It has almost been a year since you moved out of Nairobi-a long time. You had the chance to stay at your station back in Nairobi and continue working for the multinational-but you felt you needed a change.
It’s been raining quite heavily the past few days; something that is not uncommon in the land of the Baganda-specifically-Kasese. Your studio apartment, a gem in the middle of a rusty and war torn country, is a painful reminder of your past life. Now you sit in your 1978 Von Dutch Leatherette, a cup of strong espresso in hand-looking out into the vast banana plantations. The soft patter of raindrops infuses itself into the background, with the almost ethereal sound of Miriam Makeba’s voice playing over the gramophone-probably sung for the pioneering spirits of Eduardo Mondlane and the Mozambique freedom fighters-takes you to an entirely different world. One in which you most decidedly regret to have left. But it was necessary. To cut off the baggage. The dead weight. You thought that you’d eventually get a new lease of life. But it was still there. That gaping pit. That abyss.
Your apartment-new and off the block- was built the other day by some enterprising Congolese real estate chap; who coincidentally was the spitting image of Papa Wemba and played the tenor saxophone. The nights are cold-with the local pub in full swing. Waragi flowing like the Nile. Getting a Tusker or even a Guiness was such an upscale task-with the country facing unrest-Museveni clinging to power-Kampala was unsafe.
It’s around 8:30 P.M. The rain reduced to a slight drizzle; blended in with the soft hum of the generator outside. You shift in your chair uneasily as your nightmares play in your head like a daydream.
‘I guess we’ve come to crossroads now,” Zahra says with her eyes glistening from the tears in them.
“I really don’t know what to do, I’m torn between two places and I can only follow the path I’ve chosen,” you say while fondling her left palm.
It pains you to the core that life has to be like this. When you have to separate with those you deeply love; all of this with no surety of the future.
“What about us? What happens to us?”She chokes
You take her into your arms as she cries her frustrations away on your chest.
Everyone else in the background is having a good time; it’s the end of year office party-and of course; you’ve been transferred to work at the company’s subsidiary division in Kasese. You couldn’t have brought yourself to tell her the moment the letter from the Group MD landed on your desk. You were elated, yes, only then did you realize what, or rather, who you were leaving behind.
“Tell me Jeremy, how will Chela survive without you?” she asks amid her sobs; her voice almost below a whisper.
“Chela will be fine hun; she has you here,”
“What the fuck do you mean? How will she grow up with her own father perpetually absent? Tell me Jeremy! Just fucking tell me!!”
And her voice echoes through your empty living space.
Casting a shadow darker than your own evil deeds.
Chela sat under the hot, steaming hair dryer that made her a tad uncomfortable. The salon she was in was no different from the others that sprung up randomly on Oloo Street. She was the only student-high school student-in the saloon full of buxom ladies and hair braiders. She didn’t like it here, in fact, if she had a choice, she could have gone to the more up-market salons at Uhuru road – but here her mere 500 bob budget could only do so much in Mama Stella’s Boutique and Salon. The air was stuffy with the Sanyo radio on Radio Jambo. The smell upon smell of conditioners, shampoos, treatments, and the chips mwitu that one of the hand girls was eating, made her fragile stomach churn.
The head woman – as she was called (That is the owner of the salon) was loudly talking on the phone with some obscure import agent in Dubai bargaining over the price of cheap mascara. She was a creature to behold. With layers upon layers of make-up and red lipstick on her fat face; the long silver necklaces atop her generous bosom; the folds of flesh on her almost non-existent torso-and the highlight of it all (Drumrolls please) ; the gap between her lower set of incisors that stretched from here till Kinshasa. This only reminded Chela of her incorrigible Geography teacher who was fond of demoralizing young girls-tender flowers-probably jealous of what they had, that had long ago dried up in her.
Chela’s mind was like an impatient child-moving from one toy to another-her mind was unsettled. Being a student at Moi Girls High School-anyone would have thought her a normal, 16-year-old girl with a happy family back at home and a normal life-but hers is a whole different story that often rocked her emotional being many a times. But she had no option but to shut them down-the thoughts, the wills and conflicting urges of her young, lithe, feminine body. She was in the tender age of puberty-and this is what she hated. Having to contend with herself-to fight with herself. She hated that she couldn’t attend swimming classes when she was on her period. Neither did it appeal to her that she couldn’t maintain a continuous attention stream in class when she was on that day of the month, nor when the male Mathematics teacher called one of the female Guidance and Counselling teachers to come and ‘sort her out’ the day she was caught unawares by her own body. It was the most dehumanizing day of her life. Everyone in her class looked at her as though she had committed a cardinal sin-that any subject bordering on the menstruation cycle was always kept on the hush-hush.
She felt like a stranger in her own body. Like an antelope frantically struggling to free itself from a hunter’s trap. She was a survivor though-she’d at all times numb her feelings and focus on reading for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. She badly wanted to be a doctor-and just not any other doctor-she wanted to be a pathologist. Diseases, death and the like fascinated her. She’d dream-or rather-see herself walk down the hallowed corridors of Chiromo Campus-Grey’s Book of Anatomy in hand.
This was her dream.
But dreams are just what they are.
And her future was almost as non-existent as her past.
A past she had furiously buried deep down the coffers of her mind.
Hi guys, this is the beginning of a long journey. I’ll be posting up a chapter every week; on Thursdays at 9:00PM for the next two years. Please walk with me in this little trip, it gets lonely sometimes.
Oh, and don’t forget to let me know what you think.