The Little Bird

It’s great living here but I miss my other self. I love my cage but I miss my other home. The cage is big and neat. Someone always comes to clean up, plus I am tidy so I hardly make it too dirty. He is my owner, a good man. I knew he is a man because in my previous life, I was a woman. I sing a lot but he doesn’t understand my songs though sometimes he stares at me like he does comprehend. I wish I could talk. If I did, I would ask him his name.

The man bought me at a carnival. I don’t remember how I got there. The last memory I have before that was being a woman. I was in a hospital. Can’t quite recall my name but I remember my husband’s, he was Tim. I remember the look on his eyes when the doctor said that I wouldn’t make it. “Don’t leave me,” the last thing I heard him say. I felt the same towards him just that words couldn’t come out of my mouth. That was the last of my-self, in that form.

The man took me out to the fields only once and let me fly away. The world was so beautiful from up there. All the people looked small and harmless. The sea was one big blue and the farms were in pattern. I felt free- like if I flew far away, I would find my other self. I didn’t, though I met Tim. I flew past a cemetery and I saw him laying flowers on a headstone. He was crying so I flew over to his shoulder. He did not even twitch or look at me. “Silly bird”, he must have thought. I felt his pain, he was mourning over my past self. If I could talk I would let him know that I was there with him, I never really left.

I just want to fly away so I can see the world’s beauty and Tim, again. I did come back to my cage. I stay in too long, I can tell- the man doesn’t want me to get lost in the world. I am now sure that even if I got lost, I will never meet my other self. I finally realize that now I am just a bird. I long for the day when the man will set me free, for I will not run …

The Lone Poodle

Most poodles from Runda, Ridgeways and such high-end residential areas have custom-made backyards, just to facilitate their need to exercise and run around. When they have to get out of their plush compounds, I am almost as certain as the sun will set that no big dog or monster would eat them. They walk majestically on the smooth terrain of roads, unaware of the meaning of potholes, mud and water puddles. Back in the house, these poodles must probably drink milk for breakfast,  eat biscuits and juice for brunch and then have bacon and steak for dinner.

I spotted a poodle in Harambee estate this morning. She wasn’t ordinary but still just what you would expect. She was miniature, the cutest walking creature and white in colour. Her litu-paws stood out as they constantly missed on the estimated count of how far she needed to jump across the dirty puddle of water. Out of every three jumps, she missed two. She was out-of-place as it was all muddy and no leafs in this suburb. She however seemed to be in her element because none of this stopped her from running wild as if searching for her lost soul. She must have not known that her colour white is a symbol of innocence and purity because she was running aimlessly blind to the dirt.

My sister was the first to see the poodle and she shrieked, “Look at that poodle! It should be in the house!” We were picking her friend who lived around the area where the poodle was. On asking about the poodle’s whereabouts, she said that it had no home and that it spent all its days just larking about.

I have been thinking about that poodle all day. I can’t understand how such a gem, the second most intelligent breed of  a dog could be homeless. It reminds me of a lot of things. I see a street child who should be off that hard-knock life. I see that beautiful woman who doesn’t deserve a battering husband. I also see that person who has given up on hope. If we look deep inside of us, we will find that we all have a poodle inside of us, running around wild waiting to be rescued. When we are faced with difficulties and harsh environments, we fail to walk with our heads up high. The poodle didn’t care that she was in the unkempt alleys of Harambee estate … Just like an unattended flower, she still blossomed. And just like the poodle, we all should too 🙂

Inside Chocolate City …

The year I celebrated my 10th birthday must be the perfect connotation to “bitter sweet”. It also has to be the most memorable in the twenty-two years I have lived. Contrary to the usual disregard for the day I was born, for the first time mother brought me a gift. It was a brown little edible thing that looked like mud. She said that it was chocolate, and that it was intended for only special occasions. My taste buds marveled at its massive sweetness though that didn’t last as long as my status elevation among the village kids. All the little rascals from our slum area wanted to have a piece. I tried to hide the little left in one of my gumboots but hours later it had all melted and gone to waste. It was one of those terribly hot afternoons. I was naive then, didn’t even know about the relationship between chocolate and heat. Mother’s gesture really made me feel special as the other ‘blessed’ children I used to see on Mama Shiku’s little black and white Great-Wall television while passing by her kiosk. I hardly ever saw the complete Cadbury’s chocolate TV advertisements as Mama Shiku would always chase kids anytime they came near her ugly banda.(structure) ”Tokeni hapo ama mtu mmoja ataenda nyumbani akilia!,” she would always put out a warning prior to unleashing the wrath of her multi-purpose broom on us!

That same year, mama started suffering from severe chest problems. She kept on blaming the crack on the wall near the door that supposedly let in the cruel cold wind. The landlord had promised to have it fixed probably since the day I was born as that conspicuous hole was one of the first things I reckon to have hit my eyes as a toddler. After a week in a hospital in the big city, we were sent word that she passed on from an ailment called Pneumonia. I was sad, even sadder that I never got a chance to go visit her during her admission. I wanted to see how a real hospital would look like. Dad on the other hand was a chain smoker. “That nasty habit took his lungs,” said the expressionless man who was filling in for the clinic assistant. That’s the day my Dad never came out of the dilapidated local clinic walking.

I still smell tobacco around me. It’s no longer suffocating me; rather it gives me a vivid remembrance of my father. I feel like my parents demise was the work of the devil. The neighbours said that my father was bewitched. The village witchdoctor said that the gods needed to be appeased. My dad’s siblings blamed it on my mother saying that she was never the right choice for a wife. Everything happened too fast. One day we were a family happily bundled up in a minute shanty in Kibera. The next day my sister Njeri and I were left orphans sitting on the thin mattress on the floor. We were angry at the world’s ill fate but looking back, we were hungrier than anything! Mother wasn’t going to come back home with Kahorora, the stray vegetable that flourished near the sewer busts. It was the cheapest meal and ironically the sweetest when thrown in a boiling pot of mashed potatoes.

After our parent’s unprecedented departure, our four-walled shanty was suddenly grandiose. It felt bigger but not necessarily better. If anything, I was bitter at my evil aunt Koi who left the man she was living with down the lane to apparently come take care of us. For years, rumours that she was being battered severally by that man constantly flew around just as often as the common flying –toilets of Kibera. Down here, there are no systems whatsoever. The sewers are broken and the few available toilets are literally full of shit! We recycle plastic papers though not like the factories. We simply use them to help ourselves then thrown them up the air hoping that they will fly away as far as possible. People get away with crime just as easy as stealing a mandazi from Mama Oti’s open air frying pan by the road. Irrespective of your shanty’s padlock size, your door is prone to being broken into. Tribe is not a token of appreciation, you either live with your people or risk the tribal and brutal hands of the enemies.

Many times Mum had begged her sister to leave the unnecessary trouble of living with a man who made a pittance of money from chan’gaa (an illicit drink) brewing. Mummy had asked Aunt Koi to come squat with us but she never took up the offer. I thought she moved in faster after the loss out of her empathy for Njeri and I but ironically, she was coming to make us her slaves! Aunty only carried with her, a sack of dirty clothes which she forced us to wash on that same day despite the fact that it had been raining cats and dogs outside. It took the clothes about two days to dry out on the dirty picket fence by the nearby swamp that borders Kibera and the civilized Lang’ata estate. I used to day-dream staring at the other side of the swamp infested by mosquitoes wishing that one day I would get into the six storey apartments just to see if the world looked any different from up there.

After Njeri left for Mombasa to live with our uncle Ken, the shanty was suddenly the only thing I had left. I spent hours and days staring at the same old newspapers haphazardly stuck on the wall. At the far corner was the only family picture we took on the day that Muniu, the slum photographer was giving every family a free sample to his new Polaroid camera that a tourist from Tokyo had given him as a souvenir. Sometimes I am hoping that the newspaper writings would change but just like the reality of my parents gone, they never do. I got tired of tossing and turning in the cold nights waiting on Aunty to come home with food. Instead she would come home with different men almost every night, their similarity being the dead stench of vomit and cheap alcohol. She would kick me out of the shanty to get her desired space. Crying silently outside I would hear her crying inside in the pitiful pleasure of the moment,”mungu wangu, woi gai fafa, woi hapo tu …” What a dirty woman she was!

I got dirty myself, as I started doing vibaruas (odd jobs) at the age of seventeen. That way, i was poor but not too much to sleep hungry. Omosh Kinde, a childhood friend introduced me to Mzee Kasri. Mzee was renown as Kibera’s jack of all trades. He owned about a hundred mkokoteni’s (hand-carts), quite a number of shanties for rent and the famous Arusha Dishes, the slum’s famous eating joint that served the best Swahili dishes. Kasri would spend an entire day traversing through the depths of the slum ensuring that all his businesses ran smoothly. His diligence was to envy, it still remains a mystery how  he manages to keep his Islamic dress as white as snow. Mzee is the one who bailed me out of custody when i was held at the Lang’ata police station following an ugly dispute between Aunty and I. One morning I woke up feeling all grown up. In a bid to stand on my own, I asked her to leave and never come back. Instead, she dared to insult my dead parents, “Siendi! Na wewe utakufa na mdudu kama wazazi wako!”  … I am just sorry that I put my hands on a woman and especially my aunt but I am not sorry that this is who I’ve become.

It’s been raining heavily of late. Sometimes I just sit by my little window and ignore my solitude as I stare at the rain’s beautiful dancing motion. It ironically wrecks Kibera even further leaving everything covered in the reddish-brown messy mud! That always make me think about my first chocolate experience. I once read a newspaper headline that referred to Kibera as Africa’s largest and worst slum settlement. What a contrast because to me, this is the city of chocolate 🙂  Forget about what you heard, I am yet to tell you of all the real tales …

To be continued …

Our Short Story

We met in a serene setting on a Thursday night. We were both in our early twenties. He was with his girlfriend, I was with my homeboy. When our eyes met, so did a long-term search that came to an end. He kept staring into my eyes, I knew he was the one.

We kissed on our first date. He said his girlfriend had nothing on me. I told him nothing at all, I was smitten. We went on a couple of dates, family gatherings and trips. One thing led to another, it felt good to have a companion, we joked a lot, laughed together, fought sometimes and even talked about the future.

One morning I woke up feeling like I wanted more, it just wasn’t enough. I went to church and prayed to God. The next day after breakfast I fell sick. That night over dinner he proposed to me. The next day I realized I hadn’t had my periods for too long. I was pregnant.

We had a beautiful ceremony. I still look at pictures of my cute belly in the pretty wedding dress. I still remember seeing his hopeful face when I walked down the aisle. Clean shaven in a tuxedo never looked so damn good. The entire village came out. We couldn’t wait to be alone. The honeymoon was adventurous, a holiday destination in Samburu.

We have been married for 22 years now. Our only kid, Bijoux moved out last week. Among other things, we miss her pathetic pies, little pranks, constant ramblings and sneaking into the house late at night. Her childhood years remain sentimental. Parenting was hard but it’s harder to deal with her absence.

We are back to square one, stuck together. We are constantly reminiscing on the previous years, not forgetting to appreciate the far that we have come. Fate has somehow forced us to start all over again. We still breakup but we always makeup. In general I am starting to learn new things about him. He says that I have recently acquired new tastes, he knows me too well. I  have realized that despite our daughter, given another chance, I would still marry him.

Jevanjee Boy …

I have heard many “normal” people talk ill of Jevanjee gardens. Strategically located in the middle of Nairobi’s robust central business district, it must have been placed there to provide the much-needed hideout for relaxation amidst the stress levels razing around the city life. One day while eavesdropping, i got to know that a  lot of town dwellers call it a dangerous zone, a dungeon where thugs and rapists hide. I don’t hide here, I reside here. This is my home, I guess it automatically makes me queer that I find solace here.

I am not a thug nor a rapist but I steal occasionally. In the hard knock street life you got nothing apart from your reflex action. You have to take that which doesn’t belong to you to survive through the man eat man circle of life. Just like a tale of the hustle, stealing is accompanied with a great deal of risk. Only last week Omosh succumbed to the brutal horror of mob justice. He was caught pick pocketing from a beldam’s handbag on Biashara street. For close to thirty minutes, normal transactions at the rather assiduous trade area came to a standstill as the angry mob pounced on him with big boulders from the nearby construction site. The fat women who sell juicy fruit salads for the construction workers were on the same camp with the Muslim women who peddle “mabuyu” near the mosque. In a bid to waver the crowd’s intent the females had all their arms high up in the air while crying out loud, “Woiiiii asamehewe!” Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the angry gathering yelled and kicked Omosh as if he had stolen from every one of them. Only the police would have saved his life, that’s if they had come to the scene and scared off the wanainchi by shooting bullets into the clear skies. This is the kind of metropolis where the echoing sound of gun shots usually disperses a crowd faster than any word of mouth. The police were however very late, they always are! When they got to the smoky vicinity, all that was left was the ashes of what used to be Omosh. The masses had taken the matter into their own hands. They hurriedly took an old tyre from the Indian vehicle spare parts shop and put it around Omosh’ body. They set him ablaze.

Inside Jevanjee is my favourite bench that I like to sit on. It’s my definition of magic because at night it transforms into a bed, my bed. I have spent a lot of sleepless nights on this surface, a problem most probably caused by its shape and make. I am too tall for its length and it’s too cold for my health, these damn scrap metals! Sometimes, the nightmares of the pot-bellied Italian man chasing me from the back of his pizzeria leave me tossing and turning. One of the best nights I have spent on this bench was when I once cuddled up with Shiko till the break of dawn. I could hardly let go to the warmth her feminine bosom provided to my chest. She was one of us, she still is even though she left. She was beautiful, I think I had feelings for her. I also think that I am a shy boy.

I have however never hesitated to grab half-eaten food from motorists with their car windows open in slow traffic, I have never felt guilty of wearing a foreign jacket. People always come to the park and forget their paraphernalia, we normally inherit them in a heartbeat. Around this location, my bravery is way above average. I am surprised that I never had the balls to tell Shiko that I loved her. I was also afraid to tell her because I had nothing to offer. Love is no spoken language in these dark and cruel alleys. In a real world, men who love women have gifts and trips to offer them if not fancy dates, things that I only dream of. Sometimes when i miss Shiko so much, I start to have illusions of her. I must have been the one person who cared most for her, after all she had no real home or family. She was one day found dead on Waiyaki way. Raped and killed.

It had been a long day, It was going to be yet another lonely night without Omosh. I was sad but perturbed much that the stars were brighter than usual, as if the universe was trying to light me up. I wished I had told Omosh that morning before his unprecedented departure that he was the only brother I had, the only friend I had left. I wish he knew that if I was given another chance to be with him, I would let him cover himself with the tattered piece of cloth we had both salvaged at the Ngara  dump site. Not a fortnight went by without us fighting over its fair share; for it’s the closest we had ever been to a blanket. I am somehow glad that every morning after our disputes, we always woke up to a new beginning, after all who needs a cloak during the day? To make hay, it’s the clock that matters. I shed a tear right after I said an invocation for Omosh.

The prayer made me think of Pastor Kamau. He comes to the gardens every morning from eleven to four o’clock. Adorning his expensive suits and cheap perfumes, I care less about his image or prayers, for all I know he always interrupts my version of  death to the world. My sweet sleep is always cut short by the clergyman’s blaring sound system and the out of key choir of at least five people always dressed in bright purple or blinding fuchsia. Some days he leaves as late as nightfall thanks to two different but very possible scenarios; when the garden is packed by passersby wanting to give their lives to the Lord, especially over the weekends or when kids visiting the city on educational school trips are incidentally stranded in the garden while waiting on their school bus to come pick them. Just like the rest of his church brethren, he pisses me off! It’s been close to five years since I forcefully started hearing his word, as he likes to term it. My life is still as pathetic. The word could not save my friends, Shiko and Omosh. Only the good Samaritans give me food if I am lucky, the word has never fed me, I wonder if it will save me when my time comes. Pastor also likes to be called “Mchungaji”. I find that rather bizarre because it’s a nickname. I hate them almost as much as when people call me a “chokora”. I have a name and that’s not it …

To be continued …

The Girl Who Got Away

I lifted this story word for word from my Cosmo-May Edition. I wanted to share it with you because it’s short & sweet. It made me realize that you can run, but you can’t escape from certain things (Enrique’s voice)


It’s easy to forget that guys also suffer the brutal heartbreak of losing the one- After all, they are usually a lot less vocal about it. Matt McGoldrick writes about the woman he can’t quite forget.

Falling in love at work was not on the cards, but even on the first day that Astrid walked into the office, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop it. Still, I tried. The last thing I needed was to be distracted by a smart, beautiful and potentially dangerous woman.

Oh, I was friendly enough but, unlike most of the other guys, I made sure there was No Hitting On. Later, Astrid told me this had driven her crazy. She joked about the futility of resistance. We became friends. We both read a lot. I liked Murakami and Ishiguro. She kept on going about Nabokov, but I was too busy trying not to think about how she could smell of naartjies and coconut at the same time, to notice much else.

One evening we were well oiled and arguing about Yeats. “I have spread my dreams under your feet: tread softly because you tread on my dreams”. I didn’t care for that line. She thought it romantic. I tried not to roll my eyes. Perhaps I arched an eyebrow. How this led to the bedroom, I couldn’t tell you. But seconds later, there we were. And hours later. And days. Halcyon days. We cooked, read and laughed together. She introduced me to her family. She met my folks; they liked her.

A few months down the line I told Astrid I loved her. She told me she was sleeping with our boss. He was 20 years older than us. At the time I was so upset that I hadn’t noticed that my heart had just been trampled on. Pride, I guess. I cashed in my chips and went travelling. That was a few years ago. I hear they are married with a couple of kids now.

I’m on the other side of the world. Which isn’t quite far enough —– I still smell coconuts sometimes —– but it’ll have to do.