– It was love at first sight.
– I thought I was in paradise.
– I would have gladly died for you.
– So beautiful; so innocent.
– It was not because of your purse – nality or lack of it thereof, that I loved you.
This is what Jane recently told me. I may not believe her one hundred percent but it all begun like this:-
Soko Mjinga is full of drama. If it is not Mama Mboga hiding in that café to evade creditors, then it is two women fighting each other over some poor drunkard of a man.
Anthony, that is me, a young man aged twenty years who sells tomatoes and onions for mother. My mother is also a market trader and she leaves me to sell for her when she goes out for ‘Chama’.
‘Chama’ is a kind of merry-go-round consolidated fund where the women contribute a little something daily and one member is given the money. The next day, another member is given the cash and so on and so forth. Men-folk may be tempted to dismiss this ‘Chama’ as another gossip session for the women but I like to think otherwise. For example, the Great wall TV, the tea-set and Christmas clothes were bought with this ‘Chama’ money.
Being twenty years of age and handsome (am an optimist), some girl is bound to notice me. My business education teacher taught me that some human needs are universal. One such need is recognition. My social studies teacher also taught me the same but this time, using a pyramid drawn by a fellow called Abraham Maslow.
Some of the girls look at me and I look at them and they smile coyly. These girls are the type that make a man and his money part and so I just please my eyes but do not follow up. These are also the kind of girls with a wonderfully small but beautiful head full of ideas.
One of the ideas may be for you to pay their rent for them and so I avoid them like the plague. Most of these girls also answer to the word ‘Mum’ or ‘Mummy’ somewhere in Murang’a or Kisumu or wherever their upcountry home is.
Not so for Jane. For one, I never really noticed her until a letter from her was delivered to me. Being a prejudiced young man, it seems that my selective eyes had never noticed her before. My eyes are very tribalistic and notice women from only one tribe; the Beautifuls. For me, Jane was just another of my tomato customers; but come to think of it, I may have noticed her once or twice before.
The letter was delivered by this beautiful girl. Achieng, I had noticed and even lusted after. The envelope was simply marked as ‘Deliver it direct to Mr. ……I guess I was supposed to fill in the blank. The letter was written on a pink writing pad full of beautiful designs and drafted in a bold, flowing, feminine handwriting. It went something like this.
10 / 06 / 05
I know you must be wondering who this letter is from. Well, hi, it is from Dear Jane. You may not know me but I hope you will reply favorably.
Let me confess this in the hole of Nairobi , I have never seen a more handsome guy. I don’t know what ‘juju’ you put in me but I can’t stop thinking about you. Imagine I haven’t eaten for two days cause of you. I really hope we meet soon. Bye for now.
Hugs and kisses.
It is a hot Wednesday afternoon when this letter is delivered to me by Achieng. The envelope is wrapped in a small black polythene bag. I guess this is so because she or they did not want the nosy Mama Mbogas’ to know what was going on. After reading and internalizing the letter, it is time for a little meditation as I wait for my friend Mash to arrive.
“What if the letter is really from Achieng and not from this person calling herself Hugs and Kisses Jane ? What if I am a mistaken identity? What if she is married, her husband gets hold of a favourable reply from me and comes to me with a raised machete? What if I don’t reply? What if….? What if…..? What if the sky was to fall? E.t.c e.t.c.
Fortunately, my friend Mash makes an appearance five minutes after. Mash is a childhood friend whom I went with to the same primary and high school. Classmate, desk-mate and cube-mate through thick and thin. One day, when I am president of this country, I am going to make him my Aide de Camp or my vice president.
Mash is a committed church-goer as well as a certified smoker. Mash is not the religious type but goes to church in the hope that it may pay college fees for him. Better yet, he may go to heaven if he dies and all that stuff about heaven, hell and purgatory is true.
For him, heaven is not some place where the streets are paved with gold. After all, the business Education teacher said that gold is precious because it is scarce. So, if it is used to pave streets, then it might as well be as useful as a lump of murram to someone who is very hungry. Mash logic – he calls it, which makes a poverty young man from the ghetto to be philosophical.
Mash knows and has an antidote for everything and that is why I consult him. For example, ask him why he smokes and he will answer you with a food-chain type of reply.
“Smoking”, he says, “helps to create jobs which are scarce in Kenya . There is the farmer who grows the tobacco, the young man in medical school burning the midnight oil for seven years as he studies lung cancer and the employees at the tobacco company. There is the government which taxes all of the above people and uses the money to pay tax collectors so that they can go and tax the above people and finally, when he expires of lung cancer, the mortuary people who will make him presentable for burial”.
However, today I have more pressing things to solve other than hearing him theorize on a hundred and one theses about this and that. He even has a name for his strange hobby – politicking.
No sooner does he settle down than I unload my problems on his shoulders. Mash is a patient fellow and you can see he really is concentrating on the contents of the envelope. At last, he looks up and from the lines on his face; I know he has been thinking deeply. And thinking deeply means that he thinks the letter is one big issue which is likely to make a very huge impact on my life, mainly for the worse. So he opens his big mouth and I am all ears.
“Anto, who delivered this letter to you?”
“It was Achieng’”.
“The all flesh and curves Achieng’?”
“Yes, the one and only Achieng?”
At this, he sinks into further contemplation. Mash is not the jealous kind of guy. Achieng everybody agrees is one beautiful exotic lady – the kind that men climb the highest mountains and swim the widest oceans for; the kind that makes men to be incarcerated at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. Mash is a childhood friend, classmate e.t.c. whom I know like the back of by hand. That qualifies me to state authoritatively that he is not the jealous type.
After asserting that indeed Achieng is the courier, he thinks that we might as well analyze the letter and see how it will affect my short life. So, here we have Mash reading the letter loudly and when he comes to the part that reads “….in the hole of Nairobi …..” he pauses dramatically.
“Anthony, was this girl in a hurry or what?”
By this, he means to ask, if the girl misspelled the word ‘whole’ and wrote it as ‘hole’.
However after some reflection, Mash is of the opinion that Nairobi might as well be a hole.
“Look at the potholes in our Nairobi roads. If they were to be combined, Nairobi will be one big, big hole. Then the lands people might as well consider renaming it as ‘Rift Valley Ndogo’ – the lesser Rift Valley Province. Come April with its long rains and Nairobi is one big hole for collecting the rain water”.
I take the last statement to mean that when it rains, Nairobi turns into a temporary lake; what if I recall correctly, the Geography teacher referred to as seasonal lakes. This is the time when water is everywhere but the taps are a hundred percent dry. Why are the taps dry? You might be tempted to ask. Well, perhaps the City Council people are on strike or a water catchment area somewhere called Sasumua Dam has broken. Perhaps, the water tanks are being cleaned.
After a lengthy discussion, I am of the opinion that I should politely decline the offer of making acquaintance with this ‘Hugs and Kisses Jane’ – whoever she is. But Mash is of the opinion that I should try some reverse psychology. According to him, I should write a reply to the effect that I am dying to meet Jane and drop some subtle hints that I may have some ulterior motives with her. This, Mash thinks, will make her run faster than a ‘Jogoo’ about to be slaughtered at Christmas. And so, I reverse – psychology my reply:
Anthony – Nairobi
11 / 6 / 05
To my most Dearest,
The love of my heart, Jane
Hi, I received your letter and was very pleased. For one, I had wanted to talk to you for a long time but never had the courage to do so.
For me also, I have never seen a more beautiful girl like you before. I think your beauty rivals that of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty put together. Please, include a snap of yourself in your next letter. I dedicate to you the song, ‘waiting in vain by Bob Marley’.
This letter I write at night and in the morning, Mash has to read it to see if its quality is of the expected standard – M.B.S, which stands for Mash Bureau of Standards. Well it is not.
“You know what Anto….”
Well, I do not know and I have to brace myself for one long lecture in the morning. A lecture in the meaning means that this is going to be one day full of drama to last me two lifetimes.
“…you should have consulted me before drafting this dumb letter. This Jane may be an illiterate and not comprehend what you are talking about when you write of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. If I were you, I would write to her things she is conversant with like ‘L love you the way Mbugua loves Wambui wa Otieno….”
“No! No! No! “ I vehemently protest “Talking of Wambui Otieno may seem like an insult to her. After all, I do not think she is an old maid.”
“She may not be an old sugar-mummy after your virility, but that is what I meant when I told you to reverse – psychology her. I have an idea…”
And together we draft another letter. I am not a dumb character, sometimes, that is, and so I tell Mash to draft the letter. As for the old letter, I preserve it just in case. This ‘just in case’ is brought about by an experience involving my high school math teacher who taught me a thing or two about probability. Truthfully though, I would be hard-pressed to explain the connection between the two tales.
Some years back, when I was in high school, I was of the opinion that maths should never be taught in the afternoons. Especially not when it happened to be a hot Friday and we had consumed a good meal of weevil – infested ‘githeri’ for lunch. More often than not, on such afternoons, my brain had a tendency to take an impromptu siesta. And this day was no exception, only that I was rudely awakened by a slap from the maths teacher.
“ Antony , stand up and walk to the front.”
After I had obeyed the order with much trepidation, she pointed at Omondi – her favourite student whom failure at maths meant he had scored a ninety-four instead of a ninety eight percent A grade.
“Omondi, can you tell me what the probability of Antony becoming an engineer is?”.
Snickers all over the class as the other students waited for Omondi to open his very mouth. As it were, everyone knew I was going to be a civil engineer when I grew up. Being a civil engineer, I reckoned, I could bypass the government, bypass the minister of Roads and Public Works and his ministry and bypass the other by-pass contractors in by-passing some by-passes here and there in the country. Then I could be one very rich man with a soft, bulging, beer belly.
As for Omondi’s mouth, some thought it was gigantic while others thought it was huge. Others thought it was immense while others were of the opinion that it was more of a monstrous mouth. So Omondi opens his big, gigantic, huge, immense, monstrous mouth.
“He he he that is very easy, the probability of Antony probably being an engineer is probably around 0.1 or more probable about 0.001”.
There was loud laughter from the rest of my classmates including Mash and I wished with all my might for God to perform a ground-opening miracle so I could be swallowed and instantly disappear from the face of the earth. When it was certain that no such miracle was forthcoming, I wished for a second miracle to happen that of our grammar teacher being present to hear him abuse her precious English with probability jargon.
This would translate into Omondi being handed one ‘looming’ punishment that would force him to miss all the other maths probability lessons. Then the probability of him getting an A in maths would probably be 0.0001 and I would have my revenge. Alas! We happened to be in hard economic times and as such , even miracles were being rationed.
The new letter, written in Mash’s untidy scrawl, read:-
To Jane who knows me.
But not vice – versa.
I received your letter and I am wondering who in Lucifer’s hell you are. I only hope you are as beautiful as Achieng otherwise I wouldn’t take a second look at you.
And now, if you will, I want to put matters straight. First of all, you obviously must be blind. I mean, look at all the handsome guys out there, and another thing, I am not a Nigerian and neither have I ever been anywhere outside Kenya . Therefore, it means that I am ignorant of anything to do with Juju. Maybe, if you had talked about ‘Kamuti’ I would have an inkling as to what you were talking about.
Right now, my mind is full of other things. I am imagining where my next meal will come from and if you recall what your Biology teacher taught you, as men can only think about one thing at a time. I mean, if you have not eaten for two days, you must be dead by now. Else, you are one big woman taking drastic measures to slim. Perhaps an exercise regimen would do you more good as opposed to a dietary one.
No hugs, no kisses.
I wonder what has happened to the notion of reverse-psychology, but keep my opinions to myself. Mash excuses himself as he has other business to attend to while I wait for Achieng to make her appearance so that I can hand her the letter to deliver.
9:00 am, a middle-aged man passes by carrying two mattresses. These mattresses have seen better days, everyone can tell. Still, it is end month and the landlord or his agents are about to come calling. So someone somewhere has to shift to another house. After all, how is one supposed to pay rent when he is jobless or he is six months in salary arrears? And so, one by one, the goods are moved. A stool here, a table there until virtually, one has vacated the house and moved into another one somewhere else.
Out of the blue comes a woman running very fast and when he reaches the man, a tug-of-war ensues. And out of another blues comes the summoning clerk from the nearby community policing station. In these community policing stations, the ‘Wazee’ are having a field day collecting fines from couples having domestic problems. The ‘Wazee’ are former jobless people until recently when the new government came into power.
Well, the new government promised to create five hundred thousand jobs annually. I guess this whole idea of community policing is really about job creating. A crowd of curious ‘wananchi’ gathers outside the community policing station to be fed on juicy gossip. This community policing station has very big windows and one can see clearly what is going on outside. Apparently, this couple is well known here and can be considered as customers by the ‘Wazee’.
” Hawa ni wateja wa kila siku.” Jokingly remarks the self styled court clerk, Omollo. There is light-hearted laughter from the crowd.
“Mlienda kwa chief? Asks one of the elders.
“Ndiyo, tulienda,” in unison replies the hapless couple.
“Chief alisema nini?” Another elder asks.
“Alisema tuachane” replies the husband.
” Na mbona mgogoro asubuhi hii yote?” Asks the first elder.
After all, the facts are laid bare, it transpires that the ‘mgogoro’ is due to the division of the household goods, notably the two mattresses there. No sooner does he do so, than there is a mad scramble for the newer of the mattresses. Another tug-of-war ensues and the cover of the mattress is torn in the process. Meanwhile, the outside crowd is egging them to go for each other’s throats. This forces the court clerk, a younger man in comparison to the other ‘Wazee’, to intervene.
“Nani alinunua mattress?” He asks in an authoritative tone. The husband is the one who bought the mattresses and he is awarded the newer of the two mattresses. Since the drama is over, it is time for me to return to my workplace and who do I find waiting for me?
The all flesh and curves Achieng’, as Mash puts it. The all flesh and curves Achieng is donned in a long, purple, shimmering dress and I go like blind for a couple of minutes or so. Her hair is styled in a very elegant manner that only Wanja, our local hair stylist, can manage. Men’s necks are getting stressed and strained as they turn to catch a second or third look of her.
At this instant, if she were to declare that the letter from Jane is actually from her, l would fly to Mars and back. It is wishful thinking; however, as she does not declare so and wishful thinking is what l never engage in during the week. I reserve it for Sunday instead of going to church only that l call it Sunday meditation. I give her the letter to deliver. My mother is not due until evening as she has gone to check up on a sick relative.
3:00 P.M. Here comes Achieng and in tow is another girl who can only be her sister. The girl is fuming and whoever coined the expression” hell hath no fury as a woman scorned” must have known exactly what he was talking about. He must have had in mind a boy about to be wiped off the face of the earth by an enraged girl. Only that the boy and girl have now acquired names, Jane and Antony , for sure as death, the girl (who indeed in Achieng’s sister) is Hugs and Kisses Jane . l cannot believe it “Yawa! Yaani” we are not officially married and yet l have started to experience domestic troubles.
“Who the f*** are you telling to go to hell?!” she blurts out. She sure can use her tongue and after ten minutes of using all the known and unknown colorful expletive words in English, her mother tongue and a host other languages, she is in a state fit to listen to my line of argument. All this time, a crowd of curious “wananchi” has formed and is hanging to every word she says the way a bee such nectar from a flower.
The day is turning out to be really interesting and so, for the umpteenth time in my life, l wish really hard for a miracle. With all my might, I wish for the ground to open, swallow me and save me the public humiliation and embarrassment I am going through right now.
For the umpteenth time in my life, no ground opens to swallow me.
That’s why I don’t go to church nowadays because, even if I have the faith to move mountains at moments like these, no miracle happens. So, for the umpteenth time in my life I put on a brave face and face the world. Yes, after all is said and done, a man has to do what a man has to do. In this case, the world is Jane and I have to be a voice of reason.
One day, with my voice of reason, I am going to be a big politician. I can already see my self on a podium in the near future inciting peace loving citizens to take to the streets.
“Wapende wasipende tutafunga mabarabara yote tukidai katiba mpya. Katiba ni haki ya kila Mkenya na…..” I have no time to finish my speech as riot police makes an appearance and am too busy getting into my twenty million, state-of – the – art, fuel guzzling Range Rover bought and maintained by taxpayers – the wananchi am inciting – money as the police start clobbering them.
At that time , I will have opened several clinics of my own. As for the riot police, most will have been recruited from my village. After the job of clobbering the ‘ wananchi ‘ is over they will report to my clinic to be treated for minor and major injuries; the ‘wananchi’, that is. All this I will view from the comfort of my luxuries, on a sixty- five inches plasma screen TV. The journalist who will be reporting will be another of my relatives whom I helped to secure the job despite not having the necessary academic qualification. Anyway, it is all about job creation.
You know what they say. That a man’s entire life flashes before him when faced with death .Well, it is true as all this flashes before me as I am faced with death. Only that it has reincarnated itself and taken the form of Jane.
To cut an interesting long story short, I manage to convince Jane that the honour at authorship of the letter is not mine. At this time, Mash has arrived and is proving to be very helpful.
“Whoever wrote this letter ought to be caned, jailed for life and hanged at Kamiti.” he says with a mighty grin.
Perhaps, after all I will not make him the V.P. or State House comptroller when I am president. Still, I manage to calm the she- devil and to show I really care, I promise to take her to Uhuru Park or Arboretum come Saturday.
After she is gone; it is time to think of Home Economics – the art of planning two weeks in advance on what to wear when going out for a function as you only have two pairs of trousers and three shirts.
As for Jane and I, we are an item nowadays and can fill the gossip column of magazines for weeks on end, only that we are not celebrities.
Still, she is just a good time girl and not wife material. But again, who knows what the future holds? Especially concerning matters of love? Certainly not me.