Back then when I was growing, love was sought with monstrous effort. The telephone was just arriving in the big cities and towns around, owned by ‘big people’ in government or companies that had sharpened their saws enough. This is to say that communication in the village was mostly verbal, the face to face kind. Having grown in the villages, I have a lot of nostalgic memories that can’t be replaced by anything. These memories are of their own kind.
If you were getting at a girl, you had to walk all the way to her home, especially on weekends. Saturday and Sunday evenings proved to be the most preferred days. You’d pass by her home and try to peep at their compound to see if she’s around. If you saw her you’d make a p-ssss, ssss sound just like a hissing snake to catch her attention. This was made in low tones so as not to alert the always alert ears of the parents or older brothers of hers. Brothers were super protective of their sisters and if they caught you going after their sisters you’d receive a whipping that you wouldn’t forget for days.
The girl would come out after she’s done all her chores. You’d stand in the small beaten paths, distance apart and talk things which did not directly infer love, but which indirectly led to it. The boy’s hands would be in his pockets. He’d be standing in an awkward position because the girl’s nipples are so erect that the inside of his crotch reacts to this stimulus. Acquiring this position is shielding his erect bong from giving him away.
Sometimes you’d meet in the forests; mostly for coital purposes. There was no designated place for sex. It was a one time opportunity and no one wanted to lose it. So they seized it at that moment. Men and women had not known the art of kissing or foreplay. It was a run in the wild. The thought of it was foreplay enough.
Boys crossed villages, mountains and plains to go visit a certain girl. In each village, there was always that girl who seemed to carry all the beauty of the village. She would attract suitors from all over. She was the special girl, and boys would flock there to ask her, well, not a hand in marriage but a hand in friendship. Most of them never got married. Beauty was a spell cast on them, a curse in all that beauty. Of course, this beauty came with pride; ego and other short comings that made them think they owned the world. She could not date anyone, she looked down upon boys from the village and she always had a boyfriend from a far away village- mostly a handsome guy, tall and brown. The village boys would talk of him in low tones.
But this girl would know nothing past his charming handsomeness. She’s never been to his home or got to know any of his relatives. He is the one who came to visit her. This guy would have a relative or friend in the village- or else how would he have known this girl? He would borrow the hut from this friend or cousin to game his kill. They’d make love, he hands 20 or 50 shillings for the girl to buy either of the following: mandazi, flip flops (otherwise known as slippers), kamisi or even a top (this top is made to be both a bra and a top, I don’t know how it is called). Then they would part ways.
Days later the girl would be pregnant. Everyone will suddenly have a story to talk about. With a protruding belly, she instantly becomes valueless. All sorts of things are said. She will hide in her home, not wanting to meet with the world that will judge her. That’s how her education dream dies. What follows is nine months of out of school, two or three years of raising up the kid and by the time the kid is grown enough to poop in the toilet, her classmates have finished secondary school and gone to colleges far away from home. Her age-mates have prospered, others left the village or even got married far away. The few who are around are men and they’re married.
The baby daddy moved on, married or even moved to the city with another woman. Remember he’s handsome; most girls want him so he has no time to look over the past as his cup is full.
The girl’s life changes. The carrier of all the beauty of the village suddenly becomes entangled in a yoke of depression, desperation and loneliness. Her parents don’t give a hoot. Since she chose to get pregnant over school, their cheerfulness towards her died. It was replaced with scolding, scolding and scolding. She spends her life in regret.
Out of desperation, she finds a man who promises her the earth and the heavens. This man can see the beauty hidden below that fading smile. It is the beauty that shimmers like a city submerged in sparkling rubies. He breathes life to her. For a moment, she starts to think that maybe all hope is not lost, that she has time to repent for her mistakes and turn on a new leaf.
The man is moneyed, and he spoils her like none in her life. Life begins to take shape. It is very easy for a woman to get mixed or rather confused in front of wealth. More often than not, that money chases away the brains in her. Everything in her explodes with awe, giving her no chances of thinking.
She doesn’t remember the last time she had a good life like this. Her kid can finally have good attires, she can dress well, she can make her hair, she can buy her things without having to ask money from her parents. The thinking gone, she readily opens her legs to this man because she thinks he’s in love with her.
This dalliance goes on for quite some time. After around four months, the man has to leave for the city. He has finished his project at the village and he has to return to the city, where he works, to continue with works.
The phones have started trickling into the village. This man has one because he’s from the city. Only Omwoyo, the posho mill owner has a phone in the village. His sons who are abroad bought it for him. So in the evening, people flock to Omwoyo’s to place a call to their relatives in the city and other towns. There is no calling of friends because the airtime is expensive.
He writes a number on the paper for her to call him. She folds it carefully and places it inside her bra, the left breast. He also gives her two new notes of one thousand shillings for upkeep. He promises to send more money. He also tells her he will come for her so that they can go and live in the city. A wide grin spreads across her lips. They hug gently at the bus station before she sees him catch the bus which leaves immediately. He doesn’t wave back, nor does he look back at her. It would be the last they would see each other.
She goes home clinging to that memory, lost in that bubble, thinking of all the moments they’d spent together and how he’d shaped her life. On arriving home, she goes directly into her bedroom and hugs her blankets- she cries, cries, sobs, and then slumbers. She dreams of him by her side. She dreams of a bright future with him. But it is all a dream she will never realize.
Her tummy grows bigger and bigger, a second child is on the way. She is ashamed because people will talk about her again for another nine months. She will be the talk of the village. But she is a woman who has been transformed by love. She endures everything for her own sake and that of her kids. Her parents continue with the cold war, talking to her only when necessary and in a cruel way. She is a burden to them, not having turned out to fit into their expectations. They had envisioned a bright future for her, many cows from her dowry and a golden life in their old age. Now they’re in their 70s and all that is before them is their last born with two children in their compound. They have to work hard to provide for all of this added baggage.
One day she plods to Omwoyo’s. Folded in her hand is the paper with the phone number. She’d preserved it in her box where she keeps all her items of worth. In the wooden box, there are three bracelets which were gifts by this man she’s had a second child with. There is a dress and a hair clip. She has outgrown the dress but it is a memento, to reminisce of the good she found during her bad times, the light that shone during her darkest moments- from the dark knight in shining armour.
“Good evening Mr. Omwoyo!” she greets Omwoyo humbly. Omwoyo has just opened his poshomill, the one and only one in this part of the village. There are only two poshomills in the village, the other one is owned by Mr. Moriasi, an old man who cannot move from his seat. So his mill is run by his elder son.
“Good evening my daughter, are you well? He asks with a lot of kindness. He is known for it. People love him.
“I am well. I want to make a call to the city. I have 50 bob with me,” she says meekly again, looking down at her feet as she draws shapes on the sand with her sandals.
“Let me grab it. Take a seat; you know with the child you must be tired…” She takes the seat gladly as she unstraps the baby from her back and lets it rest on her thighs. Omwoyo disappears for a minute before he returns.
“Do you have the number with you?”
“Here, take it,” she hands over the piece of paper where the phone number is written on. He keys the numbers and dials it. It rings for a while. He redials it again and again until it is picked. He hands it over to her. “Speak,” he tells her.
“Hello Sid, it is me Marrianna,” she says with a lot of excitement.
“Hello, you did not hear? Sid died two months ago,” the voice on the other end replies.
“Oh no! What happened?” she asks, still shocked.
“He died of the big disease,” the voice says and then the line goes dead. She gives back the phone.
“Are you okay my daughter?” Omwoyo asks.
“Thank you,” she answers and gets on her way. Once again, she is lost in thoughts of the same man. She had had the thoughts when she bid Sid goodbye when he was returning to the city. Those thoughts then were thoughts of memories and yearning. Now the thoughts are full of heightened tension, fear and regret. Her heart is pounding against her chest and she wishes the earth would eat her alive. Her feet are heavy. Everything in her surrounding is quiet. She is only listening to her thoughts.
There have been rumours about the big disease in the village for a while. These rumours instilled fear in her especially on how the big disease killed people. Many people in the village had been rumoured to die from it. Most of them died miserably, they became emaciated, helpless and abandoned. They usually died alone, in huts where only they slept. They were stigmatized and people talked about them in low tones.
Now this was going to be her. It sickened, frightened and tore her apart.
Tony, Marianna’s first lover had moved to the city to live with his uncle in Kibera. His mates were envious that he was moving to the big city under the sun. On reaching Nairobi, he was amazed by the breathtaking view of the skyscrapers that competed for reach in the sky. He’d never seen this. He saw men in suits, beautiful women, brown in colour who could not even match Marianna’s.
Then they moved far and far from the city to a shanty, crowded and poorly built. He would end up in a two-roomed mabati house in Kibera. His uncle lived here with his wife and two children. Odor, a mixture of piss and poo rent the air. The picture he’d held in his mind about life in the city was no more. He realized it is far from what he’d imagined.
In the morning at around 4 am, he was woken up from the couch he was sleeping on by his uncle. They had to go and hustle. Leaping and hopping here and there dominated the paths which were full of human waste, water and other kinds of waste. They would end up in a construction site. Unknown to him, this would become his way of life.
The days would become a constant struggle to keep himself on tabs. Food, rent (his uncle asked him to move out after a while), bills, clothes and many other needs. It didn’t matter what you wanted, you only got what you needed.
He would officially become a mjengo man. He toiled all day to meet his needs. He discovered that in the city he was a nobody. While in the village he ruled, out here the city ruled every inch of him.
One day he would meet a girl studying at UON. The girl was six years younger than him. He asked her to meet him at Uhuru Park. It is where romantic meetings took place. He dressed up like he normally would during special occasions. An official attire, a tie and a sweater. In the village, this would earn him respect but in this city, people knew he was right from the village.
The girl agrees to meet him. He has a phone and she has a phone too. After meeting, they talk for a while and the lady says she is hungry. In his mind, a bottle of Fanta madiaba and four mandazis would work miracles. These could be accessed in the local tuck shops inside Uhuru Park. Then they would take a photo to capture the moment.
But she suggests they go to a hotel in town opposite Jevaanjee gardens. The two come from the same tribe. But the lady has spent most of her life in the city so her mother tongue is broken or she twengs it in that annoying way. Tony gives in, they go to a hotel and she orders chicken and chips. He has never been to a hotel in town before. For sure, he is wary of his pockets because when he looks at the menu he sees that the lady has just ordered food worth 600 shillings, money that he spends in full two weeks.
The two are from different worlds. The girl is in for a kill, the ones who don’t say no to opportunities to enjoy good things that this world offers. She is shrewd. She thinks he is a bugger, that she is the smarter one. Tony orders his Fanta madiaba and four mandazis. He is not that hungry, he says. In fact, he is defending his protesting pockets. He has money but he earns it the hard way.
They finish the meal at around 4 pm. The lady lives in Roysambu. She is on holiday. They sit in those seats just outside Jeevanjee Gardens and try to talk. The lady’s mission is over and now her mind is telling her to leave.
Tony asks her if she can at least know where he lives so that she can visit him some other time. She says maybe she will know there that other time. Definitely, she thinks she has a higher class, that it is a privilege she is even with him. The slay queens of those times, riding on opportunities and then whiz.
Just as they come, she did not have bus fare. So she asks Tony for bus fare so that she can get home. Tony fakes a call and pretends that he’s talking to another guy who was to bring him some money. He tells her the guy is at Uhuru Park he needs to go and get the money so that he can sort her bus fare. The lady decides to wait while he goes to pick the money. He goes never to be seen again. Rhoda sits there waiting in hope that he will come back.
Life becomes hard for Tony; he learns that life in shags is better. With his little belongings, he ends up in shags and starts life over again. He follows up on Marianna and learns that she has his baby. There is rejuvenation to do to kindle his former relationship with this trap queen.
He starts thinking of making a family. He was not getting any younger and he had lost his charm. Even the village didn’t recognize his heroism as it once did in matters girl bedding. So he tracks Marianna down. He even brings her home to see his new place and house. Before they even say a thing, he was already on top of her. Overcome by emotions and feelings, they have an orgasmic sex. They had not felt this way for a while.
It is days later when the reality hits Marianna, that she should have told Tony what had become of her- she has contracted the big disease. She made up her mind never to see him again.
She would pass on later on. This is after two years of constant battle with her deteriorated health. She is buried and people attend her burial including Tony and Rhoda. Rhoda is Marianna’s cousin from the mother’s side.
After the burial, fate brings Rhoda and Tony together. Rhoda spends a few days with her aunt and uncle, Marianna’s parents. During this period, they meet with Tony. He apologizes for the incident at the city. The reconciliation brings them together and she honors the invitation to Tony’s place. After a meal, nice banters and recollections, day passes by so quickly.
Tony tells her she can sleep in the extra bed in the other room and then proceed home the following day. Tony sees her get comfortable before he proceeds to his room. In the middle of the night, Rhoda knocks at his door. He opens it.
“It is so dark and lonely in the other room. Can I come and sleep beside you?” He welcomes the idea. Sleeping side by side under the same blanket, feeling their warm bodies, they’re overcome by temptations. They make love. This time, Tony is able to use a condom, he had collected some from the toilets in the city when he was there.
As he puts on the other one for the second round of pleasure, she says, “I don’t want a condom. It is sweet nyama kwa nyama.” Thrilled by this proposition, he throws the plastic away and rides his way to her mound of pleasure. They sex for the better night before they sleep not knowing that they had sealed their fate.
(The supreme hunter in captivity)
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?