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My Life is a Big Mess

By Guest Writer

Yesterday morning, I found a body of a man mutilated in the corridors of Kayole. I was on my way to work but I stopped to look. I took a long look at this hopeless soul that had been left for the dogs and smiled. “You look beautiful son,” I thought. Then I jumped over whatever was left of this hopeless fool and made my way to work. Do not judge me. I was not always like this. Life has taught me that it is all vanity and I cannot think about anything for too long. Before you wonder why I was not gutted to see the dead body; before you curse at why I was not afraid to look at a dead body of some stranger from wherever he was picked; before you call me a monster for jumping over him and going my way; before you ask why I did not call the police; just hear me out.

I have lived in Kayole for thirteen years. I was not born here. I was born in Kapenguria, Rift Valley, in 1985. My parents were loving people and harmless at worst. I remember my father, a tall, dark, and muscled man, who cared for everything around him so much. He showed me what a man should be; caring, loving, a listener, considerate, and charming. I loved that man to death. Then there was my mother. She was the true definition of a housewife; submissive, loving, hardworking, and charming. My father worked in Posta in Kapenguria while my mother did nothing except take care of the home and myself. My father and mother were true lovebirds. They shared kisses and hugs and planned everything together. I never knew violence for the entirety of my childhood, except that my childhood did not last very long. On the Friday of November 1 1991, I was woken up by commotion and cries from my mother. What sounded like a slap extinguished her voice in a flash. I did not bother to look for my koroboi. I slowly opened the door to my room and attempted to crawl out. That did not take me anywhere as what felt like a frying pan of a palm grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to the living room. My parents were tied up and made to sit on a sofa in the room, naked. In no time, I was bound and gagged just like my parents. “Who are they,” I wondered. After what sounded like a decade of searching through the house, two other men joined the three in the room.

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“It is not here,” one of them said.

There was a long moment of silence and frustration in the room. A man who had been with us in the room the whole time lowered his trousers and forced himself on my mother as my father and I watched helplessly. They wanted us to see it. One after the other, they raped my mother. I cried until I could not cry any more. After what felt like hell, the last man zipped his trouser and laughed. I looked at the clock on the wall. 2:27 Am. Then my eyes landed back on the man zipping his trousers and I saw a scar on his left arm, one that would remain a permanent picture in my head. I thought the ordeal was over but it wasn’t. One of the men slit my mum’s throat before my eyes. I screamed but none of it was heard because of the gag. The man with a scar on the left arm then stabbed my father right through the heart and then ordered the rest to make their way out. My parents were killed before my eyes in one night.

That night was as long as any I have ever had. I stayed with two dead bodies for hours before the sun rose and Susan, my cousin whose house was metres from ours, came calling my name as she normally did every morning that we went to school together. She turned and ran back to her house when she saw the scene. A week later, I was a total orphan adopted into the family of my paternal uncle. He was good to me and a father figure. He treated me like he did my cousins. I should have felt lucky to have him except that he had a scar on his left arm. Before you ask it, it was the exact scar I had seen on the night of November 1, 1991. I heard that they never found the killers of my parents and motive of the murder. Every day that I lived in Uncle Patrick’s house, the image of the last man who raped my mother and the man who stabbed my father right through the heart flashed through my face. And hey, do not even imagine it. I never saw their faces. They were all covered.

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On May 13 1994, my cousin (Uncle Patrick’s elder son) was hit by a car on a busy market day and died on the spot. I remember that night when the body was brought home. I was so happy because I felt that a power stronger than me was fighting my battles. I looked at his body and felt nothing; no pain, no grief, no fear, no anxiety; Nothing. In 1997, my uncle got ill and was nearing his last days when I took food to him one day and posed the tough question to him: why? Why did you have to kill my father? He never answered that question. A day later, he died a natural death. I was so furious that I took the five litres of kerosene that had been bought for lighting for that night and poured it on his coffin then set it ablaze. I do not remember much about that day except for the fact that I woke up in police custody and was admitted to a mental hospital days later.

So forgive me if my actions yesterday do not tie well into your normal way of thinking because mine is not a normal life. I cannot think normal or act normal because I am not normal. May be they were right to lock me up with the mentally ill because my life was changed forever in 1991. However old I grow, I will never be able to shake off the image of how the man I should call my uncle had all the pleasure as he raped my mother. I cannot shake off the image of my mother choking on her own blood after her throat was slit. I cannot get over the image of my father trying to stay alive after a knife was drilled through his heart. Worst of all, I cannot shake off the years I lived and imaginations of all the possible ways I could kill my uncle to avenge my parents’ deaths.

My mind is haunted. My childhood was not one to admire. I need help but not the help you are thinking of. Help me by helping the children to not turn out like I did. The childhood of many children is being messed up by actions of adults that can be controlled. Children are raped. Children are sodomized. Children are violated in ways you cannot imagine. You know what is more painful? Most of these atrocities are committed by people that the children trust.

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Kamende

A Misfit by Birth

By Guest Writer

Yesterday someone stepped on my toe in a matatu in Nairobi, I said sorry. Later in the day, as I was cycling along outer ring road, a driver accidentally touched his horn and I thought I was in his way. I squeezed myself close to the guard rail and let him pass. A few metres ahead, he stopped and waited for me to approach so that he could apologize. He said sorry and I said it is okay. That it was not a problem and I planned to stop anyway. I lied and he drove off, satisfied that he had hurt no one. I helped a man to cross the road by putting my bike right across the Zebra crossing so that vehicles had no choice but to stop. Immediately he crossed, I jumped on my bike and sped off. I did not want to hear him say “thank you” because those words do not make sense to my ears. If anything, “thank you” and “sorry” are the three words I love to use on people but hate it when they are used on me.

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Growing up, I lived in a broken family. My father was a business man (in my village, this was anyone who owned a kiosk that sold anything to the people especially household stuff like sugar and salt and kerosene to the villager) and my mother was a chef in a school mile away. I do not know if I was born in or out of wedlock and never have I bothered to find out because I do not see the value in it. Whether I am a daughter of fate or a product of a mistake remains a mystery I do not intend to solve or even hear anything about. The fact is, I never saw my parents married and have never seen them in conflict. Whatever happened to them or between them better remains in the past. I was brought up mostly by my father and my late stepmother, Nelly (May her soul rest in peace). Nelly was an incredible woman. When I was still a baby (hardly five), I have memories of Nelly washing me and washing my clothes alongside those of my father and my younger brother, Philip, who was her first born. I remember Nelly insisting on teaching us household chores together. I knew how to do dishes before I stepped in a class and knew how to cook before I could learn how to write. She was a virtuous woman, for most part, and a religious one (a little).

For most part, she was incredible. She taught me everything that I know today. She gave me my first sanitary towel and explained to me what was happening when I had my first period. She insisted that I go to school and take my academics seriously. Whether it was her design or my father’s pressure, she did the best a mother could do. She taught me to be a woman before I was old enough to be a girl. She taught me respect and service and showed me patience and love. She protected me and gave me parenting that modern children can only read in classic.

However, it was not all rosy. My teen years defined something of a nightmare in my life. I was made to apologise for everything whether it was my fault or not. I learnt to say thank you whenever she gave me anything because that was my punching ticket to whatever she would have next. I observed that this was not the case with my brothers and sisters but I had long learnt that survival was the path I was walking. Everything that enabled me to survive was my forte. I became withdrawn and introverted because I feared saying something that would be hurtful or cause me trouble. Whenever I opened the door, I said sorry just in case there was anyone behind the door who would feel like I “intentionally” wanted to hurt them. I started eating last and finished first because I did not want any of my siblings complaining that I had eaten “their share” of the food. Sometimes, I kept myself busy as the rest of the family was eating so that I would only eat what was left. All I wanted was peace. I could have contacted my mother and told her that I was “suffering” and she would have come for me the next day but I did not. To date, I do not know what informed that decision.

Life became harder when I joined high school. I went to a school 4 kilometres away from home. Our school had a 45-minute remedial lesson that ran between 5pm and 5:45pm, which meant that for five out of seven days a week, I arrived home at 7pm or later. My siblings were still in primary school, 100 metres or less from home. However, when I arrived home, there were chores like fetching water that I needed to undertake. For my stepmother, her cooking time and that of my siblings ended when I arrived from the river to fetch water. If I did not fetch water, I would not be allowed to drink any water or even wash my face in the morning because “my share of water was not there” and I had no right to eat other people’s sweat. I remember a day when I arrived home at 7:30pm, wet from being rained on and I could not fetch any water. The next morning, I washed my face at the river on my way to school because I was not entitled to any water in the house. When I came back in the evening. I apologized for having not fetched water although it had rained and apologised again for washing my face at the river on my way to school. I apologised for having not taken breakfast although I was not allowed to because the water that cooked it was not my sweat. Then I thanked my stepmother for allowing me to sleep in the house because she had all the right to send me out for not doing anything. I did not know why I had to but I said thank you and sorry anyway.

Soon after I sat my KCSE examination in 2007, I got pregnant with my on. I said sorry for the last time and then thanked my stepmother for everything and fled. The next time I saw my stepmother, she was dead. I cried over her lifeless body and felt no weight in my heart because I did not hold it against her. At the funeral, I hated everyone saying sorry to the family. It was at that moment that I noticed I hate being thanked and sympathised with.

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I don’t know how many exist that are like me in society. I do not know how many people were brought up to know that they were wrong before they were right. That everything was a mistake before it was an effort. That every effort was a failure before it was a success. That before they become anybody, they are nobody. That is my childhood. Do not expect me to ask for help from you because that is not who I am. I would rather go down fighting it on my own than ask for help because I know how you will look at me. I will help you whenever you need it without you asking but I do not want your help. And after I have helped you, do not thank me. Just go on your way. After you hurt me, do not apologize. Just go on your way. I am a vase whose content neither you nor anyone else will understand because that is how I was moulded. That is the clay that made me.