As told by ANYONA ELKANAH
I whistled my favourite highland tune as I walked along the banks or river Nera.
The sun was sinking down the horizon like a drip of blood on an eyelid. Its
yellow rays stole through the woods and struck the surface of the river
producing terrifying images. Even in my drunken stupor, I felt those giantlike
figures coming for me from the water. Suddenly, a strong northern wind swept
through raising a mountain of mist from the flowing water. It hit my face with
such force that I almost got jerked off balance. This cold wash sobered me up. I
hurried home with darkness and spirits of the river following in my wake.
Ankima the great had invited me to a big feast in his village on the other side of
the river. His daughter Nyansuguta, who was not only the stunning beauty in
her village of Umoine , but also in the nine villages surrounding it, was being
married off to a white fellow from yonder lands. I could surely have married
her as my second wife but the laws of the land had changed: One man one
woman, so the decree stated. However, there is no doubt Ankima could
willingly accept me as his in –law given our long established relationship.
Besides, I had strongly objected to the idea of our daughter being sold to a
strange land. This tourist easily picked her out during the Enkundekane festival.
Untold envy registered on my face as she danced happily with him in the
ring.And yet I had tried for two years. Nyansuguta maintained she could be
thrilled to be my wife only if I was still single. She could have agreed had it not
been for this crazy white dude who won her love.
I recall vividly that woeful night. As she danced, the big fire lighting the arena
made her oily body to shine like glass. Her movements were serpentine,
bringing out her well curved features like an eagle, made worse by her magic
voice that moved even the ancestors-so that even the ground vibrated with
glee. Her full bosom heaved with maiden urgency, drawing wild shouts and
whistles from both young and old men.
‘Why do you do such a despicable thing?’ I fumed.
Ankara took a long time to answer. And when he answered, his voice was that
of a broken man. He slowly raised his head from the ground. His eyes were
moist and pale.
‘I wish I could convince my daughter. She is adamant and too blinded by love.
She is my only child, the most precious treasure God gave me…’ he grinded his
teeth and said no more.
‘What an elder sees when sitting on the ground, a child can never see even if it
climbs on the tallest tree.’ I rose up and left with my machete. Near the door
leaning on the wall, there was Nyansuguta. She looked at me in such a way I
felt my manhood challenged. I disappeared into the bush without daring to
That day, I had got home very vexed. My wife Sabina served me with bitter
cold vegetables and ugali.
‘Woman, is this the way you handle Kemiami, son of Dudume Killer of Lions?’ I
With arms akimbo, and her forefinger twisted in a complicated way, she told
me to bring Nyansuguta to do the cooking. The bitter leaves froze in my
mouth.She wanted to say something more but her voice choked. She left the
scene. That was several months back.
It’s then I remembered once I overheard Sabina confiding to her friend that I
always dream loudly, calling Nyansuguta by name. Fearing I would be caught
eavesdropping, I retraced my steps like a cat and went back to Ripera, the local
club to have one more bottle of tusker. I arrived home very late than usual
only to be greeted by my wife’s stinging quarrels.
‘You married me because you wanted to make my life miserable,’ she tucked
at my collars violently, her cheeks hot with tears.
‘It’s not what you think…’ I protested.
‘What did I wrong God that He handed me to this village of drunkards,
‘Shut up!’ I slapped her hard on the left cheek. The sound of the blow echoed
with the shrieks of our two kids from the bedroom. I was to land the next blow
but my hand got restrained by some force. Sabina looked at me as if I was a
ghost. The flow of tears on her cheeks stopped . Her eyes gave a fading glow
reflected by the dying embers from the hearth place. This look reminded me
that most happy moment in my life. As the candles were being blown off
during our wedding, her wet eyes had glowed, triggering some kind of desire in
me. It was not for nothing, I the son of Dudume defeated numerous suitors to
win the heart of this beautiful creature of her time.
Many can wonder how I came to win Sabina’s love from the rest, some of
whom were rich and prosperous men whom I could not even dream to attain
their standards in the foreseeable future. When I first saw her, I abandoned
the Igembe shrine where we worshiped Rioba the sun god and became a
staunch follower of the catholic faith. Sabina’s family was among the few
villagers who worshiped in the Igembe parish. I was soon a member of the
church choir and Sabina liked my voice. My parents were unhappy with my
unexpected change of behavior. Ironically, they attended my wedding in the
church despite earlier threatening to sabotage the noble event.
The following Sunday, I joined Sabina to church. I thanked all the members for
their concerted efforts in saving lost souls. That was my last day I set my foot
on the church. After all, I had got what I wanted.
My relationship with my parents became solid again when they realized their
son had recovered his senses.
‘My son, a child who washes his hands can dine with kings,’ my father said as
we drunk beer together with other elders.
Where was I….Oh yes. After the unfortunate encounter with Sabina, I decided to
visit Mokoni to share with him my problems. I shut the door behind me with
such force that the whole house shook.
‘Kemiami, you must be very drunk. Why come to see me at this time of night?’
‘It’s Sabina my wife.’
‘Did she find you in bed with another woman?’ Mokoni joked as he produced a
bottle of beer from under the bed.
We drank slowly as I narrated to him what had transpired. Mokoni just
listened. When I was done, he produced his harp from the wall and started
playing his favourite tune, Omoiseke okare bwoye( A married woman). The
night air vibrated with life. My spirits were revived again.
‘Let me now play to you my new song,’ he offered.
Mokoni and I were circumcised the same season. Therefore we shared a lot in
common. The love for music is what cemented this relationship. He was not
married though. He always made humorous jokes with virtually anyone,
especially women, which most often landed him in trouble. The elders
resented him because they thought his behavior childish.
The strokes on the strings produced a tone of sadness. It brought to my heart
memories of bitterness. Was Mokoni pointing an accusing finger at me? The
harp echoed my unfaithfulness and brutality to my wife. By the time the song
came to an end, my eyes were sore with tears- remorseful tears. I got up and
hurried home. I wanted to tell my wife how much I loved and cared for her.
That I could never do her wrong, and that I could compensate her for all the
wrongs I had done to her.
How was I to know that it was too late? I approached my house in haste, even
the cool night breeze was unable to stop the sweat trickling down my cheeks.
The door was wide open. I fumbled for the matchbox in the darkness and
lighted the old kerosene lamp. There was no sign of life in the house. I
searched everywhere, I turned the bed and even searched in the cupboard. I
got out with the lamp and looked about. A lone figure was approaching.
‘Sabina, is that you,’ I called out, a wide smile dancing on my face. There was
no response, the figure kept approaching. I grew restless. By God! It was my
mother. She looked at me with pitiful eyes.
‘Sabina has gone back to her people.’ She said and left.
The smile I had been holding for so long died on my lips. ‘Went where? Why
didn’t you stop her? What if something bad befalls her on the way?’ I choked
with beer. There was no one to answer me. Later in the bedroom, I discovered
the floor was strewn with roses. Taking a closer look, they were torn, dead