My Sister Isn’t Crying

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I realize, hastily, that it is too late to change into a new pair of jeans. These ones will do. After all, it’s gloomy and if that won’t work, I’ll wear a trench coat to hide the glossy slightly brown layer on my ass and my thighs. My father is knocking on my bedroom door with an anger he only showcases on Sunday morning when, again, we are increasingly late for the church service.

Kelitu! Hurry up.’

My father has never called me by any of my actual names. He has never called any of us by our names, even when mad. He calls me ‘Kelitu’ whose Kamba translation is as boring and obvious as they come — ‘girl’. Mulatya, my brother, is called ‘Kijana’ — equally uninteresting and uninspiring. My youngest sister, Lovi, is called ‘Katanu’ which loosely translates to ‘the happy one’. At least, he finally put some characterization into her identity. And she has always been the happier, well-adjusted one, Lovi. Except not today.

Rain is falling outside my window and the sound is so soothing. It ebbs and flows, the pitter patter of separate drops swells together creating a loud pouring roar, and then the drops slowly separate out again into distinct pings, then another swell. Repeat. It’s Thursday morning on a cold July. Colder than I remember. My fingertips are painfully cold as I hold on to the staircase railing that my father has never gotten round to ‘woodening’.

My sister, Lovi, is burying her best friend today.

Death is as old as existence itself and each and every moment is full of a million deaths. Like Marvosh says: some are spectacular; a star explodes in a violent and fiery supernova as it consumes too much of itself for gravity to hold it together any longer. Some are tiny: an apple rots forgotten in a cupboard, never to be tasted nor to grow into the tree it was meant to become. Some are mundane: you go for a walk and don’t even notice the ant you step on. And some are life-changing: a parent, friend, wife, or child dies unexpectedly, leaving a conspicuous and unfillable hole in your soul.

Death, and consequently, funerals are a nasty and grim affair. My sister hasn’t reacted to the death of Victoria and it is oddly worrying. Maybe the reality hasn’t yet descended into her conscience, we deduce. Or maybe she’s well aware of the brutality and finality of death, Mulatya says. I’m jealous, if that’s the truth, my mother says.

In Kamba, the euphemism for death is ‘ni weetiwe’ — she was called. By whom and for what reason, we’ll never know — the lack of closure death is infamous for.

Funerals have a way of reminding us how fickle and ephemeral we are. It’s sobering. The mother’s silent cry of loss. The father’s shivering heave of pain. The brother’s surprising sobriety over it all. Pamoja Na Wewe and Cha Kutumaini Sina. Pastor Mueti preaching on fixing it all up before leaving: your resources, your money, your children — unlike Hezekiah, you may not get extra years. Lang’ata cemetery and it’s cold, peaceful air of death. The brooding. The hidden tears. And the unanswered looming question of why.

Then two weeks later, we forget. Of course.

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