My stomach rumbled again. I could not get used to the food, not at all. I was so used to the Nairobi high life, the food and the atmosphere. I felt as if I was in a new world altogether, trying to create a new life that was never before, trying to be the new Fatuma that no one had ever seen before. Indeed, life changes and times as well.
“Wewe msee, food ndio hii, ukule haraka usilete nye nye nye!” The policewoman shouted at me.
It was my third day in prison and the idea of food always turned me off. Actually, what they were providing was never food. It was just food for the worms and carcasses. I sat down on the corner, and everything came to my mind in a flash. I was set up and David would have to pay for every single suffering that he caused me.
But where was David? Was it really wrong for me to have dated a mafia? Is this all a set-up? I could never get in term with the truth because it hurt me so much. I was deceived by the man that confused me with his words and “love”. I was hurt by this man that made me leave all the handsome guys that were flocking in my home and who were ready to walk down with me on the aisle, and yes, of my own age.
I squeezed myself on the corner once again as if I wanted to shield myself from the cold, as if that was the only comfort I could get. I remembered a poem that I had read somewhere:
I sit by all the hopeful hopeless shores I’ve touched,
And I watch lovers in love,
I drown in theirs- I write for them,
I build homes and live in them- In their love;
Because that love, has never lived in me.
Agitated and totally out of control, I started bursting into tears. I wept uncontrollably thereby gaining looks from the other prisoners in the cell who seemed comfortable with the life there. Is it what we referred to as habitation and adjustment in school? Why did all those women look so hostile and so complacent?
It was abnormal to see women whose heads looked like millet fields after a ghastly downpour, women who maybe thought that the existence of the combs was a nuisance. It was abnormal to be in a room filled with so much insanity that makes the jolt of annoyance in you simmer to a whole new level. It was abnormal to have been trapped by my own cage.
I kept staring at the dim light that was filtering in through the small window. It seemed as if it had joined forces with the others to mock me for there was no sliver of hope that would make this problem go away. I felt like the youngest of all and I could not wipe off the memories that I had of my exciting life. It was like a Once-upon-a-time story. It was like the villain in the snow white story. It was a mix of pain and fear, the two masters that we sometimes lack control over.
I was young. Young enough to be pursuing my degree but I was lured into the sea of lust and illusion. I was lured into the sea of castles and fairytales. I felt vulnerable. The treats had been good. Who would say no to a person that offers to give you enough money to cater for all your expenses? Who would say no to a person that was ready to buy the world for you, yes, buy the world with materialism and words that were enough to send all snakes out of their caves?
Mama Charo would never be able to bear this shock. She had so much expectations in me for I was the only girl in my village that managed to get straight A’s in all the subjects and win herself the GAB entry that allowed me to proceed with doing what I had always wished for, Law. When she was sending me to the bus stop at the Kilifi station, she left me with this note: ‘Mwanangu, maombi na heshima. Zikanye heshimayo, usidzibandire’.
I was buried in thoughts of remorse and pangs of guilt. I had forgotten what really brought me to this amusing town. I had forgotten what my folks expected of me. I had forgotten that the whole of Giriama Land was waiting urgently to see their dreams bear fruits through the help of Kazungu’s only daughter. I had let myself loose. Would this new Mekatilili wa Menza according to the village elders really be praised for the catastrophes that she had caused?
My thoughts were disrupted by some two women that were fighting on the other corner of the congested and stinky cell; they were in each other’s necks fighting over the normal gambling games that are so rampant in prisons. I was so amused with how some people could behave like baboons, uncivilized and strange. But I was not to be a blamist at that time and age because if I was not coarse, I would not have been at that place too.
It was hard to decipher the sun. How magical it showed up in the morning and how amazing it let it rays down to form a great shade of yellow and orange when it was setting in the evening. I had missed the sun, the room that I was kept in allowed only little rays to penetrate in and I could not have a good view of the astounding wonder of nature.
The next morning came by and I was more than ever anticipating David’s arrival to save me from the clutches of cruelty and barbarism. Once Mama Charo would hear about my story, kwisha! Hell would break lose and all our neighbors back in Kilifi would be blaming my mother for allowing me to go study beyond her own sight. Mzee Kazungu sold all our goats to Kahindi, the renowned businessman in our locality so as to cater for my expenses in university. The loans that he took were also not to be dismissed.
David was a stinking rich man, no, old man. He had many cars, bungalows and lots of cash. I remember vividly, I was going to the village market with some of my colleagues that were also from remote areas and wanted to be absorbed by this new culture shock. On our way, a Prado stopped by and a gentleman popped his head out, “Are you in for a lift?” The man inquired. Filled with naivety, I replied without much ado. My colleagues too were excited about this sudden luck that would save us on our cost and would also give us the privilege to sit on a luxurious car.
Carefully as butterflies perching on flowers, we got into the car. He asked us lots of questions and we answered without hesitating, lest he pushed us out of his posh car. He drove us to the entrance and directed us on how we could get back to our school premises without us having to go back to the google maps. I observed that he took a keen interest in me and he gave me that pathetic look. That hungry look that a lion gives when it sees its prey.
He asked for my number and said that I should refer to him in case of any need. After the chit-chats and romantic texts that went through both our lines, Legal Law was kept at bay. That became more fascinating. What was the need to equip yourself with so much knowledge about the dos’ and don’ts’ of the society when there was a man who was ready to give you an empire just by the word go? Who was ready to offer you every single thing you ever wanted just for the exchange of your own body?
‘Usidzinbandire heshimayo’, these words flew in my head waiting to erupt like a volcano. I had broken my respect and I had lost my dignity and what awaited me was a disaster that only Mulungu could stop. It was too late to think about the milk that was already spilt. It was too late to change the circumstances but it was never late to get out of the confinement and that would happen if the son-of-a-gun comes out of his hide-out to reveal the truth and to say who was the real handler of all the drugs that were flowing all the way from the Kenya Ports Authority in Mombasa to Nairobi. Who was the master mind of this entire trap that led me into a life that I had never anticipated in the first place?
Our kayas were far much better than the prison and I felt so weak to even think about all the turn of events. I had lost the battle with my own dignity but I would never shun away from my education. I wanted my happy back at all costs even if it meant going all underground to know who kept some drugs in my university bag that had me expelled from the distinguished Nairobi University.
As the rowdy policeman ushered us out of the cell, I took a look at his beard that looked rough enough to shame Mama Charo’s pumice stone, for a moment, I laughed so hard that tears kissed the corners of my eyes. I bet it was the first time I was laughing since I was brought into the prison. While others went to have their breakfast, all I could think of was what Ashwag wrote in her collection of poems,
The wind that brought me here once and made itself my home is now whispering that I am unwanted,
It is howling and whistling and calling for anything that isn’t mine,
My heart aches from this, but as long as there are savannah winds in this continent that crave for wild eyes and all or nothing hearts,
I will be okay,
Eventually I will be.
I stared at the mandazi that I was offered and I managed to take a bite. It was not as I had thought, it was tasty. Maybe this hard life had changed my taste buds. I let the poem flow into my veins while I had a heavy breakfast after a long time.
“Fatima Kazungu, You have a visitor”, the hairy policeman said and I felt some excitement dart through my body like grasshoppers jumping from grass blade to grass blade. I felt that the time that I had waited for was finally here. When I opened the door into the visitor’s room, my heart skipped a beat. It was just the milk man that delivered my milk who had had rumors about my confinement and knowing that I had always been a frequent customer, he felt obliged to come and visit me.
When would David show up? I bided my visitor good bye and went back to the room that has been a nightmare for some time. I felt sick but my heart still believed that Mulungu would send his protection. I watched the rowdy policeman as he locked us up again and I felt like a corpse. I ranted the lines again, “I will be okay, eventually I will be”.
Salma Abdulatif Yusuf.