CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_12

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Stranded in the city. Expelled by your host, at night. And you possess little money. What would you do?

Would I were a magician; for then I’d have prophesied my host ejecting me, after eight months of stay at his place.

Would I were a seer; for so I’d have perceived that Jane would like me at length—and I’d have eluded her.

Would I were observant, I wouldn’t have caused myself this hassle.

But who am I? A young boy, a young graduate, a jobseeker from Maili Tisa. Who am I to foretell outcomes?

What transpired, I admit, qualified as disreputable. I betrayed my host. Whether, some day or year, I’d receive his mercy, this Fred’s mercy, I couldn’t tell. But what confronted my thoughts, at this instant, as I stood there at Fred’s door, that night, with the huge padlock mocking me, with all my property scattered about the door and along the corridor—what confronted my thoughts, exasperated me so. I’d begun work there at River Road few months ago. Hitherto, I hadn’t accumulated enough money to rent my own place. Where would I go? Matano, my long-time friend, lived with his parents in Buruburu Esate. I couldn’t request him to talk to his parents. For Peter, Eric, and Adam, I knew where they lived. Nevertheless, I couldn’t surprise them with my desire for refuge.

What about Jane Shish, the instigator of my distress? Still, she lived with her mother in Buruburu. What would she say, if I called her to report that Fred ejected me because she cheated on him, with me? No, I wouldn’t call her. And even if she stayed alone, I wouldn’t have considered staying at her place.

As I moved about the door (Fred’s locked door), racking my mind, neighbors descended (or ascended the stairs). Some saw me but continued their locomotion. Some saw me, stood, but continued their locomotion. Some saw me, stood, coughed, but continued their locomotion. Some saw me, stood, coughed, shook their heads, but continued their locomotion. I told you before, citizens in this Fred’s flat—and most flats in the city, seldom shared a smile, or a greeting from the land of decency. If any of them talked to me, as to express shock or empathy, I’d have implored her or him to host me for the night. And this fact, they knew, I think.

Stranded in the city. Expelled by your host, at night. And you possess little money. What would you do?

In my wallet, I possessed 3,000 shillings that evening. And in my bank account, 1,500 more. This amount totaled, would satisfy my stomach sustenance for the rest of that month of August, 2014. If I should rent my own place, in the zone of Kawangware Estate, I’d require 20,000, more or less. House owners stipulated that new tenants finance up to two months’ rent, prior. In that jumble of ideas and distress, I also contemplated migrating to Eastlands (east of Nairobi), where I could pay less rent, of course for commensurate service, as of the condition of the house, water supply, security, and so forth.

In this despondent shape, I remembered my uncle, back in Maili Tisa, with his wife and seven daughters. A long long time had elapsed, since I talked to him on phone. Anyway, at this moment, I couldn’t help it. By now I had leaned on the rail, overlooking the ground floor. I remembered how families existed back at home. How, if a wretched circumstance befell you, such as the one that overwhelmed me now, you turned to relatives to undergird you. How you never endured alone. And I felt I should go back home to farm, or engage myself in any other pursuit, so long as family surrounded me. I remembered Uncle’s wife. What a tenacious personality she presented, even when, and more so when Uncle battered her.

And in thinking about my folks in Maili Tisa, my mind, and my soul, by and by, de-stressed. At length, I don’t know what hour the night had recorded, I realized my tribulations paled in comparison to the sick in hospitals, the bereaved, the divorced, and the dead. And I allowed I’d breathe one day at a time. Concluding thus, I hauled my property, one after another, downstairs, and set them in a corner at the parking lot, and covered them with a black polythene paper I found there. How many trips it took me to finish this activity, I don’t remember. When I completed this transportation business, I went to the janitor’s cubicle on the ground floor, and requested him to secure my property. I induced him with 100 shillings, then left that flat.

I walked out, homeless. I walked out, chased. I walked out, uncertain of what tomorrow held. Outside, it was so cold, it was so lonely (though people thronged the paths), and it was so noisy. To Kawangware Stage, I trudged. I figured I’d secure a room there for the night. As I moved, imaginations flew in and out of my mind. How would I survive? Some thoughts walked with me. Some thoughts walked ahead of me, and beckoned. Some thoughts followed me from far. Let me share with you what I decided to do, in time. And what I decided to do in time, concerns one of the thoughts that followed me from far, behind. This particular thought, that preceded my decision, staggered to catch up with me. When it realized it wouldn’t get to me, it said:

“Taifa! Wait.”

I stopped. Two strides from me, that thought said:

“See, you don’t have to worry, you can ask your uncle to give you money.”

“Aha, I see,” said I.

“See, he must have harvested his sugarcane by now, it’s over eighteen months since he harvested last.”

“Aha, I see. I could borrow some 30,000 from him, then refun—”

“No! I have a better idea! Listen…”

That thought presented me with an idea that both conveyed my sense of need and urgency.

At Kawangware Stage, behind some bars and nightclubs, I secured a room for 500. This attendant who served me, asked if I’d need anything else. I said I wouldn’t eat a thing. She asked if I’d spend the night alone. I said I bore tribulations that no girl could unburden. The key (numbered 05) to my room, she handed me. Upstairs to my room, on the fifth floor, I hurried. As I ascended, I met or passed, girls and boys, in arms of harmony, with bottles, chatting, giggling, and kissing. Two times, I’d to flatten myself against the wall to allow for peaceful passage. Anyway, by and by, I got to my room and unlocked it and flicked on the light. It contained, this my house for the night: a basin, a pair of mismatched slippers, one blue, the other red; a bed of wire that sang when I sat on its tongue-thin mattress, one white bed sheet spotted with dark marks, one brown pillow, almost-finished tissue paper, a basin and a pail of water (a contingency measure against shower failure), a black bible on a stool and a dead cockroach beside it. The room had a window, but the panes couldn’t open, and so the smell that hung about the room would sleep with me tonight. This discomfort notwithstanding, I allowed I’d sleep well, without nightmares.

I bolted the door. I removed my shoes, then lay on the bed, on my back. Before I slept, I resolved I’d execute the idea that thought presented me with. On my phone, I dialed Uncle’s number, and when he received my call, I said:

“Heeey! Uncle? Hallo? Can you hear me?”

“Hallo? Ye—yes…I can hear you now. Surely, you have been quiet!” said Uncle.

“It is work. It is work, Uncle, I hav—”

“Even if it is work…my son, even if it is work, it is good to call, once in a while, so…so that…so tha—”

“Yap?”

 “I’m saying like this…listen son. I’m saying like this. Even if it is work, you should call us once in a while, you hear me?

“Yap.”

“Yesh. Anyway, I hear you got a job. Joan told me.”

“Yap.  It is some informal work in a shop. It—”

“It does not matter. You have to start somewhere. Yesh.”

“Yap. How, how is home?”

“We are good. Nothing bad to talk about. But you remember Thomas? Thomas. The eldest son of Makeke. He died a month ago,” said Uncle. Now, I began to lose control of the conversation. And my airtime kept dwindling.

“There is nothing bad to talk about. But you remember the cow I bought last? It died last week. It—”

“I’m sorry Unlc—”

“—it died when it ate a sponge. It—”

“I’m sorry Uncle. But why I called, why I called you, I wante—”

“—it ate the sponge that Joan uses to clean dishes. And it—”

“—I wanted you to loan me 50,000!”

He heard me, for he presently halted his tale of dead cow and sponges. An awkward silence then followed. And I waited for his response. From my room, you could hear vehicles hooting outside. When Uncle spoke, he said:

“Oh.”

“Yap,” said I.

“And…and 50,000, what do you want to do with 50,000?”

“Uncle, listen. I’ve been applying for scholarship to join a university in Eastern Europe. And today, they have just called me to inform me that I won a scholarship there. But they only want me to get air fare and passport and visa. Visa is like…it’s like a…”

“I know what it is.”

“Yap.”

“And this university, what is it called?”

I invented a name.

“Mn-hm. Good. Good. You mean, you mean you’re going to study in the land of white people?”

“Yap, Uncle. Yap.”

“Joan! Margaret! Come! Come talk to Taif—”

My call disconnected, on account of zero airtime. I’d expected that he’d call me back, before anything else; but a text message saying I’d received 70,000 from Uncle preceded his call.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

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About Dennis Chiedo

Author of TOM JAMES. Editor.

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