Originally published in Arts and Africa
This man Madam Nyambura calls Daktari does not look to me like a doctor doctor, maybe just one of those people who know how to cut people. I have seen true doctors on television and on those big pictures they put next to the road. They wear white clothes and are always smiling but this one just wears a Manchester United T-shirt. He has not even smiled at me since I came in here. Instead, he tells me to remove my trousers, climb on the bed and look away. A red devil indeed.
A true doctor would at least tell Madam Nyambura to go outside. Also, if Madam was a proper woman, she should at least have the courtesy to excuse herself. Instead, she only stands there, in a T-shirt with Homeless of Nairobi written on it, as my trousers drop to my knees. When I try to cover my mhoigos, she barks at me.
“Remove your hands from there, Junior! Nituonete ciindu nene na theru murio, Ni kii! Rita moko maku hau!”
It is Saturday morning. There are not many people in this hospital. This is disappointing because I really wanted to see how nurses look like live live. In the movies they are always wearing a small white hat, short white coats that only cover half of their breasts, leaving the rest out, shining like a glass of moonlight.
“This is not even real circumcision. This is mere treatment,” the doctor says, tapping a syringe and then squeezing it to release some white liquid. “The real circumcision happens back home in Vihiga,” he continues and turns to Madam. With his legs apart and his chest forward, he tells her, “we stood like this in the cold by the river, mud coating our bodies up to the buttocks, and then an old man would just pull our penis and ng’aaaa!” He slices the air with his empty hand. “That is how real men are made, my friend. Those we the days when men were men and women liked them that way.”
Madam chuckles. I take it that she is trying to imagine what a buttock covered with mud looks like.
Doctor puts the syringe aside and then fills a second one. I watch him scrub his hands on the sink, dry them and then put on two pairs of gloves. Two! Aki these entitled doctors. Yaani just because he has been told that I am a street child and that this operation is for free. He must think that I am really dirty. I guess gloves are just like Farmer’s Choice smokies; one is never enough.
“Look away,” comes another command. I turn my head to the left and stare at the ceiling. There is a brown stain that has spread itself from the corner. It looks like someone urinated there.
I feel him wipe my mhoigos and the hair around it with something wet and cold. Then a sting. It is a needle piercing into my mhoigos. The pain runs to my head, and I clench my buttocks tight. I turn to look but Madam shouts at me again “What is wrong with this one? Didn’t Daktari tell you to look away?”
Daktari pierces my mhoigos all around with the needle, and when the first round is done, he picks the second syringe and pushes its needle inside my mhoigos, this time, just above my balls. I shut my eyes tight and my buttocks tighter and try to imagine something that would distract me from the sting on my mhoigos. Nothing helps. Not even Daktari’s muddy buttock.
The taste of salt at the corner of my lips makes me open my eyes. That is when I see Madam staring at me. Her face is just blank.
“Now if you cry this one, what would you do if we had let akina Gaza do it instead?”
Truth is, I do not know. I would not have let them. Gaza is the big guy in our group. He came up with this rule that all the street children in his area must be circumcised as soon as they get to fourteen years of age. If you refuse, they put you in a mkokoteni, take you deep inside Deep C where Nairobi River flows by and then cut off your foreskin by force.
Another truth is that Gaza does not care how old you really are as long as he sees that you are tall and your mhoigos is already surrounded by a thick bush, you are ready. He had given me until this Saturday evening to get cut, or else he would remove his knife.
That is why I told Madam that I do not want to be put in Gaza’s mkokoteni.
Daktari rubs my mhoigos with his thumb. He reaches for a pair metal scissors, inserts his fingers into them and then turns to me. I look at the ceiling. I always thought that when people are cut in the hospital, the injections make them sleep. But, I am not asleep.
Daktari grabs my mhoigos. A cold hard metal pulls my skin small and then something begins to cut through it. The pain is not gone. I am not supposed to be feeling pain. That is what Madam said. The next sting of pain makes me jerk my waist away from Daktari.
“Stay calm, kijana. Or else, I will pinch the head with these scissors. You are a big man. Act like it. Ala!”
I close my eyes again, and somehow the pain starts to fade, just as a drop of something warm and thick trickles down my mhoigos all the way past my balls, and into the crack of my buttocks.
“Oh God,” I hear Madam Nyambura say. She sounds as if she is about to choke on something. “I’ll wait outside.” The click of her heels trails off into a distant whisper as she rushes further down the hallway, followed closely by her sweet perfume. I hear the smell of blood.
“Aki women!” Daktari laughs. “It is just small blood and she is running away…as if she does not see it every month.”
I do not laugh with him. All I want is to look at myself but I can’t. He says he will pinch me if I do. I am too scared. So I just look at the urine on the ceiling and wait.