Tales of Nairobi at Night

There is so much that people take for granted.

-Vivienne Westwood

I will never be able to explain why it is I do the things I do. One its because I do not think I really know the answer either and two, because it is pretty hard to put some of them in words. However in this continuous post of no one particular story I will try to capture some of it into words but I still feel it wount deliver my point as I would like it to.

For the past one week I have been experiencing a writer’s block like no other. Its not a state of just being still, like my life turned into a pool of stagnant water or a swamp with no waves and tides. Life has been rather calm and still though. Why I say I have been experiencing a writers block is not because my life became this still water that stays put, as a matter of fact there has been so much I wanted to write about. So much I wanted to just sit on my bed with my legs crossed like a Chinese monk meditating for the biggest fight of his life and let my fingers run through the keys while I tell you, good stranger who probably doesn’t care of the not-s0-great escapades of my life, about. Because its the only way I know how to get things off my chest. There was a lot clogging the atteries of my heart trying to find their way out but just no words to say… and why? get this… I was just too happy. I still am, rather too happy than I usually am that I am actually scared. It feels like I am on a high that wont cease.

You have probably met me while you go about your life smilling to myself and showing the last teeth on my great dental formula. You have probably sat next to me in a matatu while I sat there next to you but my mind and my soul wondered into my own little heaven with my eyes closed while i harmed to a song on the radio. I have been walking around with my own background music, a mélange of all my favourite songs playing at the back of my head all at the same time constantly rising to cresendos of heavenly voices that only I seem to hear. Everything has been smelling rather nice, with scents that carry with them memories of people I like, love and places I have been. I spent a whole hour in the morning sniffing my freshly laundered clothes with the smell of lavenders on them, then afterward I stood by the kitchen sink looking outside the window to the kitchen yard peeling an orange and I sniffed the peels, I squeezed the juice in my hands and like a demented moron I rubbed it on my face, before I could figure out what it was I was doing I was smilling to myself again. I can almost swear a little piece of heaven fell on me.

On sunday last week I left the house late in the evening and made my way to the town square. FYI, the town square in Nairobi is the National Archive. It is central and lots of folks meet there. It was already getting dark, the streets glowing under the beautiful neon lights. I was simply wearing my shorts, sneakers and a woolen sweater. I was not meeting anyone, I had no mobile phone with me, I had just put down a book I was reading and left the house like I was heading to the nearest store to get milk. I sat on the pavements outside the archives, drawing in a lump some of the Nairobi air. Suddenly its like the rest of the world could not see me. I sat there till nine observing people walk around. There was a drunk couple negotiating for taxi rates to head home holding onto each other in their drunken stupor. A cluster of women and their children sat right outside the National Archives in cluster selling fruits, handkerchiefs, and other merchandise. A woman with two kids I concluded were his sons sat right in front of me a little distance away. The older son looked 12 and the younger one was barely a year because he was learning how to crawl. The mother and the brother whatched this tiny toddler in his fours as he learnt to move on his own. I watched the smile on their face and the lack of fear that someone would step on his tiny little fingers. As if to usher him in what the world was truly like, teaching him to take on his fears, that in a world full of giants that walked on two feet, he, just but a tiny little being could make his move without fear. All the while I would get a little uncomfortable  that someone would step on him but no one did.

A young couple walks while holding hands under a bridge in central Seoul

A little further on my left, with his back against the wall, sat a small boy, his name is Alex. He was holding onto his legs in a tight embrace like he was feeling cold. In front of him was a bowl of groundnuts wrapped in tiny clear plastic wraps. He was gazing on the statue of Tom Mboya in deep thought as if trying to figure out who this man was or how the statue was made. So I went up to him, it was almost 9:00pm my folks would get worried with no phone to contact me. I went up to Alex to buy groundnuts on my way home, not that I was craving for nuts, I wanted to find out if he could give correct change. I wanted to understand why a seven year old would be out in the cruel streets of Nairobi at nine selling groundnuts. Alex proved smart, from my a hundred shilling note he knew he was supposed to give me a change of ninety shillings and I was impressed. So I let him keep the rest of the change and concluded our chat with my cliché speech of “usome kwa bidii.” study hard. Like I knew education was his only salvation, like I could gurantee him  that educated peoples sleep in their beds all warm and tucked in. Like I could give him my word there were no educated people in the streets. So I left him litteraly looking up to a great man. Not me, but Tom Mboya, and even he with his right hand lifted to the heaven seemed to be beckoning God to rescue him from his eternal misery of cold nights, scorching sun and pure neglect by the citizens of the nation he fought for and lost his life for. Have you seen the statue lately, have you seen the pool of water around him that has turned green with litters of all sorts, from cheap bottles of liquor, wrappings of sweets and used condoms. Yeah used condoms, I would love to find out how they got there in the first place. So maybe when I meet alex next time, I will tell him the story of Tom Mboya. I will sit next to him with my back against the wall in a tight embrace of my long legs and tell him the story of a great man and there will be no happy ending. It will end in a sudden tragic death of a hero. He will probably look me straight in the eye for a much better conclusion and I will tell him, “son, happy endings are overrated,” and that some of the greatest stories in the world end in tragedies. Happy endings are only in fairy tales, and fairy tale are not real… that is why they begin with once upon a time.”

Friday night, I was in the streets of Nairobi yet again. Friday are for letting lose, living wild and reckless, but not last Friday. last Friday I was at the August memorial park telling her about the yin and yang concept. That in every good there is a little bit of bad and in every bad there in a little bit of good. I don’t think she quite believed me. That the world would not be in balance if there was too much good, that if there was too much good in the world it would mark its imminent end. Then we stood looking at the sculpture made out of the wrecks of the 1998 August 8th bombing of the American embassy. I was telling her what I thought the sculpture meant. That although people die, death could not tie as on the ground like the remains of that wreck. All the while I was trying to understand why one man would harbor so much hate as to take the lives of innocent people. I was trying to imagine this guy standing in his offices looking outside the window on the 20th floor smiling to himself. He was finally living the life, recently got married, got a promotion and a baby on the way, and he probably thought to himself life could not get any better. Then there was a loud bang, the loudest he ever heard and just like that he ceased to exist in the world as we know it. Left the wife and the unborn in a world so full of uncertainties and dreams that remained just but dreams.

Then I was holding her hand as we lazily sauntered along the streets of Nairobi, and I remember telling her how beautiful she looked under the street lights. Then she pulled me onto her and our lips touched, ever so softly and it felt like I was rubbing rose petals against my lips, my eyes closed to the onlookers as I lost myself to passions untamed and I knew that that was public indecency in Nairobi but I would have gladly pleaded guilty in a Nairobi court to the jury that I kissed her lips. All the while I was scared, that I might get used to all this happiness and learn not to appreciate it. That the ever rising crescendos of heavenly voices in my head will one day fall and completely cease. Scared that maybe time moved a little too first and even more scared of the imminent fall of me, because life is not just a climb… my time to keep falling would soon catch up with me, but until then I am still smiling to myself, sniffing different smells and savoring the moment.













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