The darkness holds a fascination to me. A dark blanket thrown over the earth and blocking the rays of the sun from penetrating. I love taking solo strolls under the cover of darkness. The mystery of the skies above and the beauty that surrounds me hold me in awe. They arouse the natural dreamer in me. Star gazing is actually an epic adventure to me. I feel obligated to try and unravel some deep mystery from the constellations. The whooshing sound made by the sway of the tress in the wind is almost glorious. The sound of crickets fills the night air with noise I wish I could dance to. Everything seems alive, even I.
I love the quiet of the night. The emptiness of the village paths. I love listening to the patter of my feet as I walk. The lowing of cows and barking of dogs in the distance is a welcome respite to me.
My mind is usually turned inwards to my soul or outwards to a world I so long to see. I smile at my dreams and frown over my failures. I engage in a conversation with self and enjoy it. Then, a guy falls into step beside me, smiling at me, his best charms at full display. He tries to make an already doomed small talk. How I cuss within me! How dare he interrupt my precious night moments? Under such circumstances, a withering look from me is usually enough to give him cold feet. Good, I think as he walks away, now I can continue indulging myself. Woe unto me if the guy is ardent and completely immune to reading between the lines! That’s when I really feel the urge to unleash the karate tricks I never have a chance to use.
As I approach our small shopping center, my serenity dispels in the wake of the howling noise. Yes, noise from the only possibly operating establishment at that time of the night; The Local Bar.
I have a nagging curiosity, my friends know that. The kind of curiosity that would make me jump off a cliff, not because my life would be intolerable, but just for the hilarity of flying and free-falling. I saunter to the entrance and sweep the room with a glance. Patrons are seated on old and rugged seats in a face-me setting. The walls are worn and the paint peeling. Blank expressions are etched on the faces of the patrons. Drank conversation flows in a haphazard manner.
The young man seated by the door makes eye contact with me and signs me over. The old man at the corner coughs into his drank, using his dirty clothing to wipe away his spittle. The woman seated between two men openly breastfeeds the baby in her arms. A middle-aged man sips from his mug while talking angrily into his phone. The lady tending her customers moves about in fluid grace, balancing beer mugs and bottles on a tray. She slaps away the hand riding high on her thigh, way beneath her very short skirt. Yet her gaze is flirtatious and her mood bashful as she banters with the drank patrons. A male tender is arguing with a woman about her pay. She aggressively throws herself at him and promises to pay in kind. Course music is at full blast. An young mama stands and tries to sway to the rhythm in drunken unmeasured steps, failing hilariously and landing firmly on her butt.
I feel a righteous anger course through me. Turning, I bump into a drank young man, almost falling on top of him. Righting myself and stumbling away, I walk with as much dignity as I can muster.
My steps are small and measured. My heart is bleeding. As I make my way back, I pass by a drank man on his way home. He stumbles and falls several times, cursing in drunken stupor. He rises and staggers forward, singing ‘kihiki understanding’ in unintelligible words.
By this time I am pretty incensed. My mind wanders to the man’s wife, patiently waiting up for him. I expect that his day’s earnings were exhausted at the bar. When he became too drank, the female tender had charged him a fifty for every touch up her thigh. The male tender had charged him four times for the same beer that he had presumably replaced. The young neighbour who promised to escort him took the chance to pick-pocket the few remaining coins. He will stagger home and demand food from his wife. The sleeping village will rouse at his loud acclaims. “Guku ni kwao? Ndoiga ni gwakwa!” as if a Kimani or a Njuguna had come to lay claim to his stake.
The man will find a reason or two to pump his wife. Her only response will be tears and wails; and regret. She will regret the day she first met him. When he had smiled at her and charmed the tunes of her heart into music. When he had sincerely promised her a ‘forever’. She tolerates his physical and verbal abuse because of the children. At this time, they hide beneath the bed, wide-eyed in terror. They will watch the whole scenario, lodging the memories in dark places in their hearts, too afraid even to peek from their hiding place. By now, they are accustomed to the pattern. After the beating, their daddy would push mummy against the high table by the wall and all they knew was that he was hurting her from her quiet sobs. He then falls asleep, unaware or rather unconcerned about his family.
The boy will wake up early and quietly ask his father for some money to buy a book or a pen. The girl will ask for money to buy some sanitary towels, looking down in shame. The father will look at the two, shame-faced and feeling less of a man due to his sobriety. He tells them that he has no money but will have some in the evening after his day’s work. His children will stare at him, demure pain in their eyes. Why do they continually expect things to be different? There is one thing their father was sure to do that evening; lift his beer mug and stagger home empty-handed! Why was it a raw bleeding wound every time they faced him? As they grow older, their pain dissolves into hate and disrespect. They grow callous towards this man whom they should look up to.
They had learned to do without him. This not without hurting deeply. When other daddies bought toys, dolls and books for their kids, all they got were hand-me-downs. When other daddies were home in the evening, enjoying cosy warmth and bantering laughter, theirs was at the local bar, and he would stagger home, disorderly and combative. They knew no peace when he was at home. They missed him when he was away. They felt that somehow, life had dealt them a brutal blow.
Life is funny at its best and sarcastic at its worst. The boy grows into his father’s footsteps and the girl into her mother’s. He will lift his beer bug and she will endure her cup of suffering.
Oh! Our lost generation……