I woke up today and my first thought was Puzzle P. What is he doing? Where is he going? Who is he hiding behind his dimpled face? I woke up to sniffles from the bathroom; my mother was crying again. When I buried my face inside my pillow case, I was trying to bury something else. My eyes were shut from heartache thinking, what could I have done again? It could not be that this time she was crying because of me, my stupid brain with its stupid dares or about all my stupid ways in which I choose to live. It wasn't.
I woke up with a toothache, again. My molar had blackened because everyday after school, I used to pass by a woman I called Mama Chapo and she'd give me one sukari nguru, basically a very sweet dark sugar cube made from sugarcane juice, to devour on my way home. She called me Madam president. "Haka kanajua mambo mingi sana haka. I wouldn't be surprised if all that knowledge makes her president one day," she'd once told her customers seated at her kibanda as she served them food. "Atleast kakifika huko kakumbuke mama chapo kasaidie watoto wangu," she continued. All I could think about was sukari nguru and whether or not I should help her serve the customers so I can get my sukari nguru faster.
So when uncle J offered to buy me my last piece of heavenly sugary goodness, I teared a little. This is what true love must look like. I marked it for future reference. He reached for some change in his shirt pocket and his hand was quickly shooed off by my mum, who was sitting on the passenger seat beside him as he drove us to the dentist. All she gave him was a look, and both his hands were back on the steering wheel. "Sorry kid," he said as he gave me a quick glance on the rear view mirror.
"Everyday, sukari nguru! You better read and become a doctor so you can do these expensive treatments yourself!" Mother did not need to give me any look, her voice was all I needed to shake me like a fish on a hook. Oh, did I not mention that was my third trip to the dentist? Sukari nguru bae.
Puzzle P is a busy bee. I wonder what a nineteen year old is so busy doing. I grab my phone from the bedside, turn the airplane mode off and text him.
'Hey you. Wishing you a productive day. Don't think about me too much.'
In the kitchen, mother joins me as I place some toast on our plates. Normally, we sit opposite each other at our tiny red round dining table. Today, she drags her chair and pulls it beside me. Her eyes are still red but she is smiling. Silently, we eat our breakfast. I catch her gazing at me a number of times and giving me what appears to be a pitiful smile before continuing to sip her tea. I can feel something coming, she is gathering the energy to push it out. Mostly, tea is the part of breakfast she's concentrated on. The toast she eats a quarter way. As I get up to clear the table, she sits me down. Again with that pitiful smile.
"I need to talk to you about your father," she begins.
"Atleast if she can't have the sukari nguru let me buy her some chicken. Chicken sounds good on any day at any place in any situation. Right kid?" I nodded. Mother smiled. She never admitted it, but Uncle J always left her spirits high because he himself was high on life; social, fun, loved by all. The kind of uncle who'd be happy to spend the day with your child as you spent the day in the spa taking care of your inner child.
The chicken was hard to chew with my toothache but it's chicken so I finished it and smiled in my pain and with no regrets. With grease all over my face, I thanked uncle J when mother excused herself to the washroom and he gave me Ksh 3,000 to hand over to her when she got back plus Ksh 100 of my very own to keep! You can imagine the excitement at ten years old. Sukari nguru bae.
Last time I checked, father is still in hospital. God forgive me for saying this, but I wish what he has was pneumonia or heck, even cancer. I wish we could see what was eating him up as it was eating him up. What landed him in hospital about two months ago was that he was found in the city market roaming around in his boxers, again. The other time he was found collecting garbage at the town's disposal point, but this time, he had blood all over his hands and face. No one knows whose blood it is, or what, but the doctors confirmed it isn't his. Another time he tried to hang himself in the living room but later on, he could not remember doing it. He never remembers anything when they bring him back from the mental institutions. One day, he won't remember us and everytime I tell my mum this, I am met with a slap. "Do not curse your father!" says mother, and I shut up.
"Is father dead?" I abruptly ask. I wish I could see what happens inside his brain when he drinks, what triggers the mad man in him, what this pathogen is and how to fix it. Mother quickly reassures me that he is doing well and will be released in a few days time, but how long will he last this time? Will this be when he will come home to a bunch of strangers faces or will that be the next time he goes mad again?
"Your father..." mother begins, shifting slightly in her chair.
She smiles and takes another sip of her ginger tea.
When mother came back from the washroom, I handed her the money. "It's about time," is all she said, and both her and Uncle J burst into a huge laughter. I knew that they give candy at the dentist after braving one out, so when I smiled with them, I was thinking about my win for later.
An hour or so later and I was laid back on the dentist's chair. He had a needle in his hand which he was meant to inject into my gum. At that moment, mother took my little hand and kissed it, and everything felt like it would be okay. Still, I was terrified and refused to let that steel come anywhere near my body. When mother called in Uncle J to help calm me down, he bent over and whispered in my ear, "If you take that medicine the doctor wants to give you, I'll give you another one hundread shillings."
I made the calculations in my head and two hundread shillings amounted to a whole lot of sukari nguru considering each was going for one shilling. Two hundread sukari ngurus? Let's do this doc! Inject the gum and make it quick.
Before mother continues, my phone beeps with an incoming message. It could be another one of the many random messages from my network reminding me about the offer of the day, or it could be Puzzle P. I grab it to have a quick glance and guess who it is? Puzzle bloody P. The text reads, 'Please stop switching your phone off at night. You have no idea how much I need to hear your voice before I sleep. I'll call you later in the day. And I'm missing you already. See you soon."
Ugh, I'm smiling silly, wondering how soon I can start calling him babe, before I remember that mother is here eyeing down my silly smiling face. Her arms are folded over her chest. I apologize and place the phone back on the table. "It's that mysterious boy you've been seeing, right?" but I don't answer. Instead, I avert my eyes from hers. She clears her throat.
"Who do you think your father is?" she suddenly blurts out after a moment of silence. "You know that me and daddy got married when you were three, right?" and I simply nod my head. "Are you not curious about your real dad?"
"Weren't you two together before then?" I swallow a lump down my throat, she flashes me her pitiful smile.
"You're turning eighteen in a few months and at that point, you'll have to start making some decisions about the direction of your life, including whether or not you want to reconnect with your real father. But, to answer your question, no. I had you before I met daddy."
Perhaps deep down I did know, because my reaction to this news is underwhelming to say the least. When mother asks if I'm okay, I nod and ask her to continue. I am curious, but not eager, because my father is in hospital and is coming back home to us in a few days.
June 15th 2009
The irony of going to the dentist because of a cavity and coming out with a lollipop in my hand baffled me, but excited me more. Uncle J kept his promise and slipped me a hundread shilling note when we were heading back to the car.
When we arrived back home, he parked the car by the fence and begun conversing with mother. Occasionally, he'd glance back at me and I'd pretend to be asleep, but I wasn't even listening in on their conversation. I was talking to God. By then, the stars had dotted the sky and when I looked up at the infinite number of celestial winks, my tiny brain told me that there must be more than one God up there so if one doesn't hear me, perhaps he was already asleep so another might, maybe one who's woken up to go pee. What I asked from God was a very simple but technically complicated request. With the two hundread shillings clutched in my hand, and my teary eyes facing the Gods, I said, "I wish Uncle J was my dad."
June 17th 2017
You know how when you're little and every male grown up is Uncle so and so while the females are aunties? This small harmless culture spiraled outwards with claws aimed at my heart, my future relationships, my ability to express love. All this time I had looked up to Uncle J as daddy number two, yet all the while it was his blood that I carried in my veins.
"Uncle J is your real father," mother says, followed by a big exhale. "Do you have any questions?" she continues and I shake my head. It's not that I don't have any questions, it's just that I can't trust anything else you tell me in regards to this situation because if you can lie to me with a straight face for eighteen years, then you can lie now too if it seems convenient for you. You can lie now then come to hurt me later with the truth. Well, I neither want the lies nor the truth. I never said any of this. When all you might be is rude, be silent instead.
She gets up from her chair and says, "If you have any questions, let me know." I nod and she disappears down the hallway. What can I ask when Uncle J has his own children to love, his own blood who he's taken care of. Why was I the exception to fatherly love? Does cousin Kate already know she is my half-sister? Must all good things come to an end on earth?
What I want is the bull's heart open for me to try and love. What I want is to open up my own heart for butterflies to enter and never leave. What I want is to see my busy bee, let all this out to him, and let him make honey out of the pain inside me. My fake father is a mad man in hospital. My uncle is my real father. I look too much like my mother to doubt her. What about my there after? What will this hole dug unearth, or bury? What will I become after a truth like that? What more is there to learn?