Author: Abigail Arunga

Abi pursues freedom, happiness and sleep in that order.

1 It’s dark outside and no one can really hear you cry. You don’t even know you’re crying until the sharp weight on your chest makes you sit up, and a tear rolls down your cheek. Fucking period. But you know it’s not the fucking period. It’s the man next to you. You hold your chest, as if you can stop the heaving. Maybe, this time. It won’t stop until you fall asleep, too tired to weep more, and the sun awakens to dry your wet pillow and herald another day when you’re wading through life, silently screaming in…

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Not that there are a lot of passports to go around. A lot of the time, refugees become so because they do not have the documentation needed to prove that they belong to something, to a government somewhere. It’s funny how little pieces of paper – money, IDs, passports – become so important when you don’t have them. But who is thinking of carrying a passport when you’re running away to save your life?

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We get to the field and watch the boys a little. Because we like games, we quickly pick up the rules. We start shouting tips from the side of the field. We have favourites. Scola’s brother, of course, and others. After a few weeks, someone gets tired of us stealing the ball and shouting so much and asks us if we want to play, since we know so much about it. We’re in!

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He had moved in before I knew it. I had a small bedsitter. He had problems with his landlord. I liked him well enough. It wasn’t rocket science. Once again, I didn’t think it was a big deal for him to move in. I mean, this was Nairobi, right? I knew my mother wouldn’t approve, so I didn’t tell her, because I am a big girl. I send her money, after all, don’t I? That was enough.

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So here’s the hardest thing about living in Nairobi. And I know I said it was the dating, in my last story. But I think we all know what is actually the hardest thing about living in Nairobi. It is, living in Nairobi. Living in Kenya, in itself, is pretty hard, but Nairobi seems like a whole different beast. Do you know what I mean? Living in Nairobi is harder. Meaner. And everyone who doesn’t live in Nairobi thinks it is so easy! It’s like the way people look at people who work in America. Because you live in Nairobi,…

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Dating is like deciding which bundle you would prefer – the one that actually listens to the customer and gives them what they want, or the one that blabs on the phone all day without paying attention to the customer’s needs.

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And you’ll remember your mother crying about it, because they didn’t have to die, but when the presidents on TV say that people have to be killed, somehow neighbours pick up pangas and slash to death people they’ve lived next to for decades.

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The day he arrived at the centre, there were no saxophones to play. Observing his crestfallen face, the music teacher quickly suggested that Mandla try his hand at the trumpet he had in his car. Mandla remembers thinking – a trumpet? What am I going to do with a trumpet? It only has three buttons! But these buttons were his only options, because if he didn’t take up the trumpet, he would have to wait for another six months for a saxophone to be available. Above all, the love was for music, regardless of where it was coming from. And so, he took the trumpet from the boot, wiped it down, and begun his musical journey.

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When I think of how many times I hid my pads from the rest of my classmates, I cringe. I would throw them into a bag and hide them in a bush next to our toilets, so that if I had to leave class to change my pad, I wouldn’t have to carry anything with me

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Heal yourself. Where does music come from? And how is it that someone knows how to sing exactly what your soul is saying? Who thinks up of these melodies, these chords, these lyrics that encapsulate everything you thought was just a whisper to yourself? When I was younger, and deeply in the throes of teenage angst, I would try to write songs. They were terrible, but they were what I was feeling at the time. And even with the copied tunes that sounded exactly like what I was watching on whatever Disney was feeding me, it still meant more to…

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