Thoughts of a woman.

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The wet paper shook in my hand. The wind passed over it, and it coiled awkwardly before I straightened it with both hands. The writing was slanting. Purely feminine. Very crafty and beautiful to look at. She had trained her hands before she ever knew how to read, I deduced. The words were heavy, well thought and deep. If I paraphrased them I’d do injustice, the same injustice that has been condemned in her thoughts. It is here, just as it was written.

Thoughts of a woman.

I’m sad. My heart’s in turmoil. My mind nowadays just drifts! It drifts away in sadness. Oh poor soul of mine, I’m in so much pain I wish I could just sing it away. I cannot sing though I can do best what has been in me for so long, only pain has told me what my mind can think about, and what my hands can write. I am now friendless. The world has so much contracted, like a small globe for sale in a hawker’s arm. Now it is empty. It is a small, empty world when friends desert you.

Women, ah! Such spiteful creatures! I once read in a book, that women are enemies of each other! Now my experience has proven it to be firm and true. They smile at you, laugh with you and sit with you, as you gossip all day long, all week long about all sorts of things. When they leave your presence, their purpose is to sabotage you, from every corner. From every side that God has left exposed in you, so that you could get fresh air and grow. Instead, the fresh air is being spiked by slow poisonous gases that cripple and destroy from all sides.

Women will be women, ah now I have given up with them. A man came to look for my hand in marriage. AT first I thought it was a joke. Marriage? Me? Can it be possible? The rumor was confirmed by my father. He said a young man approached him. He said his name. I couldn’t recognize it from anywhere. Hadn’t heard it before. Father said I must get married to him. To him it was a big deal, a very big deal. There was excitement in his eyes, urgency in his ways. He spoke quickly and rapidly, said he was from a noble family. They ranked high up in the country, guess they dined with the first families, and mingled with them on an occasional basis. How he settled for me is a mystery I couldn’t fathom.

He had said he was very interested in me. Said my eyes were the most pleasurable things to look at. Said no woman possessed eyes like mine. He told me he had been awestruck by my body, it roused him in every turn he made in his bed at night. I blush of course at men’s trifles, can a woman help it? I however was displeased at him. Saying he is ugly is an insult to God, saying he was not the man of my dreams is a displeasure to myself, for I was more obedient to my father, rather than to me. I obeyed. Yes a man has come! Hail God, the master of relations. I was daddy’s little girl, and daddy says the boy’s noble and that I should stay in line.

His bodily inconsistencies were covered up by their wealth. Fine suits, expensive dinners, finely tailored ties and polished shoes. He is the kind of man who took me to the most fanciful hotels, just to please me. He proposed a trip to Italy, just he and I alone, where we’ll watch the world from the leaning tower of Pisa. I said no. I wasn’t his wife, for starters and secondly I had exams to think about. He said I shouldn’t worry about exams, that I should never worry about anything in life. Money is there. He never works. His father and their whole family are so rich; they couldn’t work for two generations and still be rich. I still refused. And then onwards he changed. His attitude changed, he became angry and touchy. His boyish attitude began to manifest itself and I would see him with different girls every day. He would say they were his friends. And in one of our dates where I had decided to talk to him alone and clear the air over many things, guess what who I saw sitting with him over the table? Farida. The very best friend I have trusted over the years. Maybe he brought her since we get along better, perhaps or maybe to diffuse the tension between us. I thought. I was wrong. They had their own errands to run. It was an ultimatum I met. He said to make me feel comfortable, Farida, my best friend would accompany us. I was furious. Why bring Farida in all this I asked. Are we three in the relationship?

He ranted. Shouted. It was embarrassing. He looked like a mad man. The people at the hotel were so frightened as he screamed, called me all sorts of names. I walked away. My heart in sorrow. I cried as the glass door trapped me and I had to be helped out by a guard. I went home with a heavy heart. The following morning farida was posting from the Tower of Pissa as his hands coiled her from behind her back and over her belly. They looked happy. I was disgusted.

It passed. I forgot. Two weeks later he was back in Kenya. A barrage of messages has disrupted my life. I’m sorry he said, it was just to make you jealous he said. I’m surprised you are not jealous, babe, he writes. Don’t you love me? He  wrote. I never replied. I deleted his number. Next he comes over to my father and over a cup of tea announces an engagement proposition. My father, unaware of all this agrees, blindly. I tell him everything, says dear, men sometimes need a woman who’ll agree to whatever they want. You shouldn’t have refused in the first place. I cause a massive fracas, I scream. People now think I am possessed, they say the evil-eye has stricken me. God who’s the psycho here? No one believes me.

The engagement thing, I made sure it was stalled. I played sick. I didn’t want him. Never. Let him own the world, I still won’t want him. Let all the mountains be his gold banks, I still won’t want him. He is a liar, a pathological one. Very fraudulent and an opportunist, a control freak, a psycho, emotionally unstable and worse a cheater! He cheated with my best friend! She opened up her legs for him, and now he dreams of mine. Now I am sick, I have a brain trauma. Someone’s evil eye is preventing the engagement. I even told them certain things crawl under my skin, and I feel like my body is not mine anymore. A lie has been strengthened, by my initiatives. It has been a week since I applied make-up. God I feel so light, not even an eye-liner bothers me now.

At home I’m not free. I feel I have antagonized everyone against me. Mother won’t talk to me, she says am not her daughter. My appetite has deteriorated. Farida has wooed the other friend of mine on her side. I regret why I let a poisonous tree grow in our home the first day……………..

When I finished reading it, I scaled the nearby air as I thought of how to respond to everything. It wasn’t my burden by I felt as if something heavy weighed in my heart. And the first thought wasn’t, ‘we’ll deal with him’ He’ll know who we are, we’ll expose who he is, or everything will be clear with time.

I sighed and said.

“That boy is a cow.”

I am glad she laughed at this.

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Tears

Tariq’s Journal continued…….

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Two weeks has passed since my meeting with Maryam. Our neighbour’s cat died. Apparently from food poisoning. Two ladies inside our compound fought fiercely. I didn’t know why. I just saw slaps and hair pulling and fruitless kicks. One was short and stout and looked healthy and older. She held the other by the back of her hair, pulling her to the wall, harassing her, hurling insults and powerful slaps intermittently. There were shrills, there was chaos. The other was slick and slimmer. She tried to protect her face, a long towel wrapped across her breasts; her legs were long and thin, but bare, till above her knees. It didn’t take long to know what it was about! I’d call it a cheat gone wrong or the sour affair. You still my man? She screamed. A slap. A terrible slap on her face. If I was in her place it would have taken me down! That woman’s hand was massive; I could predict a good ten kilos in just that arm. How many years of marriage, ten, fifteen maximum was my guess. The years had slackened her, made her forget she had a man that needed keeping. A kick on the legs, a massive blow with the left arm, and then her towel fell!

Butt naked and getting kicked? What a story to tell. Joe was missing, was away running some errands. I placed ten fingers across my face like a small boy watching a horror movie. I watched from the spaces. Several women joined in. Pushing and pulling. Hurling abuse. Fracas. One brought the towel and covered the essential parts. The horror was over. I was no longer scared. They protected the cheater, and caught the powerful woman and pushed her to one side. I didn’t join. I didn’t see the man anywhere, he was still in the room, probably, afraid. Why didn’t she beat her man up instead? Why beat another, more beautiful, more slender, younger with firmer breasts? Why spoil God’s creature because of a man’s mistake? Paradoxes are real.

Another of our neighbour’s son passed his K.C.P.E two days later. such a young chap, full of brilliance. Very witty. They slaughtered a full grown cock and there was celebration and coca colas were brought. A merry moment. A cause for enjoyment. We ate. Joe was present in this. We sang. We danced.

On the third week I went for a stroll in USIU. I hoped I’d see someone. Bump in to each other. Someone very familiar. Students were lavishly dressed, as they usually are. The world is such a happy place for them. They just know books and nothing else. Nothing else to worry about. Just sexting, instagraming, dating and gossiping. Heaven. They walked in pairs, in droves.

I walked over to the library, checked around. No one was there, in the cafes too. I walked to the parks. I saw a lone girl sitting. Her back faced me. Her attire suggested I could probably know her, for she was covered, head to toe. When I walked over and glanced over her face, I knew her. It was Maryam. She looked haggard, had a worn out look. As if she was crying, as if someone had said very mean things to her. She wore no make-up. Hard, natural beauty screamed at me, though her eyes had sank in quite deeper than they usually were. She managed a nice little smile. The ones that are normally forced. She tried to look normal.

“Mizz Xlo” I said purposefully. I wanted to lighten her mood. She disregarded it with her arm, yet smiled more.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “Nothing” She said. Just thinking about life she said.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “Yes, I am” I said.

“You don’t look okay? I can see it” I sat beside her. I noticed a pen and a small white book on her lap. She was in the middle of writing something.

“You can tell me!” I said. “You don’t look okay”

Then it was abrupt and sudden. Her voice became steadier and her eyes burnt, as if with passion, as if with so much energy. They focused on nothing in particular. “I just want to run away! From everything! I want to run away! And hide! From everything! Where there is silence and tranquility! I’m tired. I am tired of being the good girl every day! You understand? Do you?” She looked at me. Her eyes balanced hot tears that swelled in them, and when she looked away from me, they had already fallen on the sides of her nose. She wept like a little child.

I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why a good girl like her would want to run away in to obscurity! Where there was silence! Where no one said anything and people were like mute heartless and harmless robots. I don’t know how to console a crying woman. Do you touch her, and pat her on the back. Do you let her in your grasp and tell her nice little things as she wept? Do you just stare and let the tears wash away her pain. Water is life. I let her cry water, and I tried so much to feel the pain she felt. To understand her agony! To sympathize with her in my heart. In reality I could never feel a woman’s pain. I sat there and just watched.

“please, stop crying!” I whispered. “Please I said.”

“You don’t understand! You don’t understand!

“What’s going on?” I asked.

There is a saying that goes, women cry for meaningless things! For things that don’t make sense! Things that to a man mean so little, but in their world mean everything. But this, right here, I could sense was worth crying for. It hurt so deeply, I termed it as huge hurtful thing that soured her heart and mind. She tore a page of what she wrote so quickly, the wetness of her tears spread across the paper! She stretched her arm and rolled it under my fingers. She sniffed a huge sniff, and then wiped her tear.

“Read” She said.

And then she shivered and sniffed.

Bones

Tariq’s Journal Continued…

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It gladdens me that I sit to write this. The past few days has seen our sells increase twice the usual amount at this period of the month. It seems luck has slapped one sexy slap over our cheeks, and has winced at us lousily, though Tariq has had some horrible start to the trade, I am sure that boy will come out just fine. I have talked to the landlord over the phone and I promised him tomorrow shall be his day. Such a foul fellow! When he heard about money, he shrieked a very loud piercing laughter, which was so sudden that I fear I now nurse a tiny crack in my brain. The other month he got so angry, and so ill-tempered that he threatened to throw me out of his house when I had delayed payment. He gibbered about some things I couldn’t quite figure out, all through, for the fleeting happiness money promises. The only thing I recall is that early tomorrow morning, he’ll be on our doorstep.

Something happened some few days back. An urge in me wants to tell him, but part of me wants to wait for a while and perhaps let the story develop some flesh first, for as of now, I only see bones and nothing yet. Oh Poor fellow, the work has taken its toll on him. He no doubt as I write wishes life was so much more different than it already is. Oh life….couldn’t you have just been so much gentle and sweeter, just a little? The city under the sun has burnt part of his once dark yellow taint under his skin and has left him with a darker color and some few pounds of flesh less.

Now as I graced the streets, I say I was extremely embarrassed to see Mizz XLO in Kimathi Street. Oh how we men like to be seen, with our heads held high, and our muscles bulging, and our shoes shining with perfectly sewn suits tightened against our frames? How pleasant a sight is it to a woman, how arousing is it to a gentler being and none other than an attractive lady that you perhaps think one day will grace your bed? I would have hoped she had seen me in a little bit a different setting, with  bigger wallet and a more masculine confident smile, the one that dazzles, the ones that would scare her little heart inside her and make little goosebumps run across the hairs of her neck. Ahh…it wasn’t for I say, truly, I looked like a rainbow man, with all sorts of belts hanging from my neck and all the Nairobi dust gracefully shouting and smiling at her gentle face. Sweat had covered my face and became extremely hot when my eyes met hers. I wished I wasn’t there. I wished I would have changed my face. I regretted why I had met her in the first place.

I thought she had forgotten me completely, for she seemed in a hurry. I almost passed her by, when all of a sudden she stopped in front of me.

“You were that guy!” She almost shouted. For a moment I didn’t say a word.

“Mizz XLO?” I asked as I forged a smile on my sweaty face. I didn’t expect what followed next. It was beyond words.

“Oh c’mon!” She brushed me off with a smile on her face. “I am Maryam” She said.

I couldn’t believe it. She had turned in to one lovely creature that I had earlier met, but to ensure she didn’t confuse me with someone else, because of our last meeting, I confirmed.

“You know me?” I asked in a tone of happy expectation.

“Yes…you are that guy!” She confidently replied.

“That guy who…?” I prodded her more.

“At the uni… you’ve forgotten?” She asked.

I couldn’t believe. I allow myself the trivial indulgency of expressing how she was. She was different, much more willing to communicate than when she was with those weird friends of hers. She was simpler, less make-up and more beautiful. She shined under Nairobi’s sun, and her skin tone had become as beautifully brown as the brown cash I was chasing after under the heat of our continent. Her eyes shone, her dimples dipped and flattened as she wished. She pulled me over on the sides where there were fewer pedestrians who constantly disrupted the flow of our conversation.

The next question boxed me to the ground.

“So this is what you do in Nairobi?” She asked, in a kind of curious way.

I could have lied flatly. I could have fought back out of this humiliating question, but I couldn’t. What do you say after that… no I am just doing it as a part time after a day’s job at the office? I became me that moment. I became as an honest child ready to be flogged by ridicule.

“This is Nairobi dear” It was feeble, but sharp and authoritative. Her surprise wasn’t the kind I expected. She remained calm and human. She pulled me over again and the next I saw we were drinking coca cola and talking about life.

After a while and seemingly after exhausting all kinds of talk we could talk over the drinks, she asked me from nowhere.

“So that day…you were serious?” she asked. I sipped the last of my drink and the straw let out funny loud noises, man I was so thirsty.

“As serious as my job! And you know I don’t joke with my job.” I said. She laughed. For a while she didn’t say anything for a while, and her face suddenly turned from the jovial face I was accustomed to earlier. She fiddled with her fingers, and with one expressionless face sighed and stood to rise.

“It was so nice!” She said, “Seeing you…”

“But…but…you are leaving!” I asked in a tone of disbelief. “How soon?” I said.

“You are losing customers young man!”

“And what about that young man?” I asked. She was gone.

It’s so dreamy, I wonder if this really happened or just a figment of my imagination. Heat has an unforgiving way of creating images in the mind. It has undoubtedly made me feel afraid of even questioning the reality of what I had witnessed. If it’s real I don’t know what it means. If it happened I care much for my friend, who has been kicked already by exhaustion, and now he’s snoring softly under his blanket. A tint of uncertainty had been in those eyes, and so real now I can recall them that the prospect of it being a dream has been shelved away.

Mizz XLO is in distress. Tariq doesn’t need to know as of yet. The story so far is just bones. I will wait for the flesh to form.

Five Belts

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Joe’s journal continued…

I’m as tired as a donkey. Since morning I’ve been walking and walking and nothing else! I’ve just become a tourist! Why are people not buying my belts? Why? Don’t people in Nairobi need belts? I tried to penetrate a heavily guarded gate but the terrifying barks of vicious dogs almost made me rush in terror and get hit by a car! I greeted, I charmed, I beguiled and after a glance here and there they would hold it and look at it expertly then return it back from where they found and promise tomorrow.

A stone in Kileleshwa has offered me comfort. A tree here protects me from the raging sun. It has melted completely away part of my hair! A warm sensation pulsates in my skull. Perspiration does little to cool me! The wind is absent! The estates have closed their black gates and lone ladies sit lazily in two’s and three’s on yellow twenty litre jerri-cans! It’s so hot and so bright; I can see a mirage forming miles ahead. One of the black gates has opened. I sit. I observe. A dark skinned madam in shorts walks to one of the ladies, and instantly the lady jumps up and down in extreme excitement. She high-fives the rest and walks gallantly to her newly acquired temporary job. Today she’ll feed her kids. An opportunity has arisen here. Let me grab it.

Later.

Seeing a glaring opportunity right under my eyes, I went to the lady before the gate closed again. I half ran, half walked, and just before she could close it, I stretched my arm to block her.

“Hi!” I said. The dark skinned madam opened the door.

“Hi” She repeated, her face became a mixture of unknown expressions.

“Hi” I repeated. She scrolled me up and down. The belts sold me out!

“You are a hawker!” She said. Before I could say any other word she added.

“Read that sign over there!”. I read it. No hawking allowed.

“I’m not hawking!” I said.

“Eeh!” She held one arm over her glorious hip, and she squeezed her mouth in a sarcastic manner. Her legs were unnaturally smooth. They shined. She placed the other arm on her hip!

“And what are those!” She pointed at me.

“This! Ahh they are belts! And since I’m not hawking, I’m selling. I work at a company that produces pure leather belts! For this month, an offer is going round…in short; you buy at the cheapest price ever.” When I finished, she had already replied to a text from probably her boyfriend and then she rolled her eyes in pure feminine fashion then let out a very rude laugh. She found it amusing.

“You hawkers! Huh! You know why hawking is not allowed?” she asked. Then she answered herself.

“Because you are filthy! Because you are thieves! How many things have been stolen here because of people who come here to ‘hawk’….my friend…look at that road….just walk! Walk away!” she screamed.

I couldn’t say anything for a while.

“Look at me with your eyes…I go inside… I go give this precious offer, trust me, nothing will be stolen …steal? Steal what… basins…?…look at all this belts, why would I steal. Huh? Just look.”

She didn’t hear.

“Just five minutes Madam…” I prodded her.

“Mercy…who’s at the gate?” I heard a male voice shout from inside.

“It’s one of these low-lives!” She managed to answer. When I heard that, I immediately understood her heart didn’t shine as her legs. I gave up.

“Before you go!” I added… “Would you please give me a cup of cold water? Please!”

She closed the gate. I waited. I waited. I had even sat with the women folk outside the gate, and we gossiped and gossiped till I forgot all my troubles. I even forgot I was thirsty for a while. The women folk had plenty to say. They had even given her a name. They called her ‘Mercy the Snake!’

“Did you see how she was looking at you all the way?” One managed to stir me.

“She didn’t even look at you like a human!” Another added.

“This rich people’s kids can be very rude!” Another lamented. “If I get a lot of money, I will teach my kids manners.” She added as she formed her dress in to a lump before pushing it between her knees.

“You won’t have time for your kids!” I told her, and she just looked at me as if she agreed. I walked back slowly to my stone, I felt as if part of the belts were cutting through my skin. The thirst had come twice-fold to me after our little gossip.

Now.

On my stone. The wind has let a mildly hot breeze sweep across my face! It is still raging hot! There is no sign that the sun will pause for a while! No clouds to distract it! The sky is blue! Blue as the waters in the ocean! Ahh! Dust! Sweat! Thirst! Troubles and troubles! Here I write about troubles and nothing else! How will I go home? How often does it happen that I walk from Ayani all the way to Kileleshwa and no belt sold whatsoever?

It is easier to write about troubles than success. Why? Because they easily come. It is this constant struggle that makes us so good at ranting about life! Here I sit, on a stone, ranting, ranting, instead of selling, selling! Let me stand. Let me work.

Later.

The sun has crossed the other side of the sky, and its faint rays still qualify it to be called day. My first sell came at precisely 3.31 p.m. I recorded that. And my first buy was a bottle of cold water! I gulped it all the way till life returned to my lips! I thank the poor soul that God had sent to grace my day and lift away my troubles. I feel grateful, and had I not sold any other belt, I would have walked the barren earth all the way to Ayani with a kind heart! I would have hoped for tomorrow, for hope is a good thing, the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. Now I am happy. My count for the day is five belts. Five belts to my name. And what of my friend, how many belts has he sold?

I will ask him later. And we’ll talk about the events of the day.

I hope tomorrow shall bring better joys.

Hustle!

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I don’t know what prevented me from eating something before I left the house this morning! Tariq helped me arrange the belts on each side of my shoulders, in a true hawker spirit. They didn’t seem heavy, at all, and I kind of enjoyed the feel of the soft leather against the bare skin of my arms. I even tried to imitate famous hawkers and their sounds. Tariq just looked at me with funny eyes and I stopped immediately.

“150! Take at your own risk! 150!” I said as I looked at myself on the broken mirror!

“You will chase them away!” Tariq’s black eyes were fierce as he spoke! “You don’t say that!”

“What should I say?” I implored softly.

“Say nice things! Don’t you know the business language?” He asked… “Say nice things, just nice things” He said calmly.

“Durable leather belts! From America, Spain, Netherlands…” I looked at myself in the mirror and then at my friend. His arms were on top of his head.

“Don’t say that! My God! You know what…don’t say anything at all!” He looked at me!

“Then how do you sell these things if you don’t speak?” I asked him.

“I don’t talk much as I walk around. I let my merchandise do the talking.” He replied.

“Don’t you know things like advertising?” I asked… “…like you say nice things to attract people?”

“yes I know!” He said. “But mostly it never works! Most think that you are cunning! Just let them see it for themselves, and then name a price for them! From there negotiate with them reasonably!” My friend said. I didn’t want to argue more. It was subtle from then onwards. I put my favorite shoe, my best one, a white sporty, with light soles,  the ones that had first introduced me to Nairobi. I brushed my hair lightly and walked out of the house, like a mad man with plenty of snakes hanging from his sides. The sun hadn’t fully brightened the world, and a mixture of fog and mist floated in the air and it felt fresh as it swept across my neck.

I was overly enthusiastic.

By ten o’clock, when the sun was over my back, and dust had filled every inch of my shoe, and I had trekked for many kilometers, I hadn’t sold even one belt. I was hungry, and my stomach made very unpleasant crying sounds! My brown face had now turned pale and dark and my eyes were misty and the throat was dry. I tried unluckily to smile at some faces, but the old and young, men and women, the magnificently beautiful and the awesomely ugly all passed by me! By one o’clock I had lost my voice!

No one has ever praised belts as I did today, I suspect. But Nairobi people don’t fall for such fancies. One lady asked me how much a belt cost! My starting price was six hundred and fifty! She didn’t even bother come near me. I wondered hopelessly at Adams market. If I had at least sold one belt, I would have eaten a succulent watermelon that was split in halves on shelves! I would have chewed chapatti.

As I was about to cross the road and enter the main road that led to Toi, I saw a smart, handsome officially dressed man stretch his hand towards me. He wore a black suit, a white shirt and a tie, with shoes that had been polished. There was no trace of dust on his shoes, and by his manners he seemed to be in a hurry.

“Hey! You! Young man!” He stressed as he approached. I pointed at myself to make sure.

“Yes you!” he said. I stopped and watched him cross the road. First thing I wanted to ask is whether his legs really touched the earth, but it was ludicrous!

“How much is a belt?” He asked. Before I could answer he started on his life’s history and troubles.

“My belt got lost inside my house in the morning. Can you believe it. Aaaa it’s my wife, I suspect she is playing some game with me! That woman! Aaa…humans.”

I wanted to ask. “Sir, why would your wife hide your belt?” but I thought not better to ask.

I cleared my throat, and the business face popped up.

“quality, durable belts! Crocodile’s skin, put it on your waist, and two good years! I say two!” I took some saliva on the edge of my index finger as a mark of honesty!

“Are you sure?” He asked as his hands went through the belts on my shoulder, he kept pulling some of them, and I felt I was also being dragged along with my belts. My stomach let a one embarrassing wail and I hopped he didn’t hear it.

“God bless the crocks in Amboseli! Aah…such fine leather pieces! Sir, if you buy this, your wife will forever be afraid of your belts!”

“How much! Quickly! Quickly! I have a business to attend to!” He said, settling on a black one.

“Not expensive! Hehe!” I became hesitant!

“How much! Someone is waiting!”

“850 sir!” I said confidently! “This one, don’t be surprised if you let it as an inheritance souvenir to your grandchildren! Remember the words when they ask! Crocks from Amboseli! Fine specimen!”

He quickly brought out a thousand shilling note. My eyes beamed at the elephants and the old founder’s face that smiled at me. I stretched my hand and when I went to look for change, the man was busy crossing the road.

“Sir…your change!” I shouted at him.

“Keep it!” He shouted.

“Write down my number…0724….” He didn’t hear the rest. He hoped in to a car and disappeared. God, don’t make his wife Afraid of that belt! Let her take it away and hide it again. I was delighted. The first thing I did was buy myself a nice lunch at a makeshift eating place at malim’s place.

Now am at home, every inch of my shoulder muscles ache, I sit on my bed, even my fingers are aching. Tariq is used to these kinds of hustle in the city. He is calmly eating some popcorn as he watches the evening news! I hope I get used to it as soon as I can! I hope I dream of Mizz Xlo! That I am selling her a nice belt, and I will let her negotiate till the last penny, then I will give it to her finally for free! Oh sleep come and take me to dreamland, and take away my exhaustion! My eyes feel tired, and the pen is wavering in my hands, I am afraid by tomorrow I won’t be able to read what I have written. The pen rests. Joe is sleeping. Bye bye world!

Joe’s Journal

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From where I found Tariq’s journal, I figured out it was never meant to be read by any other eyes other than him. His handwriting is slanting, and quite readable. I read it till the end and returned it carefully and prudently lest he suspect that someone perused through his pages. Oh what a soul he is? Such honesty on those pages requires applause; for a man’s true honesty unfolds when he sits down to write. I am satisfied to have had a window through his heart and doubly glad that it is clean. I am, however not pleased by his unfortunate painting of my character, that I am weak in front of women, that I am overly shy, that beauty of the opposite sex has boxed me in life, that I am a very innocent guy who never talks to women.

All this unfortunate ‘claims’ that he has written, done by him innocently to portray my position, has too rallied me in to keeping a journal. Mama too taught me to write. Mama named me Jalal, my friend calls me Joe. I am brown, browner than the woman I had failed to describe perfectly in Tariq’s eyes. Whereas she might have been aided by products that have flooded the cosmetic industry, mine is just a natural wonder aided by Vaseline. I am as tall as him, five feet five inches, with a dark curling hair when it is fully grown, and soft that slides when half grown. In style he says am down, but I blame not fashion but my pockets! Oh I have seen how money can decorate even the most ugly, so that doesn’t worry me much. His style is as average as mine too.

My presence in Nairobi is due to his generous invite to come and help him run some of his ‘errands.’ I come from a town called Kach, where civilization hasn’t yet raped nature as it has already done to Nairobi, where the trees are tall, and when it rains it blossoms in to all kinds of greenery! The lands are large, and maize is grown in almost every homestead, and cows and goats run in the streets as if the streets are theirs, and chickens litter every compound. When I came to Nairobi, I realized the ‘errand’ was to help him pay his rent in Ayani, but I didn’t complain.

It was a different feeling! Nairobi is awfully cold, and as someone from Kach, it petrified me to the core. Tall buildings confused me. Girls with very short dresses electrified me. Eveyone was busy and harsh, and on the streets people are not as happy as I used to see them in our old town. They looked hurried by something! What was chasing them? I’d soon find out.

It is people like Arjun. I found a nice job, where I used to be salesman at an Indian’s shop. It would be redundant to narrate what happened, as it has already been explained by Tariq in his journal. He finds it hilarious. I find it mean and evil. What is twenty bob? Twenty bob for lunch? Will it have diminished his wealth? I am shaking my head painfully. People, are chasing something. Everyone is on the hunt, and their countenances are somber and worried, and I am afraid of what will happen if I fail to sell these belts.

If I fail…Eldoret Express will be waiting for me at the bust station, and I will pack and go.

*******

Reading his journal made me think really deeply about the nature of the girl that had supposedly given me hopes that life can be as beautiful as she was. I tried to fathom her nature! I tried to find out the intrinsic qualities that made her human, and in his journal, I tried to read between ‘the lines’ as the whites say and that reading is just gloom and nothing positive.

He intimates that she is rich. So what is money anyway? Does it always have to be the center of everything that should be held sacred? Does it have to define humans? And should all happiness be dependent and lost on its mere presence? Is she obsessed with money as Tariq enforces the idea that she is expensive, and how should I find out?

He intimates that she is a woman of class. And how are the women of class so different from the other women with no class, or do women come with different classes? These things quite confuse me. Oh Mizz XLO, shouldn’t you have just sat and listened, just listened for a minute! Or the least you could have done was to make clear your position, are you in or are you out, are you married or are you not, are you single or are you taken. Simple as that. Women indeed like it complicated. Simple is boring.

My official position, therefore, is to be engaged to my belts for the meantime. They’ll hang on my shoulders as I grace the streets with my merchandise. I’ll sell to them all, and I beseech ye’ dear belts, do not disappoint me as did some woman! The pen rests.

For now.

Joe’s job.

THbw0vH_UCIWhen I entered, the atmosphere of the room was unexpectedly different. I removed the shoes and placed them at the door mat, next to where my friend’s shoes were. The floor on which I stood was damp and about to dry and the unpleasant familiar smell of stove fuel struck my nostrils. Joe sat on the bed with a plate of rice and beans, and as I greeted him, he motioned me to serve myself what he had already cooked.

“Kerosene got finished…the beans haven’t fully cooked” he said as he chewed.

A sense of order had returned to the house miraculously. Heaps of clothes that lay scattered everywhere now had been carefully folded and arranged in one corner of the house. The damp towels had been hanged on a single line of rope that divided the room in to two halves. It stretched from the door to the window on the far side of the house.

“You weren’t sick after all.” I greeted him.

“I was sick till five, and then I got well. It’s been long since we ate rice.” He said as he kept chewing. I washed my hands and placed the tennis ball on my bed. I served my plate full and when I took my first spoon, I hadn’t noticed the beans were partly cooked.

“So!” He said as he heaved. “How did it go?”

I sipped my glass of water.

“Let’s eat first, and then we’ll talk.” I suggested.

“No. Now! Let’s talk now! Whatever happened, I want to know everything from the beginning till the end. I want every detail.” I wasn’t sure he meant what he said.

I told him everything, just as he wished to hear. And where her girlfriends mocked, I tried my best to show as best as I could. The transcript of what transpired naturally occurred to me, so that I offered and made sure those same feelings came to him twice-fold as they had struck me. In the middle of my narration, I noticed he had stopped eating.

“I told you…” I said. “It is better we eat first! Now look, your appetite has vanished.”

“No…no…” he said. His voice came out feebly and I felt a pang inside my heart. I nearly stopped because of this. He pushed the contents of his spoon in his mouth, and he rarely chewed. He looked at me in sad, desperate eyes. I felt bad for both of us. The gloom I had suddenly chased away was outstretching its arms to our house. When I began to narrate, the lights went out abruptly. Darkness had arrived. It was a common depressing occurrence in Ayani. Now both of us frantically groped for everything on the table as we looked for where the candles were. I got hold of one that was half and I struck a match at it. A feeble light wavered inside our house, and ugly shadows emerged on the walls.

“After carefully listening, she had really been moved by what I had said, don’t pay attention to this, for I know women are creatures of feelings and nice emotional beings. Emotions paint there world with all sorts of different colors. She had grown red, her red lips had become moist, a common sight of delightfulness in her very core, disregard this part, for the end of it all no delight graced our little occasion. She placed her arm on one side of the hip and the other part of her hip slightly moved sideways, so that I saw all the contours of her magnificent body in full. Oh friend, do I remind you of how you lack words that describe perfection? Do I need to remind you that? Her little scarf stretched to her bosom and the edges of her face seemed to have lost expression, yet her beauty remained still manifest. Her long gown stretched and obeyed her little bodily movements. And then…then she said. Tell him, there are billions of women in this world.”

My friend placed his plate aside, and dipped his arm on his temple as he thought for a while. I let him absorb himself in all his thoughts. I let him allow himself drown in all kinds of worry for I knew he just needed that. For a while I enjoyed my nice supper without any disturbance, though now it had grown a little cold. I chewed endlessly.

When he raised his head, he asked, “What do you make of all this?” He seemed grave, and serious.

I said I didn’t know what to make of it. Mine was a trial I had successfully implemented, and the results were all his, to make of what he wished. And to do whatever he pleased.

“Tell me! Am listening”. He seemed he completely understood my position and he disregarded all that I had told him.

“Bro…that girl….what should I say…is it a little too early for you? Or what do you want to hear?”

“I want to hear everything you have to say.” He hadn’t still raised his head from the ground.

“To be honest man…that girl has sophistication written all over it….”

“No…no… you fail to understand what I mean to ask. What does there are billions of women in the world mean?” He cut me abruptly in my statement. He had brought me to the same very question that had bewildered me for the better part of my journey back home, and I hadn’t figured out.

“It might suggest a couple scenarios. First that she is not interested in courtships and dating and men in general. There is a dangerous concept women have come up with of late, that all men are dogs. Behind this terrifying idea, we men are to blame; we tend to be self-minded when we approach ladies! We seek only one thing. Secondly she is perhaps married or betrothed to someone. For that there is no blame on your part and it is a cause for a good night’s sleep. Why? There is no error in trying. Third, she is someone’s wife maybe.” I parted him on the back.

“Cheer up. I laud your courage!” I said as I pushed him playfully. He managed a smile.

“You talked of sophistication….” He said.

“That was a by the way…I only meant to say, I think she is as expensive as you’d have wished her to be! You know there is this manner in which rich ladies hold themselves, and by your standards, by our standards, you won’t be on the same page! Expensive women want expensive things and I can’t see that in you…”

“Are you implying I need a job?” He asked as he partially grinned.

Well, Joe had lost his job working for an Indian that sold suitcases in Nairobi’s CBD at river road. How he lost his job was very hilarious. It was because he wanted a twenty shillings raise for his lunch! His favorite meal is chapatti and fried beans and due to the current political climate, the price of the meal had hiked from thirty shillings to fifty shillings. And the Indian had allocated only thirty shillings for his lunch. When he told the Indian his lunch price had changed, Arjun rubbished him off. He brought the owner of the stall to explain it to the Indian, and when the woman told Arjun the food cost fifty shillings, Arjun refused to add twenty shillings to his lunch. Joe got very angry, and he tendered his resignation there and then.

“Yes! I said. Joe! You need a job! Take part of my belts and let’s go out there and do some work for us.” I was a hawker. I sold belts and part of my job description was toiling from Ayani to Toi market and up till Adams and further to Kilimani. I sold durable leather belts.

“I’ll take half of the belts! We don’t need women yet! We need money! And money always makes us handsome.”

What a very misguided outlook on life.

I was happy Joe had gotten a new job.