Life hasn’t always been good to him. In fact, it’s never been good to him. To him, it’s been that girl that treats you like shit because you’re too ‘uncool’ for her. Eventually, you’ll get used to this girl and she won’t have the power to hurt you anymore. As is his life now, he’s not bitter; he’s too poor to be bitter. Now, he just survives; taking it a day at a time.
You see him every day with your bevy of guys in crisp pristine suits going for lunch worth his year’s rent. He’s there, somewhere in Kimathi Street trying to make a meal; supper. Breakfast and lunch are luxuries he can’t afford. They’re for people like you running corporate Kenya. You’ve never really paid much attention to him. An absent-minded glimpse and that’s it. As you pass by him, Stevo will have usually cracked a nasty joke about the secretary’s ass and you’ll be on your knees trying to catch a breath. There are few times Stevo won’t have a joke for you and you’ll look at him a microseconds longer than you do, you’ll notice he’s not disabled. He’s as hearty as you, and you’ll think, “Si he has everything, two feet and arms and what not, why doesn’t he want to hustle like the rest of us? So he thinks we should work and throw him a bone, eh? Ole wake! Akule hewa.” And then you’ll fart because you’re a vindictive son of a bitch. He won’t mind your conceited loud attention-seeking laughter. After all, he’s already accustomed to people like you who think they’re running the world and passing by him like he’s nothing. Because he’s nothing anyway, sindio? He’s just a beggar. And what’s a beggar to you; a young accountant at a lucrative firm earning a decent five-figure, rich enough to afford a custom made suit at Jamia Mall? He’s nothing.
One night you’ll be walking from Mojos. Stevo incited you guys to go have some cold ones to blow some Monday steam. You obliged, and at 7pm you all met there. No ties, shirts unbuttoned to the third one; a tuft of hair peeking out looking like dead flies. You think it’s cool. It’s not. After a few, you decide it’s time to leave. It’s 10 and you’re feeling a bit inebriated. You decide to walk to the stage to sober up. There’s liberation in walking in CBD at night, a nippy one. First, it’s beautiful as the floodlights wash up the street in orange. Second, there’s no one on the streets like during the day where you’re so close to people you can hear them sweat. So you’ll be walking down to Luthuli to get a mat when you see two guys coming towards you. Both taller than you. You’ll feel intimidated but you won’t mind them. But then they’ll start moving apart so that you’re in the middle and you’ll get paranoid (read sober). Come on, you’ve heard the stories before. ‘Man is walking at night alone. Man is approached by two blocs. Man is asked for valuables politely. Man thinks it’s a negotiation. Man refuses to hand them over. Negotiations turn sour. Valuables are taken forcefully. Man is stabbed several times and left to die. It’s not his day so he survives.’ But these stories have never been in Kimathi Street. Luthuli and those Afya Centre areas maybe, but never Kimathi. Kimathi is safe haven, right? Wrong.
You’ll realize they’re muggers. You’ll want to turn back and run for dear life but it’ll be too late. You’re already between them. They’ve already asked for your phone, money and watch politely. You ask for your sim card politely too. One of them smiles wryly and sarcastically apologizes for misleading you that it was a negotiation. All the while, the other had drawn out a knife. One you suspect carries every virus in human history. You decide your life is important than a mere plastic card. They look around sceptically and run to where they came from, swallowed by the darkness in the lonely alleys.
You’re left there stationary for five minutes imbibing what just happened. How they’ve taken you back ten years with no ID, no ATM cards or credit cards because they took your wallet. You remember you don’t have fare. And you don’t have the cards to withdraw at the ATM. You also don’t have your phone, so you can’t call anyone. At this point, it’s all funny. How two men can put a stand still on your life without necessarily killing you. You sit by the sidewalk to contemplate on your next move.
“Pole boss.” A fidgety voice around will say.
You’ll look around and see him, the mooch you see every day. You’d even forgotten that’s where he usually is. And for the first time, you’ll feel bitter that you didn’t see him as you were walking. So you’ll mumble a weak, “Haina noma.”
“Hata sijui. Sina hata ndururu.”
A lump will form in your throat. That painful lump that forms as you try to battle tears from rolling down. You’ll scrutinise him under the dim orange street light. He’ll stare back with his red rheumy eyes. You’ll see the tatters he calls clothes. Clothes that were probably yours before they became out-dated, turned them into a shoe rug then threw them away. You’ll see his sandals; the ones Moses had to remove as he approached the burning bush. On the sandals, you’ll see his feet, how they lusciously clinch on to the hard leather fabric of the sandals. Feet he could use to play hockey, walk home, find a rat at his place and pounce it till its dead. He’ll not wash them after all these, he’ll sleep, wake up in the morning and head to Kimathi, right outside Bright Technologies, and beg you for coins that you got as balance in the mat. He doesn’t get the weekly manicures you get from Wendy every weekend at the parlour. He can’t afford it. And he thinks it’s feminine. I think so too.
You battle your tears like the man you are. The guy you have been ignoring all your life has come to your rescue asking no favours in return. A man you’ve treated worse than you’ve treated your liver on Friday nights. He’s here selflessly offering you fare home. You want to take the high road and say no coz of how you’ve treated him but you can’t. Necessity and circumstance won’t let you. So you take the money, say incessant ‘thank yous’ and promise him a fat chunk of ‘appreciation’ the following day.
You give him the money the following day and never see him again until six months later. He’s at Lifestyle, right beside the entrance polishing shoes in those Kiwi-branded kibandas. You say hi. He remembers you. You laugh about your little mugging. You take his number since he now has a phone. You promise to call and catch up over beers.
You don’t call. You never catch up. You don’t have beers.