Celebrating East African Writing!
The park is deserted, apart from the people crossing it on their way to the city to do their jobs. They pass quickly, and like blinkered draught horses, they don’t look to the side. They are focused, these people. Left foot, right foot; cover the distance, arrive alive, do the job. Sometimes, it is depressing to watch. But I don’t judge. I do not have that power.
Sometimes they look at me, much in the same way you would a curious but harmless animal. Some shake their heads in wonder, or disgust, at my presence. Most don’t even see me. I am part of the landscape, the lawns and hedges that abound here. I am scenery.
By this time, the ones who actually have workplaces to get to are done streaming through my realm. The sun has a good rhythm going by now, having shaken off the fits and starts from dawn. I guess it also has a job to do, the sun. The park is empty at this time, the only people being those filthy street urchins doing their laundry in the large culvert that runs through here. Sometimes I wonder what their point is. Here you are, urchin; grimy, filthy scum-stained individual, washing your conversely grimy, filthy scum-stained clothes in a grimy, filthy scum-stained rivulet of sewage water. And they call me crazy.
After a while, a certain percentage of the morning crowd comes back from the city to the park. These people are the job seekers. You can tell them from the employed by their possession of brown A4 envelopes which they clutch like bibles to their chests. They come back beaten, weary and desperate. They flop supine onto the grassy expanses and cover their faces with the envelopes and feign sleep. What they’re really doing is bemoaning their fate, cursing the unfair world, and conserving their energy for what is probably a long trek home. These are my people. The only problem is, they don’t listen to me.
I am a street preacher. Sorry, I think I should have been more forthright in expounding that. The Word is strong in me. I have been doing this for the last five years. I have solutions – for everything. I am here at the park everyday, come rain or shine, without fail. I have seen the changes, the triumphs, and the complete and utter defeats that pass through here every damn day. I have the solutions for the daily grind, the weekly effort and the annual tribulation that is these poor souls’ existence. Lunchtime, when their rumbling empty bellies are loudest is the best time to share my solutions. The belly is empty and the mind seeks any way to fill and silence it. So it is then that I crank up my effort to advise, counsel and guide. Oh, and also because I have a larger crowd. People who cannot afford lunch come here to pass the hour.
I tell them about a cure for cancer that I found three months ago. I also tell them it is free. Not a single head turns. Okay, so maybe cancer is not troubling this lot. What about money? They’re definitely broke, so let’s go there. I tell them about my ability to double, triple or even quadruple the little cash in their pockets. No one listens.
I figure that I might as well hit them below the belt. I have the cure for AIDS, I shout. I do indeed. The only response I get is from some ass covered in the requisite brown envelope telling me to ‘shut the fuck up’. Fitting. I go through my portfolio of solutions: health, peace, fertility, power of flight, telepathy etc and still no one listens. They never do, so I’m not really surprised. But I am saddened all the same. All that I have to offer is, quite literally, falling on deaf ears.
By two o’clock I’m done. By now the day I sweltering, and the few people left over from the broke lunch crowd and the job seekers have moved under trees or under the hedges. There’s even one soul hiding out under a park bench.
I walk towards the All Saints’ Cathedral bus stop. Nobody notices me leaving. Its OK, I’ll be back tomorrow, as usual. Maybe I’ll try a different spot. Who knows, someone might listen.
© Mwangi Ichungwa 2010 Avalon Perpetual.
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.