At our most vulnerable, life was at its most relentless. We sat naked with dust on our heads and wounds all over our bodies, resigned to fate. Our bodies ached at every twitch of a muscle; tired of being homes to broken souls. Mama would set herself on fire to keep us warm, but her flames weren’t hot enough to keep us alive. There were ropes craving for our necks, vultures hovering over our heads waiting for us to die. We buried our loved ones on mass graves, others were too dead to be buried. We watched as their bodies turned into dust, even the vultures snubbed them. Many a night we went without food, on a good day mama would catch a stray dog for us to boil and eat, till there was nothing left to eat, so mama cooked Boyi – we ate our lastborn.
Where do we go from here? What do we do now?
Father was a broken man with an inexplicable penchant for thirteen-year old girls. Every man carries an image of a younger self in his eyes, father had an image of a seventeen-year-old him kneeling before the Virgin Mary, blood in his eyes, his heart scattered on the floor, a knife on his wrist. He looked alive. The only thing father ever loved more than young girls was his flute, he would sit under a tree playing the tune of the lunatic fringe, the hymn of horror. He would create sorrowful melodies as he dug his grave.
He committed suicide under that tree, the rope hugged his neck in a tight embrace. His body shook to the rhythm of the grim reaper, his last performance under the tree, a dance with the rope. We buried him with the flute. Sadly, we could not find a thirteen-year-old girl to bury him with.
Happy are those who mourn, for God will comfort them.
We were born with marks and tattoos done by God. Brother was born blind and autistic. Mama hated him at first sight. I watched him beg for mama’s breast. He was not a thing a mother would want for a son. He would hit his head on the wall over and over when happy. He would bite and chew his flesh when sad, then he would smile. All the time, he would smile. To me, he was a sun. His smile was radiant and his voice carried the venom of the angel banished from the glory heaven.
Mama cooked him for us, his bones were hard and crunchy. His thighs tasted like steak, his eyes were wet and bloody. He still had his radiant smile worn on his contorted face; he had spent his whole life on his knees begging to be human, begging to be loved. We gave his penis to the cat, it was tiny. He died, but his smile lived on.
Sister was born ugly. Her skin was too dark and inked, she had stretch marks all over her back. Her eyes were crossed and dull, her face was a mask of God’s poorest painting. Her breasts were tiny pimples on her chest, her heart was broken at birth. She was born with cuts on her wrist. Even before she was born, she had already tried to commit suicide. Mama loved her, we loved her, even though she never loved herself. Sister loved crayons, she always played with crayons.
Crayons are just crayons. The best they can do is to color our world. They colored her world. What’s the difference between the boy sitting on God’s right-hand side and me? Oh, his mama was a virgin while my mama was raped. I am a product of rape, I survived three abortion attempts. I am not good enough to be a Christ. Not good enough to walk on water.
The days would bleed into nightfall. Dark nights when all we had was ourselves, we’d sit around a fire watching our nails fall off our fingers, looking for ourselves inside our minds, searching for a beautiful memory. Tomorrow was never guaranteed. Mama would repeat a story over and over till she’d lose her voice to the heftiness of darkness. I would join another family around their fire to listen to their stories.
Stories are thicker than blood.
For a family to afford a meal, there was a mother selling her body to provide. For a girl to afford sanitary towels and a novel, there was a man twice her age giving her money for sexual favours. No one had the luxury of a complete family but as long as the mother was present, then the family was complete. When sister did a portrait of our family, she drew mama twice on both ends. For a mother can be a father and a mother.
In every church, there was a priest and an altar boy, in every family there was an underage girl and men older than her father. Home was an orchard of rotten roses.
One day, the government sent the Army to drive us off the displaced persons camp. A senior politician had won the contract to supply materials for the building of a stadium. The soldiers stormed our camp at night, we were forced to watch as they raped our mothers and sisters. Mama was raped by four men. My eyes turned from brown to black to colorless. My eyes lost color. When they were done, mama sat in a pool of her own blood and smiled.
Young babies were piled up and set ablaze. Mothers held their heads in their hands as they watched the fire consume their children. Some threw themselves to the fire to burn with their babies. Bellies of pregnant women were cut open and the fetus fed to the police dogs. Rebellious men were crucified upside down on x-shaped crosses. We were forced to drink blood and chew raw human meat or risk beheading. We were already familiar to the taste of human flesh.
Where was God? Where was He? Just like our fathers, at our most vulnerable, He had ghosted us. All gods are the same anyway. All gods are the same.
I watched the flames consume my best friend. He held his hand out but I could not reach him. I envisioned the story of Moses and the burning bush, only that this time, the bush was my friend and the voice of God was my friend’s muffled shrieks begging me not to leave him. I removed my sandals. I shed a tear for him. He smiled, he died.
Sister’s arm was burned as she tried to retract her crayons from the burning tent. She could not leave without them. She would need colors, she loved colors. Years to come, we will be frail and grey, sitting around a fire with our grandchildren, they’ll ask for a story, we will tell them this story.
There is a sacred place in heaven where Jesus goes to meditate. To atone and lament His mistakes. He knows that instead of raising the dead, He should have given life to the living. He should have turned wine into water. Someday, a boy like me will be Christ, I will kill the living so no one has to carry the burden of life. I will change wine into sweeter wine. I will be better at being Christ than Christ Himself.
The cross is an illusion. A Mathematical symbol of plus.
We were no strangers to hell, for our mother’s breast tasted like poison and her touch felt colder than winter. Walking on fire felt cooler than dealing with father’s temper. We remembered our childhoods by the marks the noose left on our necks. Memories written on the wall of our shanty. Our bodies were canvases of scars, each scar carried a story. We were stories. We are still stories.
Squares don’t fit into circles. You can never make purple without blue.
We were Jamal, Ismail and Suleiman. Then we became David, Jonathan and Solomon. Now we are Bosco, Bimbo and Tabu. We were Muslims, we became Christians but now we are atheists. Most of our fathers committed suicide, some set themselves ablaze protesting against the government. We were born boys, but some of us were born in between.
We were straight, some of us were gay. Most of us were both. Our sisters became commercial sex workers at 13, most of them were trafficked to Saudi Arabia to become sex slaves. We joined Al Shabab, Boko Haram and Isis. Some of us were imprisoned by the government for championing equal rights. Most of us were burnt in the streets for stealing petty goods. Our sisters once served Allah, then they were baptized to Mary and Martha. Now they are Serayah and Deliyah. They are always on their knees – not for Christ.
We suffered from malaria, we died of Ebola, Aids and depression. The teachers often told us that our futures lay in our hands, but we used our hands to masturbate and finger girls. We sat in classrooms and watched our dreams commit suicide.
If you are happy and you know clap your hands… we never clapped to that song. We were never happy.
Then Jesus told the parable of the mustard seed – this is the version He did not tell – some seeds fell on graveyards, on healthy, ripe tombs. The seeds grew into large trees, but all they bore were fruits of death and a shadow of doom… we were those seeds.
At 15, mama caught me masturbating. She did not walk away, I did not stop. She watched me lose my generation on my bedsheets. I lost my virginity to my own hands, with my demons cheering me on. We injected drugs on our hard dicks – it went straight to the bloodstream. Alcohol and blood exchanged lanes in our veins like a busy traffic jam on a Monday morning in Nairobi. When Tabu went to donate blood, he was told that his system had more alcohol than blood, he asked whether he could donate alcohol instead.
On my eighteenth birthday, mama bought me a New Testament bible, a rosary and a lollipop. She told me to join the queue of the boys crawling on their knees to the altar so that the priest could lay his hands on our heads and pour Holy water on us. I joined the queue, I crawled on my knees. The priest lay his hands on my curly hair. He called me to his confession chamber, he poured holy water in me.
We carried our hearts in our pockets and gave them to any broken girl who needed love. Freelance lovers. We made them pregnant, then we ghosted. We were just like our fathers. They were just like our mothers. A rotten apple doesn’t fall far from a rotten tree. We had sex with our cousins and blood sisters. We joined the choir so we could fuck choir girls and nuns. The priests too would have sex with our sisters, then later on sleep with the altar boys: the second cumming.
On the cross, Jesus lifted His head and said, ‘it is over…’ No, He said, ‘to be continued…’ Suffering is forever. God created us to suffer. We are His creations of pain. On the seventh day, God stood before a mirror, He saw His hairline receding, He felt insecure, He lost His confidence. He took clay and created us, blind, autistic, crippled. He created strange sicknesses in us. We are the creations that bear God’s pain, we are his outlet.
When sister turned thirteen, she became a stripper. She joined mama on the pole. She was younger and tighter. Men loved her, they preyed on her, each of them tearing her fabric of innocence. The younger the berry, the sweeter the juice. Thrice, she became a mother, thrice, she aborted. At just 16, she was a mother to three dead babies. Thrice, she almost died during the exercise, the doctor always forgetting a needle inside her, a coin, a crucifix from a broken rosary. She never stopped playing with crayons, she never stopped painting her pain. She loved colors.
There is no site as glorious as that of a mother and a daughter on a strippers’ pole. For the destiny of a daughter is intertwined with that of her mother.
I had my art, I never stopped writing stories. Even though every publisher rejected my work. My stories were too good for a boy like me. I would later on read the same stories on magazines and blogs under new author names. Stolen stories. Mama never stopped praying, she never stopped bleeding.
After Jesus had resurrected, He ascended into heaven… but with a blunt of weed, heaven descends on me. No wonder God is The Most High. Doctors said my lungs would collapse when I turn twenty. They said sister will never be able to carry a child again. Pastor told mama to grab his suit, then her bleeding problem would stop. Mama grabbed his suit, mama never stopped bleeding…
Our Mother who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come…
We made our way out of the camp, the fire having razed down everything, every memory of us. We sailed across the river of blood, the valley of dry bones, to the border of Kenya and Somalia. Refugees in our own motherland. We camped at a cemetery feeling cold and lost. Resigned to fate, fading away. Then the graveyards popped open, a whirlwind blew wildly, the dead rose from the tombs. There emerged the king of the dead; a crown of burning thorns on his head, a golden cross and a one-eyed owl on his shoulder. The dead held us in a tight embrace; a hug warmer than the love of the living. We had never felt more alive.
Years to come, we will still be alive not because we are immortal but because that which is dead, cannot die again. The dead are dead… long live the dead. Long. Live. The dead.
Image by Raheel Shakeel from Pixabay