Photo Credit: Amy Muhoro
Under Mama Masha’s loquat tree, Joan and I sat down and ate the loquats we had just stolen. We laughed and let the juice drip and welcomed friendship.
By the acacia tree I watched Ronnie smoke a cigarette and carry in him all the poetry I discovered could be carried in a man. I watched him—a man out of place but undisturbed, rugged and unfashionable, staring at something I could not see. I was ten years old. He was old. I watched and watched him as he sat there, being all cool waters in the Amboseli heat.
Under the jacaranda at twenty one, I met a man who only I knew was mad. He wore only black t-shirts and khaki pants, and he was a writer. He was always angry and always in love. He was a smoker, too. On the day we met, in his drunken stupor, he pulled me close, and told the girls around him, “You see her? She’s my wife,” and maybe I felt happier than I should have. He would look at me from a distance, Tusker in hand, when we were among friends. He would look at me in a way that told me that I truly was all he saw.
In the Avenue of Baobabs, I discovered the renewal that a journey can give after a struggle. I learned that home is neither physical nor is it necessarily found among people we have known. Home is peace and it is air that I am happy to breathe.
It was under a mugumo tree that Waithera saw the car that took her son away. She had just stood up to see who these visitors were, and why they grabbed Mumo’s hand just as he tried to look back, when they shoved him into the car and drove away. She has never seen Mumo again. That day, as she wailed and fell to the ground, she tried to look in the neighbours’ eyes, but they had learned to look away. They were not always like this, but Mumo had not been the first to go. The only other thing I remember seeing that day was how Waithera grit her teeth.
My cousin Salome was trying to get a mango from the mango tree when she heard Makokha’s voice. She did not believe it, even if she wanted to. She couldn’t turn. She was crying, even if she didn’t know she was. She was shaking as she felt what she knew to be his hands holding her by the elbows. She turned and cried louder, she cried and laughed. It had been 15 years since Makokha went to prison, 15 and a half since they had gotten married. She turned and saw his apology and his tears and his laughter and his redemption.
It was in a coffee plantation that I heard that our government is in the business of losing billions and smiling. Hakuna matata, you know? It was there that I heard that other Kenyans had heard about this, too, and that they were talking. I held myself as I recognized how nature punctuates revolution, and that day, that day I felt the air change.