He quickly sat across the table. His right cheek was swollen – a fist with no knuckles on kind of swollen. His mouth was a huge ball full of leaves and twigs and groundnuts and God knows what else. “Maze!” he mumbled to himself, stroking the back of his neck softly before a look of “did I just say that out loud?” formed on his face. I prodded him to go on anyway. I mean, we’ve all been there. And the cat was out of the bag. So what’s there to lose?
“Maze jana nilitokwa tenje…” Pause. “Hadi jaba na njugu…” I laughed. It’s wrong, I know, but I just couldn’t hold my laughter in after that last bit. I mean, that’s what a six year old throwing a tantrum would say. “Mommy! They stole my peanuts!” But I was not his Momma and he wasn’t throwing a tantrum. Quite the opposite – he was cool, calm and collected like all he got was a pat on the back. He then laughed out loud. Yobra was a mercurial man.
“Kumbe ilikua ni Oti…” Turns out he’d robbed by one of his friends. Well, not exactly his ‘friend’. But they’d smoked one together and that was more than enough to cement their ‘brotherhood;’ like some kind of secret Mau Mau oath of unity.
“Lini?” I had to ask.
“Jana usiku after tu tumeachana na kina Solo…kumbe ilikua nipigwe tisa kwa gate ya kwangu.” He massaged the back of his neck once more.
“Wangeenda hadi na Patco lakini iyo nilikatalia.” He was amused by this and so was I. I mean, PATCO! A SWEET! For Christ’s sakes…! Then “maodi wawili walitokea” and they quickly whisked him aside. I didn’t hear much. Just “Samsung A10”; some more gibberish; then “Namba ngapi?” and some more gibberish, and the conversation was over just as quickly as it had started. Some poor guy was obviously missing his Samsung A10 and a very cunning hood rat was looking to dispose of it ASAP. A snatched Samsung isn’t something you’d want to hang around with. Trust me. Maybe this is why he wasn’t pissed off. He’d never crossed a man that didn’t deserve it. But he did deserve it. He wasn’t as innocent as he’d made himself out to be. And he knew it.
Or maybe not.
“Najua unashangaa kwanini sijaboeka juu ya kutokwa simu.” He said, making his move (a draft board was on the table). I nodded.
“Wacha nikushow, mi mathe alinizaa kwa streets…” Pause. “Na ikabidi acheze ka yeye…” Turns out he’d been dumped on the streets. The place was now silent. You could hear a pin drop. It’s not everyday you get to hear a man pouring his heart out, folks.
“Lakini mi siwezi mfuria…bado ye ni mamangu mzazi.” He then told his story.
Duck into a narrow pathway off Biashara Street and you’ll be in for a rude shock. The place reeks of human waste. There are condoms everywhere; heaps of rummaged-through-garbage bundled carelessly together; dirty pools of stagnant water… It’s got one thing going for it though; it’s not choked in the pleasantries and hypocrisy of the rest of the world.
And although it didn’t chime as much as they would have liked to, the bell meant only one thing. It was time to eat. And eight skinny barefoot boys in tattered clothes pounced on the meal: a bag of fries fresh out of the dustbin; a few rotten avocadoes Yobra had earned pushing carts “pale Wakulima Market;” and a lone slice of bread Oti had managed to squeeze out of a tourist. Not much of a meal but they liked it anyway. Meals were rare. And a home was rarer. And so anything between the two grim walls full of street graffiti, they called home for 10 years.
Oti was born the child of a single mother “huko downtown” and his cries for food and love and warmth and whatever else kids cry for, meant absolutely nothing to his junkie parents. His father couldn’t even feed himself. He’d taken to drinking and wetting his pants all the time. And so Oti had been born again in the streets. Born again as a merciless thug with a reputation for ruthlessness. Yobra’s story wasn’t any different.
“Kwa hivo mi akuna story ya Oti sijui.” Yobra said. So they knew each other, huh? I thought to myself.
They’d even applied for hii kazi ya vijana. Ama ni kazi mtaani? Whatever it is. But they’d been told it was full, and that they should wait for phase 2. And so they waited – hopefully. And the time for Phase 2 came. They were told to show up at the Town Hall with their IDs. So they showed up at the Town Hall with their IDs, along with many others. And they pushed and shoved and jostled just to get their name on the little black book because nobody cared about the queue. But they were told the first batch, Phase 1, bado hawajalipwa na wanataka kustrike. So they were told to wait a bit longer. Again. And then they were told to send in their resumes and, would they please understand that only shortlisted candidates would be contacted. Like they were applying for the Postmaster General’s job. Well, this didn’t go down well with Oti. He QUIT! Yobra did everything he was told but he still didn’t have a job. Sadly.
“Kwa hivo ni bahati tu?” Someone asked.
“Ati bahati? Pale ni connections maze…” Yobra snapped back. “Hao mashoga akuna kitu ingine wanajua…kama si ganji tembea!”
So that’s why he wasn’t pissed off – because he knew why Oti did it. Hell, he’d done it to some poor soul himself.
“Lakini na mimi nikipata Oti amekaa vibaya…!” Make no mistake; he wasn’t going to spare him. He had bills to pay too.
“Ndio kwa maana si hufanya chenye si hufanya!”