We All Have a Hand


One day you will be walking. Maybe late into the night; maybe earlier – choose your time in the hand of destiny. And the winds of seduction will blow you from the City Centre. They will blow you along a beaten road with hooting motorists. Buses will speed by, making sure that the dust on the walkway rises into your throat. You will pass street signs, street lights and street children. The winds will blow harder. You will see young men dart into the dark while someone shrieks after them. You will see a vagabond beating some tin into a stove. You will walk further and further at the gust of the winds.

You will cross a road and miss hitting a car by an inch. You will skip trenches of open sewage and when trenches of open sewage will be over you will skip open faeces and broken glass and thorns and footsteps of the devil. If you were born on a Tuesday you will even find an old man still steaming his shit down his pipe in the afternoon heat.

You will walk on and on.

You will sweat.

You will think.

You will fart.

You will frown.

And when the seduction will be over, fate will spit you in the frenzy of Kayole. And leave you there.

It depends when fate spits you in Kayole. Some come when the sun is still shy while others arrive while the day is so wide. But you don’t command fate, so you will find yourself here at 1930hrs. And since we don’t question the skies, you will pick your cup of providence, tuck it in your pocket and sigh a sigh of acceptance. You will pick your cup and start to walk away. But you will not go far because the winds of fate have stopped and this is now home.

I will be at the stage to pick you up. Legions of humanity pass by. In some huff – I don’t know how the city makes people bitter. We shall walk from Masimba stage and take that corner down towards Soweto. We shall descend the small bend and we shall buy one thing or the other from the street vendors. Provided it is affordable.

Then we shall reach my house and I will find my house locked with two locks and a nail fixing the door wood into the frame. It will take me ages to convince the landlord that I will settle the debt. Of course he wants his money badly, and I owe him. But I will explain to him what Patel has done to our salaries. I will use ages convincing him. Finally, but with a grudge, and a bad eye at you, he will open the locks and leave me with the art of removing the nail.

We shall enter the house. Lights will go off. The idiot will have disconnected electricity.

Let’s leave that story.

You are not a girl.

You are a man with a small goatee weighing your chin down. So I pick you from Kwa DO. For your own reasons you decided to alight at Kwa DO even after I repeated the word Masimba ninefold and even sent you a text. So you alight and the brutality of the young night begins to get you goosebumps. You were almost giving up when I pick you.

We walk the small stretch back west. We pass the guys roasting chicken and I can feel your face beginning to glimmer. As if I have money, idiot. But then we move further up and you start to slow down. Never before have you met such. Libido is your thing. You got tonnes of it stored up your thighs. And lots more trickling in from the spine just in case.  

We take the turn left, down a narrow lane dimly done. If that is not music, it is noise. Or the other way round. Girls lean on the walls. But you can see their pink and red skirts and you are wondering if brief has ever had a different meaning. Not the brief you see in movies. Kayole brief. Red mountains dangling under their ears. Red mouths. Red eyebrows. Red eyes. You should want to undress them to check if there is anything on them not red.

Your brother impregnated a girl and it is not known where he is. You’ve been crossing the village head’s lane and so your grandfather has said you come to the city. You’ve been sent to Nairobi to find something to do before college reopens next year. But I’m not sure about that because in Nairobi you don’t come to find something to do. You come to do something, clear-cut from the start. That is one of the first rules of the game. But since your grandfather and my grandfather share a grandfather, this is a matter of kinship and I take it with both hands. A thickness measure between blood and water will explain the rest.

The lane is busy with commerce. But dark. Like Sun got tired of shining on them long ago. And when Night Light came, Night Light was so mean. Or also gave up so soon. So they stand in their own shadows and hawk their eyes. Girls scan your heart in the darkness and know what kind of service you need beforehand. That is why before we get out through the other end, one girl grips your arm and says 200. Another grips your remaining hand and says 250, but upto  midnight. I step back to release you from captivity. The first girl sees me and apologises profusely. Like in a Confessional.

She is Stella. I taught her in class-seven when I still thought chalk and whips would settle my bills (God forgive me). She may have forgotten the nonsense I used to sing and cane her buttocks for, but at least the manners are still there (God pay me NOW). She should be in high school now. Perhaps she will join next year if her results come without cases of cheating. I’m not sure even – they said she sat her exam this year.

You will later tell me how your wallet was snatched from you in a vehicle. You were getting the conductor his coins. Being a good citizen. But because you are new in this jungle, and you don’t understand the rules, you raised the thing high up and someone opened the window even wider.

Then things happened.

You first felt the slap slamming your face. And when you opened your eyes, everyone was looking at you for the cry you had made. And it took you eternities to realise the conductor was still standing beside you, hand outstretched. I don’t want to know how the story ended. You are a man anyway.

We shall walk again onto the main street and the buses will come hooting. We haven’t killed anyone. I tell you to hold your phone inside your pocket. This place is that place, and history never apologises for repeating itself. Then we shall cross the street to the other side and you will thank your heavens that you were not knocked down by that motorbike fool.

You will see men peeing on the walls. A man with a glue bottle up his nose and a sack on his back will be there. His hand will be outstretched. I will not immediately tell you that he is called Timo, and that he begs and rapes and steals depending on the day. By now you are already scared of the jungle that is supposed to be your home, and so when we take the last bend and I open my door, the woman beating her husband next room adds too little salt to your fright.

I rummage in the dark and get the matchbox. The first three sticks get wasted. Finally one accepts and I light the candle. A rat quickly finds refuge. There is no electricity. There is the smell of stale moisture and kerosene and wealth to welcome us. Then I show you where the washrooms are. Two weeks we have no water, so I tell you what to expect should you want to go to the bush. But you say you are in fact full of shit and you rush there. Then come back immediately. I smile. You ask me if we have any public toilets around. I tell you they were washed by the last floods. Others are in town. How far is here from town? Not very far. Two hours walking, my cousin. You keep quiet, then sigh.

I will narrate to you how the man next door is beaten every day by the wife. Nobody understands how he manages to cope with the beating. Nigger has been being beaten since before the Beijing Conference. Maybe he holds onto it hoping things will work out one day. During the day he looks like one who once had good looks as a young man. But today he is 56, and will be turning 79 next year. His face is folded, his eyes are empty. Never greets us. We tried from the start. Smiling and lighting up the moment. Along the way we gave up. Figured out we were bad guys. We left him. Serves him right. He was a tax collector, I think that’s why I pray he gets more whacking. But even without praying, Paulina is one who never beats a husband halfway.

When people say I have overstayed my welcome in the bachelors’ club I laugh at them. But when I am alone I say they are not very wrong. Only that I fear fate may bring me a Nazi like Paulina.


Sometimes I meet nice young couples and jealousy plays easy to catch. Sometimes I pass by the man in the pair and stretch myself just to see I also fit in the tall, dark, handsome madness. I think I am tall. Darkness can come when I stop bathing. And I am the most handsome South of the Sahara. So why am I still single?

I was once a noble idea. A pilot. A doctor with white clothes and clean hair. Along the way the world pulled everything away. Neighbours, witches, girls everyone. A tax collector. A policeman. So much so that things no longer fitted together.

Every person in Kayole was once a noble idea.

The guy next door. The girls in the alley. The man with glue. Those are shattered dreams. Shattered by a corrupt thief in government. An irresponsible father. A foolish teacher. You. I.

We all have a hand.


Author: Papa Were

Just a man with a metallic horse and an umbrella.

Reply and run away.