The sitting room was exactly as he had left it. A huge cupboard to his left, hiding the utensils mother had bought from her chama, with the TV, of course, covered with a clothing covering it. He sighed. He had spent most of his childhood seated in front of that screen, watching Sonic and Rainbow stars; those were his favorite cartoons.
In front of him was a table, with breakfast. A huge thermos, full of tea, Blue Band margarine and bread. It looked dim in the room, the windows had heavy curtains and blinds that made the room somewhat stuffy. He sipped on to his tea greedily, ignoring how hot it was, it had been two days since his last meal.
The maid sat on the dinning table, feeding the child. She was ten years now, he last saw her when she was four. He could tell she was nervous to see him, she was curious who he was and what he was doing in their home so early. He tried to smile and ease her, but it made it worse. She heard the girl asking the maid, asking who he was. And she, ordered the girl to quit being so nosy, to finish her breakfast quick if she wanted to go out and play.
Soon the neighbors started flowing in. Borrowing sugar, a religious book they had borrowed or they were just in the neighborhood. But he knew, they all knew that they wanted to see him. His mother, who was from taking a bath, accommodated the first five, but after that, chased them all away.
This was no market, she said. There was nothing to see, and if they expected a show, she would give them one, she barked. She went on about privacy and God knows what, when all the while he sat there, listening.
He had missed her. Three years had passed since her last visit. Maybe she thought he had died, or maybe he had forgotten her. Maybe, maybe she did not love him any more…
She locked the door as the sat on the couch beside him. It was nine in the morning and she was already tired.
She looked at her son. He had grown thin, weak. He was no longer the vibrant boy she knew. But yet, when he smiled at her, the gleam his eyes was the same, reminding her that a piece of him still existed, somewhere, in there…
“Have you eaten?” he nodded. “Are you full?” He shook his head.
She poured him another mug of tea and poured herself one. She then passed the bread towards his direction and beckoned him to eat. She assured him that he was safe, and that he could eat all he wanted.
She watched him as he ate. Her boy. She remembered how stubborn he was as a child, choosing his own path and preferring his own company to his siblings. He always had a vivid imagination, that grew wilder each passing day. Whenever they would go to the country side and sit by the fire at night, he would be the one entertaining everyone with his stories. They would become so vivid, so real and ghastly, his father had to make him stop.
He always spoke of ghosts, spirits, the other side, talking animals and signs…his grandmother thought he was special. That the ancestors had chosen him, to speak through him…that was until his father died.
When Richard passed on, her little boy became deluded. He would awake in the middle of the night, sweating, screaming. Screaming that his father wanted to take him to the other side and he did not want to go. Then grandma came to visit, and an owl perched itself outside his window. Grandma said the boy was a bad omen, that the spirits wanted him. She had a ritual performed to cleanse him, but the owl came each night. After a fortnight she left, and vowed never to visit so long as the boy lived there.
She remembered how she tried to save her little boy. She took him to the preacher, to cast out demons, but he stood there, confused. She tried therapy but nothing worked. His siblings no longer wanted to play with him, he got kicked out of school and was leading a lonely life.
Then the Missionary came. She suggested that the boy go to Mathare. It was a hospital, for the mentally ill. There was a doctor there who could help her boy. And so, in each bid to help her son, she packed a few belongings and told him they were going on a short trip into the city. He was happy to leave, to see a new world.
When they got to the hospital, sister Ann (as they called the nurses) was very warm and welcoming. All the patients looked happy, clean and healthy. And the doctor, he said her boy was undergoing trauma, he had after all, lost his father. He needed to stay with them for a few months. And since the fee was reasonable, and her boy would be healed, she saw no reason to refuse.
So she felt her son in the city, in the hands of strangers and hoped for a miracle. She visited him each month and he cried. Cried to go home with her, begged to leave. And each time she would say, “Not yet baby, the doctors are here to fix you.”
Two years passed and she quit visiting. He was not getting better, they said. He stuck to his own company, talking to himself, talking to his father. He said he saw things, they called it paranoia. She did not know who to believe, so she ignored them both. She forgot about her baby.
And now, here he was, a grown sickly man, but a boy in his mother’s eyes.
The news said that forty of them had escaped, that seventy of them attacked the guards and only forty escaped. And her boy was one of them. There was a search for them, and they knew, they knew he would come home. They had called her in advance to warn her.
“How is Sister Ann?” she asked trying to make conversation.
“She is okay mother, though Oti stabbed her in the eye with a fork. She only has one eye now.”
“Oh,” she said somewhat confused by the calmness in his voice. “And…do you still see them, son? Do you still see your father?”
“Every day, he keeps me company,” he said smiling. “We are friends now.”
A silence hovered between them He thought his mother thought he was mad. She let the guilt of abandoning her son sink in, thinking he hated her.
“Can we watch Sonic ma? I’ve missed watching cartoons. They don’t let us watch any there.”
“Honey, Sonic hasn’t been aired for a long time. But there’s cartoon network, your sister enjoys it a lot.”
She picked the remote and turned on the television. He sat there, dazed for an hour. He did not even notice her leave the room. For once, he felt young again. Normal. Like he was when a child. He did not want to leave home, ever again.
There was a knock on the door, a knock his mother rushed to, too fast. He knew something was wrong. Then he saw them. He saw Sister Ann and the ward attendants. They had come for him, and nobody would help him.
He screamed out for help, as they forced him to wear a straitjacket. Sister Ann laughed at him, telling him he could not escape any more, he was going home, where he belonged.
As they pushed him to the car, he called out for his mother, he wanted her to save him. But she stood there, looking at him, holding herself. Then he heard her say it, say the words that drove him mad; “Not yet baby, not until the doctors fix you.”
Those were the last words he ever heard her say.