Friday, June 04, 2004
Slightly after Midnight
Ajwang’ Nokwanya sat in the third pew from the back, deliberately close to the exit.
Like many of the hundreds of worshippers in the Holy Family Basilica on this grave Thursday in early June, her body was wracked with sobs and her cheeks caked with layers of tears that were too recent to dry.
She reached into her bag, groping and fumbling for another handkerchief- she had blown repeatedly onto the other one which she now stuffed, crimpled, crumpled and crumbled deep inside the left pocket of the dainty and spiffy looking jacket that she picked up at Gikomba on Monday.
The middle aged woman in the brownish habit of a nun ensconced between her and the Kisii looking swarthy man in a blue shirt and a blue sweater kept muttering:
“What kind of an animal could do this to a poor child of God? I just don’t understand.”
At the pulpit, the Right Reverend Cornelius Korir was full of passion and she immediately thought of those angry prophets in the Old Testament letting the ancient Israelites have it for once again forsaking Yahweh for Babylonian mammon.
“The terrible holocaust of abortion should be stopped!" the Man of God thundered...
"The Sheria has been too easy for these criminals in white overalls! The law is letting them get away with these odious, brutal misdeeds! Who shall speak for the innocent unborn? Who shall stand up for the rights of these children of God?”
Ajwang’ was by now weeping uncontrollably as Reverend Korir went on:
“These doctors are evil! They are abetting heinous crimes against humanity! How can they allow themselves to become butchers in so heartless a manner is alarming indeed; for how can one deal death and life with the same hand?", he paused, and switching gears a bit exhorted the gathered flock to remember Gianna Beretta Molla, the Italian woman who died over forty years ago when she was almost forty. Gianna died rather than abort her unborn. And the Holy Father had made her saint for her noble sacrifice.
Later after the fetuses had been baptized Ajwang’ was among the mourners who followed the tiny coffins on their final somber and grim journey to the desolate Langata cemetery.
Why had she come to the service in the first place?
Ajwang’ was not even a Catholic.
She did not know any of the unborn fetuses or their runaway killer mothers.
She did not even live in Nairobi.
Ajwang’ had been passing through the muddied city in the sun on her way from Naivasha to Mombasa where she lived with her cousin Bertha.
Two weeks ago she had made the dreaded trek back to the flower farm where she used to work to collect her final settlement and some of the belongings she had left behind when she was fired abruptly in November last year.
Now, as she waited for the Shuttle at KENCOM that would take her to Adam’s Arcade on Ngong Road where she was staying over at her uncle’s, Ajwang’s mind flew back to that terrible afternoon in late October that would stay with her like a kidonda forever flowing with pus, attacked by cruel flies, refusing to dry up.
There she was...Barely a month after she was employed the Nyapara retained her check-off card.
When Ajwang’ went to him and asked for the card, he told her that he loved her. He ignored her when she told him that she was engaged to be married-telling her he was a patient man and could make her very happy at the company. He was going to be promoted to be assistant manager. Did she want to be the new supervisor, the new nyapara?
Ajwang’ was too smart to fall for that tired line of a brand new employee leapfrogging everybody after she had bent over-so she did not say anything as she took back her card.
About a week later, the same thing happened again with the check off card.
But this time when she went to the office to ask for the card back, the Nyapara was a changed man. He immediately locked the door. He asked her if she had reconsidered. She told him there was nothing to think over since she was getting married in December- two days after Jamhuri Day.
He asked her where her fiancé lived and she told him he lived in Section 58 in Nakuru although they planned to move to Kisumu where her fiance was going to start working with Safaricom cellular company.
Before she knew it, he had slapped her very hard across the face.
Brandishing a knife he ordered her to lie on the table after he had ripped off her panties. Knife at her throat she was ordered not to whimper, not to make a sound…
Even though she had tried to block that painful memory, she could not erase the gleefully sloppy grin as he panted and wheezed sweating as he had his way with her.
After he had finished he roughly pushed her away, told her to get her stuff and go and warned her that he would kill her if he dared to mention this incident.
So what gave her the courage to go to the manager after three days and report everything?
It was only after she was fired that she realized that the manager was the supervisor’s uncle- that is how the Nyapara got the job in the first place.
The rudest shock was waiting for her in Nakuru.
She had always trusted Joseph Wuod Kanyamuot.
They had been together for four years- since they met when she was part of Menengai’s hockey team and he was the goalkeeper of the same school’s soccer team. He was a couple of classes ahead of Ajwang’.
He worked for some time in his cousin’s private clinic near Shauri Yako. As for Ajwang', she kept “tarmacking” while living with her older sister who worked with the Nakuru Municipal Council.
Having seen friends and relatives die of the AIDS scourge, it had not taken them long to agree on "zero grazing" with a generous helping of “socks.”
There were no secrets between them so when she burst into his one room dwelling that he had “inherited” from his father who used to be with the Railways she immediately rushed into his arms, bawling out the details of her rape ordeal at the flower farm in Naivasha.
He just held her tightly, not saying anything until far into the night.
After what seemed like an eternity he simply said:
“Lando Nyar Uyoma, let us go to sleep. We will talk in the morning.” He hugged her and cuddled with her and she felt warm and protected and that night she did not have any nightmares.
In the morning she lit the jiko and made some tea. The Blue Band had ran out so she just piled the treacley sweet red jam on to the slabs of bread that she had carved up. Wuod Kanyamuot preferred “sturungi” tea without milk.
This morning he was acting strange.
He did not have to go to the clinic until 11:45 today, being Thursday, but it was already 7:30 and he was getting restless, polishing his shoes compulsively with a hint of vague malevolence.
Abruptly he asked for the Bible which was on the shelf next to Ajwang’.
Perplexed she handed it to him.
“What is wrong Joseph? “She asked, her brows knitting.
“You are asking me what is wrong? I should ask you the same question! You have failed me! I have buried three of my brothers. I refused to look at another woman. You were the one for me. You were going to be the mother of my child. Now look what you have mixed yourself up in.”
“But what have I done?”
“I told you not to go to Naivasha. I told you to wait for me. I told you I was going to get that Safaricom job and stop slaving for that selfish cousin of mine. You refused. You had to go to Naivasha. Now look what has happened.”
“Joseph, I am not thirteen years old. I am a grown woman. I can not depend on my sister who barely earns enough to pay her rent. You surprise me, dear, you really do...”
“If I surprise you, then you shock me. Anyway, I do not have time to waste. Hand me the Bible.”
He leafed through the weathered tome.
Then he started reading.
“I am reading from the First Book of Kings, Chapter 16 verses 29 to 33. And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.
And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”
She could hardly believe her ears.
“Joseph, have you gone mad? What is this nonsense! I am Not Jezebel and you are not Ahab!”
“I knew it. I knew it. Right under my very nose. Worshipping Baal all this time. I should have listened to the pastor when he warned against you Jezebel. But I am not done yet. We now move to the Second Book of Kings Verses 7 to 10. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah:And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.”
“The pastor told me that you were Jezebel and that I should not follow you. But I never listened to him. And see what has happened to me!”
“What has happened to YOU? I was RAPED remember!”
“Jezebel was a liar and a fornicator. She was a devil worshipper. She paid homage to Baal instead of the Living God. I don’t buy that crap about being raped. You evil seductress, you threw yourself at that Nyapara and now you have come back to finish the work of your Master Baal!”
Too stunned for words, Ajwang’ just stood there.
“These are the end times Siku za Kiama. AIDS is one of the signs of the times. I may have perished already. I just hope for my sake that I am NOT Ahab, O you evil Jezebel. I want you out of my house by Saturday! And if you try to entice me by opening those wicked legs of yours, I will smite you with my bare hands! Keep praying for atonement for I am sure you have been infected you evil witch!”
Her friends had told her that Joseph had been acting strange lately, but she refused to believe it.
At the time, she stubbornly saw a spiritual reawakening where people saw a man slowly losing contact with reality….
Well, that was then, and this was now.
Too ashamed to face her friends to whom she had been blabbing about her December wedding, she just wanted to get lost. Bury herself where nobody would find her...
Nakuru was too small.
And she had never liked Nairobi.
And that is when Bertha came in.
When Ajwang’ flashed her Kencell mobile, Bertha did not hesitate to call back on the 0721 number.
“Of course you can come and stay with me. You will love Mombasa”.
After Joseph, she could not trust anybody with her terrible ordeal.
Bertha was wonderful- all she knew was that Ajwang’s boyfriend had kicked her out and that she had lost her job.
So when Ajwang’ missed her period in November no one else knew.
She was more worried about the HIV because her violator had not bothered to use a condom.
What was she to do?
She was a good Christian and was horrified at the idea of killing an innocent child- even if it was a few hours old.
But there was something in what Joseph had read to her which made her believe that the Nyapara was Baal personified and that she was carrying the devil’s seed in her.
She felt so filthy.
There were days when she could take four showers a day- one in the morning one in the afternoon, one around six thirty and one just before she went to bed at ten thirty or eleven.
Bertha thought it was the humidity of Mombasa and just kept joking about it.
They stayed near the shops at Kiziwi, in the old Swahili houses next to the maisonettes near the Polytechnic and Ajwang’ was entranced by the wachuuzi with their mbaazi and chapati. Or the Mkokoteni cart pushers with their various wares- Mombasa was something else.
What had happened in Naivasha was a sore with pus overflowing- what was growing inside her she felt was like a jigger that itched and itched and itched as it grew and grew and grew and she was terrified that one day she would wake up and find out that she was really Jezebel making animal sacrifices to Baal right there in their Kiziwi single room dwelling.
One Saturday, when she was at the Kongowea market she ran into Wangeci, an old classmate from Menengai who was now a nurse at the Coast General Hospital.
Wangeci was radiant and happy to see Ajwang’.
Was it because they were old classmates reuniting in a new town or was it because Wangeci had lost her virginity to Ajwang’s late brother who used to lust after Wangeci whenever Wangeci came to visit Ajwang’ or was it because Wangeci was a nurse?
Whatever the case, like a flood, the terrible secrets of the flower farm gushed out of Ajwang like an impatient gully dashing down the estate after a torrent of rain.
She did not leave out anything.
They both cried and hugged.
“Don’t worry. I know somebody. Come over to the hospital next Wednesday at exactly 8:30 pm. And no, don’t worry about the money.”
Ajwang knew what it was all about.
She knew it was a Big Sin.
Which was going to be her salvation from Baal’s evil seed.
So it had happened.
She had felt cleansed and relieved.
Her test results for the big bad virus made her smile from ear to ear.
Soon after that, she picked up Bertha’s invitation to start attending her church more regularly.
By late January she had been saved.
By mid February, she was one of the most active members of the Church.
The young pastor was impressed at her precocious faith. Ajwang’ grasped theological points so effortlessly. She spoke in tongues almost at will.
“You will be healing the sick within a year”, he prophesized.
Did the pastor mean that?
She must be blessed, she who had been named Ajwang’ Nokwanya, meaning, “The girl who was picked up after being abandoned” she, Ajwang’, would be a prophetess planting the seed for the Lord Jesus Christ?
She felt so special.
And there was no doubt in her mind that it would all come to pass…
How did she end up staring lovingly at the pastor’s bedroom ceiling in Bamburi one Saturday afternoon in late March?
She did not regret what was happening between her and the pastor.
He was so loving and gentle and surprised her with how experienced he was.
They never spoke about what they were doing.
Just adored and doted on each other. Ajwang’ had never loved anyone like this before. She felt as if her heart would break into thirty six different pieces and reform again, so bubbly and giddy she felt, whenever she was alone with him. He was so different at home- did not feel such a burden on his young shoulders.
She was not going to sully all this bliss by talking about Naivasha. When Ajwang’ insisted on condoms he thought it was just the natural thing because he was well stocked.
But he did not know about Baal’s evil seed did he?
She refused to ask him what he wanted to do with her, remembering the nightmare with Joseph. And Oh No, Ajwang’ refused to see herself as Jezebel.
For her, the pastor was a wonderful shepherd and an even better lover.
Her world came crashing down in late May when she was slapped across the face with those unborn throw aways.
For the first time she started thinking about what she had always called The Operation.
Ajwang’ felt... How did she feel? She felt…how did she feel?
She did not know how it felt...
The same weekend the photos appeared in the papers a visiting pastor came from Nairobi.
Rev. Stephen Kyalo was accompanied by Philip Musen, a new Baptist missionary from Kentucky in the United States.
She could not forget that service.
Everyone was so angry and horrified.
Everyone talked of the killers of the unborns.
Did they know, she asked herself silently, that she was there among them?
Could they somehow tell what she had done?
Bertha was even more upset than Reverend Kyalo.
“If I meet one of these killers I will personally strangle them- Forgive me LORD but I am only human! Who are these evil people who would kill GOD’s creature growing in them?”
Ajwang’ pretended to be too overwhelmed to say anything.
That was two weeks ago.
So here she was in Nairobi, preparing to travel back to Mombasa the next day.
She thought about what Reverend Korir had said.
Rev. Kyalo’s and Bertha’s words were ringing in her ears.
Ajwang’ kept seeing those little coffins- especially the one for Innocent, one of the dead unborns.
She was worried about what would happen to the soul of her own fetus which did not have a name and had not been baptized.
Would that infant soul keep traveling aimlessly from now till Armageddon between the gates of Heaven and the dungeons of Hell because its cruel mother had chosen her life over its existence?
Over and over and over again the headline from the newspaper kept playing in her head:
“Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms Cops Launch Massive Search for Fugitive Killer Moms…
over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again….
She knew exactly what she was going to do.
She was not going to take that Shuttle to Adam’s Arcade after all.
Ajwang’ started walking rapidly away from KENCOM towards Kimathi Street.
Here she was.
She hesitated briefly in front of the beige building with the round towers.
Then she walked in, turned left and took the lift to the second floor.
She ignored the askari and went straight to the slender bored looking Gikuyu receptionist with the beady eyes.
“Is this NATION House?”, she asked breathlessly.
“Yes it is, what can I do for you?”
“I would like to talk to a reporter about those killer moms the police have been looking for.”
“Really? What do you know?”
Ajwang’ gave the receptionist such a glare that before long there was this tall wiry man with a sad look with a notepad asking her tentatively:
“ I hear you wanted to talk to a reporter?”
“ Yes. My name is Ajwang’ Nokwanya and I am one of the Killer Mothers you have been looking for. I want to confess my crime.”
Friday, June 04, 2004