YOU might puzzle over how I dozed that Friday night; with Fred’s music a-blazing and him and his Shish a-guzzling those beers and petting and twittering on my couch—this Fred’s couch…
So The Recount continues:
My reader, to quote the truth, I never slept that night (as much as I’d have desired); if I did, ask Fred and his girl—if you encounter them in the streets of Nairobi on a Friday night, because my memory is like a warthog’s. Anyway, I think I can recall some scanty information.
Fred and Shish, this girl of his, they guzzled their beers—those Tusker Lagers and Smirnoff Ice; they did, like the camels of the Sahara Desert. All this time, I perched there on that couch, far to the right of it, a-sipping my Coca Cola. Restful, my stomach remained, for I’d consumed Fred’s food before this Shish appeared that night; however, my mind raced and racked, within and without the house. Knocking at a neighbor’s, and begging for a place for the night, I would, but then far I hadn’t acquired any acquaintance; in any case, folks in that flat of ours never hello-ed anybody. Another option: I could have asked Fred to shift his party of two to his bedroom. But you never saw drunken Fred; he drawled and brawled and crawled and bawled, when full to the nose. Yet the following morning he wouldn’t recollect any of it. Were he unaccompanied, I’d have hauled him to his bedroom and stuff his bedding upon his body; that Shish complicated matters. How to handle a drunken man with his decorative and drunken girl, I didn’t know. I mean, I couldn’t exert any control over my drive, once I exceeded my temptation limit.
I sat there. My reader, to quote the truth, I sat there, troubled in mind and soul and heart. Booming music drives me insane; a boy and a girl petting anywhere near me, anytime, tortures and reminds me of my own. Mary, I now remembered. This traditional girl who extinguished my fires back in Maili Tisa; I recalled another man, a cane cutter, domesticated her now. That’s how they say in Maili Tisa. Listen, my reader. Here at Fred’s house, while they petted and drank, my heart burnt. Not that Saitan (Satan) taunted me or anything, but my body burnt. Reader, I felt my temperature rise again; even the hitherto loud music, now hummed on the background. I could hear my burning heart pump blood to every extension of my flesh. And my mouth dried up. And my heartbeat multiplied. And my thighs, I pressed them together. And my hands, I placed them over my thighs, a-holding my glass. And my head I began to rock up and down, if to the music in the house or to some other inbred rhythm, I couldn’t tell. How long this predicament continued, I don’t remember either.
Anyway, around 1 am, this I recollect, Fred and his Shish they erected themselves off the couch, shoved the glass table towards the kitchen door, and began a-swaying in the space so established, before me; they interlocked their arms and grabbed all buttocks and hugged and kissed and cackled. Their legs wobbled under their wobbly frames. At one moment they knocked over the liquor bottles on the floor, at another, they steadied themselves on the couch’s left arm, gleeful. I sat there, my reader. The dance persisted. They rotated within that mini dance floor, all the time Shish a-displaying her back towards me. A-sweating and hugging and cackling. That dance persisted. It persisted until it precipitated a rather ecstatic instant for me. I don’t know how Shish perceived it. Reader, listen: as they undulated there before me, a-torturing me and all, Shish she unbalanced her right handsome leg on her heel. A drunken girl on one foot can’t stand for long. How delightful Fred remained beer-weakened he couldn’t catch a girl fall. On my lap, Shish descended, and exerted all her weighty mass upon me. Remember, I’d held my glass over my thighs; otherwise, I’d have hurt. I swear. She laughed in a tantalizing voice before she realized she’d sat on a man. She said, “Oh my-God! S-sorry. So-r-ry. Ta-taif-a, m so-o sorreey…” Fred he pulled her off me.
“It’s ok…no—” I said.
“Oh gho-sh, look I-I hav-e spilt you-r drin—” she said, as Fred pulled her back, but she leaned towards me and attempted to splash off the spill off my thighs with slow, soft slaps.
“No…no, don’t wor—” I said, and then placed my glass down on the rug and rushed to the bathroom, relieved.
Reverent reader, I realize I’ve digressed a bit. If you’re reading this line of the recount still, I say, very well!
Now, reverent reader, I haven’t mentioned if I slept at all. I don’t remember much. Listen: when I returned from the bathroom, the two unbalanced people danced more, I think. Presently, my body relaxed; the torturous spell had subsided. I went back to my position on the couch, to the right of it.
“Drink! Drink!” said Shish, bending over to help. Picking up my glass, I noticed she’d refilled it. Reader was the second glass sweeter. The glass refilled by Shish. The glass that lulled me to sleep…The time I slept, you could ask Fred and Shish.
Saturday, when I woke up, the warm rays of the sun cast through the window; but the place smelt rancid. That night, I survived without the usual bedding, so my skin had chilled on account of the early morning cold. Besides, my head twinged and all my bones ached.
The sitting room resembled the site you sight after a severe storm. Broken bottles littered the rug. Alcoholic spillage damped the rug on the floor. The glass table near the kitchen door, where they’d shoved it to create a dance floor, exhibited a curve of crack on one of its corners. Also, around my adjoining setting, I sighted remnants of tissue paper—some creased on the rug and others, laying on the wooden table against the wall, opposite me, together with an ear stud or a ring or a bracelet; I don’t remember. The door to the bedroom, stayed open; and I heard them snore like elephants.
My dog-tired bodily shape no matter, I planned I’d go to town first thing. Fred would clean the house when he awoke; if it matters, reader, remember they created all that mess last night; and besides, I despised house chores, cleaning stuff more so.
I didn’t have to tip-toe to the bedroom to pick anything. All my personal effects existed in the sitting room, stowed in my sturdy bag (at the corner of the room, to my right) I’d traveled with from Maili Tisa. I brushed my teeth, bathed, combed my hair and changed my shirt and took black tea and bread in no time. Time wise, it’d clocked 10 am.
Still premature to travel to town for the meet up, I opted to amble to the bus stop in Kawangware, as slow as a snail, a-buying time. Staying longer in that house, I didn’t fancy. As I moved through the narrow paths that zigzagged towards the bus stop, I reflected upon my life. Those job applications I’d applied months ago, none of those firms or companies had issued a reply, even in form of regret. Aware of the situation in Fred’s house (should Shish decide to visit every day), I’d become an unpopular invader, in a matter of days. Reader, after 20 minutes of walking, I felt mighty weary. And my head throbbed so. In a common shop along the path I walked, I bought a packet of milk, rested on a bench outside there and drank. I figured it’d reinvigorate me or something. The shopkeeper there, a young, brown girl, asked if I suffered from Malaria or anything.
“Ah, no!” I said.
“Then you must have drank a lot yesterday,” she said. I faked a smile and filled that conversation with silence and draws of the milk in the packet. People, mostly church-headed women and children and some men and other young couples and young families, passed by, hundreds of them, on foot and cars. No doubt, they headed to an SDA church nearby. Those people who worship on Saturday.
When I checked my watch (this glossy, leather-strapped watch I’d bought from a woman hawker, the first day I arrived in Kawangware), it’d clocked 10:43 am. Reader, now this my week-old watch had started to wear. It lost its lustrous appeal, and the leather straps, where they connected with the watch itself, showed detached threads. A thin, steel plate covered the watch underneath; on it, when you upturned it, you saw: Stainless Steel. Made in China. Anyway, I finished my milk and paid the shopkeeper. Walking on, I felt mighty relieved. Strengthened, I now hastened to the bus stage.
Reader, have you ever visited a bus stage in Nairobi?
Listen, tens of buses, a-hooting and v-rooming (to make you imagine it had filled all the passenger seats but one for you), lined one side of the road, opposite the petrol station. Outside, on their bodies, eerie drawings and statements, exhibited. And inside those buses, music boomed. And their touts, some Rastafarian, others khat-chewing, howled and called you out. And when you displayed an element of indecision, they flocked around and yanked you every which way. And you had to secure your wallet or any property in that push and shove, if you could.
Reader, not by conscious choice did I end up in a beat-up, grey bus, with squeaky seats, music-wise sound nonetheless. The bus struggled out after 10 minutes. By a left-side window, I sat. In Kenya, motorists keep left to be right. So seated, I watched outside. Nairobi never rests, reader. On this Saturday no less, people still undertook their activities; you saw grocers by the road side, cart-pullers, hawkers, SDAs, carpenters, cobblers, open cafes, car bazaars, maize-roasters, nuts-toasters, insecticide vendors, and so forth. At every stage along that road, the bus stopped to drop or pick a passenger. The red-eyed tout would bang the door with his palm or whistle like a kite, or strike a mental in the bus with his coin, to alert the driver. Then he’d shout the name of the stage; thus hearing, I learnt a few names of the places along that road from Kawangware to town—like Kabiria and Wanye; I didn’t remember where those places situated anyway.
But I remember I saw The Junction, this exquisite shopping center along Ngong Road where Fred met his clients. I promised myself I’d visit that place to dine one day. I spotted a rugby field on my right, where Shujaa, this our venerable national rugby team often practiced, I supposed. I saw China Center, some Chinese establishment on the right of Ngong Road, on a slope towards town. Kenyatta National Hospital, I noticed too, after making a curve on a large roundabout. As the journey to town continued, I plunged into my thoughts again. I needed work. I needed money. I needed my own rented house. I needed freedom. But things had began to look nonviable. I’d get to town and meet Matano and Eve and Anne. I wondered what they did; I figured they’d share with me any secrets, or any employment possibilities they knew about.
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.