I think it’s something I once was.
A person I was to become.
Or perhaps, at least, a person I should have been already. The reflection in my bedroom mirror doesn’t look anything like it though. Or, her, of course. Granted, mother has seen dirt and stains on my supposedly dirty mirror that I haven’t seen yet. Oh mother. Remember that last time I mentioned on here the way she wraps her lessons and lectures in complex Swahili? Yeah? Her ‘ol time favorite phrase boldly lives on, Nenda ukirudi na nyuma pia. We should delve into this line someday. I feel like it’s more than just a few basic Swahili words to it. There’s some gems in there. It’s one of those lines that read like a novel, don’t you think?
She has altered her strategy since. Nowadays she has found a way of tying everything to the bad wife I will be one day, and consequently all the shame and massive ruin I will do to her name, the family and the ancestors.
Look at this dirty mirror! Oh the bad wife you will be!
You’re asleep on a Saturday morning at ten. You’ll stay in bed until the sun hits your teeth eh? Pity your husband.
What time is this you’re shamelessly coming home? Wait till you get married so you can do these things. Not in my house.
Okay mother, I really need to catch my breath.
All stemming from a dirty(ish) mirror.The other day she complained of a really bad headache so I get some black seed oil and massage her head. Sometimes age rips them off their grace and comes with all these pains and body aches. So I pull the strands of hair directly at the top of her forehead apart, pour in some oil and watch as her dry scalp sips it all in. Momentarily, almost. So with the oil sipping into the crevices of her scalp, and my fingers massaging her head, I sit there thinking how beautiful this woman is. You know? So tender and delicate. Sometimes so beautiful I forget for a split second that this woman is my mother. And then when it hits me again I look back at the oil thinking maybe I could see a reflection of that person have been trying to be. But her scalp is so dry it sucks all the oil into her head almost immediately. So no reflection. I do however, albeit at a distance, catch a glimpse of the turmoil mother has been through before she sent me out to the world. And my supposedly dirty mirror? The face there looks back at me. Tired with disgust. I am reminded here of a line I read this year that spoke to me so deeply written by The brilliant Troy Onyango. (http://troyonyango.com/)
The way this ends is with you standing in front of a mirror, staring at your image and wondering – asking – if you’ll ever be good enough. You stand there and rehearse your life (for the day). The smile. The hug. The walk. Keep. Your. Head. Up. Somewhere, in the reflection, you see your image shaking its head – disappointed.
We had our first date this previous eid. (This post may have been lying in the drafts for a longer time than you can even imagine).
It was a simple date. Basic after-Eid-prayers breakfast. Throughout our date, she lived off her Disney fantasies out loud to me. There was a mermaid who was kissed by a prince, and then became human again and later on the prince asked her to marry him. The Little Mermaid. She would stop at certain intervals and go like, next page. And before she mentioned things like the princess being kissed and being asked to marry the prince she would pause, and say “Come closer, I can’t say this loudly”, I would then lean in and she’d whisper into my ear with an electrified face. We were in the midst of other people of course. Her mom, her sisters and other guests. But you’re dammed if you think that deterred us. As the rest of the table nibbled on politics and the future of this country, my date and I lucidly dreamt about our futures and alternate realities. In fact, the date went so well we called for a second date the very next day! We spiced things a little, so rode to Kiambu. Unfortunately, with the gang, still.
It had been a long time coming.
I had fallen in love with her when I heard her voice. Before I even met her. It was one of those lazy Saturday afternoons. You know the feel of a Nairobi Saturday afternoon spent indoors? Lazy and hazy, dry, and blustery. Largely quiet too. So her voice tore through the Nairobi afternoon and you could not not feel it. I could almost taste it even. Crunchy like freshly baked biscuits. Crisp. It’s a sharp smooth voice that seems to have traveled from so far. A voice you could sit and be soothed by for days on end. No monotone. Sounds like she would look you in the eye while she talked. I can’t remember a thing she said of course, but I would listen to her, and that voice, any day. Sundus, they call her. Which is Arabic for fine silk. And yes, she remarkably lives up to her name. A golden ball of Somali perfection.
She likes me a lot. The way she calls out my name and embraces me when she sees me makes me swell inside. Warms my heart so much. Once, as we were waiting on our pizzas, and as she fed me with her stories, she stopped in the middle of a sentence to ask why the pizzas were taking so long. So I said something in the lines of the dough, and making the toppings, and baking time. I didn’t even finish rumbling. She interjected, with “It’s okay. They can take as long as they want. I like talking to you. So as I was saying, do you remember the vampire…?” Aah.
But Sundus gives me the mixed feelings. She smells like something I once knew, like an old karma. She makes me so happy this beautiful ball, but then the aftertaste when we part is not as joyous. It’s a far off taste of loss, nostalgia and sweet hope. Like something that once belonged so dearly to me slipped off my fingers when I wasn’t looking. And have been trying to find it all along. And it looks a lot like Sundus. Feels a lot like her. Something like fine silk, you know?
So every time I hear her, or when she’s calling out for me I see bits and pieces of myself I want back. Her courage in saying what she thinks. Demanding for what she knows and recognizes so well as absolutely hers and calling out for what is rightfully hers. Acclaiming her feelings. Being selfish when she needs to because she too is important and she knows it. Heck, at times she’s the only thing that matters. It’s like a futuristic déjà vu. A reflection of what I used to be and what I’m trying to be. Something my mirror doesn’t show me yet. My supposedly dirty mirror.
So folks, that is where I have been. Chilling with, and taking lessons from my little Sundus. She’s been teaching me self-love, bravery, honesty, vulnerability. And truth. And purity. And have been listening to her fairy-tales. And trying to polish myself into the fine silk I suppose I once was. Like what she effortlessly is, Sundus. Which is also my only resolution for the new year. Maybe you should too. Spurn yourself into the finest silk out there, because as Teju Cole says in his book, Open City, which I’m currently reading, we owe ourselves our lives.
We definitely don’t owe ourselves reflections that aren’t happy to see us. Or that we aren’t happy to see. And most certainly not dirty mirrors.
Thank you. Thank you for all your comments and feedback from the last post. Thank you for the time you spend with me in this little space of mine. It warms my heart in ways you can’t imagine. I will definitely write and post more regularly.
For those who asked, God and I are in a better place than we were last time. The 4a.m mornings aren’t as frequent as I’d like them to be, but we trying!
Oh, and Sundus says hello.
Happy New Year Folks!