The Grave Next to the Empty Coffin

He lives on an isolated ranch in the outskirts of Mathagiro town. I wonder why this is called a town. At best, it should be called a market. A general shop that bears the name “supermarket” is the main landmark here. I left Nanyuki town and headed for Mathagiro at 10am. The road is smooth and calm, one that invites you to drive fast if you are on the wheel. The driver seems lazy and drives as slow as they come. So I sleep in the backseat of the eleven passenger vehicle. I am not sure how long it has been but I wake up when I suddenly hit my head on the roof of the vehicle. It is a painful wake-up call, one that seems to have been suffered by every one of the passengers as evidenced by the complaints in the vehicle. The driver hit a bump at full speed and woke all of us up. “He is not so lazy after all,” I tell myself. I scramble for my seat-belt and tighten it as though I was waiting for some kind of shock to belt up. Twenty minutes later, I alight in a “town” that looks nothing like it.

Click Here to Buy My Book

I feel like I could easily get lost here. So I suggest that he comes to pick me from the stage but he is not having any of that. “Take a motorbike and come. I am sending you the pin on WhatsApp,” he says. I quickly check my WhatsApp and realize I am in trouble. My Samsung phone is trying to get a 4G connection that is not available in this area. I switch to 3G and voila! When the pin comes through, I am left with questions. I wonder whether I am in Laikipia County or Meru County or somewhere in the middle. “We are on the border. When elections happen, we choose which county we want to vote in,” the boda boda guy says. Si unajua sisi ni serikali buda. Tunafanya vile inaweza. I wonder whether I should also be part of this government but then I remember I did not vote in the repeat elections to give the president a birthday present. I make a mental note to look up the birthday of the vice president and why he was never given a present on his birthday. Call them relationship issues. About 5 minutes in, we take a dusty road that looks like it is heading to some jungle. The boda boda guy indicated that he knew the place and even told me the name of the man who lives there (for the sake of his own security, I will call him Allan). I trust him.

“How are you Douglas,” Allan says when we arrive. I have been seated on the bike for about twelve minutes and paid four hundred shillings to get to Allan’s home. My face feels dusty and my black shoes are now brown. I use my handkerchief to beat dust off my black t-shirt then look at the man before me. “Welcome to Mathagiro.” I say thank you and follow him as he leads the way into a decent looking house.

We sit and talk about ourselves for a minute. I introduce myself to him. “Thanks for accepting to talk to me. I am sure Kelvin told you enough about me.” He does not seem content with my answer. So I introduce myself well and tell him that I bumped into his story while collecting information about my book, Chasing a Bullet. He knows that already so he listens routinely. I get a copy of the book from my bag and autograph one for him. He asks that we speak from outside because it is too hot in the house. I accept.

“Did you do it?” I ask when we sit in a shade made by a certain plant that he calls a flower but I think it is a tree. It is short and its branches are spread wide with so many leave to leave a beautiful shade. The breeze is just fine. He looks at me and smiles.

“It depends on what you are asking son,” he says.

“Did you fake your own death?” He looks at me, visibly perplexed then nods in disapproval with a wry smile on his face.

On 4th April 2006, Allan woke up well in his home in Limuru. He had been working together with a man named Rashid with whom they imported and sold sugar. In one of those missions, Allan met a woman named Phelistus and decided to get down with her. “It was a good relationship. We agreed that this was leading none of us anywhere and we would just meet for sex. And so we did,” he says. The woman was introduced to him by Rashid. “I should probably tell you that the sugar we were selling was contraband. We were stealing from the state and giving the stolen cake back. The Managing Director of Mumias Sugar organized for a lorry to move from the company marked as export to Uganda. The lorry simply crossed the border and the cargo was marked as export to Kenya. We would repackage it in our small base in Limuru and sell it as Kwanza Sugar. Business was great.”

At this point, I am unsure whether I am collecting information on a business crime or a murder crime. I have not touched my tea and his is over. He pours himself another cup. The tea is good, made with love and milk straight from a cow. As a matter of fact, I can see the cow from a distance, grazing.

Phelistus was not part of the sugar business. She was simply a friend to Rashid or at least she was introduced as such. For Allan, the sex was good and he was willing to pull strings for her to hang onto it. He was engaged to a woman and broke the engagement because he didn’t see the use for it. After about six months together, Allan was happy to let her in on his business without giving out too much detail. Phelistus also let him in on hers. She was exporting jewelry. Allan did not think too much about it. In retrospect, he wonders whether jewelry should be exported into or out of Dubai. Everything was working well until a day Allan describes as his reckoning.

Click Here to Buy My Book

“I received a call from Phelistus who told me that she had forgotten some cargo at her house. She needed to send them as a parcel to France. I had the keys to her house so I felt no problem with picking the cargo and sending it for her. My instructions were to drop the cargo at the Kenya Airways Cargo Centre.” Allan stops as though waiting for me to speak. I want to avoid the bait but I take it anyway.

“What was the cargo containing?” I ask. Allan looks at me for a moment then says that he was convinced the cargo had jewelry that was for export.

“It was heavy. So I was solidly convinced that it was jewelry. At the cargo centre, the package was put through a scanner and as though it was a movie, calls were made and police officers, no they were military people, arrived and arrested me.” Apparently, the package contained metal components and drugs. Allan says he tried to explain the situation to the police but it did not work. He was due in court on terrorism and drug trafficking charges. Rashid visited him before his day in court and the situation turned worse. Apparently, Phelistus had been dating Rashid the whole time. In his mind, Rashid believed that Allan had slept with his lady knowingly. “I did not have a way of convincing him otherwise. I don’t think anything I said would have changed the situation in his mind. Take that along with the fact that he did not believe my story about the drugs and metal components belonging to the Phelistus that he knew and you find a real mess of a situation for me.” Allan looks so relaxed as he says this. By this moment, the tea in my cup is cold. I pour some more from the flask to warm it up as I listen to him.

“I still don’t understand how this links to the story that my friend gave me. He said you had to fake your death,” I probe. In a period which Allan remembers was the moment he lost his life, he says Rashid agreed to smuggle him out of the police custody, pay off the police, and have him free. However, this meant he would have to disappear. He would never own a bank account, vote, use his ID card, drive, or own anything. Instead, everything he owned would be transferred to his son, who was living with a foster family. “Did the foster family know he was your son?”

“No. But I knew. And before you ask it, even he did not know that he owned so much. I had money and property worth about two or three Billion. So I worked with Rashid and I was “killed”, not literally but just erased from the system. There is a grave at Lang’ata cemetery that bears my name.” He gives me the details of the grave and I make a note to visit it when I finally travel back to Nairobi. So a week after he was smuggled out of police custody, an empty coffin was buried and Allan moved to Kilifi for six months. His business in sugar was over but he retained a shareholder’s role in the name of his son, the next-of-kin. When the dust had settled, he moved back to Nairobi where he met Martha. “She is the most beautiful woman I ever met and was so kind at the time we met,” he says. Though not officially, he married Martha and stayed with her in Lavington.

After being married for about two years, he heard from Rashid for the first time since they had agreed never to speak again after his smuggling from Prison. “I was surprised that he found my contact and more surprised that he decided to reach out. The most surprising part was that he wanted to meet with me. He asked me not to inform anyone about the meeting and that I do not use a taxi I used all the time. I did not understand why but I trusted him so I obeyed. I picked a motorbike from the gate of my house and travelled to Yaya Centre where I picked a taxi and met at him in a shady restaurant in Kangemi. It was empty, just the two of us. We sat at the furthest end, ordered whatever we ordered and got straight to business,” he says.

He stands up and walks into the house. I feel utterly wasted because I cannot see anything linked to my book in this story. I notice that he left his keys on the table and conclude that may be he will be back. When he sits back at the table after about seven minutes of waiting, I ask him whether Rashid was recruiting him back to the sugar business and he says no.

“He was warning me. He was not in the sugar business any more. He ran a private investigations company and at times, he did clean-up for his clients. I must confess I always thought he could be a murderer. Even while working with him, he looked every part like a hit man. And yet the gig on his table was to eliminate someone who looked every part like me. Someone had hired him to kill me. Someone I should have suspected all along but I did not.”

Click Here to Buy My Book

As I continue listening, a woman brings a dish full of chicken and another with rice. She walks back to the house and comes with a couple of other bowls, which I do not bother to check their contents. I watch her as she walks into the house and back on several trips, bringing bowls and jugs with food and drinks. When she finally welcomes us to the meal, Allan serves and starts eating as if there was no story he was telling. He seems so happy with this story that he is not bothered by it. I make a mental note of where the story has reached and serve food for myself as well.

“Who paid Rashid to kill you?” I ask amidst the chewing and swallowing. He almost chokes on a piece of chicken at the sound of my question.

“My wife,” he says without flinching when he finally settles. Allan has a file with printed messages of the communication between Rashid and Martha. Martha wanted a clean job. She had figured out that Allan did not exist in the first place as his own death had been faked with the help of Rashid to protect him from going to prison for the rest of his life or worse. Everything was set out so well and Rashid was good at his “job”. Allan gives me a few names that Rashid dealt with and I make more notes of assignments I will do in Nairobi.

Prior to hiring Rashid, Martha had found a withdrawal slip in Allan’s pockets while putting his shirts into the laundry machine that blew up his secrets. She discovered that Allan owned a bank account in the name of a man she did not know and that the balance in the bank was ridiculously high. “I concluded that she might have decided to look into my wealth and realized the amount of wealth I controlled. I think she started a mission to find all the documents and take possession before she could execute her mission. By the time I spoke to Rashid, she had everything and what she did not have, she knew where to find it.”

Allan had five days from the day he spoke to Rashid to come up with a plan failure to which he would be eliminated on the sixth day. So he sat in his study for two days, drawing charts and potential escape routes. Rashid always did a clean job so he knew he would not run away from him. His alternative was to turn himself in or report the incident. He could not do that because, well, technically, he was dead. “So I made a plan that I am not proud of but it was a plan anyway,” he says.

I don’t know what is coming because this story has already taken so many layers of my heart. But I want to become a good listener so I pay attention. The woman who brought food comes back to collect the utensils and looks disappointed because we have not done much eating here. She clears the table then starts bringing some other bowls with fruits and some other jugs with other drinks. She brings a bottle of wine with two glasses. When I signal that I do not take wine, she looks even more disappointed. I fix my gaze firmly on Allan and he knows exactly what I am communicating.

“On the night that Rashid was supposed to take me out, I called him and told him to use a gun. I also told him to dispose the bodies well when he was done. He knew the vehicle I would be using. I pitied the taxi driver of the car because he was about to be collateral damage in a case he never knew about. So I called him and asked him to bring me my son. I had paid someone to abduct him and ensure he gets in the car. He sat in my usual seat, back left, hands tied behind him and a manually tied belt restricting him to the seat. That night, Martha had strategically indicated that she would stay out late drinking with friends. It was all part of the plan. I heard gun shots near the gate of my home and knew right away that I had sacrificed my own son.”

For the first time since he started talking to me, Allan looks emotional. He looks like a man in regret yet he doesn’t look like he wants to stop talking about it. That night, he hid in the parking lot and when his wife arrived, she packed in front of the house and ran into the house. She made a call to someone, who told her something that made her to continually thank him or her. When she walked to the bedroom, Allan crept into the house and tiptoed to the bedroom door to find her entering the combination of his fireproof safe. “I coughed and on the turn, she let out a scream. I did not panic because our house was isolated and that scream would not be heard by anyone.”

Allan tells me that the next morning, he woke up and packed his documents and anything he would need to access his vast wealth then moved to Molo for eight months before he bought this property. I figure out that he is done with his story but there are grey patches.

Click Here to Buy My Book

“Where is Martha now?” I ask, hoping for an answer that would help me to collect more information from her from wherever she is.

“She is lying peacefully besides my grave at Lang’ata,” he says, then sips on his wine with a smile.

“Did you kill her?” He does not answer my question but twists his head in a manner to ask me whether he had any other choice. With the help of Rashid, his son’s foster family was killed and the death of his son was never reported. I distract myself from this story and we speak about a lot of other crimes that Rashid has committed over time and the people he has possibly killed. We speak about Allan’s plans and how he wants to live.

“Why did you accept to speak to me?” I ask.

“Because I want Rashid to know I am still alive.”

I wonder what that means. Perhaps he wants Rashid to find him. Perhaps he wants Rashid to kill him. I don’t know what he wants but I have a feeling this is not the end of his relationship with Rashid. Allan suggests that we take a walk around his ranch and I accept. It is a large piece of property and we walk around for about an hour. When we return, we take more drinks. It is getting late for me and I have to catch a bus back to Nairobi. He makes a call for a motorbike to come and pick me and a young man arrives about twenty-five minutes later. Allan walks me to the motorbike and just before we take off, the woman who served us comes back to collect the utensils. A question springs into my head and I ask him straight away. “What is her name?” I ask.

“Her? She is Phelistus. And before you ask, yes, that Phelistus.”

I nod and wave Allan goodbye. Along the way, I wonder why Allan wants Rashid to know he is alive and he is living with Phelistus who got him arrested on drugs and terrorism counts and was a fiancee to Rashid.

However, I have a trip to Lang’ata cemetery to make so I will think about that later. 


The Thing in Mike’s Trousers

He remembers the sound of the alarm on the fateful day on November 6 1997. In his weirdest dreams, Mike had never envisioned a day when he would have to hurt someone leave alone having to stab them. From his now permanent home in Shimo la Tewa maximum prison, he narrates his ordeal, one he wishes he never had to live through. One he committed once then committed again although he thinks it is he who needs justice. But against whom?

“I should not be here Douglas,” he starts.

He looks happy to be here. Happy that the walls that make the perimeter of this prison keep him safe from the world so rotten that he cannot truly afford to live in it. His face is that of a man who is resigned to his fate. Twelve years ago, he was sentenced to death. He says he repented all his sins and made peace with the fact that he would meet his maker no sooner than the hangman gained the courage to push the switch to the electric chair. Or tighten the noose around his neck. Or inject him with whatever they inject people to terminate their lives. He slept knowing it could be his last, ate knowing he could lose the sense of it, spoke knowing it could be his last word. He lived every single day as though it was his last.

“How are you Mike,” I say, resorting to start the conversation in a more traditional sense.

Click Here to Buy My Book

I was not about to spoil a day in the life of a man who treasures every moment in his life like some golden ticket.

“I am fine my friend. You look incredible.”

His smile is priceless. He looks like a man who is living in paradise. His posture is one that you will see more often for free people enjoying the heat of the sun along the coast of Ukunda. He is tall, at least six-foot-four. He looks healthy and has developed a lot of muscles. The last time I saw mike, nine years ago, he was slightly skinnier and sadder. This is a new man. So we walk together to a shade under the watchful eye of a warden with a finger on the trigger of what looks like a G3 riffle. I sit down with a man I have come to appreciate so much during my visits to this facility.

“You always say you shouldn’t be here. Why is that the case?” I ask, hoping for a simple rather than an elaborate answer.

He picks on something I cannot see from his left eye as though wiping a tear then raises his head. When he finally speaks, his is a story of both horror, revenge, counter revenge, and death.

“I was born in 1987 in Kutus, Kirinyaga County. As a child, I was playful and liked by the neighbours. I did not eat at neighbours’ houses because my mother categorically forbade that. She died in 1990, a year that turned my life on its head. Six months after her death, a woman came home with a large bag of clothes and was received by my uncles and aunts, and of course, my father. I was told that from that day on, she would be my mother. It did not bother me because I did not foresee any problems with my new mother. What trouble would a son who does his chores, cleans, herds, works hard, listens, accepts to be sent to the shop, fetches water from the river, and wakes up early fear? Besides, my father had a shop about 2 kilometres away from home where he slept most of the days. I did not mind someone else helping me to cope with the loneliness of a seven-roomed house. I was confident. I was an excellent student in primary school. As a Firstborn, I felt the need to work hard so that when my younger siblings grew up, they would have someone to emulate. By 1995, my stepmother had two more children. I was happy that finally, I had some brothers.

Click Here to Buy My Book

In order to help her through the home duties while she was still nursing the troubles and wounds from the birth of her first child, my stepmother brought in her younger sister. She was just under twenty five at the time. Again, I was confident and happy because I knew that I could not possibly fall into any trouble with her. My bedroom was the next room to the cowshed. In my village, cows had a certain room on the periphery of the house where they slept. In a way, I was the watchman to the cows. The door to my room was a wooden structure loosely attached to the wall by two rusty hinges and could only close when held in position by a brick behind it. Its window was an open space covered by Kimbo-branded carton pieces. My new auntie, the sister to my stepmother, was always good to me. She made me feel loved and cared for. Little did I know that a python massages its prey before swallowing them.”

Mike poses and looks up, exposing his eyes to the light and swallowing the tears back in. I do not know what he is about to say but it sounds like a bad one. I want to speak but I don’t. I let the silence swallow him, massage him, and bring him back to me. I let the breath around us circulate, cool, and become air for us to breathe in again. I let the plants around us swallow our exhales and supply us with new inhales. The man before me looks shuttered. The muscles I saw moments ago look to be shrinking by the minute. More than before, I want to speak and tell him it is okay. I want to hold his hand and tell him to be strong. I desist and lean back, holding my breath for a moment before leaning back forward. Just when I want to open my mouth to speak, he continues.

“I was in class three when it first happened. On this day, my stepmother had gone to spend the night with my father at his shop. When I blew my paraffin lamp off, the small clock that doubled up as my alarm read 8:45. I had barely fallen asleep when I saw light from what I thought was a torch approaching the door to my room. I was not scared. Slowly, she pushed the door to my room open and stood at the door, shining light from the battery-powered torch over me. I pretended to be dead asleep because what else would a young child be doing at this hour? From the blur of my eyes, I remember seeing her kneel besides my mediocrity of a mattress and slightly uncovering me. She opened the buttons to my shorts and started playing with my private parts. I wish I did not know what she was doing but I did. I knew exactly what she was doing. Three years before that, I had undergone the initiation ceremony and was told all about my manhood. Regardless, I remained still and pretended to be asleep. That night, she played with my little guy for what felt like an eternity then left my room. Honestly, that felt good.

The next night, she came to my room the same way as she did the night before. This time, she woke me up and asked me to come with her. She led me to her room then asked me whether I remembered last night. “No I don’t,” I lied. She then asked me to sit on the bed and proceeded to unbutton my shorts. She was in a yellow dress, clearly visible in the much better light in her room compared to mine. She removed my shorts and started playing with my little guy again. I remember the date. 15th September 1996. That was the first day I was sexually aroused. I did not even know that was arousal until much later in life. Then she laid with her back on the bed and pulled me into her. I lost my virginity that night. The next morning, I did not know what had happened but I felt it was wrong. Guiltily, I went and reported the issue to my stepmother. I felt relief at having reported her because my memory of the teachings during initiation told me that whatever had happened was terribly wrong.

Click Here to Buy My Book

In the evening, my dad came home, visibly enraged. Like the good child I was, I did not think any of that was my fault. How wrong I was. The man descended on me with kicks, blows, sticks, and everything he could find. By the time I knew why I was enduring this beating, I had this injury,” he says, pointing at a black mark, possibly a cut, on his arm. Then he continues, “He cut me with a knife from a nail cutter. Through his legs, I escaped and sped off into the depth of the night. I slept in the bathroom, which was a few metres from the house. The next morning, with the injuries still sour, a swollen arm, a twisted ankle, and stiff neck, I tiptoed into my father’s shop. Beyond anything, I wanted to be taken to hospital. A herbalist was called to treat me from home. His name was Wa Ithe. He was a very close friend to my father. While treating me, he mentioned that I should not do what I had done again. What I had done again? What had I done?

Curious to know what he knew, I asked only to learn that my new auntie, whom I thought was my safe harbour. My closest friend in the family turned my molester. My confidant turned my devil had made a different story up. When asked about the story I had reported to my stepmother, she said I was lying. She then said that she had heard movement in the cowshed and woke up to check what was happening. According to her, when she arrived, she caught me red-handed raping our cow. That I, Mike, was having sexual intercourse with a cow. Can you imagine? She said she had threatened to report me to my father and I reported her as a way of covering for myself. She alleged that I was the one who had made up a story. I did not bother to tell the herbalist the real story because more than anything, I wanted to heal.”

Mike poses again and sinks his head into his hands, attracting the attention of the warden, who motions as though he wants to walk towards us. I raise my hand to him and signal that all is well. He obliges. After what seems like an eternity, Mike raises his head and wipes his entire face with his hands. There is nothing to wipe but he does it anyway. He flashes a pretentious smile at me then continues.

“I had nowhere to run to. Yet this was only the beginning of weekly and at times daily ordeals I would endure. I endured them in silence because when I showed little resistance, my auntie told me she would do like she had done and I would not be so lucky to escape. I feared my father. Daily, weekly, and daily again, I was raped by a woman who knew spot on what she was doing. For more than a year, I slept in fear of the next time she would walk into my room. On November 5 1997, I slept with a kitchen knife in my room. She did not show up that night. I thought I had escaped only to wake up to a feeling of suffocation. She sat her whole weight on me, my helpless manhood sank deep in her flesh. My mind was torn between the pleasure and anger. I reached out for the knife under my mediocre of a pillow and stabbed her in the chest, pushed her aside and ran. I don’t know what story she told but I was picked up by the chief later in the day and after weeks of silence and refusal to speak to the police or anyone, I ended up at the children section at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

Click Here to Buy My Book

Luckily, I was released in 2006. I lived a quiet life, never speaking to my father or stepmother. I never explained to anyone what happened. I farmed a small area that my father allowed me to farm and lived my life. In December 2006, my auntie from hell visited again. She had recovered from the stab pretty fine. She did not seem to have any issues. Still, I did not speak to her. On December 19, I was ploughing a small garden where I had planted vegetables when I heard someone speaking behind me. I raised my head to find her body mass standing there, arms akimbo goading me. She mocked how I had wasted my years in prison when there was no need for it. “You could just have said no,” she said. That lit flames I had struggled to cage in my heart. Blood rushed from my feet to my brain then to my arms and without a thought, I dug a hoe into her head. I finished the job and it felt good.”

As Mike tells the rest of the story, my mind is blocked. I cannot go past the image of a man digging through the head of another person. I sit and wonder whether Mike had a justification but I cannot convince myself because my father taught me that life should be sacred. Yet I wonder whether society pushed Mike a little too far. Then I wonder why God created it, the thing in Mike’s trousers hat sleeps and wakes and has a brain of its own. For now, he sleeps, saved and repented, in his not-so-cold-anymore cell at Shimo la Tewa. He will never get out. He has lost hope of it. In his reflections, he wonders whether there are other small boys pushed to the wall by sexual predators somewhere he does not know. I wonder, too.


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.

Click here to buy my new book

“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.

Click here to buy my new book

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.

Click here to buy my new book


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.

Click here to see my latest book

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.

Click here to see my latest book

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.


The Distress Call

“Hello Douglas. Where are you?” this was an unusual question from Douglas.

Douglas has been my friend for over eleven years. When I first met him, we were on opposing teams in a soccer tournament in a certain Gavudia Primary School stadium in Sabatia constituency playing for a certain Musalia Mudavadi Cup. I was a defender for my team, then known as Hard Boys while he was a midfielder for his team, Nacet. Back in the day, a half of football ended when the referee decided to end it. There were no minutes. Some halves took 20 minutes and others took 65 minutes. During the early minutes of the second half, I got injured and was substituted. I elected to go and sit near our goalkeeper to chat with him as the game wore on. After all, he was my former classmate in primary school. Minutes later, I was distracted only for Nacet’s striker, Agesa (RIP) to hit a fierce shot that went off target and straight into my face. That was the first and last time I fainted in my life. When I regained my senses, an hour or so later, I was told that Douglas helped bring me back. That the game was abandoned and everyone ran because they thought I was dead. All of them, except Douglas.

“I am somewhere between Isinya and Kitengela. I have been cycling all day and I am heading home now,” I answered. This response was casual. Being a Saturday, I thought all Douglas wanted was to grab some tea or catch a game or play chess. How wrong could I have been?

“I want to talk to you bro. As soon as possible,” he said.

“Okay. I will call you immediately I get home. Hang in there.”

As I got back on my journey home, I could not help but wonder what prompted this call. Douglas’s voice grew louder, more persistent, and more insistent in my head. As soon as possible. As soon as possible. As soon… I wanted answers immediately but waiting was all I could do. Well, not all. I could also cycle faster and get home sooner.

“Can I ask you something Douglas?” He started as soon as I handed him a cup of tea. I did the listening as he did the talking. “Are there some people who are just born to be unhappy?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. His question may have been rhetoric but I felt my question was reasonable.

“Yesterday, I arrived home with enormous stress. I learnt that I will be jobless in a month because my company is resizing and I am one of the casualties. However, being the first born that I am, I soldiered on. I had hope that I would get a new job and everything would be okay. However, at this point in time, I needed support. I needed someone to talk to.”

He paused and looked up, perhaps hoping to find me browsing or watching the soccer match on the screen. However, I was all ears.

“I know what you are thinking,” he continued. “My wife. I told her about the whole story. I don’t even know what she thinks. My daughter will be sent for school fees soon, my rent will be due soon, my father relies on me, and many other things that have been overwhelming while I was employed. They will still be here while I am unemployed. Everyone looks at me and thinks I am managing well but I am not. I am messed up Douglas, I really am.”

I looked at my friend straight in the eye without showing any emotion. I wanted to tell him that he was not alone in this but it hardly sounded right in my own head. I wanted to tell him to calm down and take a rest. That sounded crazy as well. I wanted to ask him whether he would fancy the “work-from-home” ideas and self-employment but even that did not sound right. I sympathised with him from within but my face showed no emotion.

“No. You are not messed up Douglas,” I said at last, feeling stupid immediately after saying it.

“You really believe that?” he asked.

On a normal day, the answer to this question would be a no-brainer. Of course I believe in it, I would say. I would then accompany it with a long speech full of motivation and reasons why my friend should see the good side of this bad situation. However, it was not a normal day and I did not think Douglas was done.

“You know what is worse, Idiot?” he continued. “This is not an isolated situation. For the past two years, my life has been moving in reverse gear. I have stagnated at work. I cannot seem to get a promotion, training, pay rise, or even a new sitting station. I started my Masters degree and then stopped because I could not afford it. I started a business and it failed because I could not put in the time it needed. Worst of all, my family has been drifting further and further away from me. All over a sudden, they are all too busy for me. They no longer visit and when I visit, they no longer seem interested. My friends. Do I still have any friends? Okay, those I call friends. I can no longer ask for help from most of them. No one supports me. Everyone who claims to is only pretending.”

Douglas paused and took a few gulps of tea. He seemed deep in thoughts but unable to think. I could not help but relate to his story. I have heard so many of these stories that whenever I hear one, I think it is a past one being replayed. I wondered what the statistics would be if an honest survey of stress levels was carried out among my peers. Would the rate of stress be closer to zero or a hundred percent?

“Look here buddy. I hope I am not boring you but I did not know anyone else I could talk to.”

“No no no,” I interjected. “You are not boring me. You are speaking my language more than you may realize it. You are not alone,” I said. I felt disappointed in myself for saying this. It sounded wrong to say such at this point in time.

“Are we ever supposed to be understood?”

This question caught me unawares. For the first time in this conversation, I did not understand what Douglas was asking me. I did not understand what “we” meant just as I did not know what he wanted whom to understand. For the first time in the conversation, my face betrayed my emotion. Such had been my expression that he must have thought I was disinterested. At the moment I wanted to ask for clarification, the question replayed itself in my head louder and clearer. Really?-I thought. I could not help but wonder how many people asked themselves this question on a minute by minute basis. It must feel absurd to be in a bubble where you are a certain anomaly.

“Yes. There is someone who understands everyone,” I answered.

There was a long silence that left me thinking about how heard people like Douglas are. I wondered whether there were hundreds if not thousands that live in “silent depression” in Kenya. My thoughts wandered to the rising cases of “crimes of passion” of “murders-for-love” as people call them. I wondered how many of those may be results of silent depression. Then I wondered how many people believe they live for others. I wondered how many people thought their only purpose in life was making others happy at whatever cost.

“Would you like to play chess?” I asked, offering a distraction. It did not seem to work as there was some more silent before Douglas stood up to pick the chess board.

“Some of us have to be stressed for others to be happy, right?”

It was rhetoric, but a question either way.

“No. I don’t think so,” I responded.

As we played, I wondered about other people. How often do we listen to those who are suffering from different situations? How supportive are you? Do you think he or she is depressed?


My Name is Chris

My name is Chris, I am three,
My eyes are swollen, I cannot see,
I must be stupid, I must be bad,
What else could have made
My daddy so mad?

I wish I were better,
I wish I weren’t ugly,
Then maybe my mommy
Would still want to hug me.
I can’t do a wrong
I cant speak at all
Or else I’m locked up
All day long.

When I’m awake I’m all alone
The house is dark
My folks aren’t home
When my mommy does come home
I’ll try and be nice,
So maybe I’ll just get
One whipping tonight.

I just heard a car, My daddy is back
From Chariles bar, I hear him curse
My name is called, I press myself
Against the wall, I try to hide
From his evil eyes, I’m so afraid now
I’m starting to cry

He finds me weeping
Calls me ugly words,
He says it’s my fault
He suffers at work.
He slaps and hits me
And yells at me more,
I finally get free
And run to the door

He’s already locked it
And I start to bawl,
He takes me and throws me
Against the hard wall
I fall to the floor
With my bones nearly broken,
And my daddy continues
With more bad words spoken,

“I’m sorry!”, I scream
But it’s now much too late
His face has been twisted
Into an unimaginable shape
The hurt and the pain
Again and again
Oh please God, have mercy!
Oh please let it end!

And he finally stops
And heads for the door
While I lay there motionless
Brawled on the floor
I cry for mommy help
You silly piece of meat
It is your fault am obese
It is your fault I have a cold
It is your fault, all of it.

Daddy sits at his corner seat
Sipping more muratina and cigar
Mommy finds my helpless body on the floor
She kicks me in anger
She yells how I anger
It’s her turn to turn me in out
By mistake I cry and call out
Daddy comes and joins the party
Whips and sticks my back cracks
What have I done?

Dear father, dear mother,
Don’t be like my daddy and mommy
Love the kid you have
She may be all that you have
Encourage him and care for him
Let him not end up like me
My name is Chris
I am three,
Tonight my daddy and mommy
They murdered me.



A Time with Myself

How often have you found yourself thinking or saying the following?
“I wish I had more time for myself.”
“I’m so busy! I don’t have a moment to breathe.”
“I need more hours in the day.”
“I don’t have time for that.”

We lead crazy, busy lives. And the one thing we never seem to have time for is ourselves. This problem seems even more pervasive as we work harder to meet the challenges of this new economy.

Creating more personal time tops the list of goals many people want to accomplish. With work time, partner or family time and social time all demanding our attention, we are constantly juggling our day-to-day responsibilities. Finding as little as 15-30 minutes a day of uninterrupted, relaxing “me” time is challenging at best.

But we all instinctively know that when we take time for ourselves to pursue our passions, do the things that we enjoy, relax or even do nothing at all, we end up happier, healthier and feeling better. “Me” time allows us to de-stress, unwind and rejuvenate. Taking time for yourself allows you to renew, heal, and create reserves of energy and peace.

Remember that no matter what we do, there are only 24 hours in a day, so you can’t create more time. But you can clear some time by re-evaluating priorities, perhaps saying “no” more often and practicing smart time management.

“Me” time is not something you should feel guilty about. It’s nothing more than taking some time to put aside your everyday business and treating yourself to an activity that you enjoy. It gives you an opportunity to relax, refocus and recharge. And when you do that, you can come back to your responsibilities with greater focus, commitment and enjoyment.
Let’s look at some ways you can make “me” time a reality:

  1. 1. First, decide that you deserve some time to yourself each day.
    Stop feeling guilty for taking time out for you, and realize in the long run, it’s a win-win for everyone. When you are tired, stressed out and pulled in too many directions, it is hard to give your best to all you must accomplish. Remember, self-time is not selfish—it’s a necessary dimension of self-care!
  2. Decide how best to spend “me” time.
    How each of us chooses to spend free time is as individualized as we all are. If you had an extra 15 minutes, a half hour, an afternoon or an entire day, what would you do to make yourself feel rejuvenated, relaxed and happy? Write a list and keep it handy when you begin scheduling time into your calendar.
  3. Evaluate the things that are wasting your time each day.
    Do you check your emails constantly and end up spending more time on your computer than you planned? Do you answer personal calls in the middle of your workday? Run to the supermarket daily to pick up dinner rather than plan in advance and shop once? If this sounds like you, you must take the time to organize your responsibilities, and you will gain more free time than you can imagine.
    4. Learn to say “no”
    Say no to requests to do things that you don’t really want to, don’t value or don’t bring you satisfaction and joy.
  4. Ask for help
    Ask for help with chores that don’t necessarily have to be completed by you alone.
  5. At the beginning of each week, take a few minutes to designate specific time slots for all that must be accomplished—including “me” time.
    Treat your personal time like you would any other appointment and make it non-negotiable.
  6. Commit to a minimum of 15-20 minutes of “me” time every day.
    Do something (or nothing) that completely lets go of responsibilities and releases your mind, allowing you to be alone with your thoughts.
  7. Create a daily ritual.
    This can be a bath, listening to music, taking a walk or meditating. Make it something you can look forward to.

Stop wishing you had more time to yourself, and commit to carving it into your schedule. Rather than bemoan your lack of time, change your approach and create the time using the tips above. You will be amazed at how a little bit of time to yourself can make a huge difference in your health and happiness!