I bought a new TV this month but that is not the story; the story is how I lost my previous one. In this story: I get held hostage by Nigerians, I get a new brother, I say no to a girl I like, and a photo of me is taken while I am holding my old TV. All this happens in the span of one day. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get into it without beating around the bush. No, a bush is not involved.
It’s 2017. I haven’t published any novels, the world does not wear masks or see the need to and Will Smith hasn’t slapped Chris Rock yet. I am 27 and flat broke selling things in my house to get by. The coffee table is gone, the fridge is waiting for a buyer and the TV stares me down, with its ominous black screen because it has not been powered in a while. Even Kenya Power got tired, packed their bags, and left. ‘Is this the day you put me on OLX?’ it wonders.
It was the first big item I bought in this house. I bought it before the cooker and the fridge, so as you can imagine I cared for it more than my stomach and the thought of letting it go was causing me great pain. It was a 32 inch LG panel. I bought it at Hotpoint for 25,000 bob. I had watched some of my favorite movies here: Starsky and Hutch, Troy, and Gladiator. I had cuddled on the sofa with a girl or two while staring at it before clothes fell on the floor and I disappeared into the bush, I suppose there is a bush and who is to say it had not played a part in my luck?
I stared at it, even though it was switched off, it was a living breathing thing in my life. My stomach groaned, reminding me I had not had a proper meal in a week. I lowered my gaze to its logo; at some point Life truly was Good, now it was all bad. I tried to distract myself from the hunger pangs and the thought of selling it by thinking about the interview I had scheduled that morning at Saracen OMD. I had finally decided to stop pretending to be a writer and get a real job.
If everything went as planned I would have a desk job, with the title: Media Planner, I would have an office email. I would attend meetings, people would call me sir and most importantly I wouldn’t have to put my precious 32 inch LG TV on OLX.
I splashed some borrowed water on my body and covered my bag of bones with a blue shirt and khaki trousers. Okay, my body wasn’t bad enough to be called a bag of bones, let’s just say I was thin, or petite. Haha. I had thirty bob in my pocket. That would be my fare to Westlands and then I would walk back. Unless I wowed my soon-to-be employers so much they decided to give me a deposit to lock me down so that no other company would headhunt me. I crossed my fingers—stranger things have happened—said a small prayer, and got out of the door.
I found a Mr. Abdi waiting for me in his office. He got into the commonplace Human Resources glib.
‘What makes you a good fit for this position?’
‘I am passionate about media planning. I have worked on x,y,z accounts.
‘Why did you leave your previous job?’
‘To pursue a career in writing.’
‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
‘Hopefully not putting my 32 inch LG TV on OLX. Kidding, as a valuable and indispensable member of your team.’
I know what you are probably thinking. ‘Oh, the interview went well. Considering he hadn’t eaten a proper meal in like a week. He was petite and acing these questions like water. Incredible.’ Well, Mr. Abdi adjusted his weight on his chair, coughed, and said, ‘We will be in touch,’ that’s like saying, ‘We should grab a coffee sometimes.’ Yeah, Life 1 – 0 Mr. Petite.
I walked out of the office wondering what had been the dealbreaker? Was it my creased clothes, my dusty shoes, or the stench of my desperation? I had been on a consistent diet of githeri because it was the only thing I could afford. Did I pass wind without knowing or did he realize that I was lying through my teeth when I said I was passionate about media planning? Either way, the down payment was out of the picture and now I had to put my precious TV on OLX for sure.
I got into a Total petrol station around Waiyaki Way, sat outside a Pizza Inn, and started scrolling through the photos of my TV that were in my photo gallery. I loved the TV and I would randomly take photos of it like you would a lover. When she’s sleeping, ‘Oh she’s so cute.’ when she’s not looking, ‘Wow, what marvelous buttocks.’ I was spoilt for choice is what I am trying to tell you.
I picked a couple of photos and put the TV up for 15,000 bob. Pain shot across my chest again but I needed it to move quickly. I pressed publish and waited while trying to stop myself from tackling someone who was passing by with a box of pizza; as I did, a round-shaped man with a protruding kitambi, let’s call him Eustace, joined me. Eustace was holding the day’s newspaper and he was going on and on about politics. There is no escaping politics in this country; flat broke, stinking rich, fat, or petite it will be rubbed in your face one way or the other.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s election had just been annulled by the Supreme Court and Eustace wanted to know my thoughts. I wondered what use the presidency was to me. With Uhuru in or out of office, my situation was the same. My phone trilled before I could respond.
‘Hello, I have seen your TV ad on OLX,’ the voice on the other end said. It was rough and entitled and it could only be Nigerian. Of course, I’m not referring to the Nigerians who read this blog. Your voices are soft, you’re well mannered, and we should grab palm wine sometime.
‘Why are you selling it?’ the voice boomed.
‘Because I’m flat broke,’ I responded. There is beauty in being down and out, it knocks the pretentiousness right out of you.
‘How can I see it? I’m in Roysambu, the apartments are opposite the roundabout next to Shell.’
‘Send me money for fare and I will bring it this evening.’
‘No, get an Uber and I will pay,’ he said with a voice full of angst.
‘Then at least send me money for airtime so I can call when I get there?’
‘Remember to come with the receipt,’ he had said sternly before hanging up.
After a few minutes, my phone chimed with a credit recharge message of fifty shillings. A good sign; business after all is the total sum of willing buyer, willing seller. I started walking towards home having forgotten to give Eustace my thoughts but he would be fine, unless he quit his job to pursue a career in writing. He wouldn’t have that kitambi but things would get more interesting than walking around with a newspaper asking strangers for their political two cents.
Back in my house, I started looking for the TV’s receipt and warranty. I opened drawers, removed cushions from the sofa and they were nowhere to be found. I sat down on the floor frustrated when my phone chimed again.
‘I’m in your neighborhood are you around?’ The message read.
It was from a girl I had been pursuing for a while. There had been two dates, there had been dry humping—hands frisking through each other’s clothes feeling for wife material and husband material—was the wife material on these breasts or the husband material on this cock. That means lots of heavy petting, I’m sure you get the picture. But I had not been allowed in the bush, today might have been the day but I did not want her to see me in the state I was. One rejection from Mr. Abdi was enough for one day.
‘I am not around, maybe next time.’ I texted back as pain screamed across my chest a third time.
By this time, the sun had gone to have supper, something that was starting to sound like fiction in my life. A meal a day; that was reasonable. I walked to some nearby apartments that had unprotected WiFi and ordered an Uber. A dark Noah arrived with a tall man on the steering wheel. I loaded the 32 inch LG TV in the back seat and we headed towards Roysambu.
‘I’m here, where are the apartments?’ I asked my buyer when we arrived at the roundabout in Roysambu.
They got swallowed by the holes in your pockets. Haha
‘Right opposite the Shell,’ he said but I couldn’t spot them.
‘Talk to the driver,’ I handed the Uber driver my phone.
Before long we were pulling into an ash-grey gate. The houses had one or two lights on, otherwise, it was pitch black. A Nigerian man built like a bull appeared out of the darkness while holding his phone in his ear and I immediately recognized him as the buyer I had been communicating with.
‘This is my brother,’ I pointed at the Uber driver as we unloaded the TV from the Toyota Noah. This was a way of making him understand that I had backup in case he was thinking of trying any monkey business. The Uber driver gave me a coy smile as if to say, that will cost you extra. Brotherhood does not come cheap.
I left my newly minted brother in the car and followed the Nigerian man to his house, let’s call him Obi. There was another equally stocky man in the house, let’s call him Ade. If things were to go wrong my new brother and I would have a hard time taking them. I thought. Most Nigerians I have met are heavily built. What’s your secret, pepper soup or jollof rice?
The house was practically empty, with a table and a mattress on the floor but very clean. We placed the TV on the table as Obi told me how Kenya Police harass them so they try to stay indoors as much as possible. Ade plugged the TV into the wall socket and it whirred to life. He connected it to his phone and the house was filled with Davido, or Tiwa Savage, they were Afrobeats for sure. Immediately the music came on I could tell they were sold. Obi got into his phone and sent me 15,000 bob.
‘Where is the TV receipt?’ he asked as I was leaving.
‘I couldn’t find it.’
‘We need the receipt.’
‘The TV is mine, no one will harass you.’
‘No, we need documents.’
We went back and forth with Obi for another five minutes before Ade suggested that they take a photo of me with the TV. And there I was having a photoshoot while passionately holding my 32 inch LG TV—a true power couple that would give our local celebrities on the gram a run for their money. After Ade was done with me he asked for my kitambulisho and took a photo before I was allowed to leave.
Looking back I never thought for a second that I was going to a place I didn’t know to meet strangers who might have as well been brigands. God must have a soft spot for starving artists. I am more paranoid now, you wouldn’t find me accepting a stranger’s request for a meeting in the dark. Ah, well, maybe if she owned a bush.
I got back in the Uber and we headed back to my house. I paid the Uber driver, my memory is hazy but I think I tipped him too. Having a brother is costly business. In my dark house; partly illuminated by streetlights and lights from other houses to reveal emptiness and papers scattered everywhere, I wondered how that conversation would have gone if the TV had not sold. Brothers are nothing if not forgiving, right?
I used the money from the sale to pay rent and survive in the city of stones for a week or so before my fridge followed and I realized I was in over my head and decided to head for the village. That was how The Broken Man was born.
That was four years ago. It’s 2022, two of my novels sit on the shelf and Will Smith’s slap is here. I stare at my new TV. A 43 inch TCL androidtv with all the bells and whistles that cost almost double the price of my previous one. I wonder for a bit if Obi and Ade still have the photos of me holding my old TV. I lost Obi’s number, I wish I hadn’t, the image would have gone well with this piece. I go back to staring at my new TV, I take a photo or two of it before asking the Google Assistant that is built in to play Moses and the burning bush.
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