Crowning glory. Or lack thereof.

Esmeralda. That was what Sally decided to call my hair six years ago, when we first discovered that there was definitely something wrong with it. It was her way, I guess, of telling me that despite the fact that mine wasn’t as long and thick and altogether glorious as hers, it was still beautiful. And when I tell you that her hair was thick, I mean untameably, awe-inspiringly, ridiculously thick. You could lose a chicken wing in there. The lady who used to come to school fortnightly to blowdry our hair lived in fear of the days that Sally would show up with a towel on her head and her shirt untucked and a bitch look on her face. And we didn’t blame her. In fact, we all resented Sally a little whenever she decided to get her hair blowdried because she was one of those girls who would be on that chair for a full forty minutes, because the blow dry, at maximum heat, couldn’t get through her hair. Read more

The thing about hope

Don’t you just love the smell of hope at the beginning of a new year?

Of course it’s already not as strong as it was last week, but who needs these negative vibes when we’ve all decided that 2017 will be about love and light and positive vibes only? We’re all about making ourselves better (even though we know that change is a gradual thing, and we will probably remain the same in very many ways for the better part, if not all, of the year), avoiding negativity (even though we know that life cannot be all good, humans cannot be all good, and we are most definitely not going to remain calm and sweet, soaked in an aura of serenity and love, when a matatu guy is trying to grab us by the arm and practically shove us into that his falling-apart contraption, which, by the way, is already full), and spreading good energy to all those around us (even though we know that some people can only be loved by the Lord, and those people we declared we were leaving in 2016— yes, those ones about whom we say ‘damu yangu na yake haiingiani’,  or ‘aki huyo roho ilimkataa tu’ ,those very ones—have also crossed over into 2017). Read more

Life cycle of a bookworm

I am 7 years old and at night I pull my net down and around my bed. My parents are very strict about this, malaria is real. I do not do it well but I am not worried because my father will be by later to fix it. I get under the covers with a heavy collection of children’s Bible Stories and my mother’s copy of Nairobi Law. I start with the law magazine because it is shorter and flip through the pages. I will not find out what the word jurisprudence means for another twelve years, and I can barely read it. But this doesn’t matter; I only want the words to sing me to sleep. Read more

Playing pool

I had never been there before. The one time I ventured to go to the recreational center in school it was with a friend. I had just seen Instagram photos of people who worked out and my goodness they looked good. So I thought, we have a gym here in school, why not check it out? Nyiri wanted to be more flexible, to be able to do splits… stuff like that. So we went.

We never went back.

I don’t know why she didn’t go back. I didn’t because I didn’t like look in the gym instructor’s eye. And also because the place was really tiny; you couldn’t look down to tie your laces without your ass being in some burly guy’s face. No way. Read more

When the words don’t come

I have a bad habit of starting new projects every time I get high on feelings and decide that I need a creative outlet. I never finish them. In fact sometimes, I only get the first bit done. The first article, the first rant, the first poem, the first story. I don’t know what keeps me from going on, developing these projects further. I don’t know why I can never finish. Read more

Being Kenyan

Last Sunday, in church, we sang the national anthem at the end of the sermon. The pastor had just delivered this beautiful message about how Kenya belongs to God; how no matter what valleys we have gone through, God is the one who has lifted us up out of them. It was a message of love, peace and unity and we were all there nodding and feeling the patriotism rising within us. You know how in American movies whenever somebody is displaying a love for their country their flag suddenly appears behind that person and flutters dramatically in the background as patriotic-sounding music comes on? That was kind of what happened to us as towards the end of the service. And then the anthem. Read more

Girls need girls

I remember being 13 years old, in Class Seven and in boarding school for the first time. I remember retiring at night to my metal bed in Mississippi Dorm and laughing with my cube mates till House Mother stalked in, annoyed and yelling, with a kitambaa tied around her head. I remember Emma, the lovely, lively girl I shared the double-decker with; I had the upper bed and she took the lower. I remember walking into her class sometimes- she was a Class Eight- and she would look up and say, “Decker mate!” Every time. And I would smile and feel shy because then her classmates would look at me and I wasn’t sure whether I liked the attention or not. Read more

We are all going to die someday

We are all going to die someday.

It is 8 pm and I stare at nothing in particular. I am on my bed, going over the events of the day, and my train of thought has its last stop here: we are all going to die someday.

I was to meet Chirie at about 10 am. I hadn’t seen her in a while and we had plans to meet for breakfast in Westlands. Such a sophisticated lifestyle, yes? Meeting someone for breakfast is even fancier than doing brunch, I think. It immediately makes you sound busier, of consequence. Like your days are full of business meetings, charity work, and corporate events where you get to cut the ribbon with the huge scissors and officially open the big fancy building that will change the economic landscape of the country. World-changing stuff. Like you have names such as Caroline Mutoko and Manu Chandaria in your contact list and you can only fit someone into breakfast because the more conventional meal times of your day are already booked solid for the next two weeks. Read more

Mortality

I couldn’t help but stare at him.

My phone was in my right hand, the screen displaying my chat list on Whatsapp. I mindlessly scrolled up and down, trying to look occupied. It was a lousy attempt at being covert about my staring- tact has never been my most admirable quality- and it wouldn’t take long for anybody who might have been watching me to notice that I was either squint-eyed or more interested in the man sitting to my left than in my phone. Read more

Maybe we don’t need new names

For the earlier parts of my life I had two identities, two names.

The first was ‘Mish’, which is what my family called me. It was…familiar. My parents called me this. My siblings called me this. A large number of our numerous relatives called me this. Every house help that we had called me this. Mish was a girl. An ordinary girl. She liked to eat sausages and ice cream. No, not together. She enjoyed going to town with her family on Saturday mornings when her parents had errands to run. She complained and moped when, after those errands, they would pass by Kenchic on their way home and in response to requests for chips and chicken, her mother would say ‘Kuna ugali kwa nyumba’. She loved watching TV. She made up games with her younger brother and sometimes- many times- fought with him. Mostly over the remote. And who got the bigger half when they had to split a queencake. An ordinary girl. Read more