My mom asked me when I’m going to pay the loan I borrowed? Preface: Late last year I needed a couple of thousands. Twenty to be exact. I went to my dad and told him. “Look, mzee.” I call my dad mzee when I need a favour. The word flatters him. I think it makes him imagine he is a chief in medieval Africa in charge of a dynasty. He smiled a toothpaste advert smile with the full knowledge I had one up my sleeve. “Mzee, I need about twenty thousand to do a,b,c,d.” Usually I can do my a,b,c,d’s without twenty thousand bob but these were a different kind. He hesitated the way he usually does when you ask for a sum he has to consult his wife for. I told him not to worry, to think of it as an investment or a loan that I would pay back at a later date when I was liquid and that’s how my goose was cooked.
When we were kids, getting money from mzee was always a chore. His default response was, “Ask your mother.” And then your mother would ask on your behalf. Sometimes the money come, sometimes it didn’t. I had wanted a video game for the longest time but my old man was deaf to this. He had a running joke, whenever you asked for something he was sure he wasn’t going to get you. He would say, “Ndukamake, nguka na beca na ikonia.” Which loosely translates to, “Don’t worry, I will come with money in a gunia.” This obviously never happened or at least it’s yet to happen.
I got to high school and he loosened the reign’s a bit and started giving me money himself. Only it wasn’t a smooth experience. I would ask for a thousand bob and get five hundred instead. What smoked my chimney is not that he was short by an entire half but it’s how cold and cruel he did it. He would get into his pocket and come out with notes of about ten thousand bob and then flip through them. I would be there thinking, “Wow, mzee has really turned a new leaf, he’s really going to give me three, or is it four thousand.” He would scan his notes and come out with a clean, crisp five hundred bob and I would be sour the entire term. We soon learnt his trick and we started inflating our needs. If you wanted a thousand bob you asked for two thousand. If you wanted two thousand you asked for three. If you wanted more than that, well, someday he would come with money in a gunia.
If it was a lot and you really needed it, you would have to pass through mom and that was another long affair. Worse than serikalis procurement and tendering process. You would have to get in her good books, which meant lots of cleaning the house and doing endless dishes. After, you would be a sitting duck waiting for her to whisper it to the man of the house.
‘Oh we have a son who wants seven thousand bob to buy a video game. Remember him? Form two, bit chubby, yellow?’
‘The one who sometimes goes to bed without washing his feet?’
‘Yes, that one, he has really cleaned his act lately. Cleans the house and the dishes like a world-class mboch. No longer thinks carrying my handbag in town while I’m in the ladies is lame.’
And they go on to have a laugh on my tab. I imagine those conversations happened in the bedroom, probably during pillow talk. Our moms had to be the finest saleswomen to be able to convince men whose form of entertainment back in the day was sliding down a muddy slope in torn underwear to buy a silly video game. Sadly, mine wasn’t.
When she asked the question all those memories flooded back. I felt betrayed. I wanted to tell her, ‘How dare you do this to me when I have gone through trauma all these years in silence?’ but I didn’t. If there is something I have learnt it’s that you should never react on fresh emotions, they make you act out of turn and look bad yet they are flimsy, coming and going as quick as you can blink. “Alright I will look into it.” I chirped like a Goldfinch in the morning.
I knew where this talk was coming from. It was my big mouth selling me out. I told them the other day that I am saving to buy a car and they must be thinking I’m out here living like Chris Kirubi’s paramour. That question got my underwear in a twist because when I said, “Think of it as a loan.” Those were empty words meant to speed up the process, like the way you say yes to everything a woman says right before she gives up the goods. They stung because they were a mirror reflecting back my dubious values. I visualized going to the bank and removing one thousand, two thousand, fifteen thousand and got a bad stomach.
And did I mention they gave me fifteen thousand bob when I had asked for twenty? Haha, clearly, old habits die hard.
Here is what I’m going to do. I have already started by doing a bit of home shopping for them. That should shut them up for a while. My next move is to take them out, individually. Pull their strings like a marionette till they play to my beat. My mom is like my big sister she likes to hear herself talk. I will buy her chicken (she loves it) and let her talk me deaf. All I will do is nod like a buffoon. My dad is like me. Sentimental. Gets hurt over the tiniest things, it’s ridiculous. On Christmas he caught a feeling because I opted to ride with my sister instead of him. Mom told me his face was red like a beet throughout the entire drive. I laughed, a part of me broke into a jig.
I’m going to play to his Cinderella feelings. We’ll get tea. Mzee’s stomach is as sensitive as his feelings. Tea or fruits are the safest bet. I will tell him his choice of suit is fantastic. Ask him if he’s got a designer and can he introduce me? He’ll play it cool, as if it’s nothing but he’ll be rejoicing inside. “Finally, my idiot son acknowledges my dressing is superior to his ragtag garb.” I will flatter both of them till they turn pink. Honestly If I don’t win son of the year I will have been rigged. And if, God forbid the devil whispers in their ear and they ask for their money. “Nguka na beca na ikonia.” Will be my response. Funny thing is, I might spend more than fifteen thousand bob charming them but who I’m I kidding, I love the games and they have already began. Wish me luck.
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I like to think of myself as a reader who writes, a Pan-African who thinks with the tips of his fingers, but when I'm not molesting the keyboard I'm usually destroying yogurt (not Frusion) or staring into the vastness of space.