Ghosts And Shadows

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This is how it happens.  

You sit on a long wooden bench at the reception of the poorly lit room somewhere in Kiambu. Outside, you see people faring on with their lives. You wonder whether they are oblivious of what went on in this sorry excuse for a dispensary, or they are just ignorant. Either way, their heads are in the sand. A few people walk in and talk to the lady behind the counter and then after a brief Secret Service-like banter, they walked out holding something. A bottle, a piece of paper, and for many like yourself, their worst nightmare.

You fidget with anything that you can hold. You are in desperate need for a distraction. The world is spiraling fast and it is taking you down with you. You want to survive. ’This is not how I end up,’ you tell yourself.  You think. You need more money fast, or else Christy is going to spend the night here. You scroll down your phone book, looking for someone who you do not owe money, will not ask many questions when you request for a loan, and can send it to you fast via MPESA. That person does not exist.

“Basi ongezea erfu tisa tufunge biashara, ama huyu madam wako atarara hapa.” That is her final offer. Down from eighteen thousand. She looks like a woman does not give a fuck. Seemingly not even about her teeth.

Outside, the evening sun is already putting on its orange sweater. You are in Kiambu. A County in where money is the axis upon which the earth rotates. Money talks, and bullshit walks. You look up for answers, but find rusty iron sheets instead. You look away to avoid the menacing stare from the plump light-skinned devil that had entered into your life in the form of a receptionist, only to be confronted by the mirror wall. Your own reflection taunts you. You cannot believe that a smaller version of yourself is on its way.

Your mother will kill you if she finds out. And her father, the ex-military Head of Security at some big shot company in the city, will kill you until you are very dead. Then do the same to her.

This is how it begins.

You are a teenager who just got into campus. You are actually so young you cannot possibly comprehend what life is. What you know about life is that you got an A in High School that gave you an express ticket to university. You have a girlfriend who you think you love so much, but that is just because it has never been tested.

It starts when she moves in with you, into your campus hostel. You are excited to stay with her. Such were the liberties that you are denied in your mother’s house.

Christy is nasty, she is wild and she carries an ass that is pretty much every college kid’s idea of a wet dream. All a teen campus chap needs. You have needs and so does she. In a university like this one, those needs are satisfied. Brown notes, bottles and skin. Green minds. Blue lights. Red roses. Black kickers. Purple sheets. And expired orange Sure condoms that you do not care to wear correctly.

Every night you paint yourselves in what you are acutely misled to imagine are the colours of the Aurora Borealis. You take turns biting the apple. A strap snaps in the dark. Perhaps the name of God was mentioned…or screamed between struggles to breathe and momentous contemplation of salvation.

But even the sins committed in the name of the Father, the ones done in darkness will one day be yelled from rooftops. In your case not so much yelling was needed to realize the depths of their unsavory loins.

It starts with some weird shit. Out of the blue, when you are in bed, typing your assignment on a borrowed laptop, she will ask you for nyoyo and avocado or matumbo fry. It is weird because she hates nyoyo or matumbo. And she also knows that there is nowhere you can get here matumbo from a university campus past nine usiku.

Then she is tired all the time. Then she starts keeping a bucket under your bed because sometimes the matumbo fry decides to reappear at unexpected times. Every time that happens, you ask her to try and sleep and then sneak to go empty the bucket in the toilets without any classmate seeing you.

“It will pass,” she says when you ask her, “I think it is an amoeba infection. This has happened before.”

“Si we go see your family doctor kesho?”

“No. No need.”

When her sickness persists, and you start getting tired of emptying her vomit, you insist on the doctor. That afternoon she calls. She is scared. You tell her to come over. You can taste the smoke in her voice when she chokes out the words, “George, we need to talk.”

This is how you ruin yourself.

Women with rounded bellies will stare at you. At first you think they’ve come for pre-natal care, only to realize that they are united in the same room for the same objective; to ensure that Junior will not see the light of day.

“Mimi siwezi kulisha mwanamume na watoto sita! Kwani ni wa kuperekwa show ama wa kulea? Atheke! Unga ndio hiyo mia na hamsini, Sossion naye anakula pesa za walimu na first born ako form one. Harafu yeye kazi yake ni kurewa kwa bar na malaya wake…” She points at her belly and then plunges into Kikuyu “Gaka ninguruta kiria-ini. Enda ungi ri reke akure nyondo na amureere eika!”

The traffic to the clinic grows thin as night creeps in fast, and with it, your fear. The doctor says that Christy took too long to react to the medicine that is meant to induce unnatural labor. And if she doesn’t respond successfully to the dose, then there is the prospect of spending the night in Kiambu.

You pace around, frequently stealing glances at the drape that leads to the other side of the clinic where they took Christy. It is the only thing that separates you from her and it loosely hangs on the doorway, occasionally being blown up by cold evening breeze, to give you a peek of what is going on. The drape that separates the truth from the lie. The drape of life and death.

You look at it not knowing what will emerge from the other side. It is already 8.00pm. You are a long way from campus.

‘We are done here. She’s getting dressed. Make sure she eats and takes these…” the doctor finally says handing you a prescription.

At the bottom reads: ‘three thousand six hundred only.’ You do not care about where that money is going to come from. All you know is that you will raise it somehow.

Christy finally comes out. Frail and pale. You gawk with abated breath at the brutal reality of what is left of the girl that was once an ideal. Nothing. She is a pile of shattered threads of innocence, with RIP tattooed on her stomach; which is now a tomb of a crib, toys, bibs and unsung lullabies. You want to cry, mostly for her, but also for yourself.

Then you notice she is shivering. You cover her with your jacket.

You catch the receptionist rolling her eyes on your way out. Perhaps in disillusionment of how abortion and unwanted pregnancies have become synonymous to being young and urban. She has probably seen many like you. She can see the pretense in your words when you hug Christy, kiss her and unconsciously lie;

“It’s over, Chris. Let’s go home, babe.’

It is far from over.

This is what you will regret.

Later on, say a year later, you two will realize that you took care of one problem, but then created another. You will start blaming each other. Sometimes, in the middle of random conversation, she will ask whether you think it was a boy or a girl. She will start telling you how cold it was in that room where she was with other women.

“It was so cold in there.”

“Death is cold,” you will tell her.

You will grow apart. Your mother will wonder, “What happened to that nice girl you used to bring home?” Then you will cheat on her with some classmate. She will find out. From you. Then she will go fuck some other dude. And you will find out. From her.

Then at the beginning of the following semester, she will pinch your ATM Card and withdraw half of your HELB money. All is fair in love and war, but this is both. Then you will sever her from your life and not think of her again.

Years later you will start dating an artist, with white anemic eyes, and who does not wear knickers unless she is rolling. You will remember Christy. She will not just pop into your head. You will be reminded of her. By a song.

Sauti Sol and Amos and Josh will release a song called Nerea. About a man who is begging a girl, trying to convince her not to flush her pregnancy. At first you will make fun of it all on your Facebook. Sol has had such a dramatic series of events with the girls he sings to. At first it was Lazizi, who he took for coffee. Lazizi cheated on him when he went for a music tour and came back only to find her pregnant by another muscled jamaa. He looked around for another one and asked the silliest question you can ask a Nairobi girl; ati “Do you love my baby, or do you love my money?” By and by Sol will meet another girl. It will be all fun and games when he tells this one to touch him in Nishike. Oh, she will. She will even kalia him chapo. Then this girl, apparently her name is Nerea, will get pregnant. At least this time it is his baby. But a storm will brew when she tells him that she wants to abort.

This where you find yourself today.

You are on your Twitter timeline. It has exploded. The Women’s Rights watch are talking about the new Nerea video. You look at the tweets and that is how you are reminded of her. One of them says that it does not matter what a man thinks or what opinion he has about the pregnancy of Nerea. It is her body and Sauti Sol should stop policing her womb.

You have a problem with that. A lengthy chat with a Kenyan lady friend in South Africa, who has not yet been affected by the xenophobic attacks down there, ends in her saying “Your opinion does not matter. The woman decides what happens to the baby. That Nerea song is bullshit. They should not have sung it.”

How? You are going to kill my child, and I do not have a say? That alone is painful. To know that someone is going to end your baby’s life, and not being able to do anything about it must suck royally. It hurts. But even if you deny the man that right, surely you cannot deny him the right to beg for the opportunity to be a father. Whether in a song or otherwise. That is just cruel.

You find yourself needing to call Christy. You still remember her number however much you have tried to forget it. You want to call and tell her thank you for letting you contribute to making that decision. Perhaps not bringing that kid into this world under resentment is the only thing you guys ever did correctly. But on second thought you don’t. You remember how that heifer left you broke at the beginning of a long semester, during which you accrued massive debts, shame and ridicule.

Memories from six years ago come rushing in. Flashes of her face. You try and remember the name of that dispensary in Kiambu, but your head refuses. It gives you ghosts. It gives you shadows.


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  1. There’s a saying that goes something like. ‘A baby is God putting his plate on the table.’ Are you going to refuse him food because you cooked just for two? I think not.

  2. Gasheri Gichunge on

    This here needs a standing ovation sir, i actually envy your brain for coming up with such a dope article,

  3. Abortion is a very sensitive topic. I wouldn’t want to say anything about it with finality because in my head, both arguments, to keep or not to keep a pregnancy make equal sense. No judgement to those in that dingy Kiambu hospital therefore. Nice writing though…

  4. Great piece William. Always happening in university and surprisingly in marriages. Pray for the lives lost everyday i that dingy Kiambu dispensary and many others ;ike that. Kudos on the piece.

  5. I must say your articles are very creative …the matter at hand is quite sensitive …its a two sided judgement to keep or not to….the villain is the sweet baby though

  6. You did broached a controversial topic thoughtfully. no lecture and no judgment. Plus the article has an amazing flow. I particularly like what you did with the sauti sol songs 🙂

  7. Mulinge Samuel on

    Awesome piece. I randomly drop by to have a read herein. It stirs my creativity, I must say. Got a kasmall blog too (
    It’s tricky though staying relevant. But people grow by trying, right? I’m still at the bottom of the writers pile.

  8. You have a high level synthesis,utterly creative thought system Magunga..and this right here is laced with it.Always looking forward to the next read.

  9. You did not pass any judgement or criticize the choices made in such situations. I love the flow. Amazing work Mr. Williams, keep up?

  10. abdullah omar on

    growing up in a cavalier society while not standing in judgement for their action I could not restrain myself from charities cries of anguish was it a boy or a girl ?whatever the merits of their deeds a powerful moral dilemma is played forth

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