One day, when I am old and walking around with a –curved at the top- stick, with a cool reputation for a storyteller, when I have a white beard covering my face and my scalp sticking above what’s left of my hair, when I have moved into my retirement home in a far-flung place, like Kisaju, when I am standing at the door leading to the backyard of the quarter acre plot, overlooking my fish pond and sugarcane trees, when my kids and their kids have come to visit, and my kids’ offspring are running around waving their Ipads in the air, I will call them next to the fish pond where I will sit on a stool and make them gather around like it’s a political rally.
And then I will start telling them stories about growing up in the east, the far east of Nairobi.
In every neighborhood, there was always that one guy who dictated how your day would turn out; he was the bearer of the key to the doors of fun. He held a certain power within him and you all made sure he was happy; you treated him right because he was the one with the football, or the bicycle, or both. If he happened to be elsewhere but home that day, you would all sit under the sun and watch cars pass by. If word went round that he was home and didn’t feel like coming out to play you all went to knock on his gate, to plead with him to give you the ball but he remained adamant because his mother had a golden rule: wherever the ball was, he should be there with it. So the match often halted when this jamaa was called into the digs for porridge at 4 p.m. “Wasee nimeitwa.” And that was it folks, the fat lady had done her number.
If all else failed, there was the marble champion, msee wa banoh. This one had a plastic tin full of them, these marbles. But he treasured just one, the metallic one because it was his secret weapon when you were playing: and listen to how creative we were, ‘cracky no payings.’ This meant that he could scour your glass banoh with his and not have to pay a cent, and if he happened to dent your banoh and you would look at him with puppy dog eyes, telling him that Mungu anakuona, he would stand by the commandment, with no regard that you didn’t have a bob to buy another one, with no mercy. No payings.
We raced bicycles, we stole lugwats, we played hide and seek in the dark, and we lit firecrackers and slid them into old people’s homes. We persuaded girls to hug us; those who succeeded became gods. (It goes without saying that yours truly was in this category) There was also that branch at the top of the tree, the one that hung loosely in the air. The first one to get to it during the tree climbing competition would get ultimate bragging rights, of the strongest in the herd, of being the most fearless, of getting the girl when it was all over. (It goes without saying that yours truly was the referee at such an event) That, my friends, is how legends were born.
And then time walked in. Time came, stirred every one of those moments and dissolved them into a thin film of distant memories. Technology came, drugs came, and puberty came. Girls blossomed into beautiful beings with curves housing striking dhighs; boys grew beards and developed deep voices. (Again, yours truly does not fall here) Some of us took alcohol, some went for pot, others went for both, and some lost their marbles within it all. Hehe.
Forgive me if it gets a bit didactic from now on.
So you’re having lunch at a decent place with friends, those joints where you prefer your fries soaked in watery chilly and vinegar along with a Coke. And then football comes up. Who can beat who at the sport. But because this is 2015 this dispute can be settled over a game of Fifa. So you ask who’s digs this head to head will go down, and you are laughed at, because you are naive and don’t know that there are arcades now. You’re reluctant to go because you hold a disdain for places thronged with people bursting with youth but you go to make these chaps at the table take their seats.
It’s an underground area. You are met with the ghastly scene of sweaty foreheads glowing from neon lights hanging above. The air is dense. It tastes like salt and raging hormones. You sit at a couch and watch these kids while away time, a group of boys with a bird or two tagging along. The girls sit and watch the gaming, bored out of their wits. You can see that she wants to get this show on the road, she badly needs a drink. So you follow these cats to find out where they get their poison.
They slip into those dark isolated bars in the middle of town. Also underground, lurking behind the shadows of M-pesa shops. The establishment will not want to know if you are a day older than sixteen or serve their drinks with a proper glass. And that is how you know that drinking has gone to the dogs.The glass just has to be there, sometimes it’s all about the glass. So now you’re seated in a dark corner, you watch them get drunk, followed by the talking in low volumes, followed by the entanglement of lips. These ones are really kissing, and not like that kissing that you watch on movies, no. They are going for the jugular with their tongues here. And then after all is dried up they leave, they’ll come back tomorrow and do it all over again, never mind that it’s a Tuesday.
As you drive home, you start to think about life and how time gets in the middle of things, how it changes things. You think about what can be done to cure this insanity, and then you see this scene here, and you decide not give a crap because they don’t pay you enough for this shit. Mungu anatuona.