. ‘Don’t walk into the light,’ that little voice in his head warned him.
‘Am I dead?’ he asked himself trying to catch his breath. It was like he was being choked. He gasped for air.
That sharp ring again.
He jolted out of that nightmare in time to catch the ending of the second ring of his alarm. He was drenched in sweat. His chest heavy. He felt like he had just crossed the finish line of a marathon.
‘These damn dreams,’ he said throwing his hands towards the ceiling.

12 noon.
This was one of those slow days. Time seems to be just crawling by. It seemed like he had been at the office for centuries now.

He fidgeted with his pen. Being in the tropics at this time of the year was like being in an oven. The temperatures had soared. The inefficient air conditioning only made things worse. How he wished for winter at such moments.

He adjusted his tie lower. Unbuttoning the his shirt. He had hung his coat a few hours back. The sweating had not stopped. The boredom was getting worse.

He was getting hungry now. He should have accepted that offer for breakfast. Poor decisions.

5:35 am.
Lying face up he stared blankly at the ceiling. His one bedroom apartment was modest for a bachelor. The neighborhood in Mwiki, Kasarani was nothing affluent. But what else was expected of a guy on his first gig as a P.A.

The house needs new furniture. A television would go a long way in providing some entertainment. The warmth of woman would also be welcome. Home cooked meals probably. Thoughts racing through his mind.

He slowly dragged himself out of bed. Another day in the endless rat race.

6:55 am.
‘Boss, ongeza pesa,’ the tout was arguing with an old man.

‘Kwani si ulisema gari ni fifty?’ the old man asked.

‘Zae gari ni seventy,’ the tout answered.

The old man was seated a few seats in front of him. The white hair on his head was clearly visible from where he was seated. He chose to ignore the ensuing scuffle. He looked outside his window.

‘Mshukishe gari kama hana pesa,’ some of the passengers shouted angrily.

The traffic jam was building. The pace the bus was snaking through the jam getting slower with each inch.

‘What is wrong with our society today?’ He could not help but wonder remembering the old man. ‘Are we all just too individualistic?’ ‘Effects of capitalism, for sure.’ Man eat man society. ‘Or did that guy think his age would allow him to get away with it?’

The hooting of a car and the sudden stop of the bus took him back to the activities outside. The number of cars had built up. It was now a snail pace forward.

They had said that this Thika Superhighway would ease up traffic snarl ups. It was hard to really tell if things were any better now. ‘Fuck bureaucracy,’ he said in a murmur.

2:00 pm.
‘Are you done with the paperwork?’ His boss asked a little agitated.

‘No sir,’ he answered.

‘Hope you have not forgotten that the deadline is this coming monday,’ his boss said.

‘I am well aware of it,’ James replied.

‘I would really love if you made it a priority,’ his boss said. He made a hand gesture to signal he was dismissed.

‘Should I do it or not? What if we get caught?’ He asked himself as he headed back to his desk.

10:30 am.
‘Would you like anything for breakfast?’ Sheila asked from across the office.

‘No, I am fine, thank you,’ he answered looking up from the paperwork he was sifting through.

‘Okay, fine’ she said walking out.

He stared at her behind. ‘I should hit that sometime,’ he could not help but think. No set time frame.

4.10 pm.
He sized them up for a brief moment.

‘Yes I am. Who would like to know,’ he answered.

‘We are officers from the anti-fraud unit. We would like to ask you some questions. Please come with us,’ one of them said, flashing his badge.

Tension.

If I Win the Lottery…

My phone would vibrate (it’s always on vibration mode because ringtones just piss me). I would stare at the new number thinking whether I should pick it up or just ignore it. Then I would pick it up. The operator on the other end would inquire about my name and such details and then the good news would come. I will have won the lottery, some insanely huge amount. Don’t get me wrong but at first I would not jump around or make any fuss about the winning. In this parts of the woods I have seen enough pranksters to just get excited over a call. But after some convincing I would accept my luck.
Next on my agenda would be to fast-track the receipt of my winning. Then it will just be the downhill spiral. First, I would get someone who would find me a loophole to either not pay or pay the least taxes on my recent loot. You should understand with all the corruption around I am not feeling particularly patriotic on doing my civic duty.
Being a Christian having been brought up with that as my religion comes the next part. A tithe is paramount. Stealing from the Almighty would be sacrilegious to say the least. I am not sure whether I would be comfortable giving such a lump sum to a church instead the amount of my tithe I would put into some good causes (charities whose main mission is all about changing lives).
Then trouble would start. I would move out to a posh neighborhood, get me a chef and a live-in nanny. My king-like lifestyle will have started. And icing on the cake I would get me a top of the range machine. Not just any car. A Rolls Royce phantom and a chauffeur. You will understand old money doesn’t get new money unless you make a statement. A blissful life you could call it.
I know by now some of you are frowning. How could this guy be so naïve? He comes across such luck and then just shoots himself in the foot. Well recently I came across a saying in the book The Richest Man in Babylon ‘A part of all you earn is yours to keep.’ By such a time I will have given part of the sum to a professional to multiply it on my behalf. So my extravagant living will just be on a part of the budget. So what would happen when the well runs dry? I would auction off the house and the car and retire to some shack in the countryside. Why you ask? When I could just get additional funds from my investments. Well to cleanse myself of that life. To remind myself of where I come from least I get addicted to living an existence that is not mine.
You could call that the perfect mix of brilliance and stupidity. I hope I win the lottery.

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