Celebrating East African Writing!
The morning is slow and the air is cold and wet. The droplets of a thin impotent drizzle cling to people’s faces and clothing like frost. The place smells like a damp dog. The man standing at the roadside decides to cross the street to get to the small coffee and sandwich shop. The traffic is thin and so he steps to the edge of the road and looks right, then left, just like he was taught when he was five years old. But he doesn’t look right again so he does not see the beat up Nissan van with bad brakes and the cuckolded driver until it slams into his side.
He clearly hears the humerus and collarbone on his right side snap as he is flung like a limp rag doll into the filthy drainage trench running along the side of the road. The van driver brings his under serviced and uninsured vehicle to a shuddering halt (the brakes cannot grip enough to screech). He jumps out of the vehicle and runs across the road into an alley and disappears. A small crowd gathers, converging like neophytes of some arcane religion approaching the sacrificial altar, from the thin mist that hangs everywhere. They are more curious about the driver suddenly stopping his van and running off than the man lying unconscious in the ditch. Only she notices him.
She looks down at the figure lying in the muck. The water is so polluted it has become a semi-solid thick ooze that fills the nose with memories of pit latrines and blocked communal low level flush toilets. She folds up her skirt around her thighs and steps gingerly into the trench. The muck comes up to mid shin. She quickly dips her fingers into the unconscious man’s jacket and pulls out his wallet. She hops out of the ditch and scuttles away in the same direction as the guilty driver as the crowd around the vehicle now starts to move in her direction, some people pointing at the figure lying in the ditch.
In the mouth of the alley, she pauses and opens the wallet. There is better than ten thousand shillings in cash there. And credit cards, business cards, an insurance card and two condoms. She takes the cash and flings the wallet away. She walks further into the alley, knowing that it comes out onto a parallel street where there are a number of small second hand clothes stalls and she can get a nice pair of jeans for about three hundred bob. Before she leaves the alley she wipes her legs clean with her grimy tattered scarf which she tosses away afterwards. She knows she can get another one anyway.
She walks up to a clothes stall that boasts the name ‘Shiro’s Apparel’. Does this Shiro even know what ‘apparel’ means? Maybe. She buys a pair of tight blue jeans and a light blue t-shirt with dolphins printed on it. She forgets to get the scarf. Shiro, if that’s her real name, holds a grimy bed sheet up for her to change behind. She emerges from the stall looking much better than she did twenty minutes ago as is testified by the stares and the odd catcall she gets from a group of drivers lingering at a taxi rank. She gives the group the finger. They jeer. The sun is engaged in a futile struggle against the hulking clouds, sending grey light to the earth below. But she is warm. She has cash in her pocket, and she can afford what the slimy dealer outside Yaya Centre has to offer.
She fingers the three small sachets in her pocket like the beads on a rosary. Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Much like religion, the redemption nestled there is empty and unfulfilling. She finds the drug an allusion to office white-out. A few snorts and the depression that is her universe is erased, twenty minutes at a time. Maybe later she will try to contact Rita again. See if their father will relent on his stand about rehab. It has been what…three weeks now? The drug clinic is a hazy memory in the fog of her poisoned mind. Sweaty, sleepless nights and horrible dreams from the past, the present and the future that will not happen. Her fingers tighten around the sachets. Don’t dwell on it. She walks up Ring Road, Kilimani towards Ngong Road. She wants to visit The Junction. The toilets there are clean and hidden, perfect for a leisurely snort. And The Junction holds pleasant memories of movies, coffee, shopping and dinner with the Crowd, the Koro, the Peeps. That was two months ago.