Do not marry a creative if you have no grace. True story. There is this …thing I was editing whose first sentences I was not “feeling”. Writing should move you, make you cry, annoy you enough to get to at least think of doing something about the subjects therein. Finally, at 6 in the morning I got possessed by these words while in the bathroom. Immediately, I left came to the sitting room to write that down before the words disappear. After I had hurriedly scribbled the words, I realised my hair was wet, soapy and I had a pool of water where I was standing. “Oh okay”, I commented to myself and thanked God I was alone in the house. In an assignment, I was a bit apprehensive that I was going to meet a Chief Executive of a certain reproductive health organisation in the restaurant. So I paced the room rehearsing my speech. Then when it was time, I grabbed my bag and headed to the lobby. After an engaging ten minutes of me putting my best foot ahead selling my brand and the company I worked for, he said “you must have loved those”. He was pointing to my feet. I was wearing the bunny eared house sandals my friend Irene Anyango gave me. I forgot to take them off to wear proper shoes on my suit!
So now I want you to clear your vortex because I want you to picture me, crazy deranged Verah, walking in Nairobi’s Central Business District in the most philosophical colourful way. Please take a very good look at the picture below. What do you see? Take notes because this is going to be our little induction to philosophy.
These last two weeks have been draining for me in every aspect of my life that I wished the earth would stop rotating I alight from it then y’all can continue with the journey. On Monday night, I sat on my bed to go through a document. No sooner had I finished the first page than the alarm rang reminding me it was Tuesday Morning and it was time to wake up… well did not sleep. That is hardly surprising for journalists anyway. I had an interview to catch so after dressing the part, I realised I had misplaced my key. I could not leave the house. I called him— thank God he knows me— and told him that I had locked myself in the house and agreed to talk to me over the phone.
When I finally managed to leave, it was too late to have my breakfast. So I put my porridge in my flask. I was about to put it in my backpack then I remembered I broke one of these flasks in that bag as I use public transport. This particular flask had sentimental value— one of my godfathers gave it to me—so I carried the flask in my hand to the bus station and to the office. I noticed the funny looks in Kimathi Street, and then my colleague George Ogutu would not stop making fun of me. At the entrance, I heard one of guards’ comment in Luhya how colourful I am— yellow skirt, blue jacket, green flask—…I lived with a Luhya for seven years, I understand the language. That comment drove me back to last year in Kisumu in this very skirt around this very time. I was writing my series on circumcision (READ a piece here and here). I woke up missing my late sister that day—I only had one biological one— and this skirt was the last thing we did together. She loved pleats, and round patterns and the colour yellow. Whenever I miss her, I wear it with whatever I find even boots. So I wore it, this time with a luminous green oversized biker t-shirt and this oversized sandals. I took a walk to town to have my dreads fixed. At the salon, I told the hairdresser the head was hers she was free to do whatever she wanted with it. Towards the end, a conversation starts in Dholuo.
Stylist 1: Pat wijni duong’ matek ma okonengo iket yie wiye go e toke (That forehead is too big you should not take her hair to the back of her head)
Stylists 2: Koka nyarwa oruakore ma ochalo ongowang’ (and our sister has dressed she looks like a crane bird).
Describing me in bird terms made me burst in laughter I spit the juice I was drinking. To their shock I was as Luo as they come. With the accent from South Nyanza and the stupidity that my degree and books cannot seem to rub off. I actually explained, in Dholuo, that I wanted it held behind in a bun as I have tried the other styles. I have had these confusions with my Kikuyu folk as well. That is the beauty of being in many foster homes: you gather all these culture, languages and habits that make you some sort of a…gypsy.
I did have a point. There are things that are seemingly ugly to the rest of the world and people get shocked at how we could be comfortable wearing them. I love how some women wear Bikinis and let that ugly scar of caesarean section be seen. That scar is nothing compared to the agony of waiting for years for a baby and then when you conceived, CS was the only possible way to hold your child. So who gives a fuck if the scar is there? The stretch marks…the potbelly…Life happened. People may never understand why you would protect some stuff so much – like me and my flask— because you lost before and you don’t want to go through that again.They get shocked because they do not the story behind that ugly. I have never learnt to be politically correct. I tell people “You want to curse? Curse godamned it!”
Have you ever seen those people who tell you “the Lord knows why this had to happen, look in the positive and the bigger picture” just after you have been bereaved? I have very little patience for the optimism of people who have not lost something. People who have been there know how hard, and impossible to be positive.Sometimes people can admire the pride with which you wear those ugly or the beautiful ways in which you have learnt to live with them. Occasionally they comment “I wish I could do that” and I always wonder to myself “Will you pay the price?”. I can understand little bits of Kikuyu, perhaps carry a sentence in broken grammar. My Luhya is sketchy but I assure you I would not starve amongst Luhyas because of language barrier. The truth is, what placed me in these tribes were not the best of circumstances. When I picked those pronunciations, I was in tears but I learnt to adjust by accepting the kindness that was being shown me in that valley and I adjusted myself to so that I could receive my help better. The same can be said of my design, my writing and my music. They were gifts of stuff I picked while going through extremely dark moment. I know of musicians who know who are good at their craft because throughout their childhood, music was the only alternative voice from the abuse. People do not know you, intimately, until they have gone over your pathetic resume. So wear the godamned forehead, fetishes, weight… fill in the blank because you have had the misfortune – or blessing – to be on the other side.
Even the finest armour has a dent~TD Jakes