I have a niece. She just turned four in April.

She’s loud and bubbly and opinionated and she knows what she wants; which is a terrible thing to be (to know) at 3. (Before I moved out, she was three.)

The thing with people that know what they want, is that they can be tedious, especially if you are in possession of what they want. If my niece has taught me anything, it’s that.

I don’t like people too much, they can be heavy and obtrusive and just downright inconveniencing. But life means you have to live it in the presence of people. And when their heaviness gets loud, you find a corner and that corner becomes you. You live in that corner and that corner breathes you and it’s not a beautiful thing but you thrive in it. My bedroom used to be my corner.

I’d walk in there after doing dishes and plug in earphones and write or stare or just dream really- sometimes without earphones. Or sometimes with earphones on, but the music would run out and I wouldn’t notice. I’d be busy thriving in the corner to notice things as little as music. Not when my mind was brimming with sparkly ideas.

The corner prospered, for a while. Then my niece discovered another thing she wanted; my presence.

And I discovered a way to keep the corner.

I’d just lock the door. We’d be on different sides of that door. Pretty simple, right?

So my niece (her name is Serene by the way, but we call her Babe.) understood the power of not taking no for an answer. She’d knock on that door and knock and knock knock and knock…

Each knock was accompanied by ‘Nifungulie’ or ‘Nifungulie tu.’ sometimes both.

And I wouldn’t budge. I’d sit there, in my corner, with my paused thoughts hanging mid air or floating their way into oblivion and I’d wait for her to stop knocking so I could go back to my corner. Sometimes though, I’d feel guilty and open the door and she’d come in and we’d play ‘Tom Cat’ on my phone (pretty cool game by the way, that I have since uninstalled) …or just watch Frozen for the 1600th time, fun times.

Other times, especially when I was writing, I’d turn into stone and boy! Nothing would make me open that door until I was done. Not even the cutest three year old that side of the Nairobi River.

Eventually, she’d tire and fall silent. I’d go back to writing; bang on my keyboard for an hour until whatever madness was driving me waned. Then I’d take a break… or just decide I was done for the day. Writing is pretty thirsty work, no, seriously. So after punishing my keyboard, I’d want water which often warranted for the opening of my bedroom door. And she would be there. Seated. Sometimes on her blue, baby chair, sometimes on the floor. And before I could congratulate myself for being a shitty human being and just breaking both of our hearts (AGAIN!) she’d run in and jump onto the bed and under the duvet. Then she’d start fake snoring. Baby fake snores are the cutest.

I’d get my water, we’d watch Frozen, she’d be Anna, I’d be Elsa. Anna has all the good parts, Babe knows how to choose. Then 20-30 minutes in she’d fall asleep and I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to watch something else. Guilt is a beautiful thing.



Image by Nina Strehl, courtesy of Unsplash. 

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