MAN DOWN

He could not feel his legs and all he heard was a sharp ringing and high-pitched sound. There was so much dust in the air and debris all over. He could not see where he was and could not recall how he had gotten there. He must have been the only person there because he could hear nobody and nobody responded to his continuous cry of anguish. He was gasping for air… his head was spinning really fast and his breathing was escalating with every passing second. Was he going to die? Or was it just panic?

***

12 January 2001,

That is the day was the day Ayo Bongani Babatunde had to leave his young family to serve in the army. He did not want to go but he had very little choice. He had to do it for his country at the expense of his twenty-two-year-old wife of six moths and his new-born baby only days old. He was ready to die for peace.

He convinced himself that it was for the greater good. Peace in the country meant that it would be a happy place for his daughter Lavie and his wife Chacha. This peace that he was going to fight for meant that he could live with the only two people he had ever had in his life without the worry that foreign troops would burst through his doors at night, steal his baby rape his wife and torture him to death, or watch them starve to death because his little helpless country was under siege.

The soldier above all other prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war

All he wanted was a place where his baby Lavie would go to school through the seasons and go possibly camping fishing and sight seeing with him during her breaks. He wanted to come back to a place where he could have a stable job that would assure his a soft spot beside his wife every single evening.

They gave their tomorrow for our today. For those they love they sacrifice.

His life has never been easy but this was the hardest part of it all. He had no Idea what he was getting himself into but he had to at all cost. He was not the bravest man. That he clearly knew, but he had to put on a strong front and faith. He was ready to take a bullet at least a couple of pain relievers would take away the pain…what he dreaded the most was seeing his wife’s face when he got on the military van. It would break his heart piece by piece every single day until he could see her again.

***

When you go home, tell them of us, that for their tomorrow we gave our today

This was his favourite day being at the war front. The grapevine had it that the war was over and they were going home. He could not wait to kiss the tender face of his wife and have his baby girl in his arms again. He had been leaving for this day…wished upon it. He felt like he was reliving the moment even though the official order to leave the battle front had not been given.

As no action had taken place over the few weeks all they did was stay their shift at their different positions eat, sleep and repeat. As nothing out of the ordinary had arisen, the group began exfiltration back towards the extraction point. With Him was the Commanding Officer and several cadets. They were about 20 people. The rest had given their lives and died by the gun.

They had been walking for several hours through the scorching hot sun for several kilometres. His mind had shifted from the usual looking for insurgent elements,  to just getting him home. All he could think about was a fresh shower and good home cooked food.The fresh air and soft clothes…his list of the good things he couldn’t wait to experience again went on and on.

He was subconscious when firing coming from nowhere his mind could register at that instance. His first instinct was to duck into the closest alley approximately 20 feet where he found an alcove, in the building wall that was relatively to the south. It was open to enemy fire, but it was the closest thing he had to a barrier.

All that was going through his head was that he was going to get hit in the head most probably. He prayed so much to survive this. He had no idea where the rest had gone to. He was alone with no one to duck and cover with thus increasing the chance of survival. Only God could save him or at least the biggest miracle.

The firing stopped for about five minutes and he thought it was clear to come out. Maybe the miracles he had been praying for had come his way he thought. As he was about to get out of the alley, he had a hissing sound and instantly knew it. A missile was coming his way. He had no time to take cover when it hit…

***

Laying there in pain, he had no idea if he would get home or get rescued or probably land into enemy arms and get tortured to death. He was uncertain of what was coming his way…But one thing he was glad about was the fact that he was alive. Being alive meant hope, and that is all that mattered at that moment.

‘Not all superheroes wear capes’

 

 

LETTERS THAT MATTER

TO MY DAUGHTER TAFARI

Hello baby girl,ten years before you  were born and five more before you can actually read and extra five more before you can comprehend and possibly understand the depth and intensity of this letter.

I have a mixture of feelings writing this. I don’t have you but I feel like I have known you all my life. I feel like you have always been a part of me…absent yet so present….factual yet so real I could touch you hug you kiss and caress you in my every emotion fantasy and dream.

BABY, I LOVE YOU

***

Taff…there is a reason for your name. I called you Tafari because I love the name…haha..and I found the name in a novel. It was an African-based book and the protagonist was not only female but also of very strong will and character,and that is what I want you to turn into. (I will be sure to keep this book for you). Besides that,your name is of Ethiopian origin meaning royalty,strength and power and baby, that is what you are made of.

I want you to know that you are beautiful in every sense whatsoever. Let not society tell you what beauty is and cage you with standards that are either unachievable or that will result in you giving up your identity  to please them. Let nobody tell you that you are too skinny, too thick ,too tall or too short. You will always be a little too much of somebody.Your dark skin is more than what everybody wants you to think; and baby, your kinky black hair looks just so perfect on your head. It all tells a story of your roots and heritage. It is a trademark of your pride. I want you to always remember that beauty is engraved in the soul, that is where forever is found.

“Make and effort to change the things that you do not like. If you cannot change , change the  way you have been thinking. You might find  a new solution.”

Baby, I can’t always be present but I assure you that I will always be at your beck and call. I want to be that shoulder you cry on when you shattered hopeless and almost giving up. It would be  my greatest joy to tell you that it will be fine even though it will not. The feeling of just holding you in my arms, hearing you sob and whimper will not only break my heart, but will also be a constant reminder that you are growing up, you make mistakes and your learning and living with the consequences of your choices.

I want to be that first person you call when you take a new step in your life. I want to be that person you call to not only share your pain but also your joys and milestones. I want to hear the excitement in your voice and imagine the tears in your eyes as you tell me how it felt as you walked to pick that trophy, read out that speech, sing that song,  recite that poem, or that time he asks if you will marry him. I not only want to be in your life but also a part of every single day of it. Always remember that I did not only carry you for nine months, but I will carry you until my hear feels like I have a soul within my soul.

” The natural state of MOTHERHOOD is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the centre of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”

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Baby, I never want you to be in pain or cry. I will do anything for you. I will cry for you, climb the highest mountain for you. I would cross the galaxies to not only land on the moon but also face the sun for you. I will always make sure you have your eyes fixed on mine, so that when you turn into a woman you will now that your  gender is not your limitation, you will know that you are worth more and can acheive more than the curves on your body or that pretty smile on your face. I will let you fix your eyes into mine untilyour wings have grown enough for you to venture outside. I want to be that first role model before you chose another from the outside.

Taff I want you to understand and always understand that It is not easy being a mother. It did not come with a manual . I will quarrel with you because I don’t feel appreciated as much as I want you too. I will shout all your three names just to confirm your presence in the house and to affirm who is boss in the house. I will get mad at you, reprimand you sometimes punish simply because I see me in you and that means all my weaknesses and mistakes included. I will make you wear things that will prove I have minimal sense of style and fashion and I will seriously get offended if you don’t wear It and wear it with pride. I will make you eat things you don’t like, go to places that you don’t fit in, buy you things that are the total opposite of what you want…but baby all of this because I love you and at the end of the day I am still your mother and a mother’s love is tough (trust me I have been there).

” There is no one perfect way to be a good mother: each situation is unique, each mother has different challenges,skills and abilities, and certainly different children…what matters is that a mother loves her children deeply.”

loving you everyday,

mama.

SCARRED BEAUTY

She had never been a bad person in her life, but she was many other things that many people never bothered to know. All she wanted was to be beautiful in his eyes, she was insecure. She  always went unnoticed and with each day, she craved for his attention. Every night her pillow was something short of a sea of tears. She cried herself to sleep. He was not the right man for her but she never realised it but it was always on her face and her naivety didn’t realise that it was time to leave that situation. She deserved better but her woman nature lied to her and her heart deceived her that love persevered and that there would be a brighter day. Hers was simply and act of passion and anger rolled in one…

***

Love, sweet love: how best to express that complex tangle of emotions? What’s the enticing thing to say when someone catches your eye—or to make things better when the course of true love isn’t running smoothly? She loved him with every muscle and energy in her body but the feeling seemed not mutual. She did anything and everything a woman of her of her calibre state and her class could have done to keep him satisfied but man…man will always be a man. Man is made of flesh and the flesh is weak. He had another and several others.

That night…that night that changed her life was no different from all the others. Just like the proper wife she was, she made dinner had a showered waited for him to come home. He always came late, but she was patient enough to wait. This night was no different. She waited and waited and waited…She fell half asleep half conscious because she wanted to pick his coat and shoes as soon as he entered the house. She wanted to be there to  hug him after a long day of work.

All she can remember was a bang on the door. He was drunk. He was making so much noise his voice bearly coherent enough to understand what or who had made him angry. As  she opened the door wishfully thinking it would be any different from the other days. “was it worth it”,she asked “to love someone to reveal on the nose how you feel” yet get a cold shoulder in return.”what’s it worth to love someone to conceal precisely how it felt yet receive ignorance for feedback”. All this went through her mind as he hit her on and on. She tried to scream but he clobbered her and muffled her mouth at the same time.

It felt like he had the strength of two giants laying there on the floor. She was sure she was going to die. She was ready to go as long as the hand of her murderer was the man she loved. But no he did not kill her. He took a seat like nothing had happened and he started eating the meal the woman he had just bruised and left helpless on the cold floor had cooked. He seemed heartless…what had this woman not done other than love him unconditionally despite every weakness, every imperfection and through every insult and manhandling she had gone through.

She sobbed silently…not because of the pain and hurt he had cause but she could not help but remeneisence the past. It was not so long ago bearly two years were gone…he would hold her in his arms and say how much she was the best thing in his life,and loosing her would kill him in the process. She could not forget of the countless nights she did not sleep thinking about him because he made her happy.The endless hours they spoke without a care that day break was coming. Their many escapades. The soubd of youth was nothing but delightful and painful. With him life was nothing but a road with several bumps that she was ready to cross over with him…life was such a pun then. The way he touched her not only filled her with ecstacy,but also made her feel worth more than the Solomon mines down South. He kissed her so softly like her lips would fade with every kiss. So gently,so delicately she would feel her worth and emotion. And that there,was the man she married. The man she wanted to spend her eternity with.

She was strong enough to handle all the body ache since she was sure it would end with a few rubs here and there,but the heart,her soul and every inch of her being was crushed to more than a million porcelein peices. She was not sure she could recover. She loved him so much she even hated herself for it. Her mind told her she needed to leave befor it was too late. The sane mind told her she needed to leave before she was pushed beyond her breaking point and she would have nothing to return to.She would have walked away rebuilt her life and found happines in another place. She had the chance to give heraelf a second chance at love ith another man and love herself more…but the gag is…the heart wants what it wants

She picked her feeble body from the floor  wiped off hee taers and sat next to him and watched him eat everything she had cooked like he was the only person in that house. In her mind she was happy that atleast he appreciated her cooking. It atleast made hin happy. His phone rang and he proudly took it. It was another woman on the other side. She said of how much she had missed him. Sge spoke of how much she wabted him to touch her love her kiss her in all the right places. She wanted to.lay in his arms all night. She said she missed their childish adventures and with no guilt whatsoever in his voice with no shame whatsoever on his face, he told her of much she missed the way she held him kissed him and touched him in the most sensual ways. He called her a goddess, a princess and the best thing that had happened in his life, while all those things and even more was sitting beside him. The one who was meant to reign his life…the one he was meant to commit to was sitted right there.

She was angry and agitated. She could stand him no more. She wanted to bit the arrogance,ego and pride out of him. She rose and slapped the guts out of him. He dropped the phone and pushed to the floor pinning her there. He had a knife in his hand. The pen knife he kept on him to defend himself  from thugs and the men of darkness , he used to puncture holes into her severally. She could take it no more. She summoned all te courage she had and pushed him off her and grabbed the knife.He was strong but she had the will to live past the torture she had gone through the two years of their marriage.

It is at that point as she continuously stabbed him that she realised she had to love herself more and that this so-called incident would not change give whatever circumstances. She wanted to stop, but she felt satisfaction with every incision she made on his body. It  felt like all the bottled up anger, frustration and anxiety was leaving her body. She was avenging for all the pain he had cost her. With this as her stepping stone and palaver, she stubbed on…twenty-one times until he died.

***

As she was being crowned as the BEAUTY BEHIND BARS as the papers would  read the next day, she felt happy and at peace with herself. The crown of desperation, self-hate, self-pity shame and victimisation seemed to leave her body. She had forgiven herself for killing a man she had loved so dearly, and with this crown on her head she felt worth more…so much more. The crown to her was not only a symbol of beauty and grace but also, that of second chances and freedom from herself and her previous mistakes. She was in jail away from the outside world, but she was free. That is all that mattered to her.

 

 

 

STORY OF MY MOTHER

As I watch my mama doze of on her squeky leather seatee I can’t help but smile and thank God for all the trouble she has been through but one way or the other rose above it. Age has beaten her up but you can see the beauty and grace that old age has not only spared but also had no guts to take away from her. Everytime she smiles I feel satisfied and complete because between  the two of us lays a story of pain, tears, shame, disgrace and the cloud with a silver lining.

***

“KANJO! KANJO!…” is the last thing I heard and the next thing everybody was scampering everywhere. Mother picked her goods of trade( which time to time varied from socks to bras and hankercheifs depending on the season), held my hand and started running  for her saftey. As we ran, I was somewhere in the middle off ground flight and jump-running since I was barely stepping on the ground. It was hard for mama to keep up with the speed of other hawkers since she had the burden of me, she tried, but this was one of those days when luck was not on our side. She fell down head first and even befor she could raise her head, the city council officers landed on her with clubs,blows and kicks.

Mother acted as my human sheild doing her best to protect me from the meciless beings who hit every part of her body like she had offended the public by trying to sell her ware so that she could provide for her baby. From under mama’s bossom I could see the smurk and satisfaction on their fat faces as they left her for dead. Each sigh and morn of releif was like a victory dance on their side. Their eyes were empty of humanity, and the way they swinged each blow kick and club, its like the haad mastered the art of murder using a blunt weapon. One of them with no shame of sense of pity or at the very least empathy, came back and took mama’s goods and the little money she had made and went away like her conciousness did not bother her any bit.

People passed by and just like in the Bible  nobody looked twice nobody came near. The sad part was that this time unlike in the holy book there was no good samaritan. Nobody cared to atleast check if the lifeless woman with a five year old child lying in the middle of the street motionless was okay. They were all too busy to be concerned with the life of a lowlife. Beside, she had no value to them.Beside she was better off dead than the noise she made as she advertised her ware. It was her fault, all faces seemed to say. It was her fault that she was a woman, semi educated and not rich. It was her fault that she did not have a white collor job or a husband to provide for her and her baby. Isteada of offering help on in the very best consolation as a proff that we were al human, all their eyes did was judge. Their stares were icey cold as they waked briskly away with their noses hanging high in the air like we did not breath the same.

I had no option but to sit there and wait for mommy to wake up. Atleast I hoped she would, because that is the only thing I  knew in my life. Besides mama, and the few friends i played with on the streets, I knew nothing else. I thus had no other option but to wait. After what seemed like an entire day sitting beside her under the scotching sun with nothing in my tiny belly, mama opened her eyes. she was so febble to stand and she uttered one two words only “mami maji”. I had no money or knowledge of how to use money to get her water, but my chilhood endless hope and belief in  people made me stand and beg every one of them  that passed by for water  by simply saying “saidia maji”, like i had heard  older street children beg from time to time. Many passed by not looking at me twice, and when they  did it was that same old look of disgust. I could not blame them  I was dirty and poor.

Luck atleast passed by my door after some time. A young man dresseed in a well cut and pressed suit passed by and was kind enough to throw at me his half finished bottled water and brown paper that had somewhat the remains of a what until now I can not disern if it was a hotdog or burger since it was mostly crumbs. I fed it to my weak mother . She had some and left me the rest. When she had regained enough composure and rest she held my hand and we started our journey home. Each limp a reminder of the brutality and animosity she had gone through. My childhood had been injured forever. How would I veiw people in the same way again?

Mama limped all the way and she did not complain even a bit. I could not help  but admire her courage and grace, but what confuced me , was how she could take it so strongly. I was five and bitter. My little trust in people especially law enforcers and rich people had been scrapped away with every blow and kick they gave my mother. When we got home later that evening,  I said to my mother out of sheer innocnce and bitterness “mum watu ni wabaya” (mum people are bad). I have never seen my mum as angry as she was that day. She went ahead to explain to me that people were not bad and that we were all children of God and that he created us equally.

Equally she said. No lie but that little speech haunted me through my childhood and teenage years. I did not understand how we were all created equally yet some of us had authority over others. Mother being beaten up by  a fellow humanbeing was part of it: It was just two months since mother and I had been chased from her father’s compound by her elder brothers telling her to go back to her husband my father. The same husband who had battered her almost to death, and if given the chance would have hacked poor me to peices. They wanted her to go back to the same husband who had the guts to put her aching body in pick up track and her belongings in a yellow paperbag and dump her body at entranceof the same compound she was being chased away. They wanted her to go back to my father’s house. The same house that he had refused to take care of a female child and her uncountable times because she could note bare forth a male child.

It still confused me how other humans were so mean yet had so much wealth to their disposal. Mother skipped from sand trucks to lorries to get the two of us to Nairobi and when we got here she was assured of a palce to stay at her grandmothers place, since she was family. But that was not the case when we got there. Nobody wanted to be associated in her. We slept by the chicken coop, as the empty beds were occupied by dust and cold. She worked her back off in their houses so that she could get something for us to eat. Their children were instructed not to play with me. I was poor and I would infect them with my poverty virus it was contageous.

It disturbed me how we were all fair and equal yet some of us had to work more than others, suffer more than others, cry and bleed more than others, yet we would not be as rich as them as hapy as them and as fulfilled as them. It was sad that it seemed to me that some people were built for the suffering while others werre born with a silver spoon.

That day when mama was battered in the midst of people on  the streets of Nairobi was an eye opener and the beginning of life for mama and I. One way or another we got past that day and mama was able to establish herself again. It was not easy. Actally the longer road was that of struggle. I can remember of the nights she came home tired and weighed down yet she could still afford a smile because she still wanted me to keep my hope in life and a good days to come. I can remeber of the stinging balancing tears that I saw on her eyes everytime my chilhood curiousity asked her where daddy was, and why nobody loved me the way she did. Up till today, I can here her muffed sobs every night. She had no intention to let me in on her pains and struggle. she wanted me to live like every other child, but growing up I realised that i was nothing close to the nomalcy level of other children. My experiences as a child had recreated the way I think and went about doing things and iinteracting with other people.

I felt guilty growing up. I felt that it was my fault that mother nolonger had her youth. I stole her youth and its beuty when I was born. I blamed myself for every situation she had to go through simply because she wanted me to be comfortable. I worked hard in school each time and became excessively overcompitent because I wanted to impress my mother. I loved how the frays on her face and her eyes lit up everytime I brought home a good reportcatd, or was the best at games or drama, or each time I came home with the urgency to tell her somthing new. I always worked to be the best not because it was satisfying to me, but simply to keep my mother happy.

Each day I could tell myself that every time  I burry myself behind a book, mother was breaking her back somewhwere to provide for me, anad thus I had no choice but to make her happy. I kept telling her that I would bw a woman lawyer one day, and that we would live like kings. I promised her that no other woman would ho through waht we did. This was my motivation every single day. I wanted todo it for my mama. I wanted to redeem her eggo and rebuild her pride. I wanted her to feel whole again. I wanted the best for mama, just the same way all her intrests were focused on me. I was my mothers daughter, so I told myself every time i wanted to give up on the dream.

***

As I watch mother sleep, old age eating her up, I remember that my priorities have changed, and all I care about right now was her. Whta other people said or did to me did not matter.All that mattered is that mama was happy and at peace with her. I had grown up  as a bitter child, because of all the offensive things that had happened around me with time, but mama was that one person that kept me happy and going. She was my achor

With time I came to understand mothers little speech about God and equality. God kinnda  like had a scale that he used to give people alittle of something and so much of the other.  Look at mama and I for instance. Our lives were fulll of misery and mama sacrificing alot of her for me, but at the end of the day we were happy with each other. When we were together it was like our own little heaven we loved we laughed we cried. We had not so much cash to afford luxury or a big house with big warm beds and all kinds of food, toys and vacations, but at the end of it, we had each other. She had me and I had her, and that is all that mattered to the both of us.

Mama and  I are each others strength and we keep pushing each other to the limits. I might not have mama forever, but I atleast know, MY MOTHER’S STORY will live on forever through me. I will be just like my mother, and more to my children, because trough all the dirt and dust we have gone through, I have realised that, she is my Superman, without the wind under her arm, but simply with her lesso and her unconditional love and selflessness.
Weak mothers work to satisfy their needs…strong mothers do their duty