People have things I want. I also have things other people want, but those aren’t that important to me. Anything that makes me different can be used as a foundation for a reprimand. Why do I think I can be unique and not like everyone else? Why do I imagine that I am the only one of my mother’s children that shouldn’t go to the farm? Why do I believe that I should receive special treatment?
Today is like any other, I will walk out of the room, and the only person that gets me will speak in a language I understand. He takes his time, my father, to regard all his children as individuals. My position in his eyes is that of a hard-headed girl with potential beyond the moon; at least, that is what he keeps reiterating. He will address me in English, using a pet name, and I will appreciate that moment as it will be one of the best in the day.
I’ll frown at the tea, there is more water than milk, but we aren’t allowed to complain; you get what you get. There’s probably nothing to spread on that stale-tasting, sugarless, hard bread older adults like, but then there are people getting on with their days with an empty stomach; I guess I should be grateful. My mother will speak out of term, and my dad will say something to calm us both down. She keeps saying I shouldn’t talk back at her, but my mouth doesn’t understand the universally assigned respect for people that birth life.
Her older children had respect in their earlier age and haven’t behaved in the way that I do; I guess it should have been expected that one out of the six would fall out of line, right? Today is the day I learn that there is nothing special about me; everyone has contributed to the continued farming culture in this home, and so will I. All my siblings did it, and I will too, it doesn’t matter that I have a world to get back to in the book I have been devouring. I haven’t been getting much sleep, trying to get to the final page before something like this happens, but then it is impossible to race against time.
These interruptions have perfect timing. Right, when the story has me imagining going on adventures far and beyond the constraints of these expectations to be like everyone else, something comes up. Now I have to pack a cold lunch of Ugali and Sukuma Wiki and add them to the Chondo. I will carry that thing over my head, walking facing down, not from the weight of what was on my back, but the burden of life.
Is this it? I will ask. Has she won? Will I need to do go every time they go to the farm? Was tilling the land going to be my reality?
There’s a defiance in my bones; it sings with the flow of rushing blood in my veins. I can try to oblige other people’s expectations, yet somehow I end up further from their point of approval. My mother wanted some company to the farm, someone to help her work, but that isn’t me; that is something she will soon realize. Without trying, I will drift into another world, trying to create a reality I can bear to be a part of.
She will ask me to fetch water from the homes bordering the farm; that is the last time she will have me working on the land. I have never been good at being a daughter; she knows this, so that is okay. In the process of executing this errand, I become a terrible human, one that does awful things to get what she wants, especially when it’s something that seems to give people more joy than my entire existence offers me.
I will knock.
A kind woman will open the door and invite me in as I wait for a refill; that water will get to my mother much later than now.
This house I am invited into will have a dining table with a variety of spreads for their probably sweet, soft, and fresh bread; others like jam and peanut butter have never crossed the threshold of my parent’s home; a luxury afforded to people in a specific place financially. The little girl sitting in the corner will ask me to join her in her play, and as I always do, I shall oblige. There’s this doll in her hands, with long blond hair, silky and shiny, beauty like nothing I have ever seen before. As I walk out with my refilled water bottle, I will tell her to consider giving me her doll for the night; I only have books and farming tools.
Dolls too, like many things other people have that I don’t, are a luxury I can’t get at home., The day she gives it to me for a sleepover will probably be the last day she sees it, the temptation to have only one thing to live for, even when it is stolen, is much greater than the comfort in lack.