She went straight into the bedroom and picked the few clothes I had and threw them right on my face. I held to as many as I could and picked the ones that now lay on her “precious” grey carpet. She furiously pushed me out of the door like a stray dog. For the first time in a long time, tears rolled down my cheeks in full sight of everyone who had gathered to witness the drama. That was the lowest level of humiliation I had ever been exposed to in my entire life. My brother’s wife had managed to break my heart. It was at 6:27pm. My own dear blood brother was in the sitting room but he dared not say a word.
My watery eyes met with my brother’s just when this rude and inconsiderate woman was closing the door. He immediately looked away. I called to him, “Bro, usiniache! Ananifukuza. Bro, ni mimi…” [Literal translation: Brother, don’t leave me. She is chasing me away. Brother, it is me…]
He didn’t respond.
He didn’t come to my rescue.
He abandoned me. Yet, it is him I loved most.
I instantly understood that he had to make a choice between losing me or losing his wife and his three children. The only mistake I had done was to “delay” getting a job for just 2 months. She had noticed that it was getting hard for me to find employment and I was seemingly becoming a burden to her. I had asked my brother to fix me in one of the many construction sites that he managed. I had even requested his wife to introduce me into “Mitumba [second-hand clothes]” business. At the time, she owned a warehouse packed of Mitumba bails from all over the world. All I wanted was her to advance me one bail on credit and I would strive to sell the clothes and refund her in due course.
The decision to chase me away that day was as a result of one simple thing. She had commanded me to start cooking as soon as I finished washing utensils. To save on time, I started boiling water for ugali as I washed the few remaining utensils. I don’t know how and why Jemo [my 6-year-old nephew] decided to touch the sufuria. The half boiled water poured on his body from nearly the stomach to his feet. He yelled and cried like one who had been shot several times.
Susan came running and found her pestered son on the floor sprawling and doing all manner of theatrics. I had touched the water. It wasn’t that hot!
Either way, all hell broke loose. She accused me of intending to kill her precious child. That’s how I found myself out. She declared that she had had enough of my stupidity.
The neighbours came out to see the villain. They found me picking up some of the clothes that had fallen.
Those were the days when plastic bags were widely used. I borrowed one, a green “juala” and threw my staff in and walked away. I took Argwings Godhek road after branching from Chaka road near YAYA Centre and kept walking. I came to my senses when I hit Congo, Kawangware.
I had no money, no food and nowhere to sleep even for the night. I waited for shops to close and followed some street children to a lonely corner, on the pavement of a supermarket. I gave them 3 t-shirts in exchange of a sweater. I coiled myself after tying the plastic to my left leg and sat to think of my next move.
My brother, Malala and I, were raised under the most terrible poverty. We lived in a two roomed mud house that kept warning us of falling. One of the rooms belonged to our parents and doubled as a store for food, utensils, clothes and other things. We slept in the other room, on a dirty old mattress that had been donated to us by an uncle who had since moved to Migori. We shared a thin emaciated blanket that had about 4 holes and thousands of bedbugs that sucked every inch of our bodies.
My father had saved for several months just to get enough money to buy two hens which had chicks and occupied one corner. We also had a small goat called Masengenye. Occasionally, during cold days, the goat found a way of sharing our bed. We had to wake up each morning to sweep our room before going out to look for food because it doubled up as a kitchen and a sitting room during the day.
It was careless to think of breakfast.
At least not us.
We knew our poverty too well. However, in case we cooked ugali for supper, we could put some water in the sufuria and keep it safely. The crumps would have come out by morning. If that is not breakfast, then, we should go back in time and redefine it.
School was not a priority; being alive was more important to us. We had to find food. We spent our mornings working in people’s farms or houses. We were given food as payment, often maize or beans.
I wouldn’t have eaten a banana if I ever found one, without sharing it with my brother. I didn’t eat unless he ate. When he cried, I cried. When he laughed, I laughed. When he fought, I fought more even daring to kill.
We took care of each other. We had each other’s backs. I loved my brother too much! I still do.
But the government became serious about school and sent our heartless chief to ensure we were in school. Yes, we attended Kaitamosi Primary School after being whipped severely, almost every week by this domineering, ape-like chief. Nkt, I hated him….and yes, we studied.
We passed our exams because we were just curious. Mostly because teachers often caned us as though they wanted us dead. It helped. My brother was ahead of me in school by 3 years and he was sharper. He passed his KCPE exams and almost immediately, an uncle of ours took him to oversee his construction business and to manage his workers. Yet, he could have just paid his secondary fees without breaking a sweat.
I remained in the village for some years. Honestly, it was a blessing for us when he got the job. He built our parents a better house after just 2 years. I momentarily inherited our old wagon but still shared it with our flock [we had bought more hens, goats and added sheep.] We were becoming “rich”!
One Sunday afternoon, I saw a huge Mamacita entering our compound with my brother. I call her a Mamacita because of the careless way she made her chest twins shake. They must have contained a lot of milk. I quickly estimated and settled at around 120kgs, her body weight. She was well fed.
3 young boys walked tiredly beside her licking ice creams. They seemed not to care about any other thing in the world except the juicy, white ice cream they licked. I wanted it! Their stomachs were too big for boys of their age.
I jumped up in ecstasy and met my brother in mid-air. I happily hugged him and carried him momentarily. He had grown browner and wore expensive clothes and a unique perfume complimented his look.
When I looked at my tattered shorts that I had made by cutting an old trouser, I became shy. Years of not wearing shoes had also ensured that there were huge cracks on my heels. The shirt I was wearing was washed, yes, but it evidently told the story of the sufferings of the wearer. I had changed its collar twice. I felt inferior.
My brother introduced the Mamacita, as Susan, his wife. After the usual pleasantries, I brought out two stools for them to seat on. The boys would have to rest on grass. My parents came just as I was serving them “strong tea” with boiled bananas. They were lucky the neighbor agreed to share some sugar.
Susan sneered at the site of our compound. She didn’t even eat. She wasn’t interested in engaging our parents who struggled to communicate in Swahili; they might have replaced “sh” with “s” like Samba instead of Shamba or Sule instead of Shule.
I captured her loose tongue when she said that the food looked dirty. She didn’t trust our ugali which had been served with mala milk.
She refused to continue staying. She didn’t bother to even get into our parents’ house. She feigned sickness and demanded to go…
My brother obliged and I also travelled with them.
Folks, I saw the eyes of Susan when we boarded the bus to Nairobi from our home centre Wath Ong’er-Homabay county. There was something in them. Some strange coldness that oozed hate….
It is until we sat to eat that evening that her hatred began to manifest openly. She served me first and told me to eat from the kitchen. I quickly noticed that my food was way too small compared to the huge amounts that had been cooked and lazily laid on the table. Consequently, in her serving, she uniquely forgot to add some fish or the brown chicken that kept smiling at me. I only got a slice of ugali and manage [African Nightshade]. My brother wasn’t around, he had an appointment with his doctor. On day one, I washed utensils. I am not complaining but, it is customary to excuse visitors on the first day even by pretense…. just to give them time to settle. Not me. As I bathed the plates in warm water, separating fish and chicken bones from the utensils, I began wondering why this Mamacita murderously hated me.
I was in for more shock!
I was awakened up early the next day to help in the kitchen. Soon, I found myself under tables dry cleaning them. I was spreading beds after the occupants had had enough fill of sleep. Yes, I fed and cleaned after the two Chiwawa. It is true, I am the one who washed clothes and any other thing that needed to be washed.
At first, I didn’t complain because I was used to hard life. I grew up suffering. It wasn’t so strange to me. Even though the meals I ate were not enough, I figured out that at least I had food and a better place to live.
Somehow I expected to have a better life in my brother’s house. I dared to hope!
My brother’s job had put him in a very lucrative financial position. He lived at Dennis Pritt, Kilimani, in a very beautiful 3-bedroom house in apartments called Royal Tuli. They are near the round-about of Oloitok tok as you head towards Westlands.
I always engaged him in conversations when he got home. Twice I asked him for some little money to buy clothes and some shoes. He did give me but ensured his wife didn’t know. I had asked him if he feared her; his response was, “Hawa wamama wako na mambo mengi.” [Translated: These women are something else]
What pained me most is his silence each time Susan mistreated me. Even when he openly saw it!
Did I expect too much from my brother?
It became worse living with this family. There are times that I could go out to buy roasted maize to fill gaps in my stomach even after having a meal. I was working too much but eating too little. She insisted that I sleep on the floor, and leave the beds for the young ones. There were 3 beds for the kids. I thought that 2 of them could share one or I could share one bed with one of my nephews. What was I thinking! Not in that house. She bought bar soaps for clothes and for my shower. I wasn’t allowed to use the fancy and expensive ones.
What annoyed me most was the fact that she complained of my long calls and each time she saw me leave the toilet, she complained that it had a bitter, odd and disagreeable smell. She had to disinfect the toilet almost each time I used it. This particular act hurt me terribly.
When she finally chased me out, my dear brother never bothered to look for me.
I know it because the next day, I went back for a particular pair of shorts that had my money. I knocked on the door and one of the boys opened. I told him what I wanted. The parents inquired who it was….and the boy informed them. None came to the door. None spoke to me. I didn’t even enter the house. I only went back to that haunted house because I badly needed the money and in spite of the shame I had endured, I never had any options.
The boy handed me the shorts and I walked away. I swore two things on that day; I wouldn’t be poor and I wouldn’t return to that house, dead or alive.
I had decided never to associate with my brother again. It is him I blamed. He had been bewitched.
I still had my other clothes in the nylon bag. It is the only belonging I had. From that cursed house, I went straight to Mike. He is one of the junior supervisors who frequented my brother’s house with progress reports. I told him that my brother had sent me to him for a job. He didn’t hesitate. Though, I had to start from the lowest position…. just like everyone else.
I was assigned in the cement section. I carried at least 100 bags each day and mixed ballast. I gave the work all my heart. For 9 months, I woke up at 5:00am and trekked to Ngong road from my residence, Kawangware 56. I worked the entire day being afforded only a 40-minute lunch break.
I didn’t see my brother again. However, I managed to send my parents some little money each month. I also ensured that I spoke with them weekly. They were managing well with the little that I would afford. I was also strictly saving Kshs. 50 each day. I intended to construct a better house for myself in the village. I was also falling in love with a lady I lovingly called Nyathina. I wanted us to settle down sooner.
My plans were thwarted on a Tuesday morning at around 10 am. It is Mike who informed me that my brother had been stabbed near the neck by his wife and had been rushed to Nairobi hospital. She had aimed for the neck but missed it by few inches. Thinking that she had killed him in his sleep, she packed all the valuables in the house, cleaned his accounts and eloped.
I dropped the spade I had and rushed to the hospital. I might have forgotten to change my dirty Mjengo clothes. On reaching the hospital, I found my only brother bound to a bed, unable to move. I lost my energy. I lost myself.
The nurse who was attending him told me to dry my tears. I didn’t. I wouldn’t have managed to stop all those tears. Who stops rivers?
I went into my Mshwari account and cleared it of all my savings. I even added some loan top-up to help me pay his medical bill. It wasn’t enough but then, I had a gas, a bed, a mattress and some little house hold staff I had bought. I was going to sell everything, including my clothes.
I saw his eyes open.
I came closer and asked him, “bro, how are you feeling now?”
He responded, “forgive me bro. forgive me.”
I placed my hand on his forehead and told him, “bro, I will always love you.”
That was 5 months and 3 days ago.
Well, my brother left the hospital safely. But, my uncle couldn’t take him back to the job position he had occupied. It is Mike, his junior who secretly employed him to work besides me, carrying cement and mixing ballast.
We didn’t give up our search for Susan and only recently, I was informed by one of our friends that she was living in Githurai, Macheda. So, I passed by in the evening with my informant only to find out that she was lavishly living in a well fenced stand-alone Victorian house. I heard the familiar voice of my nephews. I left. For one week, I secretly passed by at night just to learn one or two about Susan’s current life. I knew where she buys her food, when she comes back home, who she interacts with and at what time she sleeps, amongst other personal staff. For instance, I saw her kiss a thin brown man just outside her gate. Their lips got stuck to each other for about 5 minutes. Then, the kids came back after about 20 minutes. They must have been forcefully exiled for a few hours. Susan has no watchman. She sleeps at around 9:45pm for that’s when she switches off her lights. My reconnaissance has prepared me. I know her weakness; I know the door she doesn’t close.
As I write this piece, know that it is 8:27pm, Monday, 13th April 2009. I am ready to officially visit Susan.
Don’t trust everything you hear about me in the press.
You now know why I had to do this….