GUEST POST: Protus, Shit and Other Shit (by Babji)

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.

Silence.

“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.

toilet

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)

 

The Man with a Pink Handkerchief

He sits at the eatery most evenings when he tires from the daily chores. But he is this guy made of steel and this means that he never tires. Which means that he doesn’t sit at the eatery. The truth is that he spends his time dancing and scaring off young girls to whom marriage with a colourful wedding are things still raw and real. The villagers call him the man with a pink handkerchief.

He dances to imaginary music and keeps singing songs nobody knows. He spends the rest of the day chasing a stubborn fly that insists on perching on his upper lip while the owner of the lip wants it to perch on the eyelashes. He spends hours looking and passers-by and hoping that today fewer people will chase him from their doorsteps. He has a yellow wound on his neck and those who pass by do so either avoiding the smell of trying to convince themselves that they have not seen him. Even when he covers the wound with his handkerchief, people still try to avoid having eye contact with him. He may be known for his small, cold eyes. He may be known for his distant look. He may be known for very many other things. But people have decided to use what he uses to cover his face to stick onto him an identity tag.

He attended a university. Listen to that language he uses and not half of the cabinet can construct such virgin ideas as does this man. Some say he was to be a doctor. Others have said he was to be the first engineer in his village. Others say he was studying to become a teacher of literature while some say it was not engineering but biochemistry. Whatever the case, the consensus is that he was a student at some university and he used to put on ironed shirts with clean sleeves and the dream that he would one day be something kept him moving. This dream never came to be and his moving stopped too.

What killed his dream was not witchcraft. Perhaps witchcraft, depending on how one tunes his eye. He was killed by the world and he is waiting to be killed by God when the time comes.

The first time I saw him he was running. The second time he was still running. In both cases, there was a distraught woman in front. He has this pleasure he derives from showing women his groin. And then there is something about his dancing that not even Scotland Yard will discover soon unless they come prepared.

I think many things every time I pass by.

I try to imagine what he is.

Perhaps he was disowned by the father when he joined Buddhism. Or he married the girl from the wrong family and things had to happen. Or he was born without parents. Or he was trained to be a street man. Or he was conditioned by the world to be a bad person.

Perhaps he dropped out of university. Or he was rusticated (Virus pronounces this word like a warlord). Or he found his marks missing after the bulk of coursework and when he realised the shit he was in, the lecturers were either dead or transferred or had been promoted to offices with rotating chairs such that they could never help again. X yielded y.

Such is life.

You never have a specific formula for the unfairness that life is.

You can be walking in a crowd and life picks you from the multitude.

“Monsieur, there is a problem.”

“What problem?”

“We want you as soon as possible. The world is no longer your abode.”

“What do you…?”

“Death. Your time has come.”

“Halo mista, what have I done?”

“You have done nothing.”

“Then why?”

“The Guy Above has sent us.”

“But I have done nothing. Why just me?”

“Because you have done nothing, monsieur.”

“I know a person who has sex with almost anything. I know a cousin in Sierra Leone’s Ebola mountains. I know a driver friend who speeds his car when drunk. I know a child who sleeps in the lower side of the landslide hill. I know a neighbour who smokes three packets in an hour. My lord, I can take you there if you want a human soul.”

“No. we want you.”

“Why me?”

“No reason.”

“Okay sir, come tomorrow.”

“No.”

“Today evening.”

“Not even midday. We want you now.”

“Then give me three hours. I need to say bye to my wife.”

“She is no longer your wife.”

“How do you mean! I paid the dowry and took her to graduate school. I have maintained her and….”

“You have no wife. Alice will start calling your brother husband tomorrow morning. You have no wife. We are taking you.”

“But I have done nothing.”

Shit just happens. You don’t need an explanation.

It is that wave that waits for you to draw your best pictures on the shore and then comes to sweep. It doesn’t rush. It comes when time is time and sweeps everything. But the tide has nothing against you. It is only doing what it does. The tide doesn’t even know you. Then it will go back to the ocean and wait for the winds to bring it back again. This time it will perhaps find a white baby on the shore and wash it back into the vast waters. Or it will find an African boy selling his boot to an American tourist and swish them back into the ecstasy of death.  It just happens.

There is no formula to life.

Life
Life

IMAGE CREDIT

We all don’t know what, when, why or who the man with a pink handkerchief is.

I might not tell this story well because of my limit in rhetoric. I might not have enough time to beat about the bush till you guys get it home. But what I should say over everything is that life is shit. Life is shit. Shit and the shithole; so that is if you need more shit you will still get it in plenty. Don’t laugh. Don’t cry.

Get out there and do your thing. If good comes, good. If bad comes, good. Know that the world owes you nothing. Know that what you get from here is not because of your sharp mind but a coincidence of chance itself.

And you don’t need to do anything to be the man with the pink handkerchief. You don’t need to not do anything not to be the man with the handkerchief. You just have to be and wait for what will be. You are the locust strung into the hands of the wanton boys and there is nothing you can do. But try create a good world so that in case life brings the pink handkerchief your way, you may get smiles and biscuits from the thief with a jeep and afford new clothes on Independence Day.