skipping rope

Photograph by Anna Wane: https://annakwane.com/

Image for skipping rope

Brian loved to run everyday. I was never sure from what demons until he ran right out of my life.

I skip rope. Only. In the same place. I skip until all of my demons melt and evaporate from my mind. The first time it worked I thought it was genius and almost called the doctor to tell her thank you but her services were no longer needed and that I always knew the nights I felt my mind waking up, stretching, yawning, packing its bags and starting to leave me were a lie.

I feel like my mind is rushing fast towards a cliff and jumping and then changing its mind and jumping back onto the cliff and laughing at me and telling me to stop being so uptight.

Brian got it right. Beat me at life again. He knew how to run. At least.

I just jump here. On the spot. And this rope it switches between a smile emoticon and a sad face emoticon. Taunting me.

I knew it was coming too- the day that I would drag myself out of bed, remove my work clothes, convince myself to pick the rope up, put on Jane the Virgin so that I do not have to listen to myself and skip and still the lonely sadness does not molt from my skin.

The first day it happens I tell Brian. I don’t know that I’m telling him but I’m seated next to him and my mind is on a surgical table between us and a mind is not nakedness that you should cover it with leaves in a garden.

The second day I tell my other half, but it aches her. She limps like a wounded bird to a nest and I feel guilty for sending her there. The next time she comes looking for me I only come out if I have scooped sunshine and used it to rouge my cheeks.

The third day I tell my sculpture. Her arms are longer than her body and she reaches out and hugs me and her arms coil many times around my torso. And it is no longer possible for me to fall down like a series of connected sausages. I love her for it. And I am scared of her love for it. I decide that her limbs are long so they’re thin so they’re fragile and the weight of my demons will break them but not give them the dignity of a complete death and the demons will look at her broken and laugh without remorse. So I pack my bags in stealth the way my mind and Brian taught me. The demons laugh at me because they think I can’t leave. When I do it shuts them up but silence is also revenge. I can’t feel anything and I almost seek them out but I love the silence even if it tastes like cassava but people see me and they ask after my demons while sighing too much. How are they doing. What happened to them. Oh they moved. But they were so funny. Can you imagine?

The fourth day I keep still even though everything inside me is trembling and then I change my mind and tell the 18 dolls queued at the hudson and then I change my mind and I stay quiet and you won’t believe it but I get pregnant and it’s a round ball that makes me unable to see my feet except my toes and I give birth to exactly myself and I try to fool everyone that finally here is my Apiyo whom you’ve been looking for but they know that it is exactly me again. And can you imagine I gave birth to myself? I now understand why mothers confuse themselves for God. I rock back and forth. I could be god. I could be god. I could be god.

The fifth day I tell two flowers. They make their stems rigid and they let me lie down on their petals.

The sixth day I don’t tell anyone. But it doesn’t feel powerful like the drunkenness from giving birth to yourself.

I am scared that the seventh day is my last chance so I keep waking up on the sixth day.

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pour me water

All Illustrations by Taabu

I now love water the way I loved men- with caution. There is no way water had nothing to do with all of the things that happened. I know it handcuffed your wrists and wrapped itself around your legs and lifted one and lifted the other and made it seem like you were taking yourself to the fire. When I was a child, I used to read detective stories and usually the person who was present in every crime scene in a series of crimes ended up being the culprit. I am not blaming anyone out loud because they told me not to bring up god’s criminal record even when I had evidence. But sometimes I sit back and think about all of the times I was here on this earth before; every time they said the water was present but it was innocent and only watched from a distance. So I loved water the way I did lovers whom my body knew could turn into something that burns and how can you convince someone that Water- so still and calming- turned into fire while they were not looking and charred you?

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All of the darknesses when I looked for myself and could not find me ended with me begging Water to give me a glimpse of myself. And when Water would wash over me I would keep my eyes wide open and catch a reflection of myself but it was blurry, hypnotising and only for a fleeting moment. *My primary school Science teacher who used to touch my cheeks on Friday mornings with bloodshot eyes and the stench of alcohol wafting out of his mouth was one of those teachers who taught directly from the textbook.* He would warn me drugs could only give you a little taste of relief but not enough. To make sure you have to keep going back, he said. That is the same relief Water gave me when it let me see myself a little. Some days when I walk up to the altar and beg the priest to baptize me again and again and again it makes me think I am that really hot woman in red lipstick and a black scarf over my head in a Naija movie walking into a mud shack to beg a jujuman with grigris around his neck for something to relieve me of my suffering.

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What suffering, love?

I do not know. But my soul tastes ni kama haina ladha. LOL

I know, lady. Me too.

She laughs like the sound of water boiling- to popni as my mother and her mother call it when she watches me discover that Mr. Eazi does not say Mami Wata because who knew that he says Pour me Water? But I tell her that is why I do not trust Water- the two-faced bastard. She tried to hold me but something would not let her. I am not blaming anyone out loud but can you imagine what luck Water had for god to make him transparent and nobody can prove he was ever anywhere?

I did not think I remembered the year the taps ran out of Water in Embakasi. But that day she brought me to a waterfall and then coaxed me to remember what the water did while it was there I told her to kindly take two steps back urgently and I was 12 and I was strong about it and it definitely did not leave a mark and I made it so that another version of myself in another dimension made a deal with Water to give me a break and it did but now a version of me owes Water a thing I do not know and what can you do to appease something that has swallowed the world whole at least once before? So I keep sacrificing things to pay my debt to Water but it keeps gobbling them whole and then belching only to tell me that was not what I owed him.

I shall not take it upon myself to quench the thirst of Water.

Everything feels like a tragedy now- the way Oedipus had to sleep with his mother no matter how many ways he tried to run away. And you know what, Water reminds me of an African politician because as long as it delivers its tithe to the devil it does not have to answer to anyone ever.

One time I got tired of begging Water to show me myself and I tried something stronger and I saw myself and I hated her and she hated me so I went back to Water and she charged me the same bank-breaking registration fees to onboard me as it did all the first-timers.

I think that the reason this betrayal aches is when I stood next to an ocean and my dress flew in the wind I thought I was all of the things all of the versions of myself have ever wished and will ever wish they could be.

saturday nights

.saturday nights are for running from the silences.

silences make yourself talk to you and you ask yourself to stop talking to you but yourself is one of those annoying people who says things that could have come right out of motivational books or your therapist’s mouth, like running does not solve things.

you roll your eyes at yourself because you know that saturday nights are for running from silences so that even if yourself spoke to you the music and the chatter would fade her voice and you can tell yourself to just catch you tomorrow because this is not the time or the place. and yourself will argue. but the music is loud enough that you can just wait for her to finish speaking and ask “huh?”.  and three or four “huh?”s later yourself will fall silent. that is the good thing about yourself. when she is angry she is quiet. and that will give you two hours or so so of peace even though yourself is stubborn enough to work through that anger just so she can start being a nuisance again.

and don’t go to the bathroom if you can help it because yourself is disrespectful and she will come with you to the bathroom and start talking to you and start telling you things that nobody should be thinking about on saturday nights, telling you ‘your mother has probably seen the blue ticks’ or ‘your bedroom floor has made a carpet of your clothes’ or ‘what the fuck did your ‘friend’ mean when he told you to apologise for screaming at him when he touched you’.

saturday nights are for running out of the bathroom before yourself talks to you and finding rooms full of people who probably know how to deal with their own silences and feeling so much adrenalin in your body that it makes you fear your fear and you want to run but you can’t run outside because outside is silent and so you decide to jump up high instead but heaven won’t have you, sweaty and happy…

happiness is for this earth alone, on saturday nights, at the time when god has switched off all the lights in his house and gone to his bedroom and is scrolling past headlines on his phone about ISIS and Bro Ocholla and the UN combating polio. happiness is for this earth alone, on saturday nights, at the time when god is ignoring texts from everybody because he can always tell them the next day that he had already gone to sleep.

and when god falls asleep whoever was in charge of making sure everybody emptied the room by whenever o’clock will turn the music down and you will be frustrated and you will wonder whether the world with all the fires that have not been put out was better off when god was awake and in charge.

but you know god won’t defend you because you and god have been going through a hard time since that lent when you were sixteen and you decided to give up meat for him and be vegetarian and you missed meat so much and no relationship can come back from that alive.

and yourself will start speaking to you again. and you will ask her to stop but yourself does not understand that there are times when you should just be happy, not because things are alright or because you have done everything you need to do, or because you deserve it. there are times you should just be happy. yourself thinks happiness is like math, like it is a result of things. but you keep telling her that happiness is poetry, that it needs no explanation, that sometimes happiness is reaching for the poetry books between your bed sheets that you forgot to put back on the nightstand and retrieving bodies you met last night instead.

saturday nights are for silencing yourself when yourself reminds you of the girl you met who also listened to poetry in the shower. You tried to drown her memory in the sound of the bathwater draining but yourself refused to forget that her hips resembled the bark of the tree you saw when you were seven and you convinced your father that you must get a Christmas tree and you went with him to find one and there it was, posing against the blue sky and reaching its fingers towards heaven but your father said you could not get that one and you did not understand because if christmas was about Jesus then this tree could almost hold hands with him. and when the girl danced her hips that reminded you of the tree spelt magic in Italic. and how you laugh anxiously when she pulls you and wraps herself around you because the last time both you and yourself looked at anything so sensually it was font 72 last semester when your final essay was due.

saturday nights are for shutting yourself up for as long as possible after the music is gone and kissing men and tasting alcohol in their mouths and hoping your tongue did not leave their tongue with the ability to pronounce your second name.

4 Posts in One :)

Find here all the posts that featured in the Starting to Love blogposts I wrote the last few months:

  1. why i keep my sunglasses on
  2. don’t come back
  3. What if the Devil
  4. Nairobi, Columbus and the New York Times

why i keep my sunglasses on

Sometimes, when men and women want me to be theirs, I ask them if they can take in all the soul in my eyes. I am used to doling it out, you see. I know how to be not too much and not too little. I know how to be just enough, although sometimes a little too much spills out. I know how to cap it. When I was young, my mother would send me to buy paraffin, and she’d put nylon over the bottle before screwing the bottle top on. That way, none of it spilled. But I could smell the paraffin all the way as I walked from the shops with the bottle in my hands, sometimes convinced that the smell was too strong and that the paraffin had actually spilled out, checking the sides of the bottle, once, twice, thrice… Maybe that is how souls are. Maybe that is why I can feel mine peeking out even on days when I put nylon over the top. Maybe that is why I can’t look you in the face. Because, you know, souls spill from the eyes.

And you have to ask, you just can’t go dishing your soul out to people. You will scare them and they will lock you up somewhere where your soul will prefer to stay deep in your guts where it belongs and stop trying to spill out. You have to ask before giving the men and women who want you to be theirs all of your soul, because sometimes, even when they try, there is too much of you to take in. And still, even when they agree that they can handle the soul in you, they backtrack and return your soul to you, right before the deadline on the receipt for returning goods, when you had started to consider that maybe they will not return it. And you try to argue, that souls are like books, yes, you can return them to the store, but it does not change the fact that you have already used them. And sometimes, when you are standing in front of them, receiving your returned soul, looking down and picking at the thread on your cardigan, too fatigued in that moment to measure the amount of soul spilling out of you, believing that your soul  knows the drill and will measure itself now, you see in their eyes that some of their soul is spilling out, and you know that their soul used to fit within their bodies, and you want to ask them if they are sure they remembered to put all of the soul you gave them back in the jar.

don’t come back

Nairobi will be seated on the brown couch watching TV—probably some well choreographed dance performance on Kiss TV. I will be seated on the floor in front of him, with the back of my head at his stomach, donning his T-shirt and not much else. I will tell Nairobi I love him. He will say he loves me too, but that I say it too much. I will laugh and say all right, only a little annoyed.

But I will turn away from the TV to look at him. And he will be laughing at a joke in the song lyrics.

“Damn Nairobi, you make twilight look really good,” I will say.

“That’s such a white thing to say. I told you, you’re becoming white,” he will say.

“I’m just saying, you dusk well, Love,” I will say.

“And I’m just saying, your surprise at nature’s beauty is unKenyan,” he will say, and then smile the most beautiful smile in the world. (This is not my writing; Nairobi has the most beautiful smile in the world.)

“Can’t wait to come back and chill forever,” I will tell Nairobi.

“Don’t come back. Stay there and get dough.”

The sound of nothing. The feeling that the Devil is using his fingers and the veins in your head to play the game you played as a child in which you make different letters of the alphabet from pieces of string. The sound of a voodoo version of yourself the size of a doll inside your brain, pushing all the furniture in there out through your ears, clearing your brain of clutter, like reformatting your device. And then drawing back the curtains in your brain. And checking that you locked the door—both latches. Then the sound of the micro-version of yourself going to the centre of your head and seating on the floor and folding your legs so your forehead rests on your knees.

You want to tell Nairobi you are not just making conversation juicy when you say your account balance has been -4 dollars all year.

You want to tell Nairobi that as much as you get paid better elsewhere your rent is six times his.

You want to tell Nairobi you saw some of his exes, and their eyes are red, because they work all day, and then all night. Or maybe because they have been crying.

You want to tell Nairobi you don’t even know what the color of your skin means so that you can explain it to your children.

You want to tell Nairobi you actually loved this year, but when you talk about it people feel pity on you. That your standards of alright are now pitiful.

You tell Nairobi his sewer system, and his drivers, and his mates’ catcalling, and the fact that you need to say Mass to see tap water, drive you crazy. But that he’s home. He will always be home.

You want to ask him Doesn’t he miss you

You kiss him on the cheek and get up to boil some hot water to calm your evening allergies.

How your evening ends is like this: you call New Haven, and it costs you 310 shillings because she can’t catch your accent.

What if the Devil

What if the devil also switches off the lights in his bedroom on Thursday night, wears a baggy t-shirt and no trousers, places a packet of cookies next to his pillow and watches Grey’s Anatomy? Then he falls asleep with his fingers stained with chocolate chips and his laptop still running next to his head. And he dreams Grey’s-Anatomy-themed dreams. And when that cold 3a.m. breeze sweeps his bedroom, he is half-awake and half-asleep, dreaming about demons that are pulling at his right hand and his left hand, aware that it is a dream but scared anyway.

Then the Devil goes back to bed and wakes up at 10.30a.m., late enough to feel rested but early enough to be on a creative high. And then he kneels under his bed and brings out the globe. And he places the globe on his reading table. And he imagines his reading table as one of those Grey’s Anatomy surgical tables. And he takes a scalpel from his pencil pouch, the ones he used as a child to sharpen his pencils before going to school. It still has that black tint from the graphite.

Then he cuts open the globe’s belly. And he tries to be neat about it. The way Bailey cuts along the borders of the liver and the kidney and the pancreas, the Devil tries to cut along the borders of the globe’s organs. But there are people who were not cut out for surgery. The Devil is one of them. And he is clumsy with the globe’s organs, and the world’s kidney bleeds into its pancreas, and the spleen explodes. He tries to neaten it up, because now the kidney and the pancreas have some internal bleeding. But he remembers some riddim song he heard in a Githu mat and has been craving ever since. And he tries to find his laptop so he can play the song as he works. And then he raises his arm, trying to wipe out sweat from his brow without using his hands and he smells his armpits and thinks to himself that it would probably be more hygienic to take a shower before continuing the surgery. The globe is probably already infected because he did not scrub his chocolate-chip covered hands with disinfectant before starting the procedure, or because he did not wipe the leftover crumbs from his reading-table-turned-surgical-table. So he thinks to himself: “The least I could do is shower, even if I am going to screw the globe over.” Because the Devil does not care. If the globe’s body can function or not, it is not because he went out of his way to ensure it. He then takes his towel from the floor where he had left it after his shower the previous night (everybody sleeps better after a warm shower). Then he heads off to the shower, tripping on some of the surgical blades. He considers placing the blades back on the surgical table, but feels too lazy. He has to pick them up in the end anyway, so he just takes care to step over the globe’s blood on his bedroom floor, and walks to the shower.

He hums the tune of the riddim song, trying to find words he can recognize in it so they can be his search words on Google. Then he comes back to his bedroom, with the globe on the surgical table, and he remembers that he was supposed to meet his advisors at 11, but then it is too late, and now he has to go play FIFA with the boys.

And the globe remains there, bleeding but not dying, because the devil can do whatever he wants with the globe, can take away the globe’s cattle and can take away the globe’s wives and children, and can bring the globe disease. But the Devil cannot take the life out of the globe, so the globe bleeds and bleeds and bleeds. And the globe kind of wishes the Devil had the power to kill, because what the globe is going through might as well be death. And the Devil leaves the globe open on the table for three weeks, like the way you forget milk in the Fridge. Only the temperatures are not low. And the bacteria are forming. And the globe is starting to smell, like the Devil’s armpit. And the liver and the kidney and the pancreas are just trying to survive. And they fight for things from each other. Survival for the fittest and shit. And then the globe is dying dying dying always. And the bacteria tell the pancreas and the liver and the kidney to blame the Devil. But the bacteria are fine. It’s just the pancreas and the liver and the kidney, turning against each other, making an enemy of each other, even though the bacteria went out and got straws and put them in the globe’s body, and started to drink the globe’s blood, like old men around a pot of busa. And then they chill, the bacteria, and when the Globe’s organs cry for help, the bacteria, bellies distended, full of busa, tell them they should pray. Prayer always helps. And then they give drunken speeches, telling the kidneys that their health starts with them, and that it is their fault that they are ill. But the kidneys insist it is the pancreas’ fault.

Nairobi, Columbus and the New York Times

A few days ago, the U.S.A. celebrated Columbus Day, which is the day Columbus ‘discovered’ America. Reading about its controversy in the New York Times brought back memories of how when we were kids I had to cram in my head the names of numerous European imperialists. My Social Studies examination consisted of 60 multiple-choice questions. At least one tested me on who discovered Lake Victoria, or Mount Kilimanjaro, or Mount Kenya. With such questions, you pray that some of the choices are definitely wrong. And anyone with a Kenyan name, like Kimathi or Onyango, was a definite no. A gift from the examiner, we called it, because we could eliminate those choices. Then you would remain with three choices, of the names of European ‘explorers’, like Leakey, or Ludwig, or Speke. They also always had government titles like Sir and Lord that made no sense to me, and to many of the kids growing up in Nairobi.

Yet the same New York Times that is publishing many articles that criticize the politics of Columbus’s discovery of the U.S., is Columbising Nairobi, and possibly, other parts of the world.

Last week, I read an article by Gettleman in the New York Times. It was titled: Nairobi’s Latest Novelty: High-End Mac and Cheese, Served by Whites. The article was about how employing white waiters has become a marketing strategy for restaurants in Nairobi. It unsettled me, and I would like to focus on the problem with Gettleman’s article rather than suggest that he himself is a malicious person. Nothing there was supposed to be offensive. But still I read it in horror. I went on Twitter and Binyavanga Wainaina, a prolific Kenyan writer was urging Kenyans to “Vault over his (Gettleman’s) platform. This is what it means to own your continent.” Yet I did not know why Gettleman’s article offended me.

Gettleman is surprised by Nairobi. In the same way that Mt. Kenya was only discovered after European explorers discovered it, Gettleman seems to validate Nairobi by writing about it, and the idea that people have been experiencing Nairobi before he did is pushed to a corner. Gettleman says of Kenya’s attractiveness to foreign investors: “Nothing may signify that Kenya has arrived more than the sight of a white man with a bead of sweat.” This is untrue. There is no one in Kenya who when asked, “Why do you think Kenya has arrived?” will answer “Because I saw a white man with a bead of sweat the other day.” But more importantly, this is a return to the idea that until the white imperialist validates something, it is unworthy. That the fruits of all the things the country has been doing right since 1963 is that now a white man is waiting on us, in expensive restaurants. How sad can our goals get as Kenyan citizens? I am not the only one bewildered by Gettleman’s Nairobi. Larry Madowo, a popular journalist, asks “So @gettleman figures that ‘Kenyans don’t usually see working-class mzungus.’ What does that even mean? Mzungus don’t work?” The fact that Kenyans from Kenya are unable to relate to an article about Kenya should signify that Gettleman, and the New York Times, have misrepresented the region.

In the article, Gettleman retains this undertone of shock that Kenya, an African country, is functioning. He calls the restaurant an “eye-popping extravagance” that made the local papers. But surely, the local newspapers have been doing restaurant reviews since forever. Why is our Columbus so eager to make this restaurant seem like this privilege that Nairobi has never seen before? I have always enjoyed NYT articles, and I believe that you have to be a certain kind of amazing to write for the NYT. Gettleman, however, despite being very impressive as a person, disappoints me in his portrayal of my city. It makes me wonder why it is so necessary for foreign media to make African cities an “other”, different from any other spaces in the world. Gettleman suggests that these restaurants brought by foreign investors are a ‘novelty’, an island of class in a sea of “roof thatched shacks”. Like the white imperialist in pre-colonial times, Gettleman is suggesting that only what is brought by the Westerners is worthy.

Gettleman notes that the white waiters he says are causing a stir in Nairobi are working class white people. He says of Nenad Angelovski, “[his] English was not nearly at the level of Kenyan waiters”. It is problematic that Gettleman thinks that the waiters’ language of communication is worth noting. First, he is insinuating the inferiority of Nenad because he is not speaking good English. And secondly, he is suggesting that Kenyan waiters speaking good English, not Swahili, or their mother tongue, is a surprising and impressive thing. It earns them some respect. Again, in short, you are not legit unless you are like me.

Gettleman’s writing is obviously beautiful. And I would love to read his work minus this eagerness to make Nairobi seem like this place that just encountered civilization. But the truth is, no Nairobian would write about Nairobi in the way that Gettleman does. No Nairobian thinks, “Why are foreign investors reluctant to come to Kenya?” And concludes, “Oh it’s probably because it is often difficult to meet Western consistency standards in a place where the power goes out regularly and machete-wielding mobs occasionally barricade highways interrupting the supply of fresh beef.” There we go again trying to meet Western standards, as if we cannot be Nairobi, we can only be Nairobi in relation to some Western city. This statement, I believe, refers to the 2007/2008 post-election violence. And Gettleman is careful to sneak the words ‘often’ and ‘occasionally’ into that phrase to clear him of blame. I understand the temptation to exaggerate when telling stories. We all do it. But this article, rather than lighthearted exaggeration, is deceiving to a non-Kenyan reader. That I, who have grown up in Nairobi, think of this Nairobi that Gettleman is describing as a third party place that only he has been, means that he is deceiving his readership. A friend uses Gettleman’s words to summarise the impression this article gives: “translation: Kenya, we’re bringing you overpriced food and white waiters (for your post colonial hang-up) and trying to transform you into a “New Kenya” (defined by us), why won’t you live up to our Western standards? Tell us, ye machete wielding people of the Sahara.”

Gettleman’s Nairobi continues to surprise me because “fast food used to be from a local spot like McFry’s or barbecue at a roadside thatched roof shack.” First, this statement suggests a lack. But Nairobi was fine. Even Kenchic, a fast-food restaurant which people diss, had pretty decent joints in several parts of the city centre. Secondly, it is misleading to say, “roadside thatched roof shack” in the sense that he says it. My family and I were roadside thatched roof-shack kind of peeps. They had the best nyama-choma (roast beef). But more importantly, the thatched roof was intentional architecture, made like that to give a sense of the traditional kind of shelter.

Gettleman is so shocked by how a “sleek elevator opens into a corridor where men in black suits frisk visitors” that I wonder if he grew up in an urban centre. But I know he is either lying, or blinded by his shock of Nairobi, when he says, “Step into a Subway [restaurant] in Nairobi and it is as if you are leaving Kenya, or entering the new one.” Take the Subway in Kenyatta Avenue, for instance. Are you leaving one Kenya for a new one really when you enter Subway? I do not know what about walking out of Kenyatta Avenue into Subway would make me start singing “A whole new world” like Gettleman makes us think he did. Moreover, my friends and I do not consider Subway the most high-end restaurant in Nairobi. It is wrong for Gettleman to imply that just because Subway is American, non-Kenyan, then it is number one.

One of the people he interviews says of the international franchises, “It is better for everyone because it is top quality.” Why is it top quality? Why is it “high-end”? Because it is Western?

Yet Gettleman is entitled to his own biases, as long as they are true. What I would request, though, is that if the New York Times is going to write about Nairobi, then they should allow the people of Nairobi to write about it too. Foreign opinions are important, but only if they are true. And even then, they should not on their own shape the image of an outsider. I say outsider because I know that many people from Nairobi cringed at this article. Surely, I imagine, the New York Times was not planning to have them as audience.

There are so many people who write beautifully, and truthfully, about Nairobi from within. I appreciate that the New York Times tells the stories of Nairobi. We are told to tell our own stories as Africans. But until our homegrown publications command the readership that the New York Times has, the NYT has a responsibility to be balanced about the stories they tell on our behalf.

I will come to you

I will come to you, and your caresses will heal my wounds. Your thumb will swipe my cheek, and catch the tears. I will toss my head in protest. I will not wipe away yours. Why erase the tears, yet the devils that caused them dance around us in the room? You will hush me. You will say you do not know what else. I will admit I don’t either. We will be quiet. Our hearts will speak. They will say to love each other still. We will not know why. We will not be brave enough to say why not out loud. The god in you and the god in me will reach for each other. Bodies are black magic—beautiful black magic. You will slide your fingers under my blouse, at my waist, to the small of my back, below my breasts. I will have forgotten how to listen to you. But the spaces below our waists will remember. And, taking almost as long a time as forever, you will patch up my wounds, restore my flesh, slowly, slowly, I will be whole. The scars will show but I will be whole. We will not know why.

Nowadays

My demons-someone keeps letting them loose, and then they make me rent my own brain.

In the past, I did not have nightmares. Every time something extremely bad happened in my dream I managed to tell myself, “Wake up. Pinch yourself. Do something. Anything.” Nowadays, I can’t wake up in the middle of a nightmare when I prompt myself. And the dream proceeds oddly. I am aware that I can get away from the clutch of the misery, the fake sadness, by waking up, but I can’t get myself to leave. It is like I am in a hole, and there is a ladder, but every time I try to climb out, my feet and the ladder repel each other, the way like poles in magnets do.

It gets to me—the solitude. The fact that holes are the cliché loneliest places that mankind ever imagines. Think about it. Rock bottom, light at the end of the tunnel, falling into the abyss—holes. You are always there alone. It gets to me. It gets under my skin- being here. Being alone. I hate it. But I hate it as much as I love it. The telenovelas. The girls in the telenovelas. They love so much the men that make them cry. The men that break them and then come back to mend them. It is not a courtesy when you mend what you yourself broke. That is what I feel for this hole. It breaks me. It mends me. And I am thankful. I love it here where no one looks. I love it here where no one asks. I love it here where I listen for my own heartbeat, lose my own temper, rub my own back and stop myself from crying. I read stories I wrote. I drive myself crazy doing so. I raise the gavel at my own trials. I am my own minority. Thus, I am always guilty. When the right lyrics play in my head, it seems so real. I imagine them leaving my mind. I imagine them taking form and seating next to me. Like me, they are happy, totally, but they fold into themselves. Thankfully, the hole understands. Happy or sad is not a box we have to check here. We just sit. Books are the only other things that break in here. Sometimes, when they are hammering the trap door’s latch to force it open, I wake up and I let them in myself. I do not try to leave. I live in them. I live their stories and abandoning my own does not seem like a bad idea. I like the lethargic ones. I do not want them to be happy. I do not want them to be sad. I hate their themes. I hate that their themes attach themselves to me. I feel like a hooligan who has just listened to a brainwashing speech from the rebel he supports when I find out what stories the books are trying to tell. I take it in and I do not know how to have it let me go, to stop it from deciding what I feel and what I think. This hole—it belongs to me. No one is allowed to come with her her-ness and tell me things. It is mine.

I miss the nightmares from which I could wake up and intrude on reality—pay it back. These new ones with their seductive complicatedness— I do not know how to navigate them.

For Fredi

Let your heart beat, love

Three years ago:

My little brother died when I still loved him only poetically. Fredi was fifteen and I eighteen. I loved him in the way that the Religious Studies teacher said that we loved our family. We had little in common. He hated me. He was stronger than I. I remember the way my skin yielded to him before I did. As his fingernails sink into the dark folds between my knuckles, a small part of my skin peels, only slightly, and forms a coma, half acknowledging his kingdom, half beseeching him. My brother is the first person who teaches me to thank men for loving me.

***

Now:

I see you, closing up like a flower blooming backwards, watching the world. Still. Scared?

 I see you, holding your breath. Still. Waiting to dissolve, or melt, into your background. Still.

 As though if you move… If you disturb the air, everything will shift in synchrony, and you will have caused it.

You are tempted to say that mirrors and glass windows and still waters and your lover’s eyes have never scared you.

You are tempted to say that this was a dark nightmare of the distant past, that you don’t remember in detail the way you woke up in the morning, and worked to correct, correct the defiance of your hair and the way your eyes existed as if they had their own soul and the way your back did not arch like a phenomenal woman’s and the way your skin doodled your essence.

Because you want to sound strong, invincible, Beyoncé-like, you are tempted to say it did not take a man to release your clutch on that comb and feel, correct, just the way you were.

**fictional piece**

**happy end of 2013**