“Let me tell you: one day you will renounce your exile, and you will go back home, and your mother will take out the finest china, and your father will slaughter a sprightly cockerel for you, and the neighbours will bring some potluck, and your sister will wear her navy blue PE wrapper, and your brother will eat with a spoon instead of squelching rice and soup through the spaces between his fingers.
And you, you will have to tell them stories about places not-here, about people that soaked their table napkins in Jik Bleach and talked about London as though London was a place one could reach by hopping onto an Akamba bus and driving by Nakuru and Kisumu and Kakamega and finding themselves there.
You will tell your people about men that did not slit melons up into slices but split them into halves and ate each of the halves out with a spoon, about women that held each other’s hands around street lamps in town and skipped about, showing snippets of grey Mother’s Union bloomers as they sang:
Kijembe ni kikali, param-param
Kilikata mwalimu, param-param
You think that your people belong to you, that they will always have a place for you in their minds and their hearts. You think that your people will always look forward to your return.
Maybe the day you go back home to your people you will have to sit in a wicker chair on the veranda and smoke alone because, although they may have wanted to have you back, no one really meant for you to stay.”
From Okwiri Oduor, “My Father’s Head.” On the Caine Prize 2014 shortlist.