Hi, This is an ongoing fictional recount, of how I began writing, as a young man, straight from college. I capture the challenges youth undergo, as they seek employment, and as they prepare for life post college.
Sun set, and sun soar, the day to see Apondi approached. Not that I’d anticipated that visitation or anything, but it would, at least for me, striate, albeit for a single evening, my time. Since Matano, Eve Apondi, Anne and I, met in town, in that Steers joint, five weeks had elapsed. Those weeks had been mechanical. Those weeks had been drawn-out. Those weeks had been exasperating. Those weeks. Boredom filled and refilled those days. Annoyance painted Fred’s bright walls black. I, Taifa Mkenya, annoyed at himself. Annoyed at Fred, this my host. Annoyed at Uncle, back in Maili Tisa. Annoyed at Uncle’s seven daughters, and their mother. Annoyed at furniture. Annoyed at TV. Annoyed at movies, with all their characters. Annoyed at the weather. I couldn’t tell why. But, Jane Shish, this Fred’s girlfriend, I liked, much as she despised me—as far as I could discern. So it happened.
Remember, reader, when Eve Apondi, during that meet-up in town, five weeks ago, recommended that I should try out those a-freelancing jobs, I did. First week following that meet-up, I surfed these freelancing sites online, and other related sites, and discovered that there existed some jobs I could work. By some means, I secured some money for more data bundles, then appropriated Fred’s laptop, a-during those periods when he and his Shish played in the house, a-drinking. Then, I’d surf and surf and surf. Doing what? You might ask. Listen, reader, these jobs, they required me to own an online account. And this business of a-opening an online account, providing a CV, opening another payment account or some other, a-corroborating the self-same account, then a-waiting for endorsement…this business stultified me. You see. So, with this development, I called Eve, and she said:
“Ni nini wewe!” what is it with you!
“Maze iyo story siezani,” I can’t handle that process, I said.
Eve Apondi, she accepted, she’d propose me to a friend of hers, Ken, who possessed an online freelance account, with surplus services, that he’d extend to me, at a convincing remuneration, should he recruit me; my initial service of course, a-counting as interview. Ken allowed he’d try me, on strength of Eve’s inducement, I believe.
The following week, Ken Onyango he emailed me some labor. In two days, as he stated on that expressive email, I’d to submit that exercise, completed. He wrote, that labor, in its framing, would take few hours to finish; however, he allowed, consideration of my inexperience a-guiding his decision, that I should clear it in two days. To my advantage it happened, in those two crucial days, that Fred and his girl they passed outdoors. His laptop I could employ for as long as I required. That labor, in my fair mind, I accomplished in the most proficient procedure I knew. A boy must work. Remember, reader, I (Taifa Mkenya) hold a degree in Soil Technology, as I had said in previous recounts, from one of Kenya’s finest universities. And it is with this four-year knowledge, recalled at these hours of necessity, that I undertook that labor.
Friday evening of that week, as accepted, Ken would have wired my first payment, through Mpesa (this mobile payment platform). No text had I received from my employer, during that protracted payment day, even as belated as 6 p.m. When the first text buzzed into my phone at around 7 p.m., I fished my identification card from my wallet and out I bolted. An Mpesa agent located himself downstairs, beside the main door of this our flat. Downstairs, I ran. On the first floor, I opened that text as I descended. At the ground floor, I could see, some spruce children play and giggle. In some houses on this floor, I heard women laugh and clap. Aauuuwih! Twap! On the stair railing on my left, a cat perched, a-purring, round-eyed, red-eyed, a-regarding me without a-blinking. That text I opened, reader. I hoped it originated from Mpesa, it didn’t. I prayed it delivered my 5,000 shillings remuneration, it didn’t. I wished it explained why the payment should delay, it didn’t. It declared, that overdue message: you are such a BIG joke!
Sun set, and sun soar, the day to see Apondi approached. Not that I’d anticipated that visitation or anything, but it would, at least for me, striate, albeit for a single evening, my time. All ladies and gentlemen affected, concurred, Friday would fit all. Fred Sang Fredo, this my three-month host, would attend. His girlfriend, Jane Shish, confirmed attendance too. My fine friend, Anne Mogendi, promised she’d appear. And this our convener, Eve Apondi, the girl who proposed me to Ken Onyango the freelancer, a girl with a sound body, provided directions to her residence in Umoja estate.
We should have left Kawangware at 6:30 p.m., this Friday: Jane, Fred and I. Where Jane delayed I didn’t know. Yesterday, she’d passed the day with Fred, a pattern I had observed and accommodated; but yesterday, she failed to spend the night. Myself, too consumed and absorbed in my own world of distress and redundancy to care a thought, I couldn’t ask Fred why. Anyway, a-during the day, this Friday I say, Fred he kept a-calling this Shish of his, and a-texting her very. By and by, time flew and darkness descended upon Kawangware, this our estate of residence, in the outskirts of Nairobi. When it clocked 7 p.m., Fred he resolved we, the two of us, would head without Shish, that the latter would join as later, as she (as he reported) cleared some a-pressing engagements in her mother’s house. And I said, “Yap, no problem.”
In both matatus from Kawangware to town, and town to Umoja estate, Fred and I sat apart, as we found the matatus half boarded, with no double empty seats. Both Kawangware and Umoja estates, resembled each to a degree, not in a one-one mapping kind of way, but the mainstream organization of the setting and the conduct of the citizens. I bet other estates of similar caliber in this Nairobi, bore the same resemblance. You met hawkers. People thronged the bus stop. Boys and girls, this Friday, headed to town. Vehicle hoots and cart hoots and tout shouts, you heard. At 8:30 when we alighted, men and ladies still undertook their engagements. A-roasting maize. A-selling groceries. A-welding a-wire. A-tending a shop. A-butchering a goat. A-vending medical drugs in them chemists. A-working a restaurant. A-carting water. A-hawking a cap, underwear, bra, vests, wigs, sweaters, pants, and so forth. A people must labor, to make a living.
Fred he launched this Google Maps to navigate our way in those a-zigzagging, occupied paths, to Eve’s flat. Then I alerted Eve that we stood at the gate and she descended double-quick.
“Oh you guys are late!” she said as soon as she swung the main door open, “And where the hell is Jane—your chic, she was to come, right?”
“Oh yeah, she’s coming, later,” Fred he said. We finished that a-hugging business and trailed this Eve inside, upstairs. A short, pink dress she wore. And her bare back shone, when the fluorescent light met her silken, dark skin. And she—her sound body—smelt like chicken, fried chicken. Had she been in the kitchen, a-cooking? She and I ascended side by side, and Fred he tracked us. On the third floor, Eve she said, “Mkenya, how have you been?” and the breath that issued from her mouth said, liquor is available.
“Good!” said I. Her sandals, she dragged them over the steps. Today, her head hid in bushy, long, black curls. And her lips, as ever, remained well-attended.
“Oh, gosh…we are finally here!” she said in a pleasant, tired voice, when we ascended the fourth floor. My ears never lie. These my ears, they perceived the bass beats of music, techno music, club music, dancehall music—I don’t know. At door marked F7, we paused. That music, reader, sprang from this F7 place. Outside the door, male shoes and girl shoes heaped. Her sandals, Eve she left them there, and Fred and I began undressing our footwear. My socks this time stayed as fresh as a daisy. Yes. What a flora is daisy, anyway? That F7 door, Eve she pushed it open. What a boom, reader. What a mighty volume. That wave of a blare it swept me so. By reflex, my hands shook to cover my ears; I stopped those hands. A body can readjust his eyes, but not his ears. In there, I readjusted my eyes to blend with the flickering blue light that issued from the dangling bulb. Eve she stayed in a one-bed roomed house she’d rented not long ago, with a mighty sitting room.
Eve, she began:
“DJ! DJ, punguza volume kidogo!” DJ! DJ, lower the volume a degree!
That DJ she didn’t hear Eve.
“Weh Caren! Karesh, punguza volume!” You Caren! Karesh, reduce the volume!
Caren Karesh, she heard, and headed. She worked something on her laptop and removed her earmuffs. And looked up at us. Eve she said, “Ndio hawa wamefika, but kuna mmoja bado anakam,” here they are, they have arrived, but one is still on the way. My right shoulder, Eve she touched,“Huyu ni Taifa Mkenya, tuliwakuwa naye Colle, wengine wenu mnamjua. Na huyu ni Fred, beshte yake,” This is Taifa Mkenya, we were together in college, some of you know him. And this is Fred, his friend.
The DJ she worked her laptop and the speakers and the woofers they issued a series of welcome siren sounds, and the citizens in this house they said, “Wazi, wazi!” Swell, swell!
Still a-standing, Eve pointed out citizens in this her house. Eric Kama, I studied with in college, he sank in the brown couch on my right. In that flickering blue light, he, this Kama, appeared as black as a monkey from Kakamega rain forest. Beside him, a lady relaxed, a bottle clutched in left hand, the other hand a-resting on Kama’s left thigh. I don’t recall that girl’s name. Next to the girl, towards us, Adam Mwala, a boy from Mombasa, college mate too, reclined, head laid on the couch’s back, phone in hand. “You Taifa, come! Come here,” that Adam he said, but Eve she held my hand now: introductions underway. After Adam, you saw Alex Matano, my best friend, this graduate who lived with his parents in Buruburu estate. Alcohol, Alex never tasted, in his hand though, a proud bottle erected; its label, I couldn’t read. I think he never noticed we’d arrived. Peter Njue, a boy I had never encountered, sat adjacent to Alex, closer to the door.
On the opposite side, where the DJ stationed herself, a boy, taller and lighter than I, stood, a-dancing. “That’s Ken Onyango,” Eve she hissed into my ears. My employer. Behind Ken, a big boy, modish and untroubled, called Joe Lisutsa, perched on a straight-backed chair, a-flipping his phone’s screen, his head a-nodding to the music, which Caren the DJ had maintained a level volume we could talk above.
Into the kitchen, Eve she disappeared. Fred he walked to rest by the DJ’s side. Erected, I remained, for few seconds. On the table, between these two teams of citizens, leggy bottles of liquor lined; proud and tall like mighty chess pieces. Musty smell of alcohol staggered the room, and at intervals, a fried chicken whiff from the kitchen would visit this our location, the room of the living. Reader, lets avoid a-taking inventory and a-making extended descriptions of this our host’s house beyond what should matter. Let’s respect her privacy, OK?
Now, Alex Matano he said, a-beckoning me, “Taifa! Mkenya!”
Between Alex and Peter, I positioned myself. For sure, he’d tasted a pint. This Alex. This marvelous friend who never drank. He said, a-lowering his voice, “How have you…been my friend.”
In the same lowered tone, I (Taifa Mkenya) said, “I’m good bro.”
“Hah, you sure?”
“Yap,” Taifa said.
“You know…if you need anything, mhn? Anything, let me know, mnh?”
“Yap. But I’m good bro, don’t worry,” said I. To say the truth, reader, I lied. I told you I had experienced extended, exasperating weeks on end. So much so that this visitation provided a relief. And I had quieted about it. Not even Fred, this my host, did I share with. All the jobs I had applied for, no reply ever surfaced. And even that online writing business, which this Ken Onyango would permit me perform, at a small pay, I couldn’t handle: it was so consuming, it was so demanding, it was so tiring. Not that I preferred indolence to industry, reader, no. I couldn’t do it, that business. You understand? Mnh, reader, do you understand? Anyway, as I said, I never shared my plight with Fred. After all, a boy must not whine.
“You said you had started doing online job?” Alex, he said.
“Yap, but I stopped.”
“I didn’t like it.”
“Was it hard?”
“No, not at all. I just didn’t like it, you know.”
“Hah, I see. Let’s hope for the best.”
So conversing, Alex and I passed time, as he imbibed his drink. Meanwhile, the other citizens: Joe, Ken, Adam, Peter, Eric Kama and Fred, rocked their bodies, to music, whose volume, DJ Karesh had increased again.
After some time, my phone buzzed and I saw a text from Anne Mogendi, this lady friend of mine whom we ( I, Alex Matano and Eve Apondi ) had met in town, some weeks ago. During that meeting of three, Eve Apondi invited us to her new house today, this Friday, late March, 2014. She, Anne, in her text, asked how the housewarming party progressed. I replied it went well.
“Are you drinking?” she said, in the next text.
“Nop,” I said, in my reply.
“And where are you? You were to come.”
“I’m in church, later,” she said, in her final text.
Why did she query if I drank? Of course she knew I never did. Why did she ask? This long-skirted girl, with an eternal rosary a-dangling on her neck, mother of one. Why did she, mhn? Now that she asked, what the heck, why not? I wouldn’t die, would I? Reader, mnh? Uncle, back in Maili Tisa wouldn’t discover, would he? Mnh? It doesn’t harm anyway, for a boy, 24, to taste, right?
I observed those bottles on that table. I did. Reader, have you ever heard this story of a monkey and an angel? Where an agile, black monkey perches on your left shoulder and guides you in making important decisions? Then on your right shoulder, a sleepy, tired, white angel stoops there, to counter the spry monkey, so to speak? Listen, reader, that happened to me. Not as a mythical story or anything of that kind, no. But a true happening, a fact. At the beginning, I imagined I hallucinated. I thought my state of mind had distorted my sense of reality. No hallucination ever occurred, in truth. What happened is, reader, what happened is; I felt a monkey perch on my left shoulder. This monkey, it whooped and skipped and hopped and wagged her tail about my face and whooped again and grinned and scratched her tummy and laughed and grazed my hair and tapped my ear, and by and by, my monkey he said, “Hello, Taifa.” No white angel did I notice.
“Mnh?” said I.
“You see that?” my monkey he said, a-pointing at the arrangement of bottles on the table. “Do you,” he continued, a-whooping.
“Touch it,” my monkey he said.
Meantime, Alex Matano he elbowed me and asked if I talked to myself, like a half-wit or something. I told him if anybody, if any citizen in that Eve’s house turned half-wit, it would be him, Alex Matano himself, for he drank.
My monkey he said, “Forgive him. He doesn’t know what he is talking about, ahihihihi. Ahihihihi.”
“Yap,” said I.
“Now. Touch it,” my monkey he said. I did. That bottle of…of…of…ah, forget the brand; that bottle of liquor I prized it open, with my front teeth. And I guzzled that water. It tasted musty. A virgin drinker. I heard the citizens say, “Wazi, wazi,” swell, swell. The DJ she worked her siren tricks on the laptop and rewound her current song. My monkey he said, “You see, it wasn’t hard, you see. Ahihihihihi. Ahihihihihi!”
I don’t recall when Eve laid the table for supper. I think we consumed friend chicken and liver and rice and ugali and greens and milk. And I think she served me two plates of each item, I don’t remember, or did my eyes register two objects for one? Indeed, as I ate, I noticed I owned two right hands, and both of them dipped into mirror plates and picked whatever lay in there. In my two left hands, I clutched two indistinguishable bottles. As I ate, from my two right hands, I drank from my two left hands. On my left shoulder, my monkey he nodded and clapped and whooped, “Ahiihihihihihihi. Ahiiiiiihi!”
Cleansing my four hands after a-eating I don’t recall. But I remember my monkey he helped me rise to my feet. Four legs I had developed. I began to dance. One body part, two body parts, three body parts, all body parts. And my monkey he twirled along. And the citizens they affirmed my initiative. And Eve Apondi she relocated the table and all her bottles, a-creating a sublime dance floor. All those citizens they joined the floor, even DJ Karesh. Much of what those citizens uttered or acted, I don’t remember. Anyway, at one point I remember a-dancing close to Ken Onyango, that employer that never was, and I believe I said, “You…go to hell with all your stupid business!” If he retaliated with a jab or a slap or another insult, I don’t remember. Then I remember I danced close to Joe too. He must have said, “You are Taifa?”
“Yaaaaap,” I, Taifa, must have said.
“You want a job? Why?”
“Yaaaaaap…” said I. My head was a-nodding. My eight limbs were a-swaying. My one body was a-jiggling. My monkey was a-whooping, “Ahihihihi!”
“You really want a job? Why?” this Joe, I think he said.
“Yaaaaaap! What is wrooong with your head…?”
“Ok, I’ll give you work, but you will work under Ken,” that tall, smart, quiet Joe he said, I think.
Work with Ken…work under ken…work for Ken…work above Ken…Ken work…work Ken. Did I hear that right?
Anyway, we the citizens, danced further. Boys and girls should twirl. How my companion, Mr. Monkey vanished I can’t tell. Even the time, the ticking wall clock registered, I couldn’t tell. There’s something I recall though: Jane Shish. This Fred’s girl. I never saw her join the citizens. But I spotted her dance with Fred. And then with Ken, and then with Joe, and Peter, and Alex, and Adam. A piece of her dancing I would have desired, but I had tired so. To the couch, I dropped, at length. I didn’t possess eight limbs anymore. Rather, I now owned two normal legs, and two, smaller, child legs for left and right normal legs. Same for my hands. Two more child hands.
Jane Shish she came and reclined by me. I had unbuttoned my shirt, halfway, on account of my sweating, and the stuffiness and hotness of the room. Shish she touched my chest and asked if I enjoyed the whole business. Her soft touch killed me.
“Yaaaaap,” said I.
She leaned over me, I think, if remember at all, and hissed, “Tonight, it is me and you…”
Reader, did I secure a job from Joe? Did I meet a girl in Jane Shish, this Fred’s (my host) girlfriend? Was I too drank to tell? A boy can only hope. A boy must hope.
#To be continued…
A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.
[This story first appeared on my blog: dennischiedo.com]