I do not know what to do with people who are sad. Especially when they are crying. I find myself at a complete loss when confronted with the need to console someone. What am I supposed to do? Usually, when I am sad, the last thing I want around me is people. Because I hate for people to see me in that kind of state. The internet makes that kind of vulnerability sound cool, but the truth is I have not met many people who will see me in that kind of situation and not use it against me in the future. Human beings, in case you have never met them, are horrible creatures like that. It is not beyond them to bring up that shit sometime in the future when you disagree with them over something on Twitter. You will be exchanging words over something completely unrelated and then them tweet something cryptic like; one day we will talk about these men who act like they can never bathe with Geisha and yet we have seen them cry like babies.
So I guess it is my own insecurity that makes me uncomfortable around people who are bold enough to cry in public. Do I hold them? Do I leave them alone? Do I buy them a drink? What do I say? That everything is going to be all right? Well, I do not know that for sure and I have to be an A grade asshole to lie to a sad person.
These are the kind of questions that were going through my head that Saturday afternoon. The whole of Kenyan Twitter was at Ligi Ndogo for the KOT 5 Aside tournament – a shindig four types of people attend. The teammates who actually come to play, sponsors and/or influencers for sponsors who are sponsoring the individual participant teams, boozers, and people like me with the personality of uncooked rice – we whose social awkwardness won’t let them sustain a conversation with a stranger past the first Hello. It’s funny how you meet people from the internet and they assume you are the same person on social media. They forget internet bundles are just a smoke screen. I may have a few followers on Twitter, but in real life, I am struggling to convince even my shadow that I am someone worth following.
Anyway, as it tends to happen in such gatherings, we filled our plastic cups with things we did not know and began wasting sunlight. As time went by people broke out into groups – little pockets of tribes, if you may, of people you fuck with. I was taking a respite from the sun under a tree with a few guys I know when this chap called Chris came by. Contrasted against me, Chris is tall. No, let’s try that again. He is towering. He rises and rises above you like a skyscraper taking up serious portions of heaven’s real estate. I think I had met Chris before but there was something different about him this time. Dude had added a bit of meat, there was something about the hair that I couldn’t quite locate, and then his eyes were red – bloodshot – as if someone had pricked them with a needle.
Whether or not we exchanged pleasantries, only God knows, and that doesn’t even matter. The important part of this interaction – and this whole post, really – was how he just broke down. Dude crumbled and burst into tears. In full view of everyone. In the middle of a mindless conversation with me.
“Maaa….maaaa….mmm….my wife….I……I just lost and buried my wife last week,” he began, wiping his face with a handkerchief, “it is so painful and….and…..aaa…aaand..she left me with two kids…aaaaaa…and….aaaa…I… I don’t know what to do or tell them.”
Watching a man his size break down like that is like witnessing the mighty Twin Towers collapse on 9/11. It reminds you that there is no man too strong to be broken. And if you have known death – if it has ever taken away someone close to you – then you know the kind of thing this fella must’ve been going through. I say must’ve because there are no two pains that are equal. And this is what I was talking about, right? How do you handle situations like these? I mean, if we are being honest here, I did not know this guy past his Twitter handle. If he was my friend friend, I would have an idea how to console him.
Suddenly, even my hands felt like a burden. The left one was holding my drink and the other free one felt useless and confused at the same time. Do I pocket? Do I rub his back? Do I give him a hug? Or maybe just squeeze his hand as a sign of something?
I did the best I could do – listened. And he went on and on and on, taking breaks to sniff, blow his knows or wipe his eyes. He told me about his wife and the two boys, and how a couple of his friends (whom I know) have been really supportive. Words tumbled out of his mouth in uncontrollable spasms. His voice crackled like dry burning wood. And when he was not talking, he cried like a child. Unashamed of his pain. Death does that sometimes – it reduces grown men into little boys.
“Maybe I should take you home. You said you live on Riara Road? That is just hapa nyuma.” I offered. “Let me call a cab.” I wanted to take him away from prying eyes. To sort of shield him from the embarrassment of exposing his feelings naked in front of everyone. You know, for the sake of his own self-preservation. It is what I would have wanted for me. I was helping him the way I imagined, I would want to be helped if the shoe was on the other foot.
“No, it is fine,” he said, “I have a car right here.” He was pointing to a white car parked just next to us.
“OK. I can drive you home?”
“It is fine. Let me just go sit inside.” We started walking towards the car. “Do not worry about me, Magunga, I have a bodyguard here to look after me.”
“Wait. What? Did you say, bodyguard?”
“Yeah…baba gave me a chase car and two bodyguards. They are somewhere in here.”
“Raila,” he said half laughing half sniffing.
“Why the hell does Raila need to give you a bodyguard? Who is coming after you?”
“You know….I am one of the few Merus in my county who support baba. So he gave me a bodyguard and a chase car for protection. Ata kuna bunduki hapa.”
I was like holy fuck. This is one of those people, eh? You know how in this town you might be chilling out with someone and kumbe they are related or on a first name basis with important people in this country. Come to think about it. These politicians have kids we only hear about when in urban lore. Ati the son of so and so flashed a gun at a club in Westi. Or sijui nani’s daughter was spotted at a country club with the son of his political rival. Ama sijui the son of that cabinet minister who stole condom money, just bought a car so expensive it runs on Nutella instead of petrol. Yet we never see them. We do not know what these kids look like. They are just whispers in the wind – like the taxes their parents steal from us.
So you have to understand. When Chris mentioned that he and Baba are on a first name basis, I was stunned. He looked so ordinary. He was not the godlike creature I pictured these people look like. I mean, he is a giantish – like King Xerxes but with dreadlocks held in a bun at the top…and of course without all the bling, and well, personality. But other than that there was nothing extraordinary about him. He was just a kawa Meru with eyes the colour of Zesta jam and an accent that sounds like it knows how to peel the bark of a miraa plant with its eyes closed.
Yet he knew Baba. Not just any Baba. He knew Raila Amollo Odinga. Son of Adonijah. Tat yien. Chot Ida. Tinga wuod Alego. Chuny piny. Mayienga mayiengo piny. He knew the People’s President – well enough to be given armed bodyguards and a chase car. He did not look to me like someone who is bosom buddies with baba. He did not have the ndandhu of someone who has baba’s number (because, and I am just guessing here, someone who gives you armed bodyguards and chase car, will have at least given you their zero seven). But then again, what do people who have Baba’s number look like? Maybe I was just jealous. And it is a terrible thing to be jealous of a man grieving the fresh loss of his wife, isn’t it?
The last Chris and I spoke on that day, I was putting him inside the white car to rest. And as I was about to leave, he said to me, “By the way, did you know I am half Rwandese?”
“Yes. I have even served in the marines.”
“No. The US Marines.”
I could not quite figure out whether he was serious, or if grief had somehow given him a sense of humour. I did not interrogate it further. I remember someone took over consolation duties from me and I went to fill my cup. Someone was distributing Waragi.
Then Larry Madowo, with a single tweet, set Kenyan Twitter on fire and walked away leaving us burning in the inferno he had lit. I do not think he meant to do it. He was merely exposing one con – Wilkings Fadhili – but in turn, threw the interwebs into a fit. Cons were being exposed. If you had done some shit, you were not safe. People were pulling each other’s hair, and at some point, it was not easy to tell which was true and which was not. And it was in the middle of all this that something caught my mouth zero.
Turns out this whole story by Chris was a sham. All of it. Apparently, his wife was not dead. She was spotted in a supermarket somewhere – dead women do not care about the difference between Santa Lucia and Santa Maria spaghetti, and yet there she was. And then more I kept on reading all the stuff that was coming out, the more I could not believe it. It was like pulling a cuticle. You think you are removing just that small skin under your nails, and then it just keeps going and going and the next thing you know you’re unwrapping yourself like a present.
Mara ati he had told someone the dreadlocks on his head were actually his wife’s and that he sewed them on him to keep a part of her with him. Mara ati sijui his wife and had gone mad (not from all his bullshit, but from witchcraft). We still don’t know whether the dead wife and the one who went insane are different people. Small small ati sijui he had lied to someone else that his house help had kidnapped his children.
And that whole story about being a Marine and being half Rwandese? Well, those were also geniuses of his wild imaginations. He had ever been a marines commando, labda just a member of the Maroon Commandos. (Dope band. Google them.) But these were not even fresh lies. These are scams Mr Lieutenant had run before and he had been busted kitambo before I became active on Twitter. As the whole saga unveiled itself in front of my eyes, I could not help but feel cheated. Yaani, he served me fresh lies with old lies. Like a butcher trying to steal kilos by wrapping for you new meat with meat from last week.
I guess the other way of looking at it is that I got two scams for the price of one. Glass is half full.
You may read this and think that this story was water off a duck’s tail. It is not. Time has passed now and I am cool, but honestly, when the story broke ati he was lying about his wife’s death, I felt like someone had plunged a knife in my chest. The truth is, all that time when Chris was putting up his show, the other thing my mind kept going back to was William. I thought about how painful it was to lose my father, and how difficult it must be for those kids to have their worlds turned upside down like that. And then to come online one day to realize that all that emotional labour I had been put through, all those feelings I hate awakening that was awakened, were all to feed some sick man’s fantasy. I mean, the jarhead did not ask me for money, he wasn’t trying to pick me up, he was not trying to score. So what the fuck was all that rollercoaster for? To what fucking end?
I wish he had asked me for money. I wish he has said something along the lines of “aki nisaidie na pesa ya maziwa for the kids.” Then I would rest easy and know that he was just another conman. Because this is Nairobi at the end of the day. We are constantly being conned. By politicians. By Kenya Power stealing tokens. By pastors on buses and the other ones behind pulpits. The crippled people begging for money in traffic can actually see and walk. Those people on the street corner with gaping wounds in desperate need for surgery at KNH are just highly underrated actors looking for unga. The blind musician on Moi Avenue can actually see. Conductors lie that the mats are full and leaving kumbe they have placeholders inside. There is a dude who walks around CBD and is constantly stranded looking for fare to go back to shagz.
The other day when I moved into this new house, I sent a fundi on IG – Mr Jemedari – a photo of a seat I wanted for my house. The difference between what I asked for and what was delivered can fit in between the gap separating what kind of artist he thinks he is and the motherfucking reality of it all. He sent me morning breath furniture; bland and distasteful. 35k of my money went like that. The only consolation I get from using those seats is the thought that my ass is on his talents – and I am allowed to fart.
When the Twitter expose was happening, he was also mentioned. I was not the only victim. Last I heard, he decided to close shop. I imagine when he made that decision, a butterfly was born somewhere in the world.
The point here is that surviving Nairobi without being conned is an extreme sport. An average Nairobian is in a constant state of thief-dodgery. But you know what? At least all these kleptos want is money. Money can be made again. But Delta Force One conned me of something far more expensive. Something priceless. Feelings and memory. And the worst part is that he did it just because he could. For kicks. For no other reason but reason itself. These people who have never been touched by death think it is some kind of a prank.
I wonder whether Raila knows that the only legit things about his Meru friend are his toenails. And even those I am only giving the benefit of a doubt.