Homeless

pexels-photo-761144.jpeg
It’s not what you think! This is not my city, I am just a passerby, I am going home, home to my most precious wife, home to our 1 year old daughter, home where my father is nursing my ailing mother. She suffers from liver cancer, yet she doesn’t know. The doctor says she’ll die by April 19th, that’s 4 months from today, yet she doesn’t know. It’s like how they told my pregnant wife she’d be due on 4th September and true to their word, she writhed and heaved with labour pain on that predetermined date. So I somewhat choose to believe them again, even though I don’t want to. I’m going home to see her (my mother), to pray with her and to tell her how much she means to me; then later to show my affection to my wife and tell her of the good news. I might have done well in the interview which brought me here; 360 KM away from home (Kisumu). I hope she’ll be proud. We’ll hug, kiss and she’ll regulate my bathing water and say,

#

“Baba Maya, bathe while I set up the table for dinner.” and I’ll deliberately walk into the shower without a towel and re-regulate the temperatures and let it hit my scalp to scald and I’ll ouch!!! And peep at the door calling her over for a clean towel. Specifically, the large white one. I’ll tie it to my waste then walk my thin chest to her rubbing my sloppy head with sulfur to kill the dreadful dandruff and to free my scalp from the irritating itch. She’ll see a blister from the scald burst and sorely say sorry handing me ibuprofen tablets for my persistent pain. I will forget to say thank you because I am hungry for one, two, three things. Literal hunger the least of my priority!

#

Maya will be drooling on my wife’s chest, adrift to the sounds of the lullaby songs she hums or just lost to the warmth of her shapely laps and I’ll grab and shoos her and kiss her tiny lips watching her cute little face glow with love and selflessness and hope and happiness and I’ll guess she wants another shoos, and a peek-a-boo, a tickle and another kiss then a blow of raspberries and an imitation of her fat grandma’s walking style and she’ll giggle, yes giggle to sleep. But today isn’t that day, I’m not going home and I certainly won’t communicate my reasons to my family. It’s sad but that said, I’ll wander the night away, in the city under the sun (Nairobi) and they’ll call my phone only to reach the voicemail, they’ll panic and call the bus station and the customer service guy will say,

“I’m sorry Ms; no such passenger boarded our bus today.”

She (my wife) will try another and the other till the list is exhausted then she’ll call Mama crying and Mama in her soft but sullen voice will tell her,

“Sometimes men need time alone. He’ll come around”

#
She’ll hang up and sob the pillows and sleep alone, cold in the night, with wishes that I was around to hold her close to my breath or perhaps she’ll have deep regrets of marrying this selfish man but, tonight is not ours, it is fate’s and it has greater odds so we’ll let it take its course.

Again why is she crying? Can someone please remind me! it’s not like I’m dead? Come on! It’s not like I’ve run away from my marriage and responsibility? I lost my wallet and phone and all the money I had. It’s not what you think! I am not careless. I’m not a bad man! I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat meat or steal and I’m certainly not seeing anyone other than my wife. FYI, I too will be hugging my backpack in the cold streets, wishing my bag was her sexy body. Wait; did I say something that should be censored? Don’t be hard on me, not yet!

#
Do you remember when I branched to the alley with uncountable shuttles, off Accra road? Do you? Come on; the street that houses the famous club signature franchise, adjacent to prestige shuttle offices. You still don’t remember? Do you? The street commonly known as commercial! Intersecting with Latema road to the south, well that depends on where you presume North, you know. At uncle Mwas, the guy who sells fruit juice among many in the city, his spot a corner right in front of Nairobi Business exhibition centre. Do you know that place? It’s evident I’m not good with directions but you should figure out the spot. Later! Google Maps says it’s Tsavo road.

#

I took a large glass of mango juice and paid in cash and Mwas asked if it/I was good and I nodded in response and appreciation. The guy in black ordered another for me and I gulped it in one breath, on his bill, liking my lips to make sure nothing went to waste. Do you remember me saying, “wakenya ni wakarimu sana, Kenyans are very generous.” whoa! You do! Great, I walked past a legless beggar some meters away and I assumed him and wondered why men didn’t help such people but mango juice lovers. Shame!

Next to Tom Mboya monument a mother and child begged for medical bills for a disease they called cranial hyperostosis. Ever heard of it? It’s my first time too. I joined the influx of busy people who dashed passed without giving a second glance because they (the mother and the malnourished child) seemed okay anyway. Then there was that blind man on Kimathi street blowing the harmonica into great religious and heroic hymns and I slowed to listen and shrugged and left knowing he couldn’t see me; I went on to find another, with superficial dermal burns at Nakumatt downtown chars corner. And I thought to myself, no-one mentioned today would be a National beggar’s day? I surmised that his burns must be authentic and felt the need to help. I reached to my back pocket and the hardness was gone! Yes gone! I lost everything without noticing. And the beggar saw a frown drape on my face, in disbelief. My money, my credit and debit cards, my phone and identity. All gone! I looked at him in dismay and he smiled and said,

“Get over it brother, it happens in every great city we go to.”

#

And I thought, maybe that burnt fist is a plastic after all (like Samantha). I shook my head and turned my back on him, frustrated and lost in thought and spirit. In reminisce I saw the man in black take my wallet, and use my money to buy me a drink but, with sweet juice on your lips, who’d resist being stolen from?

Just like homeless people don’t choose homelessness, beggars don’t choose to beg! In a flash, I was both, homeless and inexperienced in begging. I sat on a bench outside coast bus booking office witnessing river road grow with human traffic; the city jamming up with commuter busses and dusk settling in to a string of highly luminous street lights. The growing noise of car hoots, street families fighting over sleeping spaces, and bags, and useless things like an empty bottle of drinking water or maybe nothings at all; coffee hawkers serving the cold and patient taxi drivers; sex workers flooding tea room with revealing clothes; some chewing miraa others smoking cigarettes and others endlessly slipping into brothels with different men every other second.

#

I hear some people speak about a singular beauty and bum wasting across the street. Turns out this city has more salivating Salvador’s than real men, they speak with great passion and happy demeanour about the tall lady on a bob style lace wig, boosted boobs and cheap kawaida sandals. My bench mates are the kind to marry from the streets, I can tell, I turn with a friendly smile and say hi. I’m not surprised that they too are from the lake Town, I can tell by the pride they wear on their dark faces and I’m certainly not worried that should crossover, because they sure as hell have made their minds. I can see the determination and will on their cracking lips and I can’t help but notice that I’m wasting their time, so I cut on the chase and explain my predicaments which they listen to with sorry faces and useless prompting questions. I end my story with a plea,

“So guys can you please help me with a gee. Treat it as a loan, when I get to Kisumu I should refund you double if you wish.”

#
They sulk and say, “Rafiki (friend) we’ve lost our grandmother and we’re actually going for her funeral in Migori.’’ I then ask to use their phone to call my wife and they look at me in disbelief and arrogantly say, ‘’Omera (young man) , we know how you people wit to steal in the city. We are sorry but we won’t help.”

#

That was bad feedback for a first begging trial. I held my backpack around my arms and froze with shivers as my wheezing chest grew louder from the extreme piercing cold. The cruel men left and I wished them homelessness and slow sorrowful death on the arms of those women and worse I wished their organs stuck like dogs while they had intimate time. I was bitter that they didn’t help and angry that they thought I was a con.

#
Out goes the devil, in comes another, or so I thought as a lady sat next to me pulling a medium sized suitcase between her thighs. She had more than a soft voice to pass out as Swahili; the mehndi art with intrinsic henna patterns on the hands; the hijab covering her head and the coastal brown complexion. She was beautiful, respectful and perhaps raised in the ways of Islam. I could tell by how she said her greetings, “As-salaam-alaikum.”

You hear that? Finally someone was wishing me peace. In my dialect we say, “Mrembe” for the same meaning.

I replied, “as-salaam-alaikum sister. Baring in mind, she could be my guardian angel.

#

A long conversation ensues and I charm her with my storytelling ability and agility, giving every detail and name I could remember in my stories. She giggles at everything and nothing and at some point I start thinking; what if she is just passing time and she too would leave me hopeless, breaking my back on the bench like everyone else did? Then there was that polite part of my soul saying, “she is different,” which she was, physically – you should have seen her smooth natural skin; with no makeup at all, or gazed at those round eyeballs, the thump-up nose, that indescribable chin. Breathe my friend breath! Goosebumps! She was a good listener and a happy soul. The kind we call, almusaed. It had just clocked 0000hrs when her bus announced departure. She said, “I can’t help much brother but please accept this.”

#
It should help through the night. She handed over KES 500 note and I breathed a sigh of relief, the breath that comes with a sneeze and you want to kneel down and kiss your helper’s toes or lick their feet and say Asante Sana and sleep on the floor and let them walk on your back into the bus! In my excitement she continued, “I’m Rehema.” and she slipped into the Modern Coast bus, destination Rwanda, leaving behind a faded smile on the moving bus windows. And I waved hoping she saw and felt the imprints of my palms wishing her journey mercies.

#
Rehema if you are reading this forgive me for not telling you my name, they call me Omollo Sir. But, the unfortunate is, I was married way before we met so… I guess we’ll meet again, Inshallah! To return the favour with my dear wife by my side, on that social date if she wills. Hehe… No more lone temptations.

#
I slither my backpack to position and take off for Machakos country bus. It’s the only place I’ll find a cheap bus for upcountry. There isn’t any other comfortable choice for my price? Besides, who wants to stay one more second in this squalid little jungle? Along river road, retail businesses are closed but you can see and almost feel a revamp of the restructure; with darkness comes new business, a man sells large chapattis at the corner to Simba Coach, the alley sloping down to join Kirinyaga road far into the oblivious darkness, fat rats bravely nibble on fruits and other dirty foods on the pavements, a city council garbage truck goes past leaving behind a stench of tornado; at the intersection of river road and Ronald Ngala street, a drunken tout still lazy around howling his destinations, “Githurai, Roysa, Thika roadi 50 Bob, survey, all soaps, roasters beba!!”

#
A man storms to my direction pushing an empty trolley and I tail his back to catch up; and to my graven luck he too goes to Machakos. I know because that’s where we end up. From OTC downwards, the city has calmed. There isn’t a Kayole dwelling driver forcing a U-shape turn over the pavements to the other side, there isn’t a motorcycle rider manoeuvring through the traffic jam, sweating on leather jackets and black leather trousers and there certainly is no pata potea gambling business happening in the street now.

#
The town is calm and the dark clouds earlier seen in the city sky have fled leaving a blue sky with millions of stars dazzling above, waiting to usher the throbs by dawn. We go past street boys sitting around a bonfire on Muthurwa roundabout. They seem calm but newspaper stories have marked them robbing in the night, for that reason, I’m frightened. I keep with the pace of this strange man that I don’t talk to and we are soon at the bus station. A young sluggish man come to my direction and says in Luo, “This is the last bus.” I ask how much and he says, “KES 900.” I bargain and he reduces it to 700, further negotiations prove futile as he is adamant to lower his price, he doesn’t go a coin low but I only have KES 500 in my pocket. For the 100th time, I find myself begging and narrating my story to another stranger, another of my tribesmen, he can’t help me with the bus so it fills while I watch and his remedy to my problem becomes, to sleep at the police post and to come try my luck tomorrow if the prices should be lower.

#
He says, “Bwana (Mr.) lakini, I’m not a fool, I can tell that you are trying to get into my head and steal from me. If you really wanted to travel you’d have gone with that bus, Mbukinya Poa.” He says they are leaving and further warns that if I should sleep in the bus park, I’ll wake to nakedness and cold and strife with more problems than I already have.

#

I decide, I’ve had enough of his advice. I’ll go back to town and get a place to sleep a reasoning he doesn’t find logical and rational. He insists, I’ll not go past the roundabout of rogue urchins without losing my belongings. He knows better and offers to walk me past the place, I oblige. As we open up to more talk, turns out his mum and my dad are buddies. His family owns the hotel adjacent to Mama safi hotel, a landmark in the slum where we hail, Nyalenda, and we have mutual friends back home; as my friend is Guda, his best friend is Guda (the village thief), His other friend is Murder and Mine Murder (I see his children around, often) , My other distant friend is Isaiah and happens Isaiah and him are the best of friends (in fact, they live together here in the city). I am confident that we share these friendships because he told me so and I believed him like I believe my daughter’s innocence when she pees on my interview suit and smiles with relief like it never happened. I also believe he owns a boat on lake Victoria and at this hour, it staggers to the waves of murky waters, its wood cracking for hard surf hits or perhaps by thunder strikes. He said he took a loan and bought it because he is a focused business person and like any business, the boat should be fetching him fish for cash except he laid off its sailors, the other day. “It’s hard to manage fishermen from a further distance,” he says.

#
Lost in unending conversations, we walked to the muddy road cutting through Gikomba market upwards to the unknown destination. I had taken advantage of his generosity when he offered to house me for the night, for clams that were were more of brothers than strangers in this big city. Between the muddy road and the lightened but dry and dusty part, lies an inky spot, a thick shade formed by the tall building and the flood lights that have stayed off for the night. There is a group of homeless people cheering at a grapple between two boys in their midst.

Omosh leans close and says, “If they come after us, run, they are most dangerous with knives!”

And I’m like WTF, this is messed up!! Run? Yuck! No! This ain’t fun?

We hop on dry spots in the dark hopping to get to the lightened area safe and sound. A loud shock wave blasts from our backs followed by fast run into the kiosks. The defiant Omosh holds my shaking arm and says, “It’s okay, though this place is not safe, we don’t run at gun shots, if the shots get too close, the safest thing to do is to lie down on the ground face down, else we die by the bullet.” Don’t run. I learn that this happens every other day. He tells me of a boy who was mistakenly gunned down months ago in the same area and my heart can’t stop pulping rapidly.

#
Now we are approaching kwa chief towards to majengo ya Nairobi but, I don’t know that this is MJ until the next morning when he goes to help me get a bus, which I get and he mentions it. As if preparing me for the worst, he says, “We can come by the chief or the administration police from the camp, they’ll ask who you are and where we are from, tell them that you are my brother and you’ve just arrived from home.” I nod and continue to walk. He’s famous here, he says hi to just about every random guy. The most notable being the guy cooking animal feet, heads and bones by the roadside and he’s welcomed to a cup of hot soup which he seems to enjoy. Do you still remember that I don’t take meat? Yes, I insist on that, I don’t take any meat and that should get into your head. Yes I am not cancerous which makes me…? I stand there watching and scanning the place for chikungunya, zika or yellow fever viruses. It won’t surprise me that the public health department announces an outbreak here, cholera for that matter.

#
The area is a squalid little slum and almost all the houses here are made from iron sheet. Some of them older than the rest and the trenches that run by the dirt filled roads hold smelly stagnant waters to business fronts and individual doors. Our short walk leads to a tent made from black polythene papers and Omosh bends to pull a box from a nail creating an opening that best fits a lowly bent human body. I stand there confused if this is the home he bragged to me about. I look back into darkness and remember the gunshots not too far from here, the street boys by the fire, the wrestling families and just about every hazardous barrier between here and the haven city.

He peers through the opening and harshly whispers, “Come in.” then he returns the box to nail.

That’s our little secret; our padlock. Inside the 6 by 10 patched and ragged tent laid three men in a row and only one had a blanket – the owner of the house. He was introduced as Isaiah – you remember our mutual friend Isaiah, there he was, a tall man with fluoride teeth and a broad smile. Turn out he isn’t the Isaiah we thought but we are here and it’s OK by him. There is a candle lighting up the room, it’s embers send gloom over the other dark snoring sleepers with smelly breaths. I remove my shoes and my new best friend in the world Omosh sets me up with a sleeping space. I become the fourth and him at my back the fifth in the row and we lay straight, literary sandwiched to the other’s back. Now that’s vile! No turning! No whining! No farting which others in their subconscious state do. Two more men come and form another row across our feet and everyone soon falls asleep. Or some are just as awake as me.

#
You should have seen them comfortable and perhaps dreaming about nothing, or maybe dreaming about their mothers in the village farming to send over harvests from the next season or perhaps, one of them dreaming about the people who look up to him knowing their foster son or friend or Saviour lives in a mansion (this place) in the city; or the other one wisely dreaming of that big idea which should change the world – turning hyacinth in lake Victoria into a resource that can be used to make household products, chairs, trays, baskets or beds. But that’s the man whose dreams are dead in the storm and I don’t want to be the one breaking the news of countless NGOs and private companies that have already taken the craft by the lake and perhaps filed for a copyright of the same.

#
The man I’d however love to open his brains and see more of his dreams is the one who thinks the government should not waste the people’s resources and cash and time building a new Silicon Valley. He thinks the government and other stakeholders involved should invest in a city like Nairobi; already built and fit to become an IT hub and open its infrastructure through the standard gage railway to allow people settle as far as Machakos and Nakuru towns and commute to work in Nairobi. He thinks this will ease traffic congestion in the city. My personal favourite is his utter thought that the numerous bumps on Kenyan roads is a conspiracy between the government and the people making brake pads to scale the braking system business from the super profits on repeat purchases.
I see it in your faces. You want to hear more about this guy.

#
But that proud and homeless fellow is now deep asleep by my side and we can’t get more of his ideas and insights on more pressing issues like on Samantha’s brother, Christopher or is it Alejandro? And he’ll begin his story with these words, “Imagine finding your wife in bed with this doll, and he is just as big in every other thing that you have. Chei!!!”

#
The side that I’m sleeping on is exhausted and I’m sound awake, listening to that soft and gentle sound of sewerage water running under the wood crafted floor and the crazy and buzzing mosquitoes won’t let me close my eyes. However, my hope is that my wife is dreaming about me and before she slept, she thanked God for the house over her head. As for me, I am homeless tonight, fighting the thought that my friends are thieves and our little hiding place a marked spot and the Recce squad a deployed lot waiting outside for one last command, shoot to kill and my mother will die not by the persistent pain of her Cancer but by the thought that her son, her friend, her favourite, her confidant died a homeless person mistaken for a thief.

#

Even so, my father will not forgive my departed soul but he will utterly say, “Find a home with the angels my son.”

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Homeless

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s