“Lonely” by Lisa Muloma

Lisa Muloma


On the drive home, Mom calls
and you resent her for doing it,
answer anyway. The joy
in her voice when you answer
on the first ring. She asks how
the day was, and you say no,
you first and she goes first,
says she’s been thinking about
the election, the way Aunty
and the intercessors prayed it in,
how Ruto is a professing evangelical,
charismatic, has a chapel
in his home, how the chief justice
of the Kenyan supreme court said
Ruto’s confirmation was an act
of God. Only God and your mother
prioritize you lately. Your friends
have entered their terminal
relationships, are retreating into
their homes, are adopting pets.
You think of that boy who does not
love you. He has replaced you
with another Kenyan girl from Philly.
In your new apartment, empty
of furniture, full of boxes
and shopping bags, you open your
phone, searching for food. The sushi
place has low ratings and expensive
food. You had tacos yesterday.
Salad is risky and also too expensive.
You settle on Taste of East Africa,
and on the phone you order nyama choma,
pronounce it correctly. And sukuma wiki.
Ugali. You imagine, on the other side
of the phone, a girl like you. Maybe
Ethiopian, maybe Kenyan or Tanzanian.
You’ll walk into the place and they’ll
recognize you by your forehead, your skin,
something about your ears. They’ll understand
why you don’t speak Swahili anymore,
load you with extra samosas, give you
their numbers, say come back anytime.
In the car, you put on afrobeats, feel
your heart lift a little. There are palm
trees in North Park. This is the California
everyone dreams of. Mom said the climate
in San Diego is as close to Kenya’s as it gets
without actually going home. At Taste
of East Africa, the cashier is a white woman
with a brown ponytail, the chef is a flustered
looking white man. You want to ask who
the hell started this restaurant. But a woman,
also white, arrives to pick up her order
and you don’t tip and leave quickly
and think of the most recent man who officially
doesn’t love you as of last week. The salesperson
at the wine shop smiles with his lips
only, and you look for wine from South Africa,
cringing at the Austrian colonizer wine,
the French and Italian and New Zealand
junk. Nothing from the continent, looks like we can’t
have anything nice today. You pull yourself out
of it, decide to choose a red based on the
cuteness of the sticker label, but
all the cute ones are expensive so
you choose an okay Italian and go home
to eat standing up in your kitchen empty
of furniture and Mom texts goodnight
and you think maybe you will talk to God
and unpack and sleep.

from Poets Respond
September 18, 2022


Lisa Muloma: “As of today, Kenya inaugurated William Ruto as president in a peaceful transfer of power that was notable because of Kenya’s history of post-election violence. I’m still moody though.”

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