Category: Nairobi life

LAST CHRONICLE OF A NEW WRITER_25

If for a moral teaching, the gods shouldn’t have disposed me to encounter that episode. If for retribution for my misdeeds, the payment surpassed the principal deeds.

I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room down in Dagoretti; now eight months since Jane and I separated. I am not quite in the frame of mind to tell the details of the separation, but I only mention that Fred heard that Jane had given birth to a baby who half resembled him, and half me, and thereafter visited my house to claim his blood. There was a clamor in the house, when Fred came one evening, as Jane swore that she’d never marry him, even if a DNA test should wipe any doubts. In my tribe, people never feud over a baby, for it might spell ruination for the innocent soul. Despite this, it is also law, customary, that a man’s child can never be raised by another man, especially one born out of the circumstances of a love triangle. To shorten this tale about Jane, the three of us agreed to the DNA test, which was conducted a week later. To my relief—I am not sure if this was right—it turned out that Fred was the true father. Jane, distraught, went to her mother’s and has never spoken to Fred since, as far as I know. She has called me several times, and we have talked over general stuff. I have never known if the step I took was the best. We only grow wiser in retrospect.

Anyway, as I said before, I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room in Dagoretti this Sunday, after leaving the church, where I deposited all my confessions. Yesterday, my crew (Ken, Peter, Eric, Adam and Alex) and I, went to town, to celebrate a huge sale we had made Friday evening. At the end of the transaction, each of us, became entitled to at least two million shillings each, and more to come in the following days. This Saturday now, the day of celebration, Ken, being our supervisor, drove us from the shop there at River Road, to a club in Westlands. And we partied all right, for most part of the night.

On our way back, from Westlands, Adam, who was less drank than the rest of us, drove. He would drop each of us in our estates, and then would ride the car to his own place, and return it to Ken on Sunday. During this drive back to town, as we had to drop Peter somewhere along Jogoo road, we passed through Uhuru Highway, and then turned to Haile Selassie road.

Dear reader, I believe you know that this world carries many surprises within its late nights and early mornings, when the gods and spirits traverse the streets in cities.

The car that we drove in, a white Toyota Harrier, Ken had bought it a week earlier. Who ever knew that it would seem (to the police) like a stolen vehicle? Who ever knew? Ah!

As we coursed through Haile Selassie, I heard a siren warn behind us. In our casual manner, we said the policemen could go sleep hungry, as we wouldn’t hand them a shilling in bribe, for whatever charge they may raise. In consequence, and in playful manner, Adam accelerated the car, and we soon passed under the footbridge near Times Tower, and headed close to the roundabout, joining Moi Avenue.

A bullet, or something like it, blasted behind us. I heard a clink on the back window, and then Adam threw his body upon the steering wheel, and a deafening honking began, as the car careened towards the roundabout. He was dead.

At that moment, none of us knew what was happening, and I at one point imagined Adam to be pulling a dangerous trick on us. But when the car sped close to the roundabout, and the sirens grew louder, I realized trouble surrounded us. In panic, Ken stretched to the steering wheel from the middle seat, in an attempt to gain control of the car. In seconds, the car knocked the bounding of the roundabout, and I believe I was thrown off the car.

The police then must have realized that they mistook this car for a stolen one, else I would have found myself at the Central Police Station—which would have been a better option, I swear.

What happened is, reader, what happened is, I found myself among the dead at the City Morgue.

I am a fan, reader, of the television series The Walking Dead, and I fancy watching the zombies stagger after trapped real characters. I am a fan, of horror movies, and I like to see the lead characters struggle against the bad ones. I am a fan, of dreadful novels, and I revel in reading how some characters suffer at the hands of antagonists.

Let me tell you however, my dear reader, concerning that night I aforementioned, that at the sight of the scene in the morgue, I died. Not in the literal meaning in particular, but suffice it to report that all my senses died, apart from my senses of sight and touch. For a duration that seemed so long, I remained among the bodies, upon which the officers must have thrown me, earlier in the morning. Fear burst my heart, but I couldn’t twitch; sweat poured out of my skin, but I couldn’t wipe it; a word, a cry, a shout, of the screaming and cursing and repenting kind, rose inside my throat, but I couldn’t talk. On my back, as I had laid supine, I felt gummy flesh and fluids associate with my cloth and skin and hair.

I cried in silence, and offered prayers to all the gods of my lineage. I petitioned Taifa the first, first of his name, and asked him to spare my life. I cried in silence, and prayed to the true God, He of the Christians, that He should redeem my life, and thereby spare me the agony of purgatory. I confessed all my sins, all of them, of both omission and commission, and those I might have committed while an infant, and even in my mother’s womb, so that if I should die here among the bodies, I would sit by the right side of the Saints when I cross over on the day of rupture; with the Abrahams, the Moses, the Jacobs and all. I cried in silence, and vowed I would run to a Father of the first Catholic Church I would find, confess my sins and join the brotherhood.

Be careful what you ask for. This statement is recorded somewhere.

I am not sure if the morgue attendants caught my silent confessions; I couldn’t hear the confessions myself, but I said them anyway, in my heart. I am not sure if they heard me, but I recall some hand flung the main door open, as though he (or she) forgot a living soul inside, at which instant some godly strength filled my muscles, and I rose from the pile of the dead, and bolted outside, in the course of which the attendants shrieked and scampered to directions I don’t remember.

I am now nearing the end of this long recount, which I started months ago to speak about my experiences, as a new writer.

It was early morning when I left the morgue. It was very cold outside. And it was drizzling a little.

Soon I regained my sense of location, and I realized I walked near Kenyatta Hospital roundabout. Towards Ngong road I then hurried, and boarded a matatu which contained a few passengers, coming from town. The passengers scrutinized my aspect, and I suppose they suspected I had drank myself to unconsciousness and fell and slept in a sewer hole down in Muthurwa. One of the passengers paid twenty shilling for my fare, as she thought me of the deranged kind, I believe, and pitied me therefore.

Anyway, I alighted at Dagoretti roundabout, and ran to the church behind the shopping centre there. There was a mass going on at this hour, and I burst in through the door, followed the aisle, and knelt before the Father when I reached him at the dais, him who was issuing the sermon now, from which book I can’t recall.  I clung to his leg, and entreated him to pray for me, as I needed massive prayers at once. He never asked what happened to me, but placed a hand on my filthy hair, and prayed a very long prayer, as I had ever heard, hitherto.

Thereafter, feeling relieved and pure, I went and sat on the front row, on a space a choir woman had left for me.

When the mass ended, I united with Father again, at which point I recounted my life experiences, and my experiences as a writer, upon which he advised that I should blog about it, for the sake of other sheep like me.

#The End.

Thank you very much for reading these recounts. You are my fan, always.

Regards,

Taifa Mkenya.

[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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_18

When I look back today, way back to that period, I see a youthful mind cloaked under the veil of confusion. When I look back now, way back to that moment when I rented a house along Ngong Road, I see a soul wandering in the city of indecision. As I look back now, I tell myself, ah, let me recount this story. Thus, I write:

There were other younger people in this flat, wherein I rented a house, after paying thousands in rent and down payment for maintenance, water, and so forth; there were university students on the same floor as I, and they played booming music on Sunday mornings. There were bachelors in some rooms, and I saw them most evenings, carrying bread and milk and avocados. There were single women on some floors, and I would meet them by the main gate sometimes, welcoming some familiar faces of men, that appeared at the flat, once or twice a week, on Saturdays or Sundays.

I cut myself a share of this lifestyle, of bachelorhood and once-a-week visits from Jane, as she would visit often over the weekend. Caren lived a floor down; therefore, once in a while, when her lecturer friend stayed away, I’d drop by her house in the evenings, to talk about how her day had turned. During the day, I went to work at River Road, under Ken’s supervision, in Joe’s JLK Regional Suppliers Company. Three months had now passed, since I relocated to this new estate along Ngong Road. I liked the place very much, but suffocated under its high rent. I knew, with the amount of salary I drew from employment in Joe’s company, I wouldn’t sustain paying my rent, and meeting intermittent financial demands from Jane, which as a man, I’d vowed to bear. Only two options revealed to me then; that, if I wanted to improve my fortune in the short term, one, I should ask Ken to increase my remuneration, seeing that I’d worked harder than Eric, Adam, Peter, and even the new employees that’d joined few months before; and that I had performed well in accountancy matters, my professional background in soil technology notwithstanding, and had thus reduced some of the losses the business had borne hitherto, before my enrollment. Second, I also thought of taking Caren at her word; since she’d told me that if I should ever desire to learn the art of creative writing, I inform her.

Inform her I did, once Saturday evening. It was a cold evening; it was a cloudy evening; it was a busy evening, at least for the bachelors and single women and students and families that occupied this flat. On, I had a short, and a jumper, and sandals, and a black head hood when I left my house. Down to Caren’s house, on the lower floor, I descended. She opened the door when she heard my knock, which I made unique by rapping the door twice, in quick succession. I don’t know how her lecturer man knocked her door, but she told me she knew how. She ushered me in, and I left my sandals by the door.

She’d prepared ugali and kuku, my favorite fare, as I detected from the aroma that emanated from the kitchen; and, I thought I should device a method to partake in it, before I could divulge to her the nature of my visit. I sat on the couch, at my usual spot, and said, while she went back to her kitchen:

“Ah, so! How was your day?”

“Fine! And yours?”

“Ah, excellent enough,” said I, “Is…is your friend coming?” As I asked this, I looked at his face on the photo upon the wall, and envied him; for, despite his age, which I figured lay between fifty and sixty years, he had such a young and arresting woman in Caren.

“Jack?”—for that was his name, Professor Jack or something—“No. Not this weekend. He told me he has some engagements in Kiambu until next week.”

“Oh, ok.” I felt at home. I placed my legs upon the glass table, and said, “Ah, Karesh, you know you are a terrific cook?”

“Haha. Stop kidding. Jack says I put a lot of salt and chilli.”

“Ah, I suppose he has lost taste in many delicious things.”

Caren remained silent awhile. So I filled the gap:

“Caren, you cook better than my mama, you know that?”

“Haa, stop kidding, Taifa. I know I am a moderate cook. Even Jane cooks better than me most of the time—”

Here, she said the truth, mostly. Yet, I wanted her kuku. So I pursued:

“Listen, that is not true. You are better than Jane—”

“Haa, I wish she heard you say that—”

“Good thing she isn’t here. I mean it. You prepare kuku better than anybody.”

“You want to taste?”

“No. No. I am actually going back now, I just wanted to see how you were doing—which I have—”

“Don’t be silly,” said she. That she insisted I stay, excited me so. “Wait, it is almost ready. You don’t need to go back to cook. Again, I don’t like eating alone.”

Said I, “Mnh…let me see…mnh…ok. It’s ok, I’ll wait. Not for long though.”

“Hah, I said wait, I’ll be there right away.”

Meantime, I scanned her sitting room; however, my focus centered on the lecturer’s picture on the wall. If I asked Caren to introduce me to him, how would he perceive it?

By and by, Caren ferried supper to the table on a white tray. We both went to the sink to wash our hands with the cold water; she first, then I. Back at the table, sitting opposite each, we wiped our hands and ate. From the taste and texture of the ugali we ate, I confirmed her claim of her being a moderate cook. But I must exclude kuku from this comparison, since, a kuku, however prepared, always tastes delicious, to me at least. I admit this judgment may sound skewed; but heck, we may as well ask my tongue and tummy.

Anyway, we finished eating at about the moment when her clock’s hands said 8:00 pm. I thought it a proper moment to ask more about Jack the professor, and his literary classes. Said I, with a glass of juice in my hand—which Caren had served after the meal, she having a glass of wine, “Ah, you know, I have been thinking.”

“About wha?”

“About what you said?”

“Wha would that be?”

“You said Jack could teach me how to write if you asked him?”

“Oh, sure. I see, you have decided to learn.”

“Yap. I want to try. I—”

“Let me ask you. At the end of it, you want to write for fun, for money, for fame, or just for the sake of it—”

Power went out in the flat, and in the whole estate—or city, I thought.

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_16

Caren cooked like the women from the coast of Kenya. If I’d consume her cooking in one week, I’d grow into the healthiest fellow in the country. Often, while asleep, or alone—in Fred’s house on past days, I used to muse on a woman like Caren. Not like her in the form of a plump frame and tall stature and wide bottom and big arms and wide eyes; no, not so. But she in a different form; say a slender stature, with small hands that could make terrific coastal dishes; say a moderate bottom, that could fit in the exquisite skirts I saw on shop windows; say a moderate head, that I could cover in my chest with a single embrace, and—

“Taifa…Taifa—wha are you thinking?” said Caren, the owner of the house.

“Yap?”

“A you daydreaming? Why a you looking at me like tha?”

Was I?

The three of us had finished eating well after noon.

“Oh, I think I should fall asleep,” said I, picking a toothpick. She rested her legs on the glass table and draped her long dress over her legs. She too, picked a toothpick. “So…” said she.

“Aha—” said Shish. But Caren added, “I mean, Taifa—”

“Yap,” said I.

“I told you my friend is a lecturer—of—of English—”

“Eh.”

“–he is a good man, if you like—”

“You’d introduce me to him, you said—”

“–sure. That is if you are serious—”

“Serious with what?”

“With writing! Wha else?”

“Oh, yap,” said I.

Shish stood and walked to the fridge again, and from it picked a bottle that contained half-full wine.  She plunged her body back to the couch. She caused a shake in my hand that I pricked my gum with the toothpick.

“Gimme some of tha—” said Caren.

“Aha, wait, lemmi—” Shish uncorked the bottle, and drew a gulp, “—hnm-hnm! Hnm-hnm! Wah, wooosh…I have never tasted this—it’s…it’sa—” she titled the bottle to read the label.

“Come on…let me haf tha—now,” said Caren.

The two girls, I observed.

I liked Shish, and she liked me. I thought her one of those girls who’d wake up a man in the night and tell him to go check if she’d locked the door all right; or check if she’d left the tap running all night; or the mosquito net tucked all tight. I still believe today that if I ever proposed to her she would’ve accepted. And she’d have taken me to her mother at Buruburu; and I’d have declared before the would-be mother-in-law, that I liked her daughter so—more than money—more than a bottle, and that my lack of cows or lorry shouldn’t put us asunder; and if she disallowed our union, I think we’d have cried for one week and then elope.  I wonder today, what if I asked her then. What if I tried? What if I said, “Come?”

But, ah, who needs the what-ifs of this world?

Look, as I said before, I liked Shish—and she liked me. And we’d come to Caren’s house. And Caren—after the meal, would show us to an empty house upstairs that I intended to rent— should it interest me.

Caren drank the wine from the bottle now.

I said, “How is he?”

“How is wha?” said Caren.

“The lecturer, that friend of your—”

“Don’t say, ‘tha fren of yours’. He is my husband. You get tha?”

What did she say? I looked at Shish on my right, to ascertain if she knew this. She betrayed no signs of surprise.

“Your husband?” said I.

“Aha,” said Caren, licking her lips, and stretching her neck forth, “wha—wha’s funny? Hah?” said she, in soft voice.

“No, nothing,” said I.

Shish dropped her head on her phone, whatsapping all the while, I supposed.

At the wall, I looked. That burly man on the wall—the man I thought her uncle, or sponsor–or something. On that photo, he now looked old. I worried he should find me in that house and think me a rival. To Caren, I said, “Ahmn…look, he—” pointing at the picture, “—is he in this house now? In the bedroom?”

“Haha,” said Caren, “oh my Goad…haha, no, no! He lives in Karen—with his family. Here he comes once ina while—and he tells me in advance. Wha’s the matter?  Even if he found you here—you a my friend—there’s no problem, you see?”

“Aha,” said I. But in my soul, I said, ‘Get up Taifa! Get up! Get up!’

I did.

“Wha? Where a you going?” said Caren.

“Ahnm…let’s check the house,” said I.

She checked her phone: “It’s not even one…”

“You know I—I have to buy some stuff also—”

Ooow. Ok. If you insist. Hey, Shish,” she tapped Shish on the knee—for she had fallen asleep, “let’s go check out the house.”

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_15

I had seen spotless sitting spaces before, but not like Caren’s. I’d visited freshened houses before, but not like Caren’s. Bedecked rooms, I’d sat in before, but not like Caren’s. All over her cream walls, in this sitting room, hung framed exquisite photos—of her and a burly man, with a curved mustache—her father I supposed, or uncle–and pieces or art that granted the room an exclusive air. In one of those pieces of drawings, I saw, a baby antelope flattened on the grass—in the wilderness, by a lion’s mighty paw. Two long blue couches, flanked an oval glass table, at the middle of the room. And a vase of china, on this table, held some sweet-smelling yellow flowers, which I couldn’t identify. Beside the vase, a bowl of green and red apples rested.  A fridge, a plasma TV, and several speakers, stood on the side of the wall opposite the entrance door. All this, I caught while I waited by the opened door. Caren had already stepped on her brown carpet, and Shish had removed her shoes (which she placed on the rack inside the house, a stride from the door) and would head for the couch presently. “Taifa, come in, come in—and close the door,” said Caren.

“Oh, yap,” said I. My shoes, I pulled, by degrees. With each degree, I widened my nostrils and inhaled the air around to detect if my socks would cause mighty discomfort in this house. “Aaa…yap,” said I—to myself, “yap…this is—not so…not so baad…yap.” On the rack, I too placed my shoes; I handled them like eggs. Then I cleared my voice and moved to sit beside Shish. Caren still stood by the opposite couch, regarding me. Now, she said, “Ah, it is quite hot in here—do you feel it, Shish?”

“Mhn-mnh,” said Shish.

Caren walked to the window, and yanked the blue curtains open. She also pushed the panes open. “Ah, better now. Is it not, Taifa?”

“Yap,” said I. My feet, I squeezed them together, and stepped one on the other—if this would inhibit the smell. I cleared my throat again, then rotated my left eye alone to regard my shoes on the rack, and warn them.

Anyway, Caren walked back from the window and stationed herself before us, smiling. “Feel free. Shish. You are home.” She crossed her hands below her breasts, and continued: “Before we eat, what will you drink?”

“Me? I will serve myself,” said Shish; she rose and paced to the fridge, and picked a bottle of some thick dark drink. Back to the couch, she threw herself.

“Taifa—you—you can also serve yourself—” said Caren.

“No. Just give me water. Aahm, yap.”

“Water?”

“Aahm…yap,” said I, nodding.

Through the kitchen door, on the right side of this room, she went. While she stayed in there, I turned to Shish, and said, in a voice that a rat couldn’t hear:

“Shish, shish! What—what does…what does she do?”

“Shhhh!” said Shish.

“Shish,” I tapped her left thigh, “what does she—”

A spoon, or something like that, tinged on the kitchen floor, so I paused.

Then I continued. “—Shish,” her knee, I tapped, “do you know her well?”

“Akh! Taifa…Taifa!” said she, tugging my hand away.

“You two…be good…be good. Taifa, don’t harass a girl…I can hear you, haha,” said Caren from her kitchen.

“Haha,” said I, “I’m not, in fact—she is pinching me!”

Caren chuckled and said no more.

“Shish,” I tapped her shoulder, “what does she do?”

“Taifa—stop. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Ask me what?” said Caren, blocking her kitchen door, a glass of water gripped in left hand. We hadn’t seen her emerge from the kitchen. Shish smiled and looked at me. I betrayed no signs of secrecy. Said I, “I was asking her if you paid a decorator to make this,” I flailed my arms about, referring to the décor.

“Ah, this…” said she, turning round while standing on the same spot, with my water in her hand. “Ah, this,” she faced us, “this I did myself. Thanks. Taifa you are keen—are you…are you a writer?”

The one time I’d tried writing—online articles for Ken—I found that job a burden. Would I tell her I tried to write but quitted? No, a boy doesn’t do that. “Aaahm…yap.”

“You are a writer?” said she, moving closer to the table. She handed me the water. Away, she never turned. There, she stayed, waiting for my response.

“Yap, yap,” said I.

Woow. That’s nice,” said she, turning her neck to one side, and leaning on one leg more than the other.

“Yap.”

“And…and—and what do you write?”

I cleared my throat.

“Yes?”

I raised my left palm, and moved it forwards and backwards, for emphasis, in the manner of suggesting, ‘hold your horse—hold your horse’.

“I want to know, I want to know!” she danced.

Shish grinned, with a quantity of drink in her mouth.

“What is funny?” Caren now said to Shish. More, Shish grinned, and a drop of her drink drained off her lower lip, which she wiped using the back of her hand. And then she lifted her hand up, and shook her head, as to mean, ‘keep me out of it’.

“Okay,” said Caren, as she turned to me again, “Taifa?”

“Yap.”

“Are you a writer?”

“Yap,” said I, nodding.

“What do you write?”

“Aahm…stories! Yap, I write stories.”

“I mean, like, what kind of stories?”

“General stories. Yap.”

“I mean, like, romance or…or murder…or mystery…or detective…or myths—you see?”

“Oh, the middle one, yap—the one you said in the middle—”

“In the middle of what?”

Shish laughed now, and the drink in her mouth squirted out. And the drink choked her, and she coughed like a child. And Caren jumped to her. And Caren took her bottle and handed it to me. And she curved Shish’s back downward, and rapped it, all the while saying, “Sorry, oh—sorry my dear.”

When that cough ceased, Caren said, “Are you better now?”

Shish inhaled for some seconds then nodded. She pulled a piece of tissue paper from her purse and wiped her eyes. Then she said, “Taifa, mnh…”

At this point, Caren excused herself into the kitchen. Shish looked at me and said, “Stop these jokes.”

I smiled.

From the kitchen, Caren said, “Taifa.”

“Yap.”

“By the way, I have a friend. A lecturer—he teaches literature. If you—if you are serious about writing, I can arrange for the two of you to meet—”

“Oh, is he male or femal—?”

Shish pinched me.

“Male. Why?”

“No, nothing.”

Up on the wall, I focused my sight, and revisited the photo of Caren and the burly man with a mustache—whom I suspected to be her uncle—or some relation. Could he be the friend she mentioned?

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_14

Clench the fingers clench the teeth, and say, without a word, yes! Clench the fingers fold the arm, and jab, without a motion, swish! These actions I did, these actions I did, in the most subtle method. For lady luck followed me, and the smell of money surrounded me, and some air of merriment sat with me. To town, I headed, in a matatu. With Shish, I’d meet at 9. This morning, the sun and his sky smiled upon the city and greeted the air below, and the air smiled back and warmed and freshened itself.  When I alighted, thirty minutes before the agreed hour, I walked to Railways Bus Station to wait for Shish there. I figured she wanted to but something in town, and would therefore require my company. If she’d ask me to take her to Muthurwa to purchase what foodstuff, I’d not object—mighty cheerful I felt today; however, my major mission remained to search for a house, and buy what household goods I may need. Clench the fingers clench the teeth, and say, without a word, yes!

There at the station, I leaned on a rail and busied myself with my phone. Passengers and passersby milled around. But I observed them not, and they observed me not. Now, nine months had elapsed since I first arrived in the city, and no pickpockets or muggers engendered a chill in me anymore. In the hooting and tramping and shoving at this station, I jabbed my right arm in the air, without a motion, swish!

Soon, Shish called. At Nakumatt Moi Avenue, she stood. There, I went. Indeed, at the pavement, at Nakumatt Moi Avenue, she stood, in a blue dress, in blue earrings, in blue shoes, with a blue purse. I never saw a glamorous girl like her. In leaving her, Fred (my former host) lost gold—I swear. Anyway, I hugged the girl, and the girl smelt like incense. The girl then requested me to accompany her to a jewelry shop, up on Kimathi Street. And I accepted. I said before, today I felt mighty cheerful, and would do what most a girl wanted, as in the business of moving around the city from shop to shop, checking what earring or bangle would match what outfit, for a long long time.

This jewelry business, we concluded at 11, having paid for some of those goods myself. Then we headed to Kencom to board a bus to Dagoretti. As we walked, we talked. Presently, Shish said, “You are nice.’

“Mnh?”

“I said you are nice.”

“Oh, why?”

“You have taken me to buy these—” she said, displaying the jewelry in her hands.

“Yap, you are welcome,” said I. In truth, I disliked shopping, more so with people who picked an item in a shop, and raised it, and lowered it, and held it against the light, and held it in a shadow, and asked the price, and bargained, and tried the item on, and asked if it fitted, and turned round, and asked if it fitted, and turned round, and removed the item, and placed it back on its place, and said to the seller, ‘Thank you.’ Anyway, we boarded the bus to Dagoretti, and in it sat side by side. “I’ve missed you,” said I.

“Me too,” said she, without looking at me.

“So…how have you been, all this time?” said I, without looking at her.

“Good.”

“Ok. So…how is everyone at home?”

“Good.”

“Ok. So…have you spoken to Fred?”

“Mnh-mhn,” said she, shaking her head, together with the locks on it.

“Ok…”

“You want me to speak with him?”

“No! No…” said I, looking at her, “you know I like you…right?”

“Aha,” said she, nodding.

Then a long silence prevailed. As we neared Dagoretti, I said, “You said your friend, Caren, lives there—”

“Oh, yea. I should even—” she pulled her phone from her purse, “—I should whatsapp her now…ah, good. There.”

We alighted at a petrol station, and then walked around it into a backstreet, and then proceeded along the street, with shops and houses and bars and lodges lined on each side. Farther, we went, with a slight ascent on the gravel road. By and by, I saw better structures on each side of the road than the ones I’d observed closer to the petrol station. Soon, we made a turn to the right, and stopped at a tall flat, with a blue gate. “Here we are,” said Shish.

“Yap,” said I, pocketing my hands and stretching my back and whistling a little. I knew Caren should open the gate. For long I hadn’t seen her. The last time I interacted with her—during the housewarming party in Umoja—she didn’t say much, and neither did I. We’d stood there at the gate for a minute or so, so I said, “Had you told her we are here already? Perhaps she—”

The tiny entrance on the gate tinged and it opened inward, then a blow-dried head peeped out, and then retreated. We walked in through the entrance, Shish first; and I closed it behind me. She (our host) stood there on the side, her hands on her waist. Like a married woman, she looked, I think. She wore a long brown dress, with sandals on her feet. If I compared well her former self and the one who stood before us, she’d added some weight. While I stood there, the two pecked, and each said how she’d missed the other, in sweet voices like those of small babies crying. “You look good!” said Shish. “You as well,” said Caren.  After these merry exchanges, Caren turned to me and said, “Hi,” stretching her right hand. I responded. “Long time,” added she.

“Yap, long time indeed,” said I. I wanted to tell her that we should go right out and begin the search for my house. But she wore sandals and that long dress, and I conjectured she hadn’t readied herself yet for my business. She now said, “Come, let’s go up, come. I’ve prepared food, so we we will eat first, before we go see your house, on the third floor. The tenant there, left yesterday.” Clench the fingers clench the teeth, and say, without a word, yes! Clench the fingers fold the arm, and jab, without a motion, swish!

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_13

 A jingle of coins tickles the ear and teases the heart.

The following day (I don’t know which one, a weekday nonetheless, in that month of August, 2014), after I’d tricked Uncle into giving me a huge sum of money, I woke up a radiant man. In my mind, as I lay supine on that tongue-thin mattress, and observed a lizard track flies on the ceiling, I listed a number of activities I’d undertake before sundown. Chief of them, chief of those activities, being, locating a house. Since I hadn’t unclothed myself before sleeping yesternight, I wore my shoes and left the lodging room. At the reception, downstairs, I found a different lady from the one who’d received me last night. Over the counter, I leaned closer to her and said, “Thank you.” She didn’t hear me:

“Yes?”

I stretched my feet and leaned more, but she stirred her head backwards. Notwithstanding my morning gaiety, I discovered my voice couldn’t issue, and that cold or influenza had affected my sinuses. Anyway, since the woman before me, in a white blouse and a brown wig, couldn’t apprehend what I said, I gestured with my palms, first around my neck, that I couldn’t yell, and second about my chest, my palms pressed, that I expressed mighty gratitude for their hospitality. While I performed these acts like a mad man, she set her eyes upon the movements of my lips, that I imagined she cared to catch my communication. However, with every motion I created, she slanted farther in her chair, and twitched her nose, and pursed her lips, and rolled her yes. Whatever she meant by these performances, I couldn’t tell. At her, I stared, wondering whether she dreaded faces like mine. Anyhow, remembering that I’d paid my room fees yesterday, and that both lodging and lodger owed the other nothing, I dropped my keys on the counter and made to dash out. Then she said, “Wait!” in a sharp voice.

I stopped and turned, while she rose and picked the key. Moving back to the counter, I said, “What is the problem?”

“I have to check the room,” said the woman. She squeezed herself through a minuscule door on the side of the counter.

Before she headed for the stairs, I said, “Look, I’m late, and I have not taken anything from your room. What is in that room to be stolen?”

“It is standard practice. We have to check that everything is OK.”

I took a full scan of her body, in the pale light, as some stench smell swayed about us. A taut, black trouser, and a silver necklace, she wore. And her head she slanted to the left, and her hands she rested on her waist, and her left foot she stepped forward, in a strapped, brown sandal. “Look,” I said, inserting my hand in my pocket, “I’m going far away…here—” then I handed her 50 shillings, all coins, “I don’t want to be late,” and stepped out.

A jingle of coins tickles the ear and teases the heart.

Outside, with the sky still dark, the fresh air bathed my face, and I felt my nostrils open up. As I left that building, I opened my mouth so the morning air could brush my teeth and tongue. My own breath, I smelt, and at that moment realized that the woman’s wacky performances back at the reception desk, represented her revolt against my foul breath.

Anyway, on the street, early risers busied themselves; some going to town, others opening their shops, others arriving from town and so forth. As I walked towards the bus stop, I felt relieved. I felt untroubled. I felt contented. I felt cheerful. To Fred, my former host—for the last eight months, I didn’t feel attached anymore. He’d ejected me from his house yesterday, and few hours later, I’d tricked Uncle into granting me 70,000 shillings. How I convinced my uncle no matter, I felt good about how things had turned. If I were a writer, I’d have recorded that ejection business somewhere. Anyway, a jingle of coins tickles the ear and teases the heart. Fred could go to the devil. To his flat, I’d only return to pick my property that I’d tucked in a corner at the parking lot.

From one of the shops, I bought water and dabbed my face using my handkerchief. Some of the water, I swirled in my mouth and spat all of it on the pavement. The rest, in the bottle, and some coins, I offered to a street child (I’d spotted a number of them here in Kawangware) that’d curled at a pillar along the street, and she took them.

Before I boarded a matatu to town, I called Shish:

“Ohh….no…you’re calling so early. It is 6 a.m. for heaven’s sake, is everything ok, my dear?” said she.

“Yap. Yap. Fred chased me yesterday, but I’m ok.”

“Really my dear?” she must have sat up on her bed now, for I overheard some swash swesh swish.

“Yap, but am ok. Look, Shish, I’m looking for a house, and I want to buy some stuff also. Will, will you help me?”

“Sure! Not today though. Please…today I’ve got to meet a frien—”

“Shish, please. I’ll pay yo—”

“No. That’s not it, my dear. I mean, I had promised my friend to see her today. You know Caren?”

“Yap. She was at the party at umoja the other time—I remember. Can’t yo—”

Aki no…please…”

“Really, Shish? What if, wha—”

“Look, Caren stays at Dagoretti. Would you like to get a house around that place, my dear?”

“Is it a good place?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. Then, as you go to see her, you could help me with the search for the house, right?”

“No problem my dear. Let’s meet in town then, at 9 o’clock.”

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_12

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]