I have never stopped berating God for plonking me in the middle of humanity as the only child. You may think it is a blessing, but, when all is said and done, it’s a curse.
I look at my mother with contempt. Her face is as withered as a flower left to waste, her face clothed in wisps of white hair she has refused to conceal in those horrendous weaves women don. To my eyes she represents everything I loath.
“You have other children, you know,” I tell her.
“A male child is the beacon of the family,” she says.
“A child is a child …”
“Your father would be disappointed with you.”
“Not as much as I was with him.”
There is no memory of my father that flashes in my mind. The old geezer dropped dead, literally, on his way from work the day I was born. But he had it coming, Mother told me when I was old enough to understand. It was the alcohol. He didn’t even see me!
“How do you expect me to go and live in my daughter’s house? The ways of our people don’t …”
“Suppose I was not born.”
“But you were.”
“Mom, you’ve got to go live with one of them: Mueni, Kasyoka, or Mwende …”
“Over my dead body.”
I steal a glance at her. She is just another woman beaten down by old age. Her porcelain face has withered, her skin a frail layer, thanks to stressful migraines. To her I am a soul lost to the shadows.
“Why should I be the only one to take care of you? My sisters …”
“Your sisters have their own homes, husbands. Our culture doesn’t allow us to go live in our daughter’s husband’s houses. Did you see my mother, your grandmother, coming to live here? She did not even spent a single night here.”
Flashes of her making friends with the other ‘inmates’, some toothless and blind, go on in my mind.
“What do you expect me to do? I have to work.”
“Why do you think God gave me you only, no any other son?”
Questioning God is not something I do over breakfast, so I say nothing.
“A son takes care of his parents in their old age, perpetuates the family. Girls are married off, they find other families, but a son takes care of his parents and buries them.”
I feel like punching the air.
“I asked ‘what do you expect me to do?’ We’re going to Somalia in three days. You don’t want to go stay with Mueni, or Kasyoka, or Mwende.”
“You should have married a long time ago …”
Not marriage again, I want to scream.
I scroll through my phone while she goes on and on.
I want to tell her that I have impregnated my Platoon Sergeant’s daughter, the one who did her KCPE last year; that my ex faked DNA tests and came to the camp with a letter from the Children’s Court and the CO didn’t listen to me when he wrote a letter to DOD and told them to be deducting my salary from the source to pay for ‘my child’s’ support.
“And have my wife living in my mother’s house?”
“All this is yours. I don’t need it. My time is almost over. She will live here …”
Marriage is the last thing on my mind. Half my salary is going to that conniving bitch who is stealing my money. Ati child support! The other half is going to the Platoon Sergeant’s daughter. I hope she will flush it, as we agreed, otherwise her father will take me to court for defilement if he doesn’t kill me in Somalia and blame it on the enemy.
I have made up my mind. I want, no, I need, to go Somalia. African Union allowance is a tidy sum, not to be sniffed at. I will be away from all the madness. I might as well die over there and not worry of that gold-digger.
“Then I will take you to Nyumba ya Wazee …”
“What?” she screams. She shuffles her unruly hair, throws her hands up, and begins to wail. “In all my life I never thought you would insult me that way.”
“How have I insulted you?” But she doesn’t hear me. She is hysterical.
“Did I take you to a children’s home when you were born? I took care of you, nursed you.”
“It’s not like that …”
“Don’t tell me what it is like. Now you don’t value me, your mother. You want to stash me in a home for the elderly, suppose I took you to a children’s home, where would you be today.”
She is almost going berserk, and for an instant I fear she will drop dead, like her husband.
I don’t know what to do, what to say. Instead of calming her, I recoil and watch her. If I feel I’m not going to get out, I remind myself. I want to live free, happy, not a normal life. If you’re not there life will move on, I affirm to myself. She will take care of herself.
When I stand to go, the first step is the hardest, but I take it. All I am thinking is I want to get myself out of the curse of being her ‘only child’. My spirit is bubbling from deep inside. It is that liberating. I will go and forget I had an elderly mother. I won’t look back, I decide. Even when, and if, she realizes that daughters too are children who can take care of their parents, I won’t come back, I tell myself. I am getting away from the curse, taking back my life.