Celebrating East African Writing!
A few years ago being the village girl that I was then, going off to my new marital-home-to-be, not in the fairy-princess-white-horse-pulled-carriage British girls swoon for, nor a hired limousine and a pink ballooned entourage American girls would die for; no, I hopped on a lean metallic structure instead.
I had just cleared secondary and was the hottest thing in my neighbourhood, where to reach standard 8 is a feat.
That I was only 16 was beside the point. I was ripe in everyone’s eyes, Pimply face, boyish hips, braided hair, 12noon breasts and a flat tummy all neatly wrapped in a bright latest style kitenges.
My almost to be husband Odhiambo was a tall, light skinned guy with an athletic body and a blue band smooth tongue. I met him on a typical lake side afternoon, horridly sunny, humid and windy, at the local shopping centre where everyone( who is someone) meets to have soda and Anyango’s hot mandas, he was on a green mountain bike, not the usual phoenixes and black mambas, he was classy so I gave him audience and allowed him to take me home, him skidding an the bike, I walking whilst delicately balancing the freshly ground millet and cassava flour in a sack, I had gone to the machine you see to rego 3 gorogoros.
I confirmed bits of my suspicion about him in our brief conversation, he was a town guy, my type, had just come back from Naivasha, his sister had an intercooler, a sign of greater things to come my way, he was an only was an only son, amongst 9 siblings, I could envision my special position in that homestead, central, key hosting Aunties during funerals, I would host oches and all of them would love me and leave me fat bahasas.
On our next meeting, I let him touch me a bit, brushed my lips against his and he gave me a sheepish look that yearned for more. But I had to go, so we settled on a second meeting, at the dry river bed where we scoop a meter high sand to get to the level of water. His masculine strength and my recently earned expertise concluded the task quick and we had few minutes to explore each some more, it was electrifying, my dreamy eyes squinted, he moaned, I brushed my hands on his chest, he tightened his grip on my buttocks, he darted his erect bluebandi tongue in my mouth and I moaned harder, we were leaning on a huge boulder, when he pressed on me harder and I pulled my pink kamisi off, the village chief came.
As is my peoples custom, I would sleep at my grannies hut since I was of “Age”, I let home in on this, so he would come often, whistle out three sharp sounds and wait. I would wait for 3 minutes or so get my neatly folded clothes from under the pillow, tighten the lesso round under my armpits, step on rows of cousins scattered all over the par, sleeping mats and quietly open the squeaky door.
At times granny would hear and shout out mano nga? To which I would freeze first before answering en an, adhi layo.
She would then switch on the Nyangile lights to ensure I do not step on my relatives not knowing that I was already at the door, I would then hurry out, Plant a hot kiss on my beloved Odhiambo, rush behind the hut to grannies bedroom window lift up my skirts remove my athoch and let a sprinkle of hot urine noisily hit the wall, this ensured that granny ascertained my good characters.
Whilst still holding hands with my beloved I would loudly open grannies door thump my feet on the same spot and close it again, she would then switch off the lights and we would happily go to the village disco.
Before long, granny found out that her once innocent namesake was not so any more, she asked me, I let her in too, but when she did not hide her disappointment, I told Odhiambo and who prescribed a kilo of sugar and a litre of mauta to heal grannies broken heart, it worked perfectly.
So we opted to elope to avoid anymore disappointments and license our hot passion, and that’s how I landed on his dad’s black mamba.
As we travelled, we chatted here and there, stopped once in a while to drink fanta and rest , I leaned on his sweaty chest that smelled of rexona, salt and energy, and couldn’t wait to get home and avoid the grassy patch for once…
So he pushed harder, cycling on even on steep hills, I reconfirmed how strong he was and grinned wickedly to all passersby along our way, I could hear women clicking their tongues at the poor boys suffering, but they were just jealous hadn’t they had there turn?
Occasional we stopped to greet people we know, and I could see pride and admiration on his face, he would look at me when introducing me to his people, brush off a braid that was out of place and wink at me. When we were alone he would brush his hands on my back, look me in the eyes and smile, a smile that said his heart out.
When we reached the last shopping centre to his home, he chose to stop by and shop , Kimbo, rice, fish, ngano and meat, he had a guest you see, a special guest, but the guest was now tired, so he leaned the bicycle on a tree side along the road and asked me to wait .I spread my lesso under the tree, straightened my skirt, folded my legs and sat, he came back, looking odd, sat next to me, secretly squeezed my hands tight, stood and told me he will be back.
I couldn’t help but notice the words on my lesso, kikulacho ki nguoni mwako
I fished out a book from my bag, as I had done when I recently come travelled from Nairobi for December holidays to await my results, it was late January, and the results could be out any minute.
A lalmba Association van passed by, spreading dust all over, I closed my eyes, covered my head, then I remembered I once wanted to be a nurse could work with them and spread the dust on other people.
A private car passed, the occupants cheery and talking in English, I remembered my school mates and wondered what they were doing, getting married? Hell no
A tiny awfully black guy stopped by and asked me my name, I clicked my tongue and turned the other way and sneered, he took off.
So I sat there, a loneliness engulfed me and I started doubting my steps. The chemistry was great, his people skills impeachable, but that’s all he offered for now and I lacked the patience to see potential. I had big dreams, intended a city life, fancy cars, not bikes, hipsters boots, classy restaurants and English conversations, my loneliness doubled
A Monalisa hearse drove by and stopped, a troop of city dwellers filed out, shades, jeans, plastic bottled sodas and tight tops, I saw Odhiambo coming back, hands full of stuff in 3 green polythene bags, the hearse driver winked at me, I looked at Odhiambo, who was on my right, he stopped as if had remembered something, gestured a just a minute hand sign, to my right the hearse driver started it and gestured me to join them, so I turned left then right then left again, Odhiambo was coming back, I stood leaving my lesso, grabbed my bag and started towards the moving hearse winking at the driver, who stepped on the brakes as Odhis rushed, confusion in his face, he looked at the lesso then me as I hopped into the bus he shouted
I looked back through the emergency glass and saw him read the words on my kanga and shed a tear.
The driver stepped on and we were off to a greater life, Nairobi.
I am now 35 and still looking for a greater life and love.
My then beloved has since married and is an established business man and has a fancy car too!
I have a collection of cats and have now embraced the love knows no age philosophy since the only guys interested in men are younger.
You wonder how I got here?
As the hearse snaked along the slippery mud stretch that is the road from my village, a sense of part relief part guilt engulfed me, the stronger bit fought on, flashing images of Rachel, the lead character in the Mills and Boons I was currently reading. Pretty, brave, determined, and attracting men of substance, I wanted to be like her and yet a part of me wanted to jump out and run back to my beloved and his promises.
Unlike me, Odhiambo was a man of few words. A calm contained guy who did not spill all over even when charged. During our brief encounter, he never once raised his voice at me and had made it clear that he detested fights and arguments, and that’s why he decided to marry only one wife-me-and avoid the constant feuds between co-wives so popular in my village .When he promised this, I pretended outwardly it did not matter to me how many women warmed his bed, just like it was expected of me, but inwardly I smiled, glad I would break the chain of dramatic episodes that was the experience of marriage to as many women in my line as I could count.
My mom was starring at hers now, even after daddy had long passed! Sometimes I would wonder what they were fighting for now, I mean with the man and his warmth six foot under, why couldn’t they be friends? Most of their earlier feuds had something to do with where Baba slept, ate and who he walked with in public, sometimes and they would sometimes involve us too
I remember the day mommy came home from the market with her kikapu unusually bulging, as I watched her struggle gracefully balancing it on her head arms akimbo, and with a friend tagging behind her, I saw trouble. As she approached our compound, she delayed a bit at the gate, sharply searching the compound with her eyes as though counting the numerous chicken she owned or maybe looking for a particular one she intended for dinner and then she spotted her, my stepmother-my mother quickened her pace and thunderously screamed out my name, ‘Helena!’ Come here you silly girl, hurry, get me a container to offload these things”
Quickly I ran to our kitchen hut, which was between our main house and stepmothers’ kitchen and brought out an uteo for her to offload stuff on. As I was coming out of the kitchen she dropped her luggage with a loud thud on the ground, spat out a lobe of thick saliva through the gap in her upper teeth and sighed loudly. Then I heard mama click her tongue, ’Mmmmmmcchhhhhhhhhhh.”
Because she had now captured my step mother’s attention she tightened her reddish kanga tightly round her shapely waist, as a karate fighter would, and started as if to offload her purchase.
“Meat, meat everyday,” She deliberately lowered her voice so that others would not here yet loud enough for her audience to, ‘This man is going to kill me with meat!”
On hearing this, step-mom’s eyes popped out, “Helena run to your grandmother and see if she has any mboga, I will not eat meat again today.” at this my eyes popped out too as I could count the number of days we had had meat that year.
Halfway to grann’s hut, she called me back “I will get it myself come back here you lazy girl, take my bag inside and prepare some of the meat for drying, I lifted the heavy bag inside only to find it full of stones, and only a quarter kilo of meat.”
That night Baba fought for long in my step mothers hut, and when he came to our house to eat and sleep even though he had slept at our house the previous night and was due next door, I overheard him say something about money, women, and something crazy, and through the shadowy light of the lantern mom smiled as our eyes met, that’s the day I vowed never to marry a poor man.
© Millie Dok 2010
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