Before Deogratias grew fat, and before I grew a kitambi, we used to play football together. My old man was a footballer in his days of yore. That was before his kidneys pulled a fast one on him. So our earlier years were filled with a lot of soccer balls. Deogratias and I were the kids in the Migosi Site Estate who had leather balls; that means we were the ones who decided what time we played, who played against who, whether a score was valid and most importantly, when the game was over. Most of the time we were in the same team, Dee and I. When a team from Kenya Re or White Gate or Kapenesa came to play, it is us who chose the Migosi team. And sure as taxes and death, we were the strikers of that team. If you didn’t like the way things were run, you could as well ask your father to buy you your own soccer ball. Or better yet, go to Google Maps, find a place where people give a fuck about your opinion, and then book the next flight there.
Sometimes, the Migosi teammates would just play amongst themselves on our home ground; Soko. Soko is this field behind an abandoned market that was, for some forgotten reason, never used at all. If you walked into that market, you would find deposits of faeces left for us by kids from Kapenesa. You would walk into the brown fresh ones, and the old black ones that had seen better days.
This one time we were playing and the opposing team was beating us badly. I cannot remember the scoreline; all I remember is that Dee and I concluded that it was time the game ended. He grabbed the ball and we turned to leave. Some guy, his name was Franco began hauling insults at us. Calling us names, mentioning our mother, telling us how conceited we were because we were from a better to do family that could afford to buy its kids soccer balls.
“Naweza hata kukunyang’anya hiyo ball niipasue na kisu,” he said.
“Kuja useme hapa kama wewe ni Franco,” That was Dee challenging Franco to come prove he had balls the size of the one he was holding.
I was scared. Franco was huge, older and more ominous than him. He also had a twin brother called Simon. When these two dribbled the ball on the field, they kicked anyone before them. That is how come their team had managed to score so many goals. Nobody was ready to risk his tibia bone for victory.
The result of this chest thumping was a duel between Dee and Franco. Since Soko was brimming with wazees who would tell our parents that we fought, we decided to settle this in Pab Remo. Pab remo is Luo for ‘field of blood’. This is where we went to fight. It was a clearing inside a thicket we named Museveni, which bordered Kenya Re – the estate with a good web of tarmac roads where rich pricks who owned gorofas and drove Toyota cars lived in. The hallowed girls from Kenya Re never spoke to such paupers as us who went to settle scores in Museveni.
We got to Pab Remo, I was holding the ball. Dee and Franco began fighting. Here is how you knew the winner of such fights. The winner would subdue the loser to the ground, sit on his chest or stomach so that he could not breathe properly, then stuff handfuls of sand in his mouth.
I stood and watched. Dee and Franco locked themselves in a judo embrace. They let each other go, then traded blows, then locked themselves again. The crowd was split, but more weight was on Dee so that football culture never dies in Migosi Site Estate.
When Dee finally managed to put Franco to the ground, the crowd roared in shock. Oh! I felt so proud. Our family name was going to be honoured. I rushed to bring the sand that Dee would ultimately stuff in Franco’s mouth to secure the win. But as soon as I bent over to collect the soil, my best friend Daddy shouted my name.
“Weeeeee Geeeeoooorge! Brother yako amevamiwa!”
I turned to see Simon descending upon Dee with kicks as Franco struggled to get up from the ground. I was not going to let that happen. I was small back then with frail arms sporting no muscle at all. But at that moment, I could not care. I ran and shoved Simon out of my brother and threw weak punches all over his face. I doubt those jabs hurt him. But they disoriented him for long enough for Dee to get back up and join me in kicking his ass.
When Franco joined, Dee charged at him with a spear, sending him sprawling back to the ground. I got hold of a stick and struck Simon all over for a little while. The crowd cheered. Daddy, my friend, grabbed the ball and asked us to leave.
We ran. We ran without our Umoja slippers for which we would have to explain to Mother Karua where they went. We jumped over the thickets of Museveni. We did not mind the thorns. We did not stop until we got to the gate of our house, where we stopped to catch our breath. I was bleeding from the mouth, and Dee’s hand hurt so badly he was wincing.
Then Daddy began to narrate the fight to us, making faces of Simon and Franco, and we began to laugh. We laughed at my folly of joining the fight. We laughed at Dee and his aching hand. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
The hardest part of that night was trying to explain to Mother Karua what happened to Dee’s hand.
Today is Dee’s birthday. I do not know exactly what he is turning. Blimey, I am a bad brother. I have not seen him in two months since I left home. I sit in my bachelor pad, playing around with this Smart TV. The TV tries to play its part in making me forget that I have not yet called to wish him a happy birthday. It has multifarious apps. Youtube, Social TV, Facebook, Twitter, WWE, and the likes. None of them comes close.
Mukundi is holding the remote control. At some point, in between juggling the apps, he presses the remote repeatedly. The Smart TV does not respond. Mukundi then turns to me to say
“Morio, hii TV imehang bana.”
“Omera, this is a Smart TV bwana. Smart TVs do not hang. They stop to think.”
I tell him to chill kiasi for it answer his many commands. It works.
This year, the 1st of November comes on a Saturday. Dee is probably in Madaraka cleaning, or in Embakassi tending his rabbit farm. Naturally, I cannot help thinking about him. I wish this TV had an app that would take me back in time to that moment in history, inside the Museveni thickets, just so that I get more time to pummel Simon for getting into a fight that does not concern him. Perhaps one that would tell me where my childhood best friend, Daddy, is these days would be nice. It has been almost 10 years. I wish there was an app in the TV that would tell Deogratias wherever he is that I miss him; one that would remind him of that fight and make him laugh the way we did at the gate after the fight.
Wait, that is what a cellphone is for right? But you see, Dee and I are not the kind to sit and throw back. We are not those kind of siblings. That kind of mushiness is not in our DNA. So long as you are alive, that is all that matters. Perhaps the app that I am looking for is one that would break down our egos.
If necessity is indeed the heifer of invention, then now would be a good time for the Koreans to switch on the creative bulbs in their heads. All I am asking for is an app that would take me back to when I was 10. Back when the vast expanse of land adjacent to Kenya Re was still a massive bush called Museveni, and not the concrete jungle that is now called Lolwe Estate. When life was simple and fun and lacking of care. When we ruled Migosi Estate like gods using only a soccer ball. Back then when a handful of sand from Pab Remo earned you respect.
Happy birthday Deogratias aka Dee.
[P.S Tell me, which apps do would you like to have on your Smart TV? Samsung would want to know]
[Cover Photo Credit: Photostaud]