Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Renee Murrey
He won’t budge but I refuse to give up. I have to wake him up. His phone has been ringing off the hook yet he is dead asleep. Blacked out. His usual self – drenched in alcohol. He snores like thunder and drools like a river. He is a sight, my brother.
This is the person I am supposed to look up to. In the absence of my dead parents, he is the one I am to depend on to look out for me and my sister-another disaster. I cannot remember the last time my brother was sober and the last time my sister was ‘normal’.
On the phone calling, am sure needing help, is my sister. These calls are the order of the night. It wouldn’t be the first time my brother would go down to the station to bail her out of the hands of an askari who would have nabbed her at the streets of Koinange.
On the lucky nights when she called, though drunk, my brother was always able to go for her. Today’s luck is tough: the knight in shining armor is blacked out on the floor of our one roomed sorry space of a home. No shaking, shouting, kicking (and I won’t deny that I enjoyed the kicking just a little bit) will wake him up. He is too far gone.
“Hallo?” I answer the persistent phone. Five missed calls it showed.
“Hallo? Manu? Shouldn’t you be asleep?” Will we pretend that you care what time I go to sleep, sister dearest?
“Ni nini?” (What is it?) I have no time for pretense.
“Patia Mose simu” the ingrate goes about dishing out instructions.
“Mose amechew blackout.” I inform her of our brother’s predicament. “NI NINI?”
“Karao” Cops. What else is new!
Ten minutes later, am on my way to get her, armed with two hundred shillings from our savings to ‘appease’ the cops. Somehow, the cops seem to always catch her when she has no money on her. When she’s experiencing a dry spell.
I take a shortcut to the city centre from the slums of Kibera. People are going about their activities like the sun never set. The evening’s rain has the pathways covered in mud and pools of water have dutifully filled up every pothole to the brim. My torn shoes are letting in as much water as mud, uninhibited. I am used to this and I wade through the water like a pro. A twelve year old boy, no sweater to keep the cold at bay, shirt all torn and shorts with patches of colourful threads all over it. I could easily pass for a ‘chokora’, a street urchin. Ironically this thought gives me confidence to brave the night on my own. I feel like my appearance gives me clout to own the streets at night.
My ‘ninja’ thoughts are interrupted by a noisy couple outside one of the shelters. The fact that the houses in the slum are made of iron sheets makes the two adults’ shenanigans that much noisier. A man has a woman hoisted to his waist, legs wrapped around him, skirt lifted up to her waist. Her back against the wall, he pounds into her with so much hunger. He seemingly endeavors to make each thrust deeper than the last one. As I pass them, I am unable to keep my eyes off them. The allure of sex. So intimate and private yet very enticing when exposed. The woman looks at me and our eyes meet. “Not enjoying yourself too much after all, huh?” I think to myself.
She seems to be too aware of what is going on around her for a woman who should be consumed by pleasure. This sex thing, is it all the adults make it out to be really? In the movies I have seen my brother watch, the woman always makes some funny noises and she always closes her eyes like opening them will make the good feeling escape. She always seems to be in heaven and when she comes back to join the rest of us mortals on earth, she always reaches for a cigarette and holding it between her lips, waits for the man to light it for her before she takes a puff. And the man is always more than willing to oblige her. Maybe even managing to convince himself in the process that the puff is in honor of a job well done on his part.
Not this woman. Even as the man opens up her blouse to expose her tits, fondles them, though not as gently as I think it should be done, she seems not to really feel it. She seems to be enduring it all, counting the minutes before it all comes to an end. No moaning, no gasps, no screams.
As I leave them behind I wonder if she will even bother to fake an orgasm for the poor man’s benefit. “Bang, bang, bang” go the ‘mabati’ walls.
Even as I reach town, Koinange street is still a distance away and I notice this especially today. I pass by a dark alley just in time to see a woman being dragged by two men. The one searches her purse, recovered from her now limb arms while the other keeps dragging her by her hands with feet sweeping the deserted alley. This must be another case of drugging or ‘mchele’ as is popularly known in the clubs. From the little I can see of the woman, her dressing screams “PAAAART-EY!” and is way too skimpy for the cold aka ‘freeze and shine’. Poor thing. That could easily be my sister.
This thought jolts me to action as I remember the urgent matter at hand. I hasten my pace, eastward bound. I pray that my sister is ok. Damn that woman for having me worried about her when she should be the responsible one!
Taking my brother’s phone from my pocket I call the damsel in distress to find out where she is exactly. I know that chances of her being in jail at this hour are slim. The night is still young. The cops still hungry. The bait still dangling from its hook.
She picks up her phone on the first ring. We have no time for niceties as she urgently gives me the directions to where she is “A police van opposite the Holy Family Basilica! Harakisha! …” WHOOSH! Next thing I know, a strong hand whisks the phone out of my hands with the speed of lightening. The bastard! I have half a mind to follow him and get the phone back. My brother will have my hide and then some…
I call out to the thief pleading for the phone back to which I get a cold stare in return that seems to ask ‘Utado?’ I lose the battle even before it begins.
Women who lined up the streets begging with babies on their backs throughout the day and for a good part of the night are now starting to pack their wares. Home time.
Realising how much time I have lost, I strive to be more focused and get into a sprint as I near the catholic church. A small crowd is gathered outside the ATM machines at the Cooperative bank , a few metres from the church. I pass by to see a man being frisked by another as members of the public demand that he gives back what he has taken. This must be another case of pickpockets attempting to reap where they have not sown. They all seem agitated and ready to give a ‘show’ but I refuse to lose focus as I quickly wade through the crowd. There is way too much drama in my life right now to last a lifetime; I don’t even have to try so hard.
I stop running when I see a green van parked by the pavement opposite the Basilica’s side entrance. As I run towards it, I keep hoping that my sister is in there and not at the police station. I notice a cop standing a few meters away from the van puffing at a cigarette. Inside the back of the van are some girls who appear to be very high. They are all in cuffs. I peer in to see if my sister is among them. She isn’t.
“KIJANA! Unatafuta nini” The smoking cop wants to know.
I quickly pretend to be passing by and as I walk towards the front of the van, there is some commotion at the passenger seat that catches my eye. Another cop is seated inside with the zipper of his trouser wide open. She has a woman on her knees in front of him, her head bent down between his legs as he motions her up and down with a tag at her hair. He is too much into the action that he lets out a moan as he pulls the woman’s hair. He must have pulled her hair too hard because she stops momentarily and struggles to detangle herself from his grip.
I forget that I was walking when I finally manage to see the face of the woman giving ‘lip service’. I know who she is. It then dawns on me that I took too long to get here.
All I can do now is keep walking…the two hundred shillings won’t be needed anymore.