Hello Reader, you good?
Well, the Recount continues:
My host, Fred Sang, went to work most of the days I spent at his house; the first week, he spent Monday to Friday at Nakumatt Junction (Dagoretti Corner), or someplace else along Ngong Road, as he apprised me. Formal employment, he didn’t enjoy; what he did, he free-lanced. In college, this Fred he studied some course related to technology. A lot of stuff a-concerning computers and TVs and radios, and even phones and electricity, he mastered so; such services, he offered his clients.
Some days, if a customer remunerated him on time, or tipped him, or if he secured a fantastic contract, he’d appear home buoyant. “My man! Haha,” he’d say, “you know what? I have another client. Good money. In two days!” Then he’d labor like wicked Adam, on his laptop and all, all night sometimes, to meet the deadline. Other times, when circumstances dissatisfied him, he’d brood and bleat; then when he meditated enough time, and psyched himself up towards some future positive possibility, he’d say, “Anyway man, a boy must work harder.”
This first week, this first week I spent at his place, I watched (on the main) early seasons of The Wire, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards. As Fred had arranged, his sofa became my bed, his old cloths my bonus, his extra phone my spare, his food my share, and house chores my service. So, on a standard day, I’d arise at 9 or 10 am, surf internet—a-facebooking or a-whatsapping, follow an episode or two—of The Wire, The Walking Dead or some other, then prepare lunch—get already-cut kales, ready-to-go fish fillets, eggs or anything painless to cook, catnap a little, with X FM or 2 FM a-singing on the background, to sooth me so. In the evening, I’d flip the TV channels for anything engrossing. Then at last, before Fred returned, I’d wipe the house and rinse the dishes, and then make supper. With these activities, thus recurring, I filled my days.
Other times, if the weather permitted, (Nairobi, colder than Maili Tisa, froze my bones) I’d amble about the neighborhood, to familiarize with the geography. I recollect, on Thursday evening, of the same week, as the weather had allowed, I fumbled my way to the bus stage. Saturday a-drawing closer, and our meet-up ( with Matano, Anne and Eve) still standing, I didn’t want Fred a-guiding me to the stage. A boy should find his own way.
Reader, listen; how citizens of Nairobi contrasted with the folks from Maili Tisa! For the first few days I lodged in this city (in Kawangware estate), I saw, I heard, I felt, I wished, I wondered, I monologued…I…mnh: all arresting lasses of the country had drifted and settled here, in this city in the sun. Everywhere you turned, you spotted a face. Winsome. Petite, light-skinned gym-goers, or morning-runners or general walkers. And that face, forbidding, would dart about, to nowhere, to somewhere, everywhere; purse clutched under right armpit, or left; specs or shades on face, earrings dangling, lips glowing red or purple or a-matching a fabric on the wearer, tight trousers swishing, wristlets and anklets chiming, perfumes whiffing, rumps oscillating, breasts bounding, stilettos tapping, tap, tap, tap. During these first few days, was my neck sore, a-rotating every time a face happened by. And when you said habari, seldom a reply would they issue; such austere faces with dour eyes inspecting the world and its contents, and searching, a-searching or a-chasing a vision in the capital. But, reader, you never saw a girl from Maili Tisa, this my home town: young but old, small but difficult, gentle but coarse, female but masculine. Anyway, this contradistinction no matter, the world concurs, and reinforces: a girl must attempt; a girl-child must try to flourish. She must compete with the boy, and she must stand self-supporting. Indeed, whenever I got the chance, so I did tell my cousins; these my uncle’s seven daughters.
A sample of grown boy-children did I notice too. Call them male youth, or young men, I don’t know. You distinguished them in the estate. How they clothed like those Black Americans you saw on TV or music videos; mighty t-shirts and titanic trousers, large and leaden necklaces and single studs, and a forward bend of the bones for a posture. And the arms a-curving outward on a stroll, a shoulder dipping lower than the other, the head agreeing, and a right or left stride longer than the former. Often, you spotted them in pairs, a boy and a girl, a-heading to town or returning to the estate at night. Once in a while, in the evening, you caught a boy in a car, driven by a ‘big’ girl. Other times, morning or afternoon, a boy bore a backpack, a laptop or something inside, a-going somewhere. Such boys, these backpack-bearing ones, you could perceive they worked, free-lanced rather. You could hear them, wherever you encountered them, a-calling someone and making promises of delivery or something. Working-class boy and girls existed also; however, I seldom saw them. They left their houses at dawn and returned at night.
On the other hand, if you considered other aspects, my folks in Maili Tisa rated better, you should believe, I don’t know. In Maili Tisa, I grew up in a community. Everybody knew everyone in the village. Myself, I lived with my reverent uncle, together with his seven daughters and his wife. On an ordinary day, over the holidays (and if the planting or harvesting season occurred), we’d work the farm—these girls and I. Then I’d attend to the herd of cattle and sheep as the girls wiped the house and fetched water. Evenings, some evenings, Joan (the youngest of the girls, female but masculine) and I would go to watch a local league of football, near Eldoret-Kitale Road junction.
In this our family setup, we’d swallow supper together. But even before we ate, Uncle would insist that I (the ungodly one) blessed the food, and as well thank and bless the preparers. Thereafter, we’d recount the day’s happenings, within and without. A funeral somewhere, a wedding elsewhere, women’s meeting next Saturday, men’s congregation coming Sunday, and so on. Sometimes, a neighbor’s kid would come in to borrow a pinch of salt, or match sticks, or flour. At some moments, Uncle would send me to his friends to pick a good bought earlier, or to deliver a major message. So it happened. Reader, there in the village, you never felt like a soldier on a mighty mission, a mission that must succeed. You just breathed, in the community. I won’t disclose how I found the city, in matters community, but I concede I reset some beliefs.
Anyway, Fred and I continued to exist so; him a-going to work, while I, tending the house and all. Reader, three months before I left college, I’d written tens of CVs and mailed them to some firms and companies and parastatals and organizations in Nairobi. Telling them that I was this hardworking, self-driven, motivated, level-tempered self-assured, assertive, reliable, open-minded, flexible, creative young man, and all that crap. By the time I migrated to the city, none of them had written back, and none had called. Nevertheless, I remained enthusiastic, a-convincing myself that things would fall into place, that my uncle’s prayers—him, a church elder in that Maili Tisa PEFA church and all—would work miracles for me. Throughout the first weeks in the city, I ensured my phone stayed on, just in case a probable employer called.
Reader, I feel compelled not to disclose this; I’ll say it nonetheless. Listen, all through my young life, I harbored this imagination of owning vast tracks of urban land in Nairobi—by all means, possessing real properties in the city, and a-marrying five women. If there’s any business that returns profits fifty-fold in this city in the sun, its property business. This vision, this my vision, required loads of money. Remember I arrived in the city with a balance of 200 shillings. Again, in college, I’d studied this course, this Soil Technology course. Reader, in this digital world, would an employer need a soil technologist? Why did I study it? You might ask. Listen, how many students in these universities study courses they’d never apply anywhere in their long-lasting lives? I never, by conscious choice I think, picked this course. Circumstances beyond my human control coalesced to design my fate. I remember, a-choosing these courses, I listed–with the urging of Uncle, in this order of preference, courses I’d have relished: BSc Medicine and Surgery, BSc Electrical and Electronic Engineering, BSc Petroleum and Geoscience, BSc Aeronautical Science, and so forth. I might have listed Soil Technology somewhere as the last option, I don’t know. Anyway, at length, these people of Higher Education, that ministry, they texted me one evening, a-saying, with my high school qualifications, Soil Technology fitted me just fine. Reader, tell me this my dream is valid.
A boy must have a dream, so it is said. I hungered to become this young mogul of real estate, by 35 or 40. However, I detested a-doing certain things, beyond schooling, that a many people would categorize as ‘hard work’. The hard work a boy or a girl applies in schooling for 16 onerous years should suffice, don’t you think? Why a boy, thousands of them, after college, should toil even more, baffles me. Like the boy-children I mentioned earlier, with backpacks on their backs, a-toiling. Trying. Looking. Searching all over the place for a satisfying engagement.
I detested a-going the extra mile. Even Uncle knew. Later, this my inclination, would wedge a rift between Fred and me.
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.