Promises

I was only twelve when I had my first child. I remember when she was conceived. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the taste is as real and bitter as the left over burnt makande I had for breakfast. He had seen just how badly I wanted to do well and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me do well, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not do well at all.

I knew how hard my parents worked to get me there. My sisters before me never had this opportunity, so I could not dare disappoint my parents. The bull that my sister had gotten for her bride price had been sold to make sure I was there. So realIy, how could I dare disappoint my parents.

I didn’t do well as he had promised. Infact I didn’t do well at all and I was already four months pregnant when I went to check my exams results. I didn’t only just do well, but I had F in most subjects. With my head hang down, I slowly walked my nauseating self back home to face my bull-less parents, as I remembered the evening he had bent me over the only desk in the classroom. With my school skirt bunched around my waist and his trousers down his knees. How could I forget that evening. The same evening my father had beat me black and blue me for getting home late and failing to get hay for his goats.

My father was not pleased when he learnt about my pregnancy. He had hoped that with education under my belt I would be the saviour of the family. The cattle pen without his once priced bull made him even more upset. I didn’t wait for his wrath to fall on me. Instead I had ran to my aunt’s that evening.

My aunt could not afford to feed an extra mouth for long – an extra mouth that ate for three and not even two and was unemployed. After I had had my baby I then had to leave it behind with my aunt and went away to earn its keep.

I was only fourteen when I had my second child. I remember when this one was also conceived. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the feel is as real and bitter as the pain in my peeling calloused feet He had seen just how badly I wanted more and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me get more, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not get anything at all.

Mama had gone to a twelve weeks spiritual renewal retreat in Rwanda, leaving me at home alone with Baba. I had just finished serving him food – samaki wa kupaka, maharagwe ya nazi, rice, kachumbari and a pawpaw and mango fruit salad. I was thinking of the ukoko of the rice I had just served, that I was going to have for lunch in the kitchen yard as I was placing the pitcher of water on the dining table. I had smiled sadly as I remembered how Mama had told me that if I was going to waste any food with getting it burnt then I should eat it. As if it was my fault, her pots burnt food so badly.

I didn’t complain about the burnt crusts that were always my meals or the hard work that had me working until one in the morning and had me awake at four every day. I didn’t complain since with the salary I got that was always accompanied with curses had my daughter eating better than most in the village.

That afternoon Baba had told me to forget the ukoko and he had made me sit on the dining table. I remember how I had shaken as I had sat myself down. I remember how I had wolfed down the food and how Baba had smiled as he had watched me. I could not believe my luck when I went to the kitchen yard and saved the rice crust that I was going to have for lunch, for dinner.

For dinner, Baba again made me sit with him and have ugali, kisamvu cha karanga, dagaa and a pineapple and mango fruit salad. The next day for breakfast I actually had bread with jam instead of left over ukoko and black tea. I actually had buttered bread with jam, fried eggs and the tea had milk! That day I had hummed happily as I went around my chores. On the third day, Baba had moved me from the hard and cold kitchen floor to his bed.

As weeks went by, I started noticing my weight gain and I believed it was the food. I liked my new body and Baba loved the ‘love handles’ as he called them and so I had kept on wolfing down the food as my appetite grew more each day. Juma, the muuza genge down the street even commented that I had a glow.

I didn’t get more as he had promised, but he had given me more alright. Mama had thrown me out like a dog the morning she caught me throwing up. She had been looking at me suspiciously eyeing my bulging frame. I should have taken her new quiet watchful demur as a cue to watch myself and be more careful. But I had gotten comfortable and familiar, enjoying the stolen moments and the chips mayai, mishikaki and Heineken that were smuggled into the kitchen yard every evening, so I won’t eat dried up ukoko for dinner. I should have but I did not. How could I forget that morning. The same morning Mama had beat me black and blue after he found a plastic bag by the dhobi sink with empty cans of Heineken.

Onto the kerb I was kicked as I slowly walked my nauseating self to nowhere. After a week of sleeping at the market place, I decided to go back home. Home to my aunt. My aunt could not understand why I was back home while I should be in the city earning a living.

“Do you think taking care of your bastard is cheap?” she had angrily growl at me as she tightened a brand new khanga around a fatter and bigger stomach.    Her right always with a bottle of beer, instead of chibuku, a local brew she used to drink wherever she had some money to spare then.  So immediately after I had had my second born, I went back to the city.

I was only sixteen when I had my third child. I remember when this one was also conceived too. The memory of that cursed day is as vivid and the smell is as real and strong as what is being emission of my tired body that has not seen water for three days now He had seen just how badly I wanted some and he had used that as bait. At first it was promises to help me get some, then he started threatening me that if I did not give in he would make sure I did not get anything at all.

I had been going there for weeks, everyday I would wait under the mango tree. Many gave up and left, but I could not afford to. Everyday I saw him, walking into the building carrying a big leather briefcase. Everyday he would wear a khaki Kaunda suit.

One day as he saw me staring at him, as he was ordering vitumbua from mama ntilie under the tree. He told the lady to also give me two of the savoury meat fritters. The next day he had asked me I was there. The following day made a comment about me still being there. The fourth day he made a joke about giving me a guarding post as I was always there. The fifth day he called me into his office.  Recruitments, the signage outside his door read.   After taking some tea silently that his secretary had made us, that washed down some vitumbua and maandazi, I had then asked him if he had received my applications.

“I receive hundreds of applications daily,” he had replied with an air of importamce as he eyed a dust covered lot by the left side of his work station.

He then promised me to give me top priority. He didn’t attend to my applications but he had moved me to a bigger and nicer chumba. A room he frequented daily – with mishikaki and chips, Heineken, Konyagi and sometimes Amarula too. I enjoyed not working and having a man taking care of me. All I had to do was look beautiful for him. My complexion was now six shades lighter than I was naturally and my hair longer and silkier. I even had two cellphones – a Nokia and a Samsung. The remaining ‘change’ from my saloon trips, I sent home to my aunt. After a bout of morning sickness started he threw me out of the room and onto the kerb and told me I would bring trouble to his career and his family.

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~ by saharasoulfood on July 4, 2012.

3 Responses to “Promises”

  1. I really enjoy your work! I have a question for you (I couldn’t find your contact info so I’m posting here- hope you see this!).
    I attend a university in the US, and I’m researching for a class about how African literature is changing in the face of new technology. My research is focused on creative writing in blogs, like yours. Would I be able to keep in contact with you about my project? I’d love to learn how your blogging has impacted your writing and life in general.

    Send me an email at RossBL@hendrix.edu. I appreciate it!

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