Pride of my heart, my little princes- what wrong have you done to deserve this? When you were a little girl you played with your doll and waited for me until I came home. You grabbed my hand and would drag me to the kitchen to see what your mama was cooking. You were such a joy in the house. When you grew ready to start school you immediately fell in love with books. You never gave us trouble even on the first day. Then you went to High school and loved the church. What a paragon of obedience and sacrifice you were? Not once did a teacher of yours grumble about your conduct. You even saved some of your pocket money and brought it home.
The first Quartz wall clock in the house was a gift you received for exemplary academic achievement. Pride of my heart, my only child you made us proud. You passed your final exams highly and went to that prestigious University-formally Royal college of Nairobi to study Law. That is where you grew into a woman. That is where you met him. After graduation, you wrote and said he had proposed. You brought him home. Such a handsome simple man-the son of a University professor himself a diplomat working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
He looked in love with you. You were in love with him obviously from the way you laughed when he made a joke. I had that trust in your choice. I was always on your side. Your mother seemed to distrust him. She said it was her instincts. I stood firm and said it was your happiness she was afraid of, she was afraid of losing you. She was begrudged but I said you deserved to move on. You deserved to be happy.
Finally, the sun rose. The day was here. Its soft yellow glowed in your eyes. Tears welled in my eyes. I was the full moon of happiness. Your mother cried too. The Bishop himself presided. The church itself festooned with multi-colored crepe paper, balloons and classic gospel music was a descended paradise. The flashing cameras from the media intermingled with the flowery voices of the women’s choir and Halleluiahs. What grandiosity of pleasure in the soul of a father’s pride.
The heart and its matters- Were we blindfolded?
He received a third letter citing some irreconcilable differences. This was after his wife, him and some assortment of kin had just visited the couple for the traditional children visiting ceremony okhusaaba abana. In the valedictory statement of this third epistle, lamentation was poised an imminent verdict.
“Is it Diana?” his wife asked bringing him tea.
“Is she sending something?”
“Yes. She is sending her a message of irreconcilable differences.”
“She is coming home,” he frowned as he picked his white cup. His wife picked up the frown.
“I never trusted that Boku man,” she paused, her arms resting on her waist and her eyes stealing a quick glance at their daughter’s large wedding portrait beside a smaller family one, “she is way younger than him. Girls don’t simply hear their mothers nowadays.”
“Love is a sweet fragrance that has no colour.”
“Until the lungs are full, you are chocking and your eyes turn red.”
“A Tabo woman should just be married to a Tabo man, not those unpredictable bush gluttons who eat strange animals. Look what the so-called love has brought into her young life. Did we ever love each other me and you? No! I couldn’t tolerate anyone and you the same so we found we could only tolerate what we both liked. And that’s how we ended up in the same bed. When that George drove likutere into your compound instead of cows and you wore a broad smile as you received its keys I knew his spell had been cast and I had wasted a whole night presenting my case against that son of a Boku witch. Awinja had one of us on her side and it wasn’t me.”
“The Vaux Wagon Beetle was a gesture of goodwill from a future son in law to a decent father in law. I wonder how that history is relevant now.”
“Of course you do.”
“How come you never say you would rather have shillings than dollars when he sends you to Western Union?”
“I didn’t receive likutere like you. And after all, he is an accomplished diplomat and accomplished diplomats have millions of dollars to splash around and spoil mothers in law. Is it not in your boring fancy idle tales sometimes that you say eat before you lose teeth? Now tell me how wrong it is to have a slice when I still have teeth.”
“I wonder at her life in that Nairobi with a looming estrangement.”
“I know what she is going through.”
“Of course she loved George.”
“You are a puzzle.”
“You know he took advantage of her and trapped her like dung traps a fly. That girl would even have fallen in love with Henry the navigator or Vasco da Gama if you ask me. She is so full of her heart and all those fairy tales you stacked in her home reading library when she was six have never grown out of her,” he chuckled over his tea and took a bite at a slice of buttered brown bread.
“She has filed for a divorce.”
“The letter says that much.”
“Boku men are strange men. What if that man murders my daughter and buries her body in a manhole?”
“Nairobi is not in New York,”
“You are about to tell me Nairobi is not in Africa,”
He was irritable and moody throughout the day. He was disturbed and his face sagged with deepening worry. He recalled how her wedding had been successful.
Hers had been the only wedding in his neighborhood to have had the busy Holy Blessed Basilica bishop presiding over. It was also the first wedding to be captured on cameras for the popular and exclusive Wedding Bells TV magazine show. Newspaper society and lifestyle segments even interviewed him on how it felt for a humble teacher to have a renowned diplomat choose his insignificantly heard of daughter after crossing miles and years of searching, breaking hearts and by-passing Nairobi’s elegance-of course they added much salt into the story. How did it feel? For him then it felt an honour, an undeserving stroke of luck for his household but all the same, all that mattered was his daughter’s happiness. How could such perfection captured in a photo of her daughter smiling in George’s seemingly warm arms then crumble?
And he was sick. The doctors said his heart was failing. It was swollen and now he could not do any heavy work including his daily chores like his favorite raking of leaves around his front yard. Fifty-four years, twilight approaching then this-how?
The heart and its matters are darkness. It is the bottomless pit. I am a broken spirit of the third letter. The grandiosity of my pleasures is bile. There is a sickness in my heart. What can a heart sickened do but find solace in the loss of time?
You will come home. Yes, you will come back to us. I will understand if you don’t come. I will understand if you decide to move to another city or move into exile. You are my daughter and my blood. Your mother will be distraught. I am devastated. But life is life and you will remain the pride of my heart.
Adapted from Writings on the Wall