I want to start this letter and address you as dear but who am I kidding, this is not an official email, I am not in the market for a new job, you’re not my high school sweetheart and I just don’t feel like it. So hi will have to do.
If you’re anything like me you’re already up, ready to take on the menial tasks of the day; you have a job somewhere in town or its environs, you say you hate it and swear you will leave but those are just threats making noise like empty cans. You know you will not leave it, you just say you will out of frustration, you like to imagine that if you wanted you could, it is an idea you like to toy with, but it is an idea you know won’t see the day of light. You’re comfortable. You can take yourself out to medium priced joints and imbibe in tipple until your walk is as skewed as your priorities. You can pay rent to a one bedroom that’s spacious. Or roomy. But the word the ad used was spacious. You have pay tv and probably watched Bolt take the triple triple record home. You have a bottle of wine, two actually, red and white and one of whisky and a few empty vodka ones. Sometimes you eat out and you do know some of the best spots in town. You’ve thought about a car, if you do not already have one; soon you will have one. Out of town trips will be your thing. But I’m not complaining, such comfort is not bad. We can’t all cross the threshold into the one percent club so we enjoy what we have. Nothing bad in that. Although some people think it is bad, they are not even better off than you, they just like to feel like they make better decisions than everyone else to live with the fact that they don’t. Theirs is a story for another day.
They, the matatu driver and his conductor, are probably playing a local station this morning, in the mat, they always do. I don’t really understand why yet their topics are as appetizing as wet onions. Theirs is a weird love affair, matatu crews and that station, but don’t worry soon that car will come and with it a stereo system that will have a USB port (it has to have a USB port by the way, don’t settle for less seeing as you will be paying a loan) and you will listen to Fela Kuti or Frank Ocean or Beyoncé. I don’t know if it’s just me or do you also get tired of listening to them hawking plots like under garments at a flea market? Buy an eighth here buy a quarter there, multiply your money, deals like you can’t believe, tell your mother, father, chama and even choir master. It’s too much. The only title I have to my name right now is Mr and a few good deeds under my belt that no bank will take as collateral, a few dreams and a relationship I hope works out. It’s such a tough time to be a good person, I don’t know how mother Theresa and the likes did it.
Soon something will come on about a lady, it is usually a lady, and she will have a dilemma. Did you feel me roll my eyes all the way to the back of my head? I swear it went so far back I could see yesterday. So this lady’s dilemma is a man that doesn’t know how to treat her. Sometimes it is a man who cheats on her. Other times it is a man who is married and she is the other woman. Other times she wants to know if other women cook food for their men while not wearing any underwear. Her dilemmas make you cringe in your seat but sometimes they are funny. I think they are scripted, just to say, these things happen you know; for the listeners. There are days you will have earphones and save your ears the auditory bleed. Sometimes you’re not so lucky and you will listen through, half way you will stop to think if her problems could be true. You will empathize with her and in your head, right next to the thought of quitting your job; you will give her a hug. A damn hug, because you’re a sucker for such. You will get your ‘aki woiye’ attitude, dust it and wear it like your maybe not knock-off designer perfume. I don’t blame you. After all since you can’t get the shamba why not get empathetic?
You will get to town with a few minutes to spare and join the rest of Nairobians rushing to jobs they hate. The ones that love what they do are already in the office sharing pictures of their coffee and pastry hash tagging it office things. But the conductor will have gone off with your change, you won’t see him anywhere. You will crane your neck to look outside the window, you will stand and look around the mat and you will watch as everyone walks out leaving you alone. It was just twenty shillings, but in this city leaving even five shillings is a sign of weakness. In the desolation of the empty mat you will listen to the lady’s woes and suddenly feel another surge of empathy. You will walk out and go to the drivers window and ask him to call the conductor. It will hit you how desperate you’ve become, the conductor is the errant lover and you’re the embittered spouse. He will give a quick call, switch to local dialect, yell instructions into his mouthpiece, hang up and tell you not to worry the guy is on the way. So you will wait, you and probably three other people and get even more late. You, in your hurry will get to the office start your computer and connect to Wi-Fi on your phone. You will log in and see daisy36_ (they always have an underscore, it’s the new ideos) and her coffee and you will like it. Not that you like it but you think not liking it makes you a bad person. That photo will remind you that you should be hungry. The sweet potatoes and tea you had in the morning are nothing compared to coffee and a donut. You love donuts yes? Come on I know you do. You know there’s only two types of people? Those who love donuts and those in jail for murder. Quick mental calculation has your bank balance at a safe number; so you get donuts. Two. One for you and one for that your office friend. The one you like but won’t date, yes that one. You will take a picture and post it too. A few seconds later an orange heart pops us, daisy36_ liked your photo.
You’ll check other sites that morning right after blue ticking that annoying person that’s always texting. It would be easier to tell them to back off right? No? Okay how about to fuck off? Can’t be that hard. You’ll start with Facebook, it’s always easier to start with Facebook. You will scroll through posts, good morning ones are the worst, you will go through those holding your nose up. Then there will be the Joyce Meyer, meet Oprah Winfrey inspired posts accompanied by a picture of hanging cleavage, pouted red lips and eyes looking up into the heavens like that is where they got the idea from. You will like that one because who doesn’t like cleavage? Sorry. I mean inspiration. Who doesn’t like inspiration? Life gets hard sometimes. Then you will come across the funny one, that one could be mine; actually it is mine. You always laugh at them but then you won’t like it you will just scroll. Why? Because it does not have cleavage? No hard feelings. When you’re almost done you will come across it, a long post defending a politician’s actions. He addressed a crowd, incensed it and there was an outcry to have him arrested. But this post will defend his actions. The writer will throw in free speech, a few words in vernacular and fanaticism dogma he wears like hand cuffs. You maybe agree with them or maybe you don’t either way it’s none of your business. That place is all the way two planets away from you.
You will get tired of Facebook and hop on to twitter. There, your 142 followers don’t have any notifications for you. You hear that some people make money from tweeting and you will briefly think about what that’s like. It sounds like a fun thing but your 21098 followers short of a possible career and we know how hard it is to get followers there. The lucky ones discovered it when it was young, they were the founding fathers, so they have time on you. When people caught on they were already notable and so they got followers. Others are just famous, some for actual talent and others for spreading their naked pictures. Speaking of which… how many do you have? Those pictures. Really? Liar! Then finally there’s the celebrities. So since you have too much dignity to strip down and no talent to make you a celebrity, you hang on to your 142. The timeline will have many breakfast shows trending with desperate hangers on heaping praises on presenters even if they are not listening in. Lies we tell on social right? Right? Then there will be the funny tweets that you will ignore but laugh at. Is that a trend here? Then like on Facebook you come across a tribal joke. You laugh. But to be fair, it was funny. After all they love money like that and drove station wagons that are pick-ups right? So its okay to laugh. But when it escalated and talked about one being inferior and suggested drastic actions you ignored it like my joke. Like a bad joke. Like symptoms to a disease. After all it is social media.
The day will go faster than you expected, it’s been doing that of late. One minute it’s Monday and the next hour it’s Thursday evening. You’ll be home and you will put the home theatre on, volume at 8, and listen to the soothing sounds of evening RnB. You don’t have a help yet, you just don’t trust them and you love your electronics. You’ve heard scary stories so you opt to not have that luxury. This means you’ll be washing breakfast dishes, boiling dinner water and cleaning surfaces as you move to the music. There’s some bliss you derive from such menial pleasures the same you will deny to hell and back you get from your job.
While your waiting for the food to cook you will fill in the time with a snack, healthy, so a sandwich with cucumbers? Mayo? Tomatoes? On brown bread? Sounds about right. The music would’ve gotten boring and since it’s been ages since you last watched the news you put on the television. Nowadays news is not cool, who watches it? We have twitter, Facebook and ghafla; a news paper and the prime time is too 1999. Back when Beyoncé was a part of Destiny’s Child and Rihanna was a good girl who knew nothing about Jay – Z’s umbrella, bitches who have her money and had never worked worked worked a day in her life. But today you will turn it on and switch on to one of the national stations; a lady in a short dress or skirt, dark luscious hair and blood lips will let syllables roll out of her tongue like silver lies. Something about skirmishes in a part of the country because of hate speech. You will think how stupid those people are to let a man divide them like that. He doesn’t put food on their table right? He doesn’t live the same paltry lives as they do right? So how could they be so blind? Incensed you will switch the channel to something more appropriate; a reality show (the irony) or a sit com to laugh your night away. That night you will have dinner, post a picture of it, have a glass of wine and go to bed with a hearty smile.
A recent survey showed that Kenya has some of the best weather in the world, like who would think that? The way you complain about the heat, then the dust, then the rain and the mud. We just complain about everything. That weather is the reason we receive so many tourists and some people receive sponsors. It’s the things you take for granted that other people are loving; I’m not talking about your relationship calm down. Although that could be a reason the two of you are distant of late. But either way they throng here in the thousands and spend billions on a country we love to hate. They are spoiling her, and soon she will realize she is too good for you and up and leave then will you cry? No. You will insult her some more because you think she owes you a lot. But I guess what they say is true about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.
You see even with good weather there’s things you probably don’t know about. Forget about your class six teacher, the one who taught you about wind socks and barometers. There’s a different kind of weather, the political one and here the heat has to be just right. If the temperature rises then the weather is unbearable and no one will come. While it doesn’t look like a bad thing to you; it is. And when the price of flour goes up by thirty shillings you will realize just how important. You do know what thirty shillings can do right? I shouldn’t even ask, you were the one waiting for twenty shillings in the mat so you do know. You see that tweet you ignored and that tribal joked you cackled at almost even spitting your tea out? Someone somewhere took it seriously, the author probably hid in the humour to mask their intentions and it all boiled up to something bigger. But it was online so there was no big deal right? Wrong. There was a big deal. Maybe you shouldn’t have ignored it. It told a story. A story of hate and hate is a seed that takes root slowly and one day it is as mighty oak that’s hard to cut down. Or you think because it is the internet it should be taken lightly? Could you be any more complacent?
The truth is you are comfortable, all your activism has been online, your mouth does not know the taste of tear gas nor does your eye know the sting. The burn of hot metal from a stray bullet is a foreign idea to your body. The sound of sirens are only familiar when you play a deejay mix. And it’s all fine; it really is, I am not going to judge you on how you choose to live your life. I also have never experienced those things, only the tear gas, as an unwilling participant. It tastes like smoked metal. You do not have to go to the streets and throw stones with an uber interviewee. You can use a hashtag from the comfort of your home. But please speak up when someone is on the same platform spreading hate. Report, tell them off, ask others to tell them off, just do something about it. Because one day you will go to the shops to buy overpriced flour and the sound of death will echo in the distance. You will see smoke rising in the horizon and you will see with it the screams of dying Kenyans. That news clip you turned off will be your reality. You will find the shop closed and roads empty. You will go back to the apartments and as a group of neighbours organize a trip to a supermarket to stock up. You will realize at that moment just how scared you are. Maybe they will use your car; it will be the only one with fuel, you bought it before everything went to shit. You will go online and daisy36_ will be silent, no pictures of coffee, pastries or her meals. You won’t know what happened to her. The last you remember she was travelling a picture of her on a bus then it happened. That night hundreds were slaughtered on the roads.
Then years later as we recover, leaders will stream back in from the Maldives and Switzerland with tan lines and full bellies. Their kids will have finished school and landed jobs with corporations there. You will still have your house because maybe the land lord is dead and there’s no one to kick you guys out. You will remember how you joked about paying rent and how you actually now want to pay it; because death is not a joke. And finally when the dust has settled and we can only think about the good times we had. The monuments we cherished and burnt. The vacant hole daisy36_ will have left on your Instagram and the uncertainty of how many of the 142 are left on your twitter that will numb your heart. Then one guy somewhere full of nostalgia and a lot of surviving followers will remind us of our sins. The day it went to shit. And #WeLetItBurn will trend.