The Man On Facebook (Part 2)

Nude African Woman Drawing – Il Suo Dolore by Alison Schmidt Carson

(A continuation from The Man On Facebook Part 1)

KK’s house was tastefully furnished in brown. Brown leather sofas, a brownish glass table, a brown carpet with large biege circles. Brown African carvings standing on all corners of the room. Even the curtains were a lighter shade of brown, going all the way down to the wooden flooring.

There was a door opening out to the balcony where KK had put woven brown chairs and a woven table. It was almost like this man was obsessed with brown. Enid had never seen so much brown in one particular space like it was in KK’s house.

“You have a beautiful house.” She found herself complimenting.

“I try.” Was all KK said, smiling ruefully. Weird how he took compliments.

“Come, let me show you the bedroom!” He then quickly decided, grabbing Enid’s hand.

Enid had expected to see more brown but was pleasantly surprised when she got to the bedroom and saw other shades of colors. At least he had a nice blue chequered duvet, cream curtains, a black dressing table, an inbuilt wardrobe and a cream floormat.

On top of his dressing table was an assortment of male products. Colognes, male body lotion, after shave…The more Enid got acquainted with this man’s house, the more he surprised her with his personal tastes.

Then suddenly, KK pulled her into an embrace. It was not the side hug that he had given her outside the gate but rather a full, almost sensual embrace. Her face was buried in his chest and she could now take in the whole unique scent of his cologne. Previously, she had just been catching whiffs of it as she followed him up to his house.

“I have longed to see you in person.” KK was mumbling, still holding her close.

In that moment, several things ran through Enid’s mind. She was not very sure what his intentions were. Did he want them to have sex? Was she ready to do it on a first meeting? Then she begrudgingly realized that she liked being embraced by him.

But when KK eventually led her to the bed, all of Enid’s defenses became alert.

“No, I don’t think we should…” She began to protest only for KK to cover her mouth with his, in a languorous kiss. “You know I love you.” He whispered in between kisses. It was hard for Enid to reason rationally at that moment.

A part of her wanted to push him away and jump up from the bed. She barely knew him and had only conversed with him previously through Facebook and over the phone. What if he had lied that he was single? What if he had a girlfriend or a wife or even children? Would he think that she was too easy for giving in too quick? She had no intention of pushing him away this early on with her goofs.

And then another part of her wanted to just lie there and savor everything that KK was doing to arouse her further. His hands travelled to her breasts, her hips and finally to the fly of her fitting jeans. She did not stop him when he lifted up her top and expertly unclasped her bra. She did not stop him when he fondled her breasts and rubbed her nipples. Neither did she stop him when he struggled to pull down her jeans.

And when his fingers probed underneath her panty and into her folds, whatever reason was left in Enid flew out the window. Once she was fully undressed, KK quickly undressed too. She could hear him fumbling for condoms, all the while planting kisses all over her face and neck. Enid would only have a vague memory of him putting on a condom, before he slid into her and then she was moaning in ecstacy with every thrust into her.

She surprised herself even. She who had never been very vocal before during sexual activity. Perhaps it was the fact that she knew they were there only by themselves. A desire to abandon herself to this adventure. There was something about KK. There had been something about him too on social media. She just had no idea whatever it was.

But KK would immediately change once the deed was done. He claimed that he had to urgently meet with some business associates. Enid really wanted to believe him. Surely, that steamy session they had just shared meant something. He had even mentioned it himself that he loved her.

She watched him take a quick shower and get ready. From her vantage position on the rumpled bed, still undressed and smelling of KK, she thought he looked handsome in jeans. Perhaps the meeting had suddenly stressed him up, she tried to convince herself. He will get back and all will be okay. All had to be okay. He would not have sent her fare to Nairobi if he did not want to spend quality time with her over the weekend.

When KK eventually left, the house grew deathly silent. Enid decided to take a shower. There was hot water in the bathroom. Just what she needed after all that sweating. When she was dressed, she went into the living room and for the first time noticed a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. She had no idea where the remote control was, so she went out to the balcony and sat down on one of the woven chairs, where she had a full view of the parking lot below.

Later on, KK would show up with a group of friends. Two men and a woman. The woman’s make up was heavily done and she had on those weaves that reminded you of a lion’s mane only that hers was curly, shiny and black. Her male companions were flashily dressed with visible rings on their fingers and sleek phones. None of them paid much attention to Enid.

They simply chose to ignore her like she did not exist. It broke her heart that KK did not even see the need to introduce her to his friends who sat in the living room, having drinks, talking and laughing loudly. Enid had not eaten all day and she felt hungry. Her stomach rambled but she could not interrupt KK with his friends who stayed upto midnight.

When they were gone, she finally gathered enough courage to let KK know that she was hungry.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you, there’s food in the fridge which you can warm in the microwave!” He announced, without as much as a glance at Enid.

At that point, Enid knew that she had made the biggest mistake of her life, coming to Nairobi to visit this stranger she had met on Facebook. Tears filled her eyes but she was careful not to let KK see that she was crying.

When they went to bed that night, KK did not touch her. No attempts to hold her nor speak to her. It was like she was not even in the same bed as him. He simply slept on his side till morning. He also made sure to leave early the next morning. The usual excuse of a meeting with business associates.

By now, it was evident to Enid that she had been used. She had no desire whatsoever to spend the rest of the weekend in KK’s house, whatever those initials meant. Gathering enough courage, she went over to the Jamaican’s door and knocked.

“Oh, hi there?!” The lady answered, all smiles. A stark contrast to her previous demeanor the previous evening, when she did not want her son to go downstairs to ride his bike.

Today she was in a wide legged, peach colored, cotton jumpsuit that was so fitting from the knee area upwards, you could actually make out the outline of her crotch. Barefeet as usual. Her dreadlocks loose. But what she wore was the least of Enid’s worries. She needed to know how she could get to town. Her mind was made up. She was going back to Nakuru.

“I need your help.” Enid did not beat around the bush.

“Come in dear!” The Jamaican ushered, stepping away from the door.

“Never mind the silence, my son left with my husband a while back.” She assured as Enid walked in.

Her house had an oriental feel to it. It was vibrant with paintings on the walls, hanging chandeliers, scented candles, floormats and table mats. Too much color and articles for Enid’s liking. These wealthy people could literally confuse you with their over the top tastes.

“What’s the matter dear?” The lady asked in a British accent, tinged with a slight Jamaican accent, once Enid was perched on one of her dining table chairs. She seemed to have a penchant for referring to someone as dear.

“How do I get to town from here?” Enid was straight forward just as tears once again filled her eyes.

“What did he do?” The Jamaican quickly and rightly guessed that whatever was wrong had to do with KK. But Enid was not about to open up to a complete stranger. There was a painful lump in her throat but she tried her level best to compose herself.

After a couple of minutes of the lady looking sympathetically at her, she finally said, “Don’t worry, I will drop you off at Yaya Center, then you can get a bus to town.”

“Whatever it is dear, I hope you both work it out.” She would later remark as Enid alighted from her vehicle. “I hope you have enough money to get you to your destination.” She quickly added to which Enid replied in the affirmative.

Months ago, a friend had adviced her to always have that extra money, whenever she went out on a date as back up incase things went wrong. Mum had given her 1,000shs. She was sure this would get her back home safely to Nakuru.

“Thank you so much for your help.” Enid thanked the Jamaican and she really meant it. This lady had really helped her just by sympathizing enough to even see her off.

“Oh, no worries,” The Jamaican quickly brushed her off with a lovely smile. She was beautiful, so Enid decided, as she walked to the bus stage.

KK would try to call her much later when she was already home in Nakuru and Enid would not pick his call. He would try again and again and her response would be the same until he gave up. Eventually, she blocked him on Facebook.

She had learned her lesson.

 

 

 

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The Man On Facebook (Part 1)

index

Flamingos Painting  by Michael Lee

The first time Enid went to Nairobi was after an invite from someone, who could as well have been a stranger to her on Facebook. He simply went by the initials KK.

A wealthy man by the look of things on his Social Media activity. But then people lied all the time on Facebook, so Enid wasn’t very sure that what she had been seeing, is what she would get.

She went anyway. Out of a desire for adventure, an illusion that she was in love and curiosity. This was not really the very first time Enid would be in Nairobi. Rather it was the first time she would be in the city by herself.

A 22 year old college student from the dusty town of Nakuru or Nax for short or Nax Vegas, depending on what brought you to the Rift Valley town. The home of flamingoes. She had noticed that those who referred to Nakuru town as Nax Vegas, were mostly revellers who showed up for weekend events from other towns, specifically Nairobi.

Nowadays, the flamingoes were not that many on Lake Nakuru like they had been when Enid was a kid. Plus climate change had messed up things and the levels of water had really risen in recent times, so much that the KWS Offices had been submerged. They had to put up some new structures a bit further from the main gate to the game park. And it was now simply Nakuru County. No longer Rift Valley province and Nakuru town anymore.

If Enid was to talk about her town it would be endless. It was basically the only place she knew having been born and brought up there. She even had that brown tint on her teeth. The one synonymous with Nakuru dwellers only that hers was not very conspicuous. You had to really pay attention to her while she spoke to notice the dull streaks of brown on her teeth. Nothing like some garish brown she had seen on some people, thank God.

Enid had been to Nairobi before as a kid but her memory of it was foggy. It was a traditional wedding of someone in the family. Those distant relatives that you could not recognize on the street at first glance but your parents knew them very well. It was somewhere on the outskirts of Nairobi but still Nairobi. She had seen the tall buildings and the people on the street and the hustle and bustle of downtown Nairobi.

Now she would be here on her own. KK had sent her the fare. At least he was a gentleman. But he could afford it. Meeting KK had been interesting. He sent her a friend request. She looked at his photos, could not recognize him from anywhere. As a matter of fact, he appeared significantly older. But there was something about him. How he dressed. How he took his selfies. The people he hang out with on his photos.

She had confirmed the request. That was about 3 months ago. And then the “Do I know you from somewhere?” and “You look familiar” had followed. Gradually, over the 3 months, they had gotten to know each other eventually exchanging numbers.

Then one day, out of the blue, KK had confessed to falling for Enid. She had been taken aback at first. All that time, she had assumed the conversations were purely platonic. And then he had insisted that he wanted to see her and would send her money to come.

So here she was, getting an Uber taxi to Kilimani. Wherever that was. It sounded posh though.

“What is the name of that?” Enid asked the chatty driver, when they got to what looked like a mall. On the other side of the road was a petrol station.

“Ah, that’s Yaya Center. Been here for years!” The driver readily offered. “Haven’t you been to Nairobi before?” He asked.

“Not as an adult.” Enid revealed.

“And from the way you looked I assumed you lived in the city.” It was the driver’s turn to get surprised. All that time he had been in the car with Enid, they had been talking about mundane things. Nothing to give away the fact that his client was a newbie.

“I’m from Nakuru.” Enid thought it best to clarify.

“Nakuru it is! What have you brought for us from there?” The usual question that city dwellers liked to ask those they assumed were from the village. Enid would have literally rolled her eyes, were it not for an incoming call interrupting them on the driver’s phone.

“Sawa, sawa” He kept repeating over the phone. Then once he had hang up he looked over at Enid on the passenger seat.

“We are almost at your destination.” He mentioned.

For a moment, Enid wondered how the driver knew and if it was KK who had been calling. These Uber things were very different from the bodas and tuk tuks of Nakuru that she was used to. It was KK who had actually gotten the taxi for her, after instructing her to let him know when she approached Westlands.

Enid had to ask the person sitting next to her where Westlands was. Luckily, he was a middle aged man who had spent the better part of the two and a half hour journey, peering into his newspaper pages through his glasses. He was also very helpful. Fatherly even. She had alighted at Westlands, where the Uber taxi had picked her up.

The car suddenly came to a stop infront of a big black gate. She could make out some huge buildings, with wide balconies in the compound.

“Madam, you have arrived.” The Uber driver announced.

Enid then alighted, her backpack in tow. It was only a weekend anyway and she had lied to mum that she was visiting a friend in the city.

Mum was never the suspicious type and if dad questioned, she always knew how to shut him down, if she felt he was poking his nose too much into her children’s affairs. After all, Enid had been the poster child. The one who had never had trouble at school. There was nothing to suspect, or was there? Seeing that she was meeting with a man she had never seen in person before.

As she dialled KK’s number to inform him of her arrival, Enid realized that she was trembling. From nervousness or fear or both, she could not tell. How would KK look in person? Would he like the effort she had put in her appearance just to look good for him? The newly braided hair, fitting jeans, stylish top, pedicured toe nails  peeking from the front of her open shoes?

He picked up on the second ring.

“I’m actually at the gate.” He mentioned, before abruptly hanging up. Then immediately after, the gate swung open and out stepped KK in person. He was of medium height, comfortably dressed in a T-shirt, a watch on one of his wrists, a wallet in hand possibly to pay for the Uber services, track bottoms and sandals. From where she stood, Enid could smell his cologne. It was definitely not cheap.

“Oh, hi dearie?!” He began once he was done with the Uber driver, a huge grin on his handsome face. An awkward side hug followed and Enid literally had to stop herself from showing the disappointment on her face. But what had she expected? A sensual hug out there on the street?! The Kilimani neighborhood surely looked like a well tended street, tarmacked, with the ocassional cars driving past. She also noticed that it was quiet.

Just the ideal place for the wealthy to reside.

“Welcome! Welcome! It’s so nice to see you! You must be tired!” He was rambling as he ushered Enid into the compound. It was now Enid’s opportunity to scan the new environment. A wide parking lot. Two storey houses that looked very spacious even from the outside. Clean, quiet, a pavement covering the entire compound, two vehicles parked at the entrances to what she assumed were the houses of the owners. A security guard lazing about inside his small wooden post by the gate.

Surely, KK must be swimming in money.

She found herself wondering how his house would look like as he led the way, into one of the two storey units, up a flight of stairs. There was a child of about 4 or 5 struggling to get his small bike down the stairs on the upper floor.

He looked like a mix of Black and White with his brown skin tone and a head of curly, blondish hair. Enid decided immediately that he was a cute child and would have readily helped him with his bike, were it not for a harsh voice that suddenly interrupted them.

“No, now is not the time to ride your bike!” A slender woman admonished, appearing at the door. She gave a disinterested look at Enid before stepping out in a maxi dress that hugged her petite figure, barefeet, with long dreadlocks falling over her shoulders.

“What did we say Jason? No bike riding in the evening. Come into the house.” Her voice was now gentler, as Enid followed KK into his apartment.

“Those are my new neighbors.” KK was now saying. “The lady is Jamaican married to a Briton. They moved in just last month.”

“Oh,” A gasp escaped Enid’s throat. Everything about KK sounded so foreign. She had never really felt it in the course of their conversations but now that she was here, she could literally feel it. Back home in Nakuru, it was rare to have foreign neighbors and especially, people who came from far of countries such as Jamaica.

When they said that Nairobi was cosmopolitan, perhaps this is what they meant. Your next door neighbor could just be from anywhere in the world.

There Will Be Better Days

Google Images

I remember the day it became evident to us that father could lose his job. He came home from work, packed the company’s land cruiser in its usual spot, walked into the house, not a single word of greeting to us and headed straight to the bedroom.

We had seen this coming although we had held onto hope. Hope that perhaps the real culprits behind the missing funds would be caught and that father would be exonerated.

It was always something to do with money. Money could easily make you lose your job. Money made people decide in an instant that you could not be trusted. And yet money was always being stolen in government offices.

The real culprits would go scot free but there was always that clueless person who would be used as collateral damage. And more so if their signature appeared somewhere. Father would not have escaped this seeing that he handled the company’s funds.

That evening was the last father would come home with the land cruiser. The land cruiser that my siblings and I had grown so used to. The one that always got our classmates green with envy, whenever it picked us up from school or dropped us off at school, on those rare occasions, when father wanted to be the model parent, who ensured his kids got to school safely.

Not that we had trouble getting to school on other days anyway. We used paid transport to and fro. A private van that mother had settled on. So the land cruiser doing what should have been the school van’s job, was actually an added luxury. One that we relished and made sure to rub into our school mates’ faces, how our father was the Head of Accounts in a government owned, procurement company and we were accorded such perks as a result.

That evening would also be the last we would also reside in the company’s spacious 3 bedroom house. I hear father was told by the disciplinary committee handling his case, that he should be thankful they were not taking any legal action. The only things they needed from him was, to surrender the keys to the land cruiser and vacate the company house as soon as possible.

It’s funny, how quickly life can change. Our once neighbors who cheerfully said hi to us now wanted nothing to do with us. They pretended not to be interested in us while we packed our household belongings onto a lorry we had acquired for moving. I’m sure behind their sheer curtains, they could not fathom missing the action playing out before their very own eyes.

In the work environment, there always has to be someone who thoroughly covets your job and I know this was no different in father’s case. One of the wives in the neighborhood, might have been whistling to herself in the kitchen, all the while knowing that her husband, might be the one touted to take over father’s job.

*********

We moved into a modest neighborhood. One we could afford. It was hard for us to adjust. Being the eldest, I could not help wondering what father had been doing with the salary he had been earning at the company all this time. Of course children are not supposed to question their parents, but that still did not keep me from thinking about it.

From a large 3 bedroom house, we were now living in a tiny 1 bedroom house. Things were tight. Most of our household stuff, we were forced to auction, just to fit into this new place. We were lucky that father had been wise enough, to set money aside for our education, up until we finished high school so we could still go to the same school. But the school van was now gone.

We simply could not afford it and matatus suddenly became a necessity. Our school mates who had once undoubtedly, endured torturous moments of us bragging to them about our father’s job, must have surely been having the last laugh.

Mother was a housewife and father was now jobless and we were not sure for how long. Especially with his tainted image. The thing that must have broken father the most was probably, flipping through the back pages of the Daily Nation and chancing on an unmistakable photo of his, stating that he was no longer an employee of the company.

His cellphone rarely rang nowadays. Nobody wanted to be associated with a thief who had stolen from a government company. Sometimes, I could hear father lamenting. He questioned the unfairness of his dismissal, wondered how he could still be struggling if he had indeed stolen the funds and how ungrateful his employers were despite the years of service he had rendered to the company.

Mother only made sympathetic noises on such occasions afraid to say something that might agitate him further. But when she was alone in the kitchen and I crept up slowly, carefully not to alert her of my presence, I could hear her sniffing by the sink, sobbing quietly.

Life can surely deal you the hardest blows. Father had once been a respectable man who drove himself to work, dressed in well ironed suits, dined with top government officials, was trusted with the company’s money and insisted on conversing in English, now reduced to a shadow of his former self, who now resisted the very idea of leaving the house.

It was up to mother to think of how we were going to survive.

********

I remember the day mother met one of those Network Marketers who pitch business opportunity ideas of sorts to you. She came home in the evening, a glint in her eye like she had seen the light. Efforts to get father to join her in this promising venture were fruitless. He seemed disinterested. Eventually, he snapped and left for the bedroom. That is where he always retreated when it was evident he could not deal with the issue at hand.

We were left in the cramped living room, wide mouthed. 3 innocent faces, looking at their mother who was seemingly our only remaining hope. It was the first time father had openly snapped at mother but given the circumstances, nothing really shocked us anymore.

“Don’t worry, there will be better days.” Mother had assured with a smile and we had believed her.

*********

Soon after joining this new business venture, laden with grand opportunities, mother insisted I accompany her to one of the regular meetings they had. She figured that since I would soon be 18, the legal age for registration into the business, there was no reason to keep me in the dark about that which she was now into. After all, if I joined, we could double the income and live even a better life than we once had.

Disobedience has never been my thing so I eventually gave in.

It was on a Saturday afternoon when I was not at school and the room was packed with eager individuals, all with a purpose  to improve their lifestyle. The one presenting was dressed in a suit complete with a tie. I found this odd being a weekend but in the course of the meeting, I would come to the understanding that this is how serious entrepreneurs ought to always be dressed.

If you wanted to become rich, you had to be visionary. In how you dressed, looked and spoke. The presenter spoke of trips abroad, cars and houses owned by those who had attained the highest levels in the business, how the business had transformed him and his family, what opportunities lay ahead, how much we needed to take care of our health…By the time he was done, I was convinced that mother had joined what I considered a fraud.

They were asking for a lot of money for the starter kit. Something I knew in our current financial position, we could not afford. This I tried telling mother after the meeting to which she ordered me to keep my mouth shut. What did I know? I was barely out of school.

Hurt and stunned, I did not say anything else and resisted any additional attempts to get me to attend those crappy meetings in a stuffy, hot room with a projector, showing all these luxuries you could get if you just decided to join the business.

*********

Mother would embark on pressuring father to give her the start up capital for the business. On many occasions, this quickly degenerated into a bitter exchange of words. It was the worst we had seen of our parents and we were quickly getting convinced that they were better off apart.

Eventually, father relented, possibly from the pressure of the ever pushy mother. There was no doubt that she had changed ever since signing up for that crap. Gone was the submissive and patient lady and in was a woman who demanded and pushed. So father possibly to keep the peace, sourced for the money from God knows where and gave it to her.

*********

The next evening, mother came home proudly carrying the starter kit with all kinds of beauty and wellness products. She placed it on the table in the living room and ordered us not to touch it. We did not. Then she headed into the bedroom. None of us went into our parents’ room anyways so when we heard a piercing scream coming from that direction, we instantly knew something must have been amiss.

Our first instinct was to dash in the said direction.

Right there in the middle of the room, father’s lifeless body hung from a noose created out of a bed sheet tied to one of the rafters. And like a log that had just been cut off, mother came crashing down. The sight of her husband who had just committed suicide had caused her to go faint.

*******

It has been 3 years since father passed on. Nobody talks about the business venture. Mother never got to open the start up kit. I don’t know when she will ever open it or if she has the strength to even do it. It remains in a corner of the bedroom gathering dust with each passing day, month and year.

I know she has never forgiven herself for father’s death despite all the counseling she got from the church, family and friends. She now has a job as a clerk in a law firm thanks to her previous secretarial course. It pays a couple of our bills. We still have our struggles but I was lucky to get a scholarship to university. Over the holidays, I work in the campus library for some daily pay.

Many times I think about father and hope that he is finally in a better place. Perhaps it was best for him to leave this world. This world had let him down. His family had let him down too. But I wish he had left with at least a goodbye and a reason why he felt he was better off gone from us. Maybe just maybe, it would have eased this pain in our hearts.

15.

African American Art Print Poster by Artist Sarah Jenkins

There is no doubt that religion has always puzzled me.

In the village, it was only Priscilla and I who used to attend service. Neither of our parents went to church. But we went all the same because we assumed it was the right thing to do. It also gave us a valid reason to avoid house chores for a few hours on Sunday mornings.

And if we did not feel like doing any in the afternoon, we could always lie that a church member had sent us on an errand after service. In truth, we would be lazing about by the stream, catching up with some of our other friends who might have also told the same lie, who knows.

Soon after father’s death, I once gathered enough courage to ask mother why she never went to church and her answer was curt.

“What will church help me with?! ” She had posed in response.

I knew mother was still grieving. Even if she never said it, I could see it in her eyes when she sat next to the fire most evenings after our meal, staring into nothing. No tears. Just stony eyes which ironically, spoke volumes. Our only response was to lay down our mats and go to sleep. We never knew just how long she sat there by the fire alone. In the mornings, she was always bright and early, a complete opposite from her previous solemn self.

Mother never forbade us from going to church though. On rare occasions, my siblings would also join me and Priscilla for service. Priscilla is the last born in her family so it was mostly her.

The village pastor was as dramatic as they come. He spoke of hell fire in such a threatening manner, we were left convinced that we would not escape it, as long as we did not repent and accept Jesus. He would bob around the makeshift pulpit condemning witchcraft, fornication, polygamy and all those ills associated with the devil. It was like this every Sunday. Sermons on just how real, hell fire was.

Some villagers attributed the pastor’s demeanor to the fact that, he still held it against his congregants, for failing to raise enough money to build a better church. Others thought he was truly called by God judging by a particular story about him making the rounds.The rest who avoided his church altogether, were simply not willing to give up their traditions at the prompting of a strange, short man or they saw no need to change, what they considered the norm in their lives. I believe our parents fell into this latter category.

The story that congregants of the church loved to narrate as proof of the pastor’s calling, was of one family which had been having trouble sleeping at night for a lengthy period. Every time they retired to bed, strange noises would be heard coming from the roof. As a last resort, they called the village pastor who held a powerful prayer session in the home. That would be the last of the bizarre occurrence.

If he could pray successfully against evil forces, then he was truly after God’s own heart, so they concluded.  I like to think of me and Priscilla as spectators and not very much interested in proving the credibility or none, of the pastor’s.

Here in the city, church is very different. There is a large parking lot where people park all types of cars. The church is built of stone, very spacious and aerated with overhead screens and an assortment of musical instruments for the choir and praise and worship team.

The pastors are always impeccably dressed. Their wives well put together. I’m sure if our village pastor came here, he would instantly feel out of place with his disheveled appearance and simple bicycle. The pastors here are all driving such wonderful cars. The sermons equally vary. It is not always the same thing being preached.

On Sundays, Mama Ken in her beautiful African inspired outfits will sit on the pew, next to her husband, nodding at everything the pastor says. Ken will be fidgety and would go out before service ends. Angie would have that bored look on her face. She will also eventually find an excuse to go out.

Here, it is seemingly allowed to wear trousers to church. In the village, wearing trousers as a female is highly frowned upon. The gossipy village women would not hesitate in calling you out on it. Your peers will alienate you for being openly brazen in your dressing. Your father would probably beat the living daylights out of you for bringing shame to the family.

Being the help, I’m expected to sit through the whole service. Many times, I do not really understand what is being preached. The pastor speaks in that twang’ that is very similar to Angie’s. I would rather be home sleeping after working for 6 days straight. But I know that is just but a pipe dream. Not in Mama Ken’s house. I have to be in church with them every Sunday whether I’m up to it or not.

At the end of the service, she would then gladly introduce me to her church friends as her help. She will act like she is so grateful to have me, although I suspect the real reason behind her introductions and her insistence that I attend service with them, is just to prove how Godly she is to her friends. Her church friends will in turn smile in awe, their carefully applied lipsticks glinting in the sun.

They will question why she never showed up at the cell group meeting last Sunday for her residential area, to which she will openly lie that she had to work in the afternoon. I will be there, standing in the shadows, trying to look invisible for I know that Sunday afternoons are reserved for outings in Mama Ken’s house. The ones I’m hardly included in. Never for boring church cell group meetings.

 

14.

Well seasoned banter. African Art courtesy of Pinterest

With the troubles back home preoccupying my mind, it is such a welcome relief that Abel is finally leaving the house. Angie mentioned that he will now be staying at the University hostels. Finally, I can be more comfortable. It has been such a struggle for me, working in this very same house, where a young man imagined how easy it would be to pounce on me. It has really made me question the male motive. I would rather carry on being a virgin than give in to such kinds of advances from the opposite sex.

Being 19, a lot of adult things do not make much sense to me. It is almost like being in a fog. You know that you are supposed to act like a grown up but the whole idea of being grown up is still not very clear. I wonder if my friend Priscilla goes through this too. But I have always known her as one who takes life easy. Even when teachers were openly ridiculing her at school for not performing, she took it in her stride. She never showed that she was affected by it up until the time she quit school.

Priscilla’s husband recently bought her a phone and the first thing she did was rush to mother’s and request for my number. When she called me, she sounded very excited just to get a hold of me. I asked about the baby and she said he was doing fine only that he kept her awake most nights. She equally mentioned that it was unfortunate that someone was malicious enough to steal from us.

We still do not know who took the coop and the chicken. I doubt we ever will. And then Priscilla’s credit finished. I could not call her back. I haven’t yet received my salary. The little extra I had, I sent it to mother the day she told me about the theft. Mama Ken is not the kind of employer whom you can ask for an advance. I can tell that she is very glad that Abel is leaving the house. More so because she thought me and Abel were up to no good. I wish she knew that I have always felt harassed with Abel around me.

But I should not expect anyone to understand me around here. I have since learned that adulthood entails handling some of your problems by yourself, the best way you know how to. By now you would have thought I would have been accepted in this house, but that is not the case. I am an outsider and will always be in this house. As a matter of fact, I ought to be grateful for the free lodging and food. Sometimes, when Mama Ken is really angry with me, she likes mentioning how she has provided me with a place to lay my head and food. I take it to imply that I’m the one who needs her not she who needs me although I’m very tempted to doubt this fact sometimes.

The thing with these urban dwellers is that they expect their domestic workers to always feel indebted to them, the same way uncle expects mother to feel indebted to him for getting me a job in Nairobi. They also have this weird attachment to food. An employer can lock up all the foodstuffs in the house when they are out, for some crazy reason that the help will spend the rest of the day binge eating, if the food is left out in the open.

They like to treat us as if we are greedy hyenas who cannot control our appetites. I keep hearing them giving the excuse that food is expensive yet they still get to stock up on all these luxury foods that us villagers have never even heard of. Sometimes we only eat what we are not supposed to out of innocent curiosity.

Koki, Mama Brian’s help from next door told me that when her employer is out, she makes sure that she has eaten to her fill whatever food is available. On some occasions, she also finishes up Mueni’s food, the 2 year old last born daughter of her employer’s, when the child won’t eat. I asked her why she does so and she disclosed that Mama Brian is very stingy with her food. She rarely gets full during supper. The woman’s eyes are always on her, to see how much she has served on her plate.

I did not tell her that I have my meals in the kitchen  where I have easy access to second helpings without my employer’s knowledge. Mama Ken barred me from the dinner table very early on. It bothered me for a while why they excluded me from the table until I realized just how much never ending house chores made you hungry. Now I can always choose the kitchen over the dinner table where nobody is monitoring my food intake. The employers can carry on calling it greedy, but we house helps know it is the only way we can keep our energies up, to effectively run their houses.

I know Koki always has these questions and stories for me because she likes to compare notes being way newer in the court than me. This is why I often times withhold information from her. You just never know whose ears the news would land on and I like to pretend that, I do not engage with the other house helps as per my employer’s instructions.

 

13.

“Yellow Chicken” by Franceska Schifrin

Some people seem to delight in the misery of others. That is the only explanation I can give to this occurrence.

Mother called me today morning. She said that when they went to sleep the previous night, all 4 chicken were in the coop. When they woke up in the morning, the chicken and the coop were missing. I can’t even begin to put to words just how annoyed I am. Who would do such a thing?!

Mother suspects some young men who idle in the village. They are rumored to engage in petty criminal activities but nobody seems to produce enough evidence to incriminate them. I’m sure whoever stole the chicken will fetch a good price for them at the shopping center.

Then they will pass by our homestead later on, pretending to be concerned while gloating secretly at the misery of mother. Or they will completely avoid the homestead, until when they are completely sure that their crime has been forgotten and therefore, gone unpunished. The nerve of brazen thieves! This however, is not the only problem that mother has to deal with. The other problem is uncle.

For some reason, uncle’s village wife and 3 children have been having frequent meals in mother’s house and sometimes, demand money for their various needs from her. So far, mother has put up with it since uncle makes her feel indebted to him for getting me a job in the city.

I still do not understand why mother kept this particular piece of information from me when I was home visiting. I did not see any of my cousins nor aunt near the homestead the whole duration. But as soon as they were sure I was gone, they must have resumed their previous bad habits.

I’m beginning to lose all respect for uncle. I told mother this to which she made me promise not to say anything to uncle. My mother does not like ruffling feathers. Besides, it is disrespectful for a younger one to question an older one. In a way, I feel sorry for uncle’s village wife. She has no idea that uncle has an additional wife in the city who recently gave birth to uncle’s child.

But that is no excuse for uncle to make mother feed and cater for his other family’s needs! And especially now that the chicken have been stolen and mother has lost another source of income. She used to sell those eggs that the chicken laid to her immediate neighbors. Perhaps it is uncle who gave instructions to his children to carry out the theft. I would not be surprised. Jealousy can turn anyone into a monster.

I have always thought that uncle meant well but it seems I was wrong. We did not ask him to get me a job in Nairobi. The whole idea was his. So to make mother feel indebted to him is wrong. Had I stayed in the village, I’m sure I would have found other means to help mother financially. I can make hair. I would have definitely plaited the village girls’ hair and made some money.

Meanwhile, Abel has kept his distance. After that incident from a few days back, I am still fearful of him. Today morning, he left in the company of Baba Ken. Something to do with admission at the university. Sometimes, I cannot help but question what such uncouth people are going to do there.

University is where the privileged in society go to acquire degrees and get good jobs so that they can be able to drive good cars and live in big houses in nice environments such as this one. I guess that pretty much answers my question. Abel is uncouth, but definitely privileged.

I have not shared with anyone what Abel tried to do to me. Not even with the ever inquisitive help next door. The one that Mama Brian replaced Jesca with who always wants to talk whenever she spots me outside. That girl can ask a million questions in a very short time period. If I am stupid enough to say anything about Abel to her, I bet the whole court will know within no time.

But Abel is the least of my worries as long as he does not get near me. I’m more worried about mother. Maybe she should get a dog. We used to have one in the past but our youngest is very scared of dogs. For her sake, father gave out the dog. It is times like these when I wish father was still with us. Nobody would be pestering mother. But they keep doing it knowing there is nobody to defend her.

 

 

 

 

A Request To Beta-Readers

Google Images

Firstly, let me state that we value your honest feedback as published and unpublished writers.

Beta-readers according to the definition on Wikipedia, are non-professional readers who read written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters or its setting.

One of my good friends happens to also be my beta-reader. As a book enthusiast who reads a lot and specifically enjoys African fiction, she has gladly read each one of my manuscripts this year, that I have requested her to read and offered her feedback at the end.

As an unpublished writer, I sometimes cannot help second guessing myself. I also must admit that negative feedback concerning my written work is usually the hardest to take. And yet I’m the kind of writer who has on certain occasions, requested someone I was not well acquainted with, to read my work. There is always that hope that they may like what they read and offer tons of praise and encouragement, right? Wrong.

On most occasions, when I have asked this particular category of people to read my work, their feedback has been_Um_ not necessarily positive or just a tad bit positive. I am human and to hear someone I have requested to read my written work, who seems conversant with literary stuff, tear down my writing, only serves to heighten my insecurities. I find myself wondering whether the feedback would have been different, had they known me better, perhaps as a friend or a published writer. But then it is not always a guarantee for people who know you very well, to always have positive things to say about you.

My mum used to be one of my initial beta-readers. Mum does not have a background in writing but since at the time, I was just starting to come out of my shell as a writer, she was generally the closest person I could somehow trust with my work. Mum has witnessed some of my moments of disappointment in writing. She has seen me being taken round by Editors when I was trying, albeit unsuccessfully to get into Print Media as a columnist. She has offered her advice, her encouragement and blessing concerning my writing.

Funnily enough, every time I shared my manuscripts with mum, she would always have an issue with the names of my characters. It would start from sentence one. That was basically her only critique which I rarely agreed with simply because, it never made sense why she wanted me to change the names I had chosen carefully, for my characters. And in as much as mothers mean well, I realized soon enough that I needed a beta-reader, who would delve deeper into my written work and offer more solid feedback, rather than quickly pointing out that they did not like majority of the characters’ names. I ceased sharing my manuscripts with her, although I would gladly share my published books with her someday.

The title of my post happens to be a request to beta-readers and with good reason. I understand that many times you have our best interests at heart. You would really like us to improve our writing and plots. But as a writer who has experienced beta-readers bashing her work in the past, I would suggest that you purpose to always start with the positive feedback, before you get to the negative feedback. Also, drop the comparisons. The worst thing you can ever do to an upcoming writer requesting your feedback, is to compare him or her with an established writer. I personally believe that every single writer has a different writing style. We can never be the same in our prose delivery.

The common mistake that some (or many, depending on individual experience) beta-readers make is the constant desire to quickly point out the mistakes. Not only does this crush the writer, but equally makes him or her believe that all their efforts have amounted to nothing, if the number of mistakes in their work are that glaring to readers. So much that when the positive feedback follows, it hardly sounds genuine enough. More like a consolation for the otherwise crappy piece of work, they have slaved away to come up with. Writing is not easy, I kid you not.

And I’m sorry to say this, but I bet there are many aspiring writers who have given up, after receiving feedback from a beta-reader delivered in this manner. Understand that it takes a lot of courage for any writer to share their work with someone else. Our writings happen to be some of our deepest thought processes. Therefore, the best way would be to first mention the positives, no matter how little before you proceed to what you think needs to be changed. The message it passes to the writer is that, you appreciated their efforts in seeking opinion from you in the first place and are well meaning, on the aspects you would like them to change or improve on. Remember, even the writers with the most mistakes in their work, have a potential to improve their written work.

What have your personal experiences been with beta-readers? Did you consider their feedback constructive? Has a beta-reader ever crushed your spirit and how did you get back up? I would love to hear all about your experiences in the comment section 🙂

 

12.

A painting depicting fear. Google Images

What is this?

Is this how attraction is supposed to be?

Is this how a man communicates his desires to a woman?

“You know I want you. I have wanted you from the very first day I saw you and I know you want me too.” Abel confessed a while back. He had suddenly grabbed me by the waist and declined to let go even though I struggled to get out of his grip. The bulge in his trousers was obvious. I could feel it on my behind and I was scared.

Avoiding Abel is becoming impossible by the day. The fact that it is always me and him in the house at daytime, makes things even worse. Mama Ken has already given me the lecture.

“Do not play innocent with me Coretta. I know there’s something between you and Abel.” She accused. “I hope you realize that Abel is my husband’s nephew and whatever is happening with the both of you will not work.”

Nothing has happened. I do not understand why Mama Ken is always on my case. I am not the one who brought Abel to the house. If she did not like the whole idea of it, she should have just communicated her displeasure to her husband.

But Baba Ken can be firm. He has this way of shutting down his wife. I have witnessed it before. On those rare occasions, I see a meek side of Mama Ken come out.

This is the first time that Abel has initiated contact. It caught me off guard. Here I was, cleaning the surfaces in the living room and suddenly, male hands were on my waist. All those other times that he got near me, it was only to make me uncomfortable or to whisper things into my ear. He never placed his hands on me.

That I have tolerated. Even secretly liked it. This however, I could not tolerate. It felt inappropriate. Like I had no right to my own body.

“I don’t want you!” I announced angrily, trying unsuccessfully to push him off me.

“You all pretend that you don’t but you do!” Abel retorted, now pressing his body into mine. This is how I could make out the bulge. The disgusting prick! I decided then that I did not want this to happen. Whatever it was that he intended to happen.

“Let go or else I will report you to your aunt!” At the mention of his aunt, he suddenly got his hands off me.

Terrified by the whole ordeal, I fled to my room and shut the door. If I had a key I would have as well locked the door but Mama Ken has denied me one. She once stated that there was no need for me to have one.

But I suspect that the real reason for denying me a key was to make it easier for her to inspect the room without my knowledge. My mother did not raise a thief so I have nothing to hide! But at that moment, for protection purposes, I pushed the bed to jam the door.

“Coretta!” Abel’s voice startled me seconds later, through the jammed door.

“Coretta!” It sounded urgent.

“What do you want?!” I demanded, still terrified. I was literally shaking.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to treat you in such a manner nor scare you.” I was not too sure if he was being sincere. No matter how much he begged, nothing would make me push the bed away from the door.

“I understand that you are just doing your job and I should respect that but sometimes, I can’t help myself. You are too beautiful and I like you…” Whatever was he rambling about?

I did not respond.

“Coretta, say something!” He pleaded.

I said nothing.

It then dawned on me that as long as Abel is in this house, I am not safe. Being the help puts me in a very vulnerable position. It’s not that situations such as these are uncommon. I have seen it happen in this very same court that my employer resides in. Husbands preying on hapless house helps and sometimes getting them pregnant in the process.

In my case, it was the nephew to the husband constantly harassing me. But I have now had it! Since Mama Ken never believes me, the next time Abel tries the same, I shall make good on my threat and instead of reporting him to his aunt, report him instead to his uncle. I know Baba Ken is more reasonable than that wife of his.

 

11.

Young man portrait painting by eydii …

There’s a new occupant in Mama Ken’s house.

His name is Abel.

It is pretty obvious that Abel won’t be staying with us for long. He is Baba Ken’s nephew who came when I was away in the village. He is waiting to join University in May but I can already tell that Mama Ken does not want him around.

If I previously thought that Ken was bad news, Abel seems worse. You can just tell from looking at him. When I arrived from the village and found him at the house, he gave me one of those looks. Those looks that communicate a lot without words. Those looks that immediately warned me that I ought to be careful around Abel. But yet sometimes I can’t help being curious about him.

Unlike her own children who dump their dirty clothes in the laundry basket outside the downstairs bathroom door, Mama Ken makes Abel launder his own clothes. He does it, albeit reluctantly. She also warned him about his habit of watching movies the entire day.

This particular warning, Abel seems to ignore. He still watches the movies whenever my employer is out and wears those jeans of his in the house. The ones with large holes at the knees. In my village, wearing tattered clothes exposes the poverty that has afflicted your family. In the city, wearing jeans that have holes in them seems to be cool.

I have so far done my best to avoid being around Abel but without much success. The young man always seems to find an excuse to get near me. Like the other day when I was washing utensils by the sink, Abel must have crept up quietly behind me. I was only made aware of his presence when he whispered, very close to my ear, “You are beautiful.”

I swear I could have died from shock. But the young man seemed unfazed by my reaction to his gimmick. With a naughty grin on his face, he proceeded to dump his dirty plate in the sink. My heart was beating wildly in my chest. I am not sure whether it was only from shock but also from delight at having a man show that much interest in me.

You see, I recently turned 19 a few days after my return from the village. In a way, I feel like I have not experienced as much as my friend Priscilla has. It is not that I want a baby. I do not feel ready for one at the moment plus I do not have a husband. But I must admit that I harbor a curiosity for many things. And especially a curiosity about love and how it feels to be loved by a man.

Something however tells me that Abel is not sincere. Every time he tries to get close to me and succeeds, I experience mixed feelings. One is a bad feeling that he is up to no good and the other is a somewhat good feeling that he is paying attention to me. A mere househelp.

Mama Ken must have noticed this. Whenever she is home from work, I can tell that she is watching both Abel and I like a hawk. After Ken’s incident, I feel like whatever little trust my employer had in me previously has significantly diminished.

I have always valued my job no matter how tough it sometimes got. And especially after seeing how much my being employed has helped mother in the village, I value it even more.

Honestly, I am not sure if I will be very successful in avoiding Abel but for the sake of my job, I will try.

The Merchant Of Venice As A Once Upon A Time Set Book In Kenya

Mislike me not for my complexion, the barnished livery of the sun…

This is a line from the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, a set book I did in my last year of high school, which pretty much made no sense to me. I hated reading that book and for the mere reason that the English was a handful. There is no doubt that William Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers to have ever lived but I question the relevancy of his work to an East African setting.

I bet many who read the book, can agree with me that they could not really relate to it as much as they did to Half a Day, an additional set book which was a collection of short stories, from the African continent. Specifically from North Eastern and Eastern Africa. Whoever settled on the Merchant of Venice, for our last year of Secondary School Literature study must have been quite ambitious. We really struggled with that book.

You can imagine an East African student born and raised in an East African environment, trying to decipher the hidden meanings behind a 16th century play written in the English of that time. And while some sections of the book made for some good comic relief, like the aforementioned line which always got us giggling, as it referred to a Moroccan Prince whose skin, we assumed from the description looked like ours, a greater majority of the book was simply gibberish.

It did little to make us appreciate the literary prowess of our own African writers, whose books would have been a worthier choice for Literature study. As a matter of fact, my copy of the Merchant of Venice is still gathering dust in my metallic box, the one I used in high school.

 

Domestic Pains: Diary of a Househelp, my serialized novel, resumes in the next post.