“You’re just so loud; so… African!”
The words burst out into the crowded sitting room of their shared apartment. It overrode the conversational jazz playing in the background and all the exchanges throughout the room. It permeated the room with unease and silence and she felt like she was suffocating. These monthly Sunday soirees were times when, amongst this group of opinionated individuals, tempers would flare and yelling matches erupt. Her quiet nature made it so that she found these tiffs both highly entertaining and terrifying.
In the middle of the room, hands balancing a tray of drinks in plastic cups, the only thought her brain threw up was of how her mother danced around conflict through laughter. A clear memory of her mother in a multicolored dira: hands on her hips, guffawing at the neighbour’s accusation of theft; or her father’s ill moods, or her own mad temper. She inhaled deeply and began to laugh. The drinks in her hands spilled onto the tray and into each other as her shoulders shook. She barely saw through the tears and half-bent posture how his jaw slackened and his ear tips reddened. Her anger burnt itself out as she tried and failed to keep balance of the tray while howling at his ignorance.
Turning away to place the tray on a table and turning to face him again, she used the back of her hands to dry the tears and thanked herself for the waterproof kohl rimming her eyes. She beamed at him, hands on her chest as if to help her steady her breathing. His brows were furrowed in confusion.
Delicately unclasping the necklace that symbolised their union and dropping it into the palm of his hand, she looked straight at him, cupping his long face and whispered. “I’m not African: I’m Kenyan.’
Later, when the drinks were passed around and the music changed to some variation of classical, she was sure that with every sip, the guests tasted the rage in her tears.