HALF OF A NAIROBI HALF LIFE.
“Wewe!! Mwiziiii!!” I yelled, as I chased after the little boy. I was running out of breath. The stupid child was bloody fast! I charged one last time, gathering all the energy I had left in me. I had to catch him, I couldn’t let him get away. Nope! Not this time. “Oe!” A concerned passerby yelled. I was slowly gaining on the ragged boy. There was no way he was getting away with my purse. Al….m….ost there…..
“Nimekushika!(Gotcha!)” yelled a scruff voice as a gigantic man picked up the scrawny boy.
“Ni huyu ndiye amekuibia madame? Nitambonda na nim….” (Is he the kid who has stolen from you madame. I will pound him and I-)
“Ah ni sawa tu, mweke chini, nitadeal na yeye. Asante,” (No, it’s OK. Just put him down I’ll deal with him. Thank you) The butcher had caught the boy while he was collecting his gigantic steak from the white van on the sidewalk with the red strip that was characteristic of all Farmer’s Choice vehicles. He dropped the scared little boy onto the muddy sidewalk, wiped his bloody hands on his filthy apron and heaved the cow thigh onto his shoulder. I grabbed the boy and my purse,
“Wewe!! Wewe wewe wewe! Leo utanitambua!! Uliniibia…”(You you you!! Today you will know who I am! You stole from me..) I grabbed the hood-rat by his collar and dragged him to the back of the alley, out of sight and earshot of the many distracted passers-by who had already slowed down to watch the drama and see what crazy lash the kid would get. I dumped him behind the gigantic bin that had a rancid stench of week-old mangoes from the hawkers market. When I was sure we were out of earshot, I hugged the little boy in my arms.
“That was amazing Zeke! That was your best yet, but what did I tell you about the overcrowded areas?!”Always look for an alley…” ” -wherever people dillydally…” he finished. “Come here boy. ”
I pulled the little kid into another huge hug. I couldn’t help but sigh. I loved him soo much. I couldn’t believe he had to go through all this in such a short span of time, at such a tender age. A tear glistened in my eye as I felt his hands hold on to my fairly full hips, they were way skinnier compared to last week. Nobody should have to live this sort of life. I quickly brushed the tear off.
“Let’s go for lunch kiddo. For your exceptional work today, I’ll let you choose whatever you want. So, what do you want?”
“Aunty I really would love to try one of those Tuskys hotdogs you talk about so much.”
“Ok, you know though that I can’t get you anything without my wallet. Hand it over.”
He handed over my purse and we walked down to the gigantic mall.
After 1 and a half hours of eating junk food and playing video games at the make-shift arcade, We strolled back out into the noisy and dusty reality of Nairobi.
“You full kiddo?”
“Yup!” He replied!!
“Are the coins enough for a 2hr raid?”
“Yup!” He said with my favourite smile of his yet.
“Good!! Run along now!”
He half-ran, half bounced-off licking his lollipop in his left hand, his other skinny hand holding onto all the other goodies he’d stuffed in his pocket. He then went behind the gigantic recycle bin, hid the goodies behind a hole I’d dug into the wall with him a few nights ago and covered it with a rock. He then looked back at me waved and scampered off into the alleyways.
I arrived home, totally drained and exhausted from my evening shift. Immediately I got through the door, I dropped everything onto the floor and trumped up the stairs. I couldn’t be bothered brining them up with me. Plus, all I really needed was my computer, to catch up on one of the thousands of series I followed and a warm cocoa. Oh yeah, and my hot water bottle. I put the kettle to boil and slumped into the comfy sofa.
I woke up from the irritation in my now dry and aching throat. Darn!! I’d fallen asleep on the couch and the chilly air from the open kitchen window had settled well into my throat. I checked my watch. 2:17am. I was too tired to do anything else. I shut the window, trumped up the stairs and slumped into my shockingly cold but welcomingly comfortable bed. Times like these, I was grateful for my quiet 2 bedroomed house, which had 2 levels, but was still weirdly small, in a way that I never felt lonely.
“Today, I’m gonna teach you how to take a royal dump.”
“But Aunty I live on the street, I can pretty much dump where I want!” He said in a whiny voice. “Can’t we just go play at the arcade today?”
“Who do you want to be like when you grow up?”
“And what are Donald Trump’s toilets made of?”
“Gold and silver and….”
“Do you know who owns Gold and silver?”
“Umm… kings and queens and…”
“Yep, that’s right, royalty. If you want to be like Donald Trump, you gotta learn how to take a royal dump!” I told him.
This was always my favourite part of the day. The 2hour siesta I got from work that allowed me to hang out with my favourite nephew. I loved this boy like my own son. He was all that I had. Other people had their sons or daughters, pets, friends. I had this scrawny little street urchin, my half-sister’s son. He was by far, the smartest kid I knew. Only been through 3years of Primary school but could reason better than half the adults that worked at my bank. He was my guardian angel, and the fact that he had to sleep on a piece of cardboard every night with only a fairly worn-out 1-inch blanket to protect him from the biting cold of the Nairobi streets, while I cuddled my hot water bottle, gutted me to the core. When I wasn’t passed out on my couch from my exhausting day, I was thinking of this charismatic little boy. You’d think that by being the child’s aunt I’d be in a perfect position to get him out of this ragged and depressing situation, but then again, you haven’t meant his psychotic mum.
“Ok, so lesson Number one, you have to look the part. Do you have your old Sunday Jeans with you?”
“Yes, but they are torn in the inner thigh.”
“No-one is looking at your inner thigh boy!” I slowed down as the boy took off his ragged pants and put on his inner-thigh-ripped jeans in the middle of the oblivious crowd and handed it to me. I tucked it in my new Ksh 700 duffel bag. He then took off his tattered shirt to reveal a neat blue checked shirt.
“Where the hell did you get that from?”
“Knicked it off some shop on Moi Ave,”
“What the-?! What did I tell you about ta-…….”
“No, don’t worry Aunty, I got it at Gikomba for 5bob only. I paid for it. Promise.” I gave him one of those looks that read, -you better have.
With a little spit, we moistened the ashy parts of his face and elbows and walked into the Grand Hilton Hotel. The little boy was dumbstruck at the entrance and couldn’t stop staring at the magnificence of the ceiling.
“Zeke! Manners!” Having been to the Hilton quite a few times, I knew my best way in with the least likely interception from those useless ushers who were paid heaps of cash to do nothing but stare at everybody all day.
“OK. So the guys’ toilets are on that side. You can SIT on the toilet seat (that’s the best part about royal toilets) – I whispered. Take the biggest dump you can and want to, and I’ll meet you in 10mins. I’ve got to take a dump of my own too.”
The little boy half bounced, half ran to the toilets still staring in awe at the high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and Persian drapes. Walls part made of marble with glistening gold and silver finishings. I smiled as I watched him take it all in. I really felt that this kid had amazing potential. I was one of those people who believed in – if you want to be rich, do what the rich do. I felt that exposing him to this sort of lifestyle, and giving him access to it would allow him to dream big enough.
I went off to the loo, I really did need to take a dump but I also had a couple of emails I had to respond to. I went and sunk into my favourite corner toilet. Hilton toilets really were comfy.
“Oh shit!!” I exclaimed when I looked at the time on my phone…. Zeke was probably out of the toilet 10mins ago and lost in the gigantic halls of the Hilton. Oh crap oh crap! I really hope he doesn’t get into trouble, I thought.
I wandered off into the Kifaru wing only to meet a huge gathering of people and press, must be some hotshot guy, I thought to myself. I was busy scanning the hall amidst the crowd looking for Zeke when I heard his voice. What had the little kid gotten himself into now, I thought. All of a sudden, the mass of people in suits and press erupted into loud laughter.
“Next future President people,” said the clearest, most distinct and eloquent voice I knew. Nobody could miss that. That was definitely the 4th president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta – the most eloquent of our presidents yet. But when I paid attention to him, my jaw dropped. Right beside him, beaming from ear to ear was Zeke! He was the centre of attention. My eyes widened in horror and I froze.
“Where’s your mummy little boy?”
“There! There! ” It took him yelling and running towards me to snap me out of my dumbstruck state. He pulled the president’s arm and led him to me. His gazillion Men in black following behind them.
The President extended his arm towards me, ” You have a fine young gentleman right here.” He’s already giving me a run for my seat!”
I could only manage a stiff nod. Zeke slipped his hand into mine and I pretty much watched with my jaw dropped as the platoon of guards and press filed out of the hotel.
“Oh My God that was sooo cool! Can we come back again tomorrow?”
“Hey, hey…not so fast! We don’t want to be too popular now do we.”
I decided to treat him to a triple-priced small bottle of fanta from the bar. I watched the little boy hurriedly sip his cold soda as he bumped his feet excitedly against the chair. I had dreams for this boy. Massive ones. I would personally make sure that he was something major in life.
When he was done… We walked out of the hotel and went closer to the corner he worked. I handed him his ragged pants which he pulled up over his good jeans, and tattered oddly bleached shirt. I kissed him on his forehead and squatted so that we were on the same eye-level.
“Zeke, if ever in life you feel low, or you feel like things will never work out. If you feel like your circumstances will never change. I want you to take a bath, put on your best clothes and go take a Royal dump, ok?”
“Who knows, I might meet Trump!” I couldn’t help but smile. He gave me a quick peck and scurried off. My boy was already rhyming, like me.
The next day, I was too excited to meet Dee, so much that I took my break 15mins ahead of time. If he hadn’t seen the papers, he definitely had to! I read the headline again excitedly as I hurried toward our meeting corner.
“President anoints future president. The president yesterday got outsmarted and stunned by a young 10yr old boy. The boy who was having lunch at the Hilton with his mother met the president in the….”
“ooooh! Ero iparo ni ing’eyo kaka nyathi na onego obet? An mama ne! A timo kaka ahero!! (Oh, so you think you know how to raise my child? I’m his mother. I do as I please)” yelled a familiar voice in our native luo tongue.
These words were barely out of the crazy lady’s mouth than I was pulled by my tightly braided bun and flung onto the floor. “Kumbe wee ndo…unamfunzanga…hizi…ujinga zote nasikianga….(So you are the one, teaching him all this stupid things I hear) She screamed, her pauses punctuated with sharp and ruthless kicks to my side.
“Unaniona sijiwezi? (You think I can’t take care of him myself?) Mad a yud ni iromo gi nyathina kendo (Let me not find you meeting my son again). Aki ya nani utaniona(you will regret it)”
With that, she flung me with such an unbelievable force that sent me sprawling on the filthy pavement. The force had definitely upset the child strapped securely on her back by a kanga who erupted into an endless scream. The paper went flying in the wind while the books I’d brought for our Thursday read, landed on me in heavy thuds.
I sat up under the books to catch a glimpse of Zeke standing behind his mother staring at me. A fresh bruise on his cheek, and eyes welling in tears and devoid of hope, before his mother spat on me and yanked him away. His eyes, faintly calling for help.
But I was helpless. My body could barely move. I caught a glimpse of them moving round the corner and in that moment, my broken heart couldn’t bear it. I wanted to die.