Hey you. This is part two of that story I started. (Oh why did I do this to myself?)
Jackson Kiptanui was born 29 years ago on a cold day in November. His parents, a pair of insurance agents (Anne and William), had waited for his arrival anxiously. It had been a difficult pregnancy for his mother who had waited month after month, year after year before the sperm that made Jackson took. Still, carrying him to term brought her so much joy and hope. Jackson would be the firstborn of many.
On the day of his birth, Jackson’s father died. Just like that. No explanation, his heart gave out like the ding of an oven to let you know something was done. His time was done and he was gone. There would not be any second-borns or third-borns. Just like that Jackson was all Anne had in the world. A boy without a father. She started calling him Kip, after his father and eventually her lips forgot that her son’s first name was Jackson. Her fingers though, those did not forget although she found it strange whenever she would sign a slip for school or fill out a medical form.
For the first eight years of Kip’s life, he was her mother’s one and only love. She would pamper him, spoil him, treat him kama mayai. He could do no wrong. He was her perfect boy, the best of his father and his mother. But rather suddenly, his mother craved love from somewhere else. It was a strange feeling needing someone other than Kip but there was a stirring in her loins that she could not smother. She started seeing someone from work. His name was Henry.
Henry served to cool down the flame in Anne’s knickers and for the most part, treated her and her son well. Until one day he didn’t. Henry was a drunk. He particularly liked gin – the cheap kind that came in plastic bottles or sachets. Bitter water that Kip had once sampled and did not like the taste of. When Henry drank, he became abusive. It was like the gin (spirit) took him over and made him feel stronger. Everyone should know that he was stronger, not the normal Henry who sold insurance to people they never intended to compensate. This was super Henry. The Henry who was a beast in the sack, whose erection had to be satisfied as soon as it reared its head. The Henry who did not care about foreplay or consent. The Henry who was a gin-powered god.
Anne started wearing long-sleeved blouses when that Henry showed up. She started walking with a limp. She started to complain about backaches. Each night Henry came by, Kip was sent to bed quickly and he lay awake in his bed hearing the smacks and claps and grunts and whines coming from his mother’s room. Kip had heard at school what sex was. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that Henry and his mother were having the sex. But why were they doing it? From what he had heard, sex was for making babies. Were they trying to have a baby? Were they trying to replace him?
One day, Kip woke up and met Henry on his way out. Bloodshot eyes, shaggy hair and dishevelled clothes. He cleared his eight-year-old throat and told him not to come back. That’s when Henry smacked him so hard on the cheek he ruptured an eardrum. His mother heard him crying and raced out of her room finding her Kip on the floor in pain, Henry looming over him.
“Your son in a disrespectful cunt,” he said.
The hurt and shock in Anne’s eyes could be seen from space. Anger bubbled up from deep within her spirit. “Get out!” She screamed. “Get out and don’t you ever set foot in this house again!”
Henry stood still as if absorbing the anger emanating from the woman. He blinked away the surprise and smirked before he left. But he came back. He always came back. And whenever he came back, that spirit he had was stronger.
When Kip was in high school, he started going to the gym. He wanted to gain muscle. To become strong. Stronger than Henry who had now taken up permanent residence in their house. He had lost his job long ago and spent all his days in a hovel drinking chang’aa and who knows what else. Only coming home to eat his mother’s food and sleep in his mother’s bed.
He thought about this as he lifted weights. He still hadn’t grown into his full height yet so for a long time he looked like his frame could not support the muscle he was piling onto it. Gradually, as he became taller, his body became more proportional. Until finally, he was strong enough.
Kip was arrested for assault when he was 17. Still a minor, his mother bribed the police to let him go and not to put it on his record. He had beaten a drunk Henry within an inch of his life. Henry who was now out of the house. In hospital but out of the house. Henry’s people came and took him away to whatever hole they came from. A few months later, Kip and his mother moved to another town.
Henry did not come back this time.
Kip substituted most of his gym time for the library. He had KCSEs coming up and if there was one thing he wanted it was to make his mother proud. It was at the library that he discovered his love for stories. He loved them more than he loved math (and Kip loved math). He dove into those alternate realities, picking up quotes and lines that made his heart sing. He started writing poetry. No one ever read those pieces. They were his secrets, his own hidden nuggets.
He sat for his exams and he passed.
“Momma, I got an A!” He said. Jubilant, his smile had never been wider.
“Praise the Lord!” Anne said. “Now you can have your pick of schools. Actuarial science here we come! I’m so happy for you, Kip”
Kip’s smile faded. He still hadn’t told his mother that his dreams had changed. He loved math but he loved literature more. “Actually, mom,” he cleared his throat. “I want to study Literature.”
Anne stood there, result slip in hand, in shock. “Literature? Why? Where’s the money in that? No. You’re doing actuarial science.”
“But – ”
She lifted a hand. “I will hear no more of this.” It was settled. This was the plan. This was what William would approve of. “Seriously, Jackson, what would you do with a Literature degree?”
It was the first time she had called him Jackson. Like the thought of not being an actuary was so distasteful that he stopped being her Kip and he became Jackson.
“Actuarial Science it is,” he sighed.
“That’s my Kip.” Anne smiled and pulled him into an embrace. An awkward embrace because her son who once came up only to her thigh now towered over her.
Kip started college and dove straight into his studies for the first year. His schedule was wake up, eat, go to class, eat, homework, sleep and repeat. Then he started thinking in algebra and talking to himself on the verge of a mental breakdown. He caught it early though and went to see the school counsellor. The first thing he (the counsellor) said to him in that first session was, “What do you do to unwind?”
“Fun. Your schedule does not leave room for fun. What do you do for fun?”
Kip did not like how he said fun. He thought long and hard till he finally said, “I used to read.”
Kip laughed. “I decided to be an actuary.”
The counsellor hmmed and scribbled a few notes. Kip walked out of the session pseudo relaxed. He hadn’t studied all day and the world was still standing. He looked around the quad and saw students, most of them in pairs. Male and female He made them, Kip thought. And it was good. Staring at the couples around him, a strong hit of something hit him. He felt a stirring in his head. The other head. Like some part of him that didn’t get enough light was finally exposed to the sun. Hormones flooded his system and he ran to his room, his phallus leading the way. He masturbated six times that night and after all that strenuous activity, he said to himself, “I need a girlfriend.”
The next two years went by swiftly. He studied, he read his literary classics, he bedded girls. Girls who would stay with him a month or two and leave. Kip didn’t mind, they were all here for a good time, not a long time. It was a time like this when he was in-between lays that Kip set eyes on Rose. Rose was different though. He could sense it in the way she carried herself. It was in the way she looked at someone so intensely you could feel a fire in your soul. It was in her sharp wit. It was in the smell of her perfume. The way she clutched her phone as they talked. The confidence she had to sit there alone just basking in the afterglow of the play.
As Janet pushed Kip out towards the food court, Kip found himself glad (for once) that his mother had insisted on him being an actuary.