You had a great father.
I get an inbox from Sugu Sugu Mrass. I make a face. How did we become friends? Did he send me a friend request or was I the one who sent? I run to his profile. We have been friends for a whole year! I don’t laugh with people with such names. Did he study LCM? Did he wait for the teachers he hated and throw cow dung at them in dark alleys? Does he have dreadlocks as the name suggests? And if so, does he go to the salon or is his hair just shaggy? I scrutinize his profile more keenly than before. Studied in school of Ganja. Works at Weed is Life. Nickname: Pot. I won’t reply to his inbox. I run my eyes through Facebook to see what people are up to.
Political tension is high. People have become so reckless. This is the time I silently unfriend people without confronting them and giving them a lecture of, “Hey, does Uhuru/Raila even know you exist? Does he even pay your airtime?” then the scumbag responds almost immediately, “This is my wall. Keep off or block me, idiot” then you fume and feel your bile piling, your blood boiling and your heart thumping furiously. And you want to tell them, “You should have been a still born or aborted.” I don’t get involved in those exchanges. I will silently unfriend you without any confrontation. After all, they won’t notice I unfriended them anyway. I keep stalking and head to this girl’s wall. I have been stalking her for long. Maybe I should just text her and ask her what makes her face so smooth.
Hey miss Chingano. You behave like my father. Sugu Sugu Mrass sends a second message.
Aish why? I respond immediately.
You are ignoring me.
I am sorry, I hadn’t seen your text. I wanted to text but no. I won’t apologize. Am I to blame that he is those needy guys? And more so, to a person who couldn’t even write his official name on Facebook. I am here talk to me, I type but delete. It sounds flirty. And I am not flirting with Master Sugu or whatever his name is. No. Uh-uh. Not my type. I breathe in and put my phone aside. Let me build the nation, I think and check my emails and respond to my boss who was inquiring about my appraisal. My phone vibrates. I ignore and keep building the nation by heading to a brief meeting with my editor, leaving my phone behind. Her eyebrows were poorly done so she looks shocked, since last week. 20 minutes later, I am back to my desk. My phone vibrates again. Now this nerd needs to back off. I swear as I unlock my phone which has a complex password, you’d think it is a molecular formula that will transform the world into a healthy global village. Or so complex you’d think it is an encrypted message from ISIS.
And I have no problem being ignored…
I am used to it
Nobody loves me
But it’s cool, anyway
But as a writer, you should learnt to listen to us
These are messages streaming in my inbox. From one person. Sugu Sugu Mrass.
I feel guilty. I shouldn’t be like this. Just last week I had a conference with myself and I resolved to be kind and caring.
Sorry. I was a bit held up. I say without thinking much
It is okay, Miss Chingano.
Just call me Pamba.
No. I prefer Chingano
Well, what’s your real name?
That’s not a nickname?
Are you judging me?
This weed addict was coming so strongly on me I felt like he’d shoot me if I ignored him. I felt chained to his impulsive behavior.
You had a great father.
Thanks. How was yours?
My father was passive. He sat like a log in a pile of firewood. He said nothing all day long sometimes.
That’s not so bad. You’d not like someone all over your space, trust me.
I wish he was all over my space like yours was. I wished he had just come for one Parents’ Day. But he never did. He was always detached from us
Sorry. It must have hurt you.
Me? No. It hurt my mother. God, it hurt her so much.
I was feeling for him. Is a Parents’ Day so much to ask? What is your time for, if you cannot have time for your own family? Of what use is your existence? Of what importance are you, if you as the custodian of your family have no time for them?
Don’t sympathize with me. I am hardcore
Wapi… you hard cores are softies in real sense. I smile
No!!! I am an ex-convict.
I felt my blood freeze and I shivered with fear. Oh God! Might he wait for me outside my house and kill me for ignoring him? Does he have a tattoo of a pick axe on his back? Did he get sodomized while in prison and hates men, starting with his father and maybe my precious daddy too?
What? Why are you surprised?
I stared at his text with fear. I could almost hear his chilling voice. His voice must be husky. And he must be dark. One of his front teeth must be cracked and his perineal region must be one loose structure on his body of course. And his eyes must be blood-shot. And he does not smile. He sends a second message
You know I envy your father.
There folks! There! He wants to kill my daddy. He is jealous of him. I am now shaken, honestly. I don’t want him making reference to my father.
Why do you envy him? I find courage to ask, but still nervous.
He would watch you dance as you rehearsed your pathetic performances. And he would cheer you on. Maybe he didn’t really enjoy them.
Maybe he didn’t after all. But his eyes were so wide with excitement
Maybe he faked it. Don’t you think?
No. No. My father never faked anything
People fake love. Or interest. Like you. You are faking interest in me. And my sad stories of a dysfunctional family. Your family was perfect.
Officially this ex-con was a psycho on the loose. I was afraid of him. I looked at my computer. Time was on a mission to finish me. I had a big assignment to complete on Albinism. I had done few interviews with some people with albinism and could not stop starring at their red lips and red patches of skin on their faces. They looked sore, like the sun was really unnecessary in their world. One lady got mad and walked out of the interview and said I was judgmental. That I was staring at her with disgust. It wasn’t true. I can swear on my Kukhu Nambengele’s grave. I love red. Red is my second name.
Why don’t we talk at 2?
I reply and wanted to add, I am lagging behind with some work, but on second thought I didn’t finish with that. He’d reply that he was not idle either. He is unstable. And psychotic. I should just block him, no? On second thought, I cannot block him. He might kill me. And my daddy.
Why not now? I want to talk to you now. You people barely have time for anyone.
He sounded desperate. And needy. Like we, second borns. He craved for attention that I am not sure I could provide. I feel compelled. You people barely have time for anyone. I re-read and sigh. No. I am not one of those people who don’t have time. I have time. I am not busy. I hated being in this office suddenly. Was I becoming like these people in corporate whom you need an appointment before you talk to? No. I am free.
I open the folder containing the written interviews, so that I could scan as I chat with this nagging guy. One was labelled, ALB Nina another one ALB Sasha and another one ALB Taabu. Taabu hated his condition so much and cried twice during the interview. And I can remember him asking me, “Why did my parents name me Taabu? If I was normal like other children, why didn’t they give me a normal name?” then I laughed and he cried more. “Look, I have an uglier name. I am Makanga. But that does not mean anything” he smiled then broke into a laugh. “Yours is awful too. But I wish I was called Owen or Walter”. I sighed. He is only 10 and so sensitive.
Am I bothering you that much? The man on the other end asks.
No, you aren’t. And my family is not perfect, just so you know.
But your dad is perfect. You even described him as life.
Oh, did I?
And that he is your savior in your emergencies. Mine couldn’t even take us to hospital even when you were hanging delicately on life
You read it so keenly.
Because I always wanted to know how other fathers are. When I was given homework and took it to him, he would throw the book on my face and say, ‘weren’t you listening in school?’
That’s mean. Why didn’t you ask your mother?
She was illiterate. My father was an office messenger and was better placed. He despised my mother so much and would tell her that she was an ignorant old hag. That he married her out of pity.
Goodness! He seemed bitter.
He hated me. Maybe because I never came first in my class. He would come home and ignore us, listen to news, take supper and sleep. When he heard my brother and I talking, it angered him. It even angered him more that we were still breathing.
I remembered my own father. Mwalimu would intrude in all our conversations and laugh at our jokes and stupid stories. He laughed that there was a beetle in my class that made us scream and jump through the window, he laughed that my brother was the goalkeeper during PE lesson and he was scored 13 goals. He laughed even harder that my sister’s classmate came to school and forgot she had sugarcane in her bag, and when she opened her bag when the math teacher was in class, stalks of sugar cane flew past the teacher’s nose.
What about your brother? Did he treat him the same way?
Yes. He hated him equally and would say he didn’t resemble him in any way. My mother was harmless and really voiceless. Whenever she tried to speak up, he’d shut her with the usual talk about her illiteracy and that she had no capacity to question him. My brother tried to defend her but he would be kicked like a ball. That boy had so many scars and had concussions. He became epileptic.
That’s really sad. You passed through so much as kids
I sigh. I can’t believe when I was an adolescent, I hated my father and wished he never was in my life. I felt guilty again and asked God to ignore anything evil I ever thought about him. He was a blessing. I mean look at Sugusugu’s father. Did he even deserve to be called a father?
How’s he now? I add
That boy is now bones. He died.
He said it so casually. As if it was a cat we were talking about. He was a sad man. He was so damaged emotionally and had become emotionless. He continued,
He died one night under his seizures. He convulsed and suffocated.
I am very sorry Sugusugu.
No need to sound so serious. The boy is happy wherever he is. Maybe in hell or heaven. I don’t know.
I wanted so bad to ask him for his phone number so that I could call him up and stop texting, but it was too late. We were not stopping anytime soon. And I was deep in his life now, feeling every pain and suffering. I was now picturing his meek mother with a headscarf and dry lips. I could see her frail body. I see could see her. I could see his brother; happy and excited. Then he convulses as he plays with Sugusugu. I could see his father, lanky and impatient.
And your mother? Where how is she now?
She committed suicide when I was taken in. Poor lady. She could not stand being without us. She begged in court and attempted crawling towards the judge when my sentence was pronounced. She wailed and said I was innocent. But who can listen to an illiterate hag?
Oh no! She committed suicide? Where was your father, then?
Just forget. I hate him so much. I never want to be a father myself. I don’t want a family or any ties. I am alone. Just me and my weed. And memories occasionally.
Of your mother and brother?
Yes and my father.
Your father is a memory too? Why don’t you look for him?
I type without thinking. And regret this. Why would he look for him anyway? He was a cruel person who had turned his son into an empty soul walking, but dead inside. And angry. His anger scared me. And his casualty as he mentioned deaths.
Just forget him already. But I hate him more that he did not care to guide us. When we fought with other kids and their parents came to report us, he would shrug and say, ‘wacha dunia iwafunze’. My mother would beat us to death. But you know, sometimes we need a man to do the discipline because we can’t listen to women all the time.
Women have no authority. Men do.
I gnashed my teeth. But I was not in the mood of explaining to him my worldview, back up my ideologies of women power and quote all the feminists.
So you did not respect your mother?
No. As a boy, it reaches a point you want a man you look up to, to control you. Not a woman. I cannot say I respected her, but I tried, occasionally, so that I don’t starve to death
And your girlfriend?
I told you I don’t like ties. I have never needed one. After all, nobody can stand my character. And that is cool. In jail, you learn to be alone. No ties. Nobody visits you, nobody cares really.
There are people who visit prisons, honestly. C’mon.
And take pictures of us inmates, telling us to smile at the camera? Or wave?
I didn’t know what to say. I felt so bad. Why do people insist on doing this? Can’t we just do good things and keep quiet? Like the left hand not knowing what the right hand has? Why do we constantly need to prove to the world that we are virtuous? I had no words to pacify this. I feel ashamed. I want to ask him to forgive all of us but hey, I am a sacrificial lamb?
How long were you in prison?
Long enough to have completed 2 general elections.
That is 10 years! That’s a long time
No. Time actually flies. Your next question will be, why was I in prison?
I was not sure I wanted to know. I was afraid. I was judging him and I didn’t want him to keep confiding in me. I am not a good person too.
You are afraid of knowing why I was there. You already know what could possibly take me to jail.
I felt helpless with this stranger on the other end. He sounded dangerous; the sort of people who pluck off your tongue, gorge out your eyes… He makes me shiver.
But what would you do if you were me? He continues. Would you watch your father clobber your mother with the intention of killing her and walk away?
I say, trembling as I type. Should I call the police?
I killed my father. He was hitting my mother with a thick log. I picked up a huge stone and hit him on the head. Just once. He never moved, ever again.
Oh my God! You killed him! I blurt out and gasp, cupping my mouth and stare at his message with horror.
He did not deserve to live. He did not deserve to have a family.
Sugu sugu Mrass goes offline.