Rumuruti lands in the ear like Garba Tula, a place that once sounded so foreign I decided to name our Rex-looking dog Garba Tula. On the internet, one finds Garbatulla, Garba Tula, and Garba Tulla, a multi-named ungeography, lacking the exactness of Limuru or Lamu or Lodwar, those liquid sounds of place that glide in and out of imagination and possibility.
Rumuruti is harsh serrations, those cutting “r” sound that invoke labor and loss. One hears, in it, the relentless sound of grass-cutting pangas, food-harvesting blades, a language of edges and smiles, bean-soaked and potato-infused. Here, nostalgia prefers to image women balancing pots of water on their labor-reshaped foreheads. Piped water is an invasion.
Some places exist for memory to wrap around.
Liquids are easier to visit.
I get stuck at nasals—Ngong, Muranga, Ngandani, Ngandure, Ngeranyi. As though space refuses to stick to them. Ngomeni sounds like a dance, a wave of spirit movements fueled by life-loving spirits. A partnership of winding. Perhaps that’s what nasals do: they wind around one’s mouth. Always making one “speak through one’s nose.”
An accusation: “you speak through your nose.”
The peculiar way space winds itself around noses and mouths, as memory and forgetting, those nasal activities, fricatives resolving into nasals. (I had a love affair with plosives once, a symptom of a different kind of need. But I worry about the heaviness of d, the slicing of k, the sly civility of c.)
Rumuruti lands in the ear like the place that cannot exist in sophisticated conversation. You speak as though you’re from Rumuruti, someone says. And I have yet to check a google map to see where Rumuruti exists. It came to me from a manuscript I’m reading. Another place from a book. Another book place.
Places are book places or smell places. The sulfur fumes of school trips to elsewheres, the night stink of coffee plantations, the press of bodies in elsewhere-bound buses and planes. Book places are geography places: lists of neverwheres incarnated as classmates who embodied those impossibilities. Lists of impossibilities created by memory-makers fighting against history-makers.
(Shall I always return here?)
Nguna is in Central Province, a place that no longer exists.
What do we do with old maps of places that birth us and that no longer exist?
Ngwatawiro is not next to Ngwena, except on an outdated chart of alphabetically listed ungeographies.
Charts produce proximities.