Steve – Kawira Mwirichia

It was Steve’s idea: he’s the one who suggested it.

 

 

Steve looked over at Ted with that impishly defiant smile of his and said “It’s only bitches that break car windows to get back at a lover, but us? Well, we show those sons of bitches exactly what they are missing…”

Ted looked up from the bed and smiled half-heartedly: he still wasn’t sure about all this. Steve was setting up the video camera a few steps away from the bed, (jokingly?) searching for the right lighting that would make his body look statuesque. What was it that Steve had said earlier? The most humane approach to revenge is to take the task up yourself: leaving it to the gods, with their abundant resources and even vaster imagination, would mean severe repercussions to the one who wronged you. So severe, in fact, it called upon us human beings to muster up enough compassion to seek out our own measures of retribution against the guilty party. Yes, those were Steve’s thoughts on the matter.

Steve continued to push this and that toggle on the camera, trying to focus on Ted’s amazing body. He had never seen a man as gorgeous as Ted: and naked, he was even more stunning. His body was unpretentiously athletic, and the tufts of hair that accentuated his body only added to that natural appeal. The camera lens travelled lower and lingered between Ted’s legs. Steve was convinced that this man was created to taunt, if not tempt, all things male in this world with his masculinity. They shouldn’t waste anymore time, the old bag would be back in two hours time and they needed to be done by then.

 

 

Ted was the one on top. And Steve liked it from behind. However, Ted still wasn’t able to fully get into it: he was still thinking of John, the one Steve would forever refer to as ‘the old bag’. Ted had frozen over the day he finally realized John had been doing nothing but taking advantage of him: that no, he had never been loved, and even worse, never been respected by that man. He could still remember John’s friend laughing at him out at the parking lot. The laugh still cut so deep now, and Ted couldn’t believe how foolish he had been with John: how naive, and trusting, and vulnerable, and open… and what did he get in return?

Steve grunted in pain. Ted had begun to get rough with him and had pushed his head down into the pillow while ploughing him even harder.

Ted’s eyes closed and his body got hotter with rage: that bastard. Was it all a lie? The friend, seeing Ted coming John’s way then, had whispered loud enough for Ted to hear: hey, John! Here comes that little bitch of yours. Looks like she’s in heat too. And they’d both laughed at him. But Ted hadn’t seen it like that at that time; he had thought John was just kidding. He loved him after all, didn’t he? So he had grinned back and holding John’s gaze, asked:

Am I your bitch?

No you’re not, baby: I am. Steve’s reply was automatic, but Ted did not hear it. He didn’t even know that he had asked that out loud.

 

 

Ted had begun to let go: unravelling fast, with each stroke bringing him closer to that feeling of complete freefall, so that John was far away now; a figment of his imagination. That collected somewhere at the back of his eyelids and exploded into a bright white light. A gentle breeze swept over his body and hovered above his head as a soothing hum. His entire body responded to it: stretching itself upwards and raising his head as if straining to hear it. A soft smile broke upon his face and his soul sought to burst out of his flesh. It seemed as if heaven itself was calling out for him and his mouth opened in quiet awe:

I’m coming.

 

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Jacarandas At Night – Raphael Kariuki

JACARANDAS AT NIGHT

South B, an hour and a half to midnight. Even the dust seems asleep. At the corner at the shopping center, waiting for the last matatus to town. With two women near the shop, a man leaning on a taxi cab under amber street light. The wines-and-spirits shop across the road smells of ill repute. Its metal door closes, with some people still inside drinking at the counter.

A matatu comes around the corner. A 14-seater with a dark interior made seedier by pale blue neon lighting. I jump in, followed by the man who’d been leaning on the taxi. After some hesitation (overcome by the conductor’s persuasion) the two women get in too. A few stops down the road through the main South B shopping center and the mat is full enough.

I’m seated at the back, at the right hand corner. It smells faintly of brandy. I will never judge the smelly again, I think, as I screw the top back on the little Viceroy bottle. Encouraged, probably, a man from one of the middle seats joins me at the back and takes out his stash of veve. The mat stops somewhere near Mata Hospital. A thug-looking boy who could have been 20 gets in, bringing a broody menace with him. He seats his dark self between me and veveman. I ignore them both, pay my fare and spend my journey enjoying the amber-lit scenes of this Nairobi night, soft and stark at the same time.

9 10 11 minutes later we are in town, in the shadowy valley between Gill House and the adjacent building. As the passengers alight I wonder about the two women. I am the last one out of the dark matatu. As I cross a shadowy street towards the better lit Kenya Cinema side I reflect on a minor incident a few seconds earlier. I think veveman and the tough-looking boy had had a quarrel, though they had somehow managed to keep it silent. All I remember was the younger one talking in a tough, street-wise tone to the conductor and driver about the other, who had by now disappeared into the shadows.

On the broken pavements and dirty tarmacs.

Pale. Dead. Still beautiful. Fading.

Most crushed but many still fresh.  Some in the many muddy pools, floating solemnly across the golden reflections of overhead lights. In-between the light poles, the trees, swaying gently in subtle currents, letting go.

Jacarandas.

A pale purple flower lands noiselessly on the pavement block in front of me.  Like a last breath.  I walk on. I am at the circle outside The Hilton, where a ring of beautiful Jacaranda trees encircles a small recreational space. The ring of Jacarandas is in turn encircled by a wide concrete pavement whose inner circumference is outlined by adjoined concrete benches. During the day, these benches are packed full of people, mostly men, always drab and usually holding large envelops and tired bags. I have always assumed them to be the desperate unemployed. The ones at Jeevanjee look worse.

At this time of the night, there are only one or two scattered souls on the benches. I trudge along on the purple carpet, enjoying the sight of all the fallen flowers. They look like given-up ghosts, and yet there is something most pleasant about them.

Towards the exit of the concrete circle, I come across 3 street boys seated together on a bench. They look between 7 and 10 years old. There is something about them. Their expressions. These type of boys usually look different during the day. Bright, clever, mischievous, dangerous, precociously malevolent. At work. Now they look… retired. Not quite at ease, they seem to need each other for some type of comfort as they look at the city go to sleep. These boys don’t look “bad”. I hesitate to say they appear sad or scared, but they certainly have this docility about them. They look hungry too. I have some extra take-away pilau in my my bag. I hope it’s enough.

Walking on under the amber lights of Moi Avenue, something gnaws on the mind.

This dark stillness. There is something ill about it. Violence. Or the threat of it. Lurks in the alleys, in the night matatus, in the drinking dens, under the trees. There was a clear flicker of fear in those young eyes when I first addressed them, confirmed by their hesitant initial response to my approach.

Still, it’s a beautiful city at night. The street lights play strikingly on the sharp angles of the buildings, the pavements and the roads. The sharp light-and-dark contrasts would make a maker of noir films, I imagine. And the little evergreen trees planted along many streets add something else to the composition, tenderness to the grime.

Magical. Natural Mystics. The Jacarandas around Jeevanjee gardens, blessing the rough pavement and the grass in the dark, before the return of the desperate people of the mornings and afternoons.

A perfect urban night shot.  A narrow, shady alley bordered by old, sheer walls, between the old building that houses Coco’s Lounge and the next one, which contains a tyre dealership. The alley is lit by a dim street light on this end, and by the lights of Koinange street at the other. The result is a picturesque city canyon that could have been in Sin City, only that it looks even better for being real. It looks like a mystery, like a place where interesting things happen. Hardy green plants growing in the cracks, twisted gutters creeping down the walls, and an almost perfect sense of symmetrical perspective make this back street most fascinating to me.

A quarter hour later I am walking down Kijabe Street. Past the prolific Jacarandas outside the Norfolk, pas the lone shedder next to the bright street light opposite the Kameme Radio offices, past door after door after Indian business premises, to the welcomingly familiar door to my cave.

Winkers – Ray Mwihaki

WINKERS
Flashing lights,
Silhouettes on walls,
Gyrating bodies
Each part heading its own way
Let the music play louder!

Old folk seated,
This lady the ony young
Itching for a dance
Each attempt, to the washroom leading
Let the liquer flow!

On the dance, a couple
Getting down with the flow
Every step more sensual
Not wanting to be apart
Let the hormones flare!

At the counter,
Meet lonely hearts
Wallowing in their misery
Singing their sorrow away
Filling their hearts’ void
Let the karaoke last!

At last the host
Waiting her glass to toast
The end of a long day
Each song drawing reality closer
In the end, the toast
The winkers!

raysattic.wordpress.com/

Spilled and Dried Black Sugarless Tea – Ndemange Mutuku

A single glance from across the room sends me searching the floor for pennies. I cannot meet
her gaze. And yet she does not relent.

Unease hangs in the air- as does a sickly bitter scent. The gold sun pours into the room from
a window at the end of the hall washing over the floor in a fiery flood of gilded light. Except
for the goings-in and comings-out of the hefty white-dressed and blue-sweatered nurses (I
think they call them matrons) with their endless lamentations, the hallway is shrouded in
silence. There are four of us seated there. And I cannot meet her gaze.

‘Panua miguu Mama’. I wince. In my head I cannot help but think that maybe the doctors
should exercise a little bit more decorum. Or that maybe the walls should be a little bit
thicker. But then it strikes me that here, in this secluded part of the hospital, in Clinic 66, I am
the stranger. Two of the ladies continue their animated conversation in not-so-hushed tones. I
cannot tell what they are talking about. My mind is probably still struggling to come to terms
with this new place and the experience of it. Her curious stare still seemingly struggles to
pierce my intentions. And I cannot meet her gaze.

The floor offers up no pennies. Instead, dark islands the colour of spilled and dried black
sugarless tea dot the golden sea of light. The ‘Mama’ walks out of the examination room
accompanied by one of the hefty nurses. My eyes unconsciously track her footsteps. Actually,
what my eyes watch is the floor where her last step was as she walks. It is dry, and so my
guess is that she is here for a follow-up visit. Clinic 66 caters for women with vesico-vaginal
fistulae, a condition where a hole forms between the urinary bladder and the vagina. That
explains the sickly bitter scent and the spilled and dried sugarless black tea islands.

I briefly attempt to look in her direction. I am still evasive of her gaze though. I am convinced
that if our eyes met, her curiosity about what a lad my age is doing in this secluded and
exclusive part of the hospital would be met only by an empty stare. Or perhaps pity. And I
do not think it is pity she hopes to see. I do not think pity is what any of the women sitting
in the hallway with me wishes to see. They have no doubt suffered it all. I read somewhere
that sometimes affected women would rather desert their husbands than let them in on their
suffering. And with good reason I suppose. Shame can drive one mad. One cannot help but
imagine what embarrassment a problem so obvious about something so private and taboo to
the African would bring to the sufferer. Women will talk. Men will whisper as they sit under
trees at evening to roast. Children will eagerly gather the crumbs and leftovers of the tall tales
and the gossip. They will munch on them heartily… And what pain it will bring when the
insults are hurled from the mouths of babes. So I cannot return her gaze. I cannot return it if
all I have to offer is pity.

Her son walks in. Her face brightens. He’s probably in his late twenties. Her face barely
betrays the years she has faced though. Quickly, their conversation evolves from customary
greeting (I guess) to a very animated discussion. I cannot tell what they are saying. But the
melody in the words as they utter them is bewitching. Suddenly the golden sea washes over
the spilled and dried black sugarless tea islands and a gentle breeze clears the sickly bitter
smell. She is smiling. Her hands are waving as she describes what is probably the wonder of

being in so large a hospital. Or maybe she is just painting a vivid picture of the hefty white-
dressed and blue-sweatered nurses. I will never tell. And perhaps I hope I never do. The
language may lose its music and mystique. As a clueless observer, at least I can fill in the
blanks with my romantic ideals. All I know is that she is smiling. There is life in her. And the
efforts of the staff at Clinic 66 have a lot to do with it.

Rain – Rachel Mwihaki

RAIN
Pre-rain storm!
Commotion of lonely hearts
Hurdling together, heat they gather
Confusion!
Joy and sadness,
Hand in hand they waltz
In tune of rain about!

Lonely strides, she walks by
Rain calming the spirit
Disguising an escaping tear
Soft drizzle kissing skin
Yet, at each stride
Sadness overwhelms

Lightning strikes
She pauses,
Not an umbrella to keep dry
Not a cardigan, warmth to keep
Feet continue to shuffle
Away from the following gaze.

Quick steps
Through the drops, light escapes
Peace and satisfaction
Shelter beneath a huge brolly
Gripped so tight to a near break
Controlling his smile,
Each step!

Joy meets sadness,
An umbrella they share
More lie sharing the joy
Joy wipes the tear
Escaping her eye
Bringing a smile in response.

Rain pours
Content with its results
Storms and lightning cheer
The end of sadness
Applauding shared joy
Peace from the rain.