This is my friend Mery. I call her Meery and she calls me Sesilia, for the last 11 years. Her couch is my best friend, and whenever anything doesn’t sit right in my head: decisions, confusion, celebrations, I always find myself on her sofa.
We trade narrations until her child has to be picked from school. I get up to clean utensils, then her husband comes home and me and his wife continue our talk to the bus stop. Then she will tell me, sisi tuko wawili tunatafuta, shika, and give me a busfare.
So the other day, as I sat on her couch, cutting Sukuma wiki for lunch she folding laundry, she stops and asks me- where do you get your stories? Unanjua, there is a man who told me that people who write songs, hawafikirii, uwa wanakunjiwa na hizo nyimbo wakiwa wamelala. Is it the same, aw do you do it?
It is the same, when I start to write, it just comes, I tell her.
Unaona, that man told me the same, ati it just comes. Why does it come to some people and not to others?
Unayua Sesilia mtu anaweza kuwa muchawi na ujui...
When she says mchawi, I start to think of the many times I have staggered out of bed to scribble down something that-just came- I don’t tell her incase she gets more reason to claim I get visions in the night. I start to defend myself.
Maybe it’s because I read a lot, Maybe it’s because I spent a big chunk of my life not talking, just observing, things, people, buildings,clothes,old furniture, people with hair that starts as circle in the middle of their head and spirals to cover the rest of the head.
Feet, climbing plants, tree trunks, market women with large, checked aprons with a cream front pocket bulging with cash and a face towel that works as a handkerchief to wipe sweat, blow the nose and wipe nyanya so they gleam like someone smeared Valon on them.
Young boys standing at street corners, where the wall is brown with mud from last season’s rain, they’re dancing to music from their infinix. Old men with folds of skin and a distinct smell, street hawkers with black plastic bags sticking out of their back pockets, one eye watching out for kanju, one eye making eye contact with customers.
Big red fires dancing under oversized aluminium barrels of boiling intestines, and cow tongues, and ears, outside meat shops, with boda boda drivers, clutching tin mugs of meat soup.
A donkey with knees and shoulders bruised, nibbling on grass growing on the sides of dirty drainage canals. Donkey owners who think donkeys know only one English word- oh, ooh, oh.
Supermarket attendants so worn out at 8.00pm, they startle when you smile at them. Check out girls with pink lipstick, always on the bottom lip, and thin drawn line for eyebrows, looking fresh at 8.30pm.
Dogs fast asleep outside the bar, legs wide apart.
Bougenveilia, cascading down the wall of the kindergarten. Female school teachers in short pencil skirts, with a light blue cotton lace of the petticoat’s slit, cutting in the middle of the skirt’s slit.
Tanzanian Maasai playing security guards at the new flat, looking misplaced, they just learnt to wear the dressy pants and Chicago bulls T-shirt.
Teeth. Long teeth, short teeth that look a bit like a cows jaw. Rice sellers with rice in polythene papers stuck high, you start to look for a pin in your pouch, white rice shower.
Two luo women having a serious discussion in Luo, you nod in agreement.
So I told Mery:
I observe what is going on around me
And when I get home, the sounds, the sights, the people, the language, it refuses to stay in my head.
So I write
How do you do it? You can tell me .