When it rains it pours sounds like the dumbest proverb invented. Do they even invent proverbs? Some chap somewhere with mad scientist hair pointing to the heavens, grayed over by years of insane thinking sitting on a stool in front of an ominous tree, a large tree, a dark tree, a tree that birds avoid and in his solace and pensiveness thinks of two weird things and puts them together. Then alas! A proverb is born. I think first they would have to be high, drunk or both. I mean who thinks about a fly landing on a man’s testicles? How do those two thoughts cross pollinate?
So Sunday afternoon my day goes to the gutters. It starts out like a normal run of the mill day where I’d grab two cold brewskies with the buddies then head home for some sitcoms. But then I ran into some hubbub, actually my face runs into a hubbub and I lose the only thing that supplemented my humor. I do not have a face only a mother can love; no people love my face. Have you seen my social media? It is like a mirrored shrine unto myself. So anyway, I get bloodied really quickly; blood I had no idea my body could hold. It is everywhere, on my sweatshirt, my bucket hat (I used the hat as an actual bucket; a blood bucket) my jeans all the way to my shoelaces. At this exact moment; what my friends have been telling me for quite some time held true, that I am a bloody mess. So the next day my browser history read like a serial killer’s. All I was interested in was “finding the quickest way to remove blood stains”.
Google did not disappoint; 992,000 results in about 0.6 seconds was fast. I mean if I was a serial killer who had a bloody mess to clean up I would be impressed. But I admit I would be more impressed if Google first suggested to dial 911 or at least have a “prove you are not a killer” button pop-up. I would’ve felt safer. Now I know should any idiot want to stab me to death; all they have to do is turn to google and in 0.6 seconds find numerous ways of ridding the evidence. Thanks Google, you are doing a pretty bang up job.
Anyway that was Sunday. So Monday with the pain and the dizziness I could not go to work. I stayed at home nursing my face. Nose to be precise. Which I currently feel is a little bit off; like skewed by a few inches which means I might have to recalibrate the angle at which I take pictures. Can’t be that guy with the weird nose in all photos. Lucky for me; my bestie and baby mama (do not ask) perfected the neck tilt. I will be enrolling for classes soon.
Tuesday sees me at the office; everything is fine except the fact that I am very conscious about my face. Everyone is. Sometimes they think you do not see them looking, but you do. But then again it could all be in my head; because I know there’s something wrong I sort of feel other people know it too. It is the same thing you go through when you’ve had sex you shouldn’t have and it feels like the whole world knows. Everyone from the conductor to that child sitting two rows away from you give you the look. Then I read Biko’s article and I realized how there are other people out there who have lost more than I have. The feeling did not go; however I felt a little more comfortable with myself.
Wednesday and I am better; at least I feel it. The swelling has gone down a bit and it does not look like I got into a fist fight with a doorknob and lost. First thing I see on twitter is that a train has blocked the road. On the one day I needed to get to the office early for a meeting a damn train decides to block the road. Perfect. Maybe it was throwing a tantrum since it‘s younger and much prettier sister the SGR was getting all the attention.
But where I’m from we are lucky. We have two alternative routes to town. So I take the alternative route and here is where things literally go to shit. We get to the former roundabout at Taj Mall and the conductor decides to vamoose. He just jumps out, slams the door and disappears. It’s an art these guys have perfected and it’s an art we are used to. Usually, when they do this the driver gets stopped, cops pop in their heads and give a stiff talking to and let the car door. Not today. I was sitting where the conductor usually sits, the cop asks me if I am the conductor. I look at him. I look at myself. I nod in the negatory.
“Ako wapi?” she asks
She is a female officer, a bit stout. Looking at her you cannot tell where her belly ends and her hips start. She is in an ugly blue sweater, they all are, and her voice sounds like crushing tropical mints. I shrug my shoulders; this time looking to the lady sitting next to me. Hoping she might help. Hoping the attention shifts to her. It doesn’t this lady cop is convinced I know where the conductor is or I am him.
“Alishuka.” I finally say.
She laughs and her colleagues laugh.
“Sasa ni wewe tutabeba. Amka twende.”
There are things in life I have thought about being accused off. Stealing a hen. Buying counterfeit currency. Peeing on the roof of a parked tour van in the mara. But never have I thought I would be arrested for being a conductor. Never.
“Si mimi conductor.” I beg “Ata uliza hawa.” I insist.
All the while passengers are avoiding my stare like a bad omen.
“Umekaa kwa kiti yake. Na juu hakuna kiti ingine kaa wewe si conductor wewe ni excess.”
In her words there’s a finality. She’s crucified you to her judgement. There’s nothing you can say. There’s nothing you can do. You just have to obey. So I get up and in an instant grabs my belt and nudges me out of the matatu. I feel like a petty thief that’s being saved from an angry mob. I do not argue though I just follow her arm (Not long. Not the law.) Tugging me towards their blue lorry which to me at that point looked like a rainy day. Sad. Depressed. With no will to live. As I get into the truck I feel the same eyes that avoided me stare.
They pile up a few more convicts, each getting their own share of ear biting as they climb in and raucous laughter at the women who cannot get up the huge truck and finally the immediate orders to find empty seats and sit tight. There’s was a promise. A promise that we would not be going anywhere soon. At this point I just called the two people I knew couldn’t help me but needed to know my mum and the office.
I do not use that word lightly. No seriously, I don’t.
But the truck was lit. Maybe it was the camaraderie of people that are on the wrong together. Villains victimized for the sins of others on the path to righteousness. But the truck was lit. Especially a few guys. Guys that thought they knew the ropes and its loopholes. These guys cracked me up with their attempts and pleas at reprieve.
For instance this one guy, he looked like a fashion blogger met a boda boda rider. Or more like a boda boda rider met a fashion blogger. He had on sneakers that looked fashionably aged; blue fitted jeans, an open white shirt and a shy vest peeping out of it. He kept tapping the officer sitting next to him and showing her something on his phone. She kept sneering and shouting back at the guy much to his chagrin.
“Why are you showing me the president’s picture? You think the rest of us do not have a president? Ni wako tu?”
It took me a minute before it hit me what the guy was trying to do. President? Picture? Currency? Creative way of offering a bribe. Though methinks the chap should have just shown pictures of bank notes. And not just any amount but the amount he was willing to part with. But that’s just me. I was amused. Amused despite the cold bench in the truck biting into my non-existent buttocks with wind whistling in through the back opening.
The guy changes tactic. This time he shows her a picture of women. Women cops. She laughs and laughs. It is quite condescending. Her laughter would leave you with more doubt than answer. She asks the chap what the pictures are for. If he expected her to know them and if he thought that would mean anything. The guy is silent. Now defeated. She looks at the guy, taps him and tells him that should she ever need bras she’ll find those women because they look like they are her size. For a split second we all laugh. We forget our predicament and laugh. At one guy. In the same predicament as us. Humans.
Along the way we pick up a few strays. Some of them caught crossing the road without using the bridge. One of them is a woman in brown trouser, red top and a weave that matches the trousers. She has short heels on. The block kind. But the officers do not like her, because when they stopped her; she ran. They called her 100M. They could not believe how fast she went. Especially in her shoes. It is not like they are mocking her but rather holding her in awe.
She sits there confused for a minute. Then she starts crying. Uncontrollably. Her chest heaving like a Subaru going uphill. She screams. Not a scary scream but a distressed one. Like someone is about to die and she cannot do anything about it. The cops don’t like it but cannot tell her to shut up. A lady cop sits next to her and hears her out, here she pitches a sob story about her kid, a toddler whose only difference between sleeping contented tonight or crying hungry till 6 AM was her getting to work. That shit worked. The cops let her go. Even helped her alight the truck. She was not rushed.
I wish I had such tears or a toddler. Sadly my soul is dry and my sex life drier.
The lady next to me sees it and in Kenyan fashion adopts the “pia mimi” façade. That she has a kid she needs to feed. She also sheds a few tears and her eyes turn red. The cops? Well she might as well have been selling matchboxes to a bear; they did not buy it. They told her they only let go of one crier a day and she missed her window. So she was told to get arrested the next day and try crying. I laughed. I mean despite the predicament they had a sense of humor. That lady however did not, in her white blouse, blue blazer and black pants she shot me a tired look. My giggle evaporated. I realized we were on the same boat.
At some point the female officer stares right at me. Only she is not looking at me but looking at the potential I have. She is trying to see if I can squeeze out a few coins to get myself out of the predicament. Must be the tie I am wearing. It is sad though because I do not look back. My body tells her that today I am not about to bribe an official. My body is lying; in my head I would have given her whatever reasonable amount she stated. But in such cases reasonable is relative. I also hate how her body jiggles when the lorry hits a bump or how each word she says is a stomp of authority. But whether I liked her or not one thing was certain; I was going to end up in court. I knew it. She knew it. And the guy next to me knew it; him, his red cap and the bedbug that crawled without a care on it.
To be continued…