content warning: physical child abuse
I was 11 when I told my father to kill me. It was after midnight, I think. My younger brother Sammy and I had been arguing from when primetime news started. Over what, I can’t remember.
Daddy, who was coming to our room for the third time that night, threatened to whip us if he heard our voices again. That’s when, in a blinding rage that only an 11-year-old could muster, I told him instead of whipping, why couldn’t he just kill me while he was at it.
“What did you say? What did you tell me?”
I was about to repeat it, but he was already retreating from the bedroom. A minute later, he emerged with his brown belt and dragged me out of bed to the dining room.
I didn’t give Daddy the satisfaction of tears or sniffles as I got my four lashes. I was thinking of the last time the brown belt had touched my body.
I was 9 years of age then, and we still lived behind the youth polytechnic. Walking from school, I took a shortcut through their overgrown, abandoned football field. In keeping with the reputation of all shortcuts, something bit my leg. Wailing, I ran limping all the way home. Straight into my father’s arms, pointing to my leg, screaming snake! Snake! Snake! He immediately unbuckled his brown belt, tied it above the bite wound that was now red, and carried me to the clinic, running. He was barefoot.
The doctor said it was a nail that had scratched me.
Daddy had other belts. And yet, it was always that brown one that made appearances during defining moments.
He wore it when he came for the first parents’ meeting when I entered high school. I remember how he adjusted it before he walked to the podium, took the microphone from the principal and announced that no daughter of his would learn in a school that served rice with beans daily for lunch.
The other parents cheered. I felt embarrassed. Especially when the principal tried taking the microphone back, telling him, “Calm down, Mr Magak.” He neither calmed down nor gave the microphone back until the matron was called and they drafted an acceptable lunch menu. He was unanimously elected PTA chair after that.
It’s the same belt he rolled over his knuckles and left the house with after my brother came home with a bloody nose. Ken and a few of the boys who lurked near Mama Brenda’s kiosk and would usually chase us had cornered, roughed and punched him. Daddy said nothing when he came back, but for days after, the boys were not there. When they reappeared, they never bothered us.
The brown belt was also his church belt. He wore it whenever he was conducting the choir. It was also the belt he had when he came home for the third time with creepy Catherine and told us, “Catherine and I love each other, she will soon be my wife, and your new mother.” Luckily for us, and maybe unluckily for Daddy, she didn’t become either.
I remember the last time I saw Daddy’s brown belt. I was 21 years old. He wore it to the District Passport Office.
“What are you doing here, Daddy? I told you I could handle this.”
“Don’t mind me. I won’t say anything. I just want these passport officers to know that they can’t push you around since your father is here.”
After I finished the interview, he didn’t come home with me. He had excused himself from a meeting at his office to come be my shadow and had to rush back.
A few months ago, Daddy called me from the police station. My first thought was they had arrested him for his ARTivism protests. But no, muggers had attacked him on his way to a workshop. They didn’t hurt him but went away with his phone, watch, wallet, and his brown belt.
It was the loss of the brown belt that upset us the most.
About The Author
Edith K Magak is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty, and a literary journalist at Africa in Dialogue. She’s also a creative writer whose works have appeared in The Lazy Women, Brittle Paper, Jalada, Critical Read, Nonplus Lit, Kikwetu, Urban Ivy, Jellyfish review, among others. Edith lives in Nairobi, Kenya.
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