IV: A Rumour of God

Mumbi contemplated the little arrow resting on “send”, sighed, and right-clicked the mouse. She sat gazing into her computer screen for what seemed like eons. She was giving him time to make a response. She was aware of the existence of the chat option that allowed one to carry on a conversation on screen. She had tried it before, and hated it. It never gave her time to think of her response. It was like transferring her tongue to her fingers and watching it form words without consultation with her brain. Any technology that denied her the use of her brain when she needed it, she resisted. Humanity at war with machines, she thought. Who would win eventually, she wondered. Would there come a time when a sick human brain would be replaced with a mass of chips and wires? Would an artificial brain transplant save those ravaged by schizophrenia like her cousin, Makena? When had she last seen her…

Suddenly, the drone of her computer softened and it went to sleep. She watched as the screen saver played across like a lullaby. It reminded her of the days she shared a bed with her sister. She would watch as Kui, deep asleep, would suddenly draw in two quick breaths and exhale heavily, slowly, with deep satisfaction as the screen of her mind played up a different dream. Mumbi was oblivious of the smile this memory brought her. She continued to stare at her computer, her thoughts drifting back to the wonders of science.

Had not a man recently received an artificial heart and beamed with new life long enough to tell the tale? It upset her just a tad, to think that this organ to which we assigned all the human emotions, even the soul if ever such a thing existed, was only a pump. Mumbi imagined her own soul to be a little dwarf in her stomach that made somersaults whenever she was in love. Would there be a soul in the human life that would soon be cloned? Who was the creator here? Could humanity really be the originators of this earth and all its existence after all? Could I, Mumbi, really be the Creator and not aware of it? Could it be we created all this and in our spiritual or invisible state invented the process of birth in order to forget we really are the creators of it all, giving ourselves the opportunity to experience life as if it were a surprise? Is human history with all its “inventions” and “discoveries” the unfolding of our own god-ship? Whoa!

“You’ve got mail!”

Mumbi’s was quickly drawn back to the present, back to the beautiful simplicity of innocence, of child-like dependency. She loved the sound of that alert.

<If you had met me for dinner any of those numerou times I’ve been coming to Chcago I’d have answered your quetion> responded Lenana.

Mumbi smiled. Lenana’s careless spelling had ceased to annoy her and now it simply amused her. Last week, he had written: <My wife likes rape music and I hate it.> She had laughed herself silly at the thought of music that raped! Since then, anytime she passed kids in the neighbourhood blaring their rap music through impossibly loud speakers, she would remember what that music did to Lenana. In a way, he was beginning to release her from some of her eccentricities. She realized she had stopped her habit of meticulously going over her emails for spell-check before clicking send.

<So I take it you will not answer my question> Mumbi typed.



“You’ve got mail!”

She loved this game.

<How about dinner this weeknd? I’ll fly over to Chicago jus to meat you> typed Lenana.

<What about your pregnant wife. Don’t you think she needs you?>

<Trust me she doesnt>

Mumbi did not know what the problem between Lenana and his wife was, but over the past month since she had started to respond to his numerous emails, she had increasingly grown curious about this man. At first, she was… surprised when he had told her he was married. Now she was asking him why he has never mentioned his wife in the online forum where they met with friends to discuss the whys and wherefores of their beleaguered nation. And in stead of answering her question, he was offering to fly from Minnesota just to “meat” her for dinner.

<It is not my style to distract husbands from their conjugal responsibilities>

<that’s not possible. I’m fully in control of my manly duties. You do not havve the power to distract me>

This time Mumbi laughed out loud. His defensiveness tickled her; her curiosity only grew. She typed the next question absent-mindedly.

<Do you believe in God?>





She began to feel a little restless and got up to make herself a cup of coffee. She was in no hurry, she consoled herself, I’m on leave and enjoying my time at home. She sat down again with her coffee and stared at the screen, waiting. Suddenly her last question to Lenana jumped out at her. Now she began to turn it over and over again in her mind, sorting out its different meanings, its possible answers, its validity, its absurdity. Do you believe in God? What kind of a question was that to ask someone you hardly knew? Did he perhaps think it too silly? Too philosophical? Too judgmental? It was getting dark. An hour or two must have gone by already since her last click on send. She wasn’t sure what she felt. Worried. Afraid. Anxious. About what? Lenana’s silence or the existence or non-existence of God? Agitated.

“You’ve got mail!” She rushed to the screen.

There were two messages this time. One was from her sister, Kui, the other from Lenana. She opened Lenana’s first.

<Why did you ask me that question?>

<I don’t know> She responded, feeling annoyed. After two hours of thinking this is all he had for an answer? <I’ve got to go. Call me when you get to Chicago over the weekend.> Send.

She opened Kui’s.

<Mumbi, mum is very sick. Brought her to Embu General yesterday. Transferring her to Kenyatta ICU in a few minutes. I’m sending this from the doctor’s office. Can you come?>

Mumbi’s bones turned to marsh, melted into her suddenly ice-cold blood, making a thick porridge that froze in her veins, arresting all her earthly functions. Her mind screamed in confusion as it tried to make the shift from Lenana to Mama, from Chicago to Embu. Not now Mama, don’t go! Time stood still as she gazed somewhere between the monster of absolute fear and the gates of infinite emptiness. Not in a lifetime would she be able to put to words what she felt.

Somewhere, somehow, she found the strength to respond.

<I’m taking a flight home tomorrow> Send. She turned off her computer, collapsed on her knees, and murmured a prayer… to God.


The early winter night had enveloped Minnesota by five. Lenana folded his arms behind his neck, tilted his head up, resting it on the back of the swiveling chair, and stared at the ceiling. He was just beginning his contemplation when someone tapped on his side of the partitioned office.

“Hey!” It was Matthew Dobson, Lenana’s colleague. He was about to leave. “Packing in some extra hours?”

“Err… I’ve got some client’s charts to look at before tomorrow. I think I’ll clock out in an hour’s time or so,” Lenana had no such agenda. Sure, he enjoyed his job as a stock broker with Chrichton and Pfeiffer – forget that he never could to pronounce the name of his employing company correctly – and never minded going the extra mile. But right now, he just needed some time to think before going home. An empty office was the ideal place.

“You work too hard, buddy. See you tomorrow then.” Matthew turned to leave, thought of something, and turned back again. “Hey, don’t sweat the fatherhood stuff. Piece o’ cake. My two girls are a handful. But I got them into Little League Soccer, they love it. Solved everything. Just enjoy the ride when the little ones arrive.”

“Thanks. I’ll… be fine,” answered Lenana, a little annoyed by the unsolicited advice. Matthew left. Everyone in the office knew Lenana was about to become a father to twins. He had told the cleaning lady in confidence, and in a few seconds the whole office knew. He loved the envy, the attention. He hated the unsolicited overflow of advice. Suddenly everyone knew the ropes on parenting and he was the doofus. As with everything else, he seethed silently with each patronizing tip he received. He did not know how to express his emotions. His seething didn’t last long after Matthew left, for his thoughts quickly sniffed their trail back to Mumbi.

Mumbi. Almost two years had gone by since her essence first came crashing through his screen, possessing him like a virus. The first time she responded to his numerous emails, which was a month ago, he had done an unthinkable thing that shocked even him. In a moment of pure spontaneity, he had left work, passed by the florist’s, and picked up a bouquet of fresh pink roses for his wife. To say that Shanni was shocked is to call a mountain a mound. That night, Lenana’s romantic gesture had opened up places in her being she never knew existed, giving herself up to him like the ultimate sacrifice, and Lenana embraced it like a little boy roaming the fresh fields of Kajiado, drenched with an intoxicating fragrance rising from the earth, and carrying him in waves to the rare peaks of another world, and then a slow descent to mother earth. He had cuddled up with his wife, the essence of Mumbi filling his mind, and told Shanni… Mumbi… he loved her. The next day, life for the Olesakajas had gone back to normal.

Years later, Lenana would look back on that day… that night, and wonder at the power of that virus. Mumbi! Why did she ask him that question about God? It disturbed him. It took him to places he did not want to revisit. In the silence of his office, he found himself hesitantly opening a rusty door in his past…

“Son, go to school.” His headstrong father who had shunned everything brought by the mzungu had finally seen the wisdom in formal education. “Go and learn their ways that you may see the world from their perch as well. It will make you a wiser man when you return to your own perch.” And so with a pencil and an exercise book in hand, Lenana had joined Standard One at the age of fourteen. Truth be told, Mzee Sakaja finally felt ashamed that his son was about the only boy his age from the village who wasn’t attending the school.

One plus One and Jesus Christ Son of God went hand in hand in the little room where the missionaries educated the Maasais and saved their souls. Lenana followed meekly like a sheep as he was led to baptism a year later. Joseph Lenana Olesakaja, declared the pastor as he immersed the boy in the big barrel of water and pulled him out, his soul sparkling white as snow, washing away the scarlet of his African sinfulness, halleluiah, halleluiah.

But it did not take him long before he started questioning, much to his mother’s chagrin. Priscilla Kingasunye Sakaja, then a devout congregant in the little village church, was the only one of Mzee Sakaja’s four wives who had strayed from the ways of their people.

“How is it, Mama, that all those many centuries we were wrong? Are all our ancestors in hell then?” At the age of twenty one, and just on the verge of completing his primary education, Lenana had wisened up.

“Enkai will judge them according to their beliefs as it was not their fault that they did not know the Saviour Jesus Christ,” Mama Lenana had an answer for everything. She read her bible devoutly, thanks to adult literacy classes offered by the church.

“And why didn’t Jesus just drop straight from heaven instead of being born so people can really believe he was the son of Enkai?” Lenana had pressed on.

“If I saw you dropping from heaven I will be very afraid of you,” reasoned his mother.

“But our cows dropped straight from heaven with the first man that Enkai created, why are we not afraid of our cows?”

“That is just a story, son!”

“Isn’t Adam and Eva a story too?”

“It is the Word of God and it is the truth.”

“Were they Maasai or mzungu?”

“What kind of a foolish question is that?”

“But Mama, if they were mzungu, how can they be our ancestors like the pastor says? I think the cows falling from heaven with the first Maasai is a better story.”


So ended the argument.

Lenana had gone on, passed his final primary school examination with distinction, and secured admission into a national boarding secondary school in the city. One day while in his fourth year, his father came to visit him. Mzee Sakaja had never visited his son in school before. Lenana was very afraid.

“We lost two cows,” his father began as he cleared his throat. Somehow Lenana knew this visit was not about lost cows. He suspected his father had identified a wife for him so that he could start a family soon after finishing secondary school. Lenana had already decided he would reject this decree. Being in school had given him a measure of guts and independence.

“What happened?” Lenana played along with the cows story.

“Disease.” His father seemed rather weak and looked lost. In the ensuing silence that grew heavier by the minute, Lenana was not sure anymore if this visit was about marriage.

“Your mother.” Mzee Sakaja had looked out into the distant haze of the afternoon sun as if beseeching it to end this moment. Lenana waited.

“She left. With the Missionaries.” He paused. Lenana waited, not quite sure what that meant. “She’s never coming back.” Lenana’s countenance grew dark, very dark. He did not know what to say.

“You don’t have to come home until you are done with school.” His father had departed shortly after, unable to provide further detail, leaving Lenana baffled, confused, and lost. He hadn’t a clue how to deal with this loss.

After his father left, Lenana had buried himself in his books and pretended the visit had never happened. I will go back home and find Mama sitting at her usual place by the fireside, he had told himself.

Upon successfully sitting his finals, Lenana went home and found out the whole truth. The faith of the Missionaries had completely possessed Priscilla Kingasunye Sakaja, mother of seven, second wife of Mzee Sakaja. She had packed her bags, leaving children, co-wives, and husband behind, and gone on missionary work with her new lords to northern Tanzania where more lost souls of a larger Maasai community needed to be saved. God had called her, she had duly informed her husband, and like Jonah, she had to go or else perish in the belly of the whale – her exact words, Lenana’s other mother told him.

Lenana had suffered a slow-burning pain like nothing he has ever known. He felt abandoned, and that built up deposits of anger in him which he carried around like a sword. None of his siblings, all girls, ever talked about their mother’s disappearance to each other. They had all attended the same missionary school but none of them showed any signs of following in their mother’s footsteps. Lenana’s sisters did not express a strong belief of any kind, but some attended the local church out of habit.

The missionaries had taught Priscilla to read, introduced her to a new god, insulted the spirituality of the Maasai, and stole her away from her family. Over the years to follow, Lenana would grow to hate this deity who made such ridiculous demands upon a people. Demands to quit their lifestyle, to change their names, to recruit believers manipulatively, to feel guilt and shame for who you are. Demands that came with the penalty of hellfire should they not be met. Why did his people believe this? Why were they so willing to have their identity and dignity stripped?

Lenana had gone to war with his own spirituality, with his mother, with history, with an invisible enemy that had a son from the Middle East who died for Lenana two thousand years ago and demanded that this son of the Manyatta believe this. He had gone to war against a lethal rumour of a god that stole his mother from him. In defiance, he had dropped his baptism name which felt like an ill-fitting suit. It was the name his mother had so dearly called him by. Why did she believe such a rumour so powerfully she was willing to leave her family for it? Had anyone ever see this god or his son? He had learnt that those who wrote about this Jesus had only heard about him since he had lived and died a generation before them. It was all a rumour! Lenana had left the country without looking for his mother, never knowing where to begin.

Mumbi. What led her to asking him that question that forced him to re-open this door?

Where are you, mother? Where are you?? Lenana sobbed, releasing deep heart-wrenching sorrows without holding back. No one was there to ask him questions.

Except for Matthew who had come back to the office to pick up some paperwork. He stopped at the sight of Lenana’s bowed head and heaving shoulders and watched him quietly through the glass partition. After a while, he turned around and left without entering the office.

Continued – V: A Place Called No Return

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