No Role Models.


I’m allergic to penicillin. And mabenda. And mrenda. Some of you have just frowned. I’m tempted to add Brenda just to keep the –enda suffix going. (I don’t know any Brendas).

Eggs contain some relative strain of penicillin. I happen to love eggs though, be they boiled or decorated into an omelette. French toast is my favourite breakfast meal solely because a few eggs must be broken. I’d choose eggs over anything. Hehe. Lies.

There’s this chap who owns one of those food *trolleys along Mammals road next to where I stay. (They can’t be called trolleys for sure- this was just a name that fits.)

He sells boiled eggs, minji samosas, meat samosas, chapatti… an assortment.

Some mornings I get up from my room- login to Twitter and IG almost simultaneously. [Sometimes I dread opening my Whatsapp. Because blue ticks- it’s a disease. Tabia mbaya.] I have a good habit of listening to J. Cole every morning – so earphones are more often than not a must. On this day, I’m playing No Role Modelz* as I walk toward him. Nyerere Road is usually still asleep at 8am.

I’m usually not hard to spot, don’t ask me why- so every time he sees me, he starts smiling.

In his mind he’s probably thinking, “Huyu jamaa ameniletea 50 bob ingine.”

In my mind, I usually ponder why I love eggs yet fear chicken. Do I fear chicken because I feel guilty for having their kids for breakfast? Maybe a vegetarian could shed some light. I’ve never understood why of all struggles, mine had to be chicken. On a good day though, I just try cramming J.Cole lyrics. I’ll talk about the songs in my playlist some day.

Whenever I reach his food *trolley I usually unplug my right earphone and place my order.

“Umepotea bana.” I only go to him twice a week.

“Si kwa ubaya. Niwekee kawaida.” I’m not one for small talk. So he usually just serves me, I pay him, thank him, return my right earphone to its lover and get back to my room.

But on this day, things would happen differently. I find a lady standing next to him. We’ll call her Truphosa because she stole Serena Williams’ legs. Big legs. Nice legs. She wore high heels- which must have been screaming in agony in their shoe dialect.  I understand that I have to wait in line. First come, first serve is no malarkey, it applies to everyone.

He’s already asked her age. I could also see the bedroom eyes he was shooting at Truphosa’s legs. It reminded of when Tormund met Brianne.

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He would pretend to listen to her as he served her, then feast on the legs for half a second. Sometimes two seconds. The dog. 😅. Let’s call him Mutiso. (I promise I’ll ask for his real name).

I’m never one to stand in the way of a vibe. Mutiso is on his best behaviour. Asking all the engaging questions. I want Mutiso to shine. Because kila mbwa na siku yake. I felt I should plug my right earphone back in and just be patient. Until she said something that made me want to press pause on J. Cole.

“Baba yangu alikuwa mzembe. Mama yangu alifanya kila kitu.” (My father was lazy. My mother did everything.) I find myself wanting to hear more. I press pause, I like stories.

Mutiso now seems to have realised that he might have asked the wrong question. He looks disturbed. (Maybe he was acting, maybe he wanted to provide that shoulder for her to lean on – at this point I honestly can’t tell.)

He asks if she had any brothers.

“Hao kwanza ni bure kabisa. Watoto kila mahali.” (They are useless. Have kids everywhere). Truphosa is a talker. She talks of how she saw her mother struggle for them as kids, while the father got drunk and slept with anything in a skirt. How he would come home and beat the mother, or all of them- it depended on how much of a man he felt. He was such a man. Tsk. It’s none of my business- but it’s melancholic.

She explains why she said her brothers are apples that haven’t fallen far from the tree. One is in jail. The other has 6 kids. The last born started smoking weed and has refused rehab. They lacked a firm hand. Someone they could have looked up to. No idol. No role model. They would observe how their stupid father treated their mother and grow up copying him. Being him. So their mother meant garbage to them.

There’s a silver lining, “Mimi nilisoma. Nilijiambia nitatoa mama yangu kwa umaskini.” Her diction, albeit in Swahili, is bespoke. It’s evident that she’s well educated. Her mother being her strongest driving force. Her idol. Her role model.

And she wasn’t done, she’s now bragging about how good the company that hired her in January is. (She’s only just 25, by the way.) Something about a “Sacco”, and land being sold in some Nairobi outskirt. She’s paying slowly for some ka-piece of land and wants to put her past behind her. Born a nobody (if I may), but ready to announce herself to the world. She’ll fight her way to the top this one- I can tell because there seems to be a fierce fire in her eyes.

Oh no, wait, she could also spit fire, “Mali yangu itakuwa yangu na watoto wangu.” (My property will belong to my kids and I.)  “Bwanangu akileta mchezo nitamfukuza.” (If my husband screws up, I’ll ditch him.) She says this with peacock pride. I’ll admit that it felt like she was out for revenge- like she was praying that her future husband messes up.

“Jina yangu Truphosa inamaanisha True Force, atakiona.” [Okay- I’m lying. But she really was talking tough. I can’t remember the whole incident.] It’s none of our business, sindio?

Her sad childhood has given her the keys to life. She knows better. She’ll be and do better. To her, mediocrity is cancerous. Weeh. This is all thanks to a figure in her life that stood firm, and raised her right.

Life’s a bitch. But she’s the baddest bitch. Nothing beats a bad bitch mentality. Am I right, ladies?!

Was that a bit too effeminate of me? Has my man card been revoked? 😅  😅

Mutiso’s face is already beginning to sag. He’s intimidated. The look on his face suggests he already knows that he’s sleeping alone on that night- AGAIN. Probably.(I might be exaggerating- whatever. He’s already stopped staring at her LEGS.)

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He turns to me and I whisper, “Kawaida boss” (the usual). I call him boss to reassure his ego. No?

                      *  *  *

I leave knowing I may never see Truphosa again. I’m grateful that I got to hear her story. It will empower someone.

I hope life is kind to her. She’s good people. I contemplate on doing a piece on why children need strong figure heads in their lives. They are our future.

I think about all of this even as I walk to class. I smile. You just read the first half of it.

[By the way, Truphosa is a Greek name. It means strong Christian woman.]

of Journalism photojournalism student and professor curated the Black ___

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6 thoughts on “No Role Models.

  1. This piece is eduacative and hilarious..you have highlited a plight society relates to often..but fresh or old our scars wunt define us*..share this link everyone

  2. No role models and am here right now,
    No role models to speak of.
    Aye… Life’s a bitch but she the baddest bitch.
    But without her we ain’t got no better us. She is a lesson that we can’t live without.
    So even if you call 911 and run, you’d be ashamed about it.
    Now remember, back to a better you, before you were a great family, before you had the courage to protect all of that imagination…
    Who had your back when you were but a fledgling?
    This I wrote inspired by J. Cole… No role models… Big up David.
    Maybe life is the role model?

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