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The East African : Oct 17th 2015
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE OCTOBER 17-23,2015 sho≥t sto≥y A meltdown on the last Sunday of the yea≥ By JOYCE MUTSOLI H e begrudgingly switched off his phone after failing to make his way out from the prayer session. It was the last Sunday of the year and the church was completely full. “And may the peace of the Lord be with you all now and forever,” said Father Kizito. “Amen,” replied the congregation in unison. I was seated next to my dad, who hadn’t said a word since we entered the cathedral, not even to say the Lord’s Prayer. My mother’s seat among the choir members was conspicuously unoccupied. I wondered whether her absence was the reason for my dad’s distracted behaviour in church. “Hey dad, the mass is over,” I said. “Hmm, oh yes, son, it’s over,” he said, looking like a zombie. “Where are Mark and Jack?” he asked, finally noticing they had not come out of the church with us. “They were missing mum, so I asked the chauffeur to take them home. I had hoped she would come back with them before mass was over,” I told him. “Why Blacky? Why didn’t you consult me? Why...?” he kept asking, while holding his head and looking like it was the end of the world. “What’s wrong dad?” I asked him, the worry creeping in. “Everything is lost,” he said breaking down on the steps of the church. I ushered him away from the crowd, who had begun to gather around him. I tried to think through the events of the previous day to try to understand why he was in such a state but nothing came to mind. It was his first day in church and so he ought to have been more jovial. Maybe something worse had happened that morning. I had just completed high school and we had grown closer because of spending a lot of time together. He and mum had been arguing more than usual lately and I guessed that his breakdown had something to do with that. We had come to accept his fights with mum, but she had not been around this morning. I had woken up to find a note from her telling me to take care of my brothers because she was not going to be around. I had assumed she had gone to church early for choir practise. ****** “I will report you to the police if you dare hit me again,” I once overheard my mum shouting to dad. “Then, you will have to leave my house,” my dad replied. “But I can’t leave my children, Donald,” she said. “These are not your children,” dad would shout back and then slaps would follow. In the morning mum would always act like nothing had happened but me and my brothers knew she was in pain. My mum was from the UK. She would often narrate to us how her and dad had previous day to try and understand why he was in such a state but nothing came to mind. It was his first day in church and so he ought to have been more jovial. Maybe something worse had happened that morning.” ‘‘ IX met and fallen in love while in university. They got married five years later and dad persuaded her to move with him to Kenya. My brothers had taken after her with their fairer skin colour, while I was almost as dark as dad. But mum loved us all equally. I suddenly missed her embrace. ****** “Your grandmother Zippora was asth- matic and unfortunately, you suffer from the same affliction, my dear son. Please don’t forget to always have your inhaler with you,” she told me when I started Form One at Masiro Boys boarding school. It was the first time I had been away from her and my brothers for such a long period of time. Then, my mum got a job at the Masiro Hospital, which was near the school. Having them close made the time apart bearable. At Masiro Hospital, most of the patients asked to be treated by the kind “mzungu”. However, I soon realised that she hated the place, especially having our extended family so close. ****** Her absence in church and dad’s outra- geous behaviour on his first day in church made me angry at them both. They were putting me in the middle of their fight. Just before joining high school, my little brother had cried the whole journey there, wanting me to take him with me. “Mum, I want to go with Blacky,” he I tried to think through the events of the pleaded. “No son, we will visit him soon, he has to go study,” she replied. “But who will pinch me so that I cry when you and dad start fighting?” he asked innocently. My secret was out! Mum struggled to hold back her tears. I had always done that to catch their at- tention and stop them from fighting and it always worked because mum would run to our room to soothe Mark back to sleep. I had hoped the crying would make them see how badly their fighting affected us, but it didn’t work. Things between them got even worse. We learnt to live with it but being just kids it was too much for us. I wanted to rush to the house to see if mum was back but dad was still on the floor. “I tried to stop her, but she wouldn’t listen to me,” he said. “Who?” I asked, while trying to get him to stand up. “Your mother, she went back to the UK. She’s left us.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Mum would never leave us. Had he hurt her? “She packed and left yesterday night. I didn’t expect her to go that far, son,” he said. I couldn’t believe a word of what he was saying, so I just ran in the direction of our house to confirm it for myself. I couldn’t understand why she would leave us behind. I found the note she had left me in the morning but it didn’t shed any light on why she would leave us.
Oct 10th 2015
Oct 24th 2015