I’m four years old in this Nairobi but trust me, I’ve seen more shit than all the nineteen years I spent in shagz. My own shit I mean, not others’ smoking shit. Leave alone the time I landed my first job as a cleaner just after secondary. The time when a fat potbellied Mhindi would go across the road, eat pizza, croissants and top it up with a mug of Cappuccino then come to the loo. It was very usual to see a man straight from Galitos to my workplace straight to the washroom and seven minutes later, he gets out of the room, orange handkerchief in hand (it always is orange since it doesn’t show dirt) wiping his forehead, nose and moustache. The stench that would come out is worse than that of smelly feet, decayed carcass and soiled pampers combined. Some would not even flush the stinking shit, they’d just walk out and then I’d go clean it up.
I saw people’s shit, trust me. Smoking and steamy.Hard and diarrhoea, green and yellow, all that. And I had a chance to see mine as well. I walk into that room, drop my pants, squat then push like a woman in labour. Thereafter, I look back and look at the work of my rectum before finally turning the flushing water on. In shagz I never had the chance to see my own poop. Once you walked into a latrine, you just heard the sound of your dropping hitting hard against the bosom of earth. There, it’s met its fate. If you didn’t hear the sound, then it was obvious you had dropped it on the floor of the loo. Me I would move my right toe, knock that thing into the right place and go on. Once or twice, it happened.
You see, the latrines in shagz are floored by use of wood off-cuts. The pieces that saw mill guys feel are of no use are nailed together to make a floor with spaces between them. The doors are just gapings that always face the hedge, so when you come you have nowhere to knock, you just cough and whoever is inside coughs as well. The walls can be anything. Anything can be mud, iron sheets, tree branches tied together…. Anything.
Let me tell you about Protus’ latrine. A latrine and a half. This one, Protus’ latrine, was rumoured to be so clean till one would lick yoghurt from its floor. So clean that before you went in, your conscience led you to wipe your muddy shoes on the long grass nearby. No, it wasn’t cemented by the way. Just like the other latrines, it had a small opening carved at the centre of the room for poop. But so clean.
And then, it happened. It always happens, sindio? Especially during holidays. Protus was living in Nairobi, leaving only his wife and kids back at home. Two kids. But women whose husbands work and reside in the city always travel to see them. Even when the husbands make efforts to come over after every two Saturdays, she will always call the mzee that one Wednesday he is trading his sorrows with Wanjiku.
“Hey, Baba Nanii…. I’m here at MaaiMahiu…. Nitafikakitusaatatu (I’ll arrive around 9 p.m.).”
Then the man is taken aback.
“Ah, kwaniuliamuaje? (What did you decide?) – hic. Si you should have told me I buy (hic)… flour? Then the mama goes silent. He can’t even hang up. He’s looking at his pretty untouched Shiko.
“Sikujiiunga.Kwanikwetuukinitoahatukuwanaunga?” she retorts what can only be translated as: I’m not coming for flour. When you got me at my parents’ home didn’t we have flour?
“But I was there last week. And I was coming (hic). And the line goes off. It happens, right?
Protus used to come, once after every three months. Early in the morning he’d pass at the lone footpath, loaded with a bag, a carton, another bag on the woman’s head and a paper bag. A really nice man, Protus. But then one day his Jaber said no. She too wanted to go and see Nairobi. One calm evening she clutched her handbag, a paper bag full of sukuma wiki and some onions, tied her younger child onto her back and walked behind some lady. This lady had on her head a sack.
Now, any Kisii person can tell you that sack carried a lot of matoke, then some avocados. We watched as the sashayed Protus’ wife so careful not to dirty herself. She took a Nairobi-bound bus. Then the lady who had escorted her came back. A young nice new lady who had never been seen in the village before, looked like her sister. Let’s call her Moraa. Now, you know what a new carcass means to a hyena. We watched from a distance, four heads together the way players stand conspiring on how to take a free-kick.
Now this is where the story begins. I however have to tell you that my cousin Oscar spent all the nights at Protus’ house for a better part of that holiday. We would eat our supper, go to our esaiga and when it approached ten he would dress like a mercenary. The head would be covered in a godfather, a large black overcoat and boots. Then he would carry a large metal rod. By four in the morning, he would come knocking… tired like a dog on a sunny midday, sleep for the next two hours then wait for the next night. Till when Moraa told Oscar that Protus would come the following day with his wife. You know, he always travels at night, and arrives here in the wee hours. That meant end of business between the two.
But nothing is sweet compared to the last drop of milk from a gourd. Nothing. Oscar knew that too well. And on that final day we all decided to escort Oscar. All the four of us- Oscar, Jeff, Farid and I. You know, it’s a few minutes past ten and we are walking silently, dressed like vampires. Nobody is talking. We’re just quiet, hands in our pockets, eyes straining to see where we are stepping. The only sounds we hear are of crickets, croaking of frogs and whistling of porcupines. Yes, porcupines whistle. A story is told of Mzee Nyamongo. This respectable old man, after having one too many, staggered home at the odd hours. Then he stopped and listened, someone was whistling rhythmically from the maize plantation. He listened again, that must be George.
“George” he called out.
“George!” He called again. “Don’t you dare whistle at this time again, you are calling snakes!” He retorted. The whistling had stopped. He asked George what he was doing there at such a time and when he got no reply, he clicked and walked way. Then the whistling commenced.
We walked amid the whistling. Not scared even of the night runners. Night runners do not dare touch a group of people, they only scare you if you are alone. At the gate Oscar sat down, passed his right leg below the gate and pushed the stone that was leaned against the gate, that’s how the gates are locked in shagz by the way. And we slithered into the compound. Now, we did not intend to do the lady all of us. No. Neither were we planning to go and eavesdrop by the window of the bedroom as the two made herstory. It’s just Satan. It’s Lucifer, I tell you.
The kitchen was open with so much smoke coming out of the grass roof, and the lamp was still on. A child was crying from the bedroom and a lady crossed from kitchen to the main house. We dashed into the latrine nearby. Its door faced the thorny hedge and I’m sure I heard Farid cry out an Ouch. We hid inside the latrine, the much appraised latrine. It felt slippery. At was also used as the bathroom. We were so cautious not to slip into the hole at the centre, so we huddled close to the door, and peeped to see what was going on. The dogs had begun barking but none came to the doorless room. We shivered, we shook. We knew that shit was pending. We could see a spotlight moving around. It was Protus. He shone his torch towards the hedge close to the latrine, and then went away.
We were sure he would go to sleep, and probably Moraa would sleep alone in the kitchen as Protus and his wife slept in the main house, so there was still a ray of hope. We just stayed in the latrine, trading stories. Jeff told us of how he thought the next Bible would be. Yaani, the Bible to be used after God comes back, burns some of you and creates new beings. The Bible these new beings would be using. How many books it would have, how many testaments blablabla. Said the Bible would have a verse reading, “And behold that night, Satan lied to Jeff, Oscar, Farid and Babjy to go to Protus’ place. He spoke unto them. Isn’t this your last day to that place oh Oscar, why don’t you take with you…. We laughed. You should hear Farid laugh, wuueh! He forgets everything.
And the dogs heard the laughter, and then began barking. We knew Satan was on our necks. I particularly was upbeat. And I had to release the pressure. I tore a piece of newspaper I had leaned against that was tucked into the corner of the latrine.
“Shhhh, careful bana….” Oscar warned.
“No, I want to poop,” I hissed.
“What, but we can be heard yaa!”
I was already peeing. I would hear them breathing heavily. I would smell the fright in them. A torch lit somewhere close to the latrine. That fool was out again. I dropped. The poop hit water inside that pit making the sound. The spotlight began becoming stronger, reducing in size. A figure dashed out of the loo, another one followed and before I knew it, I was alone. Squatting in somebody’s pit latrine, less than two hours to midnight. Here I was, pushing shit like a woman in labour, my face wrinkled as the light finally fell on me.
“Babjy, is that you?”
“Yes Uncle, I was on my way from town and pressed so bad. I had to rush here to relieve myself”
“Mmmh, nice story you have.”
(For more mouthwatering stories from Babji, visit his site: www.babjy.wordpress.com)