I was in the passenger seat, waiting defiantly for her to insist for the third time that I should strap in my seat belt. I dislike anything that restrains me- be it promises or marriages or seatbelts. Then she turned the nose of the Cami to the left at the OiLibya Gas Station. And here it was. Right outside Langata Hospital. A crowd. Kids in brown uniform were running towards the fast growing scene.
(By the way, these days I feel uneasy around Langata school children. Those little devils. Don’t mess with them. Twitter will destroy you omera.)
At the heart of the commotion was a woman. An Okuyu woman, and I know she was okuyu because she was wearing a long drab skirt with a matching blazer and a white cloth on her head. My bet, she is a Mkorinho. Her accent was overlaid by an overwhelming Central influence, so the ‘r’s and ‘l’s were all mixed up.
She was angry, holding a whip on one hand, and in the other, a man. Her man. Allegedly. The man was pleading a case that even the school kids were not interested in listening. The kids seemed to be focusing more on the fact that his shirt was torn, and that his words quaked when he tried to speak.
“Sasa haja gani kuvunja windscreen, jameni. Eh?” he whimpered, as his belly spilled outside, perhaps in an attempt to run away from his cheating ass. Nobody in the crowd dared to defend him. His act was all smoke and mirrors.
“Yaani umechukua ngali yangu unabebea maraya?” It more or statement than a question. Then she plunged into some Kikuyu, bitter Kikuyu. Insults hurled with finesse. Things even Moses Kuria would not mention when drunk. Wueeeh! Hell hath no fury like an okuyu Kilimani mom scorned.
The crowd just nodded and chimed at every insult.
Serves him right. Lucky for him the said maraya was not in sight. These are one of those forty five year old men who drop their kids home from school in Kilimani, then scurry off to Langata to bring us competition with girls. They have the money, and they drive big cars. The kind that you climb into. Rich and married and horny with too much time and alcohol on their hands. Just the way Njoki Chege likes them.
The mdaku in me wanted to stay, but she was in a hurry to go meet a friend so that they could discuss why Kenya was being such a bitch in the latest episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta. We argued about it. And Kenya was more important than the drama unraveling fast in Langata. So the Cami hit Langata Road and the needle began rising towards 50.
Time: 4.45pm. The sun is chasing after Ngong Hills.
Rewind to six hours before that.
I am coming from St. Mary’s hospital. Cavities take three horrifying months to get fixed. My mouth feels swollen on the right side, as if someone dusted it with baking powder and dipped me in hot oil. I need to get to City Hall before 1pm for my Yellow Fever vaccination shot. I am travelling to Dar.
In a panic, I decide to take a bodaboda from Agip, instead of going all the way to Bus Station and then walking upwards. The guy in a helmet says 150 bob. I tell him I have 100. He says sawa.
Here is the thing, I don’t know why these bodaboda people think that when I say I have 100 bob, then it means that I have no other money. That is why when we get to City Hall’s gate and I hand him 500 bob, he starts grumbling ati I have pressed him too much. Never mind that his helmet smells like a place lice go to poop.
Long story short, I had to make him understand that it is January and money is tight, and then for effect, lie to him that the 400 bob change from his ride will cater for my survival till the end of the month.
I am travelling to Dar because I was selected to take part in Writivism 2015, Dar edition. It’s a creative writing workshop, led by South African author, Zukiswa Wanner. She promised that the three day workshop will be “a complete riot.” It’s big mistake telling a half-tooth ex-campus Luo goon that he is invited to a riot in Tanzania, because he will start packing stones and placards with messages that may cause anxiety to the peace loving Tanzanians, or undermine President Kikwete.
I am thrilled, nonetheless. This writing thing is going on well. There are moments when I feel like I should go back to law school. Because at least in law, nobody has the cheek to ask you to do something for them, and offer to pay you in Experience. However, the sun shines sometimes, and my name appears on shortlists like these, and it makes me relax, knowing that I am in the right (write) direction.
There is more thing. I have not travelled far and wide. The only other time I have gone out of Kenya was when I took Karua to Mulago Hospital in Uganda. She was going to nurse her mum, as she underwent chemo. Throat cancer. Food wouldn’t go down, which means she was slowly starving to death. That is why she didn’t last long after Mulago. And I have never seen Karua as devastated as the period she mourned her mother. Regardless of how tall or bearded we are, how old we get and how many kids we bear, the death of a parent leaves you an orphan. Especially the death of a mother. It leaves you a child. The way it did Karua.
So this is also the first time I am venturing out of Kenya (the country, not the Atlanta yuppie) under a joyous set of circumstances. Feels like a clean slate to do things right. For that reason, I have been saving since December when I was contacted with the great news. And I plan on making it count.
My housemate, Mukundi, fought tears as I packed. He pretended to be a G, but he trembled. She saw it too, and felt a bit jealous. It is the first time we are going to be apart since we began living together. Now it will just be him and the curve TV and a Zuku connection that says ‘fuck you, I am tired’ whenever it feels like.
Anyway, I hope to write. To learn. To read Tolu Ogunlesi’s To A Cartoonist one more time. To attend Zukiswa’s public reading and then buy her book, London-Cape Town-Joburg and force her to sign it in Zulu or Afrikaans.
Sometimes people talk about writing, and get so academic, and I just sit there, acting like I understand what they are saying. I hope those moments will be rare in Dar.
Count me in, Zukiswa. For the riot, I mean.