Out of the Shadows


It is 4:39 a.m.

See, inspiration is like night pee. It comes at the weirdest of hours and you have to act on it then, or you’ll pee in bed.

I could not sleep well that night. I kept hearing crickets stridulating. Then there was the ticking of the clock in the living room that sounded like the ticking of a bomb to me. I know, I know. I am one of those earthlings who require dark room, pin drop silence to sleep.

It is a thing I have. If I have a travel the next day, I toss and turn in bed. My bed never gets warm. It oft times feels like someone has poured a bucket of ice-cold water on it. Then there is the constant obsession with checking the time to see whether it is time to go. I will be asleep but subconsciously, I will be wide-awake akin to those African mums who watch TV asleep. You’ll think they are dead asleep until you try to change the channel. My mind will be racing, conjuring images and schemes of my travel. I could travel all the way and back before the actual journey begins.

It gets worse if I have never been to my destination before. I might actually not get a zizz all night. I used to think that it had something to do with being a child, but no, it still happens now so I guess I am stuck with it. Sigh!

This night was particularly long! I was supposed to report to university the next day. This was major for me. Major for me, but mega for my whole family. It was epic. See, I was the first in both my nuclear and extended families to gain university admission. Legit university admission, that is. No one from the clan had ever been ‘called’ to university. So yes it was a humongous deal.

I need to explain to the millennials here that back then you were ‘called’ to university. Well, first off, there were only six public universities in the entire republic. Imagine that! Six! Today, universities are as many as there are boiled egg vendors on the streets. I know the older people will say that that’s nothing considering there’s a time there was only a constituent college of the University of East Africa. But, hey, I am talking about the early 2000s so let me relish the moment.

So these six universities would scramble for a select few who had worked their behinds off to score the minimum ‘B’ plain grade to qualify for public university. After this grueling process, they would send you a letter, a hard copy, inviting you to join their prestigious campus! Yeah, you were invited to campus back then! Now, that was being ‘called’. So you can imagine how big a deal that was, can you?

Now, add that to the fact that I was already petrified of new places and the night would become completely unbearably. I need to mention that the farthest I had been from Machakos was Nairobi, the big city. My parents were content to have me attend school in Machakos Primary and later Machakos School. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe they thought that the closer I was to home the lesser the chances I would have to misbehave. They were right. Machakos is so small a town that anything that you do in the morning makes it to the one o’clock local news as a headliner. It’s the curse of small towns. Add that to the fact that I am a Pastor’s Kid and you will understand why I could do no wrong: quite literally.

I found myself in Nairobi courtesy of a two-year lapse between high school and university. At that time universities could only admit so many students at a go. You had to find something to do between high school and campus. I had never been past Nairobi.

So my father shipped me off to Alliance Français immediately after my high school. Dad hates idlers and the thought of his son spending two whole years home doing ‘nothing’ was unfathomable.

I didn’t learn much in Nairobi. I couldn’t even. All I did was attend French classes at Alliance and walk back to Nairobi west where I lived with a family friend. I say walk home because I would literally walk home. I did not understand why someone needed to take a ‘mat’ from ‘tao’ to Nairobi west. It looked like a waste of 30 bob to me. Also, I did not have that much money to gift Nairobi ‘kanges’. I was a ‘Shags Mundu’. I had such a countryside air around me that Nairobians would get a whiff of me from a mile away.

Alliance was a cool kids college. So you can imagine I didn’t have many friends there. I had one friend though, Roba. He was a you-guy-my-guy-kinda-guy but he was okay with being my friend.  He was a good guy, good to me at least. He would always walk up to me and say hi then proceed to hang with the gang. I never really fit in with the rest. I didn’t even try to.

The girls there were way above my league. I was playing KPL while they were somewhere in the region of EPL. They spoke slang. That was as foreign as the French I was trying to learn so I decided to pick one struggle; I stuck to French. I never really spoke to anyone and I am not much of a conversationalist anyway. I would walk into class, take my place at the back of the room and wait for the teacher.

So I did not sleep well. But mum still woke me up at 2:00 a.m. because we needed to be on our way before 3:00 a.m. We had been reliably informed that registering was a hustle so we needed to get there early.

Because of the magnitude of the occasion, I was driven to Egerton University, Njoro. Dad had acquired a brand new Mitsubishi Pajero intercooler turbo, KAH 442Z. There were only two of them in Machakos town at the time, Dad still owns his. He has completely refused to part ways with it, old people and their attachment to inanimate objects. So we stopped checking the mileage. Nowadays, we just drive! So since I had done the clan proud, I wasn’t going to travel via public means. No! I was chauffeured there. To cut the story short, I reported to campus in mid August that year.

But this story isn’t about Nairobi or Alliance Français, and neither is it about Egerton University. It is about girls!

I know! Now you are struggling to make the connection between everything I have said and girls. I know. I’ll elucidate.

This story is about girls because campus was a revelation for me. Campus for me, like most of us, meant freedom. It meant that I had all this time and I, for the first time, got to decide what exactly to do with it. I mean, there were lectures, CATs and exams, but hey, even those were an option. I had no prefect chasing me around to go to class, no teacher on duty doing rounds in the evenings to see whether I had attended night preps or not. There were no bells. No list of noisemakers. There was just freedom: a large open snow white slate of freedom for me to skate on. And boy didn’t I skate!

It was a big deal because like I said, I lived in Machakos a whole 19 years. I was also the son of a Pastor so my life was highly quelled. Campus gave me space to breathe. I had met girls before, say in high school but then; I was so quiet and dark (literally) that I was always in the shadows. Campus was a floodlight lit and shone right over my head. It was campus that got me ‘out of the shadows.’

It was campus that taught me that boys and girls could actually be boys and girls and not think that a demon was at work in them. See we were taught that you should never entertain any boy-girl thoughts because those were evil thoughts and you’d burn in hell’s fiery furnace for them. The message then was to stay away from the girls if you were a boy and boys if you were a girl.

So, in this premiere series of my blog, I want to share my stories of the girls in my life. I will ten to one not share all, but I will pick the ones that made a difference in my life. I will share the good, the bad and the ugly.

But I won’t just share my stories, I will also tell your story.

I want to tell that story of the girl or boy you loved in high school. I want you to tell me of the dull-witted things you did for him or her. Did you write letters? Were they scented? How about school funkies? How much of your pocket money did you spend on him or her? Did you ever pretend to be a CU member so that you could attend a rally just to see him or her?

I want to hear the story of your first kiss; where it happened, how it happened and how ridiculously awkward it was. How old were you, did it change your life, was it all that you’d ever imagine it to be? Was it all that the movies had made it out to be? Did your parents find out? Did you hate it or did it give you an eerie feeling? Or was it like a shot of undiluted vodka straight into your veins? Did he bite your lip or tongue? Were you grossed out? I wanna hear!

How about the story of your first boy or girlfriend? How did you meet? Was he or she a neighbor or church mate? Did you go to the same school? Was it serious? Did your parents ever find out about your relationship? I want to know how your first boy-girl relationship changed you. Did it make you more curious or did it scar you for life?

Let’s write about your first crush. That girl or boy who you liked all your high school life but they never got to know. How did it make you feel that you could be in the same room with him or her and not be able to say a single word? Did it give you sleepless nights? Did you ever wonder how to approach your crush or play the scenario out in your mind? Did your mind go blank every time you saw him or her?

I want to tell of boy-girl stories gone bad. The story of the boy who got you pregnant in high school and completely denied it. The one who ‘ruined’ your teenage life. I want to know how your parents took it. What happened to your school life after that? Did he stay? Did something come out of it?

I want to tell stories of high school girls who dated campus guys. Tell me of older guys who got caught up in relationships with younger girls. I want to know how you got there. I want to know what you did about it. Did you feel guilty about it? Did you hate it? Did you loathe yourself? I want to know why you did it in the first place and I want to know what it made you feel then and what you think about it 20 years later.

I want you to tell me about the boy who took away your virginity without your consent. The one who broke your trust and took away your innocence. Did you ever tell? How did you handle the pain? How has it shaped your life now? Did you blame yourself? Did you carry any guilt with you and wish that you’d never met him? What would you have done differently then if you went back in time?

Talk to me about the one who got away. The boy or girl you dated for years. The one everyone thought you’d end up with. The one everyone called your soul mate. But the one who ended up with someone else. How did that make you feel? Did you heal? Do you still see him or her and take a trip down memory lane?

I want to hear stories that will make me cry, laugh, and jump off the chair. I want to hear raw stories: those of ecstatic joy and those of sheer pain. I don’t want middle ground stories. I want the whole experience. I want all or nothing. I want to share stories that have an edge, stories that you’d want to read.

If you have this kind of a story, write to me. We can plan a sit down. I won’t share your name unless you ask me to but I will tell your story the way you want me to. And in the best way I can. Here’s your chance to tell your story.

My email address is mystory@justmwendwa.com I will be waiting.

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  1. Nimeshatandika mkeka na uji mkononi nangoja masaibu ya Mwendwa campus….nice stuff keep.on keeping on…I’m eagerly waiting for more

  2. I must admit I am a bit underwhelmed!! You had me excited, at the edge of my seat ready for that story, and then you turned the tables 😂 Sawa Tu.
    Couples of things,
    1. I have waited for you to write forever and I am finally happy the world gets to read you 🔥🔥
    2. This is very beautiful writing and I’m not just talking about the story, I’m talking the choice of words, the flow of thought, the humour.
    3. It’s amazing that this isn’t just a platform for you, but for everyone else this hare their stories on.

    That being said, I look forward to more reading, please promise you’ll finish that story. I feel short-changed.😅

    1. Amelia, first off, thank you for the compliments! Totally humbled. Don’t worry, the stories are coming and they will be complete. Thank you for reading.

    1. Natasha. Thank you for the compliment. I think Africans love to tell stories, I sure hope that I am not wrong. But, I already have stories from people and they are Africans so I believe there is hope for us 🙂

  3. Keep writing Mwendwa, it’s your gift and calling. The Egerton experience is all too familiar. I can even read in between the white spaces of your story!

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