At 23

Caution: Long sentence ahead.


Have you ever been in a bus –Kawangware bound– and it’s hot and airless, and you have a CAT due, and you’re squeezed between two men,  and the gum in your mouth has gone stale, and there are two men in front, chewing fat in Kikuyu, and you’re bothered because you’d really like to eavesdrop, but then you remember you don’t know the language, and you feel like your ancestors are looking upon you in shame –spitting tobacco and walking away– and you wonder whether they’re the ones sucking all the air from the bus, and, just when you thought you couldn’t be prickly enough, one of the kyuk chaps opens a packet of groundnuts, and the whole cabin smells like roasted dicotyledon, (or groundnuts are monocots?) and it’s so damn mouth-watering that your stomach growls in protest?


Hm? Have you ever?

Okay. How about this: Have you ever met Dj Shitii?

You haven’t?

Haaa! Shaka.


I have. And it was pleasant. I was painting the town with some friends, and I caught a glimpse of him, short-legged and broad of shoulder. I stopped him. His scraggly beard stopped too.


I told him I’m a writer, and that I’d like to interview him. This was before he became the face of a digital box-set. He gave me his number, and said to call him later.


I never did, though. I got shy after sobering up. But do you know what his Whatsapp status reads?

Kunyenyekea hakukosti chochote.


Hehe, it always makes me laugh, especially when I imagine it in his accent. Kweli wahenga hawakutuvisha miwani ya mbao waliponena: “Kunyenyekea hakukosti chochote.”


Yup. Walah Bin Walah would be proud.


I wonder if Dj Shitii takes the bus to Kawangware. Maybe the Ads paid enough, and he finally bought a car –the product of hard work and kunyenyekea.


I also dream of owning a car one day. A car will help me get to meetings quicker. A car will allow me to go on spontaneous road trips, with an even more spontaneous girl with a love for the open road.


Other than the trouser-troubling task of fuelling, a car would let me pick my own music, and I wouldn’t have to endure another dreary Trap mix by Dj Selekta Stinger. I wouldn’t have to sit next to a surly fat man who manspreads me out onto the aisle. (Ladies can I get an Amen?)


I wouldn’t break by back on the badly-reclined seat, and I wouldn’t have to be on the edge each time I hand the tout a 500 note. A car will give me plenty of legroom, and the AC wouldn’t have to be switched on by saying, “Unaeza fungua dirisha kidogo?”


But, by and by, I’m compelled towards a more adrenaline-filled mode of transit. A bike. A loud one, with tons of horsepower and a soft cushion for the adventurous spirit at the back –with her hair sticking out under the helmet, and her hands firmly around my waist.


Sadly I’m not even close to buying a car, or a bike. I dream of saving some money but, at my age, there’s vodka to buy and parties to go to and internet to pay for. There’s also a bit of house shopping to do, so that the authorities at home can conveniently forget that you rocked up late last night, loose-limbed, with alcohol on your breath.


And there presents another problem.

Do I now save up for a bike, or move out of my parent’s house?


I turned 23 last month. But I’ve been wrestling with this dilemma for a while, all thanks to a girl. (Isn’t it always?)


I met her in a mat. Citi Hoppa. I slid into the seat in front of her, by the window. She had a fluffy white scarf and a face like a toddler’s. I, meanwhile, had a CAT in 20 minutes, and I was flipping through the notes on my phone, cramming all I can while I can. The only time I looked up from the phone was when the tout came around, and then I went back to studying Magic in ATR. (Don’t ask).


And then this girl gets a phone call.

I swear there’s nothing worse than getting a phone call in a quiet mat, especially when I’m within earshot because my nosy ass will eavesdrop and then put you in my blog.



So this girl. Phone rings. She picks up. I sit up to listen. She speaks while leaning on the window, which means her voice is bouncing on the glass and getting right into my ear. She had a coasto accent, which I often find boring and played out.


I figured she was talking to a girlfriend. But she didn’t want anyone listening in. So she cunningly found a way to encrypt her words.


‘Cheki’ became ‘Chekiste.’

‘Halafu’ became ‘alafuste.’

And ‘Salimia boy wako’ became ‘Salimia boy wakoste.’


Shish! I bet Mr. Bin Wallah would punch her silly.


At some point she said, “Aki na vile anapenda kushika mademuste.”


She was really starting to piss me off, to tell you the truth. I damn near turned back and said, “Everyone can get what you’re saying, you halfwit.”


On and on she went, until I gave in and went back to my notes. I’d have had less of an idea of what she was saying if she spoke in Morse code.


No matter. I went through the rest of that day full of steely-eyed resolve, that I shall one day be rescued from the perils of public transport. And that I should start a savings account.


Well, at 23 I’m a serial procrastinator. I haven’t got around to that savings account yet. I make excuses.


At 23 I’m juggling school and writing. At least twice a week I get to write as a woman. I get to have breasts and colorful dresses. On this blog I get to be a callous monster, and I post only when I’m in the mood. And then on Fridays I put on some pants, button up my shirt, and chase after Craft It’s deadline. (Bett has been riding me hard lately. She won’t take copy that doesn’t excite her).


At 23 I’ve given up trying to read the classics. There’s only so much space I can make for akina Tolstoy, and Dickens.


I still get insecure about my art, at 23, and my drink of choice is vodka. I’m a bit drunk right now, in fact.


I’m going through another hat phase, so I’ve decided to finally get a hair-cut. At 23 the comma continues to be my favorite tool.


I text less at 23. Instagram has lost its appeal, not least because I apparently need IT expertise to paragraph my captions. Twitter is as fun as it gets, until you come by some angry feminists, and they make a complete horlicks of everything by opening your eyes to all the injustice of the world, so you also become angry, and you’re on the cusp of tweeting something like, “I’m unable to can,” or, “Can never be me.”


At 23 I’ve also found a smart way to whet my appetite on the whole bike issue.


I downloaded a game on my phone: Moto Racing Fever. Yup. At 23 I’m a gamer. And I’m terribly addicted, even though it’s like all the other racing games.


You tilt the screen to change lanes. You can’t turn off the traffic. You can upgrade your bike’s performance in ‘the showroom’. You get different challenges, from timed races to elimination rounds.

The opponents get tougher as you progress, and they’re not susceptible to traffic. They can drive right through entire vehicles. But you try colliding with a bus at 150kph, and watch the opponents zoom past, leaving you to choke on their tail-lights.


Then at the finishing line you’ll be met by a banner in big red font: You Lose. Try again?


And then there’s the coins business. You win coins when you clinch first place. You win coins for doing wheelies, and making near misses. You can get even more coins by opening something called The Case, which is more like spinning a fortune wheel. You could win various prizes, from more coins to green tickets. Having tickets allow you to spin the wheel again.


It’s a circus, really, and whoever came up with this reward system must be proud. He has single-handedly kept my mind hooked on rewards that, ultimately, don’t really mean anything. He even put in the option of a daily log-in bonus. After five days of logging-in you win –and there’s no other way to say this– more bloody coins.


If only I could convert the coins I’ve amassed to real money. I could afford a pretty good bike myself.


Of course the wiser option would be to read a book. But who wants to read about ‘Theology in the African Context’ when you can get on a virtual bike and ride across the countryside? Who doesn’t want to win some coins?


But 23 is not a game. Someday soon I’ll realize that I’m too big for my parent’s house. I’ll start to feel like a privileged refugee. I’ll want more independence. I’ll tire of quiet dreaming in matatus. One day I’ll be ashamed of my 23 year old self, in bed at 9am, immersed in the virtual world of Moto Racing, upgrading my bike, winning coins –securing the bag.


One day I’ll have to swing my knapsack, shoulder my musket, and be on the march, quickstep, towards adulting and self-reliance.


At 23 I just hope that –at the finish line- my banner reads: “You win. Advance to the next round?”







2 thoughts on “At 23

  1. all stars are alike, they just shine differently.
    After reading your piece on Biko’s blog and now this, its like my situation has was finally poured out to me in words that i have been afraid to admit is my current situation.


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