Hurricane 2

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I remember that over his plate of Saumon fumé, we talked about his penis and, specifically, the state of its tip. I’ve spoken to many people about many things, but never about their penis, and certainly not as I’m having the deux oeufs au choix. It was 2019 and we were at Le Grenier à Pain, the French eatery, on Riverside Drive. We were talking about how being uncircumcised was a problem to one of the aunts of the woman he wanted to marry as we chomped away on eggs and smoked salmon. I remember his defiance and lingering hurt for being dismissed because of his foreskin. I also remember thinking as he spoke, ‘Oh, I wonder if the French circumcise’ and Googling “Do the French circumcise? (14% are). 

I remember the centrality of his mother in his life, a hurricane of a woman, forceful and larger-than-life, ruling with an iron fist. (His dad was the silent one who hid behind newspapers). She was a civil servant who always complained about the duplicity of Kikuyus. Believed that you could only trust a Kikuyu as far as you could throw them. That the only worse thing than a Kikuyu was their women. That you would be completely out of your rockers to marry one. Because they will run away with your children if they don’t dagger you in your sleep. The very death knell of your life. 

Then he met a girl called Njeri and tumbled in love with her, face first and his mom, arms akimbo, cried, “Your life will not be the same if you marry that woman, Willis. I’m telling you as your mother.” A’ngisi kaka minu. But he begged her to give her a chance. She’s different, he pleaded. She’s not like the rest of them. Njeri was already pregnant by now and marriage was in the cards but his mother was holding all the cards. He begged her to move in together as his mom sorted out her biases, “eventually she will come around. He told her” Njeri wasn’t into those come-we-stay arrangements. She was a traditional girl who wanted a white wedding and things. (A white wedding isn’t traditional, though, is it?). When his mother refused to thaw, Njeri decided to flee the country on a Green Card. Heartbroken, she jumped on a horse and rode into the sunset with his son strapped to her back. 

Years passed, and he met a tall beautiful, and enterprising Kalenjin lady who could turn 1,000 bobs into 100K without ‘washing’ it. They got married in a church, they had two daughters and his career and family flourished. On the other side of the Atlantic, Njeri also met ‘Mtu wa Nyumba’ in Minnesota, a good man with a thriving logistics business. A circumcised man. They got married. Years rolled by until Njeri and Willis reconnected again and when she came down to Kenya for a visit, they met daily for the seven days she was around and things that he felt years back started bubbling to the surface and because love is essentially madness he told her, I want you back. 

“Want me back?” She said wide-eyed, “I’m married. You are married!”

“Yes, but are you happy?” 

“I don’t have to be happy, I just have to be content.” She told him. 

“You can be content and happy with me.”

“Are you mad? Also, I don’t know if you have noticed, but I’m pregnant!”

“I will take you with the baby. I will raise him as mine.”

“This is another man’s baby!”

“Yes, but the man is also raising my son. This will be me paying him in kind.”

“Are you mad, Willis!?”

“Marry me.”

“No!

“Marry me.”

“Let go of my hand, Willis.”

“I love you.”

“Jesus. I’m expecting a baby.”

“I love the baby too.”

“Where is the bill? I can’t do this. I’m leaving.”

So she ran out of the restaurant and went back to the US and ignored all his emails. Meanwhile, she was all he thought about. For three years he sent her emails and for three years he got no reply. One day she responded and conversations started happening, crazy conversations that led to crazy decisions which saw her pack up her life and her daughter and walk back into his arms. The seismic shift was immense. His mom was certain he had been bewitched. “You want to leave your wife and family to be with someone’s wife?! Wiyi rach, nyathini? Yawa wuoda ng’ama ochieni?” His uncles tried to talk him out of it. Emissaries. Pastors prayed for him. His mom fasted. His dad pulled him aside and asked, are you sure? This is extreme. Little doing, he got divorced and married Njeri. His mom stayed away from the wedding. 

The domestic situation was; that he had two daughters with his ex-wife, he was raising Njeri’s daughter with her ex-husband and he had a son who was in college in the US. Blended and -somewhat – chaotic family.

That story HURRICANE is from 2019.

***

What has happened since is that Willis is still not circumcised. That will never change, in case you are wondering. A tree will never ride a donkey. I know because when we met that’s the first thing I asked and he had a good chuckle at that. He said. “For five years that’s all that you have thought about.” I said, “little else.” The second thing is that Willis has tremendously transformed physically. It means he has added quite a bit of weight, noticeably. “I was sick for a few months, a bad back and I did nothing but lie down and eat.,” he explains, “when I recovered it [the weight] never did come off. I try to wake up very early and walk before I go to work. But I also like good food, I will confess. What do you do, you look the same?” I told him I also like food but I’ve had to sit down with chapos and have some very difficult it’s-not-you-it’s-me conversation. That and swimming. We then started talking about exercise and health which are topics I seem to have a lot with many middle-aged men my age nowadays, a good number of who are doing calisthenics. “I’m too lazy for calisthenics,” Willis said, tearing a small sachet of sugar and pouring it into his coffee. “I don’t have the discipline for it. I want to go back to cycling. I used to cycle.” 

“It hurts the ass,” I said. 

“It does if you don’t wear the right gear.” He said, “There are special cycling shorts for that.” 

“The ones that feel like wearing a diaper.”

“But they also protect your jewels.”

“Real diamonds don’t crack.”

On and on we went, two mid-forties men jabbering about exercise and health until I finally asked, “How’s your mom?”

“My dad died.” He said.

Which should explain how his mom is. His father got Covid and was sick for a while and then hospitalised. “We couldn’t see him or talk to him because it was during the early days of the pandemic panic. We thought he’d get better but he didn’t.” One moment he was intubated the next he was dead. It was tough on all of them, and even tougher on his mom. I only realised how much my mom loved my dad after he died because it hit her so hard. Her blood pressure became a problem, and still is now sometimes because also she’s old now.” He sips coffee. We are at the Java on Lenana Road, near his office. “Also, I think it’s in the manner he was buried, it was very fast, when the sun was setting. I now realise why funerals for us, Luos, are big spectacles that last for weeks. It helps everybody come to terms with losing someone. It’s our way of saying goodbye. My mother never had that closure. She hardly saw my dad’s body. My brothers and I saw his body once, through a glass and masks. Strangers in masks and those white suits buried him.”

They had a whole prayer ceremony after all the Covid bans relating to public gatherings were lifted. The church choir group dressed in all white came and sang the whole day. A cow was slaughtered and women cooked in big pots behind the house, under a tent. In another tent from where gospel songs blared from ratty speakers that gave shrill feedback, villagers and relatives sat. The local pastor gave a sermon. People ate from linoleum plates and bottles of warm sodas were opened. “It was like a funeral without a body,” he said, “but it’s what she needed. She needed a sendoff of sorts and I think she had been denied that.”

His father’s passing has brought them closer together, the four brothers. He was a silent leader, his dad. “My mother has always been the loud parent, always shouting and being abrasive and fearless but in his passing, we have seen that perhaps it might have been my father that made the decisions in the background because of his sobriety, you know pressed the buttons low key. Over time we have seen my mom’s decision-making flounder, maybe it’s grief or maybe she was always good with enforcing, not making decisions. My brothers have had to gather around her more and help her. Every month there is always someone going to the village to make sure that all is well.”

Closer to his household, his ex-wife – the tall Kalenjin, got married to “a Kikuyu fellow.”

 “Like a game of musical chairs,” I said. 

“Yeah. I know the guy, he once sold us land when we were married. He’s a much older fellow.”

“How much older?”

“Like in his 60s.”

“His wife died.”

“His wife is alive. She’s the second wife.”

“Twist in the tale. Wealthy man.”

“Yeah. One of those old real estate fellows.” He paused as if contemplating the man’s wealth. “She never struck me as someone who would be a second wife but women will surprise you. I think they are happy though…she seems settled into it. The good thing about your ex-wife getting married is that all the little problems you used to disagree about are directed towards someone else. I’m glad he is there to take the heat off me.”

“They’ve got kids?”

“No. He has grown children himself, I think, way older than our daughters who, by the way, are doing great but I don’t know how this is all going to shape them when they start dating.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. Maybe they will prefer much older men because they represent stability seeing as their dad rocked their boat.”

“Maybe they will prefer younger women.”

“Yeah,” he chuckled. “There is that now.”

“I’m sure they will be fine.”

“Nobody is just fine. You have to carry something from your childhood, you wrote that once.”

“What do you think you carried?”  

He paused. “I think I’m attracted to strong, domineering women like my mother.” He added. “I also think because we were four boys and we had no sister, we did all the house chores, cooking and cleaning and that became natural for us, there were never duties for girls or boys, there were just duties to be done and it was upon us. Because of that, I don’t struggle with doing house chores. Which means I’m not a toxic male.” He laughs. “ Maybe my daughters will be shaped by that as well..” 

“How’s Njeri?” I finally asked because this was the main reason I was there, wasn’t it? Did it work out after all that high-wire act? 

“That is going good enough.” He said. “The blended thing can be tricky at the beginning when people want to make their points. All the children are quite grown now. I met my son after a very long time. He lived with us for a month when he was here. The tall guy who looks exactly like one of my uncles even walks like him.” He smiled. “ I thought this would be another Obama scenario where a boy comes back home and starts searching for his identity. He didn’t seem interested in all that. We took a trip to shags to meet my mom and spent a lot of time on the road. We were polite but there is a large wall between us, a wall of time and things that will take years to bring down. He said some honourable things about Njeri’s ex, the man who raised him.” Pause. “It was strange…we didn’t connect and not from my lack of trying. He was sitting there, my son, but he wasn’t my son, you know what I mean?”

I nodded like I knew. I suppose it’s like me and Kim. The other day he came to the car and he had no socks on because he is easily distracted and absentminded. I said, “Kim, why are you wearing different socks?” He said, “Oh,” and went back to the house to change. I thought, “he is my son, but he isn’t my son.” 

So, the same thing? OK, almost. 

“Would you do things the same way, if you were to turn back time?” I asked him.

“That’s an interesting question.” He leaned back and gave it a thought, his leg making rattling sounds under the table. “Yes. I think I would have found a way to marry Njeri before she took off for the US. Maybe I should have been more decisive, more firm with my mother. But of course, I was younger and what did I know about standing up for what I wanted and believed? I think part of the reason the marriage is going well is because of the kind of heat it produced when we got back together. I have been obliged to make it work. We both have. We both chose each other and, unfortunately, many people got hurt in the process. My biggest regret is not doing enough to know my son. I don’t know what more I should have done but I feel like it was not enough. He is the only son I have yet he doesn’t know me, he will never know his people. Never know me.”

“Funny, that your son was raised by a man from a tribe my mother was against.”

“Can you imagine?”

“It’s like poetic justice.”

“He seems to have turned out well.” He said.

“Do your daughters know you?”

“Oh yes. I’ve spent a lot of time with them. I still do. My relationship with their mom has improved greatly but has never been that great though, she still harbours some resentment and that’s understandable. She seems happy.”

I told him to watch a movie called Everybody’s Fine by De Niro. It’s a sad movie but it has lessons. It’s unrelated to his story but who said everything has to be related?

***

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44 Comments
  1. “I nodded like I knew. I suppose it’s like me and Kim. The other day he came to the car and he had no socks on because he is easily distracted and absentminded. I said, “Kim, why are you wearing different socks?” He said, “Oh,” and went back to the house to change. I thought, “he is my son, but he isn’t my son.” This caught me off guard

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  2. Its all over 2019 again! I remember chuckling to this story… I’m glad that they are doing good though. Anyways, something must kill a man- A man dedicates his life to a grand cause, sacrificing everything for a belief he holds dear. Explore the cost of his devotion and the echoes of his actions.

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  3. A’ngisi kaka minu that phrase hit home like hurricane Maggy ( my mon’s name)-its more like i told you so or take it or leave it

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  4. “I also like food but I’ve had to sit down with chapos and have some very difficult it’s-not-you-it’s-me conversation”.. that got me as I am having the same conversation…not getting anywhere so far FYI…

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  5. May we all get the courage to live the life that makes us happy and to love the people we want to love!

    I pray that the Kale chic heals.

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  6. ” What has happened since is that Willis is still not circumcised” I am in the office and i have CACKLED at this!!!

    I dunno why I was expecting an even more firely marriage after all that drama that was involved. But it sounds…normal.
    I’m very glad it worked out though because of all the collateral damage.

    My favourite thing about this series is how everyone seems more composed, level headed and dare I say, wise after all the years.

    Ah! Bless you Biko. The only reason I look forward to Tuesdays.

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  7. Still struck by the gumption of this man. One of my favourite love stories you’ve told on this blog (albeit messy). And about his son – the very sad thing about parenting is you can’t buy back their formative years. If you’re coming in when they’re grown, you have to grieve the fact that they’ll never truly be yours.

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  8. Great read as always. I love how you are going back to the older stories. Now I’m curious about the “This Forest” guys.

  9. “But my true love has grown to such excess I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth” from R&J. Love does sometime win.

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  10. my dad likes pulling this “anyisi kaka wuoru” line everytime he seems to be losing a debate with me. it’s so real!!!

  11. What an anticlimax. I expected more. You know the story had so much adrenaline going 5 years ago. The follow up is so subdued. Or age and time does that to people?
    Wears them down, making them a little bit more cautious more subdued.

    But this story taught me alot of life lessons. The most profound being, love will find you, but you have to choose it.

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  12. Nobody is just fine. You have to carry something from your childhood, you wrote that once. A series around this sentiment would be great, after the current throwback series. Nice read.

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  13. You think you have everything in control until it comes in like a wrecking ball. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

  14. “Funny, that your son was raised by a man from a tribe my mother was against.” And now his daughters are being raised by a man from a tribe his mother was against and he himself is raising a daughter of a man from a tribe his mother was against….

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  15. Well,i am glad his ex wife settled,even if its’ as a second wife.

    I am glad that his relationship with his kikuyu wife is working,that their is still passion in their relationship.

    Hopefully their will be a recap after twenty or ten years.

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  16. i have a question,why did the man fail to pursue his current wife , while she was away ?

    why did he have to propose that she abandons her husband and children and join him ?

    All in all,if the wife had not returned to Kenya to visit her ailing father would they be together? would he have travelled abroad to pursue the love of his life?

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  17. My comment in the 2019 story went like:

    Proverbs 30:18 There are four things that are too mysterious for me to understand:

    an eagle flying in the sky,
    a snake moving on a rock,
    a ship finding its way over the sea,
    and a man and a woman falling in love.

    It’s been a mystery but we now we know our guy is happy with Njeri and the Chamgei girl is happy with her M’baba. The only gap is our Okuyo brother in the Northern Hemisphere, whom we extend the best wishes to, incognito.

    Life, though we may feel that we’ll be here forever, lasts circa 70 years. Live those years the best way you know how, with a person of your choice if they choose you back.

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    1. Nah,i have questioned myself,if the man truly loved the lady,why didn’t he pursue the love of his life from the time she went to America?

      The man and his wife,were re- united by the sickness of his father in law, leading him to pursue the lady.However,had the lady failed to visit her father,would the man have pursued the lady? Would he have had the opportunity to ask gullible questions like,” are you happy or content?”

      I believe the man was dissatisfied with his marriage,as he had to wait for the lady to leave her marriage for him to do the same .I believe its’ the wife who deeply loved the man ,not the other way round.

      However,life is not a straight line.

      1. When you are young, the opinion of elders matters a lot more- after all we believe they have the wisdom of age. But as we grow older, we realise no one really has answers and we are all grappling to find our true North. We also get the benefit of looking back and identify the big misses and/or mistakes we made. At that point ,we have to decide if we want to continue down a mundane path of bland existence or to upend everything and seek what we have always wanted. I don’t think the choice was easy and I salute them for risking everything for love- it takes a lot of courage and faith.

        I wouldn’t blame the younger man for the choices he made. Maybe the lessons is for us folks /parents to check our biases and give everyone a chance. We might find there is more that brings us together than divides us. Values are universal and ethnicity doesn’t confer any superiority – maybe just familiarity- and some folks are just adventurous spirits to be confined to normal or average.

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  18. really surprised that it’s not flowers and roses anymore with njeri. first time I heard their story I was mad as hell. they thought they were being romantic

  19. Saumon fumé, deux oeufs au choix…..very new words. This story has almost changed me….thanks for the follow-up. Now, back to 2009……

  20. I like the happy ending and that they are still going strong..those saying it’s an anticlimax have unrealistic vision of how long term commitment is like.the drama is over now it’s just the mundane day to day that is life and that’s what long marriages are made of

    sad part is his son but he is still young.one day he will crave to know his roots and come home a different man .give him time

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  21. Hey Biko.
    It’s ang’isi, not a’ngisi, Mind the apostrophe position.

    Story has some relevance to me. I hope I will finish well.