Mean Talk

On his door was a sticker that said he hated idiots, but the guy hated anything on two legs.
This one was the meanest. There are days we never talked because she was a sadist too. She swore never to cook nor serve anyone food in the house because, according to her, that was demeaning women. But I never came to understand how she wholeheartedly washed our clothes.
Marriage is planned in heaven, right? You need to quit smoking.
How do mean people live together? Two hard-core mean adults masquerading as husband and wife, or whatever relationship that be. Do you feel scared the whole night or you wake up in the morning and smile that the mean person beside you is the best thing that ever happened to your life?

Google defines ‘mean’ (adj) as “hard to cope with; difficult or troublesome”.  So how can two or more “hard to cope with; difficult or troublesome” people live together under one roof?

Imagine a Hard To Cope With; Difficult Or Troublesome telling a Hard To Cope With; Difficult Or Troublesome that the kids are very hard to cope with, are difficult and troublesome and that “I don’t know where they got this behaviour from. Nkt!”

Perhaps you don’t know what it means to be mean.

I also thought I knew mean people until I entered my second year at campus. Krevin, the asshole you all know, was my neighbour three doors down the corridor. I don’t mean to sound like the hare who decided that all the grapes were sour, but how do you describe a man who the whole afternoon locks himself in because his girlfriend has brought him minced meat? Dude plays scary music the whole night and will not smile at you when you meet along the corridor; won’t tell you what assignment prof gave; won’t allow you to copy in the exam room; dude just mean on everything. On his door was a sticker that said he hated idiots, but the guy hated anything on two legs.

Okay. I’ve just received a call of good news. Or is it bad? An old friend says she is marrying an old friend. Cool. Problem is, they are both mean. I mean, very mean.

You see, I have no problem with people marrying. As the joke goes, no man in this world deserves to go unpunished. I have no problem with marriage because I believe in the fallacy that marriage is the right-dose medicine to stupidity – for both non-women as well as women. Marriage is divine. Marriage is this compulsory calling of misery from beyond the human self. As a friend to many married people, I think marriage can therefore be a good idea sometimes. But whom you marry, bwana. Whom you fuckin’ marry!

We’ve seen marriages where the wife works and the husband works, yet children are ever back home because of school fees. We’ve seen homes where the parent is healthily fat and wears expensive perfume while the kids chase flies that want to hide in the holes of their clothes. We’ve seen all these and more. And we thus acknowledge the need for the right choices.

When I first came to the city, I stayed with a cousin. That was long, long ago. This cousin had a friend, and the friend would often invite a girlfriend to spend a week or sometimes a month over. Well, let’s just say my cousin was Tenis, his friend was Akri, and the most regular girlfriend to Akri was called Mweni. Now Tenis, Akri, Mweni and I stayed in one house.

The room we shared had walls made from Shanghai. It had one door, one mattress of three inch comfort, two bed sheets, a blanket, a kerosene stove, two spoons, two sufurias, two plates, a mug, a pail, the four of us, a bulb, a switch, a dump floor and almost a window. Nothing more.

I hadn’t noticed at first. With time, I started feeling some abnormality. Every time we ran out of provisions, the guys would start coming home very late and some of our guests would become total absentees. We would beg each other to contribute and buy salt, or to refill the stove, or to tip the landlord’s son to add us some more grace period. Members would become moody and members would become so very unwell that the only question you asked them was if they were feeling any better.

I remember one particular night when all of them almost slept out because there was no matchbox in the house and we were all broke. This night it poured. My uncle’s son came at around one. Shortly after, Akri and Mweni followed. They’d been hiding somewhere, watching out for Tenis. Mweni had even come along with another girlfriend and the house smelled like a brewery. Mweni, despite talking much, bailed us out the following day.

There is something I need to tell you about Mweni. As they say, alcohol can call someone and she heeds the call. That was Mweni. But her friend, whose name I keep forgetting from that first day, was worse. She was the kind of woman who could sell an earring for a pint. Not a surprise that first day she had only one shoe and her phone’s battery was missing. And not a single day after that did I ever see her complete as a girl: either the phone’s been pawned; or the ID card is missing; or she needs to go to the shop to get back her wallet (wallahi, WALLET) etc.

Mweni was mean in every sense of the word. If we asked that whoever received a favour from Mweni should raise their hands, and that if these hands be more than ten Mweni should enter heaven, Mweni would still go to hell. If we lowered and said five hands only, in the entire world, Mweni would still be Queen Mweni of Hell. Reducing the number to one would be the most unfortunate thing to heaven prestige and human understanding of the unseen, yet still Mweni would not see the gates of heaven. But we still liked her, anyway. At least she was better than her friend whose name I cannot remember.

This one was the meanest. There are days we never talked because she was a sadist too. She swore never to cook nor serve anyone food in the house because, according to her, that was demeaning women. But I never came to understand how she wholeheartedly washed our clothes. Girl had an obsession with being clean. We would be woken up in the night to give way to the mop rag, and at weekends we would be inconvenienced finding our shirts washed and wet without our consent. She fixed the electricity switch whenever it malfunctioned and hammered nails into our wall to give strength. I must say I liked her fashion of being mean, sadist and thorn in the ass, though I always made it clear to her that I didn’t like her.

Image courtesy of http://idealwedding(dot)info
Image courtesy of http://idealwedding(dot)info

So today I received a call and I am asking myself how. How can Tenis and that girl safely share one roof alone? Nature should have a better joke. How do you even trust that the house will not be ablaze by morning? The laws of genetics are very clear about such a case. We will have children who are afraid to walk out because someone will benefit from their shadow free of charge.

Marriage is planned in heaven, right? You need to quit smoking.

My cousin says it is coincidence the wedding is on the same day as his birthday, then goes ahead to ask if it isn’t a good thing that every year he shall have to only use one stone to kill the birthday party and wedding anniversary birds. Then he informs me that I’ll be his main man that day, that I’ll act as his guardian now that I’m the only kin available. Tells me to put on a good kanzu and nice shoes. He then asks what present, and how much, I will present as the wedding gift.

About how much, I tell him I’ll take a hundred times all the money he’s ever given me, which is still the one digit number. For the gift, I say I will buy each of them the Book of God and a motivational book on how to quit being mean. I hear his brow muscles twitch. The burger!

Anyway, this is a world of miracles. So I will be travelling all the way, back to the Royal Kingdom, to witness the start of a new generation of mean people.


Happy birthday cousin…..x2

Happy wedding Tenis and Amina….x2

Pay your debts….x3

Have many children….x93

Away from First Avenue

An ideal thief can die and you inherit his wife; you can’t inherit the wife of a bedbug. An ideal thief can as much be the only thief in the family; bedbugs – Somali, Luhya or Chinese – are all thieves.

It chooses the shoulder nearest to her, and at a spot she must see. Then you feel it bite, and you don’t want to scratch anything around your shoulder because that is when you suffer the esteem thing most. And you can’t secretly burst the head because everyone on the bus knows the smell of Eastleigh bugs. So what do you do? You curse the mothersucker.

If you want to be a thief, don’t be like a bedbug. A bedbug is a very bad thief. An ideal thief can die and you inherit his wife; you can’t inherit the wife of a bedbug. An ideal thief can as much be the only thief in the family; bedbugs – Somali, Luhya or Chinese – are all thieves. And they steal without the intent that you may one day gain from them; and if they intended so, you still would not have had good use of insects harboring blood samples from all the blood groups in the world. Do you boil and eat bedbugs where you come from?

Last year I lodged in one of the hotels in Eastleigh. The place looked so nice and away from the bumpy bustles of First Avenue. There are nice hotels in Section Three. The potted plants at the reception married well with the paint and decorations on the walls to give it that rare attractiveness. Room 261 it was. Of course you know there is a bedbug end to this story. That I woke up in the middle of the night because I could not believe it. For the first time I was sleeping in a hotel without bedbugs! It felt out of place. Very odd. Like finding a Nairobian who all of a sudden does not want to steal from you. The sleep had been so deep I decided I needed no more of it. And while at it, I decided to go have a word with the security officer down there at the ground floor. Till dawn.

I asked her about their rooms without bedbugs. How on earth do your rooms lack bedbugs! Do you spray everyday? Do you screen for bedbugs everybody who comes here? Do you check those big handbags of ladies from Kakamega and Kisumu? Would you feel offended if I told you I want a bed with bedbugs? Do you smoke?

She just looked at me, fascinated, and let me talk like a drunk man. I wanted to know what had happened that the beds lacked bugs. Like, was Obama coming to Africa or what? Most of the time she simply laughed in the silence and said I was crazy.

Okay. Let me tell you the truth.

There is no security officer in this story. And there is no bed without bedbugs. There is no Obama just like there is no Osama. But there is me lodging in Eastleigh, and there is me waking up in the dead of the night and remaining awake till dawn.

That night I woke up at around three. My whole body was aching and itching and it took me a few moments of consciousness to ascertain that that was definitely not the handiwork of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes do not bite a man’s ass like that, do they? I felt bites in the armpit, on my left leg, at my back, on my phallus and all over. The guys were doing a real action movie on my body-wood. Boss, consider like a million insects all lining up for your O+, something you won’t easily get even in those big insurance hospitals.

So I groped to the switches. Ta-k! The lights in the corridor go on. I quickly switch it off and move to the next switch. Ta-k, nothing observable happens, and so I quickly switch it off (or on, depending on what it is that happens). Oh God. Ta-k, let there be light, and there is light, beaming all the way into my eyes, to the nerve, illuminating the whole room to an existential reality. And it feels happy.

I checked the bed. No, I confirmed. There was a whole battalion of them, all scuffling back to their hideouts. And as they ran with their smelly asses they thought I would not catch up. That was a mistake on their side, big time. In no time I had jumped on them kungfu style. The smell of bursting bedbugs will nauseate you in the night. But when you are doing it for your life, it catalyses your vengeance. You press them hard and they shit all their intestines out. You burst the brains that tell them to steal. You burst their scrota and you burst their everything. Rule number one: burst them all.


There were about ten thousand of them. Fat male and female bugs waiting for darkness so they restart their feast on me. This innocent me with just enough haemoglobin and nothing more. There is no way you would not have sympathised with me. Having parted with all that money for accommodation away from the noise of First Avenue and now this? The beasts shone off their swollen bellies, bellies full of my O+. Come on, you use someone’s blood to show off to your dames? That’s not cool by any standards.

In the morning when the Eastleigh muadhins started their first task of the day, I was still not yet through. Not even halfway. It was about the time I discovered that the hotel kept those armies to prevent their mattresses from getting old. When they come here for the night, relax till they retire to bed. Then start your work. The heavier they are, the more you should get onto their ass. Son, bite like hell. And if they are O+, those are the enemies number one to our bedding. Don’t allow them to get back to the mattress.

That morning I prayed to God never to allow thieves into his good heaven.

Do not misjudge the judge on this.

I am bitter on bedbugs because of the pain they bring and the loss they cause. But the worst is the attitude they carry while at it. Insolents to the bone! As in, how do you dare take my blood without reason? No, look at it well. My blood is part of me; without it there is no me; and therefore it is me. You come at night when I am asleep and you siphon it all away? You don’t even tell me your name. You simply drill in your teeth and suck; so painfully and without apology. You grope in the dark, you, your friends, your cousins, your daughters, your sons, your stray children, your grandchildren, your neighbours, your priests, your enemies, your pets…. What drives you to steal the innocent blood when a client has paid to enjoy the comfort of the hotel away from the noisy First Avenue?

Bedbugs will harass you the entire night. And during the day, when in your suit you want to talk to the girl next to you on the bus, the guy appears and quickly circumnavigates your shoulder as you are still held in the shock triangle of disappointment, esteem and poetry. It chooses the shoulder nearest to her, and at a spot she must see. Then you feel it bite, and you don’t want to scratch anything around your shoulder because that is when you suffer the esteem thing most. And you can’t secretly burst the head because everyone on the bus knows the smell of Eastleigh bugs. So what do you do? You curse the mothersucker.

And swear to hang him once you reach the house….

I once had a teacher who insisted that our authorities are like bedbugs. He really believed in his theory he became obsessed with it. That they drill blood from the veins of the populace. They never return anything. You cannot claim that the crumbs that fall from the table are what they return to you who are still hungry; you get those things by nature’s accident, and hugely by the fact that the tables have to be cleared for another meal. But that was long time ago. It was even before I broke my voice.

I have now grown a beard and have this African height. I feel so bad at anything that should be likened to a bedbug in terms of stealing, about which there is nothing else you can draw the imagery of a bedbug.

Before I left that Eastleigh hotel – for good, of course –  I did good titration on their mattress. Stood on the bed and let all systems go. You invest in bedbugs, I pay you urea. All the tea I had taken the previous day. So that they learn, when they finally come to check on their pets, that the O+ of a client ought to be respected.

The Other End in the City

Have you ever farted on a public bus? I mean, a big round hollow fart? Look, you are sitting next to this cutie and her perfume lulls you into a siesta. You promise that when you wake up, you will do some haiku on her. Then you get lost in the peace of the sleep. Then you start to dream. You dream you have eaten raw beans and you are alone in the house. And the house wherein you are alone is locked, and you are in a locked bedroom overlooking the sea. Then you hear a loud rattle and you wake up. The bus has parked and the engine is off and people are getting out to take something before continuing with the journey. But come on, the rattle has woken you up and when you look around, everyone is looking at you, including yourself. Some old couple are asking what that was, and a four year old from the other end is shouting “Smell! Smell!” to its mother. The cutie next to you is tense, probably from the shame of being thought to be with you, or from trying to reduce your shame by not standing up to leave.


Or think of this. She tells you she is pregnant. You have taken her out and you have been really enjoying till now. From nowhere she says baby I’m pregnant. You look at her like, what the fucking hell? Baby, she repeats, I am pregnant. Then you become jumpy and fidgety and you start blaming it on her. You ask her why she did not insist you rubber your drill. You tell her she just did it to fix you. That she simply wanted to not miss your posh future. You ask her if she is happy now. You tell her of some abortionist, something about next Tuesday. Then with the coolest composed tone she can muster, she tells you not to worry. She says though she is pregnant, you are not the father.

They are even planning a wedding before the body fully swells!

You want to wish you were in a cubicle somewhere to pounce on her. But you are at Uhuru Park and FIDA soldiers may unclaw you before you declare your tigritude. So you start wishing the pregnancy was yours. You pray she should be carrying your triplets. Abel, the idiot, shouldn’t win this! You wish that she should still be yours even with the shortcomings as many as the Elgon. But nothing you wish can come to pass. Your three year thing is awkwardly over and there is no going back. Abel has a car and a belly and owns a flat in Umoja; you don’t have a bicycle, the only thing ‘flat’ in your life is your chest and your landlord in Mathare wants to kick your ass over last month’s rent. So? The best you can do is lock yourself in a kitchen, hold a knife, cut open some onions and cry the hell out of your present.

It is called a dead end.

And that is how it is to lose a job.

Featured image

I have taught at this school for the last several months. Have I been loyal? Have I been professional? Have I been committed? But now they tell me, through the gateman, that I should not enter the gates since my replacement has been found and has already reported. The man at the gate speaks with such finality you won’t believe he is the same guy I have occasionally tipped just to be friends. He pushes me out and bangs the steel gate on my nose. Then I hear him threaten something blah blah should I continue standing there. Some curious looks are now coming from the street. So I coil my tail and go away.

I ask myself about going to court. Problem is, I wasn’t even given a letter of appointment and my salary has always been by cash. So absolutely no evidence.

I think of telling the national examinations council that these guys do cheat. They force their teachers to sit the exams for the students. They bribe supervisors. It is known. I can tell how they allow students to do their exams from the dormitories. But who will even pretend to buy your story in such circumstances?

Yesterday I went back to the school. I knew when to get the principal at the gate. So I stood him there and asked him for one thing. I asked him, actually begged, that they pay me my last month’s salary. He stood looking at me over the brim of his glasses and kept checking his watch.

I told him I had not expected the dismissal from nowhere just like that. Told him I had a family to feed. Reminded him I live in a rented house owned by a sadist woman. That I have bills to pay, and would he be human enough then just to give me last month’s salary? In the end, there was no salary but a bang of a steel gate and a long walk back home.

Shit happens. Waking up one day and finding yourself jobless can be real shit. Like robbers have entered your house, you grope in the darkness for the door and when you reach it, it is locked and you don’t know where Alice, your wife, placed the keys.

Life in the city is not driven by hearts. Money drives virtually everything here. You have money, you have paradise. You get sacked, you lack money. You lack money, you hit a dead end. You get relegated back to the village.

But even if it is to go back to the village, how do you? Do you bundle your wife and sofa in a polythene bag and walk the way home? Or do you go to the nearest bus station, urinate in their fuel tanks and tell the driver to take you home? Hey, do you go back to your former employer and threaten the gateman that you will commit suicide if he doesn’t allow you in?

This is the time you realise that everything has a money tag. Previously you used to make endless calls, surf the internet in the jam, stock your fridge, throw away leftovers, etc. Today you don’t understand why others are on the bus while you trotter on with greyish black shoes.

If employers knew what it is they do to their employees sacking them without notice, I don’t think they ever would dream it. But again as a hard-core survivor, you look around, smile, and tell yourself that tomorrow shall bring something home. You tell yourself what the bedbug told her children. For the time being, you can keep dodging the landlord until you get the guts to urinate in someone’s fuel tank.