Creative Fiction


“Sometimes, when Allah Subhanallah Wataala answers our prayers and grants us our wishes, He brings forth tests alongside those blessings. One could have prayed for a child for years, then Allah grants them one who is sickly or with special needs or very stubborn. Another could have prayed for a spouse, then they are granted one who really gets on their nerves or is poor. Another could have prayed for a chance to perform hajj or umrah, and then face many difficulties during the pilgrimage. Another could have prayed for a job, then got one with a merciless boss. Oftentimes, when this happens, we tend to focus on the challenges we are facing, forgetting it is a test from Allah.

Remember the words of Nabii Suleiman Aleyhi Ssalam when he said about the power and bounties granted upon him:

قَالَ هَٰذَا مِنْ فَضْلِ رَبِّي لِيَبْلُوَنِي أَأَشْكُرُ أَمْ أَكْفُرُ ۖ وَمَنْ شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّي غَنِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ

“𝑻𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒃𝒚 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒎𝒚 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅 – 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒎𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝑰 𝒂𝒎 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒇𝒖𝒍 𝒐𝒓 𝒖𝒏𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒇𝒖𝒍!

And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for himself; and whoever is ungrateful, certainly my Lord is Rich, Bountiful.”

Will you be grateful for the blessing? Will you be patient with the tests? Will you acknowledge Allah’s power and mercy in all that you have and do? Will you still praise Him? Will you remain steadfast and firm in your faith? Will you trust Allah’s plan?!

Indeed, we have so much to be thankful for.

Alhamdulilah for all that is gone. And all that we own. And all that is known and unknown.

الحمد لله حمدا كثيرا طيبا مباركا فيه.”

Just a couple of days ago, I wrote the above piece on my social media pages. It was just a random contemplation of life events. I didn’t expect that soon after I’ll meet the human manifestation of my post. And when I did, I was nothing short of stunned by the embodiment of patience right in front of my eyes.

Sister Zainab, just like any married woman, yearned to be a mother. She prayed for a child. She sought medical expertise on how to get a child. But she failed, again and again and again. Four years later, the Bushra came. By Allah’s mercy, she was finally pregnant. It only made sense that she would call her child Bushra- Glad Tidings, because that is what she was. Good news. A reward for her patience.

However, Zainab had such a complicated delivery that the child had to be pulled out of her womb. Bushra didn’t cry for hours. Zainab thought her baby was already lost, but Allah had other plans for her. She miraculously made it through, but there was more awaiting both mother and child…Bushra was born with severe Cerebral Palsy. 

Without knowing it, our sister’s life took a total turn after that. Her entire time and energy had to now revolve around her fragile baby who couldn’t see, move or communicate like other children. For years, Zainab carried her child everywhere. To the toilet, to the hospital, to therapy sessions, to Ruqya sessions…her life fully for her child.

Soon enough, rumours from relatives and neighbours emerged. Bushra was bewitched, she has been made a ‘kiti’ bla bla…The suggestions to visit a witch doctor to cure her child followed, while others slowly avoided her and her child entirely. Even when they would hear Bushra cry painfully, they would leave her mother to return to tend to her. It was only her mother, apart from her husband, who supported them greatly in raising Bushra. Despite having her own health complications, Bushra’s grandmother dedicated her life to helping her daughter and son-in-law. The three of them felt alienated and the stigma they have faced as a family has been real.

Being a believer, Zainab opted to put trust in her Lord and do what she knows best; pray and do more research. Zainab was always looking for ways to improve her child’s health. She attended any health seminar she heard of that was related to Bushra’s condition, and read books and research papers about it.

It is through her constant reading that she came across ‘Regenerative Brain Cell Therapy’ which has been able to assist those with severe conditions like Bushra. It gave her hope, yet it seemed like such a far-stretched option for her. She didn’t know where to start, whom to talk to, or even where she’d get the money for the treatment. Yet the thought of it lingered in her head for years, until one day when the specialists came from India to Mombasa and did a seminar about the therapy treatment. For Zainab, that was Allah making things easier and clearer for her. She was now more determined to find this treatment for Bushra, more than ever before. She thereafter travelled to Tanzania for an international health forum for ‘Autism and Neurodevelopmental disorders’ to learn more about regenerative brain cell treatment. 

You’d expect that for a woman like her, with all that she has been through, she’d be frustrated, miserable and sad. But the spirit of imaan in Allah glimmers in her eyes. She has so much belief that Allah will her through it all. That it shall get better. One thing she kept repeating to me was, ‘I have to have faith. There is no other way.’ And I’ve thought about that a lot ever since. Truly Allah does not burden a soul beyond what they can bear.

Here was a woman who could have chosen to just accept her daughter as she is and give her the medications to just manage her condition. Or she could have listened to those misguiding her into the desperation of seeking help from a witch doctor. Or worst of all, she could have abandoned or neglected the child, like other parents do. But here she was, doing everything possible in her power to make life for her daughter just a little more bearable, a little less painful, all the while seeking Allah’s pleasure.

Despite all the challenges, Allah Subhanahu Wataala never seized to bring good people to help them; sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally, sometimes with ideas, and sometimes even physically. There was especially one friend of Umm Bushra who would always look out for Bushra’s needs and help consistently. For this, Sister Zainab expressed her deep gratitude for Allah’s mercy, and sincere duas for everyone who has ever extended their kindness to them.

Throughout the one hour that we talked, Bushra was lying beside us with the sweetest smile, her dimples revealing, moving her limbs playfully. Sister Zainab says to me, “She loves smiling mashallah. Always smiling. I worry about her sometimes. Right now I can carry her around because she is still young, but she is growing older. She will become heavier and her needs will change. Sometimes she is bitten by an ant but since she can’t speak, she just cries so intensely, and I have to figure out what could be wrong. This Neuro Regenerative Rehabilitation Therapy is not a cure but it will help her move better. She’ll be able to at least sit up or perhaps walk, even if it is by stumbling. I have read deeply about this treatment, I know the pros and cons, and I want to tawakkal with it. The Indian doctors explained that the earlier she gets the treatment, the more effective it is. And because she is growing older each year (turning 7 this year) I really want us to travel this same year in shaa Allah.”

Here’s our beautiful, lovely Bushra. Allahumma Bareek

Umm Bushra needs to raise 2 million Kenyan shillings for the entire trip to India. From tickets to visas to accommodation and the treatment itself. Unfortunately, her husband is struggling financially with no stable job and Zainab has no other income since taking care of Bushra is a full-time job.

As a human being I look at that amount and think ‘Mahn, how will we raise that amount of money?’ but then I look at her patience and imaan and I remember that Allah is great and good, and very much capable of bringing miracles. 

Here’s a hopeful, devoted believer and mother seeking our help, I truly pray that we come through for her. Assist in any way you can, and please spread the word!

Let’s do this!!! Her hospital letter and donation details are below:

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease one in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and the Hereafter. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant as long as he helps his brother…” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2699)

The first time I ever laid my hand on anyone, I was about twelve years, six months old.

When it happened again, it was ten years later, only this time with blood on my hands.
“Una meno kama ya ngamia!” A burst of rising laughter emerged behind us.

“Your smile is disgusting!”
Hanaa’s hand clasped mine.

“You must be adopted. You’re darker than your whole family,” another chuckled.

“Do you hear that, Hanaa? You’re adopted!” One shouted.

We both continued looking ahead, my other hand clenched.

“Even your sister Sarah knows that you’re stupid, that’s why you’re always last in class!”

I stopped in my tracks. I could feel the heat rising in my face.

Hanaa pulled me forward with her tiny, bony hands. I didn’t budge for a minute.

I turned around just in time to see the smirk on Fatma’s face, the oldest and loudest of the group. Without thinking twice, I dashed to where she was and planted a hefty slap on her face. There was a gasp from her friends as Fatma felt her now red cheek. My heart still pounding, and before I could say anything, someone smacked my head from behind. For a moment, all I could hear was the ringing of my ears. With tears in my eyes, I looked up to see Fatma’s father and mzee Abubakar, one of our neighbours.

Without a word, Fatma’s father took her daughter and walked away to their house which was just a few steps away from where we were standing. What were the odds? I thought to myself, still standing at the same place.

Mzee Abubakar started patting my back as he requested I explain what just happened. In between loud sobs, I narrated my sister’s constant predicament with this specific group of girls. He continued wiping my tears until my breath returned normal, then he bent down close to my ears and whispered, “Don’t tell your mother about this incident. You wouldn’t want her to start a fight with mama and baba Fatma, would you?”

“But…”I said as I looked at Hanaa, whose trousers were now soiled with wetness.

“They are kids. You’re older than them so you understand they’re just being childish. Forgive them for now. Your mother needn’t know.”

Before I could say any other word, he was gone, and so were all the other kids. I looked over at Hanaa who was silently crying. I walked back to her and held her hand.

“Mama will be angry when she sees me,” she pointed to her trouser.

“She is at aunty Wahida’s place today. Let us rush and change before she gets back home.”

We started running quickly, hand in hand. But before we reached our doorstep, mama’s voice rang behind us. My blood froze. I could feel Hanaa’s hand tremble in mine. I turned to face mama as Hanaa quickly positioned herself behind me.

“Why are you late? Madrasa ended half an hour ago.”

We both looked down.

“Sarah, speak!”

“We met some friends on the way and got a bit distracted with some games,” I said, still looking at the ground.

“Mwataka kikoto sio?!”

We shook our heads quickly.

She clicked her tongue loudly, “I have a wedding to go to so I won’t let you ruin my evening. Get inside, your food is in the kitchen. Thereafter, make sure to do your homework.”

As they entered the house, mama turned around and faced Hanaa with scrutinizing eyes.

“Did you pee on yourself again?! What is that on your trousers?”

We remained silent. Mama looked at me.

“Uhh…we…we sort of got into a fight with Fatma and her friends…Hanaa got scared,” I whispered.

“Again?! What do those girls want? I will break their necks the next time I see them. What was the fight about?”

In a very low and shaky voice, I narrated to her what had occurred.

“Mama, please don’t start a fight with them. Mzee Abubakar said he will talk to her parents about her behaviour,” I lied.

“I am not stupid to go fight with those pigs. With one tackle they will break my bones. But I know what I shall do. Wataona!”


“Hanaa, why would you pee on yourself while you weren’t even the one who was beaten huh?” Mama ignored me. “How many times have I told you, that you need to stand up for yourself? You think those girls will ever respect you if you keep peeing on yourself and bringing bad grades home?!”

Our eyes remained glued to the ground.

“Go on …go change. I will deal with this. And this should be the last time you pee on yourself! If you pee once more, ntakufunga jongoo waskia?” she threatened.

Hanaa nodded meekly.

Mama then stormed out of the house and I quickly followed her to Fatma’s home which was in the same neighbourhood.

“Mama Fatma! Fungua mlango!” Mama shouted outside their compound. “Mama Fatma!” she banged the door.

Mama Fatma slowly opened her door with a frown.

“Bismillah, kuna nini?”

“Do you want me to start telling your neighbours the truth about Fatma?!” she hissed with a murmur.

Mama Fatma’s eyes bulged, looked left and right then quickly pulled mama and me inside the house and closed the door behind us.

“Listen very carefully! Your child is a nuisance and we both know why that is. If you don’t want me to go around and inform people that she is a mwanaharamu, then you better discipline her. I don’t want her near my daughters ever again. And that husband of yours, if he ever raises his filthy hand on my daughter ever again, I will finish him with my own two hands!”

“Sawa mama Sarah. Sawa,” she said with a shaky voice. “I will talk to my daughter, I promise. Please stiri mambo yetu kama vile Mungu anavotustiri sote,” she pleaded.

“Before you mention God to me, teach your child manners first, waskia? Don’t make me do things I don’t want to.”

Before mama Fatma could respond, Mama took my hand and led me outside and we started walking back home.

“Is it true Ma?” I asked.

“What is true?”

“That Fatma is an illegitimate child?”

“I should never hear you say those words again, do you hear me?!”

I nodded quickly, and we didn’t say a word the rest of the way.

As the years went by, the bullying still went on. Despite mama’s threats, Fatma didn’t change at all. In fact, she seemed to attain more pleasure in picking on Hanaa. And because Hanaa didn’t want mama to make a fuss about it, even when mama asked her about Fatma and her friends, she said that everything had been good; they’d left her alone. I would often try to protect her, but we never brought the complaints to mama ever again.

The bed-wetting went on too until she was ten years old is when it finally stopped. Mama was so relieved; she almost thought Hanaa would still be peeing on herself even as a bride. However, her grades never got better and both mama and her teachers gave up on her. Hanaa slowly became invisible to them. All tasks at home were given to me because according to mama, Hanaa was useless like our father’s family. At school, the teachers praised my intelligence as they compared the two sisters in the staffroom.

As expected, Hanaa didn’t have any friends at school or madrasa and spent most of her time alone. She would join me for both break and lunch because I was the only one who would talk to her.

When I got into secondary school, it was very difficult for both of us. Students started picking on Hanaa again because I was no longer there. Many evenings, she came back home and went to bed without speaking a word. She was losing weight at a high speed and mama’s frustrations gave us an even rougher time. Sometimes I would awaken late at night and hear Hanaa sobbing silently into her pillow. My heart ached for her but I was mostly helpless to do anything.

A few years later, when Hanaa finally completed primary school after repeating two classes, mama didn’t even wait for the results to be out. She immediately found a groom for her. The man, who was twenty years older than Hanaa, was set to marry his bride as soon as she turned 17-only a few months later.

“Mama, how can you do this? You always complained about dad’s family pushing him to go for a second wife just because you’re not their choice. How are you okay with Hanaa being a second wife now?!” I protested when we were alone.

“It is not the same.”

“How is it not the same?!”

“This man is only marrying again because his first wife can’t conceive. That is a genuine reason. And mashallah he can afford to comfortably look after two wives.”

“Why have you given up on her so early?” tears started falling.

Mama sighed as she sat down on the mkeka, “You think I am happy sending away my child? Aren’t I a mother too? Don’t I want the best for all of you?”

I remained silent.

“Your sister is very slow and naïve and doesn’t even have extraordinary beauty to boost her prospects. Do you think life is easy? Look at me. Look at how miserable I am despite my beauty and brains. No one has ever helped me. And your father’s family never once asked about us or stepped into this house since he died. Despite their wealth, they never cared about the orphans he left behind, just because he refused to marry the woman of their choice.”

“So that’s your reason to get rid of her?”

“I just want her to be settled in her home before I leave this world. I am not so worried about you. I know you can face anything that comes your way…but Hanaa…she is too weak. Sometimes we have to help her in making decisions that will be good for her in the long run.” Her voice shook.

We sat there for a long time without saying anything, tears in our eyes.

Being a secondary school student, I was still powerless to do anything to help Hanaa. I had no one to turn to. Hanaa had given up on herself too. It seemed she had bought to mama’s belief that she had no prospects in life, so she readily followed mama around as they shopped for the upcoming wedding.

“At least I’ll be a mother. I’ll be useful for once,” she said to me one night as she stared at her green and white hijabi wedding gown.

“You’ve always been useful Hanaa. You’re kind and thoughtful and a great friend and sister. It just takes another kind heart to see that.”

She chuckled.

“You will be visiting me often, right?”

“At your palace you mean? Of course!” I laughed. “You always wanted to be a seamstress. I hope you still try it out. You have great ideas for clothes.”

“Haha, well, now it depends if Mr Husband lets me do it.”

“He better! Your talent shouldn’t go to waste. Once you become a mother in shaa Allah you’ll be the one to make pretty dresses and clothes for them.”

“And for your children too in shaa Allah,” she winked with a smile.

“I have a long way to go. I have to finish secondary first, then go to college, then find a job to help mama in shaa Allah.”

“Maybe then she’ll stop being so bitter,” She laughed quietly.

“You do know that she loves you right? She’s just had a very rough life…and baba who was her only support died so young. I am not justifying her actions of course, but never think that she doesn’t love you.”

“Well, I just hope our children never grow up doubting our love for them.”

I moved to where she was seated and hugged her for a long time before we finally retired to sleep.

A few days later, a small, intimate nikah was performed at our house. The only people present were mum, our aunt who we rarely ever saw, and two of our neighbours who were friendly with mama. From the groom’s side were his elderly mother, his sister, and his two brothers. The ceremony was short and sweet. The visitors were glowing from all the gold they were wearing and all seemed jovial. Even mama shed some tears. We all had a buffet of a variety of Arab and Swahili dishes for lunch and there was laughter and merry in our small house. Hanaa looked like a midget seated next to the tall and built Ismail, her husband. She had a sweet smile and it was almost painful to look at her innocent face.

Before Hanaa left, mama took her most loved golden necklace and put it on her neck. I could see the surprise in Hanaa’s eyes, and the tears that followed shortly after that. We all then kissed her goodbye as her in-laws escorted her to her new home. I almost believed the wedding wasn’t such a bad idea after all…until several months later…

Being a bride looked good on Hanaa. Ismail was away most of the time and she enjoyed her freedom. She was living in a luxurious home and could afford most of what she wanted. The best of all was that Ismail allowed her to take up a sewing course at a nearby college. Soon enough, she had her butterfly sewing machine at her home, making cute tiny dresses as trials. I would visit her often enough whenever I knew Ismail wasn’t around. Even mama seemed happy visiting her, and sometimes, being mesmerized by all the kitchen equipment Hanaa had, mama would even offer to cook for her while there.

However, after a while, it became clear to me that Hanaa and Ismail never really had much love or affection for one another. Hanaa rarely mentioned Ismail unless necessary, and when she did, it was like she was referring to a neighbour she knew.

One time I asked her whether she was happy and her shoulders fell.

“It’s the same story, you know.”

“What same story?”

“Same cliche story we’ve heard over and over again. He loves his first wife very much. Even when with me, he still keeps calling her. I believe his family pressured him to marry a second wife just to get kids. It is clear I am only here as a birthing machine.”

“I am so sorry Hanaa,” I held her hand.

“But I am okay, don’t worry about me. He does fulfil his duties as a husband, at least the majority of them. Plus I am more at peace can’t you see? Mama is no longer stressed about my grades, Fatma and her gang are far away from me now, I am eating well plus I get to do this!” she pointed at a cute green and white dress she was still working on.

I sighed loudly.

I looked at the dress keenly and said, “You should start selling these you know? They’re too good to remain in suitcases under your bed.”

“I will! Let me perfect the art first,” she winked as she continued sewing.

Within the first year of marriage, Hanaa was selling elegant and stylish clothes to her neighbours. During the Eid and wedding seasons, she would get super busy with client orders. Ismail started getting frustrated with the frequent clients coming into their home. Moreover, Hanaa hadn’t conceived yet. The man was getting impatient.

Every month, Ismail diligently asked about her menses and would sometimes refuse to eat when Hanaa confirmed that she got her periods. Soon enough, he was breaking plates and cups at every minor mistake that Hanaa did and would disappear for more days than he did previously.

At the time, I had already started attending nursing classes. Every weekend I would visit Hanaa and find her trying out new recipes to win over her husband. But Ismail had become even more distant than before and his art of breaking cutlery was getting more intense by the day.

“I am unsettled about this man. What if he harms you?!” I exclaimed one evening as we shopped for new plates.

“Majaaliwa yangu.”

I rolled my eyes.

“You deserve better. And you need to stand for yourself now. Don’t just allow things to happen to you!”

“Mama shouldn’t know about this, please. She is already stressed that I am not yet pregnant.”

“I won’t. But maybe it is also for the best. You should enjoy your youth before you become a mother.”

“Enjoy what youth? I am already 18. I want to be a mother. That will be enjoyable for me.”

“That is because mama made you believe that is the only good thing you’re capable of. You’re more than that. For one, you’re a very talented seamstress!”

“Yeah well…”

“Hasn’t Ismail been tested? Doesn’t he know that everything has turned out clear for you?”

“He knows but I wouldn’t dare ask him. He could break a plate on my head. Plus the doctor will question him about me. How will he explain marrying a 17-year-old girl at this year and age, who could as well be his daughter?”

“That is a good question. I would love to hear the answer to that.”

“Must be painful for him to marry a girl he didn’t even want and couldn’t give him children either,” Hanaa looked down.

“Hey! Don’t allow that pity of a man to make you his punching bag! You are a dutiful wife and again, the doctor said nothing is wrong with you. If he really wants kids he should put his ego aside and get tested!”

“We’ll see about that in shaa Allah. Let’s get going. I have an engagement dress to make.”

“Oh look at you! Soon enough you’ll be selling wedding gowns as well!” We both laughed heartily.

The first time Hanaa suggested that Ismail should get tested, she was given a black eye and her sewing machine was taken away. The whole week she avoided my calls and kept excusing herself that she is busy with some orders. I had to pop up at her home unexpectedly on a Friday afternoon for me to find out what was going on.

She avoided eye contact the whole time I spoke to her and her voice was barely audible. Ismail hadn’t apologized and hadn’t been back since he had left.

“Please don’t tell mama.”

“That is your worry right now? We must tell mama. You should come home with me right away.”

“Come back and do what? Overwhelm mama once more with my presence? Our relationship has gotten better since I got married. I don’t want to go back to what we once were.”

“But…mama wouldn’t mind your return. It is still your home after all. You’re not safe here.”

“This is my home now Sarah. Ismail won’t do it again, don’t worry. All I have to do is avoid asking him about getting tested, khalas.”

Although I insisted, Hanaa refused to return home with me and made me promise to not tell mama.

However, despite Hanaa’s attempt to cover up for her husband by using make-up, mama finally noticed that something was up during our next visit. This time there was a fresh mark on her arm. Apparently, during one of his plate-breaking sprees, a piece of the glass mistakenly hit Hanaa’s arm.

“That is the fate of us women, my daughter. From birth we are made to carry the burdens of everyone; our parents, our children, our husbands, and our community. Subiri…just work harder at getting pregnant, he will be okay once he has a baby in his arms,” she said slowly as she looked outside the window.

“But Ma!!!” I exclaimed.

“We can’t get involved in matters between a husband and his wife. This is beyond me now,” she sighed.

“She doesn’t have to carry this burden. And she shouldn’t! Hanaa is still very young and beautiful. She can get her divorce and open her boutique. She can still get married when she is ready in the future.”

“Hmm, which world do you live in? Who will accept a divorcee who hasn’t even gone beyond primary education? Plus do you think it is easy to open a business?! Look at how we’ve struggled all our lives. We depended on well-wishers for your school fees throughout. We don’t have any savings at all. We can barely make ends meet.”

“Sarah, it is okay. Mama has a point. I’ll see a herbalist about the pregnancy issue, perhaps the outcome will be different this time.”

“In shaa Allah, and I am praying for you every day, that you may get a child and be happy in your marriage. Right now, he is blinded by his first wife’s love…but once the child arrives, he will finally appreciate you. That will be the game changer.” Mama said.

As we left that evening, I could feel a pinch in my heart as I saw the sadness lingering in Hannah’s eyes. When our eyes met, she spread her lips a bit and waved me goodbye.

Hanaa was now sleeping through the day and night. She had lost more weight than she had ever before. Ismail hadn’t been to her home for an entire month and when I’d visit, the entire house would be dark with no curtains or windows open. I’d be welcomed by the stench of dirty utensils, rotten food and body odour. When I realized that she was bed-wetting again, I packed her clothes and went with her home without informing mama.

When mama first saw Hanaa, she gasped but never said a word after that. I opened a warm water shower and let her inside. Hanaa was simply performing robotic movements and hadn’t said a word since I found her in her bed. After that, I made her some hot soup and fed her before laying her to rest in her old bed.

“My God! What should I do about Hanaa?! Ataniuaaa ataniua huyu mtoto.” Mama lamented when I finally sat down with her.

“You don’t have to do anything. I will take care of her, don’t worry. At least I will put my nursing skills to use.”

“That is not what I meant, come on. I can take care of her as well. I just don’t understand where I went wrong with her. Why is she so different from you?!”

“Please let’s not talk about this. She might overhear you and she already has enough on her plate.”

“Fine. But what will we tell her husband when he comes searching for her?”

“Are you…are you afraid of him?!”

“No, but he is a noble man. We shouldn’t interfere in their marriage.”

“Noble because he comes from a known, rich family? What nobility is that? He and his family can all go to hell,” I said with finality as I went back to our room and closed the door.

Ismail turned up at our house one week later. In his hands were a bouquet and Hanaa’s butterfly machine.

Mama welcomed him with a nervous smile and explained to him that Hanaa had been unwell, that’s why she was brought home.

“I was worried about her. Her phone has been off. I figured she must be here. May I talk to her?”

“No, you may not and will not!” I interjected.

Ismail stood up with puzzlement.

“Hanaa is not your punching bag for your infertility. Go to a gym or go break all the remaining plates in your home if you want. But you’ll never see Hanaa ever again. You’ll never get the chance to harm her anymore!”

“What are you saying?! Hanaa is my wife!” he trembled with rage.

“And I am his sister.”

“Okay okay, let us calm down for a minute. Hanaa is unwell and we all care for her well-being. Let us talk calmly,” mama said.

“Watch your tongue young lady,” Ismail waved his finger at me.

“I want a divorce,” Hannah’s timid voice interrupted us.

We all turned around at once. She was standing in the hallway with messy hair and a flowery dera.

Mama gasped.

Ismail clenched his fist.

My heart was now drumming.

Ismail slowly approached Hanaa with an intense look on his face.


“You heard what I said. I am exhausted, I can’t do this anymore. I want my divorce right now.”

“Hanaa, you’re not thinking clearly right now. Let us go home and we can talk carefully.”

“No, I am sure this is what I want,” she said, still in a low voice.

“Did they…did they ask you to do this?!” Ismail pointed to mama and me.

“Ismail…” Mama started.

“This is purely my decision. I can’t give you a child so divorce me. Find another wife or adopt one with your riches if you want but if you were a real man, you’d seek treatment instead of dragging your wives into your misery.”

Ismail instantly grabbed Hanaa’s neck and pushed her to the wall, his grip tightening. “Did I not tell you to never mention this stupid treatment thing to me?! Are you still doubting my manhood?!”

“Ismail stop!!” Mama shouted. Both mama and I rushed to him and tried pulling him away. But both of us were two feeble women while he was a tall, built man. Mama was now crying as she cursed him. Hanaa was choking as she pushed her palms on his face.

Without thinking twice, I grabbed the nearest heavy pan from the kitchen and struck Ismail’s head. Within that split moment, and as his grip loosened around her neck, Hanaa shoved him.

The loud thud that followed startled us.

Still glued to the wall, Hanaa breathed heavily.

My entire body was shaking.

Mama’s mouth was wide open with tears in her eyes.

“There’s blood,” Hanaa murmured shakily.

We turned to where Ismail was lying still. His head had hit the edge of our glass dining table and a pool of blood was forming beneath him.

We stood silently in our places, only our heavy breathing could be heard.

“Sarah, do something!” Mama shouted.

I looked at her in a daze.

“You’re a nursing student, aren’t you?!” She continued.

Hanaa gave me a nudge and I cleared my throat uncomfortably. I slowly placed the pan on the floor and bent to where Ismail was lying and felt for his pulse.

“Bring a clean towel or cloth Hanaa. Quick!”

“Is he alive?”

“His pulse is weak but I think he is. Move!”

Hanaa brought a small clean towel which I pressed firmly on his head where the blood seemed to be coming from. But the blood kept coming and coming, and I kept adding more and more pieces of clothes. The blood just wouldn’t stop.

I looked at my trembling, bloodied hand.

“We have to call for an ambulance Ma. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know!” My voice broke.

“Haven’t…haven’t they taught you how to save people?”

“Ma! He will bleed to death! I am still very new to this! I don’t know what else to do!”

“They will arrest us,” Hanaa said, still holding the wall for support.

“Ma please do something!” My tears now mixed with the blood smeared all over my arms and clothes.

“Okay okay… Hanaa call the ambulance. Tell them there’s been an accident, he is bleeding heavily. Tell them to rush and give them our address. Don’t say anything more. Do you hear me?”

Hanaa nodded. I could see the wet patch on her dera, still frozen in her place.

She started sobbing loudly.

“Hanaa make the call!! He can’t die!”

“I don’t think he will survive this Ma…” Before I could finish my statement, Ismail’s body stiffened and started shaking violently, his arms and legs jerking repeatedly. Mama rushed to him and held his limbs down.

“Just make the damn call!” she shouted to Hanaa.

Startled by her voice, she rushed to the next room and talked in a shaky voice.

“Here’s what we will say,” mama said when Hannah joined us again. Ismail’s seizure had stopped but he was still unconscious.

“We will tell the truth from the beginning. Then we shall explain what he came to do here today and he tried to choke you when you demanded a divorce. You were struggling to breathe, I had to save you or else he would have ended your life. I am the one who hit him with the pan and pushed him away from Hanaa.”

She turned to me, “You were helping me stop the blood thus the mess on your clothes. Don’t say anything else.”

“You don’t have to do that Ma,” Hanaa cried.

“It was a matter of life and death. It can’t be that hard to convince the judges in court. They will understand, right?” She looked at me.

“Ma…”I quivered.

Mama slowly picked up the pan and wiped the handle with the leso she had on. She then held it with her free hand before placing it next to her.

“What are you doing Ma?” Hanaa stared.

“The pan handle has to have my fingerprints, no?”

Hanaa sat down on the floor, her hands on her head. I held mama’s left hand as her tears fell freely.

“I am sorry. I am very sorry…I was supposed to be your mother and protect you and be there for you, but I always failed. Please forgive me.” She cried, looking at Hanaa, then I.

My one hand still pressing on Ismail’s head, mama knelt and embraced me. She then signalled Hanaa to join us. So we sat there in the pool of blood, our heads close together, each one of us weeping.

Ismail’s limp body lay in front of us, with barely any sign of life. As we heard the sirens get closer, our crying became more vehement. Whichever way this went, we were doomed. We all knew it- our lives would never be the same again.

*Written in 2020*

I gripped the headrest in front of me with both hands. The car was zigzagging, and everyone in the matatu was screaming. The old lady with the shiny red lipstick next to me was clutching my arm. Everything was becoming blurry. I didn’t realize when exactly I had started crying, but I was. Silent whimpering. Even at my death, I would go silently.
Silent life.
Silent death.

I could feel the back of my shirt soaking with sweat. My heart was pounding. So this is it? How sad. What will I be remembered for? Being at the library 24/7? Who’s even going to remember me anyway? I am but a very ordinary girl. Average. A commoner. You wouldn’t notice me in a room. Even I wouldn’t notice myself in a room. Few words, normal face, standard brains. So this is it then. My miserable, miserable end.

“Hey. Hey.” The old lady nudged me.

“Huh?” I said, my eyes popping out.

“Are you okay?”

“Wh…what?” I said, looking around. We had arrived at the final matatu stage.

“You have tears in your eyes. Are you okay?”

I swallowed hard. My hands were shaky. The old lady was staring at me.

“Um, yes, yes. I am fine, thank you.”

“It is the last stage. We have to alight.”

“Oh! Yeah!” I said as I moved out of the way so she could leave.

I sat back and closed my eyes. It is all in your head. It is all in your head. It is all in your head. I muttered under my breath.

“Mrembo, we need to go to the carwash,” the conductor said, interrupting my murmuring. “And, it’s about to rain.”

“Oh,” I said softly as I alighted.

I held my sling bag close to my chest and started walking home. It was already dark and I could barely see the small ponds of mud rainwater categorically formed on the road until I was in one. I sighed loudly as I removed my now-wet shoes from the pond. This is going to be a long night.

“Alyah! Maryam!” A bodaboda guy by the roadside called. “Zubeda? Aisha?” He kept on guessing. A smirk formed on my tired lips.

“As if you could ever guess my name huh!” I said to myself.

Behind me, I could still hear him. They never give up, these boda guys. They’d keep guessing names with the hope that you’d pay for a ride.

His voice was getting hoarse at this point.

“I am walking!” I shouted without turning at him.

“Si ungesema! Nkt!”

What was I to say though? Wasn’t it obvious that I was walking? I shook my head. I fastened my steps as I got closer to home. As I inserted the key to the front door, a voice called out.

“How many times do you look over your shoulder when you’re walking?”

“Huh?” I said as I looked in the direction the voice was coming from.

A young lady in a green, flowery dera emerged from the dark. Her black scarf was hanging on her shoulders and in her arms was a heavily covered baby. A medium-sized, grey duffle bag was on the floor right next to her.

“I asked; how many times do you look over your shoulder when walking?” She smiled.

I just stared in utter confusion.

“But I don’t.”

“You do. You looked back over your shoulder four times from the corner over there till your door,” she pointed.

I blinked.

She smiled wearily, “Do you remember me?”

“You do look familiar…you’re the girl…”

“Yes yes, I am the girl with the tattoo of a man’s name on my waistline.”

“Haha…Hashim was it? The tattooed name? ”

She laughed loudly, this time her dimples revealed. “Yes. Hashim. I knew you’d remember me for that.”

“Nooo… no no…” my face turned red.

“It is okay. We never interacted in class, but the tattoo was the talk of the class for the entire final year. Everyone remembers that about me.”

“Haha,” I said with a shaky voice. Then there was a moment of silence.

“Lamya with a Y…” she said with a weak smile.

“Asya with a Y too. Hahaha. I am surprised you remember me at all,” I shrugged.

“Well yeah, it was a class of fifty students but then you’d always go on and on about the Y in the class WhatsApp group whenever someone misspelt your name. Lamya with a Y. Lamya with a Y.” She rolled her eyes, then smiled again. Her smiles came so often, I noticed.

“Haha.” Another moment of silence. Is that what I’d be remembered for then?! I shuddered. “What are you doing at this side of the town anyway?”

She looked down.

“Ah! I’m so sorry, please come inside. Do you want to come inside? We could have a seat and talk more, you know, about the importance of the Y in my name,” I laughed.

She nodded and I hurriedly opened the door to my one-bedroom apartment. I was glad that I had cleaned up the house before going to the job in the morning. I invited her to sit on the mkeka as I excused myself to go remove my buibui and wash my muddy feet.

Until then, I hadn’t known how to ask about the baby. Well, it’s been five years since we completed college, we were already adults, of course, she’d have a baby. Most of my classmates were already married and had become parents by now. Not that I was in contact with anyone but I figured that should be it. I planned to casually bring up the baby topic later on.

Asya sat cross-legged; fidgeting with her long, black, curly hair with blonde highlights.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

Startled by my voice, she tittered.

“Yes yes. I…I just need your help Lamya.”

“Can I get you something to eat or drink first? Then we can talk!” I touched her shoulder.

“No. No really. I am fine.” She kept shaking her leg and shifting her body on the floor.

I sat down next to her.

“I’m listening.”

“I desperately need a place to sleep… I am homeless at the moment. I could survive if it was just me…but this baby…my baby…” her voice broke.

My stomach churned.

Now here’s the thing. Asya was known, not because she brought trouble, but because she was trouble itself. A week in college wouldn’t end without Asya having another dramatic episode of some sort. She was either fighting someone or inciting fellow students to strike, confronting a lecturer, you name it…all sorts of trouble. Her name would be at the top of the list. Bringing her in for a meal –as I had intended- was one thing, letting her sleep over was another. I kept quiet.

“Just for tonight, I promise…for the sake of my baby, please. I will find a place by tomorrow evening in shaa Allah. I know we don’t know each other that much and maybe you wouldn’t be comfortable with such an arrangement but…”

My face became pale. Well, for one, I wouldn’t want to live with someone who’d read me like that.

I swallowed hard and then muttered, “Alright, don’t worry about it. Both of you can sleep here tonight.”

Asya looked down as tears fell on her green dera forming a wet patch. It was strange, to see Asya like this. The strong-willed, fierce, charismatic Asya that I knew from college was barely there and instead, there was this soft, almost unbelievably so, withdrawn woman. This wasn’t Asya. It was her skeleton.

“You need to rest. Let me get you some food then you can sleep alright? I insist. Please eat something?”

She nodded.

I hadn’t planned on making dinner that night because I was too exhausted. It had been the ‘Book Sale’ month at the library and we’d been the busiest. Luckily, there were some leftover mahamri and mbaazi in the fridge that I had bought earlier that morning. I quickly heated the meal and handed it to her.

I sat silently next to her as she ate, her baby closely next to her.

“So what’s your baby’s name?” I smiled.

“Muneera-with a double ee,” she laughed.

“Oh come on! Are you going to tease my Y forever?”

“Yes yes!”

“Can I hold her please?”

“Sure. She is 8 months old.”

I stood up and slowly kept my arm beneath the baby and held her below her neck with the other hand. Goosebumps formed on my arms. I held my breath. I can’t help but imagine dropping her, leading tragically to her death.

Muneera’s eyes rapidly moved around in almost an uncontrollable manner. Her skin was paler and she had freckles all over her face. Her hair was white and had a tiny nose like Asya’s. The nose must have been the only semblance between mother and daughter, I noticed. She is different. My heart sank a bit. The world is cruel to anyone different.

I started humming a lullaby as I patted her lightly on her back.

“Kingolengele mtotooo

Mtoto lala totooo

Mla ubwabwa wa motooo

Silie baba silieee

Ukaniliza na mieee

Machozi yako yawekeee

Nikifa unilieee

Jipigepige matekeee

Watu wakuzuilieee ee

Owaaa owaaaa mtoto ooowaaa”

“Hashim died,” Asya interrupted my singing.

I stopped and stood in my tracks.

“Inna Lillah waina ileyhi rajiun. I am so sorry to hear that Asya.”

“Yeah…he died a little over four months ago,” her voice broke.

I sat down next to her and cautiously kept Muneera, who was now dozing off on my lap.

“How did it happen?”

“Car accident. I couldn’t even recognize his face when we went to confirm the body found,” she sobbed, almost suddenly, which bolted me to a stand, the baby still in my arms.

What exactly does one do in a situation like this? How do you console a grieving widow?

Her cry was getting louder and with every wail, I felt chills throughout my body.

“Asya…Asya…what can I do for you?”

But she just went on with it. On and on. My head was now throbbing.

I squatted, unbalanced. One hand still trying to hold Muneera’s back and the other was hugging Asya clumsily.

Fueling my panic was Muneera’s sudden loud weep.

“Alright, alright there baby. Mama is okay, don’t worry about her. You go to sleep,” I whispered. I started walking back and forth in the corridor, singing all lullabies I could think of. Mother and daughter went on crying and crying and crying. At last, Muneera went back to sleep and Asya had stopped crying but was still sniffling loudly. The black scarf around Asya’s neck was now wet.

I took Muneera to my room, laid her on my bed, and left the door slightly ajar. I went and held Asya for what seemed an eternity. We both never said anything and she soon started dozing off in my arms.
“Asya, you should go to the bedroom and sleep with Muneera,” I whispered.
She shook her head to deny my offer.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay sleeping here?”
She nodded, her eyes still closed.

I slowly laid her head down on the mkeka where she was seated and brought a blanket and some cushions to make her comfortable. I picked the plate next to her; the meal was barely touched. I sighed as I stared at her frail body. For the first time, I realized how bony and gaunt Asya had become. Her pretty thick and healthy cheeks were bygone. Her complexion was pale and her eyes looked hollow, so hollow I thought I could sink in them.

I stood there for a while as I nursed my throbbing headache with my sweaty hands. I decided to make a cup of coffee and sit close to Asya to ensure she sleeps well. I locked my doors, checked whether I had locked them properly, and then checked again, just to be sure. I then settled down on the floor, gazing blankly into space, thoughts racing my mind. Finally, I stood up and prayed Isha, and checked on Asya again before proceeding to sleep next to Muneera in the bedroom.

Muneera’s cry woke me up, but she was no longer by my side. Groggily, I walked to the sitting room. Asya was now breastfeeding her baby.

“Assalam aleykum,” she gave me a half-smile. Her eyes were red and swollen. Her hair dishevelled as if she’d been pulling her hair all night.

“Waaleykum salaam.” I was staring at her.

“Thank you Lamya, for hosting us,” she said, pulling Muneera closer to her chest.

“You’re welcome. What time is it anyway?” I said as I went to check my phone that I’d left by the charger.

5:22 A.M. Time for fajr prayer.

“Did you get some sleep?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

I excused myself to go clean up and before returning to my room, I stopped by the sitting room again.

“I’m going to pray…do you want to join me?”

Asya laughed, almost sarcastically. “God and I, we’re not friends.”

I opened my mouth, planning to say something wise or thought-provoking, but then my mind was blank.

“Are you sure?… I mean, are you sure you don’t want to join me?” I said finally.

She nodded without looking at me.

My heart sank.

“Well…will you go back to sleep then?”
“Not really. Not friends with sleep either.” Her eyes were on Muneera.

“Okay then, I’ve kept a clean towel in the bathroom for you in case you want to refresh. Let me pray then I’ll join you,” I said.

She nodded again and whispered another thank you.

After about twenty minutes of praying plus making breakfast for the two of us, I joined Asya once again. I noticed she had changed into a casual blue summer dress and her hair was now tied back into a ponytail. She had wanted to assist in preparing the breakfast but I insisted that she should just continue resting.

“Are you going to work?” she asked, glancing at me from head to toe.

“I will be, much later on. But if you’re wondering, yes, I am a morning person,” I chuckled.

Asya rolled her eyes then laughed, “Of course you are. Anyway, isn’t your boss going to question you if you go in late?”

“Well lucky for me, I’m the boss,” I laughed, “We’re two of us, I’m a co-owner of the library. Just a small one though, no big deal.”

“Oh! That is good! And of course, it is a big deal, you’re living your dream!” she said as she sipped her milk. She was quiet for a minute then, as if she’d been thinking about it a lot, she asked, “So what’s your story Lamya?”

“Haha, nothing much. The ordinary lady doing ordinary things.”

“I expected you’d be married by now,” she said quite casually. Swahilis have such a way to ask you very intimate questions and make it seem like they’re asking you about the weather.

I blinked.

“I was for a while…”

“You were??! I didn’t know that!” she exclaimed.

“Well, it didn’t last for long. I got married two years ago then I had a stillborn…” I said rather slowly. Asya gasped loudly. “Soon after that, my marriage died too,” I continued.

“Subhanallah! I am so sorry for your loss!”

“Yeah, I was going crazy, almost literally.” I paused momentarily. “It was the hardest phase of my life… I never thought I would ever be okay again. Stopped going to the library, stopped reading entirely, and meeting people was too exhausting for a long while…but I’m doing better now,” I smiled.

Asya stretched out her hand to hold mine without saying a word for a moment.

“I lied to you,” she said.


“About remembering you. Okay, not exactly lied but I didn’t give you accurate information. While I was panicking about being homeless, I talked to Jay from our class. Remember him? Our first and second-year class rep.”

I nodded.

“Yeah, so when I talked to him he told me I could reach out to you. You are one of the few who are still within the town, most people have moved, gotten married, and have families … I had forgotten but you’re the one who ensured I reached the hospital safely the day I fainted in class, and then you paid for the admission as well. I am ashamed that I forgot… but you know, it was the first year, the first semester. I do remember thanking you after I was released from the hospital but then that was that. I doubt we ever had another conversation ever again. Anyway, he reminded me of the incident, and just to ensure I knew who I was talking about, he mentioned you correcting people of your name all the time in the WhatsApp group. But after that, I pretty much could recall who you were.”

“Ohh!” I laughed, “It is okay though. I don’t think I would have remembered you either if you weren’t the popular girl back then.”

Asya laughed too.

“Why don’t we go for a walk?” I suggested.

Agreeing, Asya picked up the last piece of toast and took a big bite. Still chewing, she quickly opened her duffle bag and removed a blue and white leso, another heavier dress for Muneera, a tiny hat, and some sunscreen. Asya applied the sunscreen on Muneera, dressed her up from head to toe then lifted her carefully and put the baby on her back. Bending over, Asya tossed the leso over her back and tucked the bottom edge of the cloth under Muneera’s bottom. She then pulled the edges of the leso to the front of her torso, under her arms, and knotted the ends around her chest. Ready to leave now, Asya picked the same black scarf she came with the previous day and kept it loosely on her head.

We stepped out to the hues of orange and golden rays bursting out of the sky. We started treading on the tarmac road as the cool morning breeze kissed our faces.

“Asya…if I may ask…what happened to you? I mean, how did you end up here?”

“Whew! … Well… you do remember Hashim and I started dating in the second year yeah?”
I nodded.

“Well of course my parents didn’t know about it until our final year. After I did the famous waist tattoo of his name, Aziza and my other friends kept teasing me about it. Soon enough, the whole class knew about it. And of course, you know, such news spread fast. My cousin Saada came to know about it somehow and she told to my parents. Of course, my parents wanted to know who this Hashim was. He was summoned and he did come, to my parent’s dismay. They asked him all these questions like he was being interrogated. Anyway, despite Hashim clearly stating that he wanted to marry me once we finished university, my parents believed he was a bad influence on me and rejected him.” She paused.

“Funny thing is, I was wild even before I met Hashim. If anything, he was the one who brought balance into my life. He never even knew about the tattoo till after I had already done it.” She sighed.
“Oh?” I turned to face her.
She nodded. “I know my parents didn’t want to admit this but the real reason for rejecting him was because he wasn’t Swahili like us. You know how twisted our culture is sometimes when it comes to such matters…Okay, I get it that all parents want a stable, religiously steadfast man for their daughter but how fair is that if their daughter was neither stable nor steadfast? Anyway, whatever their reasoning, it was an outright no. I hated them for it, but we kept on trying to convince them for one whole year. Eventually, we gave up. We went to court and tied the knot,” Asya continued.

“I was really sad because my family cut me off after the wedding but Hashim took me to his family home where he lived alone with his grandfather and we were happy,” she smiled.

“Oh…where were his parents?” I asked.

“His mother died at childbirth…her name was Muneera and thus, our Muneera…” she smiled, “And his father died from pneumonia when we were in our third year in college. So it was just him, his grandfather, and his elder sister who was married in Malindi. Hashim was running a fish business and it was doing quite well mashallah. We were living the good life. His grandfather was so calm and easy to deal with, we rarely ever saw his sister and Hashim…Hashim was the best husband in the world,” her voice started breaking.

I held her hand and intertwined her fingers with mine. We were now approaching the pathway that would lead us to a supermarket at the end of the road. I needed to buy some groceries so Asya could have something for lunch.

“And then what happened?”

“Everything changed when Muneera came. No one prepares you for a child that’s not…normal, you know? The first time I held her, I knew something was wrong because of her white hair. When she turned three months she was officially diagnosed with albinism. I was devastated. We both were…Hashim and I. I thought it was a punishment from God…or a curse for hurting my parents. I blamed myself for it for days. I thought I couldn’t handle it, how was I, of all people, going to raise a child who will be looked at differently her entire life?”

“I am so sorry,” I muttered.

“It is alright… Hashim was more optimistic. He seemed so sure that we were the best parents Muneera could ever get. After a while, I realized I can manage too. I got accustomed to the stares from family and strangers. Hashim was very supportive so it didn’t really matter what anyone else thought, and his grandfather loved Muneera immensely. For a minute there, I thought we’d be okay; this small, cute family of ours. Well, that was until the accident happened. Our lives took another major twist. Because now it wasn’t just the grieving, it was the discrimination too.”

“From whom?”

“His sister.” Asya looked at me.
“After Hashim’s death, she and her husband had to come live in the house since they were the only other direct family members alive. I wouldn’t have minded staying alone with Muneera and taking care of Hashim’s grandfather too…but you know how it is. I guess they couldn’t trust me. Safiya, Hashim’s sister, didn’t have a problem with me but she kept looking at Muneera like…filth. She always seemed disgusted whenever she’d see her. At first, she never really said anything about Muneera but soon enough, she started dropping comments about how albinos were a symbol of bad luck or a curse. I tried to be patient with her; ignored her comments and dirty glares but then we started having ugly fights over it. This was home for me now. I didn’t have any other place to go to, so I had to swallow it all in.”

“My God! Some people are just so cruel,” I shook my head, my voice overshadowed by a speeding car.

“Whilst I was grieving the death of my husband, his sister made sure to make my life more miserable than it already was. I had to leave, Lamya. I just had to. As soon as I finished my eddah, I left the house. Hashim’s grandfather was so sad at my departure but I explained to him that I couldn’t take it anymore. I hope he will forgive me someday for taking his granddaughter away from him.”

“I don’t even know what to say Asya. What you’ve been through is terrible!”

“Yeah, so that’s when I called Jay and told him of my predicament. He told me he lives in Eldoret nowadays. He then suggested I should try finding you. It wasn’t easy but after several phone calls among different classmates, Susan finally gave me the direction to your home.”

“I’m glad they did. So what’s your plan now?”

“I don’t have one…yet. Jay said that he’ll call me this evening to tell me what to do. I’m not sure what his plan is but he assured me I’ll get help.”

“Ohh…in case he doesn’t find you a place you can stay with me for a few more days. I wouldn’t mind having company, especially this beautiful little princess.”

“Thank you so so much, Lamya. You don’t know how much this means to me,” she hugged me.

We now strolled into the supermarket and bought some groceries before heading back home.
“I miss them sometimes,” Asya broke the silence.
“My parents…my family…”
“I am sorry…Have you ever tried contacting them after the wedding?”
“Not exactly. I wanted to, but I didn’t have the guts to face them…talk to them…But maybe I will someday. I intend to, in shaa Allah.”
“In shaa Allah kheyr, you will be alright. You will be okay.”

When we finally got home, I prepared myself to go to the library. I showed Asya around the house to ensure she was comfortable and could access whatever she’d need. I left my spare key with her, said goodbye then promised to come back early from work and have dinner with her.

I locked the door. Checked it twice. Checked it a third time. I made a quick prayer that Asya and Muneera stay safe while I’m away then rushed off.

Seated next to my partner Suhayla at the praying mat right after dhuhr prayers, I decided this is the only opportunity I’d get to talk to her calmly. We were otherwise overwhelmed with work all day, all month. I explained to her Asya’s situation and then slowly asked, “Do you think we can find her something to do here? A job to get her by?”

“That’s so sad wallahy…I hope she gets help. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if we got her something to do but you know how tight our budget is. We’re barely making ends meet ourselves…I mean…what can we do?”

“Doesn’t have to be anything major for now. We could do with some help, especially this month. Perhaps just to help with cleaning and arranging the books, maybe make deliveries…until she gets a better job in shaa Allah.”

“Yeah well, suggest it to her if she’ll accept the little pay we have to offer at the moment.”

“I’m sure she’ll accept it. She is desperate at the moment. Thank you! Thank you!” I said hugging her by her side, feeling giddy with excitement.

I couldn’t wait for the day to end so I could give Asya the good news!

Barely two hours after the talk with Suhayla, a call came through on my phone.

Alex? My landlord? That’s strange. It is not yet the end month. I thought as I picked up the phone.

“Lamya!” he said with urgency.

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s a baby that’s been crying for almost an hour now in your apartment! Did you leave a baby alone? I’m surprised because I know you don’t have one.”

I stood up from my seat, my heart began to race.

“Alex, please do me a favour. I have a friend over. The mother of the child. Her name is Asya. Please go over to the apartment and check up on her. I am coming right away!”

He agreed.

“Suhayla! Suhayla!” I shouted, not caring one bit about the customers now staring at me.

“What is it Lamya?” she came closer to where I was standing.

“Something must have happened to Asya. My landlord has called about a baby crying for a long time. I can feel that something’s wrong! I need to go! Talk to you later!”

“Yaa Rabby!” Suhayla cried out, her palms on her head. “Okay go!…and please update me as soon as you get there!”

I hailed a bodaboda hurriedly and off we went. My heart was pounding and my hands were now filled with cold sweat.

What happened Asya? What happened?! My mind raced.

Finally reaching my destination, I jumped off the motorbike and quickly paid for the ride without waiting for my change.

At my doorstep, I realized that the door was wide open. I walked in just to find Alex holding Muneera in his arms, with two other neighbours.

“What happened??!!!” I exclaimed, “Where is Asya?”

“She wasn’t here…your friend, we didn’t find her when we came in. The door was open too.”

“What do you mean you didn’t find her?!” I said as I started looking frantically around the house; in the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. She was nowhere to be seen.

I was feeling dizzy now, my hands trembling.

“Asya! Asya! Where are you?!” I shouted.

I noticed Muneera had quietened down. Moving around the house in circles, I finally realized that Asya’s duffle bag was gone.

My eyes fell on Muneera again. The small, cute Muneera. My neighbours were looking at me with worried, puzzled faces, dumbfounded.
“Are you okay?” Alex’s voice seemed to come from a distance.

Oh my Lord! What am I going to do now?!

My head was throbbing. My body shook vehemently. My legs going numb.

“AAAASYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” My voice shook the entire building.

The ground below me shook too.
A thud.
And then, darkness.


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Someone asked about you today, and for the first time, I smiled. And I smiled more at my ability to smile. I didn’t have tears in my eyes, or heaviness in my chest. For the first time, I wasn’t a time bomb ready to tick off at the very mention of your name. Instead, I talked about you the same way I talk about the moon; so far yet so near. A beauty that demands to be felt and remembered and cherished. Then it hit me; this is truly the beginning of the end.

The end of an era.

The end of the beginning.


I divide my lifespan into two; before you and after you. Yes, that is very much a thing. Because it is only once in a lifetime that we meet people who shift our lives; turn our lives around 360 degrees, move our souls from point A to point B, give us glasses so we can view the world from their eyes, and oh the beauty! The beauty of seeing me through you…You changed my life in ways I never thought possible. You added colour into my life, and you know, I love colours! I became a different person. I am a different person.

Grieving you has been the most painful process. It is just one of those losses you expect to carry along with you forever. You heal, but you never realllyyy heal you know? But that’s not how I want to remember you. I have been back and forth with the stages of grief; up and down with it for years, and there’s a lot of ugliness, bitterness, anger and darkness. There’s a lot that I had to unpack to get where I am today; the beginning of the end, so today I choose how I want to honour your memory.

I want to remember you for restoring my faith in humanity. For showing me compassion I never thought I deserved. A level of compassion I never thought existed, at least not for me. For reminding me that a giver ought to receive too. For being kind to me even in instances when I was extremely difficult. For giving me a new meaning of empathy and friendship.

I want to remember your loud laughter that came so easily. For the entire meme conversations we’d have. For the times when I’d be overthinking and you’d tease me for my ridiculous and wild thoughts and in turn, made me laugh too. For the moments we’d laugh at our own misery and laugh even more at our own helplessness. For the times you’d chuckle at my pronunciation whenever I said ‘Allahu Must3an’ and you’d try to imitate me. I want to recall how you could make me laugh and smile even at the very lowest points in my life.

I want to cherish the memory of you for letting me be myself, even when I was unlikable. For always telling me, ‘what if it all works out?’ when I had so much anxiety and many doubts. For making me look at myself (right after crying) in the mirror and smile for as long as it would take until I could genuinely smile. For staying around when I pushed everyone away. For staying around when I needed you around.

I am grateful for the way you saw me; my bare soul. You cherished it and honoured it more than anyone else ever did. That you understood me deeply; both my spoken words and my deep silence. That you gave me a safe haven to talk about anything without feeling judged or misunderstood. And I want to remember that. I want to remember what it means to be held dearly and be loved purely and wholeheartedly.

You pushed me to be better, always. And you cared so deeply I actually believed that anything could be possible for me. And I want to remember it all. The whole of it; the moments you stayed silently by my side till I could get a hold of my breath, the moments you talked to me for so long even when you had your own heavy burdens weighing you down.

I want to recall all the nicknames you had for me. The funny ones, the silly ones, the annoying ones. I want to remember how they came about. All the exceptional and hilarious movie characters that you thought were me. I want to remember the conversations we had on life; from travel to religion to family to our deepest selves.

Conversations on God with you were my favourite. There was only one way to describe that profoundness; that you were my gift from Allah. However temporary a gift is, it still remains to be valuable…unforgettable.

Someone asked me about you today, and I smiled. I’m sure you’d be proud of me. Proud of the growth that came from the very long, exhausting journey. Proud that I kept my word to fulfill my 2020 goal. Yet somehow, you’d still know that I am crying as I write this. You knew me painfully well, darn you! But I also know what you’d say: ‘sasa walia nini mwanamke?’ and somehow, just somehow, you’d be able to make me laugh right after.

This feels like the beginning of the end. I’m finally learning to let you go; to leave you in the hands of He who brought you to me in the first place. And it is a very bitter-sweet moment. Bitter because, will I ever be lucky to find such a deep, heart-felt friendship ever again? Sweet because, I know Allah will take way better care of you than I would ever have. Either way, I am glad of the growth. The fog seems to be settling. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll finally reach the light.

To say you’re missed is an understatement. But your memory will always remain intact with me, I promise. I will remember you with every sunset, and every drone taking breath-taking photographs, and every angry sheikh lecturing with so much intensity lool and every human that has to be reminded to smile and every meme collection that I would have otherwise sent you while you complain about the spams haha. The list is long but you get the gist?

My prayer is that you’re in a better and happier place; both physically and emotionally. May Allah place you under His wing of mercy. May He love you, may He take care of you like you did with me… and more, may He bless you, and may He fill your soul with peace, joy, and tranquility.

This is how I choose to let you go– You might be away but still in my duas.

I say thank you for everything. Thank you for being you.

Stay safe favourite human…please take care of your soul 🙂




There is that moment before everything changes. That one long second before everything turns sour. That one long second of total oblivion. You, at one of the beach stalls, laughing with your friend at how ridiculous you look with the sunglasses you want to purchase. The vendor looking at you amusingly. The old mirror reflecting your big grin and a huge pimple that just won’t go away. Your friend makes a silly joke about your indecisiveness while you make funny faces, still staring at the mirror. The sea waves are almost touching your feet. The fresh breeze is brushing on your face. You are fully absorbed at this moment; at this nothingness, or perhaps ‘somethingness’. See this moment, hold onto it for a second longer. Freeze. Pause. Take it all in.

Before you know it, you’re out of breath. Your hand on your chest. Your knees touching the white sand. The old mirror is shattered beneath you; thousands and thousands of broken pieces. Like your heart. Like this moment. You are sweating. You are shivering. Your heart is palpitating. You are losing control. Your friend is nudging you vehemently, she asks what is wrong. The vendor is p.e.t.r.i.f.i.e.d. He probably thinks you have a jinn. Maybe a sea jinn even. He takes a step back, slowly, while still asking you whether you are okay. Of course, he doesn’t want to seem like a coward. He cares. He is empathetic. But then, *insert Kenyan accent* ‘weuh! bravery for who?!’ People start to notice. Someone is asking someone to call for an ambulance. Who is someone though?

There is that moment before everything changes. Loud sirens. Silent weeping of your friend holding your hand. A machine beeping beside you. Constricted space. You.cannot.breathe.

You’re wheeled into the hospital. There is a lot of movement. A lot of whispers. A blurred sight of your friend talking to the doctor while tearing a lot. Darkness. Blurred sight. More beeping machines. Blurred sight again. Total darkness.

There is that moment before everything changes. You sleeping in your hospital bed, your parents by your side, your friends around you. The doctor then breaks it to you. You have just a couple of months to live. Everyone is crying loudly now. There are only a few times you are ‘let’ to cry in front of a dying patient. In fact, there are only a few times where you can ‘comfortably’ cry in front of anyone. This is one of those times. So everyone is probably making the best of it. Some are crying more than expected; they’ve probably been holding too many suppressed emotions. Some are too silent; they’re too loud.

There is that moment before everything changes. That one long second. That oblivion. Unfreeze the moment now. Can you see it? The pure joy? The hearty smile? The friendly touch? The silly actions? That one annoying pimple on your face that won’t just go away? Wouldn’t you do anything to experience it again? Wouldn’t you do everything to just pause that moment and take it all in? Feel the bliss? Appreciate the ocean? Laugh a little louder? Hug your friend tighter?

There is that moment before everything changes. It could be this one long second right now. Maybe, just maybe, you should take it aalll in.


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The year is twenny twenny (2020) and twirra (twitter) is on fire. The trending hashtags are #worldwarIII #Soleimani #AustraliaonFire #Iran #Iraq #USA. The memes are hilariously alarming. We are still talking about Trump’s impeachment. The concentration camps and Islamophobic, ethnic cleansing of Muslims in China and India. The attacks in Somalia. The trending Netflix series is YOU and Messiah. It is just the fourth day of the new decade, and you already know it. WE.ARE.MESSED.UP.

Now for you, you couldn’t be less bothered. You stand in front of the mirror in your polka-dot pink pajama. It is barely 7 a.m. But who cares? You need to post a video of your self-affirmations on Instagram.

You straighten up your long black hair and push it away from your face.

“I am strong. I am kind. I am honest. I am happy. I am fierce. I am beautiful. I am confident. I am outstanding…” Suddenly you remember, You forgot to take your morning photo! The morning photo you were to take to out-do Nora, your old workmate who now works across the globe from you. Nonetheless, who cares where she lives now? How dare she get more likes and comments than you? You can never allow that to happen. You, you are the epitome of beauty and every one should recognize that.

You pause your video. You move towards the balcony, make sure that the sunrise is dramatically appearing in your photo. Oh wait. Your favourite cup of coffee must appear too. You quickly peep in your mirror to ensure that no perks of dirt are still on your eyes. Liiighhht make-up. Okay perfect. Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap again. Perfect. Perfect image. Perfect sunrise. Perfect hair. Perfect skin. You post it on your Instagram with the hashtag ‘I woke up like this.’

You finish your self-affirmations video. Post it with the hashtag #selflove as you keenly wait for the likes notification to start ringing. Do you really need those affirmations though? I mean, aint you the very perfect? Charming? Powerful? Most successful? But maybe you do need them after all. Perhaps your deep inner child recognizes your starvation of love.

You scroll through your Instagram, rolling your eyes at everyone’s new year resolutions. They are mediocre people aren’t they? Mediocre people = mediocre goals. But you, YOU are special. You hang around with the bigwigs. You make people laugh. Your confidence makes these tiny little brains come running to you; wagging their tails. You are powerful. You are something else.

You come across Lydia’s end of year post. She has lost 10 kilograms in a span of two months. She is grateful. She looks graceful. You roll your eyes again. “Whom are you lying to Lydia? Isn’t this the third time in five years that you have lost 10 kgs? So what now? You think you will make it this year just because it is friggin 2020?” You type like a maniac. You’re just about to post it. Then you remember. You have an identity to keep up. It took you years to build this persona that everyone loves and ‘worships’. You quickly delete and write instead, “Aww. I am so proud of you honey. I personally know how far you have come. 2020 is definitely going to be a better year for you. Count on me to always support you. xoxo.”

You scroll on. There is Aisha. She became a neurosurgeon this year. Her million dollar smile irks you. She is perfect. More perfect than you. Stable career. Stable marriage. She even has a child already! Urgh! It infuriates you that Aisha does not take notice of YOU. How can she ignore you while you went to the same university, same batch?! Well apart from the fact that you mostly made her heart a meal for your ego, why would she ignore YOU? You are thee queen. The goddess. Aisha is lost. She doesn’t know what she is doing and you know it, she will definitely regret it someday. She will realize your worth and come back begging for your ‘golden’ (mostly one-sided) friendship.

Tim on the other hand is posting a post at 2 a.m. Is he for real? What’s worse he is talking about his journey from being homeless to moving to a bedsitter. His 2020 goal? To have his own one bedroom house? Ati Big dreams, baby steps. “SMH. I DON’T RELATE”

Your timeline is filled with ladies and gentlemen flexing their summer and new year outfits. You roll your eyes again. Way, WAY below your standards. What are they showing off about anyway? Cheap clothes bought on December sale?

You are petty and you know it. So you quickly type onto your Instagram story ‘Some of you are poor and it shows.’ Followed by hysterical posts of ‘Some of you don’t know jokes. I was joking.’ Were you though? Do you really believe you were?

Anyways, who cares? Lydia, Aisha, Nora, Tim…all so mediocre. You take a killer photo, all dressed up. Your face is lit. You ARE lit. It is your time to shine. You write your story. Your very powerful, moving story of success and pure talent. How you overcame mountains. How NO ONE could ever understand what you went through. It is captivating. Almost a tear-jerker. Almost, because there is someone who actually sees you through the facade you keep.

Your post is soon filled with emotional, supportive comments from your 10k followers. Then you see it. That one, unexpected comment. That comment you’d rather never see. “Hi there. It’s been a long time coming. I am glad to know you’re doing well.” There is a smiling emoji after the statement. That suspiscious, enigmatic half-smile emoji that you never really know what to make of it.

You shudder. You read the name again. It is him. Him, who once meant everything to you then in a blink, took it all away. It all comes back to you. That intense, otherwise crazy relationship, that broke you down to shatters. The arrogance. The vanity. The superiority complex. You two, you were/are so much alike, you did not even understand the magnitude of the toxicity. Call it soul mates. Call it finding-your-match. Only, he defeated you. And that is something you will never get past. The defeat.

His simple comment crushes you. Because you know it. He knows it.

Someone actually recognizes you for who you truly are.

Hey there narcissist. You met your match. Again.


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There are five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. You know this because you heard a widow talk about it. But that is not exactly the whole story. You are immersed in your own grief, maybe not that of widowhood but the intense grief is definitely there.

You have been married to the same man for twelve long years. It was a love marriage, or so you thought. Five months into the marriage you realize you are married to a narcissist who doesn’t really care about you. You are his victim. He is emotionally abusing you but that is something no one talks about right? People talk of infidelity in marriage, physical abuse, sexual abuse, negligence…but who talks about being emotionally abused? You know what people will say. They will say you are ungrateful. You have a husband who pays the bills and feeds you, what more do you want? So you are patient with him. Maybe he will change. Maybe he will see that he is mistreating you and change for the better.

A year goes by, but he is still cold, rude and arrogant. He dismisses your existence the way a patient dismisses they are about to die. They ignore it. That’s what he does to you. He ignores you. He makes you feel small. He makes you feel unloved. You feel like a ghost. You wonder why. You question a lot of things. What happened to the love he claimed to have for you? What changed? Is it that he realized you are less beautiful than he actually thought? Is he dissatisfied with what you bring to the marriage table?

Soon enough, the first baby comes, and he is an excited dad for a minute. Then the rejoicing is all gone. It is all about duties once again. Buying pampers and cerelac. Then the second baby comes along. Then the third. Then the fourth. Before you know it, it has been twelve years already. You have withered like a flower. You have lost weight and your will to live life as it should be.

When you had the first baby, you thought, ‘maybe this is it. Maybe he will now be more emotionally available for us’ but he didn’t. You thought of giving it time. You have hope. You have faith that things will get better. But four children later, your husband is still like a dead man walking. No emotions. No intimacy. No proper communication. All along, people could see your misery behind your forced smile. You never had to say anything, they just knew by how each one of you would take a different lane while walking at the road. Or how he would go to the farthest section from you in the supermarket. Or how he would quickly let his hand slip when you try to hold his hand in front of your family. People knew. You knew. But you just had a lot more to be grateful for. So you swallowed the bitter pill for years.

On your bedroom wall is a beautiful painting of the serenity prayer used in recovery programs. It says,
‘God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference’

You stare at it every single morning, like it would give you answers.
‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change’ and you wonder, is your marriage and the misery within it something you cannot change? Is it something you should have given up on a long time ago? Is this simply how it was meant to be?

Several friends suggested that you pick your children and walk away. But you always had this anticipation that things will eventually change. You thought, ‘But how can I walk away now when my children are young and need more parents?’ so you postponed it. When they became teenagers, life became even tougher because now, your children are all moody, stubborn and aggressive. You think, ‘This is the worst time to make children go through a divorce’ so you wait until they become adults. But deep down your heart you know it, it wasn’t just about the children. It is also about you. You not accepting that you are caged in an unhappy marriage that is not fulfilling in any way.

You stare at the serenity prayer. ‘Very powerful,’ you think. But do you have courage to change the things you can? Take life into your own hands. Be realistic on where your marriage is headed to? Is it something that can be salvaged? Changed? Saved? Or are you just seeking a mirage. An illusion?

It is like what happens when you are a child and can’t wait to be a teenager because at that age and time, you think being a teenager is the coolest thing. Then the teenage years are as chaotic as humanly possible and you look up to the young adults and you think, ‘these lads have exciting lives. Once I get there, it will be exciting too’ but you get to your twenties and realize there is so much confusion than excitement. Then you anticipate being like the real grown ups with careers and families and friends. But you get there and it strikes you, ‘NO ONE HAS IT FIGURED OUT.’ No one can actually, in full certainty, tell you what they are doing with their lives or where they are headed to. A mirage. You too have been seeking a mirage in your marriage, always anticipating certain incidents to turn around your life. Only, life doesn’t happen like that.

Whenever you think of divorce, you think of your reasons to walk away. How long is it considerable enough to have hope but also not to allow yourself drown in the sea of emptiness? How many months or years should one be in a marriage before they walk away? One year? Two? Five? When is the safest time to walk away without having blame and guilt on you? Its been twelve years and you still haven’t figured this out.

You know the stages of grief because you have been living in grief.

Denial: It is not that he doesn’t love me. He is just not an expressive person. He doesn’t know how to show me that he loves me.

Anger: Why are you doing this to me?! Why did you marry me if you had no interest in valuing me as your wife?! I don’t deserve this! I hate you! I hate that I ever met you!

Bargaining: Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.
Please love me.

Depression: I am so so tired. I just don’t want to live anymore. I just don’t want to live anymore!

Acceptance: ….

You are stuck here. In depression. You are yet to decide what really matters to you. You are yet to take action in either freeing yourself or saving your marriage at any cost. You are yet to decide whether an unhappy marriage is a reason good enough to walk away or patience is key here. Miracles do happen. Prayers do get answered. People do turn around and change completely. Question is, is your husband that kind of person? No one is going to decide it for you. No one knows your husband, your marriage, your children more than yourself. No one knows YOU than you. You know you need to face reality now.

You need to decide whether you want to die grieving of lost love or move to the next step of acceptance and take necessary action.

You know the five stages of grief so well, it is heartbreaking.

Silence. Silence is over-rated. Silence is golden, but not so golden. I know silence because I have mastered it. My current read is ‘Silence is my mother tongue’ by Sulaiman Addonia and the last time I talked to anyone is months ago.

As I hit rock bottom and eventually made it my permanent home, silence is the only way to speak. Silence until you hear your own fading heartbeat. Silence until your legs warm up to the extremely cold water as you continue drowning. Silence until it becomes sharp and loud, your body disappearing into the blueness. That’s how much I relate to silence. That’s how much I am the silence.

Staring at my mirror, I touch the strings of my grey, white hair. Wrinkles staring back at me. Cheeks flabby like inflated balloons. How did I get old too fast to notice? If I died in this empty house or went missing right now, no one will notice immediately. The first person will notice a week later at least. In the midst of her shuffling between her busy schedules, it will strike her. Silence is not always good. She will remember. In the midst of her jolliness, she will remember me the way you remember that you left a child all alone at home or when you lose a toddler in a busy supermarket. Sudden. Almost in a panic. God knows she cares.

The second one will notice roughly a month later. No blame whatsoever because that’s how we roll.

My son would be the last one to realize. News would get to him as the stranger he’s become.

I lie down on my bed, hands stretched apart wondering how to do this the right way. He’s leaving the house. He wants to start a new life in a new city with some of his friends. He had said it so casually like I was but a nanny to him. How does one live alone after their entire lives revolved around one person and they left? How does a fifty five year old woman restart her life afresh? How do I break the habit of worrying about his asthma whenever the weather gets too cold? Or cook food just for one? How do I be myself without him?

He has grown now. He wants to go after his dreams. Build an empire of his own. Make new friends. Have a new family. But what does that leave me with?
I know how this works okay. I know. First comes in the distance. Then the busy schedules and less conversations. Then less visits home. Then the small talk, hurried phone calls. Then silence.

I know how this works because that is how it went down with everyone else. He was the only one left and that too, I am losing now.

I don’t want to be the selfish kind of mother. I don’t want to cage him. I don’t want to tighten my grip on him way too much until he slips away in between my fingers. He already slipped though. But how do I let go of him without losing him entirely? Is that even possible? Fathomable?

How do I start self-discovery at this age and time? How do I ask myself what is really my favourite meal after his, became mine? How do I identify what I love about life when I see a drone flying past and I smile because I love what he loves? Does that even make sense?

I don’t have friends. Okay, I have two out-of-this-world friends who have many other friends. That makes me very dismissible. Very much replaceable. I don’t have friends because I thought being a dedicated mother would cover it all. Because his friends became my friends and my sons too. Because I could always expect to walk into the house and see him with a group of them fighting over food. I didn’t prepare for this. No one prepared a single, obsessive mother of the day she will have to let go of not just her son, but her life as well. Because now, how do we untwine all that we have? Our entire lives? Emotions, Books, Thoughts, the pictures in the album, moments. How do we share them between us like, ‘This is mine, this is yours.’ How do I even know what was really mine for my own sake and what was mine because he was in it?

Listen to the silence in my room. In my house. In my big, empty house. It reminds me of my own soul. Lost within all the familiarity.

How do I love without being the enemy? How do I respect his decision of moving on without crying, without it eating me up like wasted wood on fire? How do I deal with nostalgia; the literally painful pangs of missing him without going insane? How do I become the good, understanding and supportive mother without losing my essence? The very thing I was living up for?

Apparently this is how life is. Everyone eventually leaves. Whether it is by travelling, going after dreams, changed priorities, death, unresolved matters, masks falling off…whatever it is, they eventually leave. How then can I hope for love as intense as my own from anyone? At this age and time? How then do I expect to ever get in return what I give out without holding anything back?

If I died or went missing, barely anyone would notice. And now, I am losing the only beautiful thing in my life. Tell me, tell me…how do I love and let go without losing him entirely?


You have done it again. You have, in your stubborn nature, done it again. Unbelievable! Annoyingly unbelievable. But for your mother, it isn’t exactly unbelievable. All she ever said when she knew what you’ve done was, ‘What is new…’ Even so, her voice was heavy and almost cold when you told her of your crisis. You are her son after all; even when she knew how shady and irresponsible you are, she still hoped and prayed for you to change and settle down.

The last time it happened, it was three years back, when you started going after the mother of your ex fiancée. Hell broke loose. Insults were thrown. Your mother was abused right on her face. About how she hadn’t raised you well. How she had horribly failed as a mother. There were blows thrown on your face by your fiancée. Tears. A lot of tears. And of course shouting. The neighbours were all there; whispering, staring and shaking heads. A disgrace. You’ve always been a disgrace to your mother, your family and community.

You tried to protect your mother. Tried to stop both mother and daughter from dragging your mother in the mud. But your mother had always been dragged into your mud and she always cleaned it up. Maybe that was her mistake. Maybe her biggest mistake was that she hoped her son will change and that it was just the hot-youth hormones within you burning you into ashes. This too shall pass, she convinced herself. He will grow up soon. So she took it all in; the insults, the stares and being the black sheep of the family.

Everyone said it was because she is a single mother. She needed a man and you needed a father to put you in your right place. That she was weak-hearted towards you. You are her only son and her only child anyway. People said a lot of things. But you knew better. You know better. You know how your mother gave you endless pep-talks about respecting women. How she warned you not to be what your father was to her. You know how your mother struggled to bring food to the table. You know how she taught you about God. About empathy and compassion. You, better than anyone else, know how she would cry alone silently and the only thing you’d hear from the next room is her frequent sniffs. You know how she’d wake up with eyes swollen and red like ripe tomatoes, laughing nervously and blaming her allergies for it. You know. You know.

Mother and daughter broke your mother’s heart into pieces just like you had broken their relationship; their bond, their home. Who gets in between a mother and daughter anyway?

Your mother cried her heart off and begged for death. She begged for a calamity. She begged for cancer and a fire to burn her down into nothingness. She begged for the angel of death to appear. She begged. She begged a lot. That was when you promised that you’d change. You promised never to let her down again. You promised her to be a better person; a better man.

Years went by and your mother stayed by your side. Praying for you. Guiding you. Loving you. For a moment you settled. For a moment, there weren’t any scandals happening. You just stayed low key. You travelled to the Middle East to start afresh. For a moment, it was quiet. Your mother held her breath; always scared on a phone call that would inform of her of your other evil-doing or worse. But for a moment, nothing happened. For a moment, she believed you had changed and settled.

Then came the late night phone call. It was you once again, calling from the Saudi cell. You have been arrested for impregnating a minor. A 16 year old. Your mother’s silence on the other side of the phone was too loud you could hear her cry and touch her anguish. She barely said before she ended the call.

You are here now. Holding the cell bars with both your hands. Looking outside as the police officers pace back and forth as they speak in Arabic. Big macho men hovering around you. Pee stench all over the place. Guilt is chewing on your heart like sugarcane, only your heart is not as sweet. Maybe just bitter. You want your mother to speak to you. To say it’s going to be okay as she’d always done. You want her to not be angry and disappointed with you. You want to cry on her laps and ask for forgiveness. You want to tell her you deserve it; to rot in this cell in a foreign country or be beaten up to death. You want to tell her she deserves better because she is the better human being. You have a lot to tell her, but this time she wouldn’t listen. This time, she has disowned you. This time, she won’t clean your mess.

Here you are; burning inside and trapped outside.

You have done it again.

You are standing by the window, watching the raindrops hit your windowpane before touching the ground. The rain is rhythmic; you love its predictability, unlike your life. Your life needs a Sherlock Holmes to solve the unending mystery. Every other day, you seem to have a surprise stored for you. It makes you wonder whether you are a guinea pig of a social experiment. Perhaps some scientists just want to find out how much can a human being handle when in distress. You can almost hear their voices on the opposite side of the windowpane. They are using a lot of scientific jargon and psychological terms as they scrutinize you. You don’t really understand what they are saying but you know you are the subject of interest. Perhaps if this experiment and the theory works, you’ll become rich from what they’ll pay you. A happy guinea pig. You smile then sigh.

From afar, you hear your neighbour sobbing. There is a lot of commotion and shouting going on. Her husband is beating her up. Your heart aches a little more. Then you sigh again. Life is miserable, you think. They had been married for ten years; happy and blessed with six children. Then he re-married and boom! everything shattered. It wasn’t the re-marrying that brought the problems per se, it was the attitude towards his family. Life is scary like that. People change, love fades off, evil is real and the world is yet to end. Or you are the one who can’t wait for your own end.

Your father left your mother while you were two months old and she was critically ill. You are lucky to be here. There was a time you almost became homeless, you almost dropped out of school, you almost became malnourished, your mother almost died, YOU almost died; twice in fact. You look at the marks of the razor that went through your hand skin. You look at the scars skillfully and very carefully hidden under the famous Kenyan flag bracelet. You are lucky to be alive, with your mother and under a roof. You seem to have the nine lives of a cat or is it just life that loves you? Perhaps it is the scientists, pumping oxygen forcefully into you. They can’t lose their guinea pig.

‘I don’t want to be part of this social experiment anymore,’ you whisper to the virtual scientists. They look at you like you’re crazy. Like they want to shout on your face, ‘Do you know how much we’ve spent on you?! On this experiment?!’

You feel the burning sensation in your eyes. You force back the tears. ‘Wanaume hawalii’ (Men don’t cry) they say. You ask who? People. In the streets, the wazee in their barazas, youth on their Facebook posts. Real men don’t cry. You are tempted to ask how much tears can a man shed before he is regarded as ‘a useless man’ or even told, ‘You are no different from a woman’ Like a woman is a bad person. But you can’t ask because then, they’ll doubt your manhood.

You hear your mother groan in pain inside. It turns out she has leukemia. You’ve been jobless for the past five months. She’s been strong all along but strength at this point isn’t enough without the ridiculously expensive treatment she needs.

‘God? Can you hear me?’ You look up to the sky and gaze at it. Like you are waiting for a response from God. You and God, you have a strange relationship. Some nights, you stay up throughout, kneeling, begging, praying, crying in silence and talking to Him one on one. And sometimes, some days pass without saying a word to Him. Those days when you feel like He has abandoned you. When you feel like He doesn’t care about you. You get angry and ignore Him like a disappointed lover.

‘God, can you hear me?’ This time, you let the tears flow. It is night, no one will see your tears anyway. Your eyes have now become the Niagara falls. You had missed this. Talking to Him.

You remember this old man in your neighbourhood, he once told you, ‘Snap out of it; the self-pity. God is always there for everyone and anyone who calls out to Him.’ You slowly wipe the tears as you remember his most famous story that he narrates to you: ‘Job (Nabii Ayub A.S) didn’t die despite his severe illness. Abraham (Nabii Ibrahim) didn’t die despite being thrown into the fire.  Jonah (Nabii Yunus) didn’t die despite being swallowed by the whale. Joseph (Nabii Yusuf) didn’t die despite being thrown into the well. Jacob (Nabii Ya’qub) survived despite losing his son and his sight. And Ishmael (Nabii Ismael) survived despite the order that he is to be slaughtered. Whatever the test and turmoil you are in right now, God has a plan for you. Don’t give up on His mercy.’

You stare at the clear sky. It has stopped raining now and once again you call out, ‘God?’ Suddenly, you see a star, it twinkles. With tears in your eyes, you smile.

‘He is listening. God is listening!’