Last Friday I also went to town. Not because I was after the black president colonising the U, S, and even A. I just went.
When the bus conductor came for his rights, I dipped my fingers into my pocket and extracted two notes. I chose to give the fifty bob note and returned the two-hundred bob back. Then when the conductor gave the 30 bob balance, I again put it safely in the back pocket and sat on it. Then that is me off to the bad town.
There are things about this city you will never miss. There is always this woman selling smokies at the corner. There is the other selling roast potatoes and boiled maize from a giant sufuria. This, yet you have not talked of the random hawker selling padlocks, pesticides, sweets, razor blades, underwear and love portion. They make the mass. All of them are calling out for one lucky buyer to receive the favour of their unparalleled goods. They call amidst the hooting and screeching of buses rushing to reach somewhere on time. Call it city of beating deadlines. The cries fit into each other perfectly to make that single deep buzz that paints the colour of city life. You alight in the city and this bustle traps you with a gust and you surrender.
Anyway, I chose not to buy a thing. I went and sat at that bench near Jamia, the one directly in front of the First Community Bank. When time came I entered and left Jamia itself. Then I decided to have a last look at the city before the praised Beast of the POTUS could come to take over. I wanted to have a final natural feel of it just in case C-I-AlQaedah got another appetite for us and the city that has taken us blood and water to build.
And within no time I’ve roamed the whole city and I’m now approaching the Nyayo Stadium. One thing that gives life to my step is my knowledge that I walk out of my wish, not like the rest who are fighting the harsh sun out of a lack. Like some fella down south said, my problem is how to use it.
Were it to be said that those without 200 bob drown their asses down the sea, I’d watch as the streets got empty of paupers and thank God for being among the chosen few. Were it to be raised to 229, I’d still flap my ears and know I still belonged. You know what I mean?
Okay, lemme tell you the truth. Obama came with the Beast and a hidden ghost of poverty. After I’ve roamed the whole city and denied myself almost everything on the street, I finally head to the bus station to take my way home as usual. But before I queue at the Kencom parade, I decide to remember some commerce downtown. It is there that I find this nigger selling these dope sneakers and I say lemme try. The price is a sexing low. I check them for super-glue cracks and they laugh at my pettiness. We are good, they say. I will buy you then, I reply. And why not, monsieur, why not?
That’s when I realise the joke. The note I crumpled down my pocket is missing. It has gone away. I also don’t know. There is the thirty bob coins and a tired bus ticket I used three days ago when I visited a friend from the other part of the city. Still loyal at this hour of need. But my dear sweet 200 bob has gone to glory. I look around my feet just in case it is somewhere. It is not somewhere. It is gone.
I’ve made many friends in life. This is when I miss them a lot. I feel cheated by the material world. For a whole week that note has been in my pocket. It has been a week of denial and sacrifice. I’ve been thinking of a luxury business to start with the 200 bob. Even when the sugarcane man came for his debt, I still held on to my note because I believed that whatever business idea I’d get would boom and become a multi-something business. I’d looked at the printed thing and idealised myself in a posh car some day into the future.
200 bob is not little money. It is enough to buy you a week’s food stock these sides. You can take a girl out at Uhuru Park with 200 bob and still have fare home. I’ve seen a guy who sweet-talked a girl with less than fifty bob; today they are husband and wife till death do them apart. 200 bob can bribe a City Council policeman to allow you hawk goods down the street. 200 is not just a number.
Was she picked up by a street boy? Was she picked by a robber? Did she follow the wind into a sewage tunnel or what happened to my darling? Perhaps she got blown onto the rooftop of the KICC building and no one will ever lay their hands on her. Perhaps she was picked by a street preacher as a sign to him that the living god provides without reason. But why would a living god ever choose just my money to prove to those already with faith that he provides? There are many rich people in this city and grabbing their 200 bob would go unnoticed. There are many banks along Harambee Street and 200 bob would take 200 thousand years to be felt. There are many people who die and leave fat accounts unknown to their next-of-kin’s. Why just me yet I never insult the referee in a football match even when other fans do? God, that was MY money!
So if you stumbled upon a 200 bob note, remember me. If you saw a crumpled 200 bob note, lonely by the street; if you saw a note with Kenyatta’s head; please this is the time to remember that Africa is one. It’s always been. A stray 200 bob note cannot break our brotherhood. She could have sneaked just to un-bond our hearts. We don’t play to such cheap politics, do we?
But why does a note get lost and leave an expired bus ticket? The ticket looked so forlorn you’d have cried together. It presented itself as faithful and innocent. I can’t imagine what happened before my note disappeared. Oh my god.
TICKET: Hi beauty. Why you sad today?
NOTE: (Blinking) Do I look sad?
TICKET: The creases on your face. You been frowning whole afternoon.
NOTE: (After a long silence) Ticko….
TICKET: Yes darling.
NOTE: Are you happy?
TICKET: What you mean I happy?
NOTE: This life. Are you happy with your life? Your life where we live in this dimly lit place? This guy doesn’t bother how we survive here. He doesn’t bother how he suffocates us here. And after all this struggle, he shall just dispose us like that. He will give me away just to grab a banana by the street. He may even drop me over that dirty brothel counter you told me. And you, well, what date is written on your face?
TICKET: Don’t get there my lady please.
NOTE: He can’t even keep us in a wallet. He is very mean and….
TICKET: So what we do my lady?
NOTE: I have an idea. Let’s escape.
TICKET: Hehehe. Escape where?
NOTE: To the world out there. Let’s get our freedom.
TICKET: If we run, we just fall in street. Freaks will trample on us. They come with shitty shoes and step on us. Those guys they got cow shit up their skulls.
NOTE: It is still freedom altogether.
(Ten minutes later)
TICKET: What happen to her? She get life in wallet? Street boys they step on her? I wish she was here…. (Exeunt. Curtains. Lights off)
Yet in all its innocence, the remaining ticket wasn’t going to seat me in a Beast or Vitz and say let’s go home boy. I had to fight the belief that I was a guest of my feet no matter how uncivilised the idea was. I had to agree to walk amidst the stares from girls on public buses; girls who look at you a look of why-the-clouds-would-you-walk-while-we -ride?
I call it a moment of reality – that moment you have bargained the shoe and the guy has come all the way from 900 to 200 only for you to realise the world has played you. Suddenly you realise the world is against you. You look up in the dry clouds and try to understand the idea of a god above the hazy things. Is he there? Is he happy he has done this to you? You realise just how those you trust can really turn against you. The street is now cold and the traders sound noisier. You look at the streets and what you see now is different. All of a sudden everything has received a price tag. Everything requires that crumpled note. In that bustle, you realise you are alone and on your own.
It is time to start crying. It is time to start crying.