Life in a plot is really interesting. You get to meet all collections of people. There will be a smoker next door who works as a watchman in the KCB Nyeri Branch. On the other door, there will be a couple that plays loud Kikuyu music at night, and a baby who gets messing with them when it’s bedtime. And the couple I am talking about is not the one you saw in the Mexican soap opera. It is the one where the guy works in the butchery that is not performing so well. You may hear him complain about the meat he sold during the day, how thin the sheep they bought from Washiuri of Kigogoini was, how a certain skinny customer complained that he was served with bones while he wanted meat, that the math was not adding up and the boss wanted to convert the butchery to a barbershop, and other stories.
The lady, on the other hand, tried to apply for the Kazi Mtaani thing but the chief got a wind that her husband works in a meat company. So, she works as a housewife, spends the day basking between your door and her door, sometimes chewing khat and shouting to her kid just when you are about to do your assignments. If your landlord locks the tap with a Solex padlock, you will probably be living in a house without a ceiling.
A house without a ceiling means going out a mile away to make calls or otherwise your neighbor next door will know you inside out. It means that your secrecy is a matter of public concern. Your neighbor can hear you light up a matchstick, pour water in a cup, sneeze, pick a spoon from the trolley you bought from a Hindi shop, everything. A neighbor can almost hear your breath. Adjacent to your house will be another household with a lady. She will most likely be in her late 2020s, with a baby, and cooks with a very smoky jiko. You have to breathe it in though or pack and leave anyway. She is godly though, and super religious. She wakes up very early when you are in your 99th dream and starts talking to angel Gabriel, sometimes telling Jesus how she can’t wait to get married to him when the chase is over. So you have to wake up and listen to two possessed beings converse in a language that you have never heard of. Do you even have any gift from the Holy Spirit?
Well, it is interesting though. However, some plots are hard to put up with. You have to wash your clothes at night because the hanging lines are booked with babies’ nappies during the day. Also, it may be so unwise to leave your khaki trousers on the hanging line during the day because a plot with houses without a ceiling does not a secure wall either. You don’t trust those guys you saw drinking coffee and chewing jaba like Somali goat on the other side of the plot, do you? They can chew miraa and wear the shirts you left drying on the line.
You may get thirsty at 10 p.m but the landlord already locked the water with a padlock bigger than the one you locked your box while in form one. So, you have to drink cooking fat if it has not solidified or you can die with your thirst. If your girlfriend or boyfriend comes to visit you on the weekend, you have to communicate using sign language.
Here is why I never want to be single and living in a single room.
The first time on campus I lived in the insides of the school’s hostels. Weh, that place was hell. We were six growing men. Kim was the dude who played soccer even when he was half an hour to the exam and had a terrible problem with taking a shower. He complained every day how a doctor told him to avoid cold water while he was 7. Then there was Manu who came from somewhere with poor roads and heavy rains. His shoes were always muddy. And he always walked on the white tiles with them. Our room looked like an urban farm. And you see, the manly ego can’t let you clean a house for other men. In fact, mwanaume anafanya nini kwa room safi?
Then there was Peter. That dude played Mini-militia 22/24 hours. The other time was reserved to place bets and talk about Lewandoski, Rooney, and whatever the goats of soccer he used to mention. The other dude was Alex, he was the kind that has a mouth but never opened it. He never looked at anyone. He just walked to his locker and did his stuff. Not blinking, not turning, like a robot.
Then there was Benja. He was as prayerful as the Pharisees. He always dragged us to church and other church activities even when we did not want to attend. Then there was me.
I am the guy that hated when Manu used my toilet paper as my parents work for Hanan. I hated when Kim used my soap to wash his soccer boots as if I had shares in Menengai. I also hated being dragged to morning devotion at 5 A.M. So, I couldn’t wait to get out of the school hostels.
Which I did a semester later. I moved into another plot commonly known as Kwa Mathe. Life was fun. The neighbors were considerate. I just had to close my house with a huge padlock and hide my electric gadgets underneath the mattress.
Three pit latrines served a plot of twenty plus humans. But the landlord always closed one of the latrines so he could use it with his family alone. I wonder whether what that family pooped is VIP while what the tenants pooped was ordinary.
There were one bathroom and one sink. When a neighbor was washing utensils at the sink, you’d have to wash yours in the bathroom. So, one day, I was taking a shower after a long day in town. I fetched my bathing kit, hid my phone and laptop inside the pillow, and headed out to shower.
Upon opening the bathroom, I realized the lower hinge of the door had broken but the door was still swaying. So, I carefully closed it behind me, although I couldn’t get it to a point where I could push the door lock. I decided to shower as fast as how a corruption case disappears in Kenya.
I whistled some song as I scrubbed my shoulders and back until the white foam was all over me. The whistle served two purposes, one, to notify any incoming person that a tired man was using the bathroom, and also to ease the freezing temperatures of the water.
All of a sudden, I saw a lot of light up in the dark bathroom. Then a sound of a falling door followed. I turned around, with my groins facing on the inside and my head looking what the hell was going on. Then I saw her. It was Nafula. She was the landlord’s housewife. I guess she never heard my whistle. I looked hard into her eyes. She shyly smiled. I eased the feeling. I smiled back.
The following day, there was a KTR Mitsubishi Canter parked at the gate as early as 6:37 A.M. I loaded all my belongings on the lorry and left. I will never again shower in a bathroom with a broken door. Neither will I ever smile to a Lughya girl while I am naked and full of soap on my skin. And singles?