Part 1: The Daydream
It all started in the early morning of September 9, 2002. I was just in standard 8; young and clueless; yet not so innocent. I met this girl in a school I transferred to in Kikuyu a year before. Fresh and new from Baringo, I knew nothing about town life, but my heart somehow knew how to fall in love.
Born in Nairobi, my crush was a well-known celebrity. Everyone admired her, but I did not; I loved her. In my mind I knew a poor boy from the village would not win her over the hundred suitors of her class, but my heart foolishly knew that she was the girl destined for me.
I did not come to Nairobi for no reason; my Sunday school teacher in Koroto, Baringo usually assured me that everything happened for a reason. God knows why things happen. I had always wondered why father had to send me to live with my uncle in Nairobi. Now I knew it was meant for me to meet my soulmate. On this particular day, Shiro was going to meet me in town.
A class eight boy from the village going alone to town? I thought it was crazy, but the man in my uncle’s TV had said that we should always follow our hearts, so I went to town. I waited for her somewhere I never knew, it should be near Kencom. I don’t even remember seeing that building.
I waited from 8 AM to 11AM, but she did not show up. I knew my uncle was already yelling at nothing in the house, seeing me as a nuisance, and wishing I was not brought to town. There was no phone he could call me with, and I never bothered to dial the telephone that stood in front of me.
I continued waiting, waiting and waiting. The clock ticked (though I did not have a clock that ticks), and I came into my senses at five PM. I started feeling hungry, so I went to board the matatu. Inside, I leaned on my chair, feeling frustrated and despaired.
Suddenly, Shiro entered the matatu and sat next to me. I felt so happy to see her. I felt like kissing her, hugging her, caressing her and holding her. She smiled, and I smiled back. No one would talk; both of us were thrilled to see each other. Her look told me that she liked me after all. The matatu started moving, and I noticed that everyone was busy with their own things; no one seemed to care about the love birds on the backseat. I felt excited, and I felt that she was too.
After a long time of silence, she said Hi, and I replied with a soft tone that I never knew I had. She extended her hand, and I did mine. We held each other’s hands for quite some time. One thing led to another, and I started holding her breasts and kissed her passionately. It was at this time that one of the passengers sitting next to her started noticing us. Without hesitation, he punched me on the face and said, “Are you stupid little boy?” That punch opened my eyes; I couldn’t see Shiro.
The girl I was kissing was a big girl who should be at her twenties, and the punch I received was a wake-up call from his boyfriend. I was just dreaming after falling asleep immediately I boarded the vehicle; I was never going to have Shiro, not even for a chit-chat. Don’t ever aim too high, live within your means.
Part 2: One Night in the Dugout
I went back home at around 6 P.M. to face the music. Up until then, I had forgotten everything, including myself. I recollected by treacherous senses when I alighted from Kenya Bus at Kikuyu stage. “Do I really have the reason or motivation to face my uncle at this time?” I asked myself. It was indeed such a mess! I knew my uncle would neither accept nor entertain any excuse for my misdemeanor. He is one of those people you would never wish to mess with; he slapped you on one cheek so hardly that you would suddenly fall, and before you wake up, he would follow through with a firmer smack on the second cheek. You would think twice before trying to question his actions, or at least explain yourself.
This day was that day. The day my mother had always warned about – the dooms day. In my wisdom and understanding, I knew that today was the day of reckoning. A day never to forget. The harsh reality notwithstanding, I stood outside my uncle’s house at 6:14 P.M. and knocked at the door with unimaginable confidence. I knew he was already seated on his favorite spot near the door, resting his tired body on the divan. My knock was in itself a nuisance. He never came home later than 6 P.M., not as far as I could remember. He usually leaves Harambee House at around 4:30 P.M., and before the school children arrived home, he was already taking a warm bath in his one-bedroomed apartment house in the suburbs of Nairobi. Because today was not a school day, he would obviously expect me at home by latest 5:00 P.M.
It was now nearing 6:20 P.M., and I was still knocking at the door helplessly as darkness consumed the usual blue sky. I raised my head as if to confirm the transformation of the skies and witness the emergence of the stars, but in essence I was in deep thought. Was he really in? What about his wife and his three children? From outside I could not hear anything, but the light that penetrated the doors and windows gave me a clue. There was at least one person inside, either alive and awake, alive and asleep, or dead and gone to the angels.
After a short passage of time, I decided against all odds to cause fracas. I better face the devil inside than the angel outside. I was afraid of the dark, much less in this insecure urban area. I picked a heavy log and used it to hit the door with so much ferocity and fear. My confidence was subsiding, but the fear of the dark drove me to do the thing I had never thought of doing.
The noise woke up my uncle, who was perhaps halfway through his dreamland. He came hastily to see for himself the strange creature hitting his door at dusk. When he opened the door, I suddenly rushed through his arms and straight into the kitchen. I thought Mama Kemboi was there with the kids to protect me from this beast of an uncle. Unfortunately, the gods were never going to listen to my prayers. My possible alibies were unavailable for the first time since I came to Nairobi.
I went to my uncle and asked in a soft and inquisitive tone, “Uncle, where is mum and the kids?” His answer was a big blow on my left cheek, as I would reasonably expect. I could not wait for the religious second slap, so I bundled myself out of the house with the speed of lightning. Until today, I cannot remember whether I passed through the window or the door. All I can remember is that I found myself at the highway, running towards nowhere in particular. My body was tiring, and the heart was pacing unconventionally. I picked a perfect spot at the trench, near a tall and dark tree. I surrendered to the fate of darkness, the gods of the night, and whoever controls the city at night. I looked at the bright stars for a second and slept soundly in the dugout.
If you have been hosted by someone, do not take their kindness for weakness. Abide by their rules or shape out.
Part 3: At My Wit’s End
I was woken by the sound of a hooting bus before dawn. The first idea that came to my mind was to jump out of “bed” and visit Shiro. I would search for her everywhere I could, including her mother’s silo in Nyandarua. That is all I could gather from my night’s dream.
Now it was approaching daylight, and I was in no bed. I was gazing at the sky by the roadside, shivering from the morning cold. Perplexed, I hastily jumped with fright like a startled kangaroo. As I ran towards nowhere in particular, I could hear my heart beating like a drum.
I had never found myself in such a precarious situation before. I remember I spent a night far from home when I was in Grade 3, but not outside in the dark. The thought of sleeping inside the trench caused more anxiety and confusion.
My feet started to ache, and that is when I realized that I was running without shoes. The rulers of the night – those who pick money from your pocket as you look at them and you can do nothing about it – had made a dime with my shoes, perhaps for lack of a better option.
You see, my shoes were not the kind of garbs that you would fancy. You just wear them out of necessity. If it was today, I could not lose a lungful over it, but at the time it felt like I was robbed from head to toe.
Anyway, forget about the bare feet and the lost shoe, dear reader. Come and sit with me under the gargantuan canopy at the fringes of Lower Kabete.
I sat for hours, thinking about how I got there. I silently recounted the previous day’s events and felt sorry for myself. All the misfortunes that ensued in a day equaled those of my entire lifetime.
My dream of befriending Shiro was blown away by the winds of the night. Then I wasted valuable money on bus fare. I also “donated” my shoes to people who don’t know how to work. As a bonus, I caught cold overnight.
All these experiences were outrageous; but nothing is as sorrowful as losing the trust of an uncle. The man who took care of me in the lowest moments of my life, gave me food and education, and taught me how to cross a busy road; and here I am, running away from him like a fugitive of the law. How despicable!
I cried with remorse and promised myself that I would be a good boy henceforth. It was a moment of retreat. I, the son of Mr. Chongwo, was becoming a payload, and the prevailing circumstances were the catapult, upon which I was pulled back and suddenly propelled to greater heights. Yes, I decided the situation was not going to hold me down. I was going home to my uncle, to receive my strokes and look forward to the coming school week.
With a gleam of hope, I stood on my feet. Nevertheless, the Satan that obscures all men found a restroom on my eyes. When I turned my face towards the road whence I would begin my healing process, I saw a girl, probably one summer younger than me. I forgot my painful bottoms and the thorny path ahead.
At this point, ALL men agree with me, there is nothing as fulfilling as the sight of a girl who reminds you of the one who causes you sleepless nights. To me, this girl was Shiro. She wasn’t, but she was, and I was convinced she should be.
I gathered the remaining ounce of energy I got and whistled like a village boy calling out his hunting buddies in the woods. Please pray with me, fellow men. “May the Grace of our Lord…” Whatever happened between then and the time I realized I was still barefoot remains a mystery.
By and large, the hyena in men is not merry. Christmas is. Someone once said that men are animals; they talk like angels, behave like monkeys, and live like beasts. The few minutes of fantasy can take a man to prison or gutter a woman’s dreams.
Ladies, do not trust what they tell you on whims. Test their patience, and get to know their limits before saying YES!
It is during the few minutes of make-believe that men become most romantic. They will sound like God-sent angels and promise you what they themselves don’t have or can’t even dream of having.
“Every time you look at me and see me smiling, just know that I am thinking of you!” The idiot is thinking about Shiro, not you! Run.
Well, I was finally able to shake off the beast in me. Perhaps because I did not have shoes, thank God! The 24 hours humbled me, so I went home to face the music, AGAIN!
There is an African proverb that says, “There are no shortcuts to the top of the palm tree.” I would surely and boldly face the consequences of my actions so that I could fight another day; otherwise I was at my wit’s end.