When I was about 8 years old I had a friend called Jim. He was a queir boy that one. Weird slimy hair, eyes bigger than a Luo man’s ego, a forehead that was perfectly built for his cute little face, a tiny long nose, dark slim lips and a chin that embodied facial finesse. A long neck and a face to behold. There wasn’t much to report about his body. Also I was 8 and innocent. I couldn’t spell perverted or say it right. Yet now I seem to personify the word. Adult is just a synonym of that word I’ll have you all know.
Back to Jim. His mum was fondly referred to as “Nyar Kisumu”.
Beautiful woman who liked the scar on my right temple until I learnt to love it myself. Jim and I always wondered why his mum couldn’t just be called Caroline, which was her actual name. Like everybody else. So we concluded that her home Kisumu must have very few women who needed to be out rightly identified amongst other Luo women. For fear of extinction or sinking into the dark abyss of oblivion. It’s the only explanation that made sense. So we promised ourselves that the next time, they were visiting his mum’s shags, we would sneak in the huge suitcase they travelled with and go see Kisumu.
Jim suffered from sickle cell anemia and passed away about a school term or two after this MoU. At that age you only see the betrayal in death. The unfairness and the broken promise. The departure hits you a decade later. And you feel inadequately human. That maybe you did not mourn your friend right. You didn’t even have the words to eulogize him. Because you were busy sulking at his impatience to go to heaven (that’s where they said he went, which I now believe), his lack of character.
How dare he go to be with the Lord before our trip? Every so often, you will cry yourself to sleep and apologise to Jim for the historical injustice you accorded his demise.
So the other day I am in a matatu heading home. A man sitting four seats away picks up the phone and answers to a name I know.
“Hello nyar Kisumu”, he says.
Momentary confusion, furious blinking and an incomprehensible whirlwind of emotions struck me. I felt a wave of cold rush through all of my body. I became fidgety in my seat and I was suddenly uncomfortable. I took in deep breaths to calm me down, it didn’t work. Jim was alive in my mind again. Somebody was sitting right ahead talking to someone who had his mother’s name. My eyes welled and I pretended to have something in them. ooh Jim.
Then I had an epiphany. A light bulb moment. I did not need to hold Jim’s hand to be in Kisumu with him. I could show him Kisumu in heaven from earth. I can allow him to see Kisumu through my eyes. I’d write about two paragraphs or thereabouts and show him the Kisumu we never saw. He’d love it I know. In two paragraphs I encapsulated everything that has become of Kisumu since those many years ago.
I will breathe life into his person once again in my imagination. I will blindfold him, we will sit outside their verandah in this fantastical instance. We will have in our hands the chillest spritzer and I will paint a picture of Kisumu using strokes of its tourism industry, infrastructure, technological development, social growth and the new Koinange branch on Oginga Odinga Street.
Since Kisumu cannot be mixed with my lachrymose emotions right here, where I happen to have a word count, part two is coming up……….