It’s a fine Saturday morning and mom’s tolerance for my undone hair had thinned out to depletion, the consequences of which, would include a hair day at the salon…yes, I said day. Washing, conditioning, straightening and finally actually doing up my braids would take a couple of hours. The slight crease on my forehead probably hinted at the disapproval I had of this.Though I needed the makeover to be honest,I’m too lazy to be taking care of my hair by myself.
When I got there, I decided to speed things up. I’d already detangled and washed my hair three days prior,so I skipped the wash and condition part, and directly went into straightening….I don’t remember the last time I made a mistake that big.
“The hornets of Hades hath descended upon me!”
I sat on that plastic chair facing the huge mirror in my crown of quite obviously tangled hair.I could swear it looked okay when I left home!I bit my lip as I took a deep breath.
It’s just less than five minutes…
You can endure five minutes…
It’s not that long…
It probably won’t be that bad.
I kept trying to desperately reassure myself, as the conventional white towel was draped around my shoulders and the salon lady went to fetch the blow-dryer. By this time, my left foot was bouncing up and down on the floor in an uncertain rhythm as I kept wringing my hands in dreaded anticipation…that was quickly morphing into foreboding.
The demon comb roared to life rather too dramatically for my liking, with it’s bristles raised in the air. Coincidentally, in the same direction my survival prayers were headed. I unclasped my teeth from my lower lip and cleared my throat. Pinching my eyebrows together at the image of a terrified version of me in the mirror. I narrowed my eyes in declaration that I will face the demon comb and win! Well, win was basically just leave with my scalp intact really, that was enough for today.
And so the demon comb went for a dive in my very tangled jungle of kinky hair follicles. Swinging my head around like a mannequin in puppet strings as it went in different directions. Note to self: never detangle dry hair!
Left and right we went, up and down, side to side. My hair did feel decently roasted after a while,which meant now my scalp felt the heat of the cursed hair iron a bit too close for comfort.My inner cheek was probably close to bleeding, considering the vicious lock of my jaws around it. Which suspiciously resembled the death grip I had on the chair’s respective armrest. Mwendi uthaka ndacayaga. My people really had a witty saying for every situation.
A five minute walk later with a clearing and calming mind and honestly soul too,I made it to my hairdresser’s house ready to just get it over with.Not much was going on except my slight twitch at the beginning of every new line she cornrowed,the edges always have it the hardest with all that tugging.I subdivided the hair and kept handing it to her as she worked, meanwhile making occasional polite small talk amidst comfortable silence as each did their thing.
Soon after, this comfortable air would be interrupted by a knock on the front door. An insistent and impatient knock, probably only out of courtesy. ”Come in!” my hairdresser called out. A chubby hand immediately undid the latch at the door and pushed it open. A tall rather plump middle-aged lady stood there in simple sandals a floral knee-length frock and her braids up in a neat enough bun. I recognized her! She was the same one from last time I was here for a hairdo, spilling tea about the new tenants on the apartment building across the road. Her hurried shuffling into the room onto the couch next to where I sat being braided told me everything I needed to know. Today’s tea was just off the stove and ready to be served. And she would dutifully assume the important role of informer, enquirer, editor and most definitely narrator. A selfless soul she is, voluntarily taking on such taxing responsibilities…This visit definitely wasn’t going down in my diary as a regret anymore. So I paused my music but didn’t remove my earphones, ready to pay very keen attention to everything that wasn’t my business to hear, as inconspicuously as possible. We exchanged polite pleasantries as both friends settled in each other’s company.Keep your head straight and your expression neutral dammit!
“niuronire gari irahitukire haria bara ya borithi ira?” (did you see the police car that passed down the road yesterday?)
“Aca,ndiumaho ira,Kae ni kii kwahanikire?”(no,I wasn’t there yesterday, what happened?)
“Uuuiii! Hee!”(you missed the tea of the year!)
“nikii,ndunjire nawe!nú wanyitirwo?”(c’mon tell me!who got arrested?)
“Muthuri ungi aikaraga Munyu.” (a man that lives in Munyu)
“Muthuri uriku? nikii eekire?” (which man? What was his crime?)
“Haya ndukireke nguhee uhoro!” (now let me explain what happened!)
“Ndukinjire!” (hurry up,tell me!)
“Reu muthuri ucio rii, Ena muka na ciana igiri,muiritu umwe na mwanake” (The man is married with two children, one girl and one boy)
“Reu mukaa re,niatumire ndugu na mwanake ungi nake uikaraga kuria thika” (the man’s wife was allegedly cheating on him with a man living in Thika town)
“Ndukireke ndekie nawe!” (let me finish, there’s more!)
“Njira.” (tell me)
“Reu muthuri ucio ungi wa thika ri,akimenya!” (The man living in town found out what she was doing!)
“Ngai! Mutumia weene akiurira orooguo!”(Someone’s wife lost her life just like that!)
“Ndirakwera aramungeuririe kiiriu!” (He murdered her in modern means I’m telling you!)
“Nikii aramwikire?” (how did he kill her?)
“Kumutemanga tucunje!” (he butchered her to death!)
“Akimuhitha nyumba kana akimute?” (did he hide her body in his house or dispose of it?)
“Nikumuhitha amuhithire, Andu angi a mburoti iyo makiriguo munungo ucio urauma gwake ni wa kii mageeta borithi” (he hid her in his house then his neighbors started questioning the stench from his house and called the cops on him)
“Aca, iyo. Ira niguo mamenyire Mutumia ucio kuria aumire magithie mucie gwake” (no, the day before yesterday. Yesterday is when they traced the deceased woman’s home and went there.)
“Riu makinyita muthuri wake niki?” (and why would they arrest her widower?)
“Haya, Mutumia ucio arorire kiumia etiguo?” (the woman went missing on Sunday right?”
“Kuuma kiumia nginya ira juuma re, muthuri ucio wake ndari athie borithi kuhura riboti muka niorie.” (Since Sunday till Saturday which was yesterday the woman’s widower hasn’t filed a missing person’s report to the police concerning his wife)
“Aii, nikii reu?” (and why not?)
“Ka urakenjuria, nie ndiue.” (why are you asking me,I don’t know.)
“Ooh, nikio aranyitirwo?” (so that’s why he was arrested?)
“Eeni. Ngai, reu ciana icio ciene rii,cigwekwo atia reu?”(yes.now what is going to happen to those poor children?)
“Wooi, Ngai amamenyerere ma.” (may God sustain them)
“Nyina ooragwo ni pekeje,fafa nake niweucio kamiti”(The mother killed by “pekejeng” and the father on his way to prison.)
“Ate pekeje? We tiga waana.”(Did you say pekejeng?stop playing around.)
“Hee! Tareke nyambe thie ndute mucere riko ndugashure ndi o muceneneko.”(Let me go get my rice off the cooker before it burns while I chatter here with you.)
“Haya, na undare ranji nindirooka ooreu!” (okay, serve an extra plate of the lunch,I’m coming to join you soon!)
And the door shut with a little too forceful slam after her. And we’ve come to the part where I tell you that I don’t know what happened next in that story or have any idea how it ended up playing out.
Am I traumatized by this story? yes, absolutely.
Do I want to talk about it? No, absolutely not.
And you wonder why I’m addicted to coffee!
(PS: To any kikuyus reading this, I tried as hard as I could with the translations, come slow on me please. And I used the most common tongue of kikuyu in this piece, the one from Kiambu.)