I curled myself on the living room couch, staring at our hunchback Sanyo TV, but not really watching it. It was a Sunday afternoon, so Sinbad must have been screening. I was lost in angry thoughts, wondering what kind of parents God gave me. Yaani, Karua and her husband had promised to throw me a birthday party that year, but going by the activity in the house, there was nothing special being planned. I had given them the benefit of doubt, that perhaps it was meant to be a surprise. But daylight was quickly burning out, as it was already 3pm, and no celebration seemed forthcoming.
Then my dad, William Oduor, called me.
“George, en ang’o? Are you okay?”
How dare you ask me that? Where are the balloons? Where is the three storied cake with 11 candles that you promised? Of course I am not okay. I have been bragging to my friends all month that this year’s birthday was going to be epic. Even better than last year’s. And that everyone who has been an asshole to me lately will definitely not be invited. In fact, they will be forbidden from even passing by my gate. They will get nothing. Just stories of what happened.
“I am fine.” I whispered.
“I said I am fine.”
“Okay, go get me the Sunday Nation from my bedroom.”
The nerve of this man. Nkt. Just sending me here and there. Where is my goddamn birthday!
I rose from the couch and dragged my feet intentionally so that he would know that I am not happy with him. Why do people do that? Make promises which they do not keep? And why would a grown man worth his salt – a whole taxman working at the Busia border- lie to his lastborn that he is going to throw him a party, and then act like he hadn’t said that? It did not make sense.
You know what pissed me off the most? Karua and William had bought for themselves bottles of Pilsner (for him), Guinness and CocaCola (for Karua), that they littered the table with. Aki I felt insulted. They were just drinking alcohol with my birthday money. Charity begins at home, yes, but so does corruption. Misappropriating family funds – like politicians with CDF money.
I was not going to take this kind of fraud silently. Noooo bwana. We cannot allow. I did not have the courage to face my parents and tell them my thoughts. Boniface Mwangi too had also not grown his talons yet. This was 2002. All activists either turned up dead, or in Ngong Forest with their bodies soaked in acid. The lucky ones like Gathongo who had money, fled to majuu. Kenya was very cruel to whistle blowers.
The last time I had stood up to my father, I told him, “I will not be going to school on Mondays, starting today.” He said sawa. Told my immediate elder brother, Deogratias, to go ahead to school, lest he runs late. Then went behind my back, asked my cousin from shagz to pluck him a cane from the tree outside our house. That morning, he pinned me down on his bedroom floor and lit fire on my buttocks. He rained kiboko on my tail with a primal ferocity. Mind you, this is after he said sawa. That sly man.
As soon as I got to the bedroom, I tore a page from my mother’s Maseno University A4 exercise book, and then wrote them a letter to voice my legitimate concerns. Like the little goon they raised.
*letter will be transcribed here soon*
This time I was not going to hang around for his reaction though. I folded the letter, and tucked it inside the newspaper, dropped it on his lap, and then ran out. I went straight to Migosi Market playing field.
The agony of explaining to friends who have been licking my butt for a whole month, just to get into my good books, that there was no bash after all, was the worst part of all this. I lied. Made up stories about the party being postponed to November so that Deogratias and I can have a joint birthday party.
“Nothing. Iriambo. You are enjoying us bwana.”
“Just continue talking like that Asila. You have you ever had a birthday party in your life?”
Silence. “Yeah I thought so.”
“Look guys, I am sorry. I was also blindsided.”
I sold them bullshit. And they bought it.
“Haina noma. Let’s go for duff mpararo at Kapenesa.”
“My dad is around for the weekend. I can’t. He will know.”
“No he won’t. Hutaparara. We will apply oil from my mother’s chips place, just the way we always do. No one will suspect a damn thing.”
It’s an old trick we played. Kapenesa was (still is) a green, slimy pond at the heart of Migosi Estate where livestock went to drink every evening and take a dump. Many Kisumu kids went there to skinny dip. Rumor had it that alligators lived under that pond, but we did not care. To us, that was just another old wives tale. Still, it was forbidden by our parents, just like it was illegal to go into Museveni bush (currently Lolwe Estate) to harvest honey from bees.
We went nonetheless.
However, after swimming in Kapenesa, our skin turned white and pale, and our eyes became red. To hide the fact that we had been swimming, we crept to Mama Asila’s chips kibanda, and applied the cooking oil.
Our househelp was from shagz. She never understood why I smelled like fries on the afternoons that I hurried to bathe before Karua came back home.
Asila’s invitation to go swim with the rest of the boys sounded like a good idea. Maybe it would take my mind off things. Distract me from the fact that my long awaited birthday’s goose was cooked, and so was my butt as soon as William read my letter.
“Ah! What the hell. Tuishie.”
But as soon as I turned my back to leave, Deogratias’ voice called out.
“GEORGE! Daddy anakuita!”
Oh shit. We both know what that meant. I had fucked up royally. On my birthday no less. My ass cheeks trembled in fear of my dad’s wrath.
I celebrated every birthday since. Karua saw to it. Until Form One, when my old man died, and was buried on my birthday. March 12, 2005.
Here is something interesting about this date. My grandfather, George Magunga Snr. (in the photo above), died on this date thirty years ago in 1985. So you understand why I do not celebrate birthdays. I mean come on. How can I do that without coming off as cynical? Given the long shadow this date casts over my family.
In campus when Mukundi asked “Jakom, plot ya birthday niaje?” I simply reply to him, “Aki uliza tu Ruto.”
But this year will be different.
I am celebrating it. With the street kids from the Homeless of Nairobi project that I have been taking part in. These are kids, most of whom do not know when (or where) they were born. We will share mine this year.
I asked you on this post, and now I am asking you again; kindly spare a damn for the Homeless of Nairobi. And if you are feeling sufficiently philanthropic, you can spare two. Reach me on 0703138039 to send in your contribution- either in cash or in kind.
Meanwhile, Karua called me yesterday and took me shopping for a pair of jeans. She gave me a brief history of my cheekiness. How I was in such a hurry in 1991 that I crawled out of her silently in the taxi, on the way to Aga Khan. Then she said I am so black because exhaust fumes from the taxi discoloured my skin.
Well that explain a lot. I always thought I was adopted.
Truth is, she only bought me those jeans for fear of receiving another protest letter, a blog post, or even worse, a Twitter hashtag; #StopKarua #MothersOfDoom #SomeoneTellKarua etc. She thinks I would unleash Xtian Dela and Nyakundi on her.
Raise your glasses and join me in a toast. Cheers to 24 hours of constant HBD Facebook notifications that loosely translate to “Congrats omera, you’re one year closer to wearing diapers again.”
So far 24 is the oldest I have ever been.
P.S. When your birthday falls on a Thursday, that is a real TBT, donge?
P.P.S. I am accepting birthday gifts for the rest of this month in the form of financially romantic MPESA messages.