For as long as I can remember, I have been responding to the name Benjamin.
A lot of people say that my mother loved her Bible lessons more than she did her own culture. So, inasmuch as I was born at midday instead of according me the name Ochieng’ she declared me Benjamin and added in my father’s last name Ooko so people could know who I belonged to. This seemed to please Reverend Father Augustus but never my father or his people and sometimes when I think back to everything that I have experienced, it seems that lighting started striking me the moment she gave me that name.
My Father, Ooko, what of him? Well, on the day I got tired of staying enclosed in my mother’s stomach, he was deep inside Nya Lela, his new wife who reminded the thing between his legs of how stiff it still could be. I remember all the men singing praises of Nya Lela as the only woman whose breasts remained firm even after bringing forth four children with my father, one after the other, you would think it was like eating and dispelling ground nuts.
As word would have it, my father saw me when I started making use of my feet.
There are things that to this date do not seem like truth but if you’d have been born in that home, under the rule of Senior Chief Ooko, then you too would believe me. When my mother told me about this, I laughed, sometimes when she would want to cry about the way he ignored her, she would go into her kitchen and carelessly adjust the logs that she fed the fire.
Excerpt from A Hundred Little Things- which is long overdue for publication!
In my travels I seek out people like me, those who have no one to fend for them and in their company I am home.
So, leaving my home in the middle of the night was no coincidence, I needed to get to the Mazuri kingdom, which was a two days journey, in time for the market auctions. Every year, the people of Mazuri welcomed traders from all the kingdoms to trade freely in their land and on this day you would get the best fabric, spices, dishes and women and children dancing and laughing in the arena.
I walked all night only stopping twice to drink from my water gourd and when the sun started gracing the sky I had already made it past our kingdom and into the next. The maidens were making their way to the river early in the morning, in some homes the smoke was just rising into the sky, a sign of the early morning meal being prepared, some were making their way to the farms, others in their kindness greeted me and some smiled. I greeted them in turn and smiled back.
I loved traveling because outside of my kingdom, I was just a traveler. A stranger. A young beautiful woman making her way around their lands and they did not flinch or run away from me. I also learned not to intervene or lend a helping hand in a way that would draw such suspicion my way. People often needed help but only within their understanding of it, never more or beyond it and that was too much to bear and I learned the hard way.
Our King, having benefited greatly from my help when he was surely on his way to meeting his ancestors decided to banish me from the kingdom activities because I knew what ailed him and he did not want his secret revealed, so instead of telling his truth, he branded me a liar and made it unbearable for me to live among my people. There had been days when left to my own thoughts, I mocked the gods, cursed and insulted them for the life they granted me only to change my mind and thank them for not leaving me unprotected. The things I saw and summoned protected me from the evil anyone planned against me and how then could I mock the very gods who had given this to me?