To the few loyal cordial readers, I’m aware I didn’t post last week. I won’t just go on and assume it never happened and you’re left wondering, “Is this ninja here really going to ignore what he did?” I don’t want it to be awkward, the pretending it never happened. You know, like when you fart in front of a bird you’re trying to impress. I want us to laugh about the fart. So, as the classic Kenyan I am, I have a reason. I was in shags. And technically, I’ve been posting here.
Have you been to shags at this time of year? Have you really? And by shags I mean somewhere in the countryside. Not somewhere in a lavish Kitusuru home where your grandparents live. I don’t mean that shags. I mean somewhere that’s greener than an obsessed ex. Somewhere they still use Nokia 1110s proudly, where the mean age of folk is 70. A place you’re not awoken in the middle of the night by incessant gunshots but by a moaning cow giving birth. And supper is served at 6.30pm. I mean that shags.
If you haven’t, you should. First, because you should stop being an arse and visit your grandparents if you still have either. And second, it’s the only place you experience happiness; true happiness for that matter. It sounds bromidic, I know, like something Dr Phil would say on his show. But it’s the truth. I swear. Imagine waking up every day not worrying about rent. Or any irritating neighbours. Imagine drinking tea with 100% milk. Imagine you’re biggest worry being if Wanja, the 4-yr old Friesian cow, produced her usual 20 litres, or if she got her monthly jab. Imagine if the sun rose in your backyard. Orange sunrays waking you up in the morning instead of the usual alarm tone you’ve grown to abhor. If you love your alarm tone, you should see a psychiatrist.
As usual, I found Wamzee there, still working to keep everything running smoothly. Wamzee is the Turkana chap that’s been working for my grandparents for 26 years now. He’s as hearty as ever and still has the witty humour I like, that’s why I always find time to talk to him every time I visit. This time was no different. He was born in Nyahururu, his family was displaced and that’s how he found his way to my grandparents’. Since he was 20 at the time, he was offered education but preferred to work. He doesn’t regret this decision one bit.
So, tonight, we’re sited on three-legged stools outside his small compact wooden house. There’s a fire burning in front of us. There are almost a dozen beers and meat beside us and a radio playing reggae. Inside the house is his family. There are muffled dins from his nine children and wife, his second wife. First one died of birth complications; tragic. It’s silent. The skies are clear, there’s a little moonlight shining through the trees. It’s a beautiful night.
We start with trivial talk before the alcohol sets in. Talk about his children and Wanja, the cow; her golden days when she produced 20 litres daily and now when she can hardly produce 10. How like a woman, sometimes she’s moody and kicks the milk bucket. And how he has to bear with the petulance the same way we deal with our girlfriends’. He continued to make some chauvinistic remarks I’ll not write here. Ask me those personally.
After seeing we were both tipsy, I asked him deeper stuff. You never ask a fellow man emotional stuff when he’s sober. He’ll laugh and dismiss it with something smutty like, “Look at that fat ass. (pointing at some girl)” And if you persist, he’ll get personal, “Kwani when did you get your period bana?” And because you’re sober too, you won’t find it funny, it will cut you deep.
I ask him if there’s anything in his life he regrets, anything he’d like to change. He says not telling his first wife goodbye. I know, deep stuff, eh? I swear if I was drunk I’d have cried. He recalls how the doctor came to him and told him the bad news. His culture didn’t allow him to be with his wife at the time of birth like we see on movies. He was at the hospital lobby elated as ever; his first son, the fourth born, was on his way. But then he saw the doctor after a peculiarly long time in the ward and he knew something wasn’t right. He had been in the ward three times before so he knew the doctors’ good news face. And this time it wasn’t it. It was a different face. One he knew would give him different news. Not the usual, “Congratulations!” So he clenched his sweaty fists, tightened his buttocks and prayed. Prayed it was nothing serious than a caesarean. But it was too late. He was already a widower; a widower with a 5-minute year old son. He remembers how the news struck him. How he couldn’t move or feel his body. He remembers how he fell to his knees and sobbed perpetually. It was a dark time for me, but I managed, he says then takes down a gulp of beer and sings along to the reggae hook playing.
I ask if he’s happy and he laughs; that dismissive laugh that hurts your feelings.
“Furaha aje?” He inquires, probably after seeing the tears forming in my eyes. Hehe
“Unafurahishwa na maisha yako saa hii?”
“Hii maisha ni the best. Haina worries ka yenu ya tao.”
He continues to say that he wouldn’t want any other life. That taking care of healthy Jersey and Friesian cows za mzee (grandpa) is the life he’d choose any day, every day. All the kids go to school; food is never an issue as the place is evergreen and no rent.
“Unaweza taka stima?” My naïve self asks.
“Stima ya nini sasa Simon? Si ndio hii radio (points at radio) naweza skia habari (news) na ball.”
I feel silly for asking at this point. My conformity to this Nairobi life misled me to think he wanted more in his life to be happy. It’s why I asked in the first place. I could see he was genuinely happy. That if he died at that moment, he would die contented and gratified with his life. There was no bitterness in him about vile exes and previous unpleasant relationships. He was happy. There are no Instagram followers he wants to please by adding ‘Fogo Gaucho’ location. No twitter trends that he must hashtag to to feel like part of society. He is happy. The happiness I wish one day to realize amidst all social trends, bitter exes and expensive champagne shindigs.
I want to be happy.