The help

By Boris

I used to love the show ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’. Will Smith was sort of the big brother I never had. He was this funny charismatic guy who somehow always got his way with the ladies. In that respect I guess you can say Will Smith is the anti- Johnny Bravo.

Will and Geoffrey–the butler– always had this ongoing banter, making fun of everyone in the house. Uncle Phil had his girth, Hillary her ignorance and Carlton for being Carlton. I used to love how Geoffrey delivered his brash one-liners with an air of nonchalance, as if he was commenting on the weather. That paired with his cockney accent made him my best character on the show.

I always wanted a Geoffrey to my Will, someone outside the family who had a different perspective. Sad to say though, we are not the bourgeoisie that you read about in sociology with enough money to hire British butlers.

The closest thing I got to a witty satirical British butler growing up were a string of bland conversationalists with far less enchanting accents. Househelps.

We have had a house-help for as long as I can remember. Not the same house-help, mind you, mother isn’t that affable. But a string of ladies have been employed to do the chores around the house and make sure it’s generally clean. I have no relationships with house-helps.

There are those who have been with us for four months and I have only exchanged a handful of words with. I don’t really hold conversations with house-helps for some reason. It might be because we have different interests, or because my mother looks for them in the deepest corners of the village. This wasn’t the case when I was a younger lad.

We used to have this help named Jane. Jane was the nicest woman you’d ever meet. She was a short, elderly lady and her head was shaven. Back then we lived in Donholm and my school was a stone throw away from home. She’d come for me every day with a sweet in hand. One of those amazing fifty cent creations called simply Ko. I’d gobble it down and then we would proceed to race to the house. I always won these little races.

Jane would ensure that I showered and did my homework before my parents got home. During this time we built quite the rapport. She was my friend and my confidant. Jane was privy to all the drama that was going on in school.

She advice me on how to deal with bullies. I think her exact words were something along the lines of, “Akikusumbua tena mweke ngumi ang’oke meno uone kama ataendelea kucheka.”

Alright. So maybe Jane had some anger management issues. She still taught me to stand up for myself. I took her advice by the way.

There is now a 20ish year old man who went to Donholm Catholic primary school who is walking around less one tooth.

I don’t remember the reason Jane went away. But the day she left she took a part of me with her. As a child I used to believe that the help was part of the family. I mean we’d go to church together on Sunday and then go for the eagerly awaited afternoon lunch out consisting of Chips, sausage and a soda. Jane partook in this revered meal; she sat with us at the table and ate with us. Therefore she had to be family. After she left, it dawned on me that she was not really my “auntie”. After all aunties aren’t replaced days after they go.

I can barely remember the names let alone the faces of all the helps who came after Jane. It was as if I was in one of those movie montages where the character is moving at normal speed but life all around them is moving way faster and they just go about their business, blissfully ignorant.

The other day I was watching Fresh Prince re-runs and Geoffrey said something really funny. It brought back my memories of wanting my own Geoffrey. I thought about the help we have now and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the last time I had an actual conversation with her, this woman who has been living in our house for a couple of months. I know practically nothing about her.

I suddenly recall that I have overheard her conversations on the phone with people I can only assume are relatives. These are usually very charismatic chats filled with laughter from both ends. Sadly I rarely understand the exchanges since they are carried out predominantly in Luhya.

I find myself wondering if she’s funny. Maybe she is a hoot. Webuye’s own Sarah Silverman. Perhaps I’ve had Geoffrey here all along, I just didn’t notice. I must find out the facts.

But how?

I have tried to joke with her a bit over the past few days, but all I’ve gotten for my efforts is puzzled looks and silence. Well pardon me for trying. I suppose I should have expected this. Maybe there are no funny forty year old women from Webuye. I should mention that I don’t even know if she’s from Webuye. All I know is that she’s Luhya. I made an informed guess. I’m probably right though. Either that or she’s from a place with a more difficult name like Chavakali, because that’s how mother likes them, elderly and from places with difficult names to pronounce.

Looking back, it’s shocking how many helps we’ve had. They are so many that in my memory most of them have merged together such that I can hardly separate one from the other. Most lasted a few months but there were a few exceptions.

I remember a particular one that lasted a night. She came on Saturday night and left on Sunday morning. Apparently her and my mother didn’t see eye to eye on matters of drinking on the job.

I’m hoping to move out of home soon. I want to leave the proverbial nest. Spread my wings and what not. Just a lone wolf with only his wits to protect from the cruel world. A real man fending for himself. Well, technically my parents will still be fending for me since I am still in school and do not earn a living. But enough semantics. Point is I am entering a stage in my life where the only house-help I will have is me. I plan to do this work with joy in my heart for I know the stage that comes next.

Since my mother couldn’t get me a Geoffrey, I will get myself a Geoffrey. Once I am in my thirties, fully bald and with a wider waist, I will fly to England and arrange a heist on some Victorian mansion. I will then kidnap their white butler and fly him back to Kenya under a different name, maybe a name like Geoffrey. I will force him to tell me jokes and call me ‘Master William’. And then I will have achieved my lifelong dream of reverse racism. Roll credits.


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