I already told you guys that my school thinks I’m cuckoo, No? I also told you guys that I was upcountry a couple of weeks ago and of how some ridiculously skinny village girl tried to katia me, sindio? What I didn’t tell you was that the old man took me to see some local priestess because he thought I was beyond saving. This is the story of how that went down.
Friday night, the whole family is watching the 9 o’clock news after a dinner of Sukuma wiki and Ugali. My sister had gone to the market that evening to fetch dinner and when she came back, she had with her a whole paper bag of Sukuma. You guys know that yellow paper bag, right? The big one, the one you could fit a whole stadium in and still have space for something the human race could do without, like, say, Moses Kuria? Yes, that one. Filled to the brim with Sukuma. My big bro looked at it and said, “I hope some of that’s for sale, ‘cause ain’t nobody here got the stomach for all that shit.” She just smiled and replied, “Mpaka hii iishe ndio nyama inunuliwe kwa hii nyumba.” And there was nothing we could do about it, the kitchen was her turf. When the old man left for work in the morning, the money for food would be placed in her hands (hehe, eti ‘in her hands’. The hell am I, 12?). Which, basically, meant she was the Boss. Whatever she bought and cooked, you ate. Hata angeamua leo watu wanakula ugali na harufu ya mende, that was it. If you didn’t feel like it, you took your ass to bed on an empty stomach. Simple, no back and forth. I call it ‘In-house Dictatorship’. Catchy, aye?
Anyway, so we’re watching the news, right? Then my Mum shows up from her bedroom and summons my Dad. If your parents are sijui twenty five or thirty years old then you probably think your mum summoning your Dad means a quickie. But if your parents are a thousand years old like mine – which means they don’t know who in the bloody bollocks Mark Zuckerberg is – then your Mum summoning your Dad like that means only one thing; We gotta talk! It means there’s trouble in paradise, and if it’s not solved, someone’s sleeping on the couch tonight. Wachana na hizi relationships za siku hizi couples wakikosana the worst they can do is unfollow each other on Instagram and update their Facebook relationship statuses to ‘In a Complicated Relationship.’ Wueh! Shit got real back in the day.
So the Old Man comes back from the bedroom and sits down on the couch, lets out a heavy sigh and continues to watch the news. Si us we’re all thinking whatever trouble it was has been dealt with cacophonously (LOL), sindio? Kidogo kidogo the old man turns to me and says, “Be ready tomorrow by 7 a.m., we’re going on a ride along.” I’m caught totally unawares. I ask, “What? Where? Why me?” and he goes, “I know you only like going to places if there’s money involved. But, like I said, be ready tomorrow. 7 a.m.” When he finishes his sentences like that – by repeating what he had said previously – he’s basically just saying, “This discussion is over!” And any further enquiries would be fruitless. Or tragic.
Have you ever heard of that old Kiswahili saying, “Siku njema huonekana asubuhi?” Yeah, well, forget that claptrap. It’s a lie. That morning was beautiful. I woke up in a good mood, took a warm shower, put on my favorite shirt and by 7 a.m., I was ready to go. I just kept telling myself that maybe he had a function at school and he wanted me to go give a short speech to his boys. He’d asked me that sometime before, but because that day I was busy watching ‘Vampire Diaries’ and he had refused to pay me, I said, “No, Thanks.” So I figured maybe that was the cause of all this secrecy. I had even composed a speech. A speech that was not going to include words like “Last but not least” or “…kwa hayo machache”
Sasa si we’re there in the car, cruising down murram roads, radio turned all the way up, feeling like Sonford & Son and shit. Then – without warning – he pulls up by the side of the road and tells me to hop on a motorcycle. Half an hour deep into the motorcycle ride – and further deeper into the jungle, somewhere on the outskirts of Siaya town – I’m probably thinking, “OK, maybe we’re not going to that school after all.” I’m now playing scenarios in my head. You know, a few days before this whole ride along thingy, I’d heard the ol’ chap saying he needed around a million shillings real quick. So, right now, I’m probably thinking, “Shit, he’s going to sacrifice my ass to the Illuminati.” I swear this is a true story. Hell, I almost tweeted, “It’s been real folks.” Hehe.
So the motorcycles finally come to a stop in the middle of some homestead with a huge cross in the middle, surrounded by stones painted red. The voice inside my head now is like, “Yap, definitely Illuminati.” There are over 30 kids in the compound; some playing, some herding cattle, some washing utensils, some downing uji from calabashes. My Dad walks me straight to this mud thatched hut at the very end of the homestead and we find some woman seated there; squarely on her ass. No chairs or stools in there or nothing. Just the woman. A huge terrifyingly dark old woman with the sign of the cross painted in red across her forehead. And a picture of her – during her heydays, I presume – on the wall written, “1940.” I do a quick Math in my head and say to myself, “Damn, This woman was a teenager even before the first world war! Does she even know Xtian Dela?”
She has on a green kanzu and is holding onto an old beat up rosary. Her feet look like they have walked to the end of the world and back and she’s missing a set of front teeth. She has those kinds of eyes that force the truth out of you; like those ones of that chap with a charming accent in ‘Lucifer’. (You guys have watched ‘Lucifer’, haven’t you? No? C’moon.) She ushers us in, in a feeble voice; a voice that sounds like it’s coming from someone who’s dying. Or a cat whose tail just got stepped on in army boots. She greets us in Luo and asks us to come in. “Oyawre uru nyithinda. Donj uru. Arwakou.” (That means; “Good morning, my children. Come in. You’re welcome.”)
The old man leads and I follow as he does. He walks in and sits down next to the woman, squarely on his ass as well. And then he looks up at me, expecting me to do the same. I want to say, “C’mon, I’m wearing my favorite Khaki,” but the kind of look he gives me makes me feel like it’s not a request. So I swallow my pride, sit down with my legs folded, and set a place for my dignity next to me. Then the woman speaks up, facing my Dad. (All conversations from her onwards are in Luo, but I’m going to translate for you guys, because I’m nice like that.)
PRIESTESS: “So what seems to be the problem here?”
OLD MAN: “Well, I took this young man you see here to college, paid a hefty sum for his education, and I feel like it’s all going to waste. It’s just not working out. I give up.”
PRIESTESS: “Why do you say it’s not working out?”
OLD MAN: “He wants to do his own things. Doesn’t want to study anymore.”
PRIESTESS: “Young man, do you want to study or not?”
ME: “I do.”
PRIESTESS: “So why does your father think you don’t want to study, then?”
ME: “I don’t know. Ask him yourself.” (I know that sounds rude but when you say it in Jango, it’s really OK.)
PRIESTESS: “Mwalimu, how do you know your son doesn’t want to study? He says he wants to study.”
OLD MAN: “He wants to be a Musician.”
ME: “What? You still haven’t gotten over that photo I took with Wyre, have you?”
OLD MAN: “Kid, look at how you’re dressed. Look at your shoes.”
ME: “I’m wearing a Khaki trouser and a long sleeved trouser, which Musician do you see wearing these? What music videos do you watch?”
PRIESTESS: “Kijana, Do you want to be a Musician?”
ME: “Bloody NO! He’s just saying that because he saw photos I took with a bunch of Musicians during an event I was covering. Me, I want to write.”
OLD MAN: “Oh, and you’re just discovering that now? In your final year of schooling?”
ME: “We both know I had no say in my university education.”
PRIESTESS: “Mzee, I’m going to help this boy complete his schooling, if you will allow me. He’s a good boy, he’s just a little troubled. Now, will you allow me?”
OLD MAN: “Please, by all means.”
PRIESTESS: Young man, take that basin out there, fill it with water and use it to wash your feet. Then come back and sit down right where you were.”
When I come back, the Priestess gives me this old shuka of hers and asks me to check if there’s anything inside. Then she gives the old man a bunch of battered rosaries tied together into a single knot and asks him to check if there’s anything else in there. Then she asks for that trough I used to wash my legs, places the rosary knot inside and covers it using the shuka, Then I don’t know what she tells us to look for but right as the old man turns his head to look for it, I see her stuff something else into that trough. I don’t know what, but I see her do it. And I can already see how this is going to play out; she’s going to remove that shuka and voila! The demons that have been haunting me.
Which is exactly what she does. After about twenty minutes of silly peptalk, she removes the shuka and – besides the rosary knot – there’s something else in there. Something inside a black polythene. Something that totally smells like shit. She gives it to my old man to crack open and there it was, cow dung! And you know what she says afterwards, “My son, these are the demons that have been haunting you. As you travelling back home form Nairobi, you almost got here in a body bag. But the Lord said NO! Now, I am to bottles containing my own medicine. The first bottle contains a concoction that you must take exactly four sips from every morning before breakfast. The second, you shall use when you take a bath. And then you’re going to leave the rest for me, I will talk to God on your behalf. Understood?” I had to hold myself back from saying, “That one that I should take sips from every morning, is it, by any chance, Whiskey?”
Then they chased my ass out of the hut in the name of “let the adults now talk” when it was really just money exchanging hands. I know because when the old man found out I hadn’t used any of those concoctions by the third day, he said, “Boy, you have no idea how much that cost me.” And I all I wanted to do was punch him in the face and say, “You thought I was crazy? Nah, I’m nuts.” Like Ice Cube in that opening scene of Ride Along 1.