Home is Where Life is

Sometimes, when rain knocks on windows and the wind sinks its icy teeth in the air outside, I close my eyes and and find myself in Kenya again. 

Flies gather around us, their buzz close to the skin. Smells are stronger than any place I can remember. It’s dark, but the ground releases warmth accumulated during the day. The milk still by the window in the kitchen, in a pot covered with a cloth. The fridge is needed for medicines. We have been drinking chai for the fifteenth time today, waiting for Julius to reappear. Two hours pass. Finally the door opens. 

Do you want to see?

How long have we been here? It feels like years. We cross the yard where children gather on the fences during the day, and people wait patiently in line for Julius. Some nights the thunder shakes the horizon to the west. We’ve led ourselves to believe we see lightning crashing down on Lake Victoria. We really think we can see that far. The dust of Kesses has penetrated our skin.

The clinic smells of blood and sweat and earth. The young woman lays on the table, her mother sits in the corner of the room. She smiles warmly at us. We’re two sunburned, faded-white intruders, but something bigger and more powerful is happening in the room. We slide along walls unnoticed.

Julius presses the young woman’s shoulder. She takes a deep breath and nods. She doesn’t scream, not once. Julius is serious. The man who sings his happiness in the morning and has time for everyone is replaced by a doctor who works relentlessly, without letting the world bend his back or kick him to the ground. The young woman moans. Pain rips the lines of her face, between the sweat gathering on her forehead. I look down. Try not to think about where I am, or what's going on.

I remember a week ago we’d traveled into Eldoret on our own. We’d stayed until late, caught one of the last matatus back to Kesses and got back well past dusk. As we stared walking home, we saw a shadow coming a us. We started in fear, but as light poured on his face from an unstable streetlight we recognised our friend Rop. We’d never seen him so upset. He'd been waiting there for two hours. He made us promise that we would never travel by ourselves after dark again, because we had no idea what dangers we could meet. We pointed at the huge knife he was holding, and laughed together on the way home. It was serious though, he said. We were their guests. They would never forgive themselves if anything happened to us.

I can’t tell how fast or slow time goes by, but as I stop worrying about where to look and how to stand I don’t feel like a guest anymore. I don’t feel I need to be protected. I am safe. My shoulders against the wall, I look at the young woman pressing life into the world. I’ve never seen anyone give birth before, now the cry of a baby shakes the air like the sun in the morning. I feel the women around me, our hearts are synchronised clockworks beating the rhythm of birth. Julius receives the baby and wraps her in a sarong, then carefully hands her over to the grandmother. The young woman looks joyful, terrified, and finally confused. Her belly is still abnormally swollen. Julius checks on her. He looks up, nods. There is one more coming.

She pushes without screaming, as her nerves and muscles twitch and the sweat runs like summer rain.  A second scream alerts the first born of the arrival of her twin. The young woman laughs with tears in her eyes, holding the twins to her chest. I don’t want to leave. I want to hold them, caress them. Tell them all I love them, we're sisters, our hearts have drummed together. Would they laugh? I want to tell them we can never be apart. How could we?

This is where we come from. Nobody is really a guest. That’s how Kenya never leaves your blood. Kenya is home.

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