“If you had told me, the guy who graduated at the top of my primary school class, attended Alliance High School, passed K.C.S.E with a straight A, and this was back when an A meant something, that I would be here today, I would have laughed at you and asked you to seek help for your mental issues.” He sighs deeply.
“But life has a way of taking your dreams into the palms of its hands and crushing them, and when you fall to your knees in surrender, grabbing you by your ankles and dragging you through thorns, bleeding, and only letting you be when it has robbed you of your last ounce of dignity.” He rubs his eyes, bloodshot and heavily bagged from years of working overnight shifts and sleeplessness, and staring at me from a face wrinkled long before its time.
“She was a CU girl, Christian Union, very saved, very very Christian. I met her during my first semester at the University of California, Berkeley. I was there on an academic scholarship, she, on a soccer scholarship. We were two kids, far away from home, and even though I’ve never bought into Christianity, it sounds like a con job to me, I went to church with her because it was important to her. I even ditched my girlfriend back home for this girl. We did everything together, and because we were on full scholarships, we didn’t have to work odd jobs to survive. Life was good. Easy,” His phone beeps, he shows me the screen, a photo of two identical boys, “my mom is raising them, I haven’t seen them in three years.” He lowers his head, the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“One thing led to another, and before we knew it, she was pregnant. A CU girl, pregnant. You know that Biblical story about Moses parting the red sea? That’s how our so-called friends scattered. We became pariahs. Fornication is a sin, and they were not going to associate with us, fornicators who were now bringing illegitimate life into this world. In Berkeley of all places, can you believe it?” He shakes his head, still bewildered by the fickleness of humanity.
“Anyway, because she was a CU girl, she decided to keep it. To say that we were terrified would be an understatement. She was the first born, the torch bearer of her family. The first to go to university, let alone travel outside the country. She is from Mugirango Chache, and told me that her father’s temper was legendary, which is saying something, coming from a place where fiery tempers are as common as a sneeze. He once broke the arm of a boy who dared show his face at his house, ‘like a twig’. And so we decided to keep the news quiet.” He pauses, typing into his phone. “My mom needs more money for the boys, they are outgrowing their clothes, and money to pay the nanny. Let me send her some cash.”
“And so, we found ourselves trying to figure out how to keep our scholarships and raise a family. Because when it rains it pours, we found out we were having twins. Twins! They don’t run in our families, but, like I said, life. Anyway, we had to sort out our living arrangements once the babies arrived, we couldn’t live in the hostels anymore, not with babies. I manned up, swallowed my pride and got a job at a gas station, working nights for minimum wage. It was a rude awakening, a humbling one. I grew up in Lavington, but you see, my parents are not the kind you go to with your problems, or so I thought. Plus, my dad had just retired so cash was tight. But the truth is I was a pampered kid. I didn’t realize how expensive life was. Over the next few months, I attended classes by day and worked at the gas station by night, trying to study and squeeze in some sleep during slow hours. Often, my classmates would stop by on their way from the club and some of them were really cruel, you know, ‘how the mighty have fallen’ was written all over the smirking faces. But there is no shame in being a man and providing for your family. And so I soldiered on.”
“Days turned into months and I saved enough for us to rent a room in a house. It was tiny, but the landlady was a kind old lady, and so we moved in one month to our due date. Amazingly, the birth of our boys was complication free, a blessing in itself because I’m not sure how we would have afforded a C-Section. I should mention that in the months leading up to the birth of our sons, she had become more and more distant, and by the time they were born, we were barely speaking. I hoped that the birth of the children would bond us, and I realize I am in the minority here, as most teenage boys don’t stick around. Some of my classmates asked me why I didn’t just leave her, I was nineteen, with the rest of my life ahead of me, and so many fish in the sea. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that this girl had given up everything to have these children. She lost her soccer scholarship immediately because she suffered from severe morning sickness and couldn’t play anymore. It had been her dream to become a US citizen and maybe even play professionally. That door was now closed to her because she was no longer in school, and had violated the terms of her student visa. She had been ostracized by her Christian friends. Save for me, she was alone in this strange country. And she had a fire breathing dragon of a father back home, so she couldn’t even lean on her family for emotional support, and she certainly could not tell them that she had joined the ranks of international students who move to the United States to pursue a degree only to drop out of school, forever relegated to working grueling shift jobs under the table, playing hide and seek with immigration authorities.”
“Whoever coined the phrase ‘sleep like a baby’ had never met a newborn. They don’t sleep. The sleep deprivation, perpetual brokeness and isolation we were experiencing fueled the lava of insanity that finally erupted one fine morning just as I was wrapping up my overnight shift at the gas station. My landlady called me, frantically trying to say something my sleep addled mind couldn’t comprehend. All I heard was ‘come home now’. Luckily for me, my boss was there and I was able to hightail it out of there. When I arrived at the house, I found my landlady cradling my boys, and I ran to our room looking for her.” He pauses, the look on his face so broken, his bloodshot eyes swimming with tears. “You know, back home, we, men, are told not to cry, to ‘take it like a man’.” He holds his head in both hands, his words muffled, “She left us. Without a word. She packed all her things, and I mean everything. Even her spoons. She erased herself from our lives. My landlady, once she calmed down, told me she woke up to screaming babies, and to the sight of their mother dragging her two suitcases out of the house and into a waiting taxi. I don’t know where she found the cash, but she found it and left us. I didn’t know where to start looking. Here I was, a single father at twenty. Life, man, life will take a big nyahunyo and whip you, and just when you think you can’t take any more, life will send a truck to run you over. But even between the treads of those truck tires, life will sometimes grant you reprieve, and if there is such a thing as angels, mine was my land lady. That woman saved our lives. She went into mom mode, watching my kids while I went to school and worked nights. But it became clear to me that this situation was a bandaid at best. After two months, I swallowed my pride and called home. I cried to my mother like a baby. Mothers, man, mothers will love you when the whole world has turned its back against you. When you have no one left, your mother will be there for you. My mom sent me a plane ticket, and just like that, I took my boys home. My mom raised me, and now she’s raising my boys. It’s not been easy. Just when I was almost done, Rona hit, like I said, life and its nyahunyo. The silver lining is, with school closed, I’ve been able to put in more hours at the gas station so I have quite a bit saved up. I’m finally graduating this coming year, I’m getting my computer science degree. I already have a couple job offers lined up. The clouds are finally parting.”
I ask him where she is, the mother of his children.
“Well, thanks to social media, I found out she went back home. She went to university there and is also waiting to graduate next year. I sent her photos of our boys and she blocked me. I reached out to her sister, who told me that she was warned about me, a stalker who is trying to force myself and my sons on her. We are dead to her. It pains me, I don’t know what to tell my boys. But once I get a steady job and a place of my own, I am going home and I’m bringing them here. I’m their dad. I love them and I’m never abandoning them.”