The International Women’s Day was marked last week but I waited 10 days just so I could honour a very special woman -- who was in my life 20 years ago -- away from the crowd.
In the same way, a man may choose to go down for a holiday at the Coast on January 18 for a fortnight till end of January, two weeks after everyone else left just to have the run of the place to themselves.
That special woman was my aunt Druscilla Nyaboke Maiko, my late mom’s sister-in-law (and herself a young widow, with three kids).
What had happened was this. The year was 1997. After my mom passed on (I was 19), my old man moved us from Nairobi West to Ngong. Since dad and I didn’t get along, I was only spending one night a week – Saturday nights – in the Ngong house because that is when I’d be sure he’d be out and will just come back and sleep.
Early Sunday morning, before he woke up, I would take off to one of those morning long charismatic Christian churches in town. I think that is where I left my religion forever.
All afternoon, I’d linger in Ngong town with idle youth, thus gaining a lifelong appreciation and sympathy for any generation of lost young men – the one we condemn as ‘kurega rega’ and ‘village drunks’ yet the State and life offer them zero prospects.
At least I was joining university the following year. Of the teens I got to know during this period, by the year 2000, one had been lynched for breaking into a house at daytime (no one was home), one was dead of HIV and Aids-related disease and one was an alcoholic squaddie at the stage.
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Anyway, Sundays I’d ‘spend’ at my aunty Janet Achieng Nyabuti’s in the Ngong vicinity. On Mondays I would go to my high school buddy Bob Mkangi’s place in Kimathi (where they lived with his mom, sis, cousins) and speak about literature, the arts and music late into the night, playing his collection of CDs. Bobby was into reggae and hip-hop and had dreadlocks. I loved rock.
On Tuesdays I would go to Umoja where my friend Henry Njuguna had rented a tiny flat and sit up with him in that bed sitter, drinking really awful alcohol as we watched film after film because the dude was so movie-obsessed his nickname was ‘Spielberg.’
Wednesday was odd because my old man had let me rent out an SQ in Nairobi West for ‘pocket money’ and I had let O’Nedo, this young man with a middle-aged man’s face (hence his nickname, ‘Man Face’), rent it at 80 percent of its market rate – as long as he let me ‘crash’ there Wednesday nights. I needed to feel connected to my old life, my old neighbourhood, when life was stable – and Mom alive.
Then there were the Thursdays in Caledonia, on State House road, where my Aunt Dru lived. I would walk into that house and be warmly welcomed, like a long lost son, though I’d been gone a week. Unlike most other relatives who vanished into thin air after mom’s passage, Aunt Dru had said ‘my house is your home.’ And Thursdays felt like it.
I was that rugged, Afro-haired cousin so common in these circumstances, skinny as a reed, and I would ‘help’ her kids with the homework – but they were so bright my cousin Vivian actually made it to the papers, post-KCPE. Playing with little Elaine prepared me for little Chelsea, 15 years in the future.
I was glad of the warm supper at my Aunt Dru’s, with love and laughter round the table. She was that warm and intelligent aunt. (Also, she turned a blind eye to her diminishing class brandies which I attacked after all had gone to bed). In the morning, we would talk politics around the breakfast table. Then she would drop me off in the CBD, as she went to work, and hand me a thousand bob or so.
It meant a lot to me. Because it was my Friday night boarding cash, where I’d pay Sh400 to sleep in a mosquito coil motel in seedy town or in olde Eastleigh. Then go ‘see’ my dad on Saturday. That was the merry-go-round of a young writer’s life then.
My Aunt Dru emigrated to America many years ago. And I still miss her. Mostly on Thursdays.