When we gaze into the sky with that far away look, often we are asking God for an intercession or dreaming about a better future. Because we want it. More investments. Better relationships. Good health. Rain for the corn. Fulfilling careers, and what is wrong with wanting better?
But. There is this emery wheel of misfortunes that gyrates towards us periodically. Quietly and sluggishly, as if it makes stops at junctions to wait on its adversarial brothers. How else will joy be purloined out of your life if not by the hand of heaped problems. Subsequently, you wake up one morning and you can’t explain why problem and his clans courted you. Why you? And it all points to one event. One event that would change the course of your life.
“life wasn’t that bad when she was alive. He spun around after her departure and took it out on us.”
When his mother died of cancer, life shimmered on it’s axis. A seismic revolution that changed the course of his life forever. For one frequent meals were reduced to a toss-ups. Edwin’s father used his solomonic gift to make the discernment that all his money would be better spent on alcohol. Never on meals. It would take the older brother, James, to borrow food or engage in odd jobs to put a meal on the table.And wash and feed him. He tripled as a brother, mother, and father.
While his father was high as a kite on alcohol, his monstrosity unfurled. He would beat them up, call them names, and go to bed like it was nothing. He moved to new towns often but as it turns out, changing towns doesn’t exactly signify a change in character. Edwin’s father settled in Kiambu, but that wasn’t the end of road trips for the boys.
“While in Kiambu, we’d had enough, so my brother plotted an escape and took me with him. He has never left me.”
While he is narrating the ordeal of escape, a movie scene of hostages escaping comes to mind. Comes a time where a better life must be run after, sought after. To survive, they had realized, meant escaping the quagmire life created by their dad.
“I don’t know where James got the money, and I cared less about that. We hopped on a matatu that took us straight to Karatina. Our destination was Nyeri but we were short of money. So we walked all the way to Nyeri.”
He was young, at around 10 years, and he grew tired on the way. Occasionally his brother let him catch his breath but they continued. It was dark when they got to Nyeri, a good Samaritan took pity on them and gave them a place for the night. Morning came and he sent them on their way to Othaya.
” In Othaya, we went to Othaya police station. We told them our story and who we were looking for. A relative who would take us in. They put us in their range rover as we circumnavigated the town looking for them. They told us they would take us to children’s home, should we not find any of them.”
Finally they found their aunt after asking around. She however was displeased to see them. “Move on to another house,”she said.
“What are you selling in that bag pack?” my dad interrupts.
Edwin is door to door salesman. He stumbled into our compound selling detrex soaps and Colgate. I love how as Kenyans we have all normalized calling toothpaste -Colgate. You will hear someone ask ,”Uko na Colgate ya sensodyne?”. So the Colgate(toothpaste) that he is selling is called T-guard.
My dad then asks for a simplification of the said items. He says when you used the paste, your teeth will never ache or have cavities. And for the soap, it can lower your body temperature. Sales people, am telling you, they promote goods better than the mainstream advertisements.
“Are you sure when I use this Colgate my make teeth won’t fall off? (The young man says no). You brush first, I confirm.”
My dad goes on and on, adorning his statements with hilarity, making me and Edwin titter with laughter.
“On our way back to the station, we ran into a boy who recognized us. We asked him where we could find Uncle Kibaba, who is my father’s brother. He pointed us in the direction, we found and he took us in?” Edwin recounts soon as my dad had left with his bought items.
“Do you harbor any resentment for your dad?”
“I did. A deep insidious bitterness that made me angry. I lashed out at everyone. I whinged a lot about my dad for neglecting us. But, I have moved on. My aunt intervened and showed me the right way.”
I picture a disagreeable acidic taste when he describes the bitterness. Like a lemon. Lemons have a stinging after-feel. Like they don’t like their existence, like they have stress and they take it out on anyone who eats them.
“Did he ever look for the two of you? Your dad.” I inquire as he sips the tea that is sharing a stool between us.
“I don’t know if he did. But he never contacted any of us even using our relative’s phones.”
“How is life now? Any dating prospects? Dreams?”
“Better, I would say. But there are occasional mishaps. I have a cousin of mine who says I will die like my mother.”
His cousin is a pastor for the record. Members of the clergy have longed ceased to provide guidance and spiritual counsel by the teachings patterned in Christ. Their characters have become questionable with their community involvement being a tad too personal. The judgment and castigation by Christians too, begs the question- if God has no problem with imperfect people rejoicing his name, why does it bother you?
He has fallen in love once, with a woman who was one year older than him, and old-mama jokes were sprung on him. When that did not work, some of his relatives threw him under the bus by spreading wrong rumors about him to the girl. It worked and she left him.
For now he is focusing on his career. Wants to buy land and build a brick house. He has saved enough to rent an apartment because he feels that, in as much as his relatives took him and his brothers in, they are obscuring his prosperity.
There is no telling when the wheel of atrocity and awfulness will find its way to you. Nonetheless, if it’s any consolation one of noble truths of Buddhism claim that suffering is universal . You are not alone in suffering, don’t quit on life, fight for a better tomorrow.