Love in the time of mosquitoes

A short story.

I stand surrounded. They approach drunkenly, wheezing out their battle cries. They’re smug in the knowledge that I can’t win for I am one and they are who knows how many.

My hand tightens around Kiboko, the red and black electric racket that we bought as a by-the-way when we were moving. Ha.

Our foes are of two kinds: the hungry and the full.The hungry are fast, light on their wings, flitting from curtain to curtain and wantonly singing their intentions at us. I am silent.

One lands on my back and sinks its proboscis into flesh. I let it. Screw the stinging. I have become addicted to the smell of electrifying blood.

Let it feed.

If two human beings had to exist in the room we’re in, together, forever, they’d kill each other. Not enough space. A galaxy of mosquitos however… I walk ponderously, with a purpose, in slow motion to a curtain on my right and

“Can you at least walk properly?

Sklat!

“What do you mean walk properly? I am Van Helsing. Why would I walk properly?”

I lunge to my left and catch three mosquitos of the full variety. I breathe in deeply.

“Then cut the narration out. I gave up on those bastards a long time ago. They’re too many. Come.”

“I wonder why they don’t smell like nsenene, or at least fried white ants when I hit them. If they did, we’d probably eat them.”

“That would be cannibalism. If you eat a mosquito that has my blood in it, you are a cannibal”

“And you’re a snob”.

We’ve been awake two hours now. It’s early or late, or whatever time it needs to be to ensure we’ll be dripping with annoyance and sleep when our alarms go off.  He’s lying with his face to the ceiling, wearing his hand over his eyes. That’s all he’s wearing.

Somebody told me once that when you can be naked in the same room as your lover and your immediate response is not to jump their bones, you’re in a relationship. We’re in a relationship.

He feels my gaze or my smile and pulls a sheet over his waist. I laugh, turn and sklat! 5 more dead. I’m enjoying this maybe too much?

I fly around the room, beating and kicking at the clusters of hanged clothes. They offer protection, asylum to our enemies. Whenever I make impact, the mosquitoes fall away; thicken the air with their numbers. With pops, sizzles and zaps, my racket welcomes the black, undulating cloud. The sound their bellies make as they explode makes me glad.

The racket eventually runs out of power so I jam it to a wall socket and it’s as I am lowering myself to the carpet that my knees remember they’re supposed to be suffering from runner’s knee. They start to burn and creak. I look at his face to see if the creaking is as audible as it feels. Apparently not.

Fuck these mosquitoes. I detest them but dig the opportunity they’re giving me to show my new body off. With every turn and lunge, I’m saying, “look at what my running has given me. See how firm my belly is, the one you used to frown at whenever you thought I wasn’t looking. I’m trimmer! I’m slimmer!”

As a woman of the new world and a feminist, I’m not supposed to care about such things. I’m a warrior for acceptance and expression. I preach that if a person’s way of owning their body is by letting it get bigger, rounder and streaked with stretchmarks, their decision should be respected, just like the decision to get a tattoo is respected.

But I[often] care. I want to look something like the half-starved girl I was at university. How ironic that when you’re at your vainest, just aching to show yourself off is the time you aren’t getting laid. At all.

My 9-5 lifestyle has come with a slowness that my body refuses to accommodate. It’s refused to expand in what society considers all the right places (certainly not arms, bellies and backs).

Sklat!

Our foes become bold again, leaving their hiding places and dancing around my ears. I jerk the racket off the wall, jam my thumb against the red depressor on its side and swat the air, killing them one by one, two by four, seven by infinity. I take them out swinging and skipping and screeching  until I am spent. Then I return to bed and stare at the bumps on his arm, each representing an attack, blood stolen from his, my veins.

Vengeance has been taken.

Now, for my reward.

End.

This should be on the new blog I opened for my short stories, but I’m too attached to apenyo dot wordpress and I’m trying to post everyday so. Here you go.

Tell me what you think, yea? Kawa.

For more on love (but not mosquitoes, click this link. )

And then when you’re done being happy and amused that a Ugandan has decided to make a living out of selling “game”, go Like the page.

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Raw Iguanas in my pizza

See for yourself.

I see raw iguanas. I could taste raw iguanas. I trust my senses.

Iguana would have gone right on being the place I head to for my lunch time/early afternoon drink (don’t judge me, judgey mc judgeyson) if I hadn’t had a meal there.

A friend and I were excited about the things we’d heard about their pizza and pork specifically. We’d both sampled the pork so chose to have a pizza (bacon, egg, mushroom, tomatoes) and a burger for lunch. Good things first. The pizza is huge. If you’re not particular about taste and only need filler for your tummy, your desires and expectations will be adequately fulfilled. The chips that came with the burger were beautiful. Crispy, moderately sized, dry and full of yum.

My grim experience with that pizza was due to three factors. I had to wait too long for it-we were done with my friend’s plate by the time it came, the waiter who brought it emerged from the door that leads to the downstairs toilet (really bad for the psyche of a patron) and it tasted whack. Not even the bacon could save it.

As for the burger, it didn’t taste bad exactly. It was just ugly. The patty is unusually large so it hangs over the lower bun like…jowls. Like labia that have lost their way. Like long armpits.

This is a style of presentation which you can’t begrudge an establishment but why did the mushrooms taste like milk? After scraping all the stuff between the bread and the patty, we were able to enjoy Enos’ burger but that felt wrong.

The rain caught us there, so we considered drowning the stuff we’d eaten in alcohol but then it stopped and our consciences returned.

Moral of the story: use Iguana for what it is originally for i.e. drinking and making merry. If you must eat, do the chips (and maybe pork).

Alternatively, the chef could switch it up. Pull his/ her socks up.

Then he died. A play (mbu).

Taxis are great for ideas. There’s something about humanity crushing in on you from all sides that makes your brain bubble over with them. Most of the stuff you read on this blog has been conceived in a matatu or on a boda, including the “Play” below.

Then he died.

Scene one (and only)

The room is small, dark and empty save for a plastic chair and a fraying settee. On the chair is a person of ambiguous gender wearing a doctor’s coat with the words Dr. Kyrte scrawled on its collar. A few meters across from him/her is a man trying to occupy as little space on the settee as possible. His name is Bo.

Dr. Kyrte:  Speak.

Bo: I can’t understand why he did it…I mean, I could have forgiven loud sniffing, taking up more leg space than he was entitled to…even aimless conversation, I would have tolerated. But dying! What I could have done to make him so angry that he decided to die on me?

Dr. Kyrte: Start from the beginning, Bo. As you never fail to remind me, you’re paying for this time.

Bo: That’s right, Doctor Kyrt. I am.

Dr. Kyrte: Kyrt-E. So what died and where?

Bo: Two days ago, I woke up at what must have been 7am although it could have been 9 or 10.

Dr. Kyrte: Right.

Bo: I had a cup of porridge, burnt, because my maid is a hater. I don’t understand why he couldn’t have done the social equivalent of burning porridge! Clearly, he found the experience of sitting next to me very unpleasant. (blows nose loudly)

Dr. Kyrte: Did any dying occur before you left home?

Bo: No.

Dr. Kyrte: As I never fail to remind you Bo, the only minutes I am willing to spend in your company are the ones you pay for.

Bo: You’re so unkind. I walked up to the taxi stage, arrived winded, waved a taxi down, sat on the chair next to the driver and greeted him. When he didn’t respond, I got out, waited for somebody else to occupy the seat next to him and sat on the big chair near the door.

Dr. Kyrte: Go on. Starts to shoot saliva through the gaps between his/her teeth

Bo: The taxi began to move. Could you …not do that? The guy who’d occupied the seat next the driver…he died.

Dr. Kyrte: Died?

Bo: Yes.

Dr. Kyrte: How?

Bo: He just groaned a bit and died. His corpse then slid onto my lap.

Dr. Kyrte: How didthat make you feel?

Bo: Hateful but triumphant. He must have been spiteful because I’d made him sit on the small chair.

Dr. Kyrte: What happened after that?

Bo: Nothing. I didn’t want to alarm the driver with news that a man had just died in his taxi. That could have led to an accident.

Dr. Kyrte: Good thinking.

Bo: I waited until we reached my stop and then announced loudly that a man had died. The taxi must have been full of blind idiots because they all exclaimed mbu “where?!”.

Dr. Kyrte: Seems like a valid question to me.

Bo: Which is why I’m getting a real shrink the moment I can afford it. At this point, I was tired and late for work so I pushed the guy off my lap, jumped out of the taxi and bolted.

Dr. Kyrte: Had you paid your fare?

Bo: No. Oh. That’s probably why they chased me. And lynched me.

Dr. Kyrte: Yea. Probably.

Bo: Yea.

Dr. Kyrte: Yea.

Bo: OK bye.

Dr. Kyrte: Till next time.

Mamalai.

🙂

Dear Mamalai,

It’s been one fake, lonely, boring, tear-filled year and I miss you. The silliness,  the indignation you had on standby, the stories, the shyness, the boldness, the color, the quarreling, the plans, the laugh…how unfair that all of you just disappeared with no warning whatsoever.   I’m very sad today, but I’ll be better tomorrow.

I hope you’re happy and proud (kubanga we’re trying hard).

Love yai,

Mildred.

I’m coming out

It’s been hard, making the decision to write this. I’ve had to battle laziness, a raging intercom, a full in tray and the hundreds of meetings that you learn to tolerate when you work in advertising. Everything needs a brainstorm.

I’ve been denying this from the beginning of (my) time, refusing to accept that I was born this way.

I even allowed some guy to steal my identity. Cowardly, I know.

But I’m taking it back! I’m standing up and declaring something that’s going to bring judgement and envy and health advice raining down on me. But enough is enough. Now is the time.

I am the cookie monster.

More passion

Me. Not this guy.

Less passion

I mean compare our passion for cookies. His is clearly lacking.

And I’m prettier than him. I just look better with a bunch of cookies in my hand.

Catcalls! Whistles!

I have real fingers so I can hold MORE cookies than he can.

Many

And I have eaten all those cookies. I am bloated. I am not going to be able to have lunch. Do you think that’s going to mess my jogging up?

Anyway, feel free to call me the sh-cookie monstie from now on.

Apenyo out.

P.s: I  was lying about being busy. I have way too much free time today. Advertising rocks and my company rocks hardest. Go and like Our page, yea? Tenchai.

When Children Abuse Adults.

The hardest thing about Mondays is switching from home mode to work mode. Weekends always feel like leave. I haven’t lived through one weekend that didn’t sneak a mean hope into my subconscious, a hope that I wouldn’t have to attend meetings for at least two weeks.

So when I walk into office, productivity doesn’t just hit me. I need transition time.  In fact, you need transition time too (unless you’re boring or too busy to be anything but). Well-adjusted people start the day by depositing their lunch in the kitchen; proceed to prepare some kind of beverage and then settle in front of their computer for an hour of cassava munching and internet trawling- to get the creative juices flowing.

It was during one such hour that I came across The Dull Coworker, a blog dedicated to making its writer’s hours at work more bearable. It contains tips on how to distract your co-workers, how to start conversation, how to survive that awkward moment when you meet the same person in the hallway for the third time, etcetera. I was about to move when I found an article titled Adults being bullied by children: The untold story.

This title made me jump with recognition and annoyance because something like that happened to me recently. In the article, the victim was taking a walk around her neighborhood when a little girl pointed a plastic gun at her and snarled. She, for some reason, thought this snarling child was saying something sweet, and being a good natured lady, she moved closer to hear. The child made shooting gestures and continued to snarl.  Sure, this can be written off as the actions of a bored child who watches too many violent programs on TV but what about the adult? What was she supposed to do with the irritation and anxiety caused to her?

My incident occurred when I was sitting at an Easy Bus stage outside the DFCU on Jinja road, cursing my fortune (or lack thereof). A teller had just informed me that my account was empty which meant that I wouldn’t be able to go on a date I’d been looking forward to. I knew he’d insist on paying for drinks and such, but I couldn’t go with zero protesting power. A girl needs her protesting power. It was in the middle of this mental lament that I felt a sharp pinch on my bum. The normal response to random, sharp pinches on one’s bottom is to jump and squeal, so that is what I did.

When I whipped back, there were two small children giggling uncontrollably. They were dirty and barefoot so it immediately clicked that they lived on the street. The easy bus sheds have spaces in their frames that are big enough for a skinny hand to dart in and out of. The culprits stood waiting for my reaction and when I smiled, took it as their cue to summon their friends. They had found a new toy. They jostled for pinching space behind me, delivering as many as they could before flitting away. When I eventually stomped behind the shed to twist their ears, they ran away. I was annoyed, but also pleased to have been the cause of so much giggling. Giggling is good. Anyway, I can’t promise to be so kind and accommodating next time. If there is a next time, ears will be twisted and cheeks will be pinched, so help me God.

I’m mortal after all.

Being sick is like winning a lottery where the prize is a week-long vacation with breakfast in bed, assisted baths, all the food that you like, pain and humiliation. If you can manage to disregard the last two razors in the swag bag, life is pretty good when you’re sick. It’s like your birthday, only you’re in pain.

I didn’t even cry.

My nice editor rung me up and said, “You know, Mildred, you don’t have to send a Stiletto this week. We’ll understand” and I said, “Star taffa.”What will the experience of going through food poisoning, an infection and malaria at the same time be worth if I can’t share my new wisdom and make a little something in the process?

I don’t fall sick often and bed rest is never an option when I do. I’ve always boasted that my body achieved the immunity you can only get from eating kalo at least once a week from the day you were born.  This time, the one minute walk from the hospital’s reception to its lab tired me out so much that I fainted against the door of a toilet, startling a man who had neglected to lock it as he was harvesting a urine sample.

Malaria gives you hallucinations. Either that or a poltergeist is happening at my house. Also, too many drugs taken at the same time will give you superhuman powers. People have been simultaneously frightened and impressed at my ability to foretell events or sense their discomfort and call them up. Now I’m sure that I’ve only foretold things by chance and I’m not at all clairvoyant, but that’s not going to stop me from acting mysterious around my visitors.

I shall dispense my wisdom now.

Humility: You lose control of your body when you’re sick. You have to resign yourself to spoiling your pants or spilling offensive body fluids onto somebody; somebody with his or her own problems in life. Sickness and smartass are two words that do not rhyme so when they say roll over, you must short circuit your pride and roll over quickly. Thank you goes a long way.

Vigilance: If after receiving a cow-sized injection you feel like buying something pretty to make yourself feel better, do it but be careful. Double check every purchase that you make.

I didn’t do this. My usually dewy lips were cracked and painful and the cheap lip balm I’d applied was making them burn. When I spotted a Himalayas Cold Balm behind the glass of Capital Supermarket’s cosmetics section, I felt like I’d found the messiah of lips. The words cold and balm checked into my mind separately. I asked the kind attendant to give it to me, poked through the aluminum on the top and smeared my lips with a combination of eucalyptus and spearmint oil. My lips still burn when I think about it. This is when I realized that I had bought a balm that’s supposed to be applied around your nose when you have a cold and not some awesome variety of extra cool lip balm.

I proceeded to buy an expired box of juice and only realized that it was iffy after I’d downed half of it. Just double-check everything when you’re sick.

Love: it is how you love in the famine that counts. If your special person is professing love and still going back to bed and leaving you alone in hospital, consider binning them.

Stay away from babies and small animals. Seriously. I gave Daniella kamulali by mistake.

Daniella: One year later.

The mothering. It’s not always there. I mean, things are better than they were in the beginning when I couldn’t even prepare a bottle of NAN right. I couldn’t bathe her without caking her eyes with Johnson’s baby soap. She’s got my eyes, by the way. Downward sloping and large-ish.

I thought I loved babies before I had to really live with one. I am the first of six children, so I’ve shared space with many of those, but never before now had I wore the title of commander in chief, mother figure, responsible party.

A memory comes to mind. Daniella is 5 days old. Mom is sitting on her queen size bed with the net spread over the four posts that jut from each corner. The light is on, which irritates me because there’s still daylight streaming through the open window. I am home early for some reason. I walk into the room and immediately notice a strange smell. Mom doesn’t look up when I greet her, looks exhausted.

Daniella is in her arms and there are a couple of soiled sheets next to them. Mom is eating. If there’s one thing her passing has given me, its empathy. I am such an asshole in this moment. I scrunch my face up and ask how she can bear to eat with that mess so close. She shrugs and continues to balance the baby in one hand and her food in the other. I leave the room.

The thing in mom’s eyes when she looks at the baby fills me up with jealousy and curiosity in equal measure. She’s just “the baby” at this point and I resent her a little. Not yet the love of my life. Just skinny limbs and loud voice.

Daniella is mine now. She’s blessed with an appetite, thank heaven, because I’m sure I’d cry at every meal time if she was difficult about feeding. She can play on her own, something the maids taught her by ignoring her, I bet. This means I don’t have to hate her when I have a pressing assignment. I set up on the sofa, scatter toys around her and we’re good to go.

She’s taught me how to be still-physically (because she’s such a tetchy sleeper) and emotionally (tending to babies requires you to shut off all other needs: to facebook, to wander off into your room, to watch stuff. They demand your full attention and then do absolutely nothing with it. To enjoy this kind of thing, you need to know how to be still).

I’ve learnt to love which is worlds different from making declarations, from staring down at a bundle and contorting your face into some approximation of love.

To love means to defend, or so mommy taught me. We were careful with Daniella from the start: not allowing dairy products to pass her lips, not rushing her into anything, keeping her bones padded- we were very careful. This resulted in her crawling late (later than the baby next door) walking late (later than the baby next door). The baby next door is my cousin Ashley by the way. I love her, but this competitiveness refuses to dissolve within that love.

Daniella can walk, but not on her own. Because Ashley can run (weirdo), some of my relatives say very annoying things especially when my uncle comes around. Things about Adanny’s weight, theories on why she can’t walk “properly” as if the child is going to get to 5 without finding her balance. I get so angry. I sneer, say cutting things…my baby is perfect. She’s on a race with only one person- herself. Everybody who has anything else to say can just shut up and diarrheate.

Last Saturday as we were walking back from one of our rare trips to Ashley’s house (we’d had a little ice cream, hee hee), I slid and fell. This wouldn’t have been so terrible if she hadn’t popped out of my arms. She fell, my god. She fell and bruised her forehead and cheek on the left side of her face. I could have died. I could have killed myself and burrowed my dead stupidity into that mud if it weren’t for her bruises that needed tending. We bathed,disinfected, and waited. She was fine. She is fine.

I left home for a bit- to be dramatic about everything. Walked into Iguana, ordered a drink, considered writing a story about being the only patron in the bar and waited for my boyfriend to come and comfort me.

She is my life now. Not all the time, but most times. She means everything to me, to us because without her, we wouldn’t have survived.

She’s asleep right now, on my bed. I hope she’ll stay asleep when I attempt to take her back to hers.

I believe in souls, so I know that mom watches. I believe in God, so I thank him and pray for patience (I should be able to do this. Mom was younger when she had me).

Happy first  birthday to you, Daniella Kuch Opwonya. You’ve grown me. I hope I’ll grow you well.

Tomatoes are yummy.