A man who walks away from his family, home, friends and everything he knows is labeled a coward, insensitive and selfish. A deserter. Labels are blinding. He may be a deserter but it takes courage and bravery to walk into the unknown. He may be a deserter but a strong one. Such moves require more than just faith.
This is a story of people who trade everything and everyone they have ever know for the uncertain. This is a story of people who walk out of the front door and never return. They probably will someday. They are all good people. They are all good people in that they choose a life of loneliness and uncertainty over death. They choose not to take their lives but rather be reborn else where. Some leave when they realize that all they had built is no more, so they go out to lay fresh foundations elsewhere. Others just can not stand the misery in front of their loved ones, so they walk out to fend for themselves. Some need to prove a point to themselves and the world, that they can stand on their own. No matter their reasons for leaving they are all united by a common event; departure.
People who have never lost everything they had do not know loss. People who do not know loss will never understand Michael Mutuma. Part of his family know loss, they understand him. Michael was born and raised in Nanyuki, a medium sized town along the Equator. He loved Nanyuki, he wanted to live there. A modest town at the feet of Mount Kenya, a snowing mountain that resembles God’s residence. After high school and manual jobs around, he opened a cafe. The cafe was a sum of his efforts , donations and loans. The back-room of the cafe was his abode. He had dreams of how far his cafe would take him and others. He started by employing three former school mates. The ‘Honey Pot’ was a good name for a cafe. The honey Pot became famous for lunch amongst manual workers in town. In the Honey Pot, it was more of quantity than quality. With time he repainted the old building, brought in new furniture and bigger sufurias. He was sure brighter times awaited him. Only that he didn’t know that literary a bright night; the Honey Pot on fire. The fire consumed his efforts, dreams and all he had. The fire left a bitter taste in his mouth. A taste of defeat and loss. Only leaving would wash it out , so he did. That was the last time his family and friends saw or heard of him. One day he may return, but even if he doesn’t, his family knows that wherever he is, he made it. That is the kind of person Michael is, a man who can loose everything, find fresh grounds and build an empire with firmer foundations.
If and when Martin Mutua shows up to work on a Monday morning in ripped jeans and trainers, nobody should question him. Not even his boss. He has earned it. He has paid the price. Martin works in a University in Meru, Eastern province. He owns two matatus and a saloon car. If all goes well, he will get married before the year ends. But before he can get married, he has to introduce his bride to his family. His family who he last saw more than a decade ago. Thirteen years ago.
At nineteen he had lost his mother, given up hope of joining college and not even an illusion of better days ahead. His father had remarried and had four other children looking up to him. Kitui was no place for a boy with big ambitions and small opportunities. He had never been to Meru, but it sounded promising. In Meru he assumed the earth was fertile, fertile Earth would require work, work would bring money and money would bring more.
When he left home, there were no hugs, no goodbyes, no tears, he just left unceremoniously. That way he would not have memories to keep him up at night. Bright boy. Every sunrise he sought to make himself a better person: financially,academically and morally. Somehow he managed to take himself through college, get a decent job and acquire a few assets. He figures that since he was able to forgive himself,his family should to.
Joel Mbogo is a preacher’s son. His old man devoted his life to serving the Lord. Since he was young, Joel always tried to act like a preacher’s son. He had to. On sunday mornings he would show up in church in a suit and tie and take a seat next to the preacher’s wife- his mother. As the preacher’s son, he had to sing in the choir. As the preacher’s son he had to be a ‘role model’ to his peers.
Joel was brought up to take after his father, groomed to be a shepherd. As an only son most if not all expected him to one day stand in the pulpit. At times he would hear the preacher pray asking the Lord to accept Joel as his successor. Of all the preacher’s prayers he hoped the lord would not answer that one. It would break the preacher’s heart if his son did not take after him. So Joel set out to join Bible school. That was the last time his family and the preacher’s flock saw him. The fees and pocket money were enough to help him relocate to Mombasa. That was the farthest he knew, the farthest he could run. Convincing an Asian business-man that he would make a good clerk was a walk in the park. The would-be-preacher, became a clerk at a clearing and forwarding company. Fourteen years later, he has not gathered courage to return home. One thing he is sure though, the pulpit was not for him. By now, he is sure the preacher is gray in the beard and balding and still begs the Lord to keep his son safe wherever he is.
Martin, Joel, Micheal and others who leave everyone and everything they know, leave because staying around doesn’t make them better. Staying kills them inside and their dreams too. They depart to seek rebirth and a fresh start. They are consumed by the urge to walk and be free. The presence of people, things and places they know probably deprives them opportunities and chances. From their tales, they do not deserve anger, judgment or condemnation. They made their choice, however painful let them be.
soundtrack: Paramore – Playing God