I’ve had this awesome fiction story in my mind all week. Unfortunately when I put my fingers on the keyboard I just couldn’t bring it out the way I’d pictured it. It came out like a poorly acted Nigerian movie. So I decided to give it sometime. I might just get a revelation. In the meantime I will tell you about the highlights of the previous week. You see the best thing about blogging is that as long your eyes and ears are in good working condition, there’s always something trying to make its way into your blog. There’s always a story trying to shape itself. I need my eyes and ears now more than ever. The only thing that would petrify me more than losing those would be ED. A man needs his tools.
So last Monday I woke up at 6:30am as usual, switched on my laptop, did some final touches on the week’s blog, published it, and then went back to bed. My alarm had gone off in the middle of a fascinating dream and I was hoping it would continue. Nah, not really. I was unwell. My chest was all congested, like I had been up all night smoking a packet of Rosta after another. I was whizzing like my lungs had formed a duet. For once I did not need to exaggerate when I called my boss to tell him that I would not be reporting to work. The way I sounded, he would have offered to call me an ambulance. Anyway, it was too early to go to hospital and I did not feel like I would die if I got one more hour of sleep.
I was surprised when I got to the hospital and the waiting room was deserted. I thought Mondays was the preferred day to fall sick. By show of hands, who has ever gone to the hospital on a Monday morning because a hangover was killing you?
A nurse led me to a small room where she took my blood pressure, temperature and weight. I wondered if all that had anything to do with a congested chest. I mean my lungs might have felt as heavy as cement bags but I was sure they had not gained that much weight. But what do I know? I only diagnose computers.
I was then ushered into the doctor’s room, and she welcomed me warmly. She literally did. As soon as I sat she asked me if it was my first time at that hospital branch. When I said it was, she said “Karibu sana.” It was a good gesture but I suppose there are places you don’t welcome people. It’s not like I was going there to have breakfast. It’s not any different from welcoming someone into a morgue. It’s the same as someone saying to you “Feel at home,” as you enter a morgue.
But she was nice. She did not seem like the kind of doctor that enjoys sticking needles into peoples’ behinds. She didn’t seem like the kind of doctor that would go on strike and let patients operate themselves. This one seemed like a modest doctor. She proceeded to ask me how I was feeling as she placed her stethoscope on my chest. That’s a doctor’s thing isn’t it? The same way a clergyman has to open his Bible while doing his thing. The same way teachers walk into class with a cane (it was obligatoryin my days). There’s probably a doctor who’s used a stethoscope on someone who walked in broken a leg.
Anyway she thought my condition was so bad I needed Nebulization. That scared me. It sounded like one of those excruciating procedures Dr. House enjoys doing. Like one of those procedures that involve being stabbed on the chest with a monstrous syringe. The doctor saw the fright on my face and she proceeded to inform me that it was just a simple procedure that would help decongest my chest. I wanted to ask her if it involved any blades or injections but I didn’t want to seem like a little sissy. So I nodded my head like I’m used to nebulization; like it’s what I do whenever I have free time. She called a nurse and asked her to prep me.
A few seconds later a nurse walked in and asked me follow her. She took me to a small room that had a bed and a chair. I wasn’t sure which one to take so I just stood there. She opened some drawers and the first thing she pulled out was a box written Resuscitator on the side. Now that scared me shitless! I didn’t care about seeming like a sissy anymore and I asked her if there’s a risk of me passing out during nebulization. I asked her if cardiac arrest was one of the side effects of this treatment. And she laughed and told me the box wasn’t for me. I think she’d done that intentionally just to see if I’d wet my pants. Miss mean nurse that was very unnecessary.
If I wasn’t gasping so badly I would have taken off. She asked me if it was the first time I was being nebulized. I told her I might have seen Dr. House do it on tv once but I wasn’t paying much attention. She laughed. She had an adorable laughter and I suppose her trainer had told her to use it more often to calm her patients. It was however not working for me. All I cared to know was whether someone was going to rip apart my chest.
You have no idea how relieved I was to learn that all the procedure involved was inhaling from a face mask attached to some device that administers some medicinal spray. It wasn’t half as bad as I had assumed. I even got to read some blogs while at it.
Nebulization helped. I felt like I could run a marathon. But I still had to wear a grim face since I needed a sick-off note. Madam Doctor was in a good mood and she wrote me a sick-note without fussing. Doctors do not have Monday blues do they? As long as no slum catches fire on a Monday, the day will be just like any other.
My chest took it’s time to heal. I was unwell for the better part of the week although my condition was improving by the day. I hope that is the last time I fall ill this year. You see this week ushers in the great month of December (and pay day as well!). I love this time of the year. Unless you are a goat or a chicken, you have all the reasons to look forward to this festive time. I wouldn’t want to fall sick while people are devouring ribs. And I wish you all sound health as we draw to the end of the year.
On another unrelated note, I picked up a phone at a restaurant near Wilson toward the end of last week. Someone had left an N96 on the couch. There’s no way I would fall ill again if I gave it back, I thought. Surely that act of kindness should at least atone me. I’ve pissed Karma severally over the recent past and I thought that was my chance to set things straight. So I snooped in the messages and contacted a chick they’d been communicating that afternoon.
She told me she was at Hurlingham and she would come for the phone. An hour later she called me and when I went to meet her, she got out of the car and hugged me so excitedly you would think we were childhood friends. She couldn’t believe that I was giving back a lost phone and she went on to shower me with compliments. “I didn’t think angels still exist….”
I started feeling like she was talking about another person. I’m not that nice. I highly doubt my friends would describe me as a cordial person. Stealing might not be my area of expertise but I sure as hell got my bagful of ugly traits. I wanted to let her know that I’m not as righteous as she had assumed so I told her I’d snooped in the messages. She blushed a little then said it was the smart thing to do since I was able to decide whom to contact. I gave up. I decided to go with the notion that maybe I’m not such a scoundrel after all. She took out her purse and handed me a five hundred shilling note. Of course I was like “you don’t have to,” as I snatched it. The owner of the phone never called to express his gratitude but I hope he was kind enough to refund her.
She asked me if I was in a hurry to go back to work and I told her I could spare a few minutes for a little chitchat. She was a bubbly, amiable lady. She told me she’s just completed a course in medicine and she is to be posted in Nyeri for her internship. She was not so amused about that. My old man is from Nyeri so I told her I could give her my grandma’s contacts so they can be hanging out.
I asked her if she’s passionate about medicine, and she told me it is what she wants to do. I’m always envious of people who have figured out what they were put on this world to do, and they do it passionately. I did computer science in campus. I should be fixing those computers like it’s the last thing I want to do. When I have nothing to do I should be disassembling my laptop and then reassembling it just for amusement. But I’m busy typing. Clearly I’m still a bit confused.
A few weeks ago I had one heck of a bus trip from Mombasa to Nairobi. Three characters in the same bus as me made this particular journey remarkable. They made it worth writing about. I’m glad they sacrificed church that Sunday and took the 11:30am bus to Nairobi. They made my journey worthwhile.
The first was a young girl of about 20 years of age who sat next to me throughout the journey. Initially she had come off as a don’t-care. Her unbound braids were all over her face and from the way she chewed her gum you could tell she did not give a hoot if ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ was a food campaign or a lobby advocating for gay rights. But I was soon to learn that her nonchalance was merely a façade. I forgot to ask her name so for the purposes of this post we’ll name her Mwanaisha.
The second one was an elderly man who appeared to be in his sixties. He was seated on the opposite aisle, one sit in front of me. He had a coat on despite the fact that it was like fifty degrees Celsius. When I first noticed him, he was reading the paper through some thick lenses that hung on the tip of his nose.
The last character was the driver. He was seated at the back seat. Just kidding.
Drama started even before the trip began. When I got into the bus, Mwanaisha was sitting pretty on seat number 28. This was the window seat that I had paid for. When I told her that she was on my space, she snobbishly mumbled something inaudible and turned to the window. She had so much confidence that I had to pull out my receipt to confirm. My seat number was still 28.
You see good times only last till that time when you have to resume normalcy. I’d just spent a splendid weekend at the Coast and having to say my goodbyes had altered my mood. Pesky Mwanaisha had chosen the wrong person to mess with. I lashed at her and she reluctantly moved, probably wishing she had not tried to be such a hard-head.
We were soon on the highway. This is when it all began. Apparently the driver needed to get to Nairobi faster than the rest of us. Seeing any vehicle ahead of him made him sick. He stepped on it like he was trying to be number one on the road. And on several occasions, while overtaking, he would realize he had underestimated the distance between him and an oncoming vehicle. He would therefore put all his weight behind the brake pad.
This would result in very interesting reactions from my characters.
Mwanaisha would squeal. She would exclaim in a certain high-pitched voice that only a pig in a slaughter house can produce. In fact since the first occurrence the poor girl had her neck stretched out. She watched the road ahead over the seats. She had lost faith in the driver and she offered an extra pair of eyes. I must admit the driver scared me too. But only when he stepped on the brakes like he was killing a cockroach. But Mwanaisha was on the alert throughout. She was terrified. I could tell she thought she was on a ride to the pearly gates of heaven. At some point I felt sorry for her so I tried to help.
“Maybe if you strapped your seatbelt you would feel safer.” I teased.
She actually took my suggestion seriously. She deliberated for a second or two then searched for the belt and strapped herself.
“Don’t worry; we will get to town safely. I have to live to feature you in my blog.” I continued.
“What’s a blog?” She asked.
“blogi.” I explained.
I plugged back my earphones.
Meanwhile character number two, the elderly man, had fallen asleep. He was least bothered. Whenever the driver floored the break pad, he would open his eyes slightly then adapt a more comfortable sleeping position. It’s like he had made a pact with the almighty and was sure we would get to our destination in one piece. For a while his composure gave me some form of relief. But this was before it occurred to me that maybe he had achieved his lifelong dreams and did not mind joining the angels up in heaven. He looked content; like he had seen all there is to see in life. Maybe, unlike Mwanaisha, he was not so scared of leaving this earth. I wished I could pick his mind. His composure was unnerving.
The driver was just a nutcase. Every time he made the hairs at the back of our necks stand, he would curse and gesticulate furiously at the other driver, sometimes in Arabic. It was never his fault. You would think he was the reason the highway was reconditioned. He was one angry driver. At some point the passengers ganged up against him. All it took was one person to start the uprising. He shouted from the back and informed the driver that he had a family awaiting him at home. Then everyone suddenly found the courage to speak up. This upset him even more. He had a psycho look on him that made me uneasy. I’m sure for a minute there he considered driving us into a trailer. But he slowed down. And I finally got to sit back, listen to my music, and let my mind wander.
Everything was going great until the bus slowed down, almost coming to a halt. I opened my eyes to see if there was a dik dik crossing the road. Of course anxious Mwanaisha already had her neck stretched out. A fuel tanker had overturned hence causing traffic. It was in the middle of nowhere. There was no single shelter in sight, just vast, pristine land. But what surprised me was that a crowd of people with buckets and jerricans had already gathered to salvage the fuel. The place was so desolate and I wondered where the hell they had appeared from. How had they even found out there was free fuel? I mean my phone did not have even a single bar of network signal. I looked around to see if there was a bonfire; maybe a wanderer had used smoke signals to summon his fellow villagers. The place was so dry I was afraid if a metal can happened to graze the gravel a fierce fire would ignite. But those people seemed oblivious of the looming danger.
I did not blame them though. I understood they might not have heard of the Sinai fire tragedy. They seemed healthy so I figured communication must be their biggest challenge. I mean the place was so remote they probably still had messengers traversing the plains with nothing but animal skin covering their groins. I figured they needed the fuel for ritual sacrifices. Or maybe for lynching a witch. Who knows?
Anyway we got to Nairobi in one piece. And I imagined the driver was furious because we had thwarted his aspirations of being number one to reach town. I imagined Mwanaisha had a stiff neck, and mr. sleeper needed a cyropracter to treat his aching joints. Well I needed to find a public toilet, or a bush. Badly!
I went to church yesterday. Oh yes I did! I must admit it had been quite a while. Last Sunday I was too exhausted after attending Safaricom 7s the previous day (exhausted here might be euphemism for nursing a hangover). And you know folks there don’t watch rugby while sipping on afia juice; last week but one I was at the Coast. Not that they do not have churches there but… you know. The week before that, there was RWC finals. And the service was to start just before All Blacks performed the Haka. Let’s just say the last time I attended service might be sometime ago when Prophet Harold Camping predicted doomsday. Anyway I cleaned up, dressed like a church-goer, picked up a pen, a notebook and my Bible and went to church. Ok I who am I kidding?
People go to church for varied reasons. But I believe the main reason is to seek solace. The most defining thing about life is that you can never be sure what tomorrow will bring. We therefore go to God for guidance and protection. We go to Him so He can watch over us even as we transgress. And on Sundays we go before Him looking all remorseful, hoping He will look past our indiscretions and still call us His children.
Anyway I got to church and took my sit on the third last pew. I never sit at the backbench since that day I sat next to a dude who smelled like a brewery. I mean this guy was still intoxicated and I could tell that he had come straight from the rave. Every time he reached for his handkerchief I was afraid he would unleash a quarter of Kenya Cane; or God forbid a pack of trust condoms escapes and falls right in front of me. Thankfully it was not communion Sunday because this chap was only one wine tot away from a blackout. I had to share a hymn book with him and I think I heard him humming to “no retreat no surrender” as we sang Rock of Ages!
I also shy away from the front seat lest a demon is exorcized and it comes looking for the least righteous person in the congregation. That’s when you would actually appreciate the drunken believer.
Anyway when I got in there was a man on the podium who was on his third point on why we should give tithe. I was about to turn right back but I realized the first service was concluding so it was giving time. I therefore decided to be a bit more patient. After the pep talk on tithing he went on to talk about the importance of ‘giving’ selflessly. He mentioned something like “you honour your Father with your offering.” Coincidentally (or maybe not) this was just as an usher presented me with the money bag. You don’t unleash a 50bob note after such a statement. I had to dig deeper into my wallet. Smart move Pastor.
The second service was soon in progress, and a guest by the name Florence Muriethi was introduced. I’m not really good with names but this one I remember. There was cheering and ululation from the crowd as soon as her name was mentioned and I thought she must have been the one with the keys to eternity. Apparently Florence is an icon in the gospel music industry, and I might have been the only one in the congregation who did not know her. Of course I was determined not to give away my ignorance so I clapped and smiled like she was my favorite gospel singer.
I must admit I appreciated her as soon as she began to sing. Unlike Avril and Marya, Florence has an idea what she is doing. She sings from the heart. She recedes into her own zone when she sings. I could tell she does not do it for the masses. She connects with the words in her songs and she sings for her God. She has an amazing voice too. Apparently the Almighty had done some miraculous things in her life and this was evident as she sang. I must say she blessed me. I’ve just seen one of her songs, Omba, is on youtube. If you need some divine intervention you can check it out. Don’t be shy. I’m sure Rihanna would do just fine without one more hit.
Florence clearly set the mood right since prayer time ensued and people spoke in tongues! I’d definitely like to speak in tongues some day. Seems like a really nice place to be at. How does one get there anyway?
Mr. Preacher was just about to take the podium, and I was eager. You see there are all kinds of preachers out there. There are those preachers that always leave you inspired and revitalized; those that talk about blessings and good things that are bound to happen in your life; those that re-assure you and give you renewed energy and zeal to face this life. Joel Osteen comes to mind.
Then there are those that will make you feel like you’re Satan’s deputy. They will rebuke you so hard by the time they are done you will either volunteer to walk to the front and get them demons cast out of you; or you will walk out and it will take an end time prophecy to get you back to church.
Of course there are always the weird ones: There are some that feel the need to apply some crazy antics while delivering the word. You know those that will go to the extent of doing a cartwheel on the dais.
Anyway the preacher of the day was introduced. He seemed descent. He walked gracefully to the podium and I was keen to hear what he had in store for me. He almost fit my picture of the ideal preacher. If only he had a white dove perched on his shoulder…
I have to admit this article struck me while still in church. Yap the church is meant to inspire in many ways. I thought this would be one of those posts that will actually add value to your life. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when the preacher took the microphone and started ranting about some fund raising function to be held the following week. He went on and on for a good fifteen minutes and I could not take it anymore. I was upset and I got up to leave. As I was walking out, I heard him cite something profound; something I took home with me. I have no idea how he arrived at this but he mentioned something like: “CONFESSION MAKETH POSSESSION.” Now that’s something to think about isn’t it?
The afternoon was particularly chilly but droplets of sweat were beginning to form on Lenny’s forehead. The coffee in his mug was still at the brim and he constantly rubbed his palms against his knees. Mixed feelings of anxiety and ambivalence occupied his mind. No Lenny was not in the midst of some suspicious al-shabaab looking folks; he was just about to have lunch with a lady. But this was no ordinary lady. In fact the last time he had been nervous because of a girl was during puberty when his class teacher made him sit next to Miss Class six. At 28 years old, it was not his first date and for you to understand why he would be so nervous, I will have to take you back a couple of weeks.
Patrick and Lenny had been close friends since childhood and this particular day was the former’s farewell party. Patrick had always been quite the scholar since preparatory, and it did not come as a surprise when he announced that he would be going abroad to pursue his Masters. His party had brought friends together and Old school music played in the background as they chugged, chatted and giggled. Lenny clung to his friend. He was still trying to come into terms with the fact that it would be a whole year before he saw his former classmate and current drinkmate again. He would tell him how he never thought he would ever say the words “I will miss you” and end the sentence with “man”.
You see Lenny was the kind of guy that would not fail to notice a fine pair of legs passing by. He was the kind of guy that would spot a shapely behind from a mile away. He adored the female genus. But the night had been all about his departing friend. Patrick and Lenny shared many priceless memories, which they recollected with nostalgia that evening.
Well, that was until a few minutes past midnight when two ladies walked in. The one in front had applied her make-up too generously and walked like her stilettos were borrowed. She is irrelevant here. Lenny’s eyes were fixed on the one that followed. She was tall, about 5 feet 9 inches, her dark shoulder-length hair glistened under the dim lighting, her skin was chocolate and was without blemish. She donned a purple dress that rested freely on her curvy body. She had a confident, self-assured look on her that sent chills down Lenny’s spine.
He was distracted. His attention had suddenly shifted. His eyes were fixed on her like a lion stalking its prey. As she searched the room for empty seats, Lenny wore his most prized look hoping she would notice him. But she gave him the same oblivious look he gave girls who wore safari boots. He bit his lip and watched her as she gracefully walked to the far end of the room towards some empty seats.
He would let her settle in and then walk up to her. He had a way with the ladies and Patrick secretly envied his prowess. He watched him as he strode across the room, wishing he would trip and fall flat on his face. Lenny took a sit on the arm chair right next to the lady and struck a conversation. With a smirk on his face, he told her that was quite an entrance she had made, and that she had caught his eye. But to his surprise, she did not smile shyly or blush like he had expected. She simply gave him a look that seemed to say “enough with the charade”.
This is when Lenny had a good look at her.
She was divine. Her features fell perfectly in place. She had the most stunning eyes; brown, alluring and penetrative. Her lips were full and luscious. For a minute there Lenny was lost for words. He just sat there and gazed. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
She would finally speak, but not the words Lenny had hoped to hear. In a low and soft tone, she told him that she had not seen her friend (the one soaked in make-up) in a while and they would appreciate some space to catch up. She was not rude. But the finality in her words made Lenny feel like a little boy.
Lenny felt like he’d been run over by one of those Rwaken buses. He looked up hoping to see his boys were engaged in a heated soccer argument. They were not. In fact Patrick was watching him with this grin on his face that seemed to spell out ‘Loser’. Lenny had no choice but to take the walk of shame across the room. He was tempted to take for the door and disappear into the darkness, but a part of him wanted to be around this exquisiteness just to see if it was real. He walked over and took a bashing from the boys without uttering a word. His mind was occupied and their scolding was merely background noise. He held is glass in his hand and pondered on what he had seen. He did not say much for the rest of the night. But later he would use the host to get the beauty’s phone number. “If it’s the last thing you will do for me Patrick…” he would plead. Her name was Valentine.
He would call her the day after. But before pressing the dial button he held the phone in his palm for a good fifteen minutes. He knew he had made a pathetic impression and he half-hoped she would not remember him. When she asked him how he had gotten her number, he said he’d prayed for a miracle and a little bird had dropped it on his verandah. He thought he heard a chuckle.
He called her a few times a week. He kept the dialogue casual but exciting. When she asked him about his day, he would give an exaggerated story just to keep her enthralled. But Valentine was a cautious lady. And the conversations always lacked in depth. They were merely superficial chatter.
Lenny was patient this time around. He felt there was something different about Valentine. He liked her in a weird way. He would think about her at night. Her soft voice and soft chuckles would fill his mind when he closed his eyes. He wanted to see her again. He wanted to see her badly. One Tuesday afternoon, a month after Patrick’s farewell, he called her and told her he would be running errands near her workplace the following day and asked if she could join him for lunch. She agreed.
When Valentine stepped into the restaurant, Lenny’s eyes opened wide. He gaped at her exhilarating beauty. He waved and she elegantly walked towards him. He rose to his feet and hugged her. He pulled her a seat, and she sat with her arms folded.
That is when he saw it!
Right there, on the middle finger of her left hand, he saw the sparkling of a diamond studded engagement ring. His heart shot to his throat. He felt like he had taken a stab right through the chest. Distress was written all over his face and he wished it was all a bad dream. Valentine noticed and asked if he was ok, but he would not find his words. A part of him wanted to yell at her and curse her. But he knew too well that she had done nothing wrong. She had only joined an acquaintance for lunch.
He looked at her with bloodshot eyes. The fact that he had nothing to gain and nothing to lose made him open up to her. He told her he had not been aware she was engaged. With a strained voice he told her that her fiancé was a lucky man. He disclosed that when he saw her at the party he thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. That he had longed for the day when he would see her again, and confessed that the engagement ring on her finger had broken his heart. He told her that that day at the party she had done something no other woman had ever done: She had taken away a piece of his heart. For once Lenny let his guard down and let a woman peek into his fragile heart. There was such sincerity in his eyes and conviction in his tone. And Valentine listened earnestly as he poured his heart out to her. When the waiter walked up to them and asked what they would have, Valentine asked for espresso. Lenny merely waved him away.
When he had finally emptied his heart there was an uncomfortable silence. Valentine cleared her throat and Lenny was eager to hear what she had to say. But all she said was that she had a presentation that afternoon and she needed to go do some final touches. Again, not what Lenny had expected to hear. He shrugged and continued staring into his mug. She stood up, reached into her handbag, dished out a note and placed it on the table. She then stood there for a few seconds looking at him. And she turned and left. A lump formed in his throat as he watched her walk away. He knew it was the last time he would see her again.