A Place of Broken Beauty [Part I]

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Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.      

Confucius

In that moment, he only saw his reflection shrink into nothingness. How at first everything seemed so small while she had been part of his life. Now the very tiniest part of his soul felt big. Big in a small way. Big but empty. He might have carried this idea in his mind, that despite what they had both been through; suffice it to say the least, they would be room for another chance. Even in the disgrace of a broken relationship, stitched a thousand times, now beyond repair. Ashira was not in position to let go. 

I eyed him with disapproval at first. Amidst whatever it was that makes one hurt another, consequently, throwing all caution to the wind. I wondered how he would even lock eyes with Aisha and tell her he loved her. Deep down I knew it was possible to love again, but just how possible is it , to love the main source of your pain? Something about  broken love and trust makes people shudder at its breath , a force that pulls away the depths of your flesh, and exhales the maturity you have known; the 20 years you have been in the face of this universe. 

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Take this perspective. 

Admission day. College. HEAVY STAMP. Admitted into one of the high end universities in Kenya after hammering straight As in the University entry examination. BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (PHARMACY). You are from a staunch religious background, and in fact the village has bestowed upon you the trust of propelling its flag of progress. 

Progress for future prosperity and posterity. It doesn’t even scare your strict father that his son is going to inhale the mixed lifestyle of the city; and get adopted into ratchet gangs. Nothing could go wrong. Not if religious elders at your local church did not show up for a prayer session, lay hands on their son and command the gods. Command the gods and feel good. 

Because that’s what loving fathers do for their sons. 

Anyway.

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It’s funny how college life consumes people and what could be punctuated into an innocent tale; takes a narrow winding into the murky depths of influence. So for a few days, you are hesitant. Hesitant to talk or exchange contact with anyone. Hesitant because for the better part of the hiatus you took, after completing your high school, to your admission day; your village prepared you in advance. Those that came before you were not selfish to point out that peer pressure is the death of a village boy. Sorry.

Any boy. Any girl.

So this very word makes you tremble, despite the fact that you’re sure – nothing could shake you. Not ram, not Opium. Nothing. Not even the night birds singing out in the dark. 

But you have a roommate. Of course , a room mate, the party of your life. Nothing you’ve ever wanted in such a mongrel and you wonder how in the world you ended up being roommates. It only takes you two weeks of suffering exiles, suffocating in the cold of sacrificing for your ragged room mate; so that he can lay down any girl that lands prey of his seduction. Worse, the seniors keep stressing the story of one Moldova Kifulusi – the son of a popular pastor that ended up selling local liquor; in one of the corridor shacks within weeks of admission into campus. 

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In fact, you don’t even understand how love functions because you’ve never fell in love. Probably, somewhere in your high school days; you might have seen a girl and liked her. Sadly, it never occurred to you making a move because for 20 years your staunch father has warned you against being too close with girls. A good son listens to his father, right? However, somewhere along the way, the magnetic lifestyle of your roommate gets into you. He doesn’t say a word. Not a word of influence. In fact, he calls you ‘deity’ ; when in good moods, perhaps when he hasn’t heartbroken one of his many girlfriends, he calls you ‘high priest.’ A good roommate would never stash his roomy into careless lifestyles, because he needs him to be there when the carelessness runs out of hand. Right. For instance, when an assignment deadline is closing in and you might need a hand from the ‘high priest’.  

But the high priest craves attention. The village boy sees beautiful girls and he notices them. Even as he suffers disappointment at the sight of his friends boasting about the women they have laid; he doesn’t stop wondering why in the world will these good-for-nothing brats not boast about their grades. Didn’t he score a clean 28 out of 30 in the Biochemistry CAT? None of them feels good or bad for their grades.

Grades are just there, like the wind, to compliment the sun or the rain. But the girls, the women, opposite sex forms the basis of their life. It’s their beer. 

Such was Ashira’s life in his pursuit for high education. By the end of the third week, he’d attended three birthday parties, one sex party and a lavish visit to BAT 44, a stripper’s club in Westlands. Occasionally, his room mate Misheni would pull him and few others to the epicentre of it all, Juja or Thika. They would smoke opium and sometimes drink their lives away. Assignments and missed CATS piled up the table, missed classes plus mixed examinations, nothing could bail them out of the mound of dirt they had put themselves; From the look of things, there was no going back for Ashira. 

Deity turned hombre. A catchy headline to say the least. 

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However, it is while walking beneath the shadows of his careless infection , that he met another one like him. An adorable calf, with the eyes of the moon. A flower that shines, while it blooms. A beautiful cherry that went by the name, Aisha. While he’d consumed all his hope as the once adorable son of his father, he now mashed up his hopes on this one girl. He wanted to impress her. And because the goon in him had turned romantic, and there is something about hooligans that makes good girls  fall for them; she fell for his charm. Just like Ashira, Aisha had never tasted love. They were both Asian calves dropped in the middle of an African nowhere. And for the life of them, a path would just curve itself and hopefully the world would not fall above their love. 

Another perspective. 

At this point of time. The village boy in you has been washed away by life in the city. A once standing ovation has been inhaled into an emotionally unavailable rehab. You can’t fight for your education and its the kind of pursuit  that has been your heart. But the city knows no heart. Campus life reaps apart your sanity. Father calls, everything is alright, the going is tight but am still trying. Father sends shots through M-pesa. Mother prays for you and you keep telling your friends how with your mom’s prayers ; not even Juju  can stand in your way. Your mother loves you. Your parents love you and they are playing their part. They are not absent parents. 

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But you don’t love them. If you loved them, you’d actually listen and abide by your father’s hundreds of pieces of advice; Advice that only ends with you saying, am good dad, I’m now grown and can take good care of myself. Sadly, you Chose friends over family, your drinking mates over books and somewhere this deeply explicit life gladly chooses you. It finds a home in you and you become the life of the party. The life of your friends, you become their hero. 

A little difference to this perspective however, is you have found love at last. She gives you goosebumps and her charm manages to keep the African man in you – at bay. You don’t choose another one. You are loyal to death. You would rather die than watch yourself cheat the relationship. It’s not bondage, you say. Its love and love is meant to be for two. Not three. Not four. No third parties. You and her. Aisha and Ashira.

By the sixth month of being in a relationship, Ashira and Aisha had lost count of the times they had slept together. What good is a relationship without ‘Lungula.’ An affair without sex is just like a ship without a captain. Both of them were 19 years and for those six months had stripped each other’s virginity to the core. Then star ships began to shoot their way into the affair. A moment in time for every relationship, where partners deem sacrifices worth to save a sinking ship. You become strangers, fighters and deadly lovers. She becomes your worst mistake and you become her pain in the ass. It’s life. 

Within no time, Aisha began to notice the imperfections. However, slight they seemed, she borrowed a magnifying glass from the depths of her soul and sunk into a hard to impress queen. 

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She had seen Ashira and what he was capable of. He wasn’t someone she was ready to stake her life with. Although Ashira did almost anything to his abilities to prove his love and trust to Aisha. There was nothing. Nothing beyond a one night stand leading to another. Nothing beyond daily parties, sex and times spent behind smoking and drinking dens. No future. No plans. No progress. What kind of life was that ? Boring, right? Not really. 

It wasn’t boring, only that Aisha had realized earlier on that they were in a sinking ship. A looming fall. But she didn’t know how to say it, but one thing kept coming back to her mind. Her mother’s words, ‘in any situation, put yourself and your own first.’ Above all, she did not feel the thrill of being with someone she knew in and out. Aisha craved the chase and she was surely going to find it. Bathing in momentarily  thoughts, and fumes of finding herself; and finding more love than what was at the table; Aisha decided to break her silence that night.

*****************Watch this space for the next and final part, Part II******************

I haven’t been posting for quite a while, its been two weeks and I’m really sorry to my readers. I have no excuse, Its not pure writers block since I have been pursuing other writing projects. I won’t provide a lame excuse – Just know it won’t happen again.

The above piece, I will admit diverts away from my normal writing style – its a long form flash fiction, which I rimmed down into two parts, to fit a word count that favours my Friday readers.

 

The Face on the Front Page

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Every day she hopes things will work out.

Last when I saw her, she was bleeding pain. A pain that she refused to say what it was. Whatever it was; it had eaten away the front of her smile and was busy devouring her inside. You could see it in her gait and the way she talked, even her eyes shone with some dimming light. Frantically as she forceful and coldly denied it, her breath much in anticipation of pressing on – but her radiance melting down like that of an abandoned whisky – stole her charm and left a stoic frame grasping for some energy.

Energy she couldn’t find.

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Photo Credits: Marjorie Mwendwa – Self Inspired Model with 254flo Kenya

I could see what she was carrying. And there was this conviction in her words – that it was nothing. That everything was okay and things were going cool. She was carrying a desperate heaviness, one that you don’t describe in words but in melodramatic facials- an emptiness that could easily ghost her from reality – yet this is what you saw from a distance.

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Not me, not her, but you. This is what you saw in her – another name for charm. A burger in a five star restaurant – a woman worth the cover page of a high end beauty magazine; an extremely beautiful woman, one you had probably seen on a billboard. One of those billboards that hang tightly to the walls of upper hill sky crappers; on stickers loosely clinging on a lavish matatu –  perhaps one you had seen on a Geisha advert; in between the time you catch up with your favorite show on Maisha Magic. Girls like those don’t advertise Sportpesa, or infinix or Indomie –Such looks are only for some fetish Kenya Airways Ad, Vogue clothes line, and the weekly red carpet. Blah Blah Blah- anyways that’s not the point.

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The thing about beauty is it makes you vulnerable, scared and misplaced. She was vulnerable – she was scared and I could feel it in my bones when she hugged me. The world expects you to be beautiful but not too beautiful. So it’s a dilemma sufficiently in itself- that wreaks vainfulness and mispriority. Yet a superficial bar imposed on most Kenyan Women, which sometimes is unattainable – and other times a goal for many.

Yet the most beautiful girl in the room has always been the show stopper. She cannot speak to someone’s boyfriend a sentence or two without sparking envy. It’s very much easy to calibrate her image in colors, fretting wonder and niceties- but so difficult to see her inside. So she coils unspeaking because you can’t always have it all. She tirelessly spends time examining the mirror looking back at her – because the world has made her think it’s the only thing she can offer.

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Sadly, the very world takes upon its hand to judge her, to turn her around and weigh her by the tones of skin color, eyes, the line her mouth scants upon her lips, the size of her legs and whether her dimples are worth a kiss.   The anecdotes revolving around her life scantily, if not deeply – affect how she relates with people. Whenever someone tells her ‘she’s beautiful’; she doesn’t let that get into her so much. Because for years; her beauty has been sort of a weapon to catalyze un-requested favors from people. Getting things she never deserved just because she had a killer smile.

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No one loves this kind of hype and especially when it revolves around beauty and popularity. Friends have stuck by her; but she can’t undress them beyond the superficial giggles and read their intentions. Maybe some are just there for the hype- just to be called her friend. But deep inside they want to strip her, to have her smile and keep it for themselves.

To destroy her.

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Mathew Wakhungu, better known as Tao Tripper of the now separated Camp Mulla;  Tells Grace Msalame in the Unscripted Show – that Hype doesn’t change you, it changes those around you.

For years, you have dripped in the charm of people smiling at you and showing you  lots of love. You are armed with confidence and humility is an understatement, you’ve become a man of the people. The name on the headline; the face of the caption. This only changes them, your closest friends, who in turn change you slowly, intentionally or unintentionally – I won’t get into the detail, It’s quite philosophical.

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The next time we met was after two weeks; the duration of time she wanted me to wait so that she could gently tell me what was wrong. I had waited impatiently – and as gentle as she was – quite easily delivered to her promise. It was a night – down one of those middle end joints along Muindi Bingu Street; her favorite spot for Japanese Sushi. Myself I had never eaten Sushi and when the table was spread with a tray, quite a fragrance was the welcome that I got lost in the eating rather than the talking.

The led lights inside the café had this calming effect – and would change color from time to time. The seduction was quite attractive – as they transformed her eyes from blue, to red then blue again. She asked me what it meant to lose someone I love – and I told her to me it meant never loving again.

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But amidst the background of slow jazz music blended with chunks of karaoke Zilizopendwa – I digged dip into the pieces on my tray – shoving each into my throat; while she sat there- plucking every piece of her pain, and shoving each of those pieces into my soul.

Not as clumsily as I shoved the sushi into my mouth. But calmly and slowly, bittersweet grief narrated with some glow – Her face was shimmering and with the music; I felt the taste of the evening – today without Smirnoff, or Tusker or anything.

Just me and a teacher – she was teaching me how to reach out into the lumps in my soul; how to say no to pain; how to be weary and say no to show stoppers. It was her own story; told one after the other; about words she’d been told in judgment of her intelligence; Intelligence brought against her looks; about grief, about worry and about people; and men she had lost because she’d thought she had it all. Deep down I SECRETLY thought ‘you cannot always have it all’ yet that night I walked  away knowing what it means to just mean beautiful to people.