Nairobi people are walking along Tom Mboya Street like they are scuffling to heaven. Jim, stop thinking I shagged your girlfriend. Stop calling me. I’m breathing too much to talk while going up the Eureka Highrise Hotel stairs.
I want to rant.
I can’t. I have to keep going. Scuffling, elbowing my way through.
I can’t shout all Nairobians out of the way. I can’t shout to Jim over the phone that it’s his almost naked girlfriend who betrayed me. I can’t turn my friends down. They all want to know how I got the injury. I wonder why my wrist scar has suddenly got them attracted to me.
I get to third floor. I approach a staff dressed in all-black and show her my receipt. She flashes two fists across my face. Sweet food smell is wafting into my nose from the kitchen at the fourth floor as I pass by. I remember the cash I paid at the hospital. My boss couldn’t settle the bill because I hadn’t got the injury while at the workplace!
Fifth floor. There is a big hall. Chairs are arranged in groups of seven, a table at the center of each group. Jim’s girlfriend raises her hand, and I proceed to table number five. Jim is seated at the left side, his girlfriend sitting on the left. Pauline and Steve are on the other side. Steve loves women, and I see his adam’s apple dancing up and down as a beautiful lady passes by. Followed by other people, many. I wonder whether everybody is here to finalize some funeral arrangements.
I am not here to tell you about death.
Pauline and Steve stand up, circles around to join Jim and his girl.
“My friend, this will be an interview,” Steve starts.
“I will narrate the story to you. No questions,” I say and see Jim’s face darken. I know he wants to know wants to be sure I really didn’t shag his woman.
Stop! We don’t share a life.
Let me be!
I want to shout at them. But they all look at me, as if wondering whether I have lost my mind. Steve is my workmate, and I suspect he knows the story, that he just wants to prove the version he had probably heard from the detective on TV or gossip.
Jim is dressed in these corduroy trousers and a white shirt and a tie. He looks old. The other three says he should start. It feels strange when your friends are interviewing you, and they won’t give you a job at the end.
Question one. How did you meet with Karen after I dropped her that night? How come she was half-naked when you opened your door?
“Jim, listen. On that fateful Friday, I got to the house early. Jesus was dying tonight. All I did to send Him off was play some loud music. I had this cool music system. Sauti Sol was still blasting at around 10pm when I heard a knock. At first, I hesitated. Part of me advised that I should fetch my cutlass from under the bed. But I judged that off. When I heard Karen’s voice, I thought she was in trouble.
I inserted the key slowly. The door slowly gave way. And that’s when I saw Karen’s boobs protruding from her black bra. She was wearing only a panty. My mind convinced me that she had begun acting on some new porn program. That perhaps she had AIDS and wanted to share a few viruses with me before dying.
But then she moved aside.
I was slapped hard by a masked man. The slap was so hard that I bit my tongue like I was dying. Then I saw another masked man pointing a gun at the back of her head.”
When I finish, I’m surprised to see everybody laughing madly. Even other meetings in the hall momentarily stop. Even Karen is laughing. I thought she would be ashamed of me, a guy who is not really her guy, talking about her nakedness in public.
At the end we are all laughing. Then like a movie villain, they all stop laughing. The interview is back. I feel comfortable. Laughter means satisfaction. I know no more questions are coming. That we will go down to the club and drink.
But Pauline frowns. Says that I had answered one question only. She is dressed on this beautiful miniskirt, her thighs exposed— she is trying hard to pull it down even though the skirt can’t actually go beyond that. When she blinks, her eye makeup shines against the magnificent lights hanging from roof.
Question 2. Did you just sleep on the floor and see the thugs rob you? How did you get the deep cut on your upper wrist?
“No, Pauline. You know I’m a real man. I decided not to go down easily. When I opened the door and saw the thugs, I rushed to close it back. But the one in a blue overall was smart enough to hold my hand before it slid to the inside. I pulled. Blue Overall pulled from the outside. My hand moved up and down the metallic door, hence the cut. Now, when they got inside and I saw they were only two, I vowed to challenge them. All the while, Karen was still held by her captor, yards outside the door.
I kicked at them. I punched Blue Overall until he dropped his AK47 riffle. But they were joined by three others. I soon lay on the carpet, tied up like a potato sack. I felt anger grip my heart as Blue Overall and Red Eyes went over to my precious Samsung 32 inch TV. I felt like crying blood because I thought my tear glands had run dry. My most valued items were being taken away. That March would make it three months since I moved to that apartment.”
This time, nobody laughs. It’s like we are in a funeral. It’s already seven thirty, and loud music is creeping into the hall. Most of the other people have left.
I love Steve more than anybody else in this group. He is a humble man but give him a bottle of Guinness, and you will see the beast in him. He has this handsome Tom Mboya look, a well-trimmed hair, straight clean teeth, and likes wearing T-shirts while off work. Unlike Jimmy who is a cab driver and undergoes hell to borrow or rent a suit, just to look classy and expensive. I don’t want to tell you how I know Karen is always after Jim’s money. I want you to know that question four is coming.
Steve’s question. I’m not using a ‘please.’ Where had you been staying and why did you move out from that wherever?
“Steve bro, I had been staying with my parents in Gumba Estate. My mother was always out to spoil me, and I even had a Smartphone and a car while in Form Four. So last year after college, my friend Pauline fixed me a job at her place. Mum would wake up every morning to prepare breakfast for me and hug me bye. After three months, I had saved enough to afford a bedsitter. Mum was very angry when I told her about my plans to move out. But Dad patted me on the back and said he was happy I was at last becoming a man. Mum had to concur with dad, but not after throwing a huge party for me, like I was getting married off or dying.
You see, I had grown tired of leaving under my parents’ care. I wanted to interact with the world, to find my own place and start a life. I wanted to feel free, to do whatever I wanted. But I wasn’t a bad boy, either. I simply wanted to feel safe inviting my girlfriend over, to have my own place, to play my music full blast, just as what Sauti Sol was doing when the thugs stormed in. I used my first salary to buy my TV, music system, the carpet, and off course the bed which the thugs left alone. I bought the items at a cool discount at Garden City Mall, when they were opening.”
I excuse myself and proceed to the washrooms. The men’s toilet is facing the ladies, and I wonder what would happen if somebody failed to read the signs placed high above the wall. It’s around eight pm, and I wonder why the toilets are stinking that much. Whether people had been shitting on the sides or were simply not flushing the bowl the whole day. Coming back, I find everybody yawning. But Karen’s face is full of anxiety, and I wonder why she is smiling.
Karen is a beautiful girl. I envy Jim because I divorced Tracy. Jim’s girl is dressed in these black awesome pants. The valley between her breasts is visible, a strange softness flanking her protruding breasts. I’m not advising you to fuck your friend’s sexy lover.
I want to say that I liked Karen’s red lips, as she opened her mouth to ask her question.
Question four. What else did they steal from your house?
“Karen, I know you were outside. But you should have been able to notice that they left me with my bed only and TV cables. Yes, they stole my most precious item. My gas cooker was gone. I cried as I lay helpless on the carpet, realizing that I wouldn’t be able to cook my favorite ugali meal the following day.
And yes, my huge Sony Smartphone. You see, I hadn’t even finished paying for it. My boss continued to take five thousand bob every month from my salary as agreed. That’s why I decided to buy this cheap Nokia Lumia. I’m so ashamed of using it in public that I always have to use it under a table or something, like what I’m doing right now.”
Pauline yawns. Jim says his friend has texted him over a job in two hours. Steve’s eyes look pale red, like a bhang addict. I wonder why they all look so bored, yet they had insisted I tell them what happened. I snap my fingers in a fast pace and began humming a tune.
When Patoranking’s “Daniella whine,” bursts through the speakers in the club below, everybody springs to life. I notice that the ‘interview panel’ has somehow disintegrated. Karen is back on her boyfriend’s lap. Pauline at the far left, looking at the window. Steve’s back is resting on the plastic seat. I imagine Jim collapsing under Karen’s weight. Pauline’s eyes are filling up with dusty particles from outside. Steve is falling on the ground.
Patoranking at the middle of his song. Jimmy gazes at me, after scratching his head. I know he has just remembered something.
Question five. Where are you currently staying?
“Well, after all what happened, I moved in back with my parents. All the other tenants also left the building. My mum cried for a whole day and couldn’t eat anything until I assured her I had moved. I felt bad that I was robbed and may never recover the lost items. So now I’m staying at Lucky Summer Estate where thieves get shot or lynched now and then. But if it’s loud music that attracted the thugs, they may come again and again. Nobody is going to deny me my love for loudness.”
Steve’s eyes enlarge. He lifts his hand up, his face timid like a class five’s. He must be curious.
Question six. My guy, did you not recognize any of those thugs? And, did the police help?
“Steve, listen. Yes, I recognized one of them. Nobody doesn’t know his oval head and the tattoo on his left arm. We know each other. He supplies charcoal to my place of work. Had I told him I knew him, I would have ended up being shot to death. Criminals wants to do their job clean and safe.”
“Help from the police? Nothing. I knew nothing there was no point recording a statement at Babadogo Police Post. The police are criminals. The criminals are police. Do you think the thugs imported the guns from Somalia? Today it’s easy to get a gun. So far, nothing. Nodding means you are satisfied.”
It’s now nine o’clock. The security guard comes and reminds us that our time is over. I dig into my pocket and give him a two hundred note, and he leaves us alone. I still sense Jim isn’t satisfied that his girlfriend is the one who betrayed me, that he still thinks either of the thugs had raped his girlfriend. Pointing at Karen, I get everybody’s attention.
Question seven. Karen, did those guys mess up with you? How come you were half-naked?
“Good question. After Jim dropped me, I was so tired that I went straight to take a shower. Coming back to the sitting room, a towel draped around my waist, I found two of the thugs already in the house. They were comfortably watching TV and ordered me to follow them. I hesitated and Blue Overall yanked the towel off my body, leaving me with nothing on but my black, laced panties. Red Eyes tried to touch my breasts but, I jumped backwards. He ran after me around the house and grabbed me from behind. I felt his dick’s hardness against my crotch. I knew what would follow when Blue Overall stood and unbuttoned his zip. I quickly told them I had recently given birth. They never touched me.”
We ululate. I wonder why I join somebody in celebrating his girlfriend’s virginity when he had earlier blamed me for shagging her. Jim is so happy that he kisses Karen right there. Then I start hating all these people. I was angry they had pressed me to book this venue for a thousand shillings, just to answer stupid questions. I feel my heart lighten as we walk down the stairs. Jim promises to buy me two beers. Steve and Pauline swear to be close friends. Karen gives me that sexy look, and I almost miss a step.
Image by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr.
About the Author:
Peter Ngila is an aspiring writer and a trained journalist, currently a correspondent with The Star Newspaper. Peter’s short fiction has appeared on Jalada Africa (Kenya), Praxis Magazine (Nigeria), Lawino Magazine (Uganda), Prachya Review (Bangladesh), Daily News (a Tanzanian Newspaper), among others. Ngila has attended the Writivism Creative Writing Workshops in Nairobi (2014) and Dar (2015), participated in the Writivism Mentoring Process (2014 and 2015) and attended the ultimate 2015 Writivism Festival in Kampala. He has a novella manuscript, and is currently working on a new project. Peter believes stories should be told freshly. [email protected]