Celebrating East African Writing!
She sighs as she watches her daughter laugh happily. She looks around, her eyes searching for her grand daughters. They all have the same big smile on their faces.
She watches as her daughters and grand daughters gaily laugh as they peel potatoes, garlic, onions, peas and carrots; they chop tomatoes and meats; they pound pepper corns and spices while ulations rang in the air every now and then. The colourfully dressed dancers and drummers setting up their instruments. The fragnant smell of the spices has made everybody’s stomach grumble angrily, demanding for what is being prepared.
She yawns from fatigue. She stands up and stretches herself to scare the fatigue away, her bones making cracking noises and she shudders as she sits down again. She leans on the tree trunk and gathers folds of her two khanga neatly around her, covering legs. She yawns again. The colourful celebrations had started early in the morning. She had been woken up by the noise of the brass bands that were ushering people to the celebrations.
She looks towards the window of the room where her daughter had been locked in with her somo for three days. While she was being prepared for the big today. She remembers her three days where she was taught how to please her husband and to be submissive to him. She remembers how for those three days they had taught her as she was scrubbed, toned, massaged, perfumed, made up to make her appealing to her new husband. Laughing sadly she wondered if things would have been different he had also been prepared, if he had been taught to be loyal to his wife and family.
Suddenly she panics. The stealthy hands of fear grip in, getting closer and closer around her neck and she feels nausea. Her stomach revolts and she tries to pull herself together. It was not the first time the hands of panic gripped her. But each time the hands of panic grip tighter than the last time. Quickly she grabs the half cup of now cold tear and gulps the tea down her throat, letting the cold tea cool her.
She remembers when her mother told her that she will learn to accept it all, that after a while she will get used to it and it will all be alright. She remembered how she was always sent back in tears. Her head throbbing, her nose running and her face sticky and flushed from crying all night. A woman had brought her a baby. His baby, she had said.
“He will change. He will change after you have had children. He will be forced to be responsible for the family,” her mother had said.
“So you’d better hurry and give him a family. No wonder he goes looking for children!” Her aunts had added. “He will change.”
But he did not change – nothing changed. People don’t change, she later learnt. They change their expactations, she had to change her expectations. She was forced to change, she became psychotic.
“It was a mistake,” he always said, “I had never meant it to happen.” He would apologize with gifts of waxed vitenge, pairs of khangas and gold bangles. She looks at the jingling five matching gold bangles on her left wrist – gift of apologies from his last affair – and smiles sadly.
He never meant for it to happen but yet it always happened. Again. Again. And again. Yes, people don’t change indeeed. In thoughts she cups her head, feeloing her wrinkled face – wrinkles not from age and wisdom but from sleepless nights, deep thoughts and endless tears. She sighs as she slowly picks on the cassava leaves she had been assigned to skin as remembers the night she walked to the other woman’s house.
She was heavily pregnant then, with her two year old drapped onto her back with a khanga and the baby, the first woman’s baby, then three tagging behind them. The baby’s screams pierced through the cold night air, but the anger she felt blocked off the screams. Her baby was sick, she had no money, she was angry and titred and he had not come home that night. But she knew where to find him. She had heard rumours.
“It will get better with time. You will get used to it. Just persevere.”
But it never gets better. It never got better. Puishing back the peeled cassave leaves, she now reaches for the basket of roasted peanuts that she will pound together with the cassave leaves. His favourite mboga. Expectly she peels the skins with her fast fingers.
The peanuts reminding her of the days she had gone to the market. Things had gotten better then, so she had thought. He was home most nights and whenever he worked double shifts, he always made it up to her the next day.
Happily she had hummed to the market as she looked forward to preparing his his favoutite dish. Samaki wa kupaka, cassava leaves and peanut sauce mboga and udaga.
She wipes a tear as she remembers the picture that will forever be imprented in her head. As she walked into the third stall at the market, she found him hugging a woman with three children who could easily been mistaken to be her children.
“It’s your cross. You have to be there for your children. Besides he is a good father. He provides,” she remembers her mother and several aunts’ voices ringing in her ears as they gently but solemnly urged her to go back.
She sighs again as she remembers the number of times she had also sent her own five daughters back to their husbands when they came crying to her. Sadly she looks from her daughter to her daughter’s daughter knowing that one day her daughter will also send her daughter back. It will get better, she had told them each time – and that is what her daughter will tell her daughter. It never gets better.
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