Imani (Part 2)
(If you haven’t read the first part of this story, click here)
It is Saturday morning, 11:27 a.m. My mother and I are seated on a maasai shuka under a huge tree the edge of our compound. The smell of fresh, clean grass, mixed with that of dried leaves is finding its way into my nostrils, and I tell myself I could live like this forever. A chicken wanders from the rest and finds its way where we are and starts to noisily eat my leftover groundnuts.
My mother mumbles something under her breath, picks a stone, hurls it at the chicken and before I know it, the otherwise silent air is filled with chuckles, and the chicken is somewhere above my head, scampering to safety, showering my head with sawdust and everything else it had gathered beneath its wings.
“Mum!” I scream, swallowing the click in my tongue, and rise, starting to head for the house.
“Kwani unaogopa kuku bado?” She says this, laughing her lungs out, clutching at her stomach, and spilling the remaining pieces of groundnuts. “Unaenda wapi na wanapanguza nyumba?”
Begrudgingly, I walk back and sit next to her, still in stitches. I like being at home, alone, or with my mother. I like being home because it is the only place where things get done, without me lifting a finger. It is the only place where people do things for me, even the little ones I assume are personal. Like serving my food. Spreading my bed. Washing my clothes.
I like being home because it reminds me of the child still inside me, grinning whenever someone does anything for them. So when my mother calls my name and says, ‘Chai itapoa usipoamka sai’, I know not to complain, because no one else in this whole world could do the same for me. And when my father brings me a newspaper and asks, ‘leo umesoma gazeti kweli?” I know I could get used to this.
But it is different, this time. Not even my mother’s little acts of kindness cheer me up. Not even when she comes home and says in the softest ways possible, ‘nyama kilo ngapi itakutosha?' Not even when my father gives me his debit card with a soft warning of, ‘Na usipitishe elfu tano wewe. Not even when it rains softly at night, and the petrichor covers my body in warmth.
It is different, this time, because every time I see my mother, or hear her voice, or even think of her, my mind drifts back to Imani. To the last words she said to me: I want to see how a true mother looks like. A mother who laughs with their child. A mother who misses their child, so she calls them every now and then. A mother who has had books written in her honour. A mother whose presence shows in the face of their children. Maybe then, I will understand…
It is different, this time, because my mind has painted these dark, and angry, and ugly pictures of Imani lying helpless by the roadside, on a starless night, pain and shame nibbling away at the remaining pieces of life left in her. My mind keeps seeing her face, and that of her mother on seeing her covered in blood, sweat, semen, and mud, and still slamming the door on her face. I keep seeing her wishing she died in the hands of those men, because this emotional pain wouldn’t have been something she would have to carry for the rest of her life.
It is different, this time, because every time my mother finds me gazing into space, I break into tears and this makes it worse for both of us; me, because I am too angry, and shaken, and sad, to tell her what happened to Imani. Her, because I can see it in her eyes; the fear that something bad happened to me in the city, and this is me running away from it, trying to hide in the village, burying myself behind closed doors. I hear it, this fear, in her voice when she whispers ‘loudly’ while talking to her friends: Hakuangi hivi, Najua mtoto wangu.
It is different, this time, because there is a wall of fear that has started to build up between my mother and I. She walks into a room, and I walk out. She starts to complain, maybe shout a little, and my silence only makes it worse. I begin to wish it was just my father and I in the house. It would have been easier with him, whatever this is, because he would come home, find my nose buried in a book, mumble his greetings, and walk away saying, ‘ukiona mtu anasoma, usimsumbue.'
It is different, this time, because I keep thinking of all the times I have been unappreciative of my mother. Or taken her for granted. Or felt that she was too much into my space. Or thought I deserved better. Or I could do just fine without her. I keep thinking of the times I have cut short conversations between us two because they started feeling too personal. Like the times she asks when I am bringing her a grandchild, and my brain laughs in childfree. Or the times she asks when I am bringing home someone’s son, but disguised in ,‘Hii kunyamaza ni kama uko na mimba. Au mtu amekunyakua na husemi? Ata cousin yako ameniletea mtotoo juzi nione. Ni wewe tu umebaki.”
It is different, this time, because my heart is threatening to burst from all the things I want to tell my mother. That I love her. That I adore her. That there would never be another like her. That I would be lost without her. That I wouldn’t know what to say, if not for the words she puts in my heart and mouth. I want to tell her all these whenever she bursts into my bedroom, but my voice is stuck somewhere in my chest, and in its place, tears.
It is different, this time, because my mother bursts into my room on the last day of my stay and says, “Someone is here to see you. Her name is Imani. I think I have seen her before…”