We sit on a bed. Something that could make a decent 3 by 6 bed, with a new mattress on it. The bed sheet and the duvets are tucked away neatly and placed where the pillow is supposed to rest, meaning the owner doesn’t have one. Tucking beddings is the easiest way of coping with organization if you loathe making your bed. The bed looks newly painted with a fading paint of brown-like the one they mostly use on caskets. You must hate that colour if you’re a human being whose future is not bleak at the moment of question. With the dull setting of the single mabati (iron) room, everything blends in well.
There is a lot of room in the small room; things are sparse and mostly slouched in the corners. In the middle there is a space enough for me to get down and do my yoga- only that this is not the kind of house where you remove shoes before stepping in. Any time is a good time to pop in with your kicks on. The floor looks charred; it has lived past many tribulations, bearing a lot of weight by different trespassers on its back over time. It needs some retouch because at the moment it is torn and weary, and old, and burdened, and wrinkled- it lacks the voice of saying ‘I can’t take it anymore.’
On one side there is a clean set of utensils. They signal that the man of the house has not cooked for a while. They look extra neat for any man.
I sit next to him and spread my arms backward to support my lazily reclined body. He is in white pair of shorts and a white vest. At the age of 26, he has been ‘married’ thrice. I find it reckless in a way but also funny at the same time. While I make fun of trivial things, especially dicey decisions, I travel all over the world just to listen because I have soft ears, patience and I say words that people want so that they can turn their lives around. It is a tough job as sometimes I never find time to live my life while at it. It is not a job that pays anything; I don’t ask for money or any other favours. Traveling alone is a good deal enough and getting to listen and stomach all things that I can, I get shaped in one way or another.
The only trying moment in this job is when I have to be aware that that the person before me might be able to take my advice. So the hill is ensuring that I say the right thing. Words can create and destroy at the same time. The way you say them can leave peace or destruction on their paths. This job is not about talking. Majority of it is listening. The world has run short of people with the right ears. Some can listen but can’t keep their mouths shut; they can’t tame their tongues, ending up sharing private stories and compromising people’s lives. When it gets to a point where I need to talk, I have to summon myself and say only words that need to be said. You say one wrong word and that might destroy all you’ve built all along.
My little life has been centred among women. I have built a career and life upon them. I think they’re beautiful creatures whose presence in this world makes life have a meaning. Therefore, I respect them with all my heart. Anywhere I see a woman I see peace, love and things only me can see since I can see through them. I don’t know why I am telling you but as you will discover I am a jack of all trades. In one way or another you’re likely to bump unto me in many places and fields. It is the gift of versatility that God gave to me. It enables me to engage in multiple courses. One thing I am truly sure of is that you might never like me the first few days you meet me because I am cheeky, touchy or sometimes withdrawn and quiet, like I don’t give a shit.
Ibra is my friend. I have only known him for the last half a year through another friend. Once in a while we pay each other a visit as we inhabit the same hood. I have depended on him during rough times, dined at his place when my place had nothing, and watched his TV because I don’t have one. But I have never used his toilet. I am not fond of using foreign toilets.
Recently, he and his woman went separate ways. It would be wrong to say they divorced. They were never officially married. If marriage is anything to go by, by the mtaa standards they were married. No one ever went to any wedding ceremony. I happened to meet him while he was some months into this marriage.
The first time I saw his wife, I immediately told the friend who’d taken me there that the marriage wouldn’t survive. I can always tell, another special gift. Anyone could tell that the woman was way old and mature than him. As much as some might want to say that age is just a number, I knew in this situation they were utterly wrong.
Growing up, I went to many schools because I was a brilliant mind. Some of the schools were real, others existed in books, others online and others just came straight from God. I would like to remember one because it taught me things that not many human beings learn at the age of 14 or 18. In that school I could learn how to study human behavior in something they call human behavioural psychology. The course largely constituted something like mental telepathy whereby you spent time staring into people and trying to think how they would think and think so, so that if you met a person and spent a few moments with them, you’d be able to learn and think like them, or simply know what they’re thinking of. And if you spent enough time around them, you’d be able to manipulate them emotionally any way you wanted.
So when I saw Ibra’s wife, I definitely knew that they were not meant to be. If anything, they were together to exploit each other and then when they get tired of each other’s shit, they tap out and cling to another life trajectory.
“I am soo stressed man…” He says. We converse in sheng. So I’ll try to translate as much as I can.
I look into his eyes. They should be able to tell you when someone is troubled. They’re distant and weary; there are a few red veins visible from where I am seated. He is rubbing his knuckles like a person who is tense.
“Relax buddy. What’s up?” I hit back softly.
“I just wonder why God can’t bless me with a good wife…” He says while looking straight ahead. I know he doesn’t want to look at me because then I’ll see his eyes. They will betray him and no man wants to go through that moment of weakness. The good thing is that I don’t go to people’s homes or meet people to judge them. Each of us has bruises and is fighting their own demons. It would need a perfect person to judge the other who is short of glory.
“Why do you have to say so?”
He goes on narrating to me his life stories. I prop my head in the direction of his story, a job I have come to take as mine. It is not my profession. Mostly it comes my way because of my writing career.
In a span of three years, he has had and lived with three different women. He had married them, as it happens to be. The come we stay kind of. These women, however, in one way or another found a way out of his life after a while; each leaving due to reasons I don’t ask but hope he will tell.
Among the three, there is one she loved. A woman by the name Faith. Faiths are known to be heart breakers. Of all the women he has had, he has had a number of hit and runs in his life; Faith seems to live in his memories. Every time things go wrong for him he recalls of this woman who loved her, and the one he loved.
As it happens, Faith had a kid when she met her. The boy, who was barely four, had been sired in a dalliance under circumstances I can’t explain here. And Ibra took this woman in with her son, and decided to father and dad the kid too. But those around him, especially his mom and brother didn’t take the matter lightly.
Ibra’s mother then would end up in the city and camp in his house. This was not the usual kind of mother visit where she comes with a heavy kiondo (basket) full of goodies from the village. There was no basket. Neither was there a paper bag. Instead, there was a pissed off woman who wanted Faith out of his son’s house immediately.
“Why would your mother do something like that?” I ask him.
“She thought that the woman was not right for me. In her mind, all she thought was that the woman was eating all my money. Plus she didn’t approve me raising another man’s kid,” He says without looking at me. I sit in silence and simmer through my thoughts. Sometimes you don’t have to talk or ask. That way, people will be able to tell their stories uninterrupted. When you ask questions, sometimes you throw their trail of thoughts off. You could easily miss the story like that.
He was only 24 years old. He was a man madly in love. He had spent his early 20s with women who only were available for short horny moments, wanting one night stands or even regular shags without commitment. Many of them just knocked on his door to cool the temperatures in the south and then disappeared as they came before the morning streaks of light kissed even the highest hills around. That life had married him and the fate of ephemeral moments with women had flirted with him for so long that he believed maybe love was a long wide shot.
So when Faith came everything in his life suddenly acquired a new shape. She was a keeper and wifely. The first day she washed all the utensils lying in the corner of the tiny, horrible crib. She cleaned and scrubbed. The little house became warm and homely. I wonder if there exist such women any more. Women who would shred all the education, pride and expectations and be a person, and fight for what they want. Nowadays, many would expect a man to chase after them if at all he wants them.
Personally, there is nothing as sexy as a woman who knows what man she wants and goes after him. As a man, I feel challenged and charmed at the same time. Such woman can help drive the relationship towards the right tide.
This simple act of humility and being real intrigued Ibra. He immediately went after the girl. Unlike many women who get kids and send them back to shags for their folks to take care of them so that the men they meet don’t know they have kids, she laid bare the facts.
“She told me she had a kid from her previous life and she was ready to move on with me so long as ‘I come as I am, with my little package of goodness’,” He confesses. “I swear I liked her from the moment I saw her. I wanted to settle down with her and make a family.
“She went to work at around 6 in the morning. I’d be left behind prepping the kid and taking him to school and then go to attend my businesses. I was ready to be the dad he didn’t have. I had no problem. Kids are blessings you know.” There is an air of calm in him. He is both retrospective and introspective.
‘’How did your mother know about your affair if you don’t mind?” I ask because at this point I guess I have heard a good part of the story that he would have wanted to tell uninterrupted.
“My cousin used to live with me. This grown-up ass dude had just appeared at my door and said he needed a place to crash for a while till he puts his shit together. He had just come from Kisii without even telling me. I didn’t even know how he knew where I lived.
“You know you don’t just turn family away like that. This nigger stalled in my house. I was doing mjengo and was being paid well, like six thousand shillings a week. I could provide. There is even a time this dude called in two other cousins and now I was living with three other people in the same house and providing shit for them. ..“
“You must be a good, kind brother,” I simply comment.
“You just help where you can man. You just can’t despise anyone because you don’t know where you meet them tomorrow. Only your relatives can bury you. I just allowed them to stay while they sort their mess. I hoped they would.” He said resignedly, a clear symptom that they didn’t.
“So what happened?” I ask. Outside, a cloud of darkness hangs in an ugly manner. It is a starless night. The dark clouds tell the heavens might take a piss later.
“After months and months I moved out. I even paid half of the rent for that month and asked them to pay the rest. I moved in with my buddy Jeff. I didn’t take anything except a few of my clothes.
“I was just passing by a month later to check on them when I found the place with two padlocks. The motherf****rs hadn’t paid the rent. It has accumulated so I had to clear it. I moved from that house to another one. It is here that I would stay with Faith.
“Then one night, that cousin of mine shows up again, like a darn miracle.”
“Dang it!” I exclaim.
“Again wanting somewhere to lay his head…” He picks on.
“You let him in?” I am astounded. There is a deep gut feeling telling me he should have kicked his ass.
“I did. That is when he messed me up by snitching up to my relatives, spreading hearsay and tainting my name- saying the woman is eating my money, that I am schooling another man’s kid and all that. Do you ever wonder how people in the village know everything about you in the city yet you told no one about it? It was that kind. Everyone from the village was talking behind my back, basing rumours peddled by someone I housed and provided for like a brother. That is how my mother ended up here and chased away the woman I loved. She told her to move out. She stayed over sleeping on the couch saying she’ll do so till the woman leaves. “
“That’s cruel. Did you do anything to stop her?” It is out of curiosity I ask this. What would you do if it were you? Kick your mother out and fight for the one you love or just let your mother chase her because she is your mother and you don’t want to strain the relationship with her?
“There was nothing to do. Women have their way of getting things done. Trust me you can’t survive with your mother against you.” I don’t know the feeling with which he says this.
“How did Faith react when she saw you couldn’t do anything to fight for her?”
“Man, I did fight for her. I tried to talk my mother out of it but she was adamant. I knew I lost her when my mother swore that Faith had to leave that house. I knew I had just lost her. I have tried to even reach her from the time she moved out but I have never gotten wind of her. She’ll always be the love of my life.”
“Did you hate your mother for that?”
“Yeah. There was a heap of bitterness and I loathed the sight of her. I’d have torn her into pieces were it not that she is my mother. Over time I let it go. As they say, if it is family, you forgive what others kill for.”
“So you moved on to what after that?”
“I was so lost man. I was desperate and single and lonely. I was full of regret and I dined in stress for a number of months. To forget this, I began hitting at anyone. So I was into my previous life of flings. My sexual appetite was really high, it drove me anywhere-single, married, beautiful, ugly, prostitute, just anything that had a hole.”
“Did you find satisfaction in it?”
“I wasn’t looking for any so I never observed. But I was having fun.”
“I see. Sleeping in many holes can be fun, right?” I don’t want to suggest anything. I am not far away from him. Just like him, I often chase after holes. These holes are never enough no matter how many you enter. You always come out and something would poke you and whisper, “That one is sweeter and different.” And you’d go for it.
“I found another girl. We moved in together. I don’t know how it ended. But I have a good memory of my last.” One day while going to church, he is SDA, he chatted her up on the road. “Vipi sista (Hello sister). Sasa itakuwaje.”
She told him she was also going to church (a different one) and she’d be late if she kept talking. So he asked her for her phone number. She, instead, took his number and promised to call. True to her word, she called on the third day. A week didn’t pass before they hooked up. A week later they were living together. It was the quickest ‘marriage’ I have ever come across.
This woman had come out of a marriage where the man was cheating on her. So she was around seven or even more years older than Ibra. When you look at her you’ll understand that she has already enjoyed her prime and now she is into her middle age years where fun isn’t working. This is to say that they had two different needs at this point.
Despite this, they took a new leaf and enjoyed life for a while. It is recently that the woman started madharau and made Ibra feel like a kid. This went on for a while and things were not working. Silence espoused the house and the atmosphere was tense. They stayed like each was wary of the other.
He had to move out. He considered himself the bigger person. It is where we are now. But eating him is regret and stress. He feels abandoned by God. He looks at his life and thinks that he is not moving. His life seems to be moving forward one step and two steps backwards. He feels his life has been in that non-progressive loop. That is what is eating him.
“Look here my friend. I think you are taking things quite fast and blaming yourself for nothing. You’re just 26 or somewhere there. It is not too late to start over. But here is the thing; you have always been doing everything wrong. All these marriages you claim to have had never happened. You never started anything. You just went in for good time and thought it was marriage.
“If you want to move on, first you have to bring both feet into the game. You can’t live in the past and still deserve to have a future. That is quite bleak. If you want a successful marriage, first know the kind of woman you want. You just don’t go for anybody. Then make things right. Ask for her hand in marriage.
“But before we even go far, you have to work on yourself. Marriage is not just something you rush into. You have to prepare yourself for it. You must be ready to let go small pleasures and focus on the bigger picture. You’ve to be ready to be a family man. You can’t skip that.
“Once you’re ready things should be smooth.” I tell him a lot of things that can’t fit in here. He has a lot of issues and he’s been going back to eat the cookie of the woman who just took her for a kid yet he claims he wants to move on.
So for the last few days I have been passing by to see how is catching up. He calls me to go there. He needs company and positivity all around him for him to pick up the pieces and move on. My job is not to ensure he moves. I just hope he appreciates my words and sees sense in them and uses them to advance his life. I am not a shrink…
In life, each one of us is fighting their own devils. Just because someone has a smile on their face doesn’t mean they’re having the best of times. The best we can do is to have enough fun, laugh more, smile more, eat well, sleep enough and stay positive. I don’t believe much in religion because I haven’t found salvation in it, but being spiritual is important. God will do the rest.
Let us meet here next Wednesday. Thanks for keeping this place warm. Much love.
The supreme hunter in captivity
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?