My girlfriend bought me that spray. It is not ati an expensive spray. It is a Chris Adams. I have been using it for as long as Uhunye has been president. I like it. I like how it smells. That is why my girlfriend bought it for me, less than a month ago. But now as I stood after the third checkpoint, this man from the airport security dangled it in front of me like it is a murder weapon. Actually he said that it is a murder weapon. Well, he did not say those words exactly, but that is what he meant.
“Chief, my girlfriend bought me that spray,” I begged the man as I struggled to put on a show and look for my other baggage that was coming through the conveyor belt.
“No. We cannot allow you to go through with this, sir.”
“Because it is more than 100ml.”
“And what is wrong with that?”
“We just don’t allow it.”
“Okay. What is the capacity of my bottle?”
“It reads 220ml, sir.” He kept on referring to me as sir as if I were a Bri’ish knight.
“Try shaking it.”
“Shake it. Does it feel like it is full?”
“Well, that is because it isn’t. It is halfway full. That means there is about 100ml, give or take, that is remaining. Or do you have something we can measure with?”
Fortune, my producer, realizes what is going on and comes up to me and says, “I am sorry I forgot to tell you. They do not allow spray cans to go through.”
“Fine. But why?”
“It is a security risk,” she says.
I start laughing. Not the amused kind of laughing. The kind that you find yourself laughing when you are starting to get mad and you do not want to show that you are getting mad, so you try to cover your fury with a dose of laughter that still sells out your anger anyway. So you end up shouting, ”Heeheeeheeeeee! Omera ichieni?”
“Security risk? What are you talking about calling my deodorant a security risk? What can it possibly do? Confuse the cabin crew with its intoxicating aroma?”
At this point, Ndinda Kioko, the other Capture Kenya blogger who is flying to Kisumu is also negotiating for her hair spray and gel. They had thrown them into a basket full of other cosmetic stuff which previous passengers were not allowed to pass through with. I see her ask for them and she is given. “I will go check them in,” she says.
“Sir, if you want to go through with this can, then you will have to go back and check it in as well.”
I did not have the time. Our flight was already being called to board. “Let it go, Magunga, I will buy you another deo in Mombasa,” Fortune said. My Chris Adams had to remain behind. I wondered what would become of my deodorant. Are they going to throw it away? Will they keep it for me till I return? Are they going to donate it? I think they should donate it, especially to Maranda High School boys who, the last time I checked (2008), substitute showering with spraying.
That thing stayed with me though. Even as I boarded the plane, it bugged me. I kept wondering why? I know I should take that gesture (if you can call it that) as some form of a compliment. That my scent is so infectious, that it is a threat to national security. But at that time, it did not feel like a compliment. Mostly because it was a gift from my jaber, and it tore me apart to have to part with it.
Also, of all the things that could possibly go wrong with a man-made gadget soaring 33,000 feet above the ground, these people saw that my Chris Adams is the one thing that would fuck everything up. I mean come on, how dangerous could deo possibly be?
Or was it that it was given to me by my girlfriend? Is my girlfriend on Interpol’s blacklist? Are they monitoring everything she does? You know she is from Karachuonyo, which is in South Nyanza. Well, I know people from that general region are known for eccentric behavior, but terrorism is a bit too much, even for them. We know them for night running. They even have a SACCO for night runners. Surely, Interpol, that is a sport. Running in this country is such a banal activity, whether done under the blanket of nighttime or in the full glare of daylight. That is why we are so damn good at it. I do not need to prove that I am right. Just take a look at the last IAAF Championships table.
Anyway, I let that story go after a while. My jaber will understand, sindio babe? They have their reasons for being so strict. That guy was probably just doing his job and I was just being a difficult rookie.
I flew alright. Kenya Airways. I do not know what class it was, because they all looked the same the same to me. Perhaps I was too pre-occupied with trying not to embarrass myself by throwing up, that I did not notice which class is which. I sat by the window, with Fortune next to me. I wanted to ask her to hold my hand and promise that everything will be alright, but then you see I have built this street cred that I am Goon. That nothing scares me. Not even the possibility of a plane crashing. I had an image to protect, even though inside I was jelly.
I had a lot of questions. When the plane left its parking, it turned left and took the runway on that side. I kept wondering why it did not use the runway on the right. I wondered whether, if he mistakenly took that other runway, would we end up in America?
I wondered how the pilot knew his way around the sky. At what point to take a corner. It is easy for road users. For us we just follow the tarmac. But up there, how did he know where to go? I envied the pilot. At least they do not have Alcoblow or NTSA or matatu drivers who cut into your lane without indicating.
I had barely started enjoying the flight and the nuts that Cynthia and Brenda (the KQ air hostesses) brought us when something pinged. I turned around and asked Fortune, “What does that sound mean? Tumefika Machakos?”
She laughed. “No, silly. We are about to start descending.”
I looked outside the window. We were above the clouds. Up there with the sun. I remember being glad that our pilot was not Icarus – otherwise he would have flown us too close to the sun and burned us alive.
Descending was scary. Suddenly the plane increased its momentum and soon we were piercing through the clouds and everything around us was white. White like smoke of something burning. It felt like we were in the middle of a burning house, yet we are not being consumed as if we are Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. Descending made my head ache at the fore, the way it aches when I have inhaled too much sheesha…or every time I see a CNN headline with Kenya on it.
I grabbed the hand of my seat, drew in a lungful and pretended not to want my mummy.
As I write this it is midnight in Mombasa. I am typing this story naked on a bed in Castle Royal Hotel. it is one of the Sentrim Group of Hotels. I had a little run-in with them too this evening.
See, when we checked in, they gave me this card that I assumed was only for the door. So when I got into my room, my lights would not come on. They flickered for a second and then went off. Dead. Frustrated, I walk down the stairs and went to the reception lady. She is a saved mama who was reading the Bible. I told her.
“Excuse me, I think I want a new room.” I said giving her my room card.
“Room 200’s bulbs zimechomeka.” Her face lit up with amusement. Apparently, my key card is also the same card I am supposed to use to get the lights to work. I am supposed to put it into some slot for the lights to work. I have never felt more of a bushman. Turns out these days, people do not use switches. Switches are for the village. For bedrooms in Nyapiedho, Wich Lum and Kia Njege.
Osborne is next door. Today we did not take any photos. Today we catch our last breaths, because tomorrow, Oz and his protégé Emmanuel will take them away with their beautiful photography.
Next stop, Voi.
cover photo: KQ Cargo by Osborne Macharia