James Munyeria Photography 7

A song for Tasha

Dawn is breaking and I can see the rays from the rising sun behind me, I loathe the sight of sunrise for it brings me the pain of my life, my pain. I want to forget the anguish. Memories come flooding in one full swing as I recall those early days of our youth.

Tasha and I had been the best of friends for the longest time, since childhood to be precise. We went to school together, played together, we were inseparable. We even fell in love, or so we thought, together with the same guy. The episode was hilarious to say the least; it was as if we had been possessed by unexplained bout of madness. We were headed to the market when we met him, and his friend John. I hated John; he enjoyed taunting and making fun of me at every given opportunity. He always called me ‘momo’, which meant a fat person.

Well I must admit that I was a bit thick especially my backside, but I hated being reminded of it. On that particular day, it was not any different, for when he saw me, he started belting out sinister kikuyu tunes which had reference to the word ‘momo’, and as was the habit, I started running away from him. Usually I would outrun him and he would lose interest in me, but that day was different, I tripped and fell. It was humiliating, not because I fell, no, but how I fell. You see my dress flew over my back exposing my buttocks, barely covered. I wanted the ground to swallow me alive and no amount of consolation from Tasha would stop me from crying. The more John laughed at my humiliation, the more I cried. But all that changed then Wanjohi came to my assistance, he held out his hand to help me off the ground and I took it. He helped me wipe off the dust that had ruined my dress and picked up my bags. That was not all he offered his handkerchief to help me wipe off my tears, and soon enough I was feeling much better. It was his hug though that changed everything.

I could not describe it, but I had read about it in the numerous love novels that Tasha had loaned to me, it was beautiful and I felt like floating. He then stared at me, asking me whether I was okay; all this while his hand softly resting on my cheeks, I had never seen such shiny eyes, perfect teeth, and the smile, the smile is a story for another day. It was a silent journey to the market. Wanjohi had offered to take us to the market. He did most of the talking, we stared, and even when he took us home, all we could offer as gratitude was sheepish laugh and lots of unidentifiable maps that we drew on the ground using our toenails.

The next month would see Tasha and I change a lot, we stole our mothers iron cups poked holes into them and used them to burn our hair with hot coal, and to make our body and hair shiny we stole milking jelly. Out trips to the river took longer, we had to scrub our feet with stones to tame ‘miatuka’,the openings at the feet, and we learnt to walk like girls from the city, the trick was to deliberately incline the buttocks, and sway the hips back and forth. We seized every opportunity to ‘bump’ into Wanjohi. Each of us was out to win his heart, Tasha even feigned another fall and it worked. But our bliss was short lived when Wanjohi married. It was said that he had made her pregnant and the parents wanted to cover up the shame. We were truly joined at the hip. When we went to campus Tasha and I had it all figured out, we were going to study and work very hard. We both wanted to become lawyers, build huge houses and buy pick-up trucks for our businesses, marry and have lots of children. That was then, when we were young.

It all happened too fast, but that is what love does to you, it drives one mad, but no, not the kind of madness that had possessed Tasha and I in our youth. This was a different kind of madness, the kind that love novels could not explain; nobody could explain it, only Greg and Tasha could. I never knew why she loved him so, but she did. I once read one of her diary entry and this is what it read;

I stare at him wishing he was mine,
But he doesn’t notice me like that, and I know it.
I want to tell him, I want him to know that
I don’t want to be just friends,
I love him but I’m just too shy,
And I don’t know why.
I wish he would tell me he loved me!

She had called Greg in a spat of emotional epiphany, at 3am in the morning, and he came. He professed his love for Tasha, and she did the same. I could not stop it, nobody could, not even Tony her fiancée, he stood no chance, Greg had fought for his love and won.

Tasha loved Greg, since the first time she saw him make a speech in one of the law society meetings. He was handsome, charming, a gentleman she had said, not like the rest of the ‘scavengers’ as she liked to refer to them, those who only wanted to win her in the ‘gold rush’. She had tried so many times to tell him, but she had been shy, besides our mother had told us not to chase after boys, it was unladylike behavior, unacceptable and it made women look like prostitutes.

Life may have changed, and experiences waned the innocence of our youth, but the village spirit in us was very much alive, and very much so with Greg’s marriage proposal to Tasha. She wanted and longed for a traditional ceremony, the kind that had lots of food, and drink. She wanted to dance and shake her buttocks, and I could not believe my ears when she vehemently insisted that we visit her untie Waruguru who was respected very much back at the village for her prowess in lessons in ‘trapping men’. Waruguru was an old woman, but she was very strong, she had to be strong to teach the young unmarried women the famed dance ‘hutia mundu’. It was not an ordinary dance; it required a great deal of patience and discipline. The first step involved mastering the art of dancing to an imaginary tune, moving each part of the body especially the hips and buttocks,

“dance, dance, to the rhythm of your love”, she insisted,

The second part was very much private, and the first time she told us on what it entailed, Tasha blushed, giggling. It was about well’s that we had…that our legs were chains…and that our breasts…well Greg was in trouble, and Tasha could not wait.

Greg was of no help. He kept a safe distance, always referring to her as her ‘friend’, and she hated it. She hated it even more, when she saw him with other girl’s. She would get jealous. I remember this one time; we had gone to Entebbe for a swimming session with the rest of the law students. Tasha had saved up all her pocket money to buy a swimsuit that she had seen at the market just to impress Greg. She spent two weeks watching Mexican soap operas, there is a way that those ladies swim, and the hair would flow freely with the wind, as they run in slow motion on the beach, and the water never ruined the makeup on their faces, neither did they get sand on their feet as they took romantic walks, we had to learn, Tasha had to learn. On the decisive day, Greg showed up alright, with Stella clinging on his arm, scantily dressed, and Greg spent the whole day ogling at her, only giving Tasha an occasional glance. Tasha was angry, not like that Nyeri woman who almost killed her husband for selling the household radio, no, she was raving mad, and her face turned red with anger which easily turned into unmatched jealousy. Tasha was crushed. But that was then, then when we captives of the whims of youth

She looked beautiful in her wedding dress, as she twirled around, occasionally stopping to stare at herself on the mirror, and stare at her engagement ring. Her ring was simple, in fact, you had to employ the services of a magnifier and pose at a strategic angle with one eye shut in order to catch a glimpse of the rock on her wedding ring, and even then it was not guaranteed that you would see it, but she loved it anyway. It was two days to her wedding day, and I could swear she spent more time just fitting on her wedding dress, and each time she would dance and taunt me for having nobody who had ‘put a ring on it’ yet. In one of her taunting occasion she had told me that I would grow old alone and own many cats, and that I would be like Waruguru her untie who knew everything about men, but had never ‘trapped one’ for herself. I shivered at the thought; surely I didn’t want to grow old alone. She even once suggested that make a trip to my cousin who lived in Machakos, just in case, and she would laugh at the thought of it. She was happy.

Today, she will be just as happy to see all of us gathered together to celebrate her. She will smile that beautiful smile that made Greg lose a tooth. Poor Greg, at the night of their engagement party, the poor guy had tripped over a set of stairs in an apparent poor attempt to impress his love. There he was, doing a rendition of some love song, a poor rendition I must say, he could not pronounce the words right, well he was from the land of the great Mulu Mutisya, he who went to London and slept on his feet, because he found no bed in his hotel room. There was a bed, but one had to press a button for it to appear, and the great Mulu could not understand the instructions in any other language save for his mother tongue, so we all understood. So there he was, screaming his heart out, emotions got the better of him and he took to the stairs, two at a time and that is when it happened. He fell, landing hard on the ground, and it was Tasha who went to him, and consoled him. Of course, we laughed, you should have seen his swollen upper lip; it resembled those huge bananas from Uganda. If for any consolation, Tasha made a charming necklace out of the tooth, to her, it was a symbol of her love for Greg. It was weird. She wore it with pride. Even today, she is wearing it, I know it.

Greg, of course he has to be there, if only for a while, before he goes away, I cannot tell of his feelings, but he is fine, he will be there for his love, the owner of his heart and tooth. He will be there, at his best, Tasha cannot have it any other way. He knows it too. He had seen her, before the wedding ceremony, and in her wedding dress, taboo. Had it not been any different, the tantrums that would have been thrown by the women directed at Greg could have been unimaginable. They would have reprimanded him, fined him heavily for defiling tradition, but they did not, they could not. How could they when Greg held Tasha so closely, so jealously refusing to let her go. They could not deny him the chance to hold his love, kiss her pretty face, and tell her just how much she loved her. They could do nothing but stare, and fight hard to control their emotions. She was indeed looking lovely in her dress, like an angel, I had been the first to see her on her wedding day and the last. When he saw, her face was not the same anymore. It was dull, life had found another home, and it was not her, she was not the home. Her dress was not the same, but stained with the very proof of life that flowed through her veins. She had been stabbed by love. Love that had refused to die refused to give up, love that could not accept defeat. Love that wanted to be loved back, love that demanded care, respect, compassion, tenderness, love that needed to be tendered, nurtured, and guarded. Tasha had been killed in the name of love.

Tasha was gone, gone before she lived, before she lived her dream. Gone too soon, she didn’t have to go, but she did, she had to. It had to be that way.

As we gather for Tasha, she will be there, she will see us, as we lay her to rest and drape her coffin with roses, seal her fate with earth, she will see me, she will remember me.

I too, I’m Tasha, beautiful like Tasha, innocent like Tasha, easy to love like Tasha…Tasha, this, Tasha that! I too saw him, his charm, I too love him, and I told you Tasha, you laughed it off. That it simply could not be, who is laughing now Tasha, beautiful Tasha, innocent Tasha, Tasha this, Tasha that!

Dear diary, I must leave now, am sure Greg still needs me, a shoulder to cry on today, and tomorrow it will be me who fights for him in court, he is innocent, he did not kill her, I know it, because I was there when it happened. It was me. I will get his life back. It will be me, and he will love me.

That is all I need…



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