I wrote this piece sometime back. I had just quit my 8-5 to chase the ghost that is writing and things were so rocky it was laughable. Men always have their firsts. You might think that the most important first in a man’s life is taking a woman to bed, but it isn’t. There are more crucial firsts. Like not knowing where your next meal will come from or what you will tell your landlord the next time he comes knocking at your door because you’ve exhausted all your lies. But the bad days are the times that build mettle in a man because you can’t stand on shaky ground when all you’ve known is the gravy train. A man has to be at the very end of his rope to borrow money from his mom. Go on laugh at my pain.
I’m just from a meeting with a honcho. She’s starting this blog and from my pitch she thinks I would be a perfect fit to come in as a content creator. It’s pouring outside, rain always gives you the feeling of getting a hot cup of something, sprawling on the sofa with a duvet and molesting the remote. Mom has just called, she wants to have a tete a tete: Mom always wants to have a tete a tete nowadays. Sometimes she scolds me for not going to church, other times she goes off on a tangent and asks when she’s getting grandkids. But today I know exactly what the chit chat is all about.
I’ve been in a corner lately. My cheque was late and I had to borrow mulla from her. In her head she’s worried, she thinks I’m a few seconds away from living on the streets. “Well, at least I won’t have to juggle sufurias and nyanyas tonight,” I tell myself as I enter one of those noisy number two matatus bound for Naivasha road.
I get home and find the door unlocked, I enter the house and find my niece curled on the sofa watching some cartoon show on TV. With the digital migration there’s an avalanche of them nowadays. I say hi & she replies to my niceties with a distant hello as if to say, ‘sod off, you’re disturbing my space.’ “Shosho yuko wapi?” She’s glued to the screen but manages to answer. “Ako kitchen.” It’s amazing how tall she grows with the wake of everyday. I’m the tallest in our family, that’s like being the tallest among the seven dwarfs. She’s going to take my title one of these days. I grit my teeth and proceed to the kitchen.
I give the door a little push, and say hello to my mom as I open the three lids of sufurias on the burner. I open them one by one like a health inspector. I’m trying to distract my mom to no avail. One pot has rice, the other njahi, and the last one steamed cabbages. This is a typical house of Mumbi.
She looks at me and gives me a half smile. She looks distressed, as if she has a dark cloud hanging over her head. She looks me straight in the eye then goes ahead to pour her heart out.
“You’re a young man son, mwanaume nikujikaza. Just trust in God and better days will surely come.”
I take a deep sigh and look away, I really don’t want to dive into the conversation. The kitchen is quite hot. There’s a pile of bananas on top of the smaller green fridge—I pluck one and bite it as though trying to bite away the caustic conversation we’re about to plunge into. The brown cooker is making hissing noises. and steam is rising from the sufuria with cabbages. The bigger white fridge is also making its own mourning sounds as if weeping on my behalf but neither of them can drown my mother’s voice.
She pauses and crosses her hands tightly on her breasts, those same breasts that have nourished four kids, three of whom are making something out of their lives. Her face tightens up and becomes impassive.
“Or you can move into a cheaper house.”
I’m currently living in a 15K house which is well above my means considering my cheques come in drips of 5K and 10Ks but I’ve got a hell lot of hustles to back it up which she’s not aware of.
“Son you can always move back with us if things are looking bad you know?”
I now feel agitated and angry. “What are you trying to say mom, that I can’t make it out here on my own? How long will I cling to your breasts like a toddler before I become a man, eh?” I still my tongue from blurting out my internal monologue because I know she means well.
“Mom, I just can’t move back because things have gone a little pear-shaped, I have to get going when the going gets tough!”
We get distracted. My niece comes into the kitchen looking to get a glass of water. She tries to swing with my hand but realizes I’m in deep thought. She gets her glass of water and goes back to her toons.
My mom is obviously distressed and I have to give her a coup de grace before I leave. “I bought a burner,” I blurt out. “It’s a table cooker—very lofty.” Her eyes which seemed murky now show a hint of contentment. “Well at least you won’t starve,” she says almost dryly.
“I also bought a carpet, pretty small for the price it was going for.” She loosens up. “Oh that’s fantastic, you better invite us soon.” She turns off the cooker and serves me a plate, I head to the sitting room to down the mountain.
“Eh niwamenyire gukumutha thafuria.” (Did you ever learn how to scrub sufurias?) I’m lousy at washing the dishes and she’s enjoying throwing jabs at me.
It’s getting dark, we’ve been conversing about everything without paying attention to the time. She’s been telling me about the work my dad has been putting in on the kamuguda he bought recently in the bowels of Uthiru. My relationship with her is like that of a childhood friend. We talk about anything and I make jokes about everything.
“Ma it’s getting late, I should get going?” Ni sawa, dugageturiganerwo kana utumene. (It’s ok, don’t forget us nor hate us.) Her remarks get me by surprise, they sting me painfully like salt on an open wound. “Ngumumena nyende o?” (If I hate you whom will I love?) I bark back while at the door. But I seem to forget that my mom must always have the last word especially now that she thinks I might not have a grip on things.
“Norute wira na hinya todo onawaga kuoruta no kurituka.” (Work hard because even if you don’t work night will still fall).
I call her editor in chief. She picks out most of the mistakes in my copy and irons my wrinkled sentences. Sometimes I will write a risqué post like Long Lost and she will say something like, “Hmmm, I would like to remove any credits to me on this piece. I happen to belong to the odd crowd that does not entertain these things. So I will appreciate if I distance myself from this.” (Such a politician) and because I’m a good guy I will listen. Also this will get me in trouble.
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