We interacted twice in person. Once in 2017 and next in 2018. She was not hard to notice. That first day, she approached everyone smiling, all bubbly as we got to know each other. There was a limp to her step. We were visiting the McMillan Memorial Library as part of the Writers Guild Kenya activities.
Last I heard from her, she was commenting on a topic in one of the mutual groups we share. Before that, some of us were planning to go to her home for a visit. It was the evening of 26th of April. We simply mentioned it but didn’t go into the dynamics as we had to part.
I have just entered a matatu. To keep myself busy, I take out my phone and decide to reduce the accumulating chats. Frantic messages are coming in from a group. I am puzzled as it is only a few minutes to mid-day and the interviews in the group (which is what makes it busy), happen in the evening.
I check. I shouldn’t have. I go to another group to confirm. I shouldn’t have.
‘Post to be’ used to be one of my favourite songs in high school. It is playing. I want it to stop. Silent curses are being thrown at the blasting music. I am deranged. How can the driver be playing this song?
We found our own way to her home. When her mother welcomed us in, she was elated but insisted we should have called her to get us. She wanted to use her legs. She was recovering but she was all smiles. That day, she constantly mentioned she felt she was a burden to her family.
Charity Wakini Kuria wanted to do things herself. She helped serve us lunch that day.
Her parents reminded her how much they loved her and she would never be a burden. We talked about many things. We watched news. We laughed. We prayed before we left. It was a cold raining day in Limuru. They were full of thanks as we left.
Charity Wakini Kuria as was her permanent trademark, was smiling.
The conductor taps me. I turn my head without looking at him. He advises me to put my phone away or it would be snatched. I want to shout at him. Tell him the loss of a phone cannot be weighed against my present emotions. Tell him to leave me alone. My voice wouldn’t have come out right, I was struggling to keep myself from choking.
I pressed the power button and gloomily let my eyes roam the road.
With no Facebook posts to take my mind off things, and having forgotten to carry my current read, my mind focuses. Signals from my brain are sent to the nerves on my face. I can feel it tingling all over. It slowly becomes warm. I am tilting my face upward, I want to prevent it. It is too late.
Her name: Charity Wakini Kuria (She used Wakini Kuria on Facebook. She once posted a lengthy post, with a picture for emphasis, on her “real” sex. She laughed off all those who mistook her for a man. Those who thought there was nothing female about the name Wakini Kuria. She was nothing less of a woman.)
She is probably smiling right now. But my eyes are pricking with tears.
Charity Wakini Kuria was fighting Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
The entire way, I was wiping my face with my hands. Dignity. When the torrents became too strong, I used my hijab. I tried not to sob and create attention. A girl crying in a matatu? You will cry at home, you will cry at home, you will cry at home.
She wasn’t my friend from what you can gather. Tears have been blinding my eyes all day still. My uncle died last week in Tanzania. He used to live in Arusha. I didn’t know him. I read the text from my dad last Friday. Nothing happened, I didn’t react. I thought I was merciless.
No blood relations, not close to talk frequently but Charity Wakini Kuria was my family. We were united by writing. She offered to edit people’s manuscripts a few weeks ago. When I came across the comment on my sneaky visits to Facebook, I was exultant even when I didn’t have a manuscript to send.
Charity Wakini Kuria was the chief editor at Writers Space Africa. Charity Wakini Kuria loved books and writing and literature. Charity Wakini Kuria was wise. On the visit to her home, she advised us to filter what the doctor said. Listen, then consult your instinct before you decide.
Today, I am in mourning. It is my first. Death has saddened me but today’s is the closest I’ve come to it. I will not say she was too young to leave. I will not question God. My only problem in this period will be those typing RIP. You might as well pretend you didn’t see it.
Despite the pain she endured, hers was a fulfilled life. If you can sum that up in three letters, most of you even daring to use small letters…
This morning, I had been thinking of hugs. I have had a tough week. My thoughts were based on how downcast I felt. All the people who hug me well are out of my reach. The mood was setting me up for these sombre news. The hug craving has transformed into a need to be held.