“Wangare come pick me up at Garden City.” Wangare’s iPhone chimes waking her up from her short and sweet nap. Her heart beats so fast as she tries to catch her breath. Her family had come to visit her. She was almost sure that her father had tagged along. She never thought this day would come at least not when she was in campus. Wangare’s father would say, siku moja tutafika tu na hutajua. In her strategic mind, she always knew how to outmaneuver all of them. With a few excuses here and there or going home earlier as a way to counter their moves so that her new life was always under wraps in the big bad city.
“Lelo ni lelo,” she thinks to herself. She sprints to her kitchen and opens a big and wide fridge. She gulps cold water and crushes the ice cubes mercilessly between her newly grown molars. She found that this was an effective way to calm her nerves immediately. She was scrambling through her mind looking for ideas but today she had been caught pants down. She could evidently see her mother’s pure shock written on her face and her father’s silence. She could see her younger brother’s curiosity threatening to ask a myriad of questions. Anger begins boiling and bubbling within her. Lately, she had been having severe anger attacks at even the pettiest of things.
She picks up her phone and shakily dials Ciku’s number. On three attempts, the annoying recorded message “Sorry the number you have called cannot be reached…..before the voiceover moves over to her fluent Swahili translation, Wangeci throws her phone away angrily. Sasa huyu nikiwa na shida anakuwa mteja, atanijua tu!
Her phone vibrates angrily in tune with her ringtone, something along the lines of Asap Rocky’s Fashion Killer. It was her mother calling, probably agitated at the long delay. She picks up her phone and resolves to meet her family. Kama mbaya mbaya. Whatever happens, happens. She boards a matatu, unlike her normal routine of ordering Uber rides. It had been long since she had had a real taste of what humility looked like. As she got sandwiched mercilessly between a young man who reeked of the devil’s herb and a woman with heavy luggage clutching her kiondoo safely on Wangare’s left side, discomfort and disgust were not hidden on her carefully made-up face. As if that wasn’t enough, the matatu made endless pit stops to pick up even more passengers. Who knew that a carrier of 11 passengers could fit 30 people and luggage? The conductor violently snaps her back to reality with impatience. Wewe slay queen sijaajiriwa ningoje fare yako siku nzima. Luckily, she quickly removes her carefully folded thousand note from her purse and hands it over to him.
“Unashukia wapi?” He asks arrogantly.
“Garden city, ni fifty so utanipea change.” Those were the last words Wangare spoke before a new conductor came in. When she inquired about her change, the mind games were too much for her to bear. At that point, all she wanted was to arrive at her unplanned destination.
“Never again!” she repeats to herself as she alights. She spots their family car. The anger in her was already on a mercury level. Boiling point. She took a few deep breaths slightly referring to an article she read in Manenoz. “If only I had ice cubes,” she thinks out loud. Her brother rolls down the car window and shouts, “Mum, ndio yule Wangare anajiongelesha!” This was his love language to his beloved sister. Always embarrassing her at every opportunity he could get. Something about that statement made her calm down. Even laugh silently. It was the first sign of familiarity all afternoon.
After a few questions on how long it takes for you to meet us and how are you my daughter, they drove to Kare’s esteemed campus, USIU. Wangare got a scholarship out of her good grades and stellar accolades with the United Nations. It was a well-deserved achievement that called for lots of celebration and pride in her family and community.
As they got closer and closer to her home, the nerves were undeniable. Underneath her pink blush was a pale face. The tight bun was nothing compared to her racing mind. As her mother went on about her made-up face, Wangare was tuned out already. First, because she had heard it before, and second, this was the least of her concerns at this point.
“Wangare, your face is a landscape of undeniable beauty, you don’t need these funny additions. Your father and I gave you more than the makeup on your face.”
“Kareeee, kwani hauishi ndani ya shule.” Her brother stated as her directions seemed to go further away from the school gate to downtown. Forty-five minutes later, they stood outside a gated estate and the silence was wordless but eloquent.
“Mum tumefika,” she says. If Ciku was here, she wouldn’t recognize that voice. It was a hybrid of timidity and innocence, something most of her associates hadn’t heard. As they walked past the carefully mowed backyards and picket fences, they finally got to Wangare’s home. The only audible sound was 4 feet and 4 clanking heels. When they all stop at door number 6, she retrieves a key from under a stone. They all step into a beautiful home and the lights automatically set the ambiance. A soft male recorded voice-over welcomes them. “Good afternoon Kare, You got the keys! Well done on this huge adult step.”
A voice that made her certain and happy every time she came home made her cringe in disbelief. What kind of disillusioned life had she been living? What was so adult about someone buying you a house and paying your rent every month?
“Naona huku ni maisha London, eh?” Her father says in disbelief and shock. Almost even afraid to sit on the velvety couches, he asks for a stool. Her mother quietly folds her arms as her side and compound eyes scrutinized every corner of the luxurious 2 bedroom house.
Her mother was waiting for an opening statement before her dialogue launched into a full-blown lecture. “Kwetu bado tunatumia vitambaa na huku ni velvet. Sindio Wangare, huku ulikuja kuanza maisha. Huyo Mzee ako wapi, juu mimi hii pesa sina ama baba Wangare ni wewe unamsupport na sijui? Ulianza kusave lini surely? Hata kama unafanya kazi si ungenunua shamba kwanza ama unilipe deni ya kukulea surely. Two bedrooms Wangare mbili na moja ni kuchezea magame! Ama mnaitanga aje! Inaonekana sasa ni wewe utalipia Ryan school fees juu mimi sikujua uko mbele hivyo. Ningejua ningekuachia Ryan kitambo……“
“Kareeee ninunulie ata mimi PS5. Naeza kuja kukaa huku na wewe ndio nicheze games,” Ryan excitedly jumps into the conversation not understanding the severity of what was going on.
After standing for quite some time in somber silence, her father tells her to think critically about her future. “Sina ubaya na wewe but my daughter, you know better.” He hands her two thousand shillings and heads towards the car, starting it off as a signal to the rest of the family. Her mother running out of every possible African mother’s lecture silently asks Ryan to tell her goodbye as they walk off.
The last sound before the deafening silence was the car driving off. Everyone left to their thoughts after a thorough awakening of the conscience.