DIRTY BILLS

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Hello Harry,
We all have that aunt or uncle or elder third distant half-cousin from your mom’s side (she thinks) whose number seems to have a bolder more colorful font when your pockets are a hollow abyss than the rest of the contacts on your “bodaboda” and “bae” filled contact list. And more often than not, never before had that contact visited the flooded realms that are your call log, which begs the question, “What will they think if I call them up now?” Such a thought only so much as gives you a shiver, but doesn’t prevent your next move.
That’s when your best friend’s backpack comes in handy; you have better things to do with the pocket money your mom reluctantly sends one (and a half) times a week than to buy a bag of your own (kwani where is PlayStation and chapo-mix money going to come from?). You then proceed to stuff some half-clean half-endured clothes into the bag and since you usually only have the one class on Fridays, you don’t mind the extra luggage.
The lecture passes you by as you spend the entire two hours constructing your defense speech for having not called on them any earlier. Maybe you’ll even leave their place as broke as you came. There isn’t much of a view through the window for you to fetch stray thoughts from so you still don’t have an argument that holds water by 11:54 when the lec has had enough of the class’s impatience. Your uncertainty doesn’t stand between you and your extravagant alter-ego that comes to life at every meal hour. Rice, chapo mbili, beef, veggies. After all, I’ll get reimbursement, right? …right?
Your squad has to wait for you to bid good bye to this chic they keep pushing you to box in and you honestly don’t have any solid reason when they ask why not…just no (haha..). You’re all boarding the same mat, and they alight at school while you head on to Thika. It’s your God-mother today. Thika becomes miles nearer and you have to pull your gut together to make that call sooner than you had hoped. The connection seems to be completed way to fast and you forget your entire script. “Sasa Mom, niko Thika.” is all you’ve got. What she says after that is so basic, but to you at that moment, sounds so soothing to your ears and soul that you almost kiss her over the phone. “Karibu nyumbani.”
Three years since you last saw any of them and you can feel the difference…and see it, too! The house is bigger and so are the kids. You don’t have to share a room with the eldest anymore. You don’t have to share a bathroom or toilet with anyone, either. Even the food is better than ever and you try to wrap your head out of the mentality of just getting mullah because you have tonnes of catching up to do. That’s bad.
You honestly hope you don’t have to do anything you’re not used to doing like lead a praise and worship session before night night or cooking the main course for supper. But you’re lucky. They didn’t change THAT much. As you watch TV with the family on Saturday evening, you can’t help but ask yourself if you would have ever remembered they existed had you not hit such a critical financial iceberg. Is this what comrade life does to people? You hope it’s no trend. But at the same time, you pray for your God-family’s long life and try to convince your conscience that that is not just a monetary-based request to God.
Lord, please forgive my soul.
It’s Sunday. You think you’re up late but it turns out you still have nearly an hour and a half to Church and it’s a five-minute inner lamentation for wasted sleep time before obliging to take a shower. You’d still have gone to Church either way but today, your last day of visit, you’ll do everything to perfection, like the number of zeros at the end of the day cling on it- that reimbursement that one…. The youth service is too sparsely populated to not be noticed as a new face. But your God-mother isn’t there to poke your flesh with her laser beam look from above her specs like the typical aunty at a family gathering scrutinizing your wealthy plate, so no, you won’t stand up for intros. Let them stare on. But it so happens that your God-sister is a famous one so after recess, your palm has to endure an assortment of soft, hard, smooth, rough and moderately constructed other palms. Can we leave now?
You think it and it happens. At last. You’re home. You’ve been a good boy. You want to leave as soon as that lasts. But it’s an African family, remember? “Unataka kwenda na ndio chakula imeiva?” Damn it! You have no choice. Just a plate is enough, you plead with your Luhya stomach. And finally, you are released and it was worth it. The money bill smells dirty but you don’t want to engage your conscience. You needed it. You did.
If we had been living close enough, I’d have gone home instead. Honest. I wouldn’t have to wrestle my conscience too hard then, I think. Mom would never let her little (not so much anymore) boy leave without a little boost. I guess it’s time I learnt something different from the distance, though.
Soon, Harry. Soon I’ll be able to drive my own car. This means I’ll be able to drive my own life. I want to stop asking for money too much. Then I want to stop asking for money altogether. Then, then I want to show my appreciation to my parents and everyone that has been a parent to me when they were far. I want my messages to Mom to stop reading, “Thanks Mom. I love you!” and start reading, “You’re welcome Mom. I love you.” And I’ll get what I want, Harry. Soon! A…as soon as I visit Aunt Cee one last time lakini, hehe..

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2 thoughts on “DIRTY BILLS

  • May 17, 2018 at 10:02 am
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    So captivating!!Chronicles so relatable…especially the reimbursement part..

    Reply

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