The Life She Lives

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“Fridah has finally found someone who is all about her. They are going to get married soon.” She squeals.

“Wow! I’m happy for her.” I respond uninterestedly.  

In my mind, I’m thinking what plans she has for herself. At 27, with child, an absentee father to her now 4 year old daughter. Isn’t the ultimate role of a woman marriage?  

Maybe she would be lucky enough to catch the bride’s bouquet at Fridah’s wedding. She never wanted to be referred to as Mama Tamara. I remember once she scolded a child severely for doing so. “Mimi ni aunty, nisiskie ukiniita hivyo tena!”  

It then became common knowledge to the surrounding neighbouring children to refer to her as mama yako to her daughter and aunty around her.  

The father to Tamara had left her with a ring on her finger. A promise of marriage. He then packed his bags and went abroad. Where greener pastures are believed to grow.  

His calls were far in between as the distance between them.  

The overseas calls soon stopped coming. The pastures needed more water and TLC. So much water that a child and wife-to-be were quickly wrapped in the forgotten aluminium foil for a lifetime to come.  

After some years, the ring was carefully locked in a drawer and survival measures put in place.  

With no child support, rent, school fees, health bills and the accompanying bills landed on her shoulders. She was not the the first born. She was the middle born. The only girl in the family.  

Her elder brother had his family and not much was going on well with his affairs. Yes, he had two women. A child from each.  

She therefore had to support her mother and father. Once in a while, her brothers too. Especially the younger who lived under her roof. In her two bedroom rented house. Not in the leafy suburbs of gated communities but in a respectable environment.  

All these factors might have come to play making her have so many “handy” guys around. They were all a phone call away. They must have welcomed themselves.  

An ample bum, sizeable titties, great legs, smile (not teeth), hair and not ignoring the “right” even skin tone. What man wouldn’t bend a knee?  

She paid the rent from her monthly salary. Her child’s affluent fees as well. Shopping would be done by one of the guys. As will the electricity bill be sorted. Clothes will be washed by one of her brother’s women. At a fee of course.  

She preferred to hire those in the family. This reduces chances of stealing her precious clothes or her expensive electronics. There are electronics and then there are electronics. She had the latter.  

She owned a Samsung. Like every other Kenyan though, the isomething model (read iPhone) was what constantly rang in her mind. It was a show of class, being on the upper side of the society.  

She wanted to be among the untouchables.

She was in a ring with other women. And a couple of men who now join chamas. They will be victimised if they had their own. Better to masquerade behind these great women’s minds.

The men in this chama might have influenced their meeting time to start late in the evening and end late at night (practically the next day). Eliminating the male prejudice, it could be that the members were young and hungry, the nightness of the night appealing more to them.  

A typical women’s chama: the women show up at one of the members house, she provides the food from the allocated money, they discuss the agendas, by 5 or 6pm, they have concluded and they all rush back to their husbands.  

Her chama : they meet up from 7pm in a club somewhere, they drown in booze, who knows whether any order follows after this. She staggers in at around 4am. The chama was successful. I can tell from the crisp white blouse with all its buttons intact.  

She is a classic blend of the new and old. She sits to local content productions. She is an addict of series such as Blindspot. She is a Lingala enthusiast. She can’t dance well but her delicious body exempts her from this crime.  

She keeps up with the trends, laughs loudly at the latest jokes on the internet. She is not embarrassed to show that set of teeth that badly need braces.  

Her mother runs a hotelier business that she started for her. Grandma to three now, including Tamara in the mix, is the backbone of her strength. When she had her daughter, she still had to work and granny did all the diaper business.  

Once in a while, they sit at a dingy bar and drink together. The mother buys her daughter drinks until she is tipsy. Never mind the next day is usually a work day. Good times, no? 

Tamara is sleeping beside me under the wine coloured covers. She was earlier promised a Kinder Joy if she quietened and left with me.  

She is now tolerant to alcohol. The body system has adjusted well. I remember the first time she and Fridah sneaked out to club. They were still in high school those many years back. Back when F2 was still a big deal.  

Her parents had travelled somewhere and Fridah had come for a “sleepover”. The bundle of us were left to keep each other company. Underage.  

As only the two of them were in high school then, they got to experience the night life. The rest of us watched movies until their return. Puking all the way home. Waking up to nurse hangovers. Practice does make perfect.  

She offered me a drink once. She was drinking from the comfort of her bed. After I had hit the 18+ pass mark. I shook my head and told her I don’t drink. She laughed, her teeth showed. Braces, you need braces. Braces not alcohol.

Kama hujaanza, don’t start. Pombe ni mbaya sana.  

With that, she held the bottle carefully to her mouth took a long swig. All the while her eyes fixed on the transfixed me before her.

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About Rehema Zuberi

Teller of 'taboo-d' tales.

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