Absence Of Sound

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You could sit next to someone and feel the need to strike a conversation. Like in a plane. Or a bus. Or on a bench, waiting to see a gastroenterologist. Some human beings like to fill that space of silence with small talk. They want to ask; “This gava is really sticking it to us with the economy, aren’t they?” Or “Have you ever wondered if birds dream?” Something inane that isn’t meant to go anywhere or serve anything or change nothing. Tinytalk. My first impulse in such scenarios is never to start small talk mostly because I can’t sustain it – at some point I will surely be distracted, or get bored or really wonder if birds dream. I only break this no-small talk rule if the other person is wearing a really freaky hat. You can’t wear a freaky hat and not expect strangers to talk to you. Otherwise, I’m happy to sit there in silence.

Because silence is beautiful.

Silence is a flower with droplets of dew on it.

In any case, I think people say more in silence than with words. Take my late mom, for instance who had the unique talent of berating you for days! A sustained barrage of words. You did one wrong thing, just one thing and she would start talking and it would go and on and on. It didn’t have to be something major, it could be something like talking to the known errant boys in the estate. These were usually older boys in high school who would gather in a corner most evenings, whistling at passing girls and secretly smoking cigarettes or weed. Boys who went to the disco. (Horror!)

These particular boys came from broken families and in her head they were recruiting boys like me into this ring of hooliganism. In the 80s there was great stigma on being a single parent where I grew up. Even worse if you were a single parent who wore high heels and mini-skirts, and -God forbid, lipstick! A simple thing like lipstick apparently said so much about your character. But we admired the boys from those families – they had “freedom”, they lived in homes without rules. They were bought for whatever they wanted. All the moms in the neighborhood thought they were a bad influence even though we thought they were cool. You wanted these boys to know you and approve of you but on the other hand if my mom saw you talking to them the punishment would range from anything from hanging from a rope till death to a scalding lecture lasting days. And she would really go at it, telling you how you will not amount to much in life. She’d say you would end up crazy from smoking weed or destitute or in prison or just a general failure in life. She would talk for hours, days even, about this.

But then there were days she would surprise you. She would come and ask, “What were you doing talking to those boys?” Then I’d say, “Nothing, I was just saying hello.” Then she’d not say a word. She’d continue pinching – what do you call kunde in English? She’d just ignore me standing there, waiting for her to start the tirade but it would not come. Her silence would later fill the dinner table. The next morning when I leave for school there would be bus fare on the table, her in her bedroom preparing for work, not a word. That evening, she would be quiet, just talking to my siblings and barely to me. It was like cancer, this silence. It ate into me. I’d be so riddled with guilt. I’d feel like I failed her. Hopeless. I’d want to die. It was an effective emotional manipulation, in hindsight, textbook. At the start of day two of this treatment, I’d go to her with my hat in my hand and apologize. She – in a very resigned tone – would say, “it’s okay. I have tried. You can do whatever makes you happy… choose the life you want.”

So in that silence, she had managed to say so much. Which basically was, “you have broken my heart, deeply disappointed me. I don’t even know how you are my son. I give up. Si you think you are a man because your voice is breaking? Do whatever makes you happy. I’ve washed my hands of this affair. May the good Lord be with you in this new journey of independence. You can move in with those boys and smoke and drink and go to the disco till you are 50, if you like. I have other obedient kids to raise. I’m busy.”

The power of silence.

There is nobody who understands silence better than my partner in life. We will sit next to each other for hours and not say a word to each other, or feel the need to populate the void of silence with words. I will be at my desk, writing (or thinking about writing) while they would just be sitting there, just being them; stoic in their silence, comfortable in who they have chosen to be. I never wonder what they are thinking and they never ask me what I’m thinking. They aren’t my muse, no, I wouldn’t say that, but they bring beauty into my space. When people see them they invariably think I’m responsible or sensitive.

And they aren’t needy. When I leave my desk and go on and do other things (like a bathroom break), they will not feel abandoned or ignored or unappreciated or say that I’m emotionally unavailable. Once in a while we will sit out in the sun, basking, saying nothing, just soaking in the rays and the breeze, each with their own thoughts. Me; most likely thinking about what’s for lunch, maybe chapos. Them; probably wondering how their lives would have been if they had been taller. Because they are, well, dwarfish. To be honest, they weren’t my first choice. I wanted a Bonsai but the universe gave me a Ponytail palm. And the universe knows best. So.

It’s our six-month anniversary. It’s the first plant I ever owned. I think that deserves a gong. Nobody thought I’d keep a plant for this long. Everybody thought it would die, some even insensitively voiced this prediction. But they don’t know what we have. They don’t know the spirit that we share. They don’t know how deep the roots of this relationship goes.

But here we are; six months later. A few brownish leaves, yes, but what’s a relationship without problems?

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123 Comments
    1. When I was growing up, I loved shortcuts. Especially in the exam room and I didn’t know the answer. I would go through he multiple choices and filter out which answers are relevant to the question. The same way, I wanted to know what written in such a story I would go through the comments section to know what was happening. reading your comment, I didn’t get anything about the absence of sound. I heard your presence wow. Sometimes silence is so loud.

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  1. Gatho Biko!
    You should have seen me, grinning foolishly when you said partner in life. Thinking we are talking about a human being.
    Anyway, happy six monthvessary!

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    1. Here here. It’s been a minute since we heard from the other life partner. Speaking as one of those following the blog since tene

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  2. And here I was thinking that the partner is the missus.. Woi
    Silence is bliss and what’s a relationship without problems?

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  3. Silence: my secret weapon, my lifeline, my sanity.

    Ion, I was starting to get in my feelings when you mentioned a partner in life!!!

    P.s. I don’t know how to read anything written by someone else on this blog. Aki I have tried. Maybe if you mention it at the end.

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  4. Indeed what’s a relationship without problems
    I woulda pinned the mtaachana tu rhetoric but that will mean death on the side of the plant, well am not in the business of spelling doom today so happy anniversary!

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  5. Ahaa! . So this was about your relationship & that plant? Well crafted. Neatly woven. Didn’t even notice it, till i got to the end. I’m jealous.

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  6. Nothing beats the eloquence of silence. Most words are said in silence and it is the most gratifying thing. Also, seeing your plant grow. I am used to reading long stories here. Today I felt shortchanged. Nonetheless, we locomote. A short story is better than none

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  7. Silence is eloquence to those who listen to it. It goes deeper than words. I am glad I wasn’t alone in thinking the partner is your missus…but Biko will be BIKO…I still remember how he talked to a monkey, Timo from Burnt Forest, this guy is pure genius.

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  8. I wanted to keep silent and just enjoy this piece – because that’s the theme I’m getting here. I was content when you said silence is beautiful. That silence is a flower.
    The piece flowed and I enjoyed the silent treatment you got when you were younger. It was all good until you said your life partner is a plant. I just had to say something then.

    You need help.

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  9. I read to the first few paragraphs wondering where this story is heading, then I see ‘my partner in life’. I push my seat back for more uhondo coz Biko rarely speaks about the real partner in life. And just like that kumbe the story was about a potted plant. Very disappointed haha

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  10. I think Biko must be mad. Totally mad. The moment he mentioned his partner in life i thought whoa! Biko has eventually suffered to the extent of opening up. I hope it will end well! I hope the missus steal retains her boxum tings and talks. Kumbe its just a plant. You almost gave me a heart attack.

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  11. Soaking in silence without someone popping a comment like “why didn’t you comb your hair” from God knows where is bliss!

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  12. “while they would just be sitting there, just being them; stoic in their silence, comfortable in who they have chosen to be. I never wonder what they are thinking and they never ask me what I’m thinking”

    For a minute there I thought you got married to those non-gender conforming peeps. The non- binary genderqueer if you like people who you address using pronouns like they or them ,never him or her which makes me wonder what the world has come to!

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  13. Silence is an art which I have never been a master at. Simething to do with my upbringing and all that. I am one of those people who get really restless if I don’t get human connections for a prolonged period of time,suffer anxiety attacks and all that.

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  14. This is so great. I’ve never met anyone directive silence in such a beautiful way like you’ve done. So many people view introverts as broken people. But you have brought beauty out of it.
    Thank you ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

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  15. You should have seen how excited i was that Biko is finally talking about the wife, like a glass door into another aspect of his life he jealously guards. IT was a PLANT!!

    Oh well…

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  16. Well…not to be insensitive but, I wouldn’t get attached to that plant if I was you. Short plants have an even shorter life span. The plant that is sprouting brown leaves is on it’s out the door. By turning brown, it’s saying goodbye. I could imagine it’s goodbye to look like, “It’s not you, it’s me. I need more stillness, more silence. Less movement, and here you are walking out the door and shuffling papers and what not. I need something that looks like me. And just like that, the plant will wither and become something else. So find a forest, and derive joy from those trees. They live longer, and throw you shade. Just saying.

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  17. Ooh my goodness. I am not a flower person. Just remembered that since i shipped my daughter to my mother for a break from corona madness in my house, i have not watered it… 3weeks. she will kill me.. and why doesn’t she remind me to water it during our phone calls.. Poor plant.. Thank God it is a cactus!!!

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  18. Lost me in the process there.. i thought Biko was talking about a human partner,,, how wrong was i.. but anyway silence is a powerful weapon that eats slowly from within

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  19. What?!? Just like that?!? Anyways, silence is golden. Enjoy it and savour every moment. Happy six month-versary….

  20. Do you feel like you have just read a poem in high school …a straightforward poem but you want to believe that what is mentioned means something else… as in this plant isn’t plant at all.

  21. There is a story about the best conversation a boy and girl can have is when they swing side to side on swings at a park without saying a word.

    Please watch “The nothing box by Mark Gugor” on YouTube to explain why some genders especially say more. .

  22. Yes birds do DREAM, BIKO!

    “Animals & birds are the only species that experience DREAMS, during REM sleeping phase.”

    More on this read, Why We SLEEP by Matthew Walker, but don’t lose sleep over it.

    Funny thing is during REM sleep, humans muscles are immobilized/Silent.

    Silence has sound too…

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  23. Yes birds Dream, BIKO!

    “Animals & Birds are the only species that experience DREAMS, in their REM sleeping phase.”

    During REM dreaming state, our muscles are IMMOBILIZED/SILENT.
    ✓ More on this, check out, ‘Why We SLEEP by Matthew Walker…

    P.S. Don’t lose sleep reading it.

    NO SOUND WITHOUT SILENCE.

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  24. First, You got us there. A littu of me was almost getting into my feelings.
    Secondly, this felt more like an absence of a story.
    Third, what’s a story without a few typos here and there right? (Grammar-nazi alert)

  25. I actually thought you were talking about a human being all along, when you said, ‘they weren’t my first choice’ I almost wept on ‘her’ behalf. Good thing we’re talking about a plant. Yay, plants! Happy six month anniversary plant dad.

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  26. Tall is so Sexy. Mimi I just can’t be attracted to dwarfish things or people. Enjoy your Ponytail plant.

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  27. I do hope you have not joined our cohort of failed matrimony bro, its a world of pariah, I also are nurturing some baby tomatoes on the balcony quaint little fuckers they have become.

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  28. “you have broken my heart, deeply disappointed me. I don’t even know how you are my son. I give up. Si you think you are a man because your voice is breaking? Do whatever makes you happy. I’ve washed my hands of this affair. May the good Lord be with you in this new journey of independence. You can move in with those boys and smoke and drink and go to the disco till you are 50, if you like. I have other obedient kids to raise. I’m busy.”

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  29. You really had in me in the first halfI thought the partner was humannonetheless keep the plant in your company during photosynthesis

  30. I’m one of those who thought the damn plant would die. Turns out I was wrong. Happy half yearversary or whatever you think you have with the ‘life partner’

  31. The stigma around a single mom who wears lipstick, high heels and miniskirts still exists people view her as lacking morals.

    But what’s a relationship without problems? It’s a boring relationship.

    This is lovely.

  32. Am also shopping for a partner but mine can’t be short. I suffer from dwarfism so the opposite must apply. A perfectly written piece Biko.

  33. Kudomewa that skidded into days — my mom exactly! Where’s your mom from? She could be waya motedo Karachuonyo.

  34. Am still crying…then the other day i watched a movie and criedafter i realized i have no relatioship with my dad…why do i hate him this much that it made me not have kida of my own??

  35. Hello Biko.
    Come Tuesday I want to be among the first people to read and share thoughts on your article and feel proud. So I am going to my Luo folks to learn how to construct a perfect congratulatory sentense in Dholuo. Something more than just Erokamano.

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  36. This just made me laugh out loud… I’m thinking he’s describing a woman and it turns out it’s a freaking plant. NKT

  37. Power of silence, reminds me of mama, she would go quiet in you and well, the guilt would eat you up. As for your partners, what can I say, happy six!!!

  38. I began reading your works from the time I was like,ten?Yeah.I got my inspiration to read and write from your works.I’m now 23,at the University, pursuing Linguistics.Fully inspired.

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