‘Do you know that I can still swallow like this?’ I tease Boaz.
‘Shut up, dumbass. Now, apologize!’
I could feel his heavy breathing. He, too, was afraid of letting me go. I had fallen many times but it was as clear as day that this would be the last one.
‘Naah, I think I’m gonna pass,’ I smiled.
He loosened his grip only to let me slide a little further down. The sweat that had formed on my forehead fell. As it hit the ground it dawned on me that with a little less effort on his part my head would be the next one to strike the ground.
The other kids cheered him on. I wasn’t ready to die. Deep down I knew this so how comes it seemed like I didn’t have the strength to keep on living? How comes death seemed like a welcome reprieve from this life of misery and suffering?
I look down. My eyes were now teary. I had tried my best. I was going to die with honor…On my feet!
‘Jack, come on! I’m here to help! Help me help you,’ Ms. Brigit had insisted. Of course that’s what she was going to say. She had said it all too many times… She was here to help. Sometimes I was completely convinced that she had used that sentence so many times that she had forgotten what it meant.
‘Go and finish your breakfast,’ she eventually said. I felt like killing myself. Thankfully, I didn’t have to for Boaz had my back on that front.
‘Well, if it isn’t little Jackie!’ Boaz had started with his arm on my shoulder. Yet another confrontation was about to happen. This was all my fault. I might have been a little rough on him last time.
‘Look, Big Boss,’ he loved it when we called him that. He was big and was somewhat a boss to the other little retards in that shelter. He considered himself a leader but all great men have their weaknesses. I first noticed his when another kid accidentally stepped on him. The little fellow had to apologize profusely as well as offer Boaz a part of his lunch. By a part I mean the juicy part, the one we tolerate the other vegetative parts for. I still recall that feeling I had at the time. I know that I’m mischievous by nature but this was a whole new level. I had to establish an opposition in this institution. I had always been known to rebel against the established order and I wasn’t planning on stopping anytime soon.
I decided to start by showing all my fellow little ones that Boaz was just like us…Little! I began with simple acts of speaking while he spoke and soon enough I was even hiding his shoe laces. I should have been more careful and acted anonymously for he too was no fool. He had noticed me. He did send me signals like ‘accidentally’ hitting me every time we crossed paths but I was a hard nut to crack. Unknown to me was that I didn’t need Boaz’s help to ruin my life. I would succeed on that all on my own.
One Saturday morning the devil spoke to me. I know I should have turned him away but his suggestion was all too sweet. This was not any other day; It was auspicious. Our area M.P. would be coming to pay us a visit. This meant a lot of food, music, photos, gifts and the like. By a fortunate turn of events I ended up representing the other kids. I guess some of us are just lucky. Where was Boaz, you may ask? Well, simply put his lack of formality automatically disqualified him. Martha did try to let him explain the reason why he was in flip flops but Ms. Brigit would have none of it. I wore my widest smile and for once in such a long while I was genuinely happy!
‘Mheshimiwa visits Nurture Children’s home,’ the headlines would read on the following day and the cover page would be a photo of me accepting a bouquet on behalf of the home from the M.P. himself. I would live to remember this day for it was when everything started going south. I don’t hymn but I found myself hymning as I entered the dormitory with the bouquet. I was shocked to find Martha, Ms. Brigit and Boaz going through my stuff. Martha gasped as Boaz brought forth his well-polished black leather shoes from within my closet. It was at this moment that Ms. Brigit turned around and saw me. Martha and Boaz saw me too and the last thing on my mind was that hymn now.
I still struggled to smile as I went on scrubbing the common room’s floor despite Boaz’s insults. He had been instructed to supervise me but he assembled a couple of his friends and together they made fun of me as I did my punishment.
‘I heard that he poisoned his step mum for cooking a goat for breakfast! The kid was his pet!’ Their laughs drowned my thoughts. I was thinking of how best to get away with murder. I had decided to think and plan first so that it’s not a flop like it was with Aunty.
‘Hey, dumbass!’ I should have ignored him.
‘I heard that you refused to see your mum while she was in her death bed. Is that true?’
Rage boiled within me. He must’ve overheard Ms. Brigit speaking. Only she could badmouth me that much. I clenched the cleaning broom.
‘And your dad? What did you do to your dad?’
That was it! I jumped on him with my entire body and beat him senseless. The pain from my knuckles was nothing compared to what I felt in my heart. His companions tried to stop me but I was too carried away. I was like a fierce lion.
‘Hey! What’s going on here?’ I halted on recognizing the voice. The other kids moved aside to reveal me on top of Boaz. As my eyes met with Martha’s, my heart sunk. Ms. Brigit had always insisted that I had mental issues but Martha defended me each time. I couldn’t bear the sadness that came with letting her down. She had been like a mother to me. My own mother didn’t love me this much. If she did, then why would she drown herself in alcohol and drugs after my dad left us? Why wouldn’t she step out of her head for once if only to see that I needed her? She deserved what she got.
After that incident Martha gave into Ms. Brigit’s request to let me go. However, she couldn’t bear giving me up to another home so she sought to get me the best foster parents she could find. If only it were that easy to get rid of a rascal like me…
Seven months later and I was back at the orphanage. I had been through the rollercoaster of life having have lived with four foster families. Those that were nice had a tragic ending and those that were mean got what was coming to them. I had been abused psychologically, physically, sexually and even emotionally. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I cried on Martha’s lap as I begged her not to let anyone else adopt me. She once again let emotions get the better of her and gave in to my request. For a moment I had peace of mind but then I recalled what I had done to Boaz on my last day at the home.
It was early in the afternoon and the others were still in school. I had been recalled so that I could pack for Martha had found another foster family for me. This would be the fourth one. I cast my doubts aside as she assured me of how optimistic she was about this one. I let myself be fooled because of how kind she was to me; She had been optimistic of the others as well. As she left me alone in the dormitory, I recalled how I had gotten myself into this mess to begin with. It was all Boaz’s fault. I looked as his bed and thought of the troubles I had been through. I pulled down my pants and did the honors (of course after pulling down his duvet) so that he would find a nice surprise when he came to sleep that night. It was the least that I could do. Besides, if all went well I wouldn’t have to see him ever again. Unfortunately, all didn’t go well…
As I wiped away my tears, I noticed that Boaz hadn’t told Martha. If he had, she would have mentioned it by now. What did he have in store for me? I was done worrying. Life wasn’t worth living anymore. It seemed like I was a curse to all the people who ever cared about me. My heart skipped a bit as Boaz waved me a hi as I got into the dining area. I waved back though I couldn’t hide my astonishment. On inquiring I was told that Boaz hadn’t changed one bit. The others were also surprised by his reaction to my return. I suspected, quite accurately, that he was fattening me for the slaughter.
I woke up half an hour earlier just to ensure he doesn’t choke me to death in my sleep. At the breakfast table, my meal was interrupted when Ms. Brigit called me to her office. She caught me quite unaware.
‘Where’s Martha? She promised that she wouldn’t let me be taken away from here again,’ I protested.
‘Martha is busy on a community engagement assignment,’ these engagements were critical. They ensured we ate, drunk and were clothed by raising funds from the community. Why did she have to go now!? Had she been here I am sure she…
‘I have already communicated with her and she’s ok with it. I mean, he is family after all,’ she smiled.
‘No, he’s not!’ I bit my lip.
‘Look Jack, I know you’ve been through a lot these last couple of months and I understand that you’re afraid to trust again. Trust, however, is the basis of all human relationships. Take an example of us, for instance. Would you be willing to stay, eat and sleep here if you did not trust Martha and I?’ As if I had a choice.
‘If there’s any reason whatsoever that you can give me to avoid going away with him, please tell me,’ I looked down to break the eye contact. I couldn’t let her see my teary eyes. I guess this was it then. I had tried my best.
‘Go and finish your breakfast,’ she eventually said.
‘Look, Big Boss,’ I had begun.
I didn’t feel like defending myself anymore. ‘Do what you want! I’m not afraid of you. You should have learnt that by now,’ I retorted.
His face turned red in an instant. He took me by the collar and dragged me to the balcony. He made me cross the rails to the other side. As we faced each other, he took me by the waist and turned me upside down. I was now facing the ground. He held me by my belt. As I clutched at his hands my breathing intensified. I could feel my heart racing. Suddenly, Kimathi came to mind.
Kimathi might have been my mother’s brother but he was never an uncle to me. He was a drunkard who fed off my father’s blood and sweat. I still remember how he deserted us after my father left. He lectured my mother bombarding her with ‘I told you so’s. It is forever engraved in my mind how he reminded her that he had told her to get rid of me before birth. I had never liked him but I hated him from that moment onward. It was thus such a disappointment to hear that he will be coming to take me. I felt helpless. Perhaps I would feel better if I let go. I slowly let go of Boaz’s arms and left my arms to hang in the air.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’
‘Do you know that Simon Peter in the Bible was crucified this way?’ My heartbeat was returning back to normal. I guess I had made peace with death. Boaz struggled to keep me from falling but it proved a fit too big for him. His pride, however, would not let him ask for help. He tried to lift me up a little so that he could take me back to the land of the living but that’s not what destiny intended! I slipped right through his robust hands…
45 minutes later…
‘Are you ok now? He would like to see you,’ Ms. Brigit led me into her office.
Kimathi was seated quite comfortably. His eyes were still as bloodshot as I remembered. I doubted whether he had quit drinking as he had said. He actually looked happy to see me. I smiled, albeit awkwardly. He deserved it having saved my life earlier. He had just arrived and was told to wait outside. He heard kids cheering and decided to go round the building to check it out. He was perplexed in the position he found me. Although it had been three years since the day he last saw me, he instantly recognized me. He saw me fall and caught me midway. An actual miracle…
I agreed to go with him. He had told me that he worked on a certain farm as a gardener and that he earned a decent wage. Decent enough to send me to school and give me a comfortable life. I guess he really had turned his life around. I’d try to do the same. Unknown to me was that worse days were up ahead…