Picture by Charles Nyiha
Patapata is a CEO of a big bank. Funny, charming, the kind of guy we like to be seen having drinks with, smooth talker. Very good to have in your selfie. Life of the party type. Kind and accommodating, gives Jemo a ride home after work. His wife, Laila, is very beautiful. Gentle and sweet, knows what to say, always. Cooks excellent biryani on Saturday nights. Maybe once or twice a month, they argue. Not about big things, maybe just the dishes. Or that football match he had stayed up too late watching. But Laila’s got a bad temper, you see. And she kicks, slaps, bites, calls him certain kinds of things. He doesn’t know what to do with her when she’s this way. A man doesn’t touch a woman, that he knows, agrees with, understands. But we also don’t know what to do with men beaten by women.
Denga is a girl in one of these universities, the slightly more expensive ones, let’s say. Her friends are lively young folk, concerned about irritating ex-boyfriends and make-up tutorials, and also exams. Sometimes they have no fuel for their cars and so they get a matatu to school, or sometimes they might be robbed in that alley there behind the school, but Denga does not know how to, in the context of these problems, say that she has HIV. This is not a light, ha-ha or oh-really-sorry type of problem. She does not know how to work this into conversation. But you also know that when one needs to talk, but cannot, they begin to implode. She craves to discuss this at length, she craves to be heard, maybe understood, but…she doesn’t know. You know? She doesn’t know.
Keffa is addicted to…some things. He knows this sounds rather ignorant, but he wishes it was drugs or gambling or some more… ‘Acceptable’ problem. But the addiction makes him happy, in a way no one ever has or ever could, maybe. It’s a twisted joy. Glory in the gore, let’s say. But Keffa will not lie and say he does not wish things were better. And he has a body feature no one knows anything about.
Njoroge waits outside the bar every Friday night. At exactly eleven fifty-two pm, he beats up whoever comes out.
Mampou is a girl, in Denga’s school, too. Quite offbeat, we don’t understand her. Mampou does not have friends. I mean, this sounds pretty usual…not too much of a problem if you just read that sentence as you always have, everywhere else you might have read it. No, read that sentence like you are truly engaging with the possibility of being friendless. Mampou wishes she could describe this situation better, but she does not know what to say. She wants to laugh with someone, care for someone, call someone when she’s sad and have them truly listen, truly care. But, the strange thing is Mampou does not know how to care for people, either. She can only feign sadness; disappointment at people’s problems. She does not know how to reach her feelings, to interact with them, and to give them to people freely. Sometimes she feels like a stranger in her own body, like she is merely watching the world. She has been accused of being unloving, cruel, by her lovers, but what can one do when they do not know how to access themselves? Mampou is the girl who will walk, many kilometres, not knowing where she is going, but only because this is the only thing she can do in the face of all the things, people, personalities fighting within her—and then she will walk back. She is the type to be silent when you shout at her, else extremely violent.
If only we would let people speak.