23 [by Melodious Nyanchama]

At 23 years of age, I am be deemed ready for marriage, to take a job offer, to stop eating that paper that usually encases a queen cake and a few other trivial things like fixing Ugali that is hard enough for Wafula to enjoy.

Except that I am not ready for any of those. I feel tired. Like taking a sabbatical from everyone and everything except M-Pesa, the Galitos and Cadbury. I am so strung out from trying to cut deals with the devil. Deals that failed, hands down.

In fact, if I had grandchildren right now and was asked to give a speech, it would probably read something close to this: I was young and now I’m old, and I’ve seen only one category of mammals that truly understood life. One group that understood that there is nothing wrong with dawn crack finding you hobbling on your toes. One category that embraces the rules of the game like an illegal lover. Knows what to chew and what to spit. The miraa guys.

My mother, she is not one of those tough deaconesses in church who pinch noisy children to keep them in check. Neither is she one of the old women who sing Alto that is well on its way to becoming bass in the choir. But like any other woman, motherhood is a course that she embraced with such zeal and energy. Despite being a circumstantial Christian, she gave us sufficient knowledge to trace the direction to heaven. In a Kenyan’s words, she must have sounded something like this: ukifikia hiyo kibanda inauza mutura hapo mbele, turn to your right. Shika hiyo njia. Itakufikisha mbinguni. Ukipotea ulizia g4s direction.

This age, 23, is a tricky one. You are trying to secure a stable job because your parents do not understand why you are not sending money home yet they attended your graduation a few months ago. You are struggling to move to a bedsitter or one bedroom because you are tired of fighting with old women at the water point in your plot. If you are a girl, you probably are trying so hard to grow some strands of real natural hair. Kinky, curly African hair. That hair takes time and a walk to Calvary and back, just to sprout. On the few days that the bantu knots turn out just right, you never fail to hear from the HR about how your hair is very unkempt for an office atmosphere.

At 23, your mother must be endlessly talking about grandkids and your aunties, working overtime to get you a wife now that they feel you are taking too long. You have probably kissed enough frogs and ‘frogtoids. You are simply pressing on the upward way and letting the man upstairs take care of your heart matters.

For him, it was different. At 23, he had completed his master’s degree and even secured a job. A good job which paid him enough to support his immediate family and even the extended one. We all say that driving is no big deal, but I will die if I do not mention that the lad owned a nice toy. He had the life I dream about every single night, for the past 10 months. All that put together with his comely face and his gentlemanly ways, it was not difficult to have me wrapped around his little finger.

At face value, he was the whole package. Only that he wasn’t. If I were narrating this story on a pulpit, I’d say I met a man who was yet to take a walk down the Golgotha hall. Look, when I got into that relationship I had no intentions of changing Him. Nada. Not even when it was breaking. One thing I knew too well about salvation was that each of us must take an individual walk to Damascus. I could not escort him there. But I still went ahead to date a man who ‘wasn’t that much into God’.

He was a nice guy, at least by normal standards. He held my hand while crossing the streets, held the doors for me, pulled the chairs for me and gave hugs that could heal even a leprous soul. Is there something called therapeutic hugs? If there is, then he; he had a high diploma in those. If you still think such men exist only in the movies, well I am telling you, they are there in real life. Men who hold your chin and stare into your eyes till you wonder why you never saw the galaxies during daytime before.

At first, all was good. Come on, isn’t it always good in the beginning? I got to keep my God and still have this not-so-Godly boyfriend of mine. Before heavenly eyes, it must have been a crude arrangement. Evil even. Yet, I held on. He did too. Until the crossroads got wide, so wide that we could not keep up without tearing each other apart. We tried to save it. We did. I prayed, he yelled. I tithed, he spent the rest of the money. I just didn’t realize it was the beginning of the end.

And then one day, he left. Walked out on us without even asking me if I was willing to keep up the charade. Without wanting to know if I was willing to fight for that ‘not-so-religious relationship’.

I sit on that stool every evening, staring out through the glass. Waiting for him to return. Hopefully from the direction of Golgotha. Although I know, he never will. Is it that he hated my God? I sometimes wonder. Look, I never ever asked him to love my God; even though I secretly wished he would.

  • Gregory Amoshe

    Great reading.

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