I catch myself often, speaking to myself in my mother’s voice. Especially when I’m almost done scrubbing the kitchen sink clean.
“Hakuna kitu mbaya kama mwanaume mchafu, niwaigua?”
I nod. “Nimesikia mum.”
I pour a cup of tea, stopping only when it is half full. My mind wanders again. She speaks to me, her voice softer now.
“Wacha tuweke chai nusu kikombe, tubakishe ya Kesho si ndio?”
I nod, as a child would, meekly. Then I turn to carry the cup to my couch, and I notice I’m home alone, motherless.
It seems the further away from childhood the years take me. The more my subconscious clings to it.
Forgive me. You always did say I was a tad bit clingy. Unwilling to give up the ghosts of the past. This month is the 17th anniversary of her passing. My mind has been celebrating it weirdly. Remembering less of her, and more of you. This month is also the third anniversary of our death. Do you commemorate it somehow? Maybe burn a candle to keep the ghost of me away? I planned to celebrate this one loudly. At a club on Ngong Road, where for a side glance and crumpled bank notes pushed into the right hands. I could get let into the really private section, the one at the back of the VIP section. The one that smells like too much moisturizer and not enough morals. Maybe I’d take a pic, post it, you’d see it and think of me. Instead, I am at home, alone. So I figured I’d write you a story, post it, maybe you’d read it and think of me.
I’m not sure if I ever told you the story of how I left religion. Did I? I’m almost sure I did. Anyway, in high school, the resident priest was a racist Italian who figured the only way to keep us on the narrow path was fear. He was liberal with the cane. We would have reported him to the District Education Board. But back then what would we have told them? That Jesus’ look-a-like was beating the shits from us? They would have congratulated him. When the good priest was not caning the shit out of us, he was dreaming of heaven. He loved to talk about it. In his mind, after retiring, his god would send down a chariot that would take him to his 77 virgin boys. We pretended to care. Uuuuing and aaaaing in all the right places. Especially when he said we would spend thousands upon thousands of years singing Kumbaya for his god.
When I left high school, I left his religion at the gate. As I shed off my school uniform, I left with it, little pieces of God. Forgive me. I didn’t know then that you could separate God and religion.
My mind has been going back to the Italian priest and the Heaven he talked about. I’ve been thinking. Perhaps the bible erred in telling us Heaven is a place with streets lined with gold. Maybe instead there’s free wine, music and we can hang out with friends and family for eternity. Every Saturday we will meet at Bonnie’s mansion for a welcome party. For the newbies who’ve been admitted in.
There is no lust here. No sin. Where once I would have described ladies thighs as heavenly. They are now meeeeh! Often, at the party, you will find me at the corner. Sipping something, talking to Karimi while staring at the door. Hoping maybe, today is the day you come. Until Jesus, passes by us.
“You know she’s not coming right?”
Of course I do. But a part of me hopes. He will remind me of our agreement.
The deal I cut with the angel at the gate.
“Gabriel, if you let me in. I will never look at a babes legs again!”
I will touch the ground, lick my finger and…
“Niko sure boss!”
“And you will stop trying to get her back!”
He will mention your name.
I nod, vigorously. Careful, that my eyes don’t betray me.
He lets me through.
The angel at the second gate is a lot stricter. He can’t let anyone with sin in.
“But si nimetubu boss?”
“Si makosa zote!”
And he makes me dig deep into my soul. Find the dark pieces of me that hurt you. Look at them, and cast them aside, shouting at them.
“Hauko karibu hapa tena mwovu shetani!”
Having done that I am made to swear to never cause hurt of such a magnitude ever again.
My penance is to remember you for my eternity.
I can meet anyone here, even your mum and dad. But I can never see you.
Perhaps hell is not a sulfuric cesspit, overflowing with magma and unending fires. Maybe instead, all sinners will be cut off from all the good things. Subjected to an eternity without good whisky, forced to drink Konyagi alone in shady bars for eternities.
But for me it is simply, to never see or know of you again. An eternal ghosting is god’s punishment for liars and cheats.
To roam the heavens, loveless, inviting former flames to my apartment’s balcony. Making them laugh, and sending them home at 11 pm. Because there is no bad manners here. Then for that final hour before midnight, I will wander off to the top floor. And instead of hanging lines, there will be reclining seats, where a heartbroken man can sit and watch the star of Draco streak by.
Jesus will find me in that state. Forlorn. Dejected. And since he is God, he’ll know exactly what is happening.
“Son, you are not happy here.”
I will tell him everything. About you. About how it felt to be with you. To talk to you. To live with you. To make love to you. And because he is a forgiving God, he will forgive that last part. He will remind of a story the Italian used to tell us. That there are 7 heavens. Initially, most of us small small sinners will be allowed into the first one. Where will enjoy some benefits of heaven, while still facing punishment. After every seven years, you will be allowed to go into the next one, then the next one, then the next one. The seventh heaven will be for the purest.
I’ll probably speak to Jesus, ask him, man to God. In which of those heavens are you in. He will motion me to come closer, “Na usiambie Gabriel nilikuambia.” I nod vigorously. He will spit on the ground make some matope with it, then use that to write 7. Our Lord has never believed in doing things simply.
For 49 years, I will sit here alone. Time passing by. Jesus will pass by sometimes. “Bado unangoja baba?” I’ll nod. Then continue my waiting. In the shadow of god, but ooh so homesick. Holding my breath and willing time to move faster. Every week, attending the Saturday night parties, sitting in a corner, sipping something. Letting my mind wander, and I will think of you….us. On earth, drinking masala tea on a Friday evening. Stripping you of everything. Tucking you into my bed, and slipping in next to you. Touching three quarters of the wall trying to get to the damn switch. Then…darkness
Slowly time will pass until…
Perhaps that Seventh Heaven is a tree lined street in Nairobi. In November. On a sunday. When everyone is home and the street is empty. When the Jacarandas’ are in full bloom. To get to you, I have to step on seventeen thousand purple flowers. The adopt-a-light street lights come on at 6 pm without fail. There’s a few faulty lights that flicker on and off periodically. Creating a shimmer that strikes the ground where it rained recently, and throws off a kaleidoscope of color. A rainbow. A sign. From God. To me. That he will never put me through this again. On the lamp posts instead of condom adverts there’s pictures of cute babies and puppies.
And at the end of the street….you.
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