Some corpses just look so good. So good you even want to eat them. Even when you know they are corpses, and the government uses money from the relief budget to advertise they are corpses, and big tags dangle on them reading CORPSES, you still want to follow and taste them on the tongue before they are lowered into the hole.
A typical Nairobi afternoon. You are coming back from work amid the bustle and the crookedness. The city is looking at you with the what-worth-is-she attitude. One is calculating whether it is the shoe or necklace that should go first. One is thinking, hey, he could have a great phone. Another wants you for sex. Men and women look at you with miserable sunken eyes trained to dart in the crowd and hide sadness. And sometimes even a keen observer will fail to notice.
An evening heaven will appear beautiful with the orange skyline. That is a trap, comrade. Hold on to your pocket and walk away quickly. This world is not our home. Run until you bolt yourself in your hole before it is late. Some of us are authorities in this field; we know every bit of our advice.
In every evening half step you pass a robber, a thief, a gambler, a con priest, a fake magician, a police officer, a tax evader, all the mortals coined from the rib of Adam in Eden. This has nothing to do with paranoia; it is called saying it as it is. At worst the truth in every bit. The other day I even told you a woman down River Road fell on my friend and she cried that he takes her phone (I didn’t say number). Jon told me he didn’t take the phone. I later discovered he had run broke on 12th instead of his normal 19th and immediately understood what had happened.
Somewhere on top of the roofs, in a hidden lane, the sun is finally going to hide. Who supplies her with all that audacity? Smelted everything in my backbone as I spent the day bending at Patel’s, hitting the metals to give an unknown shape the Asian keeps wanting. Now when I leave and the sun should be remaining to burn him and his family, it retires.
I hit my shoulders into the shoulders of the remaining humans in the street. Sometimes if it is a huge guy, I’m the loser. But when it is a small man with small hands – like my Literature professor – and an ego, I bump them so well they should remember me the rest of the year. That is how we live here. You hate people and let them know you hate them. You’ll never see another place as obscene with truth as this jungle. I’m selling my tongue, want it? Or let’s have sex tonight, Stranger. Simple. Nobody gives a hoot. And nobody takes a hoot. If by any reckless chance you heard somewhere that people here care about the stuff you do, you need to either change your advisor or check your listening skills. Especially the latter, because even a dumb friend can’t say something as foolish and unthoughtly as that.
Eventually I get out on the other end of the street. Bumping tournament won fairly well. Now tough lane. Men and women hurrying back home before night police start their shift. The key principle of the city is RUSH. Rush even when there is no place to go to – things will sort themselves ahead. If you can run, the better. That is our civilisation. We hope the UN will one day sit down and export the idea to the rest of the world and tell Uncle Sam to invade whoever doesn’t comply with the Democracy of Running.
Today I have bumped into countless masses. My neck is hurting – perhaps I knocked a son of a witch and hurt him, and now the boy has reported to the father, and the father is so furious that a simple bachelor working for a selfish Indian knocked his heir he almost killed him, and the old man has decided that it is payday as it is crime day. What did I just do? I pray that this is not the case because it would be so, so bad. I know witches. Even in the heart of this city they will plant your toe above your eyelashes or if they don’t want to expose you, they will fix an eagle’s feathers on your groin and germinate a horn just where your thighs junction. And they will not care. God, help me God.
A guy passes with a speeding trolley. He almost makes away with my nose. This loser. What have I done to him? In this era smart humans should only be hit by boeings. And if a crawling thing must hit you, let it be something smarter than a Limo. Not a trolley from some slum in Shanghai. Thinking of it again – of the trolley and you on the ground with dust all over your face and a trouser torn at the flyer and nursing a bruise at the elbow – you realise how bad it can be. Not even a poor pedestrian can sympathise with you. Not even the St John’s give lazy people first aid. Poor man. Go home you are drunk.
You reach home. You are happy your wife is not at the balcony. But as you enter the house you find her relaxed in a corner and her first reaction is to give you that look. Next to her is your son and perhaps if you have a servant, servant too. Then there is your mother-in-law. And how does a man knocked down by a Chinese trolley greet his mother-in-law in the evening?
Greetings of the Lord, Mama.
Later, Linda will be on your case.
What happened? Did you fight? Why now?
No it was a crash.
Crush? On who? Didn’t I say I would beat up that woman of yours!
You will want to whisper to her her to lower her voice. But that will only press new charges and you don’t have a reliable lawyer. In your six months of marriage you have come to understand that Lindas are wives designed by the manufacturer to be nagging, quarrelsome and cold; and you don’t want Linda to restore her factory settings with the mother around for backup. All you can do is to hope that the combined efforts of the trolley man, the witch, and your wife will be quelled by some mysterious effort, and that you will come out of it alive. These are times you want a miracle.
Oh God, help me. God of Abraham and Adam, help me. God whom I don’t believe in, descend.
I am talking to you!
Beb don’t shout. I was hit in the traffic.
A tr… tr… Beb I was hit.
Tr…. It was a tractor.
She gives you that look again. You’ve heard a neighbour open the window to get the full dossier. You pray again. Madam calms down alright, but she wants her mother’s fare back to the village. And the amount she quotes is like they want to buy a railway line.
Why did you knock the son of a witch?
You now realise that life is not about what you actively do. You love this woman. You love your life. You love your money. Only that the three keep evading you every time.
You can come straight from your house and the trolley guy makes away with your hip and that’s it. You can go to work and on returning you find everything stolen, including the walls of your house and the roof and children so that the only thing remaining is the floor and even from the way it looks you know they will be coming back for it tomorrow. You discover life has no formula. By itself it is like the mad wave breaking at the shore. Waits for a foolish wanderer to draw patterns and build sand pies at the shore and then comes to sweep and flatten everything with a single movement. With no grudge. It simply is doing what it does, being itself.
It’s been three hours and I’m still walking. I can see the skyline of the city centre behind me. Fools are sitting in buses waiting for the traffic jam to clear. Perhaps they are jealous of me. That I will arrive home earlier than they. That is pretense. Why can’t they alight and help me walk home? I am the one who wants to be like them. To have money to pay, sit, and be taken back home to a wife and children.
What if I start looking for those last two this year? I still have 12 months of foreplay. Provided it has nothing to do with a Linda. Well, we can change that name and hide the corpse.