All in the Family
Brenda Mukami Kunga
We're rich. I don't mean comparatively, as in vis-à-vis the sixty per cent of the population living on less than a dollar a day. And we're not the boohoo rich those dim-witted radio presenters try to sell every day. You know, the "I'm rich because I was privileged enough to get immunized as a child, go school, eat three meals a day, and was spared an unfortunate inter-generational marriage and female genital mutilation." With the money those radio stations make from advertising, they could immunize all the under fives in North Eastern. But when tragedy and chaos hit- which is about every four minutes- there they are, melted chocolate voices dripping with faux sentiment, tears travelling down airwaves as they try to convince us to give up one (just one!) meal a day, or a shower or toothpaste for that poor little child in?well, anywhere hot, dry and impossible to locate on an atlas. Bloody pussies. We're rich for real.
Dad's a member of parliament. The kind that has miraculously survived every election since independence. He's a political prostitute. Have money? Will sign bill, wax lyrical at funerals and shake wrinkly old ass with women's groups. He's a painful embarrassment, but there are bills to be paid, someone's got to do it, right?
Mom and his second wife's last born son are age mates. She's his last official wife-for now anyway. I don't think it bothers her that she's not the only one-she knew he was married. He "rescued" her from university. Ponyoka na fresher- she deferred her first year so many times that they eventually cancelled her admission. She used to live in the infamous Box, before the upgrade to Nairobi's oldest mistress commune- Kileleshwa. She told him every time they met that she would never have children. The more she said it the more he wanted them. Finally, when he was practically on his knees begging for babies, she reminded him that she was a Catholic and her faith would not allow her to bear an illegitimate child. He left her.
Two weeks later, he returned. All his new little friends were asking him to take an HIV test, so he came back. They were married twelve days later.
They moved into a gorgeous house in Runda when an acre cost just 2.5 million. Mom spent the next three years fiddling with fixtures and fittings and keeping the village constituents off her Italian leather seats. The first time Dad hit her was when she stormed onto the patio and told his visitors to move round to the back of the house, because the wind was blowing the smell of boiled yams and sweat inside. He broke her nose and her right arm then left her again.
She had her bones set then paid her gynecologist a visit. He paid for her to remove the IUD he had put in when she joined the university. Three months later Dad was back-because I was on the way.
They agreed that he would move into the house in the village and come back to Nairobi only when he had business in parliament. It worked well until her sixth month. Then the anonymous phone calls started to come in. Do you know where your husband is? Do you think you're the only one? That sort of thing. She was devastated. The child had been solid insurance. She had failed. I had failed. The day she delivered she had her tubes tied and has ignored me ever since his driver brought me home that night.
For all his philandering, stealing and whatever the rest of the seven deadly sins are, Dad is a pretty decent father. He's paid my way into some of the best schools in Nairobi, prevented three expulsions through generous donations to the schools' development funds, not to mention uncountable stints in rehab, halfway houses and hours of psychotherapy. What good is a Constituency Development Fund if it isn't used to help certain constituents? I don't see much of him though thanks to the relocation program. Stupid villagers think he's there because he's a man of the people-roughing it with no running water or electricity. The man has been in government, for forty-plus years and they don't have a decent road. Idiots. Besides, with a borehole draining their underground rivers and a generator that runs on fuel paid for by their taxes, he's not exactly suffering, is he?
His absence suits us just fine though. Mom has time to get her groove back Stella-style with the Macharia's son (what's a twenty nine year old still doing in his mama's house?) and I, simply do me.
I hate my life.
I swear this journal is the only thing that's keeping me alive.
Dad is back. Mom is upset. The sun rises in the East. Nothing's new. He got back at around three in the morning and they spent all night talking. Something is definitely up. I suspect it has to do with a certain envelope that was delivered to a certain Ocampo last night. This could be good.
8: 39 a.m.
I was right! His lawyer is downstairs, the one that always wants me to sit in his lap and call him uncle. That thing is so greasy I don't want to imagine his association with my father, birds of a feather and all that.
Two years ago the man was in the news- child pornography and defilement of a minor. Poor thing was twelve and FIDA was all over it. She had gonorrhea and was pregnant, possibly exposed to HIV. On TV they did that thing where you can't really see her face but her picture was on the front page of every newspaper the next day, go figure. It was pure gold- she looked like an eight year old and was terrified. The papers said she wanted to be a model, "just like Tyra on TV." Her mom took her to a really big studio in Westlands, met with a photographer who said her daughter had loads of potential, billboards definitely, maybe TV commercials- big money. They needed to take as many shots as possible- different clothes, different poses, maybe something natural and artistic to show off her daughter's form in the best way. Why that woman didn't run then, is beyond me. Makes me think she knew exactly what was going down, saw some long term possibilities-her daughter was twelve, four more years as an ingénue before she started to look her age and ceased to appeal to a specific demographic. Anyway, the "natural and artistic" pictures (those blurry things on TV again, but with our learned friend's ugly mug, clear as day, smiling broadly, right into the camera) were responsible for the added child pornography charge.