Dolls and empty corridors- Thuku Muthui


The door closed. She wanted in. The door started opening then it stopped. A small gap.


“That’s the furthest you can go,” a stern male voice said.


“I’m his mother!” She cried.


A couple of seconds later she turned. Tears were forming thin shiny lines down her face and eroding the make-up on her cheeks. Her eyes were red and dark shadows formed round them. On another day she would have been beautiful and younger. The pain, well written on her face had taken the two, replacing them with frustration and invisible weight. On another day I would walk up to her, place my palm on her back, rub her scapula comfortingly and mumble ‘ all will be well’ but another day was a hope at the time for all of us so I looked away in a fluid motion when she faced my side like I had seen death, or someone eating Ugali with a fork and knife.


There are things men find hard to look at hence they look away. Like that beggar who always shows up after you order two cold stouts at the pub. A man will shake his head side to side, refuse to look at the D.C laminated begging permit and develop deep interest in a poster on the opposite wall. This man will even wish for NEMA people to show up and arrest the beggar for possession of a plastic laminated permit, or how you turn when Mama Kama at the grocer shouts,” wewe usifinyefinye Avocado zimeiva zote.”


Men have a flexible neck, wait until they see someone they owe money while buying steak or when a cute lady passes.


That is how I turned when she threw me that hundred pound look.


“Doctor said to wait,” she informed a group which sat on a bench at the corner.


Sometimes I feel like God looks away when we call or walk into His perspective, not because He hates us or that He is tired of us but because He is a just God and is exercising that attribute. Like when we fail to buy tropical sweets and PK from that child along Kenyatta Avenue or outside Imax only for us to buy them at an extra cost in malls, or when we ask our friends, uko na coin when that blind man approaches us. He has to be just with us, and what a better way than to look away and assume we never called. I was wondering why I was going through such troubles of late.


Didn’t I give way to the Matatu when the driver wanted to join my lane in the morning traffic? Don’t I say hi to the estate watchman from Funyula and hand him over Bamba 50 airtime to call home or call the radio station to send greetings home? Don’t I let my beard and moustache overgrow each November to raise awareness on cancer and other issues?


Tell me God the reason you have turned away from me when I cry. Is it because I forget to tithe? Or is it because I wake up in the night to warm mukimo in the microwave and never to have a moment with you? Or have I been a bad neighbor for not sharing potatoes with my neighbors when I come from upcountry? You know my neighbors don’t even like warus. You see how they criticize them on Facebook. Tell me God where I have erred.


This is where God comes in (He is a God of mercy you know),” Son, me I can’t talk to him right now. Ask him what is wrong. And don’t go dying for him this time. Or just tell Father Abraham to remind him the story of the rich man and Lazarus.”


Instantly, I missed the way she sucks her thumb. Not that I love it. Actually I hate it. Now it is the only comforting memory of her I possess. I hate myself for rubbing pepper on it (the thumb not the memory).


She has those big round eyes that are rare in this continent. Sexy eyes but she is my daughter so I cannot describe her eyes or any part of her body with that adjective. What if she sees (they are big eyes remember) this story when she is grown? They are windows to her heart; because heart is a place, like a fortress where love and peace live. Her eyes are the windows that we peep through. The pupils of her eyes play gracefully on the iris like black beans floating on butter. She also has dolls, pretty pink dolls with blonde hair that she plaits all day. She calls them her children and has given them beautiful girl names.


There is Amanda, the first-born and Sheila, then there is Bridgette and Martha. Martha has a bald head thanks to our neighbor’s spaniel. She had cried all evening and refused to sleep, and we took turns convincing her how beautiful Martha had become. Finally, she did buy to our trickery and she slept holding bald Martha in her arms. I wish I meant it when I said Martha was beautiful when bald. I had lied. A cold lie. I thought a pink bald doll was ridiculous and deserved no love.


Anabelle sat beside me on the freezing form, she placed her head on my shoulder. Instinctively, I wrapped my hand around her. In her arms she embraced the four dolls. The dolls stared into her perturbed face. They had lovely dark eye lashes, dimples on their pink cheeks and well curved kissable lips. I find dolls’ lips to be kissable. I grinned at the thought. Selfish at the moment. They also have an empty face devoid of emotions.


People and dolls with smooth faces hide a lot. They are like a water melon; you can never tell if it’s bad by just looking or touching it. Good ones and bad ones feel the same. A face with pimples, scars, wrinkles and curves speaks. But I loved the dolls then, even Martha, because she who we missed showed me they were lovable. She would walk through it and hours later we would be united again, I hoped.


“Will she get well?” Anabelle whispered solemnly.


“All I know is she’s a fighter.”


“Do you miss her? Do you remember when she said her first word?”

“I do. Vividly. I miss how her left eye twitches when she is lying,” I said.


“She is such a darling. What is she thinking now?”


“That we might decide to throw away her daughters.”


“Can we?”




The tension was rising. The door opened. Another group which sat at the corner rose. Behind the doctor an excited man, still in theater attire walked out. In two swift steps, he reached his compatriots.


“It’s a boy!” He shouted. Hugs. Song. Dance and congratulations ensued. For a while we forgot our troubles. The group left. The gloom and silence crept back like a nightmare on a stormy night.


It had happened so fast and unexpectedly that we didn’t have the chance to say sorry. A month earlier we had lit four candles, and wished on a wishing star. She wished two, then wished for three more wishes. Her genie smiled, awed by her shrewdest and granted her wish. One for Papa’s happiness, the other for Mama’s health. At the moment finding the two was flogging a dead horse.


Thirty minutes later, the doctor came out again. Anabelle rose, I followed. Then we sat, it wasn’t our turn. The mother rushed forward, the doctor spoke. I didn’t hear but his lips were moving slowly.


We tried our best but… I lip-read just enough to know their fate.


The family cried, mourned and embraced one another. We felt the pain of loss too.


They also left.


I hoped to tie the laces of her tiny shoes again. When she came to the house with cold feet after playing into the night, I replayed the exchange of words between her and Anabelle. Nostalgia was creeping in. I missed reading her baby stories over and over again to lure her to sleep, the night arguments between Anabelle and me of who was to check on her when she called from her room. She used to wake up at dawn and slide into our bed, taking her spot between me and Anabelle. Sometimes she would interrupt a lot though. We would read poems and sing songs until the sun rose. Unlike other girls, she didn’t mind if daddy sang off key or grumbled away parts-she just enjoyed it. I got worried when she refused to open up, like a rose in winter. Her promising bud was withering before it blossomed. We checked her fever and pulse. We consulted doctors. We freaked out. And feared to speak our minds. Baby will be fine. God let it be true and soon. I prayed.


The room was now vacant except us and lurking desperation. We tried to talk. We gave up trying and started staring into empty space. In my mind I prayed again for her young soul and prayed that God doesn’t look away. Not this time, not ever.


We had experienced, first hand, two eventful episodes. The possible two.


The door will open anytime soon.


DUM dum. My heart raced.


He will walk out and approach us. At least I know how the prologue will go.


“Anabelle, be strong and hopeful for her.” I said and shook her fondly.









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