So when I came back, everyone decided I was foreign – and not just because my accent was thick and faltering over the sir that we were supposed to call Mr Iddi, instead of sah, like massa, when I’m trying to get his attention in class,
And not because I talked fast or people heard slow even when they listen to music and write down lyrics just fine,
But also because every time one of the boys tried to grab my tits, I would recoil in shock and hit one of them, immediately, almost instantaneously.
They would call me Tyson.
The name of yet another foreigner.
I did not know that my body was my own. That concept was not internalized into my 12-year-old self. In fact, it would confuse me because my punching meant I was less popular than the pretty mean girls who let the boys do what they wanted.
Pretty was what we wanted to be.
Pretty was as one did.
I did not know that my body was my own. It was just a reflex action from an older, wiser me.
My cousin never believed me either. She didn’t see how it was possible that Addis Ababa, rich in coffee and injera, could also have lent me movie speech. And she told me this at all opportunities. And at all opportunities, I felt smaller by each niggling doubt of hers; I grew smaller in myself. I doubted my very own authenticity. But at least there were no boys trying to touch me.
And now, they still ask me where I’m from – the dividing lines grow ever narrower, first country, then tribe, then locale, then clan, then family.
They ask as if Africa is a country and you can only sound like one thing, and the definition of what you are is solely based on how you speak, instead of how and who you love, where you go and how you like to dance when you get there, what language you spoke first – one or a few or all of these things.
I get tired of Tysoning my way through the constant explanation who is a Kenyan, what I am, and what me being Kenyan is. In my version. Because imagine me I love Nairobi. Me I love Kenya. You would think that would be