Pyrethrum

BloomJanice
Sketch by Janice Angengo.
Words by Wanjiku Mungai.
The Chrysthanthemums— the pyrethrum flowers– had been harvested and laid out flat on a burlap sack to dry in the sun. If it started to rain it could be disastrous, so the two of them watched to make sure that in this case, they could very quickly move them out into the shade.
They had harvested them an hour ago: pulling each by the stalk and throwing them into the Kasuku tins that they’d carried with them to the shamba. Then they had brought them here, and after they were sufficiently dry they would call J, who would come get them and take them to a factory somewhere, where they would be dried further, crushed into small pieces and dissolved in a solvent  and packaged as insecticide for selling.

It made her happy to think that in a few weeks, her flowers– or what remained of them– would be sitting on a shelf in a supermarket in Nakuru, or in a house somewhere in Mombasa. Even though she did not like to travel much, she liked the idea that something which she had created would make its way to places which she might not.

It made her happy but yet so sad.

This was something that happened often nowadays: one moment she was bursting to the seams with joy, the next she was inexplicably deflated and sad. When she had been a child the feelings had been so much simpler to detangle and to understand, but now that she had grown older they seemed so complex: sometimes she was happy but yet with a sad undercurrent beneath, and other times she was angry but just wanted to cry, and other time she laughed without a care, only for a dark cloud to come over her just immediately afterwards and she couldn’t even explain it. Her best friend was quite the opposite: now she seemed to glide through life with an unquestioning optimism about the definite wonderfulness of everything about this thing called life.

Sitting next to her right now, he reached over to hold her hand, squeezed it and looked at her and smiled and said nothing but he didn’t have to. The thoughts stopped, and instead she was now aware of how the sun was reflected off of his eyelashes, the air smelt faintly of cow and of grass and of the flowers and also of him: something intangible that she couldn’t quite name but which made her feel secure and warm. And she thought how strange this moment was, but yet quite so wonderful, and leaned over to place her head on his shoulder, as they watched the Chrysthanthemums dry.