Our shadows dance merrily ahead of us. The sun is retiring by the time we leave the hospital, and deMaitha and I are a pitiable pair. Each of us dangles a bottle of Fanta on one hand and a packet of biscuits on the other. The sting on our inner elbow is just but a small inconvenience we have to endure. In our pain, we trot Parklands road, forlorn. But our pride is inflated- we feel like lords of men. For the first time in a long time, we have queued for the better part of the day for a worthy purpose. The sense patriotism that pervades our sensibilities shield us from noticing that, even though its evening, the sun’s sweltering smile still bakes our backs.
We are officially blood donors.
A couple of hours ago place us at the Aga Khan Hospital. We have been waiting for our chance to donate blood for the past like forever. It was out of choice for me, really, because I am O (-ve). That is a ticket for anyone like me to ask for preferential treatment. Anyone who mentions that they are Blood Group O (-ve) is treated like royalty. We are like honesty in parliament buildings- very rare. So the nurses coo and the volunteer staff curtsy and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ profusely. However, I stay my tongue, because if I announced my blood group, deMaitha and I would be separated. I would complete my business early, but he would be forced to wait. We are brothers; we stick together. We bleed as one. (you need to follow that link)
deMaitha has been ecstatic- like a child on his first day at school. He has never done this before. Terrorism has a way of making people break customs. Personally, I am not a fan of needles. I have donated blood before, but every time I look at a needle they use to drain blood, I can’t help a trickle in my pants. Its mouth makes Diamond’s and Ne-yo’s mouths look like peanuts on a satellite photo. In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze into that hole than it is for rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
“Please, use the right hand,” I tell the Red Cross nurse
“Just relax, any hand would do. It doesn’t matter.”
I think I know my body better than some random nurse. So I insist on the left hand. He holds his ground and says it’s just my nerves. “If you could just calm down, we will be done in a few minutes and you shall be on your way.” I understand that this guy has probably not slept since this whole Westgate attack happened. The last thing he needs right now is some fussy punk to complicate his work. But you see, some other nurse had tried my left arm at KNH and it wasn’t pretty. I let him be- stretched out my left hand and bit my lip in anticipation of the needle’s intrusion.
Even with my eyes tightly close, I can still picture that needle in my head. And when he slowly pushes it inside a vein, it’s like he had poured spirit on an open nerve ending. “It’s nothing compared to a bullet,” he says. Wow, that’s relaxing.
There are these balls that donors are given to squeeze so that blood flow is enhanced. They are out of stock. You have to make do with your imagination. Everyone showed up to donate; it is like a bloody festival in here.
On my far left, deMaitha furiously squeezes his imaginary ball. I look at him and a tear brims my eyes. He is all grown up now- he can donate blood. The last time at KNH they told him he was underweight. Looking at him now it’s like he is trying to prove a point- that he has now grown pubes. I feel like a father watching his son take his first baby step.
An unusual soreness at the point of injection steals back my attention. That is when I notice that it’s starting to swell. Wait, this has never happened before. The pain exacerbates every time I squeeze my fantasy ball, and so does the bulge. The male nurse comes around saying that he has noticed blood is not flowing into my bag.
I bring to attention the pain and the swelling, his jaw drops in shock. His teeth are painted in a thick layer of mud, I think. Hastily, he reaches for his mediocre work of art and removes the needle. Blood rushes out impatiently from the void created by the metal. The twinge prickles even more excruciatingly. A soaked piece of cotton does the trick. He places it on the wound and folds my arm.
“Its haematoma- it’s the cold.” He thinks he just made a lot of sense to me.
“So which one is it?”
“Which is what?”
“Haematoma or the cold?”
“Haematoma- caused by the cold.” He still believes that I understood, but I pass on niceties.
We both know that is not true. He is freaking reckless. That needle wasn’t inserted properly. Plus he didn’t tape it, leaving my veins and the needle to engage in a duel. The vein struggling in vain to hold it in position, and the needle prodigally insisting on following the pull of gravity. Never trust a male Redcross nurse with your veins.
“We have two options here, kiddo. Either we let you go, or we try the right arm. Either way, we will be glad that you showed up to help. Kenya would be grateful for your sacrifice.”
There is no dilemma here. News on the screen says that the death toll has risen to 59 and over 150 other critically injured. There is a pressing need for blood- much so my type of blood. I was attending Storymoja Hay Fest that had to be closed down for the same reason that I am here. My newly made friend Nii Parkes couldn’t help tears as he perform his last piece of poetry during the fest because his nephew was shot on the shoulder. He had only known him for two days. Prof. Kofi Awoonor is Parke’s uncle- father to the aforementioned nephew. . He was attending the festival. He, just like Ruhila and 57 others have been sent to the other side of the life. The side that requires no flesh. Hopefully, the side of the angels. Retweet after Retweet, gory, blood-spattered pictures flood social media sites.
Last night at 11pm I, deMaitha and two others had gone to M.P Shah to donate blood. We were turned away with apologies and told to return the next day (today). Pinned on a tree, we found a list of people of missing. Of people admitted from crippling injuries, and of people who had lost their lives. In this list, were kids; some barely 9 years old. I am not fickle hearted most of the time. I am a goon. But when calamity such as this strike, it sheds of that hardcore scale and exposes the tender humanity within. Nobody can bring back the 59- we can only hold on to their tender memories and wish they were still around. In Parkes’ words, knowing the truth doesn’t stop us from believing the lie. Truth is they are gone. Severed abruptly and unfairly from our existence. So we hold on to cherished memories and think of them as being amongst us, rather than in some distant heaven.
There is nothing much I can do to assuage the grief of bereavement, other than offer a sacrifice of blood upon the alter of hope. Hope that my pint of blood will help a person who was injured in the scuffle.
So yeah, I look up to the doctor and say; “Try the right arm.”
Two minutes later, the goon is imbibing Fanta from a straw, waiting for deMaitha to finish. A commotion ensues from the blues. The president walks in, followed closely by a plethora of politicians. He is going round shaking hands with donors. Thanking them for their civility. He goes round. I am on the way. His security personnel ruffle me out of the way. My left arm still hurts. I have taped cotton on both hands.
Sonko approaches first. He is wearing an army vest and a helmet. His oddities are expected. He shakes my hand and pats me on the head- like a father congratulating his son for finally wearing his slippers right. Seeing this, the other politicians who follow do the same. But when Wetangula comes around, he pats me on the folded arm. It hurts. I wince. He doesn’t care- just walks ahead. But now he has set the pace for the rest. Just like sheep following a lead sheep, they pat my left arm. What the hell! President Uhuru, Mudavadi, Githu Muigai, and Waititu, all follow Wetangula’s lead. Oblivious of the pain they are inflicting on me. Shit. It was like the entire parliament in there- patting my arm. Even Raila! Man, I voted for you!
I want to wake up and run out. The parliament has passed a resolution to join the Red Cross in decapitating my left arm. It’s now throbbing. I can feel the wound became wet. Shit, its bleeding. I squirm and fidget as they file out. I want to cry. My eyelids flicker repeatedly to ward off the tears. I squirm again. I feel trapped in that plastic chair. The pats are starting to feel more like slaps now. I turn to see how many are remaining before the torture ends. Three more to go. Duale….Ngilu …..One more pat to go….
It’s Kidero! Ayayayayaya!