NAIROBI, Kenya — Have you ever experienced a mixture of emotions? That ambiguous feeling standing between two very different emotions, such that you can’t tell which emotion has your internal wheel? It happened to me once.

Sometime back, month of December

I am in the kitchen pressing a pepper the size of my index finger against a chopping board. I hum to an old tune I picked from the old movie Sarafina, “Freedom is coming tomorrow … “, as I chop the pepper.

I can’t remember what I was up to, considering I am not a fan of pepper. I’ve never wrapped my head around why on Earth you should cook a sumptuous meal and then add pepper to it. What’s the point? It’s like doing something well just to undo it. People call me crazy, but I think I know who the crazy ones are (pepper users).

Anyroad, on this day I’ve chosen to join the crazy, am preparing whatever it is am preparing, and it involves something that has risen to be my greatest life’s fear: pepper. I am in a baggy pair of shorts with a V-shaped sweater over my bare chest. See, it’s a weekend, and I can stay as rough as I want to just have some me-time chopping the devil’s fingers and humming, “Freedom is coming tomorrow.”

To go or not to go?

The beeping of the microwave reminds me that my cup of tea is ready just as I love it: steaming. I take it out but then realize that from a distance — faaaaaar — I can feel an indication that, in a few minutes, I might need to piss, but it’s drizzling outside (the reason I desired that steaming cup of tea, to fight the goosebumps spread on my skin like peanut butter on a slice of bread).

The thought of walking outside to the lavatory hurts for a moment, but then I remember my mum once telling me when I was young that holding on for too long when am really pressed could damage my testicles. OK, I am not that pressed, but it may start to pour rain heavily and, by the time I get so pressed, I will be unable to walk in the rain toward the comfort station to relieve myself.

Do I really want damaged testicles? “Hell no!” is my answer after I mull it over. So, I grab a jumper on my way out, put it on and pull the hood over my head.

Learning a handy lesson

(Now, gentlemen, this lesson will come in handy, trust me. If you ever chop pepper and then need to take a leak, you might want to wash your hands first. Scrub your fingers with soap. Better still: Wear metallic gloves.)

I nudge the lavatory door and walk in, then I push it to a close with a back kick. I am not a fan of standing there staring at the wall as I let out some hot steam, and so I grab at my apparatus in a hurry. Get it over and done with, I lecture myself, and that is how I end up fearing pepper.

Goodness! My fingertips choose to be disobedient by living a life of their own. In my speed to unleash my apparatus from the briefs, the index finger touches the tip, and the hell I get it rough! The residual pepper oil goes in, and it’s like it gets sucked in with the professionalism desert ground offers when a drop of water is poured.

Who said men don’t scream?

If you think you can’t scream because you are a man, please try this at home, but make sure you first bite on a piece of wood to gag the sound. Great pain takes me by the testicles, and I forget about taking the leak and turn for the door. I try to open it by pushing instead of pulling, and it takes me like five tries to realize the damn door doesn’t open that way.

My unit is on fire as I stand out in the light drizzles, frog-jumping, dancing, screaming, whistling. Believe me, it’s at this moment I discover some of my other talents. My grandfather is summoned by my screams and he rushes out to see what’s going on. He is wearing a concerned look and stops to look for any attackers, but he can see none.

“What is happening!?” he almost screams.

“Pilipili, pilipili!” (“Pepper, pepper!”)

It’s all I can say while grabbing at my crotch, twitching in award-winning dance moves. Grandpa tries to come closer to me, but his slippers lose their friction on the muddy track. In my distress, I see the sole of his feet wave at me mid-air, and it’s after a serious, ground-shaking fall that his pair of slippers follow. I hear the crack one hears when threads part: He’s torn his trousers.

A peculiar mix creates ‘ambiguous tears’

I don’t know why it’s funny when an older person falls, but what beats me is how I manage to laugh my ribs out, hands still grabbing at the searing pain torturing my crotch. Soon, my eyes get liquid, and I cry — I call them ambiguous tears. Are they pouring out of the pain or the laughter?

Anyway, grandpa is not hurt. He gets up and shoves a middle finger at the rains, then gives me one hellish look. I immediately repress my laughter, my cheeks rounded with burning amusement, but my knees are still careening from the pain the sick pepper has caused me. Grandpa realizes I am still laughing in my soul, for as much as I try to bottle it in, the tears still flow. He violently hurls his slippers at me, but I duck. They go right through the door of the lavatory.

Long story short, later that week I sit with grandpa watching the setting sun as we laugh at the events that had happened. It’s just amazing how you can feel pain and still laugh at the same time.

And that is how I’ve grown hating pepper.

Dear future wife,

If you are one of those who loves pepper in every meal, please please please remember to alert me in advance so that I can put on protective hockey gear.

With fear of pepper,


Lesalon Kasaine is a Kenyan writer and journalist based in Nairobi. He has been a contributor on NonDoc since 2017, publishing poems and short stories. He has authored a crime thriller, Three Bolts From The Blue, and an anthology, Around The Campfire. He works as the content strategist at Qazini, a media platform that seeks to drive systemic change in society.