Posts Tagged ‘#lessons’
I was delighted to find my cousin waiting for me when I got off the bus. She’d arrived from Nairobi around 8:00 p.m., dropped off her luggage then returned to wait for me at the bus company’s office from 9:30 p.m. We threw my bag into the backseat and happily chatted on our way to her house.
Settling in for my first night’s rest in the town, I was grateful for the chilly breeze that intermittently blew through the window. That, coupled with the sand made Garissa feel like a nicer Mombasa—weather-wise anyway and if you aren’t into the whole “Ocean” thing. Before completely nodding off, I called family and friends to inform them of my safe arrival as well as to request my sister to urgently courier my National ID.
I love cartoons and comic books. Always have. These days, if I come across these New Age cartoons on telly or in a publication, I give them a chance if the characters look half-way decent (I’m sorry Chowder, you and your lot look far too scary.) She-Ra, He-Man, Captain Planet, Gargoyles, Popeye, Archie & Veronica, Beano, Pingu, Dennis the Menace (both the sweet blonde and the dark shaggy-haired lads), Andy Capp, Ninja Turtles, Desperate Dan are some of the names that peppered my childhood.
In the innocent way of children, I enjoyed the antics of these diverse cross-sections of fictional characters at face value. That is, until a friend on Twitter (@potentash) raised the issue of how female superheroes are stereotyped and how this influences how girls see themselves. Apparently this discussion was had earlier in my absence but the general consensus (presumably) was that, “Superheroes like Batman and Superman etc have their own series [while] women like Wonder Woman and Catwoman play supporting roles.”
Sometimes the sky looks like the sea. At the precise moment when the rays of the sun scantily filter through gray, brooding clouds; when layers of fog paint themselves thick as mud where trees start to graze the sky; when eyes, hungry for answers look to the heavens- the sky becomes the sea. The sky becomes clay, becomes a chameleon, shape-shifting into a silent omen, a riddle.
Lulu was born when the sky looked like the sea. She was a remarkable child. Remarkable in how unremarkable the world found her. Her skin was the colour of lightly toasted maize sprinkled with the scars of mild adolescent acne. Lulu was slightly overweight and whizzed a little when she talked as if she was a heavy smoker in her 80s. She was tall for a girl and subconsciously picked her nose when she was thinking or just plain bored. The sight of blood used to turn her knees to jelly but not anymore.
Yet, for all that Lulu was or tried to be, she only blended into her surroundings. Never cherished or despised. She was a seat-filler in the auditorium of the universe. Neither picked first nor last. Either alone or with someone, Lulu coasted through life in her languid seaside town while tending to her fisherman father. And even when she turned her back on the sea, afraid that one day it would drag her into its depths before she could anchor herself to something, no-one missed her. Not even her father who had ceased to find meaning in life when he lost his angel as the Earth, unbeknown to him, was giving him a new one.
Andrew stood facing the open window farthest from the short line of wobbly benches in the dimly-lit reception area. A wicked wind slapped tiny daggers of cold rain water on his face over and over and over. Eyes blankly staring heavenwards, Andrew shivered as his body attempting to generate heat and sense from the facts that lay before him. A stream of coughs thick with phlegm regularly filling his ears, low murmurs of conversations and the beeps, clicks and tap-tapping sounds of the small clinic were a constant reminder of where he was.
“Wewe kijana, ebu toka hapo kwa dirisha. Sioni kitabu yangu,” Move away from the window young man! I can’t read my book, screeched the chubby, red weave-sporting receptionist. She shooed him away with her left hand as the thumb and index fingers of her right hand were buried within the thick pages of a frayed paperback novel on whose cover was a flame-haired damsel in a yellow off-shoulder dress. The damsel delicately lay broken within the arms of a barrel-chested man with tight-fitting clothes and a pained expression.
As a rule, Mother Theresa of the Child Jesus Clinic of Hope did not switch on the reception lights until it was good and dark or when people couldn’t stand the buzzing mosquitoes any more. It could also be because the harsh florescent light did not dance over the cheap once-was-pink paint on the walls like the sun did. Rather, it raked across the flushed walls and burrowed deep into the chipped and flaky cement, uncovering shame and want.
“Kaa hapa,” Sit here, said a woman in a blue CWA scarf who’d sat next to the coughing man. Andrew hesitated a little before sinking into the empty spot next to her.
“Ni saa ngapi?” What is the time? he asked.
“Hawajakaa sana kijana. Usiwe na shaka,” Don’t be so worried young man, they haven’t stayed that long, she gently replied.
The pain from the contractions came in searing waves. They drew low growling sounds, thick with fear and desperation from the belly of Wangui’s being. She could not take it anymore. This was unlike anything she’d experienced. Worse than the first kiss of hot water as it washed over her tiny feet as a child of three. Even worse than when she slipped on the scalding waters and watched in horror as they washed over her. This was worse-far worse.
Panting, she looked up at the burly nurse tending to her with soft, methodical hands. The nurse worked on Wangui’s body with a calmness that spoke of years of experience. A wiry doctor in a faded lab coat, skin black as night, mind elsewhere, peeked under the sheet covering Wangui’s spread-eagle legs every so often. When the white hot crippling pain washed over her body once more, she heard the doctor and nurse urge her to push like never before. The sound of the rain roared in her ears as she let out an almighty guttural bellow to match it before she slipped into a cool blackness.
When Wangui came to, she laid loosely covered in a narrow metallic bed in a tasteless back room. Her tiny frame barely stretched across the bed that was softly lit by a corridor light that half spilled into the room. Groggily rubbing her hand over her belly, her eyes fluttered wide at the detection of a void. That was when she noticed that someone was sitting at the foot of her bed. The bed springs creaked as the figure she could barely make out rooted its bottom into the bed, a bundle cradled in the crook of its arms.
The figure spoke in a low voice, “Umezaa mtoto mzuri. Hata hapigi kelele.” You’ve given birth to a very good baby who barely makes noise.
“Asante. Mlete basi…Ni kijana ama msichana? Thank you. Bring the child to me…Is it a boy or a girl? asked Wangui as she weakly put out her arms towards the figure.
Cooing the sleeping form, the figure stood up from the foot of the bed and gently rocked the baby before its mother.
“Ana macho nzuri sana. Unajua alipotoka hivi alilia na kufungua macho kabisaaa? Ha ha ha, katoto kazuri haka! Your baby has beautiful eyes. Do you know that when the baby was born it opened its eyes really wide after it started crying? Ha ha ha what a good baby this is.
Wangui’s arms dropped from fatigue and she sat up in bed, motioning the figure rocking her baby just out of her reach to move closer to the bed.
“Lulu? Nurse Lulu? Ni wewe? Tafadhali leta mtoto nimnyonyeshe” Lulu? Nurse Lulu? Please bring the baby over for breastfeeding, asked Wangui, a hint of irritation tagging at the end of her words.
Nurse Lulu continued to rock the baby, singing to it and planting light kisses on its forehead.
“Unajua nilikuwa shule moja na Andrew? Baba yake ni mvuvi. Mama yake alifariki miaka tano zilizopita. Mjomba wake na shangazi wake wanaishi Mtwapa. Did you know that I was in the same school as Andrew? His father is a fisherman and his mother passed away five years ago. His uncle and aunt live in Mtwapa, said Nurse Lulu in a matter-of-fact voice, her eyes barely lifting from the child’s face.
Wangui grew silent, a wave of drowsiness tickling the back of her eyes. She blinked unfocusedly at Nurse Lulu, a sick feeling creeping up her spine.
“Pia wewe nakujua… Najua kuhusu Tumaini, Bobby na Mburu…Najua bado wako mjini…Uko tayari kuwacha uhusiano nao? Kwani nini umeweka hii mimba? Kwa nini unataka Andrew awe mzazi? UKO TAYARI KUWA MAMA? NA ANDREW BABA?” I also know about you. I know about Tumaini, Bobby and Mburu and that they are still in the city. Are you ready to forsake them? Why do this? Why keep this baby? Why make Andrew a father now? ARE YOU READY TO BE A MOTHER? IS ANDREW READY TO BE A FATHER? shouted Nurse Lulu as she began to shake the baby.
“Tig…rgew…fswl…I…,” stuttered Wangui, her tongue a dry slab of cement in her mouth.
As the baby began shrieking, Wangui fought to push aside the drowsiness and dumbness. Summoning all her will-power, Wangui let out an animalistic bellow to rival her previous efforts. She lunged but missed the still screaming and baby shaking Nurse Lulu. Raised voices and footsteps were heard as a bewildered Andrew pushed back Nurse Lulu and wrestled the screaming baby from her arms.
The rain had died down to a steady drizzle as Andrew wrapped his arms around Wangui and the baby in a bedroom far flung from the horrific clinic.
“Mko salama, eh? Wangui nisamehe. Nilipokupeleka wa Lulu…sikudhani…” Are you ok? Wangui please forgive me. When I took you to Lulu I thought she could help us… I never thought… apologized Andrew as he tightly hugged his beloved pair and silently vowed not to let go.
Why did she do this? wondered Wangui as she cradled her precious bundle protectively in her arms. They both silently watched raindrops slide down the window.
“Niwasaidie aje?” How can I help you? asked Nurse Lulu when the man with the phlegm-filled cough and his wife walked into the examination room.