Ahh!.. are you sure you want me to…? Before I even finished asking the question, he said Yes, you will use this water for washing your clothes and bedsheets and even drink it, He said with clarity and force in his voice. I could see hate in his eyes. Come here, let me show you where to draw the water from, and make sure you don’t use my clean jerrycans for fetching this water, and make sure, his red eyes were straight staring at me whilst making sure I listen carefully, Make sure you hang your clothes after washing them on the other wire. Don’t mix your clothes with ours, ok? Yes, I acknowledged.
Deep inside me, I asked myself, “is this the new normal life in town they used to tell us about?” Back in the days when my uncle and his family could come to the village, we could look and stare at them with admiration. In most cases wishing to be like his children, sometimes we could even beg them to leave us some of their old clothes because they were smelling good and looking so nice in them.
They could tell us some boasting stories and you sometimes start thinking that, I think this city they are talking about flows with milk and honey, or manna the miraculous food is falling from heaven like it is in the bible in the days of Moses in the Old testament bible. Gwe nyabo, (which means You Lady in my native language)! Just ask your mother to allow you to come with us to the City the day we shall be going back. I tell you, you will see all these things we are telling you.
Uncle’s children were very friendly to us. Erin, Jimmy, and Josh. Josh was the youngest daughter, I still remember the cake Uncle bought, and they came with it to the village when they were baptizing Josh. She was 6 months old, and Erin was one year older than me. I was by then twelve years old and a very humble and obedient young, slender, and shy girl.
Mummy, I called my mother, I have been having these thoughts for about three months now ever since Erin and her parents and her siblings went back to the city. I didn’t know the right approach to reach my mother and tell her all the plans I had in my head about going to the city to stay with my uncle, (Erin’s father).
I had dropped out of school because my mother could not afford my school fees, and my father died long ago before even when I was born. I only knew my father from the photos they were showing me. He was a tall, handsome man, and I took his brown light skin and curly hair. It was now one year ever since I dropped out of school and seated at home.
My mother was always this person who was principled, and when you call her, you have to speak very articulately and speak fast. Sometimes, I could see her even beat my big sister if she stammers in front of her and not talking fast. So there was always that fear in me whenever I wanted to ask or tell her something. If I am to do so, I always give myself some distance between me and her then shoot my questions or tell her something, and in case of a slap or something like beating, If I asked something that did not make sense to her, I can at least dodge her canes or slaps easily.
Yes Kyalodi, what is it today that you want to bother me with and you see I am just from the garden and already tired? My mother answered my call and asked me at the same time.
“What is it?”, my mother asked me. I can’t hear you, speak up! My mother charged again. I could feel urine wanting to roll down my legs and was trembling already. My mother had this shrill voice and loud that could pierce your ears and feel scared.
My sister Josephine was peeping through the kitchen door that our elder brother James supported it with some reeds. Our kitchen was anytime going to fall off, being that the dry mud on the wall could not support it anymore. Josephine was looking at us with her arms crossed on her chest and inside me I got scared and started regretting why I called my mother wanting to tell her what I had in mind about going to the city with uncle Titus.
Kyalodi, are you pregnant? Who is that stupid man who impregnated you? Unh! Tell me, my mother was already furious and shouting at me just like the woman I once watched on TV. There was this movie we watched once at Uncle Titus’ house in the village. It was a war movie, and there was this woman shouting very loudly at her fellow soldiers.
No mum, I answered back, tears already rolling down my cheeks. I had dry cheeks, being that I was a slim lady. I wanted to tell you that Uncle Titus told me that he wants to take me to the city with the Erin’s when they are going back. I told my mum. She didn’t notice that I was lying, It was just my idea after Erin telling me all about the life they live in the city. My mum looked down and changed some steps from where she was standing and was quiet for some seconds.
It was now six weeks in the city, and I was already hating myself. Recalling what my mum told me the day I left makes me sob and drain all my tears out, feeling all with sadness.
Kyalodi!, Yes mum.
Now that you are going with your uncle, I want you to be a brave girl, “ yes mum” , I replied. I know who your uncle is and what he is capable of doing, whatever they do to you, just ignore and I repeat be a brave girl for me, ok! Yes, mum, I replied again.
Smiles and excitement was killing me as i was so much eager to go to the city and to know that my lies yielded positively. However, I noticed my mother wasn’t happy with the whole idea at all when she was asserting her points to me to be a brave girl. I didn’t bother even to ask why she was cautioning me. In fact, I cared less.
Look at this filthy bustard! Who told you to walk in my house with those dirty rotten tiny legs of yours? How long will i keep reminding you that whenever you enter this house, you have to crawl on your knees? Get out of my face! Then I went outside and sat on the veranda. My uncle was always rude at me since the day i arrived at his house in the city, he told me whenever I enter the house, I am supposed to be moving like a cow with my knees on the floor and never to step with my feet on his tiled floor or else he will skin me alive.
While seated at the veranda, two hours had passed, and I could only hear giggles and happiness in the house. I was waiting for them to finish eating, and then I go eat my left overs as usual. You know Kyalodi eats like a Pig, put all those droplets of the food in one plate for her, I heard my uncle telling Erin who sometimes could hide a piece of meat for me at least to have a share and eat good meat.
Kyalodi, where is that smell coming from?… Is that sewage line blocked again? Uncle was asking me with harsh voice from inside his house as if I had done something terrible. No Uncle, it is not the sewage pipe, I answered, I was very hungry and just wishing they could finish eating very fast, and I also have something in my stomach.
What is it then?, Uncle asked again. It is the toilet uncle, I replied.
Hurry up, you go and stop that faeces from spilling allover , uncle ordered me. He was having this ugly look on his face due to the terrible smell that was outside.
What irritated me despite my age, that I later became used to, was that this toilet could wait for my time of eating, and then it spills out. And I was the only one to go and fix it. Sometimes, I could tie it with rags or kavera (polythen bags).
When I just arrived at Uncle’s place and they sent me to go fix the spilling toilet from the broken pipes, I was hesitant to go and touch everything with my bear hands. So I asked him for some gloves and possibly gumboots for me not to step on everything. That was the day I realized that shouting at a kid alone can take him or her to ICU.
Left my food there that I was just half way into eating it, then went straight to where the cracked PVC pipes of the toilet that was tied only with polythen bags and some pieces of clothes to keep waste from spilling whenever somebody flashes the toilet from inside.
We were using outside toilet all of us including uncle. The apartment where Uncle was living in with his family was an old building that was built for the government workers who were working at the railways station. The toilets were old that they could not even flash. If one is to go there, they would go with a bucket of water and use it for flashing.
Uncle’s house was the last one down the slope. So wherever there could be a broken sewage pipe, or may be during rainy season, his compound was always the pathway down to the main stream of sewage line that was looking like a river.
To me, it was a lucky day on that day because it was only the toilet that was spilling that I had to deal with. In most cases even the sewage pipe line could get blocked and the whole compound floods with feaces all from the apartment in other homes that were up hill and it was all my work to see that I channel everything down to the main sewage line that looked like a river. And to make sure the compound was clean.
It was at this sewage stream where I was taken to and told, this is where you will fetch the water for washing your clothes. You can even drink it too, don’t you see?.., the other side is clean. I recalled my uncle telling me that when I just arrived.
The day became normal to me as I had gotten used to the water from the sewage trench. There were two medium-sized doubled metallic pipes that crossed through that trench. The trench was 5-6 feet in width, and it was not deep enough.
The trench was bushy mostly along the sides and probably deep in some areas, that one I couldn’t tell, being that I was young. Now, the doubled piped there were people who could use it to cross to the other end, some people would use it to squat on then defecate, during rainy season, these metallic pipes would trap all kinds of dirty things like dead dogs that their skins have started pilling off, and all sorts of plastic bottles and polythene bags.
And that was also the only point for me to draw water from. Sometimes you pretend as if you have not seen all these dirty staff and just go ahead to draw water to go and wash your clothes with.
One day, this was in the month of February, Erin and Jimmy had gone back to school, and I had no company or fellow age mates to play with. I had copied some ideas from the neighbors who advised me not to be using that dirty water or even taking it as my uncle had wanted me to. They told me I could die or terribly fall very ill if I continued using that sewage water.
If I was to wash my clothes, I could wait for the dirty water that comes after washing their clothes, which is the one I use for washing mine. It was better than using sewage water, I convinced myself.
So on that day, after washing my clothes and I had hung them on a different wire as I was instructed on day one, I sat outside as usual on the veranda.
The toilets pipes were intact and no leakages being that the previous night I had just tied them with rags. This time, I had even used an elastic rubber from the bicycle tubes I picked at the trench when I had gone to fetch my sewage water. So everything was intact. While seated alone, I felt when my heart was racing, and all I wanted was to go back home to the village. Our mother was a very good mother, despite her shouting and beatings. She could sit us down and tell us stories.
I have to tell uncle that I want to go and see my mother, I was talking to myself and thinking of the words to tell uncle when he comes back in the evening.
Uncle, Mother said after visiting I can go back and help her with weeding her garden, I told uncle, when he had just arrived home from work. He came driving his blue Subaru Forester and parked outside next to the doorway as usual. My eyes were very dry and hard as I had been practicing this the whole day and promising myself to face him directly before he entered his house.
Idiot! You are all prolonging your mouths at my place every time because I have a permanent house. In fact, yes, go back to your mud house. Uncle told me before he made his way to his house.
You are just here wasting my money every time, the money that I would use to buy bread and eat you are now here that… “Uncle, Mother said after visiting i can go back and help her with weeding her garden.” IDIOT! I heard Uncle still mummering as he was dropping the curtain behind him after entering the house. Some how I was relieved after telling Uncle I wanted to go back to the village. All I wanted at that moment was just to go back to the village and stay with my mother.
I had all sorts of stories to tell my sister Josephine and my mother, one of the story was about seeing two little kids seated on a boda-boda alone, the one supporting the other was I think only 6 years old. The one in the middle was already dozing off, and the 6 year old looked so tired while trying to support the brother not to fall off the motorcycle ( boda-boda).
The boda-boda rider didn’t seem to bother at all, I kept looking on while they grew smaller and smaller until the disappeared from my sight. I stood there after them disappearing and became numb. I think parents should not leave their children to suffer like this. I was talking to myself not knowing that I was loud enough and uncle heard me.
What did you say you little dirty thing? Uncle was just besides me and I didn’t notice, You are eating my food here everyday like a pig and you are saying what?.. uncle was still very furious with me, He gave me a very hard slap on my face and I fell on a rock. I got injured seriously on that rock and up to date, I still have that scar, and I can never forget with it and how I got it.
I got up, and I was crying with sorrow, my tears were mixed with blood that was coming from my injured head and I had this dress that my mother had just bought for me when I was coming to the city. It was a very nice dress and now the blood mixed with tears had spoilt and stained it beyond recognition.
One early Sunday morning, I was still sleeping on my usual Capet, I heard a hard knock at the door. My back was itching me like always since the day Uncle told me that I will be sleeping on the Capet. The Carpet looked so old and ragged that it left me scratching my back and reaching a point where I developed wounds on my back. So when I heard the knock I quickly got up and I thought I was already late to go and wash utensils. I one time got some good canes on my buttocks from my Uncle for waking up late. I though the same was going to happen again.
Little did I know it was my lucky day. It was a very cold chill morning with some little drizzles of rain. In our culture, we believe that rain is a sign of a blessing. So I did not bother getting wet by the little rain but just to run to the main road where Uncle was waiting for me.
He was in a White Fuso lorry parked at the roadside just at the T-Junction heading to his home. Hurry up and we go, you are even wasting my time. Uncle telling me. He opened for me the passengers sit and I burried myself on the seat.
It was a quiet journey and I kept on looking at the nice green trees going back wards as the truck was moving so fast. Within a few hours, we had reached the stage where Uncle was supposed to drop me and he continued with his journey. I think he was taking some deliveries to the next town as he always does for the company where he works. He always takes that route every Sunday morning.
After three hours of footing, from where uncle left me, I finally reached home. How I reached home I can’t even tell because I didn’t know that route, but I went on asking where the location of our school was. I knew the name of the school neighboring us, it was my former school where I was studying from.
Finally I arrived home, and I was happy because I was not going to use the sewage water again for washing my clothes and even drinking it, no more eating left overs because I was not a pig as Uncle was refering me to, and no touching feaces and stepping on them. I thanked God and I still thank Him for helping me get out of that life.
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