PICKET FENCES by Linda Musita
My friends are like ants. As soon as ants get into your house they are in your head. You cannot think in peace. You will pour hot water on them, fill with iodized salt the little holes they make in your house, sweep, sweep, and sweep but the damn little terrorists will never leave you in peace. They will die and resurrect while you watch. The bottom line for them is that they like being in your house knowing full well that they have not been invited.
One of my friends, Natalie, has bad manners: every time I visit her she is naked or half naked. Even when she comes over to my place, with her it is always “too hot, I need to lose some clothes.”
She is always in the nude because she knows I will not move an inch to catch her big breasts when they bounce all over her chest. Neither will I try to grab her buttocks and fondle her vagina. I am not that straight. But still. That girl needs to be taught those basic things that the rest of us were taught. Those lessons about bare nakedness that were given everywhere except where Natalie was raised.
Take me for instance: as soon as I learnt how to pour water from the basin to my back and oil my legs properly, my parents told me that the only person who should see me naked is me. If anyone tried to take off my clothes I was to scream, kick, bite, free myself, and tell the whole world about the pervert.
At school, if you so as much as lifted your shorts to scratch your thigh, the teachers would beat you then tell you to go get some more from the headmaster.
My headmaster loved whacking buttocks with his bare hands. He made you lie on his table and had the time of his life smacking your little ass sore.
‘Why were you taking off your clothes in class?’ How am I supposed to answer when you are stinging that part of my body.
‘Are you trying to seduce those girls who were seated next to you?’ No, I had an itch right below my groin which I had to scratch.
‘I know you wanted to go and do bad manners with them. I will discipline you properly.’ Maybe you should have asked me why I lifted my shorts first.
‘Let’s see if you will ever repeat that.’ Okay sir, I will never show my thighs to anyone. Stop beating me. Please, this is not fair.
‘Leave my office. And stop moaning like a mosquito. I have barely touched you.’ Yes you have.
At Sunday school we were told that in The Beginning it was good to be naked, until Eve went and ate a very tasty apple and let the Serpent have raunchy carnal knowledge of her. Things changed after that party. No one is allowed to be naked or half naked except those immoral white people. Just them.
One time, I remember seeing a mad, naked man limp around a traffic light. I thought he was beautiful. He looked like a scarecrow without clothes, a stick man with heavy stones in his head. He tilted his head to make the weight bearable—so endearing, yet I felt sorry for him because god was going to have a fit. First, the man was not wearing clothes. Sin! Second he did not seem to care that he was naked. Sin! Third, I could see his pee-pee stick. Sin! Fourth, he was indeed, by all counts, immoral, just by being naked. Sin! Woe and hell were upon the beautiful brown-skinned scarecrow.
I can bet you she does not prance naked around men who like women. Here is where this woman confuses me: she likes men, wants to date and marry one, however she thinks they are predators that cannot be trusted. Natalie ogles men at restaurants, bus stations, and on the streets, dances like a stripper when we go to a club, but when a man tries to make a pass at her she goes mental on me, not him.
‘What does he think I am? A slut?’
‘Natalie, if you look at a man like that and dance on his dick like you want to cream your thong, he will definitely think you want to get into his pants at no charge.’
‘I want a man who respects me. Like you.’
‘I do not swing that way.’
‘Such a pity.’
‘You treat me well. You are always there for me. You do not try to get me to suck your balls. You are a good man.’
‘I bet you if I were straight I would be a dick.’
‘No you would not.’
‘I would too.’
‘Are you trying to tell me something?’
‘I don’t know…that I attract bad men?’
‘No, you just try too hard. Why don’t you try thinking about something else other than getting a man.’
‘What? You want me to start chasing chicks.’
‘I did not say that. You could try finding a hobby.’
‘Like chasing chicks?’
‘Or playing a sport?’
‘Lesbian sports like hockey and volleyball?’
‘Who gave you that stupid idea?’
‘Hockey and volleyball chicks just look gay with all that tone.’
‘Why are you so stupid and annoying?’
‘Stop calling me names. This is a serious matter…Hey do you think guys do not like me because I have lesbian vibe. Maybe it is a kind of message, you know, that I should figure out what I really like.’
‘Such things are not figured out.’
‘How did you know that you liked dick better than pussy?’
‘I do not like dick better than pussy.’
‘Yes you do. I am always naked around you and nothing! Nothing!’
‘I am attracted to men. Pussy is fine. It is just not for me. Same way it isn’t for you.’
‘Maybe I should try.’
‘You cannot change who you are even if you try. You want a man and you will get a man, when you stop trying too hard.’
Then we end up at her place or mine and she has her ritual monologue about how she is so happy to have a homosexual best friend. She makes me paint her toes or massage her feet. Then we sleep on the same bed with her throwing her buttocks at my crotch.
I need to tell this girl that, first, I am not her best friend. Second I am not a woman. I am a man and I hate the smell of nail polish and her variety of scents is too strong. She needs to style up. I also need to tell her that the only person I like to share a bed with is Arnold. Because we love each other, I know I love him, and he cuddles well.
I should tell Natalie that she is an abusive, clingy friend. And I will. As soon as she gets a good boyfriend.
Emma is a church freak. She always has this look on her face, like she has been brain washed and any attempt to make her think for herself will kill her. She looks like one of those dolls. The ones that jump out of a box and say, ‘kuku, kuku, kuku, kuku’. White voodoo.
This ant of a friend is always placing her holy hands on my genitals in prayer. Emma says I am a sinner and her god has forbidden homosexuality. She says her all loving and forgiving god will send me to hell, to burn eternally. Unless I somehow manage to find women attractive, I am doomed.
Sodom and Gomorrah this and that, and I should try to be a normal man.
‘But, Emma, Lot fucked his own daughters after that.’
‘They were women, not men.’
‘That makes it okay?’
‘The Bible says it was okay under the circumstances.’
‘So it is a Christian thing for you to have sex with your father under certain circumstances? Like when he is drunk?’
‘What is the matter with you? Why are you so aggressive towards the Bible?’
‘No, I am not. I like it. It has some good fiction and poetry.’
‘God forgive you.’
‘You too, Emma. Especially for touching my privates in his name.’
‘You will be delivered.’
‘Hey, wouldn’t it be a trip if you found yourself in hell with me?’
‘Why would I be in hell?’
‘You judge me. You are playing god. Isn’t that some sort of treason anyway?’
‘I have never heard of such stupidity.’
‘Go think about that nonsense, Emma. For once just sit down and think.’
To be honest I like Emma because she has very good intentions. She wants me to go to heaven with her when the trumpets call. I think that is sweet. However, I Am Who I Am. I tell her that too. All the time. Then the top of her head blows off because the only I Am Who I Am she knows is omnipotent, omniscient, omniarch, omnivorous, omnieverything including omnibus. Certainly not omnifarious.
She tells me that life is about choices and consequences. I think life is about caution and condoms.
Emma has made choices for me. Like taking me to church and dragging me to women’s fellowships. I go, with caution of course. My greatest fear is, as a consequence of her choice, someone taking over my brain with glorious tales of a man who had twelve male disciples and was bosom buddies with harlots. I am not one to judge, but hey, look at that. Wasn’t anyone suspicious about the scale of that bromance? I am.
The women at Emma’s church look at me like they know I am homosexual. That little kuku doll outed me. Again, with her good intentions, I assume she figured if she told them they would know the task ahead of them.
The sisters in Christ take turns with me. Some buy me lunch. Others come over to my house to read the Old Testament. They are looking to find a heterosexual husband in me. The bolder ones stay till late and try to seduce me. That is when I turn the tables and slap them with the Ten Commandments, which have nothing specific to do with homosexuals but put us all in three closets of coveting, fornicating, and adultery. That is when they get out of my house, not sure whether to feel guilty or insulted.
Isn’t there a man in church who finds them attractive? I think it is strange how they all take turns, tripping all over their morals, trying to make a homosexual see them as fuckable, marriageable candidates. All he has to do is pray and go to church to burn the Sodom out of his sinful asshole.
I ought to ask Emma about this, tick her off till she whips me out of church. Emma, WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? I suspect he would make me a disciple. More special than Simon Peter. Sweet blasphemy!
On a random day, Emma will change her argument and rap about homosexuality not being African. It happens so many times I wonder how stupid she is and why she won’t pick one side. Because, you know, before Christianity, Africans were all buffoons and pagans. Monkey see monkey do. Ooga booga. Last week she told me African culture and history has no trace of or tolerance for homosexuals. I asked her where she read or heard that. She said she just knows. Well, there is ignorance and then there is that sixth sense that allows Emma to know exactly what happened hundreds of years before the white man decided the whole world was his common wealth.
I told her about the Kabakas in Uganda and the Azande in Congo. But she gave me that kuku doll look. So I dropped it.
‘It is still unnatural and in every way not African. You need to change your ways. Choices and consequences, man. I keep telling you.’
‘I suppose the blonde weave on your head is naturally African. Hey, why don’t you get a sisal skirt, toss your suede boots and walk around bare-chested until your tits sag, you bleach-yellow as a mango African queen? Go on, do that.’
‘Why would I do that? I am civilised.’
‘Because your hair, clothes, phone, and even your missionary boyfriend are all not African.’
‘What does that have to do with your being a sinful homosexual?’
She was so annoyed her eyes were rolling out of their sockets.
‘Nothing, Emma. Nothing at all. I was just being a selective bigot.’
‘Are you calling me names?’
No. I am loving you, my neighbour, just as I love myself.’
And then there is Christine. She loves music, shopping, and rich men. She is a social climber turned upper middle class wife. I like her better than Natalie and Emma because she tries to read. It does not matter that she only reads about Heidi Klum and that spicy lollipop, Victoria Beckham.
Every time Christine goes shopping she calls me. Sometimes I feel like her porter but I like her best. She bleeds her husband’s money in high-end multi-purpose type boutiques: where attendants welcome you in with a glass of nice but suspect champagne. They have low calorie bitings and little chairs for all the size zero women who shop there. The attendants are extremely good-looking men who are always willing to roll their clients around in the “power-nap room” at the back.
I help Christine choose all her clothes. I am the last word on everything from her lingerie to her hair clips. Like all woman, maybe except for lesbians, she has it in her head that every gay man knows everything about fashion. I do not. I have no clue about colours and how they should block.
But she trusts me when I tell her to wear the red skirt with a green top and purple shoes. And everyone in the boutiques agrees with me because well… ‘He is gaaaaay’, Christine tells them.
‘He knows these things. Don’t you darling?’
Sometimes she buys me gifts just to thank me for my help. Mostly music. She has never asked me what kind of music I like. But she has bought me Adam Lambert, Elton John, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias because ‘birds of a feather must flock together’. I have also gotten Celine Deon, Cher, and Tina Turner because they are good for karaoke practice. She believes that I love to cross-dress and play pretend that I am Celine, Cher, or Tina.
Christine is a shell. There is a lot of air inside her and a lot of her ego, which she enlarges with plastic surgery almost every year.
The good thing about her is she never looks at me like I am a puppy or a freak-show.
Natalie thinks I am her pet. Emma, well, she is on a futile mission. But Christine, as empty as she is, has a different kind of obsession with my sexual orientation. She knows I can keep a secret. I kept mine for a very long time. She trusts me with all of hers: Brian, Tim, Oscar, Ngunjiri, Toby, even Cynthia.
When she is not telling me about her secrets and I am not thinking of how I can use those phantasmagoric descriptions of her various orgasms for a porn flick, Christine turns into this poetic shithead with very weird disjointed thoughts.
‘The body of a baby boy has been retrieved from a page in a newspaper.’
‘What did you say?’
‘Oh. I said the body of a baby boy has been retrieved from a page in a newspaper.’
‘Someone found a foetus wrapped in a newspaper?’
‘Nope. The baby was dead. His parents were looking for him and they found him written all over a newspaper. It was so sad. You should have seen it. Broke my heart.’
‘Speaking of seeing things, did you know that dreams were initially used by our creators to find out if their experiment was working?’
‘Once again is there something I should know about your mentals?’
‘They are fine. As I was saying, human beings are someone else’s Frankenstein. Unfortunately that person, most likely people, used the dreams to find out if we are really viable. You know, to record our activities and then sit and watch. But then the dream system broke, nightmares happened, the creators saw crazy things in our heads and we were abandoned.’
‘Very inconsiderate of them.’
‘You are special.’
‘So are you, my happy friend. Remember, on dark days, hold your own hand, cry on your own shoulder, and die until the sun slaps you to life.’
‘I will remember that.’
Sometimes I think she is from another place. Other times, I think she needs to see a shrink. She has some unresolved issues.
‘Hey, have you ever had sex with a sixteen year old boy?’
‘Well, I have and I will do it again if I can. Ask me why?’
‘Because he is mostly beautiful, not yet handsome and the dick just stands when it sees me. It knows a lady from a tramp. We should do something together, the three of us. I want to know you like that. Naked and with a beautiful little boy inside me, you inside him. Everybody in paradise.’
‘What makes you think he will like it?’
‘What does it matter? We all never liked it at first but we kept doing it anyway. And it grew on us. Now we cannot get enough of it.’
‘Speak for yourself.’
‘What, you liked it from the word go?’
‘It is not always about sex.’
‘You shameless liar. You can be such a girl, darling.’
‘And you, Christine are a vampire and I need a crucifix and the sun to kill you.’
‘No, you mixed it up. It is die until the sun slaps you to life. Not the other way round.’
‘I think I should break up with you.’
‘No, you cannot, we are friends for life. Remember?’
‘I do not remember.’
‘Darling, does it smell like poop when two men fuck?
‘How should I know?’
‘You want me to state the obvious?’
‘That you are a gold digger who at first did not like it but now cannot get enough of it?’
‘Darling, the thing about working in a goldmine is that you can never stop. There is always the hope of getting something bigger than what you got today.’
‘I will say I understood you just so you can leave me alone.’
‘Now, tell me, does it smell like poop after all the thrusting and dipping? How disgusting does it get?’
Ants—Christine is the mother. She bites. And no matter how hard I crush her big head she always lifts it up as if to tell me I should aim at her waist and cut her into two.
I put up with her because I think she needs me. Aside from her secrets and her husband, she has no one else but shop attendants.
Arnold loves me but he does not like my girlfriends.
He says they are three witches with different charms trying to make a potion that keeps exploding in their faces and making them more ugly with every try.
I never argue with him.
He says they think that all gay men do is fuck each other in the anus 24/7.
‘They think that, like their relationships, ours are based on bumping and grinding all day.’
‘We have one relationship, Arnold. You and me.’
‘Yes. Of course. You know what I mean, don’t you?’
He never wants to be around them and when he is he throws powerful expletives at them. Only Christine sits through them. Natalie and Emma, never. They walk away. Together.
I am always curious about what they say to each other after suffering Arnold.
Jesus whore. Insecure tart.
Pentecostal demon. Stinky panties.
Delusional fanatic. Hood rat.
Jezebel. Medusa with syphilis.
Arnold does not like women. If there ever existed a misogynist as great as Arnold, I would be utterly surprised. I do not know where he got the idea that he is better than any woman in the world and we would all be just fine if they never existed. Sometimes I wonder if he gave birth to himself.
If a woman upsets him, he will insult her and if no one is looking, slap or shake the daylights out of her and dare her to prove that he did. He will not open doors, pull out chairs for, or engage in conversation with a woman socially. Neither will he make way on the roads nor stop hooting when the person ahead of him in a traffic jam is a woman.
He is an investment banker, very good with money. He refuses to work with women or their groups because they are plain stupid and idealist with their little rabbit projects. His boss knows that, everybody knows that. They suffer him, just like I do.The problem is that his macho madness attracts women. Some of the few he has slapped won’t stop inviting him over to their house. The ones he insults think they can tame him. They take his madness because Arnold is so darn good looking. I could look at him all day and be happy but he gets weird when I do that. He gets so angry when I stare. Especially in public. Well, I do admit that my eyes do get wet and light up like bulbs when I set them on him, so obviously in love am I. But he hates them on him.
‘Why are you looking at me like that? Are my balls hanging from my nostrils?’
‘Who is looking at you? Me? Are you out of your mind? I hate looking at you. I cannot stand your ugly face, Arnold. Get over yourself.’
‘Just don’t look at me like that again. Especially not out here. People will see you and start talking.’
Arnold has never told anyone he is gay. I am the only one who knows that. And despite the fact that he says that he loves me deeply and truly, meeting him or going to his house can be tricky.
I have to go over to his place during the day on weekends because if I sleep over the neighbours will talk. I cannot say I am his brother because that will be a lie and he does not lie.
Well, look at that elephant in the room. His entire life is a lie.
Mine is a black hole. To be honest. But I like how I never get to the bottom. I just drop eternally.
I am insecure with Arnold.
I think he is the way he is because he cheats on me.
‘I am not being funny on you.’
‘So why all the unnecessary secrecy?’
‘Some things should be private.’
‘All right, I suppose. But I feel like I am always hiding when I am around you. The problem is you never quite tell me what I am being sneaky about. Does the secrecy turn you on?’
‘You are an insecure pile of shit.’
‘Me or you?’
‘This has nothing to do with me. I am okay with how things are.’
‘I think you are abusing me emotionally.’
‘Who did you get that from? Christine?’
‘Christine is my friend.’
‘Is she now?’
‘Yes, she is. Look who is talking. I have never seen or met your friends. Which means you do not have any or you are ashamed of me.’
‘You are such a woman.’
‘Seriously, tell me. Who are your friends?’
‘I would rather have none than have a bunch of idiots who want to change and misuse me. I came out of my mother’s womb alone, I can live in this world alone.’
‘Tell me about your mother.’
‘Have I ever asked you about your mother?’
‘Do me the same courtesy.’
Arnold is difficult. I could tell you why I love him but I cannot put a finger on anything.
One thing though, he is right about my friends. And I cannot tell why I put up with them either.
But Arnold is not a bastard and I do not deserve better.
I take what life gives me. There is a reason for everything. That is the gospel truth.
Linda Christabel Akhatenje Musita (@ivorypunk) is a writer, editor, and lawyer.
She works as a literary agent at Lelsleigh Inc. in Nairobi and is an editor at The Star newspaper.
Linda began writing when she was fourteen years old and her first story was published in an anthology, African Children Speak, published by Thomas S Gale.
Her fiction has been published on the Storymoja publishers’ blog and the Daily Nation. Linda has also written some pieces on literature and art in Kenya, which have been published on the Daily Nation, The Star and Brainstorm Kenya.
She is an avid reader and her favourite authors are David Maillu, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, David Mitchell, Aravind Adiga and Michael Logan. She reckons the best book/novella she has read so far is “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Marquez.
Linda is currently working on her first novel, whose working title is “Papoose”.
She is a Storymoja Hay Festival 2012/13 fellow being mentored by 2010 Caine Prize for African Writing shortlisted author, Lily Mabura, and assistant mentor Michael Don. Linda and other fellows in the program are working on several short stories and ideas for novellas.
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