Anna do not forget that I have seen you grow up. You were such an ugly baby. You had a cushingoid face; the fat under your cheeks was just too much. Your nose was perpetually wet, wet with colorless transparent mucus mostly, but occasionally with greenish yellowish thick mucus. When I first brought you here, your eyes were red as fire; it is probably because your mother cooked with firewood, or maybe because of your dusty house or both. Your hair was clean shaven, and one could see all the corners of your rectangular head. Your neck was black with layers and layers of dirt. I remember I asked you when you last had a bath. You didn’t answer. You just drew something on my carpet with your long feet. This drew my eyes to your feet. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, your feet; they almost made me faint; thank God there was a chair behind me. I collapsed into it and looked at them closely. You had long feet like a man’s, they are still long, and I swear those feet will look better on a man, not you. Your feet were dirty; the layer of dirt on them was thicker than that on your back. The soles had mega-cracks, cracks big enough to hold a forty shillings coin. Your nails were long, black and unshapely. Your hands were no better; they too had numerous tiny cracks. The nails were shorter however, thanks to your constant biting. Your mouth, I couldn’t look at it, the smell coming out it as you talked was enough to tell me in there were layers and layers of sour milk, sukuma- wiki, and porridge on your teeth, tongue and palate. You were wearing your mother’s discolored oversize top, with nothing beneath it. When I asked you to go take a bath, you bent over to pick that top; your mothers top. You shouldn’t have bent before me; otherwise I couldn’t have seen the cleft between your buttocks. I couldn’t have seen the green that I saw and pellets of millet, so before you came here Anna, you were not only ugly, you were dirty, you didn’t know what tissue paper was and you used to eat millet, like the old women in the village.
Anna, when you first came here, you had the manners of a manner-less village boy. You refused to shit in the toilet, you hadn’t used one where you sit and shit. You used to poop in a piece of paper and then throw in the garbage pit. You used to chew with your mouth open, and disgust everyone, that is why I preferred you having your meals in your room. Otherwise, Naima would have picked bad eating habits from you. You used to eat bread badly, dipping it in tea and then retrieving it with your dirty hands. You used to eat too much. Before you came here, I used to cook with small sufurias, I had to change to medium sized thanks to your appetite. You spoke bad Kiswahili and no English at all.
You were a little mess Anna. You should thank me now for your long black hair. You should thank me that I made you shower every day, otherwise you could be having three layers of skin, even that mole on you upper lip wouldn’t be visible. You should thank me because you no longer smell terrible. You should thank me for those oversize hips you have now. Those hips are thanks to the food that you have been eating here.
If your mother wouldn’t have died Anna, you would be still back in the village, wrapped in torn clothes. Your head would be still bald and all of its corners would be visible. Your soles would be cracked to the point of bleeding Anna. May be you would be married, or you would be having three children already. You should thank God for me.
I am the one who taught you that bread shouldn’t be eaten from a paper; I taught you that armpits shouldn’t be hairy. I taught you a lot of things Anna. These things, you mother wouldn’t have taught you. She was a village woman, and village women shave their heads and forget to shave down there. They buy skirts with marching tops and forget to buy bras. So they walk with their breasts swinging all over their chests, and sometimes hitting each other. Nursing mothers walk with milk trickling down their bellies. That could have been you Anna, but I saved you.
Anna, you were such an ugly baby, remember it is my soap, my oil, and my sprays that have made you beautiful. Before those winks and stares from fat men make your head swell up, remember where you have come from. You will not disobey me. You will not exchange words with me now that you have learnt how to speak English. You will not get married yet. You will not leave this house before Naima gets married. I brought you up. I scratched the layer of dirt off your back for months before you finally became a “person”. I took you to a teeth cleaner. I am responsible for whatever you have grown into.
Tell that man who wants to marry you to wait. If he refuses tell him that you were an ugly baby. Tell him that it is me who taught you how not to snore. Tell him I bought you your first handkerchief. Tell him that you are ugly without your hair. Tell him you have not always been beautiful; tell him beauty caught up with you as you were growing here in my house. Tell him you are unlike Naima who has always been beautiful ever since she was born, who has always known how to sit properly, and how to chew like a girl. Tell him you will get married after Naima has been married, she is two months older than you after all. You will get married two months after she does her wedding, it is only fairer that way Anna.
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