Long Lost

image credit: Mutua Matheka
image credit: Mutua Matheka

Right off the bat this article won’t have a specific direction but don’t leave me here alone in the cold with all these words. Writing is already an abyss in itself, so read on because it gives me warmth to know someone is holding my hand through it all.

Alright, come with…

I’m like everyone else, I don’t remember people. Especially those I met in my childhood. Those days when I was a tot still trying to figure out how to react to the chemicals that were attacking my body in the name of adolescence. But the old generation are a special lot and they want you to remember everything about them when you bump into each other. They want you to remember their names, where they hail from. Hellthey will catch a feeling if you don’t remember what color the shirt they were wearing the last time you met was; never mind it was back when Masaa ya Ngilu was still a thing.

Walking hurriedly worrying about my worries.

“Ksss, ksss? Wewe? Nani? Karis?”

I look back and see a familiar face that I can’t, for the life of me, remember where I last saw it.

“Yaani haunikumbuki?”

He blurts out, upset.

“Ah, nakukumbuka, tulipatana Kangemi, eh?”

I chime in, quickly trying to cover the ugly sin of not remembering an old face.

“Yaani wewe kijana mdogo hivi na haunikumbuki, je ukizeeka kama sisi?”

I look down chagrined and start drawing what looks like the map of Djibouti on the floor, while laughing sheepishly like a girl on a date with her crush before looking at him again. He has a satisfied look painted on his face as if there’s some  satisfaction derived from the fact that I don’t remember him.

He’s seated behind a ramshackle kibanda smiling smugly. The kibanda has a display of bananas, sukuma wiki, potatoes and the whole nine yards of a roadside kiosk. He’s holding a small kid who I assume to be his daughter and a woman who can only be his wife is standing next to him plaiting the tot’s hair. There’s a certain air around them, an air of people who want better things; better clothes, a better house, a better life, but circumstances are keeping their dreams at arms length.

“Tulionana kitambo, kama miaka saba imepita eh?”

I throw in a comment after I finish drawing the map of Djibouti to try and get in his good books.

“Ai, miaka saba ni mingi, hata miaka tano haijaisha.”

He says confidently to finish his coup d’etat on my balls.

“Ai, huyu mtoto hakuwa tukipatana?”

I go on in the defense like the special one.

“Yaani haunikumbuki kabisa?”

“Ako sawa, ni kama miaka saba hivi.”

The wife jumps in and rescues my ass from Mr. You must know me or I will use you as entertainment and act offended.

“Nilikua nawafanyia kazi, ulikua kijana mdogo tu.”

Way for a woman to soften a man’s heart, go girl power.

“Ehe, ah, nilikua shule bado, boarding, labda ndio sikukumbuki.”

“Ulikua kijana tu kwenyu, sindio?”

“Eh!” He cuts me short, “ama kuna mwingine sasa?”

He says it with a smile as if affirming the statement will cheapen my being.

“Bado ni mimi kijana, mwingine labda ni mimi nitaleta.” I say with a grin.

After noticing he might lose the conversation he changes the topic.

“Na uko wapi siku hizi?”

I know where this is heading, in the favor territory.

“Niko hapa Westlands, lakini niko na haraka kidogo.”

He takes a breather.

“Si unitafutie kazi huko Westlands.”

“Nikiskia kitu ntakuambia.”

He tightens his lips, unconvinced.

“Kazi kama gani hivi?”

“Ni kazi gani unatafuta?”

“Ya driver.”

“Pia umwambie hauna makaratasi, utahitaji training.” The wife jumps in again.

“Wanianzishie training level.”

“Sawa, sawa. Mimi hushukia hapa mara mingi, nikiskia kitu ntakuja nikuambie.”

“Watu nyumbani wako vipi?”

“Wako sawa, lakini wacha nikimbie nina haraka.”

Guys you heard it here. If you’re looking for a driver; a bulky guy with a big heart and a little bit of an ego. A chap with a small daughter and a loving wife who is looking to climb up the food chainsomeone you can take to one or two driving classes before he can start chauffeuring you and your family around the city, talk to me.

Also, something funny happened to me this weekend while I was doing my monthly shopping. I thought we were a 21st century race who are well seasoned and suave but it turns out I was wrong.

I entered one of the local supermarket to buy a packet of condoms because it’s either safe sex or no sex for me. I don’t know why supermarkets hide these little packets of pleasure. I didn’t find them while checking out my shopping at the main counters so I had to ask one of the attendants.

“Trust ziko wapi?” (I buy Durex but I assume Trust is a universal language but turns out I was wrong.)

“Ati trust?”

The attendant who can’t be a day older than thirty spits out after rolling his eyes all the way to his spinal cord as if he just encountered Fred from the Flintstones.

“Eh condoms.”

I chime in, not allowing him to win whatever game he thinks he’s about to win. He looks at me, sizing me up as if to say the world has broken apart if young people don’t have an iota of shame when it comes to having sex. I can already picture him sitting his family down during dinner time to narrate to them in exaggerated imagery the racy story of a lost youth who swaggered to the supermarket to buy grown up things.

“Hizo ziko kwa ile counter ingine.”

He motions to the counter and I walk away hurriedly before he calls other attendants, and I get lynched for having basic human needs.

I get to the counter and I meet a lady, light skin and short in a green robe.

“Durex ni how much?”

“Ati Durex?”

She says it in a way to attract the attention of the other buyers who are milling around the counter. Her words are dripping with, ‘come see this uncouth savage who has the nerve to ask for condoms in broad daylight.’ They stare and leer like I’m a comet that just fell from the sky. Kenyans are a hypocritical lot but this was a new level of phoniness.

“Hizo, ni three hundred, unataka ngapi?”

She says it in a way that seems to suggest that the higher the number I quote the worse I will look.

“Nipatie packet mbili.”

I say resisting the urge to tell the other buyers whose eyes are still blazing at me to mind their own business. The young lady who probably has unprotected acts of the sack every other weekend picks the two Durex packets (fetherlite, yeah) from the shelf. She holds them as if they have Ebola before placing them in a black bag and going on to give me my receipt. I move to the main counter to check out the rest of my shopping hoping the storm is over, only to meet another nosy busybody. The chap starts punching in my shopping and when he gets to the black bag, he peeps inside, looks at the contents then looks at me and starts giggling like a child and I can’t help but think teachers and parents are doing a poor job in sex education.

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