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.
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.