A Stranger’s Hand
I’ve been on leave for the last week. Usually, when I take my leave, I like to spend time in the house and just chill. Smell the flowers, drink the coffee, use the loo. Usually, I’d read a good book or watch a movie or two. This time though, I have new neighbours. The new neighbours have children. The children are annoying AF.
So I’d like to ask you to forgive me if this one doesn’t make sense. As I write this, there’s a little boy screaming at the top of his lungs just outside my window. He has a friend, a girl, she’s calling for him since he went up the stairs and he’s not supposed to.
His name is Jayden – I wish I were lying but I’ve never changed a person’s name in my stories. His name is actually Jayden. Annoying Jayden. AJ.
AJ is a piece of work but this post is not about AJ.
This post is about a thief.
Just before I went on leave, I went on assignment to Nairobi. A work thing. I had made arrangements to stay with a friend of mine in Uthiru. Or is it 87? Is 87 in Uthiru or are those two different places? I wonder why it’s called 87 anyway.
Maybe initially, the place had a capacity of 87 people like in those towns where horror movie things happen. I picture threadbare land with nothing but five or six mabati kiosks on each side of a tiny road that leads to Naivasha. Kamau and his friends settle there selling tea and mandazis and crates of warm Coca Colas and Charity Sweepstake tickets. One day a council officer passes by and asks what Kamau and his ilk are doing and they say they are trading. He wants tax, this councilman. He demands it. Kamau doesn’t have any to give. Council dude is furious and says that instead of the usual 90-day warning, he gives the traders only 87 days.
That night people would be talking about the interaction and asking, “Ati alisema siku ngapi?”
“87,” Kamau would reply.
And the story was repeated over and over again till everyone just called the place 87.
Or maybe only 87 people lived there at the time.
Or 87 people died there once. A car accident probably. An Eldoret Express.
As I was saying, I was going to a friend’s house. I had been there before but that was during the day and I had used a Bolt to get there. It looked different at night and on foot. Luckily, the place was well lit and there were people walking around so I wasn’t too out of place. The only thing different about me was that I was the only one wearing a mask – the surgical kind.
Apparently, COVID is a rumour in 87. People were milling about hither and thither sans mask and I thought to myself, ‘Ah, what a world without this nasal obstruction. What is this utopia?’
If you would like to see a pre-COVID Kenya, go to 87.
Anyway, I couldn’t quite remember how to get to my friend’s place but I had his pin. Thank God for Google Maps as I was able to make it to his building mpaka hapo kwa gate.
Before I got there though, there was a brief moment that has been encapsulated in my mind for maybe years to come.
I was staring at my phone like a lost sheep, trying to get the right bearing. Up ahead I saw a light. A nduthi. Nothing major – it wasn’t like a BMW nduthi or anything like that. Just a normal one up ahead, headlight almost blinding. I put my phone in my pocket for a few steps before I decided I was lost again. Pulling my phone out, I went back to Maps. It recalibrated for a few seconds and I saw the trajectory of where I needed to go.
I looked up and saw that the nduthi was moving toward me. Nothing out of the ordinary, I mean, nduthis move all the time, right? Three of them passed me just a few minutes ago. I looked down on the map then up again and saw the gate – just as the nduthi veered toward me.
I’m not a very suspicious person by nature, so I thought, ‘Wow, the ground must be slippery over there.’ It had just rained and the ground was indeed slippery. But no, I was wrong. I should have been suspicious because as the nduthi zipped by me just a hair away, a hand – a big, black hand landed on my chest. I can still feel the hand on me right now like a phantom force pressing against my left breast. I was shocked! Dumbfounded! Flabbergasted even. What the hell was that?
Turns out, nduthi guy had a passenger on him, and they had conspired to help relocate my phone from my hand to blackie’s hand – which they would have if I was holding it just a few centimetres to my left. Imagine the trauma. Eish! Nairobi people, si you experience things…
I shall continue to praise the Lord for delivering me from the hand of this enemy. And I shall ask Him to show mercy on him even though I hope that, because he wasn’t wearing a mask, he gets to grab something else.
I also hope that he and everyone he lives next to all his life have kids like AJ.