I realize that lately I don’t frequent Kisumu. It bothers me that my rabbits have long been killed by wild dogs and some of my pigeons stolen or flown away with other birds of the wind. I feel the urge to go back home and buy a goat, a sheep, more pigeons and hens then I remember, oh, she’s dead (my mama). And the shrug of my shoulders comes with that silent question, what’s the point? Who’ll feed them after you go back to the city? Who will look after them unconditionally like they were her own.
Thoughts keep pilling in my mind and I sit back to my plastic chair. It’s not the kawaida type so don’t get disdainful ideas just yet. It’s different in design, stronger and more comfortable than you’d imagine, it is the kind that’s flawless to ergonomics and right for a spine that sits longer.
I open a new word document. The plan is to write the next post for you; my avid reader in Madagascar, Mauritius, the EU, USA, India, Canada, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Kenya and the other parts of the world alike. While at it my hope is to come up with one reason why I shouldn’t go to Kisumu soonest.
Surprisingly, my first excuse pop to the first tap of the keyboard. The scorching heat it is but I doubt anyone would want to buy that.
I can already mirror reactions to the mention of heat as a possible reason why I wouldn’t be visiting . My cocky sister Jackie will be quick to ask, “haven’t you lived here all your life? did the sun ever scald your scalp? Has it bleached your face? Has it come close to melting your bones? Did it once burn your skin?” I’m tempted to say yes to all her questions but being the dark skinned person I am, who’d believe me? Worse would be my skin not turning white or red or yellow to show for it.
On the brighter side, I try to juggle reasons why I should stay in Nairobi longer. I’m convinced that the road through my grief is still long; that I’m not prepared to walk alone into that large compound; – with strife dogs barking at movements as slight as of flies; I don’t want to walk to the cold welcome of swaying eucalyptus trees and breezy winds and the calm sewage recycling plant that stares from a few meters away. I don’t want to walk to the emptiness of the dusty house that has not received visitors for months (my house) and the expectancy of absence of that soft voice that should ask, “Akeno, ichopo? (Ken you’ve arrived.” To miss my mother’s lovely voice just bruises my emotions.
On a second thought, I don’t want to walk into her house and not be prayed for then later to settle to cold meals alone as if it is a normal thing. I don’t want not to catch up. But sooner than later I realize that the reasons to visit outweigh the alternative.
The need to see my Dad, my daughter, my siblings and friends incite me to it. But I’m not sure seeing them is enough reason. So, before I leave I set my price. I make it a mission to come back with a story. You know how old memories are rekindled when you see an old spot or something new to it?
On the blank word page earlier opened, I begin a story that is supposed to be this week’s and it begins, “If the dead are islands, Winnie is the Maldives. Her mother – Palawan of Philippines and the two younger brothers Seychelles and Santorini, Greece respectively. Beautiful places for representation of beautiful people. Places that settle quietly within the serene blue seas, surrounded by rustling palms and thriving coral kingdoms; as should be the souls of the dead in the ambience of heavens. Or ironically, were the lifeless bodies of this family on wet viscous floor on the night of their murder.”
The first paragraph flows and the second and third then I realize that something is awfully off. The voice is off, I know it sounds crazy but there is a voice that paints narratives in my mind. It talks and the paintings are marked, it sulks and I go blank.
I know because I’ve watched movies and read more book for inspiration than usual. I sleep more than I should. A thing I’d otherwise have foregone to swimming and biking and hiking at hell’s gate. Did I already mention that I now contribute full time for a safaris website/blog, Urbema safaris? Yea, after Fly to Masai Mara, Fly to Adventure they decided to incorporate my talent for the growth of their business and what better issue is there to begin on than the Easter promotion? Hell’s gate, full expense paid trip, the story runs on Sunday. But even after the yayy and excitement of relaxation and adventure, nothing fills my void so I decide, why not continue with my plan, Kisumu, maybe then the painter/narrating voice will come back. And if she so much as tries to struggle to be channeled back into me, I will chain and drag her back through the mist and fog and the break of dawn.
It’s morning when I arrive in Nyamasaria. I’ve listened to a Nyashinski song over and again and clamped a few words, “sometimes we are serious, sometimes we let it go, sazingine tunanakaa kwa economy; sazingine business class.” I add my line, sometimes tunapanda Mbukinya (A commuter bus that I used to the village) it doesn’t rhyme. My point to adding that line is, going on a road trip for 6 hours long is better than to fly 45 minutes away. The statement would however be wrong if you’re a busy person and not so much like me, searching for something. A sullen voice in the woods, the spirits that hover on our snaky roads and around shrubs and behind the tall trees that run away from the moving bus, faster than it is easy to comprehend.
The village is like one huge Lion sleeping with its tail far into river nyamasaria and the head pillowed towards the city. I can clearly see strings of lights ray closer. The county headquarter scraping the sky’s alongside Mega plaza towers, Varsity plaza and the new erect UoN towers. I’m welcomed to a rather blue sky, and a buzz of mosquitoes that swank about in circles up high above the budding leaves then back low to my shy face.
Later on I stroll the village, the slum where I grew up. I meet a few people I know. I’m on a treasure hunt. The treasure I seek to find has three W’s hewed to it’s identity. The three Winnie’s (the model, the volunteer and the other one) I should know what she is up to when I meet either of them. It’s always been easy to find a bearing in this neighborhood and to locate someone who stays within. I have an option of roaming around and hope to walk into someone who knows them (of course they are public figures working for the community, who wouldn’t know their whereabouts?) Another option would be to go to “facebook”, western junction, the bench, the scanning area, where boys hung. They would show me where to find the model but that comes with a price.
Nyus walks by, he’s a young healthy man with two knocked out teeth and a big smile that wrinkles his cheeks and facial scars. He seems happy to see me, “Bwana Ken bwana mia gimoro.” Didn’t I tell you already? I’ll report what he said in a whisper.
He asks for a tip.
I assume his request and go on to catching up on other issues, our youth, the developments around, the people who died in the post election violence, women, the closure of community centers and the new road. Literary there is a new road built from western Junction to Wigwa, it has opened up the slum to better buildings. “Ken bwana mia gimoro.” he repeats it again and I remember I’m searching for Winnie and this guy Nyus knows just about everyone.
He is a ‘’scanner,’’ he is the guy to look at someone from head to toe and give a diagnosis. His famous line, “mae soe (he is leaving us soon). Later you’ll walk on that once healthy man now with a pale skin, protruding bones, hair falling off and the remaining countable ones bristle like he just escaped a capital punishment by the electrocution.
“By the way Nyus, where can I find Winnie.” I ask assuming he’ll know it’s Wenger I’m talking about but he jumps to another.
“Winnie, Winnie, Winnie mane, mar gi Vickie?” (Do you mean Vickie’s sister?) Before I draw legs to my Winnie’s body, he’s at it again. “Ken into be ema inoma jadhot. Winnie be koro ichako go?” (You mean you and Winnie are dating?). I’m not bothered, often times I get confused with someone else who has been doing something else for so long… hehe. You know what I mean.
I’m a nice guy.
I try to listen more and grab a bearing to this conversation. He laughs hysterically in between and it’s clear that there is a rather interesting story behind this new Winnie personality. What could it be?
“Nyus, which Winnie are you talking about? I ask in an enquiry attitude.
“Bwana we pimo wia, koro iwuondri ni ikia Winnie donge? Ma wuok ka Ayuga? But kuma nyithindo moko gi min ne nege cha?” translating to, “Don’t pretend like you don’t know her she stays close to Ayuga’s, where the murder of a family happened some years back.
It all comes back to me, the deity’s voice, the story that I couldn’t write to the end. In his attempt to explain who his Winnie is, he brought to life a different topic (the long dead Winnie)
“Mia gimoro koro wa” (Now give me something. The tip)
I give him 100/= and we part ways to different directions. That sunken memory comes back as I walk the dusty road towards Okonyowelo market. I’m no longer dying to find the three ladies, chances are my story will find them.
I picture a bare chested man roaming the house with grizzly guts. He is disturbed, his wife sits on the bed half naked with a sulky face. I hear a broken cassette chanting nyatiti music at the back of my mind. There is an old radio carefully placed on top of a rusty lamp stand in one corner of a single room. I see darkness. Chronic darkness from the gruesome whispers of the happenings, darkness from the dropped window curtains, the dark shadows of men crowded to the brim of this U shaped compound (surrounded by walls enclosing it into a unit) and the inkinesss of dawn.
I feel blinded to the reality of it being a story a of a long past, 2008. I feel like the mention of Winnie’s name brings her family back to life. They talk around me, in my head, in a distant land. The land where the dead go. Deep under the sea, up in the skies, where the sun goes. I don’t know. But I feel them walk with me. It’s the voice, the lost voice is back.
I try so hard to remember the night strongly covered with thunder rolls and chaos of hailstorms. It come back, the rain, the clay soil that was soaked wet with murky mud for day, the thick clouds and the gloom that lived on.
This story continues on Monday