I am seated in a City Hoppa on my way to town. It’s 12 minutes to 6:00 pm. The conductor to this particular bus is very enthusiastic. Amechangamka. This is very unlikely for these Hoppas labelled ndai ya wazee. He’s the only one I have met from this Sacco with this much energy.
Next to me on my right is a young man. I am sure he would tower over me if we were to stand. He’s tapping away on his Nokia mobile.
He nudges me with his elbow. I’m irritated. What you do that for? I give my I-am-going-to-kill-you-stare and he smiles. He’s got some nerve.
Unaenda home? (This is obviously because of the big ass suitcase I made an entrance into the matatu with)
Huendi home? (He’s still wearing his huge smile – the banana type).
Kwani home ni wapi? Kwenye naenda ndio home.
Sawa. Nlidhani unaenda ushago. (Still smiling).
I inwardly roll my eyes. Wherever I am headed, is not your destination boy! He confirmed this by alighting at Prestige.
On the Sunday we had scheduled to meet, my mother bailed out on me. She had some paperwork to complete, she had told me on a call that morning. I was to see her today. Boxing Day.
I managed to reach her when I called at around 11 am. She sounded quite sober. She would meet me in the house when I arrived.
The door was slightly ajar, an hour later on my arrival. I walked up to where she was and we greeted in her customary fashion. I realized she was drunk. A bit but enough for me to take notice.
Unlike the last time when awkward silence dominated the air, this time she was made stories, as she does in this state. She asked to tell me jokes. I nodded but deep down I was screaming No. I had a hunch I wouldn’t laugh.
She started with one of 3 tortoise. The next was about 3 rats. I was hoping she would tell the third to even the three’s but that was all she had. I forced a laugh at the conclusion of each. On her part, she laughed beautifully.
She told me she is quite unwell. She had gone for some tests and awaiting the results. She hoped it was not cancer. I looked at her, really looked at her. How could she hope for anything other than cancer after years of downing all kinds of liquor accompanied with cigarettes?
She said she is not hoping to live for more than 5 years. This woman, she hadn’t even been diagnosed! She countered herself saying she must survive. For my sake and my half brother’s turning 3 come January.
Death ni lazima kwa kila mtu. Usijali.
Why is she telling me this? Am I displaying emotion? Likely not. She’s hallucinating.
She told me we were going out to meet her friend. She was present when I made the call and had insisted on seeing me. The meeting, greeting, introduction.
As we were walking, I saw a woman opening her salon. She was familiar. We had met before. Shook hands and we had been introduced. She was looking our way. I was hoping she would let us pass by but she called out.
They started chatting as she scrolled through photos on her phone discussing how Christmas had been. I was standing, stealing glances at her phone to avoid looking like a stand-by bodyguard.
We entered a pub, an upgrade of the dingy ones she likes to frequent. It was almost full, despite it being only one in the afternoon. What happened to the law of drinking after 5pm?
The supposed woman who wanted to see me was fast asleep across one of the benches. Attempts to wake her failed. I was made to go meet and greet the bar owner. She touched my face. She felt the introduction went well.
That was just one of the many introduction sessions that followed.
I sit down at the bossy-looking leather seat. Beats me how it is intact yet the people present were not those you could count on to be responsible.
She wakes up and the greeting takes place. I had met her before. She’s as skinny as my mother. They call each other sisters. They remind each other of the many times they have spent in cells. Together. They are proud.
She’s the sponsor. She buys two drinks for them. My mother acts like the waitress. She’s the one getting the drinks, returning change and refilling once they cleared their mugs of keg. Slaved for a drink.
The sponsor buys me a bottle of 300ml soda. I want to refute the offer but I knew the lecture my mother would have in store for me. I drunk it grudgingly.
My mother stood from the end she was sitting. She asked if I would have eggs. I nodded although I had eggs as part of my breakfast. I silently prayed the too much protein intake won’t establish evidence on my face in form of tiny pimples.
I wanted to leave. I had only gone there to pick my things. It seems like the only reason I ever visit. I was feeling imprisoned in this space of drunkards.
The ‘sisters’ asked me to wait for the eggs to be ready. That is when I realised I would be eating fried and not boiled eggs as I had anticipated.
My mother said she would not be accompanying me back to the house and that I should find her at yet another pub where her procession had left for. She wanted to escort me.
I dragged the big ass suitcase down the murram road where one of the tyres flew off. I was forced to carry it all the way to the matatu stage.
I made a phone call. I soon saw her walking towards me. We talked (she did) for a while as I played with the handle to my suitcase.
She then said her ‘friends’ had refused to cater for her 50 shillings bill of whichever liquor she had been taking. Her phone had been taken away as payment. They had directed her to another pub to ditch her but she had found them.
Wanadhani watakaa na hiyo simu siku ngapi? Wataniona. Nitakuwa na pesa ta ngui.
A matatu pulled up. The conductor quickly took the big ass suitcase and placed it in. I pulled her into my kind of real hugs. No involving awkward handshakes. A hug should be a hug.
“I love you so much!” She uttered for the umpteenth time since we saw each other. Only happens under the influence.