Of Undressed Nights and Cigarettes

As a man you don’t get to live

His right hairy leg, his left beneath it, dangles on the edge of the bed. Over his shoulder, he looks at her. Her eyes closed but not fully closed, she is asleep.

He stares at her—her short kinky hair now freed from the blonde wig; her dry lips that were a color so alluring, red; and her right thick thigh, naked, away from the sheets. He loves them thick. The kind with knees not visible, short legs and small feet.

“You don’t need the horse hair,” he whispers.

“Fuck.” He sighs.

Nairobi CBD

City Hall Way

KenCom Bus Stage

3 September, 2018

1:34 a.m.

Man to man is so unjust, children

Ya don’t know who to trust

Your worst enemy could be your best friend

And your best friend your worse enemy

Bob Marley’s, Who The Cap Fit, plays from his phone. His eyes closed, he bobs to it.

Some will eat and drink with you,

Then behind them su-su ‘pon you

Only your friend know your secrets

So only he could reveal it

And who the cap fit, let them wear it

Who the cap fit, let them wear it

Said I throw me corn, me no call no fowl

I saying, “Cook-cook-cook, cluk-cluk-cluk.”

“Tropikosss, Tropikosss. Tropikosss, Tropik-”

He takes out the ear piece from his left ear, and looks up to see the being that has distracted him from his demons—his thoughts.

“Two bob, Two bob.” He shakes the coins in his palm.

The hawker has a light sweater on, the kind that fits the chest like a glove. And he is thinking; is it the last one standing among his dirty pile or he’s worn it because people wear sweaters when it’s cold—even if they themselves are not feeling ‘I need a sweater’ cold. He ought to be a young man; the rings on his fingers, the rock silver kind, and the chain hanging from his neck.

“Ni twenty four hour service, eh?” He teases him.

“Wera lazima isonge mbele kama injili. Hii deni tunailipa!”

He takes out a couple of sweets from the packet, “ngapi brathe?”

“Nipatie tano.”

He picks from his palm, “safi, safi.”

And gives the hawker a ten shilling coin. “Shukran. God bless.”

The man with a sweater that fits him like a glove, walks away.

There is some kind of sincerity when a man with peanuts to his name, offers gratitude.

1:42 a.m.

From where he sits, the bus shelter, he lets his eyes wander. From the man on his phone, reading a text from the woman that keeps his thighs warm, to the lady in knee high boots anxious to “turn up” and “pop bottles” to update her “making money moves as you sleep” instastories. Or the woman with a child on her back and another held in her hand desperate to lay her back and just, breathe. Because at times, just because you live, doesn’t mean you breathe.

He gets distracted by the the man who seats next to him, in respect to human space, and takes out a cigarette from his trouser’s pocket. And guides the spliff to his mouth.

Him: We don’t do that here.

Stranger: Is it wrong to hold a clean spliff with your lips?

He puts back the earpiece to his ear.

Some will hate you, pretend they love you now

Then behind they try to eliminate you

But who Jah bless, no one curse

Thank God, we’re past the worse

Him: (removing the ear piece) But why would you hold a clean spliff?

Stranger: Because it doesn’t have the power to kill me not until I light it.

Him: So what is your story? On the road to recovery or (gesturing the quotes) “don’t go anywhere, we will be right back” taking a break from killing yourself?

Stranger: I’ve never smoked a lit spliff. But I’ve watched my old man die each time he puffed.

“Oh..” He mouths.

Stranger: What are you listening to?

Him: Reggae.

Stranger: Bob?

Him: Why Bob?

Stranger: Cause he’s famous; and it is what ,most likely, a person would bob his head to.

Him: Not really.

Stranger: Could you put it on loudspeaker?

“Please.” He adds.

Hypocrites and parasites

Will come up and take a bite

And if your night should turn to day

A lot of people would run away

And who the stock fit let them wear it

Who the (cap fit) let them (wear it)

Stranger: Are you the kind of person that would run away after night turns to day?

Him: (looking at him) I don’t know.

Him: And what’s worse is what people see when they look at me. Maybe to some I’m a hypocrite, to others I’m a darling, you know?

Stranger: You what do you see?

Him: A man that survives and barely lives.

Stranger: Does that scare you?

Him: Of course it does. Why should I be surviving and yet I’m here to live. Or are you living?

Stranger: I think every man is surviving. We want to live but there’s always that one hindrance to life.

Him: And yet of importance is life.

Stranger: (grins) Bora uhai.

Him: We are a sad lot.

Stranger: Speak for yourself.

Him: Oh! OK, happy person! I am a sad lot.

Stranger: You want to say that again?

Him: Do you have a spliff?

Stranger: But why would I shy off from helping a brother?

He puffs the clean spliff and somehow, just somehow, it strangely relieves him.

2:10 a.m.

Him: I meant it….when I said I was sad.

Stranger: Yeah, I know. And you cannot measure sadness, it is what it is.

Him: It’s more of depression. Where you-

Stranger: How bad is it?

Him: What do you mean? You are the same person that just said that sadness cannot be measured! Whether you are cutting yourself or feeling lost, it is depression…..depression is depression.

Stranger: Let’s put this back in here. (returns the spliff to his lips)

Him: Are you married?

Stranger: Yes…why?

Him: Is there a time you’ve felt like not going back to that house? Your family?

Stranger: Not once.

Him: And what makes you go back?

Stranger: My children.

Him: And where’s your wife in this?

Stranger: And where are you going with this?

Him: I love how honest you are. (looking at his watch) It’s now twenty minutes past two, right? My ass is getting cold on this bench and yet, I have a warm bed back at home with a woman in it. My woman. We are not married, if you are curious. And neither is it ‘come we stay’. It’s more of ‘come we see if we can stay’. Why I’m I even here?

Stranger: To breathe. You are here to breathe.

Him: Who are you?

2:23 a.m.

Stranger: It’s not that it is a bad place to be, at home with your family, I mean. It’s because you are the bad person here and you don’t want to drag them, the people that you value the most, along.

Stranger: My eight year old son thinks I’m Superman, he calls me that actually. He knows I’m here to save the world. His world. And I wouldn’t want him to see me any other way. But maybe by the time he’ll find out that I’m just a man, I will be gone. Then there’s bills to pay. Leo ni rent, kesho ni fees. The day after that it’s food, then fuel.

Him: Alafu unakufa.

Stranger: As a man you don’t get to live. By the time you want to start living, kids are gone, it’s just you and your woman. Old age knocks, death beckons.

Him: But is it that bad?

Stranger: It is what it is.

Stranger: I think we sacrifice a whole lot, to some extent, we go on and sacrifice ourselves as well. I can’t even remember the last time I bought myself a good pair of shoe. By good I mean GOOD. And it’s not that I’m complaining it’s just that-

Him: It is what it is?

Stranger: (looking at him) Yes.

Stranger: There are good days as well. But there just….good. And short lived.

Him: And then they’ll go on and say, life is what you make it. But then again, there will always be something that will destroy your bubble.

2:29 a.m.

Stranger: So…when are you skipping the ‘come we stay’ and get to ‘just married’?

Him: When Christ returns.

Stranger: (he laughs)

Him: She is eight months heavy. And it scares me, my teeth are sweating, that I will be a father. I’m just a big baby, you know.

Stranger: You should be scared. It’s good you are.

Him: Is this one of those nights where you feel like not going back home?

Stranger: One of many nights.

“Now, can I have my spliff back?” He archs his eyebrow.

Featured image courtesy of: Pinterest

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