The Woman With The Hunched Back: by Kariuki Kimuyu

Photo credit: DeenaF via Flickr

Mama will wake up at 5:00 am like she usually does, ahead of everyone else so she can prepare breakfast. I will hear the “chrrrrrr” of sausages hitting hot oil and try to give myself hope, after all I’m in a family that can afford sausages for breakfast. Isn’t that what society teaches us, to have gratitude because of other peoples misfortunes? “Think of all the people out there going hungry?” Mama will tell me when she brings me a plate of sausages, eggs and a glass of juice.

I am frail now ever since the accident, I’m no longer the strong, capable, eligible bachelor who used to speed around town in a Subaru. The Subaru whose engine used to make a ruckus, the ruckus which my neighbors hated but secretly felt jealous of because it reminded them of the days they used to be boyish and carefree, but they can be at ease now because it is sleeping in our backyard, reduced to a pile of scrap metal.

Mama will carry my paper weight mass onto my wheelchair which is beside my bed and tell me to lighten up. She will tell me to think of all the people out there who don’t have a loving family, who don’t have a place to call home, who are going hungry, who are suffering in many ways and all I’m worried about is being in a wheelchair? She will expect me to cheer up because others misfortunes are worse than my own but I won’t because I know life was better before the wheelchair.

I could stand tall and approach any girl I desired, even those who seemed out of my league. I would charm them into my bed. But now I can’t approach any girl in my state because my caregiver has to wheel me to them and worse still, they won’t look at me as a man who has sexual desires, they will see me as a quadriplegic, a cripple, a handicap, someone who deserves sympathy, not erotica, not love – at least not the ravishing kind that makes you sweat and moan and bite and grab and echo deep sighs.

Mama will sit on my bed and look at her favourite son (my ego won’t allow me to think that I’m anything less than favorite) She will wear a thinking face and wonder if I will ever be happy? She will wonder if a girl who loves me for me will ever come along and she will give herself hope even when deep down she knows there is none. She will start telling me a story about a woman in her church who had a cancer growth in her back which made her walk in a hunched manner. She will tell me how she went to India to get the growth removed only to die weeks later.

“Why did she go to India? She could have lived longer with her hunched back.” She will muse out loud and I will interrupt her and ask her who she thinks she is to think she can determine another person’s quality of life? I will ask her rudely because my wheelchair has made me cynical. Everybody pretends to feel sorry for me, pussyfooting around my every action and I enjoy giving them a hard time. I will ask mama if she thinks the woman was happy and what’s the difference between the grave and an unhappy life anyway and mama won’t have any answers. She will be injured, she will get up slowly refusing to meet my gaze and pick up my plate of half eaten sausages and eggs and my glass of untouched juice and leave for the kitchen.

My caregiver will then clock in for the day and she will come into my room wearing an ugly smile to mask her sympathy and ask me if there’s anything I need? I will then tell her some sun would be nice and she will wheel me to the big avocado tree next to the fence with nails sticking out for some shade. I will tell her I will call her if I need her and she will disappear into the big house and I will wheel myself to the fence with the nails sticking out, stretch my hand on one of the rusted nails and press the underside of my wrist on it. I will move my hand up and down till I burst my artery, I will move it up and down till I’m numb, I will move it up and down till I join the woman with the hunched back.


Kariuki Kimuyu (@WaKimuyu) is a Kenyan reader who writes. A staunch Pan-African who likes to think with the tips of his fingers. When he’s not molesting the keyboard he is usually destroying yogurt or taking long walks. You can find more of his work here:

Related country: Kenya

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