There are days you wake up and on your way to work you have this wild craving to bump yourself into the people coming your way. You feel pugilistic and when you try to think, you can’t get a reason for picking today’s wars other than just the fact you want war. You want to knock them down. Every time a godforsaken soul approaches, you steady your shoulder and erect your muscles for offence. And when they pass at a distance you feel very bad and promise to lure the next patient well into your war trap. And when you reach your workplace you feel you should pick a quarrel with your boss or colleague or any object near.
There are other days you want to do something you don’t know. You are there, feeling a great emptiness in yourself and you grace yourself and make calculations about it. Trouble is, you don’t know what you want to do. And when you tell yourfriends you are busy, they can’t seem to understand. They think the index of crazy Africans has gone up by one. You eventually become a misfit. An introvert.
Such is the tide of life.
I once lived in a household where the host was a friend. He hosted me. And when another friend came, he hosted us. But the dance was not there. He had a wife. A girlfriend actually. She happened to be pregnant only too soon and when the parents became too worded, she decided to move in. So we were the four of us. Five if you count well. That was the time I learnt that five human beings can together find refuge under the roof of a single 8 by 8. Our stay was spiced up by the world of member number four.
Mademoiselle began her pregnancy by craving for the obvious things. My host soon had a fridge full of mangoes and grapes. We exchanged understanding looks and helped peel the fruits sometimes. Mademoiselle soon threw herself on colour and we helped our friend buy purple and pink robes to pimp the walls. She smiled and beamed satisfaction. Then it took her to spitting whenever she saw short people. All the men in the household were barely five feet. So instead of staying away from the house we valued, I personally bought her a bucket with soil so she could spit and shit if she wanted.
When Tim was six months inside that belly, Mama Tim developed a craving for the smell of bedbugs. Whenever a bedbug was caught in the house, it had to be kept and waitto be burst when madam was around. That was the only time short people were appreciated in the household. We would trap bedbugs and hand over our catch to the madam for approval. We made it look like a game but there we were, hunting the animals day and night. You know how bedbugs are hard to catch? I would have three or four of them trapped in a plastic cup I hid under the bed. Then the habitat depleted itself of bedbugs just when her demand was blossoming.
That is the time fortune came my way and I moved out to begin a new life as a teacher. But I kept on thinking of the desperate men that I left behind. His Shortness the Host and His Shortness the Guest. I kept dreaming that they had started a Sacco to buy Nairobi’s Eastlands bedbugs on wholesale. Or that they had decided to get a brooder. Many are the sleepless nights I spent trying to mind their agony. I spent nights thinking how a small homo sapiens (insert caps) inside of the madam could put the entire household under siege. It disturbed me.
Last weekend I called.
“You are lost too much Mama Tim. How’s the young chap?”
“Oh Tim is hell here. He now standsagainst objects and even talks fluently. Imagine of all the young kidsin the hood he is the only one talking!”
“He has grown that fast? Take care he will start disturbing other girls and you will be arrested.”
“This child I don’t know what I will do. You should see him use a phone. Imagine! And he dialled an unknown number last weekend, just leave.”
Then I listened to the words every mother has about her child this and her child that. And when it was over:
“By the way Mama Kim, do you still eat bedbugs? A friend here was selling a sofa with an entire colony of them and I thought you could want it. They are immunised….” I only realised the other end was dead the time her laughter stopped echoing. And I know the person who will not make me tea the next time I visit.
There are stories that can only be understood by the individual living them. No matter how queer, they must be narrated because even that mainstream narrative was once a scaring ridiculous thing. There are people who have more serious stories than the Kims.
Last year I wrote a story about a guy in prison. It was based on a true life experience. Because I was submitting it for some literary contest, I was forced to cross here and there, and add some smoke where the sun was too naked. But I have thought and thought about it and agreed it is only the central persona in it that can tell the tale well.
Let’s meet Isa. Not his real name. He is a second year at a public university. Call it Kesses University. Because he scored an A in high school, and because he is a youth leader when they go for worship, parents of Ana, another fake name, decide to approach him to help Anna pass her exams too. So in his long holidays he becomes her tutor in the evenings when she comes from school. One thing leads to the other and Ana discovers not all lessons can be taught under her father’s roof. Isa has a house.
Then one day she stops breathing. Okay, nobody knows if she stops. Nobody knows what happens. But there is on one end a happy and healthy Ana going for extra-curricular classes, and, on the other end, Ana’s shallow grave at a dust heap in Isa’s home. In that grave lie Ana’s parts in small bags. In one bag are ears and the tongue. In another are the legs and intestines. But what happens between the two points is a mystery, and Isa now stands in court before national cameras. Then he begins life at Kamiti Maximum. 40 years, and only a day with the shining sun is counted.
Isa wakes up every morning with the haze still in his eye. Every dream he had has been shattered. He will not raise that family he always fantasised. He will not come home to the warmth of house games with the kids. He will not drive back at the end of every year with new dresses for the old lady and old man at home. Isa will spend 40 years here and when he comes out, the sun will be rising in the west and setting in the south.
But Isa has a story. His story. He has something for what happened between that evening when Ana left her home to the time the armed cops wielded their weapons at angry villagers as the remains of Ana were exhumed. We will never know what happened and why. Not even Isa, if he had a hand, might know.
There are many stories we cannot explain. Mysteries. Like what we do when we are doing nothing. Like how shecould crave for fresh bedbugs and loathe short men. Or like why I feel like knocking my shoulders in the chests of approaching people so that they fall down and I find gratification.
Life sweeps without explanation.