The Carabineers – Alexander Opicho

 

‘Have you ever kissed a girl? I am asking you, just a young girl, not a prostitute or a widow, I am asking you about kissing a young lady in her virginal conscience, not that faked kissing you can do with a gay man or with a lesbian, tell me, have you?’

Murenju did not answer the question his mother was throwing at him. Instead he squirmed in the chair, his eyes looking down and sideways, desperately avoiding to look up, lest he have eye contact with his mother. He was wondering if his mother has heard about the instant he had with Chemutai, a sex worker in the neighbourhood some two years ago, he was remembering how Chemutai tricked him into her house and shoved him on to the bed and forced him to pull off  his short trousers, as she made him roll on to her by falling like a dead bird in the position between her naked legs that were already spread, he was remembering how he did not even erect, how he could not even control the semen escaping his manhood to wed her thighs before even entering her , he did not even kiss her nor did he get sexually stimulated the way he does when he is into close contact with a muscular man, especially a man having swollen biceps and a crude face. He wanted to be sorry, but Chemutai cautioned him not to, she only asked him to pay and he gave her all the school fees money he was carrying along.

 Murenju was not willing to answer back, nor to say anything to his mother. If at all she is aware of the instance, then why is she asking and whoever that told her must have told her the whole story. He condemned in his heart the idler gossiper that must have divulged to his mother such type of black information that can make him lose good relations he has had with his mother. He mused that that idler gossiper must have been stupid nit.

‘Murenju!’

‘Mum,’

‘Are you getting my question?’

‘Yes,’

‘Why are you not answering me?’

‘I have not,’

‘You have not what?’

‘Kissed a girl,’

‘Why? As big as you are, with very good college education my son, the way you are spotlessly handsome, why have you never kissed a girl?’

Murenju did not answer, instead he intensely squirmed like a big time idiot. He did not know how he effortlessly metamorphosed like a shuttle in the crypt from a powerless squirming human flesh into an active spur that afforded to walk away past his mother to his sleeping room and locked himself inside there. Into comfort of solitude. So that he could be alone and think about himself. He did not want to hear tetchy questions and rantings from his mother. He does not understand why she was obsessed with kissing girls as if it is the kingdom of heaven for a boy to kiss a girl.

Chebet, did not like the way Murenju squirmed. He was behaving as if he is a woman in the skin of a man. She does not know why her son was not self –confident in spite of being educated to University level in South Africa, University of Witswasserand, in fact with a degree in climatology. She was expecting him to walk in with different girls, she expected him to come home with a Zulu girl or even white south African girl from the University. He did not. He only came home brandishing that stupid paper called a degree as if a degree will link him to the posterity. She was now getting worried with the way Murenju is behaving, he is likely to let down the family by not marrying to extent the generation. He is the only son she has apart from Cherotich, her daughter who has disappeared into the streets of Eldoret, and one can case what she is doing, maybe she is riotously relating with married men from the tribes that speak different tongues. She did not want to think of Cherotich. But Murenju her son, why?  Why is he not socially active like his age mates?  Or may be her son’s cock does not crow. Can she find out by herself?  or send her fellow single-mother friends like Chepkemoi to find out on her behalf.

On this thought she walked out of her house into Eldoret Town, straight to Paradise Night Club where she can be able to find a shrewd and brave single mother friends, a single mother like herself that could do some research on her behalf and find out why her son Murenju is not dating any girl and yet Eldoret is the town of girls, girls and girls.

Murenju peeped through the keyhole and saw his mother walking away. She was walking in fast paces. As if she was going to graft a good son from the air somewhere out there and come back with him to be kissing girls. He kept on looking at her through the peephole. The sway of her well rounded buttocks reminded him that his mother was not old, maybe she is still playing sex with the sex hyenas in town. That is why she wants him also to be having sex with girls. It is like most mothers idolize sex their sons have with girls, but no it is only his mother that is obsessed with having him to kiss girls because he has a degree from the University. Why can she not realize that a degree is not a social platform on which boys stand to kiss girls. A degree in climatology is about fighting global warming through policies and hard engineering. But how do you kiss girls that you don’t feel, girls that never sent feelings of sexual waves in one’s spine.

Murenju did not notice that his mother has disappeared away, that she has gone beyond the gate and thus his peeping could not be of use in terms of seeing her. He just maintained his stooped posture peeping through the keyhole. He was absent minded. He remained like this for almost a quarter an hour. Before he hissed in a deep sigh, a hiss of good riddance in having his mother out of the compound.

He went at the bed, threw himself back-fast on to it, and pulled out a funny home-made foul smelling cigarette, he smoked it a half-way and then dimmed it before stuffing it into his shoes under the bed without changing his posture. He stuffed it away from any possibility of being discovered by his mother. He sent out a short and sharp cackle of a self-mocking laughter. He supported his head on the billow, looking up at the rafters in the roof. Electrical wires ran along each rafter, they never formed a complicated mesh or labyrinth of network of wires like the ones in his hostel at Witswasserand University in South Africa. He instantly felt a warm passion for the way things are done in south Africa. He also felt good chills in his stomach about the Xenophobia there, how the Zulus call foreign students Makwerekwere. And how they call corrupt traders there as Magumaguma without even knowing that the word Magumaguma in Kiswahili is vulgar, it means very many over-sized and worthless vaginas. He remembered with gusto and deep nostalgia how he used to feel sensuous warmth of sleeping in the hostel, especially when that Zulu boy that was his bed-mate used to put off all the clothes and remain with light under-pants that hanged loosely around his waist like drawers of an old woman. How he felt the warmth of the erect penis of that Zulu boy under the pants on his buttocks in the wee of the night. How he read a story on a weekend from the Anthology of Queer Stories and discovered that same sex feelings between men or between women was not God’s original purpose of creation but an indicator of mutations in the gene which can configure deformed sexual system in human beings and animals as well as insects. How he read a premise that there is relationship between climate change and gene mutations that causes erotic feelings between same sex among animals and insects. How on finishing to read the Anthology he understood that lesbians and gays are lame in the sexual feelings the same way other people are lame in the eye, with decimated sight, crippled in the legs or forelimbs or the way lunatics are mentally lame. He regrets why he has never known whether he is a gay or not, whether   the girl that was his year mate at the University was right or wrong when she told him that he was gay when they were in a hideout with her, stealing a look-see at varied lengths of different gonads of several University boys taking bathes at the bushy creek in River Zikhovane on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

He soundly clicked and mused that may be his father could have understood him better had he been around. Then he went for the letter that his father wrote to his mother. He had been keeping this later for years. He had stolen it from the purse of his mother some four years ago. On discovering that the letter was missing she looked for it to an extent of turning the whole house up-side down, if only it had been possible, she only gave up when someone convinced her that perhaps a field mouse must have carried it away to its residence under the old sewage pipe. She declared it lost. Thence, Murenju has been skulking to read it on very occasion there was an opportunity. Now like on this day his mother has walked way to town in insane rage. He has to read it. He opened the letter and began reading by soundly pronouncing each and every word in a fit of fear hiding behind a one-person drama that this is how my father could speak to my mother had he been alive, the letter had the following words:

Dear Chebet, even if I did not have time to stay with you for long, but my mind and my heart was permanently dedicated to you as my wife. And of course you are my wife. I don’t know why your parents came to take you away? Was it because I don’t come from your tribe? I guess so, because your people don’t like ladies from your community to marry into my community. Your elders are wrong. Your community and mine are both African communities, having people with the same black skin, leaving in the same country called Kenya. Difference in languages we speak does not imply any difference in our humanity. Your people must know that this is the new world in which you cannot avoid diversity, whatsoever much the degree of your ethnic authenticity. It was painful. My solace only comes from the last night I had with you, sex was so sweet and enjoyful. You howled nicely and sweetly, in fact your sounds came like those from the singing voice of an accomplished African crooner. More sweet is the memory of the words you used to speak softly and whisperingly in my ears while we were naked in our bed that, ‘sweetie, I am three months pregnant, let’s have sex so that you can now put the ears, or the eyes or the fingers on the baby.’  It was terribly thrilling. These are the memories I cannot lose. Which baby were you carrying my darling. A boy or a girl? One time I will come to know of it, unfortunately it only hinges on a chance that I will be a live after this war with Hitler.

I was arrested and conscripted into the King’s African Rifles in the evening of the same time you were taken away from me. It was a day of double tragedy for me. A day on which I lost my newly married wife and love of my heart to the sententious foolishness of negative ethnicity is the same day on which I lost my freedom to military conscription to fight Hitler. It was a double doomsday for me. Imagine out of all the people that were conscripted from my village I was the only one taken straight to Burma. Because I was tall. I was joined to several others conscripted from Kenya and Uganda. We were shipped across the Indian Ocean in medium sized armoured ships. We lost our identity on reaching Burma. I mean the British were not interested to find out if we have the names or not. In fact, if it was possible for you to come here looking for me, you were not to use my name. it is never known here neither has it ever been mentioned here. We are only using the numbers we were given as identification labels by our white commanders, the British. They don’t allow us to use our African names. Instead they call me us carabineer number 47. I am in the group of soldiers called the carabineers, because we have been assigned to strictly use carbines and rifles. So all of us are identified by the carabineer number. When one of us dies, I mean when a black soldier dies, we hurriedly bury him and write on his grave the carabineer number. But when a white soldier or a British dies we are ordered to go and burry him in the established war cemetery then they engrave on his cemented white grave or sepulcher his family names, the year of birth, the regiment in which was serving, and the date of. Even we are fighting for these British they are somehow invaluable and very insolent.  Imagine if in any case I die from here in the battle field, it will not be possible for my people to trace me, in case they will at all want to give me a decent burial. No one in my family knows if what carabineer number 47 is. And even they know, they will get here when the rains have washed away the sands from my grave that carries the words carabineer number 47.

My dear Chebet, now be aware that you are the only person carrying my hope and my future. That baby you were carrying for me is my everything. Taking it to school, without saying that it is a boy or a girl. It is my daily prayer that God will direct you to tell the baby the truth. Tell the baby that your father was a carabineer number 47 in Burma, conscripted and taken there to fight Adolf Hitler on behalf of the Queen of England.

Yours

       Love

Nasong’o wa Kituyi (Burma 1944).

***

On the bright sunny morning of the following day that was a Sunday, Murenju over-heard his mother shouting from her sleeping room Saramek tukul! Saramek tukul!   Twins all over! Twins all over! He could not understand why she was shouting about twins. Even if he heard sworn in his heart that he was not going to talk to her for a whole week, the shouting made him to go to her room and find out whatever that was going on. He knocked at the door from outside and waited for her to respond even though he could just push the door and walk in. He waited for a permission before he could enter because he feared that may be she has not put on her clothes or maybe she is having a boyfriend who have had a night there.

She ushered him in, she was still in her sleeping dress, jumping here and there like a deer with huge cachet of mobile phone in her hand. She was alone in the room. She was in a very jubilant mood.

‘My son look,’ she said showing him the Face-book page on the phone.

‘Cherotich has shared on her Face-book page that she has given birth to two bouncing baby boys, to the twins!’ She joyously shouted.

She held out the cell-phone for Murenju to see. Murenju looked at it and saw the avataars of his sister Cherotich with her husband, each of them holding a baby, they have shared under their pictures the words expressing joy of being blessed with two bouncing baby boys. Murenju felt good too, though the photo of Cheortich’s husband is clearly no one else other than Rono the infamous donkey thief in Eldoret town and in its neighbourhoods, in the early parts of the last year Rono has been seriously a wanted by the police for peddling stolen donkey meat in Naivasha town. He suspected his mother was not aware. He did not mind telling her. He quickly thought it away and also expressed joy for his sister, even if they don’t come from the same father but they came from the same mother. To him Cherotich was a real sister.

Chebet kept on celebrating in a song and a dance, after giving Cherotich a phone call to confirm that it was the truth. And more happily, Cherotich confirmed that it was true, and there was no medical complication nor any out-standing hospital bill to be paid. She hummed and celebrated as she prepared to go to the church. She was also shooing Murenju around that he joins her to the church. He simply complied so that he does not interfere with her light moods. They got ready within a half an hour and then walked to the church talking and laughing between themselves.

She fellowshipped at the Eldoret Church of the Holy prophet. It was the church of Dr. David Awori.He is also the respected prophet in the church. Awori also has a Doctorate Degree in molecular Biology from Jerusalem University in Israel. He has kept very bushy beards and bushy hair on his small hyperbolic head staked on his short neck that sinks into a very tall body fully testifying a spiritual personality. He is always in a white loin-clothes and open shoes, hall marks of being a top miracle performer. Even though during that particular time Awori had been some- how disappointed when on a visit in Nigeria. What happened was that he had been in the city of Port-Harcourt on evangelical mission, while there he claimed that he could make the barren to become fertile and sire, the blind to see, the lame to be whole, the HIV positive to go negative, the deaf to hear and the mentally handicapped to restore normality. On hearing all these good news of medical offer from the visiting prophet, the avaricious Nigerians went to the hospital wards to bring out all the HIV patients, they went to schools of the blind, the deaf and mentally hand-capped to bring out all the blind, the deaf and mentally ill patients in lorries, barren women came in torrents from all over the Igbo and the Yoruba nation. They came panting, expecting prophet Awori to heal them from their plight. Unfortunately, nothing good happened. Awori prayed and shouted prayers for miracles to happen but nothing. No lame Nigerian, nor crippled or blind and deaf was made whole. The HIV patients kept on coughing in whoops. Nigerians were very disappointed, it is only a Kenyan woman called Wairimu who claimed in that moment that she had been blind for twenty years but now she is seeing, she had accompanied the prophet from Kenya to Nigeria.

Chebet was not aware of all these. What she knows is that Awori is a holy prophet and he is able to perform the healing miracles. She wants to get there and testify to other people how the prayers of Awori has made her home to go prosperous. Since he prayed for her changes have happened in her life; her cow gave birth to twins two months ago, then her goat also gave birth to twins, same to her only sheep, now her daughter has also given birth to twins. Miracles!

She pulled out a thousand shillings and gave it to Murenju, who was then walking behind her. He received it and sunk it in the pocket. His heart palpitated rapidly.  ‘My son you will give this to God when we get to the Church. It is good to give to God.’

‘Yes mum.’ Murenju responded, he increased the walking speed to catch up with the pace of Chebet. Chebet is a first walker some times. Especially like on this day she wants to be the first person to get to the Church. She wants Awori to get her there. She will also introduce Murenju to the church members and even to the prophet so that they can pray for him to get a wife.

The worshiping process went on well. Very many people had come on that Sunday. Almost a thousand people. They were all dressed in hempen garments, it was a Sunday earmarked particularly for repentance. The songs were good, just as the regularity of one church member or another exploding into tongue speech. The number of those on the floor under the trance of anointing was similarly big. The loud musical system could not even make them to discombobulate from their fit. It made Murenju to be un-easy on thinking within himself that maybe the holy spirit is going to direct one of the church members to sense that he secretly smokes funny cigarettes, or even discover that Murenju had feigned going out for a short-call only to look for loose money from the nearby kiosk so that he will only use a coin of ten shillings as alms to God but not a thousand shillings as initially instructed by his mother. His heart palpitated rapidly again. It only calmed back to the normal pulse after the session of alms giving, when Murenju had successfully dropped a ten shillings’ coin in to the alms basket without it making a jingle, a possible tell-tale to the nearby Chebet. He had been planning to drop a coin and artfully scoop out a bank note but the person moving around with the alms basket was so fast for him. Murenju did not realize his dream.

It was now the time for introducing new-comers. Murenju being one of them. Several newcomers were introduced before him. Then Chebet stood to introduce him, she was so charismatic in her speech. She told the church how much she loves her son, how her son is educated to the University level in South Africa. She also announced the birth of twins from the cow to the sheep, to the goat and to Cherotich amid applause from the church members, then she invited Murenju to stand up and salute the people of God.

He stood up, his physique towering in strength, his mature face not tainted with any sign of   a beard hair or a moustache was comely to the look. He effeminately looked around and spoke out.

‘My mother is wrong to introduce me as her son; I am her child but not her son. I am not a man. I am a gay. I am only imprisoned in the wrong skin. My gay disposition is to serve other men and I am willing to live the rest of my life in a gay marriage. Any one of you that is of gay orientation is highly welcomed to come home so that we can talk.’

Before Murenju made the next word the entire church had already exploded into one of the most serious fuss of matchless noise, some were cursing the devil, others were rebuking, others crying, others showing off un-speakeable kerfuffle. The prophet’s voice was sonorously towering all others in the cacophonous shouts of rebuke! Rebuke! Rebuke!

 

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