TMI

“But why does he have to call it The Gonorrhea?”

I was roaming the aisles of my local supermarket, grocery shopping, when I happened to overhear this obnoxiously loud and TMIous conversation that was unraveling over speaker phone.

You have to understand, this is a normal supermarket. The kind that sells things like milk, bread, fruit, kombucha and kids clothes. More specifically, I was in the hair products aisle, because, team natural.

When I walked in that afternoon, I thought the most exciting thing that would happen was that I would find my favorite products on sale. I was bummed that I had forgotten my earpods at home, and would have to shop to the generic music the store played, which is definitely not Afrobeats.  Little did I know that the universe saw my frowny face and decided to turn that frown upside down, courtesy of she who shall not be named. Scratch that, she who I named The Voice.

As I was holding two competing deep conditioner brands in hand, contemplating the virtues of Jojoba and vanilla, The Voice returned.

“I mean, why not call it Gonorrhea like a normal person?”

Eyebrows raised, I turned my head, scanning the area around me, eager to locate the source of this voice that roamed free, unencumbered by the societal straitjackets of propriety and inside voices. The deep conditioners, which until that moment had commanded my undivided attention, were urgently returned to their shelves, moisturized hair falling far below this new development on the totem pole. You see, when you live in a suburb as quiet as the one I live in, where the most exciting thing that happens is NIMBY protests, this conversation was the UFO of occurrences.

At this point, The Voice had moved closer to my aisle, I imagine, at the urging of the universe.

“Go there,” The Universe whispered

“Where?” The Voice bellowed

“Closer to the hair products aisle, your roots could use a touch-up or two.”

“You’re right! Thank you Universe!”

And so, I heard The Voice drawing closer.

“I mean,” I noticed she said ‘I mean’ a lot.

“I mean, remember when he had Syphilis? Which he also insisted on calling The Syphilis??? As if he had the grand finale of the disease? Like dude, how many lives do you have?”

At this point, I also wondered how many lives Dude had, and how many more he had left in the bag. It sounded like having discovered that no one leaves this world alive, he was living his best life in these streets, painting each corner every color known and unknown to womankind, and would take zero regrets to his grave. Diseases, many, but regrets? Zilch.

Since The Voice was practically on the next aisle, I could hear her companion’s voice over speaker phone, saying something about amends.

“He is making amends? So now we all have to hear about all the diseases he has? Do you know how many countries he has been to? Is he gonna make amends around the world???” The Voice asked incredulously, releasing the long-suffering sigh of one who has seen and heard it all.

At this point, I was dying of curiosity, I wanted to see this woman who felt the need to have such a deeply private conversation in such a public space, and sure enough, the universe delivered. She rounded the corner, talking about how Dude got so many women because he also spoke French and Spanish. A real man of the world, this Dude. She popped up on my aisle, where I was rooted to the spot, having been so engrossed in eavesdropping that I did not even bother to conceal my nosiness. Now, standing face to face with her, I immediately switched back to apparent shopping mode, staring at the array of conditioners and masks, wondering how anyone was supposed to choose any one of them when they all promised luscious, bouncy hair. I maintained this pose, the labels before me a blur, as The Voice moved closer to me, examining the array of products, and finding the selection of over 200 options wanting.

“Why don’t they carry black hair dye, I’m blonde but blondes like to dye their hair other colors too!” she exclaimed, looking at me for commiseration, in a ‘ do you feel my pain’ vibe, even though I am neither blonde, nor do I dye my hair. I nodded noncommittally, gave her the standard 1 second American smile, and continued to appear to examine the products ahead of me, afraid that if I responded, I would be voluntold into being an active participant of the Dude Commission of Inquiry. Disappointed by my lack of empathy, she moved on to the next aisle, telling the person she was speaking to that she would have to call them back, and went in search of an acceptable hair dye, or perhaps someone who was a bit more simpatico.

At this point, a victim of analysis paralysis courtesy of the rows and rows of choices before me, and having experienced quite the exciting shopping trip, I gave up on selecting a deep conditioner, loaded up on my probiotic drink, and headed home, where there was peace, quiet and no Voices.

Dusty Menus

I grew up eating food. I see your skeptical eyebrow raised, smirk on your face saying, no kidding, Einstein. What do you think the rest of us ate? Do you think our fathers brought home mirages? Do you think our mothers cooked those mirages and fed us vapors and promises? A precursor to NFT bread? Awino, usitupime akili, pris (say pris is a centrooo accent)

Your judgmental stance is warranted if, like me, you grew up in a place where everything that landed on your plate could be directly traced to a plant or animal that lived on God’s green earth. But, stay with me, come srowry, take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, or whisky, have a seat; you are not the one I speak of. Let me tell you of the suffering of some of our American and other brethren from developed countries and cities over the last few decades, maybe even centuries.

I am no fan of cheese. I don’t get its appeal. It tastes ok. It makes Pizza palatable. Beyond that, cheese is wasted on me. A quick search of the world’s top 10 most expensive cheeses yields names like: Lord of the Hundreds- not to be confused with Lord of the Rings, Rogue River Blue- even though no thievery was involved in the making of that cheese. My absolute favorite on that list is also the creme de la creme, Pule cheese. From a donkey. Yes, you read that right. People are out here forking out $600/pound to eat cheese made from a punda. A punda! My fellow Kenyans, we are literally burdening our fundas with hulking loads, when they could be making us loaded. Has any Kenyan, in the history of Kenyaning, ever thought to milk a donkey? Let alone make cheese from said milk? I will graciously receive royalties from whoever implements my idea.

You know who didn’t make the list though? Parmesan cheese. You know you have hit rock bottom when you are not deemed worthy to appear on the same list as the by-product of a donkey’s milk.

Why, you ask, with such a fine name, didn’t Parmesan make the list? Did it not wear the right bow tie and top hat to number 5-Old Ford’s father’s funeral? Did it, by chance, loudly yell that the obituary was incomplete, seeing as it didn’t mention the old goat’s second wife and six love children? Is Parmesan that guy who shows up to a wedding dressed in jean shorts and a t-shirt so shrunk and faded, whose original color is only decipherable after visiting a jajuok from Alego and offering a sacrifice of a white chicken? 

Did it have one too many drinks, snatch the microphone from the MC, stand on the table and start rattling off the names of all the bride’s and groom’s exes, some in attendance? Or did it, in a bid to gain some clout, run off with cheese number 10, Lord of The Hundreds’ wife, usurping him to become the new Lord? Or, maybe it loudly chewed with its mouth open and farted at the dinner table, scandalizing Mrs donkey-milk Pule, who being one who only farted rose scented perfume, was so scandalized she keeled over, prompting her loving husband to immediately strike Parmesan’s name off The List?

Unfortunately, the real reason is far more grating. You see, in the USA, there are three classifications of cheese. Bear with this brief dissertation as your body digests the Parmesan you ate ten years ago. 

Pasteurized process cheese = 100% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese food = at least 51% Cheese

Pasteurized process cheese product = less than 51% Cheese

What is in the missing percentages? Usitake kujua.

This whole conversation started when my husband and I were discussing the recent discovery that a leading sandwich shop sells “food” consisting of, and this is true: ‘bread’ made of materials found in yoga mat foam, leading me to wonder if that explains my increased flexibility, since I partook of their cheap sandwiches quite frequently in my grad school days, being on a tight budget and all. The pièce de résistance on their menu however, was ‘tuna’ that turned out to be unusually fishy, and not of the pescaterian variety, but of the ‘this tuna has been all over these streets’ variety.  To use a word my fellow Kenyans are deeply fond of, this tuna had been gallivanting everywhere. The intrepid tuna looked around the ocean, sighed and decided it was so over the deep blue sea, packed its fins and found its way to Old McDonald’s farm, where it proceeded to slay with chicken, cows and even pigs. A.k.a the United Nations of sandwich meat. 

My husband then asked if I had ever heard of cheese food, a term I had never heard before. 

“Isn’t all cheese food? “I asked, baffled, at which point he looked at me as one does someone who has led a very sheltered life, and whose bubble is about to receive a tornado of grim reality. It sounded to me like saying, rice food. Well, what else would rice be?

He went on to explain, in great detail, and to my horror, that it was something that can be spread on sandwiches from a tube. A tube? Like toothpaste? I asked, another culture-shock moment loading, long after I thought I was done with culture-shock. Apparently, some Parmesan and the rest of the ‘cheese food’ family contain everything from sawdust to other ‘coagulants’. Basically, Parmesan is the sausage of the cheese family. You really do not want to know what’s in it. Eat it if you must, I know I have, and maybe, and that’s a big maybe, by the time your newborn infant is joining high school, your body will be done digesting it, if your metabolism is a furnace.

And apparently it doesn’t end there. Everything from tomato sauce to your veggie burger probably contain sawdust too (silver lining, at least sawdust is vegan). Even the tongue-twisting Worcestershire sauce contains it. Why the British chose not to spell it like it is pronounced, ‘Woostashar’, or even name it after India, the country that brought us its flavor, is beyond me. 

I will chew on my sawdust while I digest that, if we are what we eat, then we are all sawdust.

Carpenaum

“Bro!” Nadab called.

“Dude, what?” an irritated Amasa responded.

“Come check this guy out, I heard he has like, 5000 followers, and he just showed up!”

“Bro, 5000 followers? Really? I’ve been hustling for years and I have like 200! Plus, I have the most followers in this town, so, nice try ha ha ha”

“Ok, get this, this guy is morbid. I mean mooorbiiid.” Nadab whispered dramatically, drawing out the word morbid for so long, Amasa wondered if he would pass out for lack of air.

Amasa sighed, shaking his head, and continued to vigorously brush his ass. The kind that has four legs and brays. Get your mind out of the gutter.

You see, Nadab was the king of drama. He could make the simple act of drinking water sound like a near death choking experience. Nadab was so dramatic, even his own mother did not believe him anymore, and you know mothers and their sons. It is harder for a mother to disbelieve her son than it is for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. But Nadab’s mom had heard such tall tales, she no longer had it in her to absorb any more. 

“Dude! This guy is basically putting up an ad for cannibals!” Nadab exclaimed.

That got Amasa’s attention. You see, there were rumors of cannibalistic tribes many many seas away, but how far away does a cannibal have to be for one to comfortably sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be nibbled on while they sleep?

“Cannibals?” Amasa repeated.

“Dude!” that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! This dude is inviting cannibals to town!”

“Ok…” Amasa replied slowly, not wanting to attract attention in case said cannibals were in town. They were rumored to have exceptional smelling abilities, fear being their preferred scent.

“What exactly did he say? Direct quote please Nadab, this is not the time to insert one of your ‘scintillating’ details”

Nadab responded dramatically, “He said, and I quote, ‘My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.’”

Amasa dropped the brush, startling his ass, which made a very loud noise. Not a fart, people, a braying noise. 

“What? He said what???” A stunned Amasa asked. Even his ass gave Nadab the side-eye.

“Bro, I’m telling you, there was pandemonium. People ran away, some started screaming, others looked around to see who the cannibals among us were. I definitely caught Absalom, the butcher, looking at this guy a little more closely than I was comfortable with, dude, I’m never buying meat from Absalom. Who knows what he’s been feeding us.”

“Nadab! Focus!” Amasa shouted, a cold sweat trickling down his back. He was a rather large man, and by his estimation, if there were cannibals in town, and it very much sounded like there might be, then he would be next, after this 5000 follower guy was eaten.

“Who is this guy? And I need you to answer this very carefully. When did you last see him alive?”

But Nadab seemed transfixed to the spot, staring at something just behind Amasa. Slowly, dreading what he would find behind him, Amasa turned to see The Man. He had brown skin, rather tall, with long hair parted in the middle. He looked familiar, but in that moment, all Amasa could hear was Nadab’s eerie whisper.

“That’s him, thaaa thaaaa that’s the ggggguy…” Nadab never stammered. He was terrified. The trickle that traveled down his leg onto his dusty sandals pretty much guaranteed no cannibal would want to eat him, leaving Amasa and The Man on the menu.

The Man approached the two men and the donkey. One of them, who seemed to have a liquid of unknown origin trickling down his leg, keeled over, out cold. The other one, with dexterity belying his rotund frame, jumped on the donkey and took off at a speed that would put Lewis Hamilton to shame.

Meanwhile, Jesus, who was just chilling in Capernaum, shooting the breeze with his followers, figured he’d get to the runaway guy eventually.

Torta Torture

I sit here, as I have all these years, so far away from home, patiently waiting to receive the multitudes of visitors who visit me every year. I look on with what I have heard described as a mysterious smile, the subject of much speculation. Scholars and novices alike claim to understand me, what I’m thinking, the secret behind my smile. They come in groups, tall ones, short ones, chubby cheeked ones and sharp cheeked ones, some elegantly dressed, perhaps Italian, and those in baggy sweatpants and fanny packs, definitely American. The room is a cacophony of languages and accents, twangs, drawls, ethnic clothes and elaborate bead-work the likes of which can only originate from Africa.

Some of them are security, I can tell, in plainclothes, attempting to mingle with the crowd. They fool the crowds, but they can never fool me, for their gazes continuously sweep the room, zoning in on anyone who stares at me a little too long, inappropriately, anyone who appears to have gears turning in their head, spinning elaborate wheels to ferry me to a different place, including back to my native Italy.

I can tell a lot by their gazes. The awestruck looks on the faces of those who have finally, finally after years and years of dreaming, begging, borrowing and maybe even stealing, arrived before me. I am right in front of them, their hearts beat faster, as they reverently gaze upon my subtle smile, absorbing every detail, so they can describe this moment in vivid detail to their children, grandchildren, neighbors, fishmongers, Taxi driver, really, anyone they come into contact with for the rest of their lives. I have been known to be so moving as to bring a tear to an African man, Englishman or German’s eye, surprising some of them as they thought their tear ducts were long obsolete. Some will even use their visit as a pickup line, fancying themselves extremely cultured, seeing as they will now have genuine bragging rights, having walked the hallowed ground that is my abode.

And then there are the disappointed lot, muttering, “Oh, this is it?” As if I am not good enough for them. As if their journey to see me was a complete waste of their time. Their crestfallen faces leave no doubt in my mind that, in their estimation, watching paint dry would have been a better use of their precious time. They had built up this image of me in their minds, an impossibly surreal image no one could ever match, certainly not me, I’m but a woman. 

Occasionally a VERY very important person will have the whole place shut down so they can have a private tour. There are those true lovers of art who want an undisturbed moment with me, and then there are the obnoxious ones who “don’t do crowds”, because heaven forbid they breathe the same air as the hoi polloi.

No visitor, no matter how important, can escape the watchful eye of my security detail. I never have an unguarded moment. Well, not since my compatriot decided to “free” me all those years ago. You see, he decided that I needed to return to Italy, where I would wake up to the sounds of “ciao bella”, and the aroma of home-made pasta. Enough was enough, he decided. My prolonged stay here bothered him to no end, and so he bided his time, waiting for the opportune moment, even getting a job as a security guard in my home, and then one day, he snatched me, spiriting me to my native land, to the consternation of multitudes of security organizations and self proclaimed aficionados.

Sheathed in musty boxes, he plunged me into the underground, a world of shadowy figures, bats of the human race, who only showed their sinister faces at night, unsavory brokers who peeked at me, discussing my worth, their deep pocketed greedy masters tugging at invisible strings, determined to pawn me off to the highest bidder.

My hijacker’s quest was cut short when the long arm of the law caught up with him, and I was returned to my home, looking forward to some peace and quiet. A lady can only deal with so much excitement after all. 

Alas, peace and quiet would prove elusive. Years later, a man would claim to be madly in love with me, and in a deranged display of devotion, cut me with a razor, and an equally bizarre subsequent fanatic threw a stone at me, hitting my elbow in the process, and so security was stepped up to RED, meaning, fart near me and you will be welcomed into the tender, loving care of the Gendarmerie posthaste. I’ve seen things kids, I’ve seen things. I mean, 2020, amiright?

I had some more peace and quiet, until today,that is. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love cake as much as the next person, but today’s incident literally took the cake. You see, I was minding my own business, mysterious smile in place, watching the crowd of visitors, when a very old woman, bent over with the ravages of time, was wheeled in to see me, probably as a dying wish. My heart melted, touched by the kindness of her chaperone, because such kindness is so rare in this world. I watched as the woman gazed upon me, and with a speed that belied her old age, stood up, revealing a whole cake, momentarily exciting me, thinking that someone had finally decided to very belatedly celebrate my birthday! This hopeful moment was short-lived when uncharacteristically manly hands lobbed the cake, unsliced, straight at me, whacking me smack in the face! Mio Dio! The savagery!

Luckily for the cake lobber, the Kenyan police were not in the building, and so he was spared that indelible slap that can only be meted by the lead-palmed hand of a Kenyan policeman.

The saddest part? I didn’t get a slice of that cake, it looked quite delicious.

5 Seconds

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a day full of meetings and low on time to eat a proper meal. So, having been heads down working non-stop, I didn’t notice it was almost lunchtime until nature’s alarm clock, also known as my rumbling stomach, reminded me of this fact in its typical rambunctious fashion. 

Suddenly, I had an epiphany. A fried chicken burger would be nice, I thought. My famished brain added fuel to this thought by conjuring the tastiest, crispiest, juiciest burger that ever burgered.  This burger was going to have the works. Crispy brioche bread, juicy yet crunchy fried chicken, freshly sliced onions, wisps of jalapeno pepper, freshly made honey mustard sauce dripping over the chicken, lettuce so crisp I could practically feel the crunch as I bit into it. I mean, this burger was going to be the epitome of burger perfection, a hall of famer.

Naturally, the next step was to order this magical burger from my favorite burger restaurant, followed by obsessively tracking the delivery status on my app. Exactly 15 minutes later, my doorbell rang, informing me that the moment I had been eagerly anticipating was finally here. I grabbed the package, and channeling my inner Shelly-Ann Fraser, I sprinted to the kitchen for the grand unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony.

I unwrapped the package and the delicious aroma of the burger and fries wafted towards my hungry face, and in a delayed flash of genius, I decided to re-crisp the burger so it would be just so. Peak level of crispiness must be achieved after all. 

It was when I was retrieving my now crisped-to-perfection burger that the devil struck. Yes, I will blame this one on Saitan

You see, I was distracted by a text message while reaching for the food, and suddenly, as if in slow motion, I watched my beloved crispy juicy burger tumble to the floor, slowly deconstructing itself midair, landing in a mess of splattered honey mustard, lettuce, onions, brioche and finally and to my great dismay, crispy fried chicken.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I yelled, horrified, realizing that in these days of COVID, the 5 second rule does not apply. And it does not apply because COVID probably latched onto my burger mid-air, sinking its tentacles in it before the lowly germs of the floor ever got a chance to bite into it. And so, in a funereal sequence, I gathered the possibly COVID infested remains of my beloved burger, and committed them to the compost bin. The text message that started all this? It was a spam text, Saitan asindwe!

Fare thee well my beloved burger, rest with the ants who I am sure had the feast to end all feasts.

Flighty Fingers

Mtaka cha mvunguni sharti ainame. This sliver of wisdom, dispensed by one of those Swahili sages of old as his agemates huddled in a circle, kanzus firmly in place, deeply-veined shaky hands tenuously grasping small cups of kahawa tungu. Their milky eyes held far-away looks as they fondly remembered their glory days, sweet-talking lasses with ample curves,  as their now wizened faces with dune-like wrinkles slowly nodded in agreement, even though their bodies were decades past their bending days. I imagine his name was Mzee Abdalah. And hours later, when Mzee Abdalah was finally done speaking, because a good methali must first marinate, besides, what else is there to do in that sweltering heat but talk? His compeers simply said, “Doh!Umenena kama wazee elfu!”

This saying recently came to mind when I encountered, shall we say, an interesting character. You see, even though I am a daughter of Nam Lolwe, the benevolent Swahili gods occasionally take pity on me, bringing to mind a methali that perfectly captures my current situation; which is quite generous, considering my people have allegedly so bastardized that language that in its final throes it simply gave up the ghost, surrendering to its new name, Oswahili.

Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us would gleefully jump at the chance to grab the mvunguni goodies if we could bypass the kuinama part. And it was under such circumstances that I encountered this man, let’s call him Mteche. You see, I had recently booked a flight with Kenya Airways, but because life whips you with a nyaunyo harder in these times of COVID, I had to cancel the flight. In the process of trying to get a hold of KQ on Twirra, this enterprising fellow saw a loophole and decided to exploit it. 

YouTube is laden with a cornucopia of videos on various flavors of scams, ranging from vintage 90s barrister-with-a-windfall left by a recently deceased relative you’ve never heard of, to the slightly more savvy 2010s call centers targeting senior and not-so-senior citizens, all the way up to the truly scary COVID era ones, those you never hear from, shadowy figures who thrive on identity theft, dissipating after the deed is done, leaving not even a wisp of their existence, save for a gaping hole where your bank account once struggled to find footing. 

And so when I encountered my very own scammer, my newly minted virtual diploma from YouTube scam-buster academy in hand, I decided to have some fun with it. Because in these days of COVID, we must spark our joy where it finds us, donge?

This enterprising fellow, Mteche, must have scoured the internet, seeking the best scam artistry education no money could buy. I imagine in a previous life, the barrister scam may have worked with modest success, earning him enough to buy a mandazi or two, and tea without milk. Seeing as he wanted some milk in his tea, he decided to enroll in slightly more advanced level II courses, which led him to  create a Twirra Account and handle mimicking the KQ logo and handle , complete with a business account on Whatsapp. His M.O was quite simple really. Search Twirra for a disgruntled customer, preferably one inquiring about their refund, promptly inbox said person, obtain their phone number, and that is where the fun and games began.

I imagine his heart was beating excitedly, the hunter in him sensing gullible prey ahead. But this daughter of Alego was also equally excited, ready to put her YouTube Scam-Buster Academy skills to use. As our venerable tutors on YouTube told us, the first step is always to get the victim to save the scammer’s number on their phone, and then direct the victim to a money transfer service. 

Mteche tried, several times, to get me to send him money through MPESA, Western Union,World Remit, a homing pigeon, a donkey, anything, to no avail. At some point, he got so frustrated and asked me if I could name relatives whose numbers could be used instead. I explained, in my most doleful voice, that I was born alone in this world, like a penguin hatched from an abandoned egg in the frigid gusts of Antarctica. He had no sympathy for this penguin, he had a job to do. So he tried something else, and this is where my YouTube Academy education came in handy. 

You see, the latest scam is to direct the victim to a money sending service and then coerce them to enter the scammer’s name as the recipient, and then, in the amount section, to enter what appear to be random numbers like 0008875, but in reality, those zeros don’t count. Once you select continue, you have just sent them 8,875 of whatever currency you typically transact in. I wrote all this information on a piece of paper, because YouTube Scam- Buster Academy graduates no fools.

Mteche: Have you entered the name and that number?

Me: Yes

Mteche: What does it say

Me: It says this is fraud

Long, awkward pause, followed by another pause

Me: Are you there?

Mteche: garbling noise

Me: You know, this scam where you ask people to enter a phone number in their phone book and then to enter many zeros followed by a number is a well known scam

Mteche: I’m not a scammer

Me: Why isn’t your account verified, if you are with KQ? Where is your little tick?

Mteche: They forgot

Me: Who are they?

Mteche: Twirra

Me: Ok, no problem, what’s your manager’s name (checks LinkedIn, no such names exist)

Mteche: Have you entered the number in your phone?

Me: Of course

Mteche, impatiently: I don’t see any money, can you check?

Me, rather dramatically, in the fashion of my people’s professional mourners: Mayo! You tricked me! My money! it’s gone!

Mteche, excitedly checking his phone: there’s no money here! Are you sure you entered the instructions in your phone?

Me: chortling

Mteche: Why are you laughing!

At this point, I was roaring with laughter, what people like to caption as “I’m dead” while still being very much alive.

The line went dead, I’m not sure why. 

I did of course send him a message to wish him a great day, I am after all, a lady, but I am also a lady from Alego, and we know our rights, so I let him know that I would be forwarding his numbers to various authorities(in his desperation to get me to send him money, he kept providing alternative phone numbers because he thought that the actual problem was one of his lines and not the fact that he was up against a YouTube Scam-Buster Academy graduate)

I don’t know if anything will come of my reports to Twirra, the real Kenya Airways  and the authorities, but in the meantime, should you encounter Mteche and his scam-mates, feel free to quote Mzee Abdalah. 

YOLO

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” so says the Good Book. This quote rang true as I sat courtside, proudly watching our son take his first basketball class. 

I am not athletic, well, not overtly so. Maybe deep, deep inside, in another life, I will be athletic. And by athletic I mean I have never participated in any competitive sports, unless you count the one time I showed up to basketball practice at an ungodly hour, and in the dim light of dawn, got whacked in the face by a flying basketball. It goes without saying that that ended any hopes I had of participating in that violent game. I mean, if something whacks you in the face once, it’s an accident. If it happens again, well, you know what W says about fool me once, or was it fool you once? He couldn’t figure it out either. Point is, someone got fooled and it ended badly. 

I don’t own any athletic medals, not even the sympathy ones I’m told they give people just for showing up, to massage their bruised egos; this scam ensures that the hapless optimists keep paying to take classes for something they have no hope of ever being even mediocre at. Also, they award these medals so the disappointed participants don’t go home wailing like they are at a Luo funeral where the food and alcohol have run out, which, as you can imagine, is very bad for business. 

Imagine walking into a building to enroll in a sport only to be met by an exodus of wailing faces, you would be forgiven for thinking that a nyaunyo wielding Kenyan policeman runs the show, at which point anyone would understand why you hightailed it out of there, in the style of our Jamaican brethren.

I digress. We enrolled our son in basketball. We rolled up to the court, meeting a family of three first timers on our way in. We were a flurry of first timers, if you will, or maybe a school? I don’t know, the point is, there were many of us. As we entered the building, with its massive courts and spotless, shiny floors, we watched as some older kids practiced, their coordinated movements proof that they were not likely to end up in the sympathy medal crew. (SMC)

Classes started, the coach guiding the kids through handling, dribbling and passing the ball. Our son scored right away, beginner’s luck boosting his confidence and giving me hope that his face would not be meeting the business end of a basketball on his first try. About ten minutes into the hour-long class, one of the kids, who had been curiously watching the coach and the gaggle of budding basketballers, slowly started to step away from the court, moonwalk style. He did it so stealthily that, had he not been in my immediate line of sight, I would not have noticed this stealth-mode escape in action. The kid may have a future in clandestine operations.

You see, in the spirit of living his best life, he decided that he had given the game of basketball a fair shake, and seeing as YOLO, he proceeded to lay down on the spotless floor and snuggle a basketball. Now there’s an untapped market- snuggle ball, send me royalties when that idea blows up and makes you bazillions, will ya? The YOLO boy’s siesta persisted through the cacophony of dribbling basketballs, sneaker soles squeaking on the shiny floor, the occasional meltdown when scores were missed, and high fives when scores were made. He woke up just as the final whistle blew, made a beeline for the bleachers and left with his parents without so much as a backward glance.

15 Items

It sat there, sullen, seemingly forgotten, like the last kid to be picked up from school. It was almost full to the brim with an assortment of groceries. I looked at it again, and then checked the sign above me. “Express Lane, 15 items or less”, the sign warned us, frowning at the blatant disrespect of the fully laden cart in this lane. The nerve.

That was the first sign. The universe’s first whisper, warning me to flee. But did I? No. I am from Alego. We do not cower at the first sign of adversity. I joined the line, my kombucha and kale, 8 items in total, toeing the line. After a moment, I looked at the cashier, who was looking around impatiently, adjusting her glasses while tapping her long acrylic nails on the counter, ‘tap tap tap’. 

“Is this cart checking out?” I asked

“Yep, she’s just getting a few more things.” She replied, sighing deeply, the long suffering sigh of obligation mixed with disappointment and held together by the duct tape of the almighty paycheck.

I looked at the full cart and then at the cashier, and in that moment, we bonded over our frustration. The frustration of watching a cart full of at least 50 items hold the line hostage while the culprit went to look for more items, because why stop at 50?

My Kombucha, unaccustomed to life on these streets, started to sweat like cold bottles do when ripped from the cool safety of the fridge. The organic kale, mortified, sneered at the sweaty bottle, shook its leaves and shuddered at the indignity of it all.

Finally, a few minutes later, she appeared. She was a very well dressed woman, sporting an expensive looking watch, diamond earrings and a very pricey purse. She swept past me, a cloud of perfume floating around her perfectly coiffed gray hair. We shall call her Madam. True to her word, Madam had forgotten a few items. The sweaty kombucha, the snooty kale and I all breathed a sigh of relief. Our wait was coming to an end. She would pay for her 50 items and move on with her merry life. But the universe had other plans. I had ignored its warning, and so it was lesson time. 

She reached into her purse, fished out a wallet and handed the cashier a few gift cards to pay for the purchase. Fair enough. The cashier, eager to move the line along, quickly started to check out her small mountain of items, and was almost halfway through the process when Madam’s face perked up, a Eureka moment! She reached into her bottomless purse, and after a frantic search, her fist emerged victorious, with the mother lode of coupons in tow. I lauded her savvy, inflation being what it is, she had found ways to slash her grocery bill significantly. My cheer leading of this seemingly kindred financially literate spirit was brought to a screeching halt in seconds. You see, coupons were not the only thing she had in abundance. It turns out she had trust issues of Leviathan proportions. 

She asked to calculate the coupon totals alongside the cashier, and for the cashier to check if the coupons actually said they were single use only. She debated why the coffee coupons couldn’t apply to vodka (a few bottles dotted the heaped cart), seeing as they were both drinks, and why the expired coupons could not be accepted. Then the cash register jammed. Even it had reached its limit with Madam. The frustrated cashier looked up to the sky, seemingly praying for divine intervention. What had she done to deserve this? 

The kale in my cart was asking itself the exact same question. Slathered in kombucha sweat, it had given up distancing itself from its clammy neighbor. At this point, kombucha, having run out of apologies, stewed in a pool of self pity. 

And then, amid all this gloom, appeared a deus ex machina. Mercedes was her name. With the wave of her hand, I was freed from the depths of Madam hell, upgraded to a new lane and checked out within minutes. On my way out, I cast a fleeting sympathetic glance at the cashier on the Express lane, who was still embroiled in Coupongate with Madam. I said a silent prayer for her, and for all the souls who have to deal with irate customers all day long.

I am happy to report that the kombucha and kale made it home safely. Once the kombucha was wiped down and its dignity restored, kale found it not to be so bad after all. Safely ensconced within the cool confines of my refrigerator, all was well with the world again. 

Próspero Año Nuevo!

2020. The Plagues of Egypt part 2. THAT was 2020. Brought to us by someone who may or may not have found a bat minding its own business and decided that it belonged in his stomach. They don’t seem very meaty to me, but then who are we to tell people what to eat within the confines of their homes? Or maybe it was manufactured in a lab. No one knows.


What I know is, once 2020 had grabbed us by our ankles, turned us upside down, shaken everything loose, and then, just for good measure given us a slap that would make a Kenyan policeman blush, 2020 ghosted us, leaving us staring at our bloodied, black-eyed, toothless mugs in a basin of water (yes, 2020 was the kind of spiteful person who takes everything with them when they leave, including your cracked mirror and changes the Netflix password ).

And so when 2021 arrived, we were understandably shook. Because 2020 also took the Thermos and cups, 2021 received a rather lukewarm welcome. But 2021 was not spiteful, she didn’t hold it against us, she did her best to bandage our wounds, to soothe our broken hearts. She was one of those huggers whose hugs feel like home. She tried her best to wrestle the madimoni of 2020, even though they clung to her clothes like a film of sweat.

And just like that, 2020 is finally fading away, and 2021 is wishing us well as she walks out the door, leaving us with hope that 2022 will finally bring new mirrors, a Thermos full of hot tea and maybe even return our Netflix password.

Próspero Año Nuevo!