Teen love

He broke my heart into a million pieces.

untitledI was thirteen, fresh into the teen world. I could feel my breasts fighting for that small space to protrude, and my ovaries dancing in excitement. He was a new comer. And when I first saw him, I knew I was in love. He was the cutest thing I had ever seen. He had as smile to die for, and  pair of dimples to match the picture perfect face. TWO FREAKING DIMPLES! And I discovered I was a woman with feelings. I wanted him all for myself. I said a silent prayer, that the good lord would make him my desk mate. Then, Teacher Agnes disobeyed the will of God and put him behind me. My ‘back deskmate’. But I was okay, we could still build a home from there.

Then we did our first exam in class seven. I did not care what position he would secure, it did not matter to me whether he would be top from the bottom or last from the front…But then, he was second from the top! Whoa! My husband was all brawns, all brains. What more could a girl possibly ask for. Surely

I spend half of my time in class seven and 8 turning back to ask him the difference between the leeward side and windward side, about windsocks and windvanes, GCDs and LCMs… and all. And every time I looked back, getting right answers from him over and over, I could tell how brilliant our kids would be. How cute they would be, and the masterpiece honeymoon his brain would craft. I wedded him a million times in my head. And I changed my name to Mrs. Him. I would unconsciously write his name on my books, on my locker, on my metallic box, on my palms: everywhere. My deskmate noticed.

“Ha ha, umeandika andika hiyo jina kila mahali… if you want him, just send me” She teased

Class 8, third term. Year 2004.

Farewell books. He gave his book to write stuff. I, Dorothy Taitumu, wrote…’ I will miss you because I love you

And that statement right there, that statement cost me my marriage! He did not speak to me again. (Oh boy, such a guy…so typical of modern men to go mute at the mention of that word, LOVE). I wish I never revealed my feelings.

2005, form 1.

I was still stuck on my marriage. I had refused to sign the unspoken and unwritten divorce papers. And while my new desk mate Aggie spoke about her boyfriend Yang, I chipped in that I too had a husband. And he was in Bush, and bush was THAT school. I never gave up on trying to savage our marriage. I wrote him letters in very beautiful writing pads, perfumed them, had his name in jaw-dropping calligraphy: and kept them safe. I never got the courage to send them, my bad. Then Lucifer happened, I carried one of the letters home. And it landed on my mother’s hands.  Whatever happened with my mother that day! I stopped loving my pretty boy, divorced him even.

2009 February

endI bump into him. Haha, Karma is so righteous. Adolescence had taken such a toll on him. The dimples that were once a turn on, were covered in that bi*c* acne. Puberty can be unfriendly. He is aware of how his rejection and divorce affected me…and how they  bruised my ego. There has been a coffee date that has been happening since 2010, and an apology from him.

I am back in the city now, so where are we having that coffee? Sanibel island maybe? Tell me Bry.

********

Gakii Taitumu

The small black dress…

A dress for a sunny day, a dress for dinner and another dress for Sundays. The University introduced you to a new type of dress, the dress to RAVE with. Usually, this is the small black dress. Image result for black dressIt comes in different variations. Some of your classmates call it scandalous, but who said their opinion ever mattered to you? For four years, they remained in the classmates’ zone, not more not less. The most you interacted with them was during the group discussions which the lecturer insisted on being the one doing the allocation. So you found yourself with them, discussing all the signs that signify that we are living in the end times.

“The dress codes around siku hizi, hata sijui, aki women nowadays! I look at them and wonder if they respect themselves…” (Insert a forced look of sorrow on her face, coupled with a cynical tone)… Then the others joined in. They mentioned the women who appear almost naked in music videos. They said that men were wise beings because they would never dance in boxers, or do the bend-over kind of dances in the videos: the devil only lies to women. They further talked about the classmate who can never cover up her cleavage and the one who has a thing for pieces of clothes. Oh, and the one who always wears torn jeans, or hot-pants and tumbo cuts. Goodness! The tumbo-cut phrase betrayed your resolution to keep a flat face. You looked at them in disappointment trying to remember the last time you heard such a phrase.

Silently, you thought to yourself: “How stupid can people get with fashion? Those clothes have a name, rugged jeans and halter tops.” Then you rolled your eyes, looked away and put your left palm on the lower jaw on your left cheek. Simultaneously followed by a deep breath and loud exhalation.

They asked what a man would possibly find attractive in a woman who shows her things to other men, and to the world at large. You listened in tolerant annoyance, trying to distract yourself by playing around with your short nails. You almost wanted to ask them what THINGS they meant. But you realized that a thing is a thing, that an exposed thing remains exposed regardless of the dimension you looked at it, and that they had some valid points they were trying to put across. You felt a little agitated because you have always been one of the defiant kinds of girls. Your dressing has always depended purely on your mood for the day, sometimes scandalous, sometimes well covered up.

Take it easy darl, easy.” You convinced yourself to henceforth do deaf-listening to the villagers and let them talk about whatever floated their boat. If it made them think that wearing rubber shoes, combined with the shiny silky pink skirts they wore for their aunties’ weddings and matching yellow t-shirts was fashionable, then who were you to dispute? By the time the discussion ended, you couldn’t help thinking of your small scandalous dresses. You asked yourself if you had a multiple personality disorder: if what you wore made you a different person and if your dressing spoke volumes about the person you were.

So today was the day of reckoning, the day to answer whether a dress for a sunny day could comfortably be worn on a rainy day. You had a dinner and an after party (Read as Rave/Dunda) on the same night. You had recurring questions:

  1. A dress for dinner, and a dress for rave? Means you will have two dresses.
  2. A dinner dress for rave as well? or
  3. A raving dress for dinner as well?

You stood in front of your closet, totally confused. All factors held constant, a dress for dinner meant a clutch bag to go with it, one of those shoes you wear only and only when you will walk less than 100 meters and the elegant confidence to wear the dress with. A rave dress needed nothing but the energy to rock the dance floor. You have never been the girl scared to change clothes up to ten times in a day. But how would you carry another dress? What was so wrong with wearing a dinner dress for rave? WhaRever, stop over thinking it! Oh, in case you are wondering, rave is synonymous to disco, if I am not wrong.

The devil is truly a liar. He convinced your inner voice that whoever invented different dresses for different occasions was a fool. And you did not even think through it. You wore your dinner dress, wore your shoes, wore the fragrance to match the look, grabbed your poise, and sauntered to your gorgeous girls who were waiting for you.

“Woo, look who’s looking all royal tonight!” They exclaimed with the usual zest. You were not sure if they were flattering you, dropping polite undeserved compliments or just saying something to break the silence. If you do not know the sarcasm which comes with some of these compliments, you need to stick around girls more often. They will pour praises on you and maintain very plastic smiles until you leave. And even before you are fully out of sight, they turn to each other with something like ‘Is it just me or she looks like a choir mistress in that dress? And that body of hers does not even do the dress justice…’ Don’ be surprised, those are girls for you. The compliments today were well deserved though. And the dinner came, and passed. You liked being on the spotlight, you enjoyed the glances and the winks which made your heart skip a beat. You had a wonderful time. End.

Club

Whoever told you that a maxi dinner dress could go raving lied to you. You walk in with your well prepared friends. The ones who had stockings know what to do with them. The ones who had worn trench coats know where to place them. It is hot in there, the music is loud, and the lights are flickering in different colors. You hesitate. You look at your friends all looking like romans dressed for rome. A quick glance at the elegant look on you going down to waste. This is not exactly the place for elegance, it is not the place to showcase your long free dress. You are not sure how again you will hack the dancing styles here. Fast music, fast moves…everything is FAST.

“Weka weka…me huweka-weka.”… There is a dance style for this song which you cannot manage today. The most you can do is nod your head and look around as people do their thing. Every one of your pals is in the mood to shake it. What is making you feel odd is the fact that they are all set for the night, from their dresses to the energy. You decide to take a back seat and man your friend’s drinks. You almost feel out of place, you start listening to music lyrics word for word and internalizing them. But this is proving hard, the music changes faster than you can catch the next line. You switch from the music to the boneless dancers on the floor, you wonder who taught them how to dance like so. Then this whitish man comes over to your table.

“Senorita, lonely?”

“No”

“Why are you taking your drink alone like a leopard”

(Some pick up lines though! So you decide to play equally outdated, or is it old?)

“Oh, Leopards take drinks?”

Stiff laughter from him.

“No, they eat alone though…”

This is not the kind of conversation you wanna have with an old man still struggling with clubbing. For a moment you wish you had ‘him’ around you, then maybe you could laugh and invent a dance. But he was not there.

You have two options, keep listening to an old chap telling you leopard tales, or join your friends. You choose the latter. It’s okay to have the stares, it’s okay by all means to try alter the dress to suit the environment, and it’s even okay to dance without shoes here. And you dance like no one is watching. The drinks always make you as boneless as those dancers you were looking at earlier. You forget the weird glances being thrown on you for your conspicuous dress, (Did I mention it was yellow in colour? But maybe the disco lights are making it appear black, who knows?). You forget the smooth tunes that go with dinners and get accustomed to the loud hits.

You do not know how conspicuous you are until some small boy comes up to you and asks you if your friends never told you how to dress for these kind of things. You really look like you are fighting with the dress…. “Next time, do not forget to remember to wear a dunda dress when coming here, sawa mammy?…”

You look at his tiny body and genuine concern…then you respond with obvious vexation… “Sawa, lakini focus on what brought you here. Achana na dress yangu, sa-sawa ba’ba?” He obviously walks away, and you smile to yourself with some sense of pride…The night is still young and a silly comment from a small boy won’t steal your energy.

Point taken home though. Next time, just stick to the small black dress for heaven’s sake.

Death beyond death

death“I heard gun shots and fled. We jumped over the fence. The police are here, they are taking us to a safe place in groups of five…”

That was yester morning, Holy Thursday Morning. I was just waking up and still snuggling with my duvet in the chilly dewy morning. Getting out of bed gets really hard in mornings like these, and so I stayed on. Half asleep, quarter in my usual morning fantasies, and quarter listening to the loud news broadcast.

That was what I heard. For all I remember, she sounded calm and composed. From her strong voice, fleeing sounded easy, she sounded calm, and the police were there too. And so I brushed it off with a sigh, they’ll be fine, it’s all well. At that point, I was unaware that the massacre was happening to a University, to students beaming with potential and with a fire so intense to succeed. I did not imagine for a moment that behind the silent voice, were waves of trepidation from a death so close: escaped by a whisker.

I went on with my usual morning fantasies, turning a deaf ear to the worrying news! I was determined not to worry about things I was not in control over, and excited that Easter was finally here. That by his death, he redeemed us. As a child, I had always fancied that my death bed come by somewhere during Easter, so that people would commemorate my death with that of Jesus. Scary, I know! But that was me as a child. Mommie had taught me that death was not bad, it was what happened to good people who needed to rest, eternally. I look back and wonder how I was so calm about the thought of death back then.

Today, I dread it whenever someone walks up to me to break the awful news that they have lost a loved one. I almost always want to run away from being the one comforting them. I lost my childhood friend Dorah to an accident two years ago. Sad!… I still remember the somber conversation with her Mom days after the news were broken… “I always thought my children would be the ones to bury me, she was the warmth here, she was that child I couldn’t wait to see her future, she was my girl, still my small bubbly girl and you know, she was so close to the finish line, it hurts… I stood there listening to the Mom, unsure of how to react. She tried to keep the talk on her bubbly little girl but anguish overcame her. She broke down for the umpteenth time. Dorah was everywhere in her memories, in her call log, in the family photos, in her siblings and all over their home. She was a final year student in the University, they had big dreams for her. It broke us all, her parents being the most affected. Only then did I know the pain of losing a child, an even more, losing a child in the University. It’s a death beyond the normal death, because you will look at their peers progressing through life, making it big in the charts of fame, and wonder what your child would have turned out to be had she lived longer. You will hear of opportunities and wish your baby was there to grab them. Every parent hopes that their child will live to accomplish the dreams that they themselves did not achieve in their youthful days.

The news of the attack at Garissa went on and on. Another terror attack. My whatsapp was flooded with all sorts of condolence messages in the groups, I can’t be too sure how many of us have their loved ones in this massacre. Some angry posts on the alshabaab trickled in, and some cold threats to the Alshabaab if they were responsible. I read through them all, feeling helpless. I am a University student, and this was happening students just like us, perfectly in the same age bracket as us, in the same lecture halls, and in hostels as our hostels here.

The hostels have become our safest homes, and our fondest places to rest. Every day is an excitement to do something new, to catch up with our friends and exchange never ending pleasantries. On a normal day, we wake up to our peers in the corridors, to interactions in the sinks and knocks at your door. A friend just dropping by to wake you up for an early morning class. We wake up and prepare breakfast for two, because you are sure another friend will pop in with hunger pangs, and you will be glad to be the hospitable savior. On your lazy days, you simply walk in next door and delay your chit chat until lunch is ready. We are all full of life. We talk about latest series,movies and bucket lists as though there is an exam for them… In all my years of study, these years here have been the most spectacular. At this point in time, our shared excitement as the next cream of graduates is transition… The aptitudes, interviews and planning for what next after school with your peers is an exciting experience…

Not a single day have I ever woken up scared for my life, or scared that I would walk to the next room only to be greeted by lifeless bodies.The closest I have been to being worried are the days that I doubted myself, days when I got jittery of what next or when I was disappointed. But not a single day did I ever wake up scared that death was a close reality. I plan for tomorrow as though it’s a right, I know I will wake up safe and sound. I cannot even remember the last time I had my Easter death fantasies.

Today is Friday, Good Friday. I woke up to the sad news, 147 people lost their lives. I am worried about their families; it is absolute pain and anguish for them. Chiromo Mortuary is crowded with families unable to contain their ache for the loss of their dear ones.cry I wonder what disturbs them more, the fact that their children were so close to the finish line, or the manner in which they were killed. Are they still trying to call them with baited breath, and at the last ring, going down on their knees in prayer that they will return their call later? Hoping that somehow they survived? Are they looking out at other University students and getting jealous that they are still alive? Envious that their slain sons and daughters would still be walking around with glee and beaming with potential? Are they going to walk the streets a few years from now, and see young people in suits…and immediately start thinking about their children, and the legendary marks they would have made had they lived longer?

I might not know how best to put my condolence in words, I may not even utter any word that will fail to remind the affected families of the gap left behind. The lights of glory will truly welcome the victims to heaven… But to the country, to the citizens so keen to point out hypocrisy in leadership by comparing the westgate attack to the Garissa attack, and to the world that is so quick to judge Kenyans and the government…No amount of criticism and venting will bring the innocent souls back to life. No amount of judgment will save the situation. So, rather than flooding social media with complains and angry vents, take a moment and pray for the country, for insecurity and for the families. Make donations as faithfully as you did during the westgate attack without complaining that the media and the government are not giving the attack the attention it deserves. Because whether we like it or not, we can never be all the same, and all situations can never be given exactly the same degree of attention. The wounds are still so open that any word spoken to fuel the anger only serves as an addition to the open wound.And a nation that violates human rights in the name of fighting terrorism has already joined the terrorists. I leave it at that.

The certificate

I went through all my high school years afraid of the final exam. The pressure in the academic system was much. The idea of four years of study summarized in one single exam scared me. What if I fell sick? What if they only focused on the areas I was not comfortable with? What if I panicked and failed to think straight? And every year marked yet another increase in the workload which we would be expected to remember. Some concepts became easier by the years, but most became more complex. They fed us with something new every single day of the academic term; be it composite logarithms or a strange chemical reaction or biological process. It petrified me when a new idea made me forget a previous one. It frightened me even more that the subjects were all independent in content, each demanding a unique approach.

In my third term of the final year, I was scared that I was not prepared for the battle. We called it a battle because we had to prove ourselves. If you did not pass this exam, the system would automatically lock you out. It felt like a competition for survival where only the brightest would make it. But that was not the case. The system was not necessarily for the bright, it was for the lucky. But the harder people worked, the luckier they became. And so I worked hard- for luck. We did not give ourselves room for failure. My goal was not to get a free pass to the University, I only wanted to excel. I was too scared of failing, I was scared of what people would say, and afraid that if I failed, my life would henceforth be mediocre; and that it would forever haunt me that I could have done better if I had tried harder.

We went through a phase of momentary self doubt.When your memory suddenly starts failing you, you are bound to doubt your abilities. When the mock results come and your performance is below your personal targeted goal, you are bound to freak out. When you look at the volumes of books right in front of you and feel that you cannot handle them, you definitely start resigning to fate.

The teachers must have known how much the thought of failing stigmatized us. They took time to prepare us psychologically. They told us of girls who had made it big in life, despite poor performance in the final exam. They introduced us to bridging courses and the possibility of eventually getting University education through these courses. They told us about entrepreneurship and emphasized the need to be broad minded in our approach to life. They talked of the opportunity to explore other talents besides academics. I found the talk on talents a little hypocritical. We had gone through four years of academic pressure and minimal talent pressure. No one had really cared to invest in our talents… but in case the academic way went heiwaya on us, we could take the talent route! Wasn’t talent supposed to be most grown in our teenage years? Wasn’t talent more productive than concepts that we would barely apply in our professional life?

We were well prepared to deal with failure, but no one taught us how to deal with success. No one took the time to let us know what next after excellent performance. (Which comes as a surprise to most of us). Usually, it’s an answered prayer. The exams are never easy and you can only hope that the Lord shines his favor on you. It is this lack of preparation to deal with success that has seen some of the top performers drastically change and experience academic reluctance when they get to institutions of higher learning. It is only normal to want to ride on yesterday’s glory and cling on to the moment of success a little too long. We like to use our past achievements to prove to people just how smart we are. We expect to have the papers do the talking for us for as long as we live…

And because results were released just the other day, I caught myself scribbling this. For outstanding results, it’s a job well done: congratulations. But that is just it. It will make it easier for you to navigate your way out here, but there still lies a long journey ahead. The very same effort you put to get there, is the very same effort that replicates in life. The only difference is that you may not have exams with life, it is our choices that show how smart we truly are, far more than our abilities. Welcome to yet another new beginning, to another phase and to a new system of study.

For the love of bao

“Be there by 6.00am and dress the part. They might overcharge you if you are dressed stunningly… Remember to exercise patience too, ukitafuta haraka hautapata. A hurried eye cannot find anything appealing! Just shop nice and slow…She said. Nice and slow got me thinking.

I am going through a mental checklist of what Shie said I needed in order to get something nice out of a flea market. The first and ‘last’ time I was there, I promised my feet that they would step there ever again. It was one early rainy morning. I had worn sandals as usual. I waded with my open feet in mud, slid and almost fell on several occasions! At some point my sandal got stuck in mud, and in attempt to pull it out, it tore. But it was not the frustration of the walk that made me swear never to set my foot there again, it was the way I had to keep turning the heap of clothes up and down to reach the ones at the bottom with the hope of getting lucky. A Louis Vuitton, Fendi or Gucci wear maybe shipped to the country after being worn once by those men and women who throw cash and notes of low value to dustbins.

indexbThose sellers must know the frustration of finding a diamond among a thousand stones: and so they sing to the buyers soothingly. “Ni ya bao, ni ya bao!…mari yote? Bao! Pepram? Bao! Gogo wazi? Bao! Harita? (Halter), Bao!..Shifon? Bao! Spaghetti nayo? Bao! Madressi camera? Bao! …Beba na? Bao tuuu… The rhythm of the melody is so saccharine that it gives you the energy to overturn those heaps. You sweat everywhere, even the earlobes. All for the love of bao.

“Why do you stress yourself like so?” I asked her after getting myself some few pieces.

Do we have a choice? Student budgets don’t always allow you to walk to shopping malls and boutiques to buy clothes. And these clothes are even better than those others, very unique and durable… Ubaya wa zile za supermarket ni ati ziko na kila mtu… She went on and on but I wasn’t listening. No amount of talk would convince me that I needed to go through all the morning hustle to get something decent to wear. After all, those Gikomba women who come at night can always drop by our rooms with a well chosen collection. Paying extra was just okay if that is what they went through all the time. That was then!

Tables are turned now, paying the extra is not okay anymore. (Just for today.) I am trending on acute budget constraints after blowing my rainy day fund over the festive season. January has never been this tough since I knew money. There is a holiday ahead I cannot miss. The cool kids crew will be having week’s holiday at the beach, and hell, I cannot miss it! That ‘something’ called positive peer pressure looks like this. I read that in your twenties, travel should be part of your budget. That we should invest in experiences and memories.

I woke up in the morning glowing with euphoria after a dream that I was Sasha, or was it Malia? Then I saw my sticky notes with a bold title: Beach budget. It reminded me that the Sasha/Malia thing was a DREAM, the Obama’s do not know that budgets like this are a reality. The amount available for expenditure did not fit to appear on the same page with the word beach… Calling home for more money was not an option.. I’m I the only one who freaks out when about to ask for more money? The type who will call determined to say they have no money and even adopt a very timid almost inaudible voice. But after hearing the tone on the other side of the phone telling them to speak up, the adrenaline rush makes them start asking awkward questions like: “Has it rained? Mmm, and how are the crops doing? Chicken? Cows? ‘Owkaaay’… And you are all okay? …oh nice. Salamu tu! End of conversation.

So after a thorough consultation with my heart, soul and mind, I concluded that the flea market was the only place that would understand and accommodate my badly dented pockets. I have a habit of wearing my best wear whenever broke to help me forget that I am, and I did just that. Rule number two broken. But I remembered to carry closed shoes. If I had gumboots, I would carry them; and cross my fingers that the law of encounter would not apply. It says that the probability of meeting someone you know or who knows you increases with the number of times you wish you will not meet them. It’s even higher when you are in dreadful places you expressly told them you did not even know how people reach there!

And here I am, in a matatu headed to this flea market, call it X…seated next to an old man who just won’t stop staring at my torso. It makes me want to slide forward and hide my boobs, almost the same way we used to just when we were getting into real teenage years. A girl with big titis at that age got a great deal of weird attention to an extent that she preferred being in buggy wear all the time…I was one of those. It is the deliberate rubbing his arm on my chest which drifts my attention. Old man, Old ratchet man!

“Hmpf! what the freaking hell is wrong with this idiot?”(Rolls eyes )….Aloud I sensitively ask: “Nikusaidiaje mkubwa?”

I’ll be very honest, I want to snarl at him blow his ears with a piece of my mind. My chest is mine! Mine and mine’s. What is happening to these old men, thinking that they can lay their hands on just anything that looks spongy. It’s okay to look, you can even use magnifying glasses if you so wish. But for heavens sake just DO NOT touch me. Too bad I cannot bring myself to disrespect he who has lived longer, lest he curses me.

“Funga dirisha” He tells me with a witchy smile … Seems I wasn’t even wrong after all, is it that hard to insert a polite word when making a request?

As we draw closer to this market, I am thinking about how many souls it has saved. The wanna-be(s) desperate to be in designer wear or designer wear look-alike at the cheapest option. The market gives them the illusion that they are there, already. It’s an accomplice in the ‘fake it until you make it’ anthem. The young entrepreneurs who will spend the so pronounced bao (twenty shillings only), and conveniently charge upto several thousands for the same: depending on the buyer at hand. After cleaning and ironing the wear, they are allowed to lie to you that it was shipped from their cousins in North Carolina. Thank me later for introducing to one of the theories in selling: The need satisfaction theory. In brief, this theory suggests mutual satisfaction to both a buyer and a seller. For the seller, it’s only obvious that they stand to gain financially in the sale. The buyer? Their needs should be met, but truth is, these needs are not inherently there. We create them, by actively probing what you think you lack, by appealing to the prospective buyers insecurities and spontaneously shifting your value proposition to hit right at the softest of their insecure spots. The features, advantages and benefits of the product suddenly appear like they were perfectlytailored for this potential buyer. A seller does not appeal to common sense, but to the prospects’ fears that they do not measure up, and that they are missing an important part by not having the product or service. And so these sellers smoothly manage to appeal to your need to have the experience of imported wear on the skin. People buy at that set price. (Hundred fold)…and out of that, a living is made. Bills are paid and meals put on the table. The market also builds talents too. I just caught myself thinking, what if one of those big shots who run big talent shows on music passed by there one day, and listened to the melodious voices of baobaoooo, and by chance the seller inserted that prolonged vocal where the voice sounds like you are crying but also singing. Like that infamous Taylor swift song, I knew you were trouble. Not the original version, the whatsapp video with a goat enhancement. And this talent hunter figured some bitonality in the seller’s tunes, and got utterly impressed and vwa! Picked him for the next big show. Just like that, life would forever change for this lucky seller. From baobao to the next big tune in the charts of fame!