Old Children

My bibi and I walked into a roadshow once. It had a huge banner with “Siku ya mtoto wa Afrika (Day of the African Child)” on it. A choir was screaming about the importance of talking to children. The message went a bit like: “A child is not equivalent to an animal, you can talk and he/she will understand…”. I recall thinking “yeah, we should really talk to our children…”.
I was eight years old!

It’s just recently that I noticed that I don’t think of my past as my “childhood”.
I just think of it as “when I was younger”. I didn’t see my 8-year-old self as a child, just a young person.
I, like a lot of the people around me, grew up way too fast. Some of us locked our inner child away before even re-growing the teeth we lost. There are elder siblings who grew up to raise their younger sisters and brothers. There are hungry kids who needed to earn their bread and counted coins before they could count their fingers and toes. There are little old guys staring out with big eyes at screaming parents before they can recite the alphabet. There are even those who were burdened with obligations to keep family names, businesses, traditions, before they could see enough to decide their own way.

There are children locked up in remote areas of our beings, forgotten but always there. And once in a while when our guards drop, they come out. They play, they are mischievous, reckless and free. Yet sometimes they come out, see what happened to the shell they have become and feel cheated or a little hopeless. There are old children in most of us.

I used to get confused when the little girl came out, I still do at times. Sometimes she giggles and wants to run around. So, I would call my girls, spend a lazy day at home and be merry. Other times the girl comes out hurt and bruised. So, I lock myself in, try to remember when my parents were taller than life, and rock myself to sleep. There are days when I crave my mom’s favorite dish and nothing else seems satisfying then. So many different ways, triggered by memories, scents, sights. The confusion clears only when I recognize that it is the little girl in me peeping out. A few days ago, I mused on what to do with her. I write today with the decision that I shall treat her like my own daughter. When the little girl who was never allowed to be, peeps out, I will embrace her. I will bathe her, feed her and sing her to sleep. I will pace the room singing on the days that sleep is elusive and dreams are painful. I will make her a herbal tea when she has a flu. I will run when she is restless. I will visit loved ones and hug them when she’s lonely. I will rub coconut oil into her thick wild hair and comb it until it shines. I will gently scold her when she misbehaves and show here what to do differently. I will love her, and protect her for who she is and what she means to the woman I hope to be.

For those who recognize the little child inside, this is for us. This is for all the little old children inside every one of us. May we nourish them. May we realize that we can love them enough to heal them if broken or to grow them from love received before. May we realize that we are these children, and we are the grown-up shells from them. May we love them, care for them and build them. Only then can we gain enough growth to channel positively to the world around us. Here is to the little old children within, may we BE.

 

Sappy

Your smile, the trembling of my heart,
Your touch, the creeping of my skin,
Why do I cry when I’m not hurt?
Why do I rejoice in my own sin?

Rainbows, morning dew, raindrops,
Tears, broken hearts, lost dreams,
Why can’t I open when bliss knocks?
Why do I only hear my heart’s screams?

I lost love once, lost my own faith,
I hide, Scared of being once more broken,
Although my soul longed for some wealth,
And my head buzzed with words unspoken.

Is this how death feels like to me?
Am I alive, am I in the land of the living?
How do I move on and let me be
When it hurts even with my own breathing.

Heaven have mercy, I want to cry,
If it might even give slight relief,
I can’t find peace, and God! I try,
My strength leaks beyond all belief.

Be here with me now, make me melt,
Clear this doubt and the clouds I hold,
The fear of emotions I once felt,
Smile, allow me to feel bold.

Are you real, or just a strong illusion?
With that strong, mightily assuring presence,
Are you in my life or my mind’s creation?
I cower at the thought of your absence.

Help me to be born and live afresh,
Break my will, my being, my bones,
Make me alive, mold the feel of my flesh,
Give me peaches, strength, love of stones.

I get so scared, but sometimes happy,
You give me all, you ask for nothing,
So I’m content, but also shamelessly sappy,
That I have you, I won’t ask for more of anything.

Forgive

A burning deep inside and strong,
Like my heart is painfully wrong,
Blown away with nothing to hold,
In this burning that’s yet so cold.

How I got here, I have no clue,
My doubts and regrets not so few,
Was it when I gave my all to you,
And you stomped it with the sole of your shoe?

A heavy blow on my life you struck,
In that pain and agony I got stuck,
I wailed, I mourned, screamed, cried,
I got lost and my soul was tried.

But who gives death after giving life?
Who gives feathers and then a knife?
Allows fields to bloom, wounds to pus?
Who makes, breaks and strengthens us?

A greater power works hard inside,
Gives us strength to choose and decide
So, I was hurt, so deeply by you,
I wasted as my ugly shame-stain grew.

But, in all this a choice I have,
To cry, laugh, sing, hate or love,
And I come to make mine at last,
That I shall forgive you, ___ fast.

From the Earth

This is what I know of creation:
It has two parts. The first, the part that gives life, I can’t claim to understand. There are way too many theories and beliefs. I being a mere mortal wouldn’t dare to try to explain that.

The second, I lived through and still do. This is the part I want to tell you about. I am living well, I have good life moments and bad ones, just like everyone I know. And there are times that life gives me nothing but the dry soil beneath my feet. Life gave me the dry earth of disappointment, dried up memories, —

I walked with that weight on my shoulder, my back bent to stitches. Until the day I started pounding the soil with frustration. I pounded, fueled by all the pain, fear, anger and insecurities of my life. I pounded until my flesh bled, angry tears falling and sweat dripping.
Yet somehow, these softened the soil. And once past the frustrations,
I noticed the mold that became of the soil, I discovered the use of a soft touch. I saw the strength of gentle molding, and used that. I sang and caressed the soil to the shape of my dreams.

This is how I learned of creation, dear one. This is when I learned that I, am capable of creating. The person I am today is because of the success and failure of my creation. So, I stand here as a simple human, still discovering.
I now stand before you—

Ask me for a mother or father,
I will mold with a smile on my face, adding drops of unconditional love and protection from the bright colors of life. And from the dark ones, I may find some temper or neglect to spice up the mix. A parent you may have.

Ask me for a husband or wife,
And I will mold love, devotion and romance into my soil. Maybe even pinches of jealousy and infidelity. I will add what I have, and you may have a partner.

Ask me for a brother or sister,
I will mold a sibling with multiple colors of adventure, companionship, mischief and even rivalry for you. You may have a sibling.

Ask, dear one. Ask for a friend, ask for a neighbor, ask for a lover, ask —
And I, will collect the sweet and sour essence of my being and mold one for you in all its perfection and imperfections.

BUT, do not ask me for the person I created from the bare, dry earth of my life. Do not ask me to sacrifice the person I mourned and celebrated myself to be. Because dear one, this is one being I cannot give away. Not even to you. This is the being I will always choose.

This is the being I created, remember?

Them

Her

I saw her in a smoky night club. She’s what my cousins would call: “A pretty young thing”. Her face perfectly sculptured and a figure to match. My attention was drawn to her the second I walked in, which was pretty easy, seeing that she was dancing on a chair and all. My friends and I settled near her table and my attention kept drifting towards her. She danced, her movements bold from liquor. I watched fascinated and looked around at the rest of the group with her. The men looking up at her approvingly, nodding to the beat she danced to. One can almost smell their self-importance and pride from the way they looked down on those around them. Or from the way they have a neat collection of thoroughly overpriced bottles on the table. A signpost of those willing and able to spend without a second thought. The waiters eager to serve them, ceremoniously carrying the bottles. The pretty young lady eager to please and bedazzled by quick glamour, is willing to step up on her chair and dance for them. And all eyes, including mine mostly, were on that table. She was literally on top of the club at that moment, but her eyes under the heavy makeup were lost. A slightly hungry look crossing her expression for a second. Hungry for the attention and approval. Hungry for the toasts in her name and the eyes of the few who didn’t notice her moving. It struck me how such a beautiful creature would measure her worth by the approval of others, the lusty looks or the jealous glares of other insecure ladies.

Him

I saw him when getting drinks from the counter of the very same club. A noticeable young man leaning by the bar, a drink in hand. He still held the look of most young men making it out to the world, determined, sharp eyed and still a believer in his unending ability to achieve greatness. He was dressed with care, making every detail seem effortless, although a closer look would suggest otherwise. He seemed like a guy who wanted to look like someone on his way to success. The lady bartender had only eyes for him and ignored my attempts to get her attention. Next to him stood two delighted ladies that he leaned to talk to and occasionally dance with. While waiting for my drink, I watched as he charmed the ladies and offered drinks, and saw the slight cringe on his face when he reached for his wallet. He would keep that charm on for as long as it took, offer drinks to the ladies while nursing a single one himself. Once in a while, he would glance at the VIP table where the spenders sat on clouds of success surrounded by gorgeous ladies. At that moment, his charming face would freeze and the bright eyes fade in a flicker with unmistaken longing. There, is where the good life is. There were one left the house without stuffing a folded bill at the back of the wallet for transport back. There where one spends with a slightly bored look and ladies dance on chairs for the fun of it. It struck me once again on how such a good looking, promising young man would thirst for recognition and appreciation. Even if those who would drink his wallet dry and probably never cross paths with him again.

Them

So, I saw a pretty young woman and a promising young man in a club. This is way too much observation for a person hanging out, I know, but the thing is, I saw them! They however, do not see themselves, which is sad, because it’s simple and easy when you see yourself and let yourself be. And the regrettable part is, the pretty young lady and the promising young man, do not see each other.

Sila, a Wish

Find a dream I can call my own,
On a single smile, tear or frown,
A drifting, floating, blossoming dream,
Like a pure free flowing love stream…
A dream to call my own!
 
Finding a love that can change a life,
With every hug, walk or running strife,
A love strong and not there for sale,
And not necessarily a magical fairy-tale…
A love to call my own!
 
Finding a smile on a falling tear,
Love, comfort in times of great fear,
A burning fire when my heart is a-chill,
A never-dying power of self and will…
A smile to call my own!
 
Finding that place I can call my home,
Where there is peace when I go, or come,
With loved ones, a family of my own,
In any country, city, valley or town…
A home to call my own!
 
Quiet days, warm loving nights,
No conflicts, no strong emotional fights,
A heart at home, in the world of imperfections,
Solid, clear reflections, sharing completions…
…Just…
A LIFE TO CALL MY OWN!

The Art of the Dress

When going through fashion magazines or even adverts, shopping for women is a mega glamorous venture. We see pictures of smiling girls, in high heels and perfect make up, shopping in spacious air conditioned malls or elegant shops. Oh! And on a very good day, holding the occasional champagne flute!

This highly sophisticated shopping is almost a dream to the females in my neighborhood. I would personally take you on a trip through the typical cloth shopping day in Kigali.

On an average wallet, a girl would opt for a second-hand market. Where contrary to the women you’d expect to serve you in the beautiful boutiques, you’d meet a sea of sellers trying to get your attention. Some would even physically be pulling you if your facial expression allows it. After a short fussy moment of hesitation, you follow one of them. That is if you manage to untangle yourself from the one glued to your elbow or the two others behind your back. Better yet, head to your common seller if you are a frequent buyer. Getting there, state the type of clothes you want and wait as the seller sorts them. That being done, head to the impossibly squeezed fitting space. Which mostly comprises of a curtained sheet of cloth. And try to squeeze into the clothes.

A few things will result from that:

  • Some clothes will magically fit you. Perfect!
  • Some of the few you really like will not, either being too big (then you opt to take them to a local tailor for reduction and hope to the goddess of fashion that they don’t get completely ruined). Or they can also be too tight, but because you are a female for one, (or just a holder of endless faith), you decide to take them. Your final verdict being either the hope of losing some weight or adding to the tailor heap.

That being sorted, find a place to sit or support yourself and start bargaining. That seller who knows the minimum price, will name double or triple the price and let you bargain for 30 healthy minutes. All that without even a re-conciliatory glass of water, leave alone the champagne flute.

Almost there! You reach what you decide is a reasonable price, (this is usually after developing a slight headache or voice loss) and ready to leave. The summary of your state of being now is;

Extremely dehydrated, stiff-tongued, uncomfortably hot and if you happen to have a sensitive nasal passage, you would be sneezing out a few cells from your lungs. Only to reach home to find that you picked all the wrong clothes. All because those you liked did not fit or were too expensive. Or that you picked the right trousers but they don’t match the coat you had in the wardrobe! So finally, you are in bad clothes, a bad mood and a bad wallet situation.

All is not lost, however, more sophisticated options can be looked upon. Some boutiques offer better choice for those willing to stretch the clothes budget. You could get smart and befriend a designer or owner of a fashion shop and get the good friends-only service. Without forgetting the occasional clothes you might fall upon on a street hawker on the road. Chances are they might fit and be torn or damaged somehow, or if heaven is on your side, then they do fit! Eureka! life is worth living.

With all this, if anyone (and by anyone, I literally mean everyone) would dare to say shopping is not a sport for women, a woman might fight. And hopefully, she could lose a little weight in that fight and fit in those new very tight jeans. I personally salute the Kigali females. Just for the mere fact that they look good. Also, simply because they still manage to match those pieces and not look like clowns or out of season Christmas trees! Honestly, looking decent out here is an art and it requires skill and endurance. It’s a wonder we don’t have that many female managers around here.