It all started one day when you took your SATs and then you got your admission letter got on a plane and went to study in that far away land. You heard it was the land of milk and honey but you mostly went because you were eager to run away, to let your heart roam free and wild. You went with no inhibitions, carrying your name, your hopes, and the stern warning to uphold your family honor. No pregnancy, no drugs, maybe a white man so you get good-looking kids. And so you went.
You failed your first term. You took biology and chemistry but nothing sounded the same. The accents confused you; you didn’t know that a library is actually a laibry and not a laibraaary or that you should be drinking warrer and not water but still you persevered and you preserved your thick tongue. You learned to switch when you needed to so that your friends back home wouldn’t laugh at the girl pretending to be a foreigner, or the people in your new land single you out as an alien who hadn’t yet mastered their tongue.
But one day you got fed up and decided to assert yourself. You got tired with how they showed your home, how the suffering got more airtime than the innovations. You got pissed when you saw the service trips they all took, to go and give back to the ‘global community’ they were born into. You saw it as a measure to boost their own self-esteem, to assure themselves that they are indeed good people who care deeply about the world. You clicked your tongue and cursed them, and you changed your name.
You logged into your social network accounts and revolutionized your identity. You dropped your baptismal name and took up your ethnic name, so that you had to spell out your name every time someone asked you your name. You didn’t mind that part. The process of reowning your name was important to you. It helped you assert your Kenyanness, your Ugandanness, your Tanzanianness. You knew you were African when you said your name. That you also had a history, and more so a story that they didn’t know, would probably never know. But truth is you were never that African when you were in Africa. You didn’t even assert your nationality so openly, so brazenly, oh so passionately. But the air in that place shaped you, the people chiseled you, the environment transformed you. That nameless thing took hold of you and told you you needed to assert your identity, so that you never once looked back and analyzed yourself, and thought about the changes taking place in you. Like a son of fate you took it in your stride. You grew locks, then got tired and put on an afro. And you smeared coconut and shea butter on yourself. “see my ebony skin’ you seemed to say ‘see my healthy natural hair’ your body screamed ‘look at me! I’m the African queen’
And then you stopped going to church. You were once the youth leader way back when, and you advised people on the way they should go. Kids looked up to you, pastors adored you. In fact, five pastors came to pray for you on your farewell party. ‘take care of babylon’ they said ‘serve the lord, he is with you always’. But then you changed your mind after all, what do those pastors know anyway. They are being brainwashed by those beliefs. Who is God anyway? You asked. An invention to colonize the African mind. Yes, Jesus was not an African anyway, he couldn’t be your hero now. And so you reformed your beliefs, and decided to venerate your ancestors. But then you remembered how funny those Maasai men looked when they came to pray in Jamhuri day celebrations, and you shuddered at the thought of being like them. And so you decided to be an atheist, but you preferred the term child of the universe. More classy, more acceptable, at least your parents wouldn’t freak out at what Ulaya did to you.
And one day you met him, and you knew you had been holding on to your honor for too long. What was that honor anyway? It’s important to liberate your mind. After all, you had been wearing miniskirts, and tank tops, and…oh well who cares. So you lost it, and it felt great. And you were free, and now you could live life.
The years went by, and you went home for the mandatory visits. You were born with half a silver spoon in your mouth and it wasn’t too hard to get the flight ticket and so you didn’t understand what the other Africans meant when they lamented that the ticket price was too high. You loved going to Boston to party and meet with other great African minds. There was always an African event going down somewhere. And you went to dance to your Africanness to praise your roots to get wasted on Tusker and Heineken and bounce along to the latest Nigerian hits. And in your intoxicated state, you ranted about your homeland, how the corrupt leaders fleeced all the aid money, and how the poor remained poor. You all swore to be the difference, to go back home and overthrow, take over and bring a change that the common mwananchi could believe in. You spurn your dreams, sewed it together, and set it on the timetable of life. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Z.
The years went by once again and you graduated with your political science degree. Unlike the others, you went back home straight away. You lived your promise to change your homeland, and you wouldn’t let the promise of big bucks in Wall Street deter you. You knew what you had to do and you didn’t hesitate to do it.
But yours was never meant to be a long life, and the end came suddenly, on Waiyaki way, on Sunday night, when Ben or was it Patrick told you to drop him home coz he had a late night and he couldn’t stay up with you (you had your Mondays free after all). And you agreed because he said his car was in the garage and you were his baby after all, and he told you he loved you and you were sure he would put a ring on your finger and you would run in the next elections as a Mrs. So you hoped in your black Lexus and you turned from your apartments into Thika road, down the looping bend to Waiyaki way. But you had a wine glass too many, like you did every Sunday only you forgot that it was 1 am and you should have been in bed, and when you saw the lights you tried to swerve, but you swerved when the metal had crashed into metal, and two blobs of gleaming light shone in your eyes, and you wondered if you were staring into forever. And you wondered about that voice that carried you into the heat of eternity. It wasn’t Patrick’s, it didn’t sound like Ben’s. It sounded like a nursery school rhyme, like the voices from the past calling you back and forth, reminding you that those who call on the name of the Lord would be saved.
And so you screamed His name, and then you were gone.
And so you screamed His name, and then you were gone.