The Kamba have a saying that he who waits (for something) doesn’t tire
Dressed in a red-coloured overall, Kakai is seated on the bonnet of a car. His legs hang mid air. While his head is bowed on one side. No customers would come today.
A Ken Wa Maria song is playing at the nearby Aston villa pub. During the song’s climax, Ken thanks the mechanic for repairing his car last week while the musician had come to perform at the pub.
Once he slightly lifts his face, his eyes meet the rays of the evening sun. He places the flat of his right palm on top of his eyelids. Half closes his right eye. His girlfriend isn’t there coming down the path.
What will I pay rent with? His biggest worry, however, is that he can’t understand why she is yet to come. They had agreed with her not to delay for long.
At last she comes along.
“Muthina, what has kept you?”
“It is Otieno who stopped me at Kiwanjani. He sent me to tell you that his car is now working.”
“When did you see him?”
“On my way here. He was seated in his car, waiting for customers.”
Kakai eagerly takes the fat envelope held by Muthina. Opens it and scrutinizes his academic documents, one after the other.
“What! I cannot see my curriculum vitae. Where is it?” he asks her.
“I didn’t find it in your house. What do you need those documents for, by the way?” She asks, pointing at the envelope.
“Did you look well enough? It has to be there.”
“Perhaps it was destroyed by the fire.”
He remembers the fire incident.
He was at work in a shoe-manufacturing company at the nearby industrial Area, when he had been shocked to see the entire Kwa Reuben slums on fire.
Tears gather in his eyes. Remembering that incident, his love for Muthina grows stronger. Muthina comes closer. Hangs her arms around his shoulders. The two remain locked in an embrace for a long minute. He recalls the way he had dived into the burning river to save her. Petroleum had leaked into the river. The ‘river of death’ had flowed with fire instead of water.
Muthina and Kakai look into each other’s teary eyes. Wipe each other’s tears. They are very much lost in their own world that they don’t see Otieno. He had been standing near the two lovers for several minutes.
Kakai is wondering. I graduated with Otieno. Yet, he has a car. And I don’t know the source of his money. Is he is a thug? Perhaps. He doesn’t go anywhere rather than idling around Kiwanjani with his car, and playing pool with his friends.
Otieno does not want to disturb them. Upon realizing that time is running fast, he coughs lightly. Still with bleary eyes, Kakai disentangle from the embrace. Muthina takes several steps, and sits on an old tyre in the garage.
“Kasee waamuka ata?” Onyango greets. Kakai replies. Says that he had woken up well. The two laugh boisterously. “Do you have the papers?” Otieno asks Kakai.
“Yes, I have them.”
Kakai enters the nearby Pipeline Technology cybercafé and comes back with a printed copy of his CV. “Here they are. Please ensure that that big man of yours gets the papers,” Kakai pleads with Otieno.
When Kakai appears a bit doubtful, Otieno issues an assurance. “Gini wasekao; you will get that job. That man is a friend of mine. Let me leave. I want to catch him before he travels.”
Otieno leaves hastily with the big envelope containing Kakai’s papers.
“Switi, please rush back to the house. I don’t want you to get into trouble with your aunt.”
“Okay then. I will see you later,” she responds. Wipes her skirt at the bottom with her hands, then leaves. ̽
Kakai resolves to decline Otieno’s offer. He wants to be independent.
The music at Aston Villa is now very loud. Somebody is there happily drinking beer. And here I am. Not knowing what to put in my stomach tonight.
He collects his tools, and puts them into a small bag. He walks slowly. Stops at Mama Mutua’s vegetables stall. Gets some sukumawiki, dania, and an onion. He promises to pay her tomorrow if he is lucky to get some cash.
The Kamba have a saying that the heart eats what it desires
Friday. Members days! Jogoo road feels the pleasure of the oncoming sunset. Cars, matatus, buses, motorbikes; all contain people. Some from work. Most of them are regular members travelling to pleasure joints in this part of East Nairobi.
Charity is seated at the driving seat of a Toyota corona. She is dressed in a tight pair of black jeans trousers, a light blue blouse and elegant high heeled red shoes. Holding the steering wheel with one hand, she picks some lip balm from her handbag.
She applies it on her lips, regularly looking herself on the screen above the steering wheel. Fixed in the mirror is her father’s photo, with the words “His Honourable Otunga Opiyo”, inscribed on it.
“Don’t travel. Eastlands is dangerous,” her father had advised her. She couldn’t miss the much proclaimed Kamba Night at Kitindo bar, however.
Charity is now driving slowly. A traffic snarl-up has developed several yards from the Donholm roundabout. She slowly negotiates her way round the roundabout to connect to Outering Road. Heavy trucks are branching from the highway to join Lunga Lunga Road. Young boys and men hang onto the trucks’ back part despite the big numbers saying; HANG AT YOUR OWN RISK.
In charity’s car, Ken wa Maria’s song, fundamendos, is playing. She wants to see Ken wa Maria perform the song live at Kitindo bar.
These are the things, these are my things,
These are your things; these are the fundamendos……
She is fascinated by the song’s lyrics presented in one verse. A verse sang in four languages; Kikamba, Swahili, Kikuyu and English.
Charity’s car breaks down at Stage Mpya, just after passing Fedha estate. An oncoming Embassava bus brakes sharply to avoid colliding with the Toyota Corona. She does not know what to do. Her car had no problem. She can’t miss Wa Maria’s performance.
Other drivers do not recognize her car. She had defied her father’s command of using one of his cars. The ones affixed with the words “HONOURABLE OTUNGA” as the plate containing the registration number. She had also decided to withdraw her guards.
Young men from a nearby garage come rushing to her but Charity won’t allow them to repair her car. She wants the Pipeline-based mechanic Ken wa Maria praises in his songs.
She hires a breakdown to carry her car.
Don’t curse the sun before it sets – A Kamba saying.
To Kakai, these days his luck is out. He had only pumped pressure into one client’s car tyre early this week. Sitting on the same car bonnet as last three weeks, Kakai is meditatively kneading the beads of his Holy Rosary.
God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Spirit. Please bring along a half car. A bicycle. Or anything repairable. That I may get some few coins.
He sees a breakdown approaching his garage with a car stuck into the machine’s ugly teeth. A smartly dressed lady approaches him. The scent of her fresh perfume strikes Kakai’s nose.
“Sasa. Are you Car Guy – yaani Kakai?” Charity asks. Kakai decides to lie to her. But he cannot. Perhaps he would fail God and lose this probable job.
“Yes, I am”, he answers and looks on the opposite direction to avoid her direct gaze.
“It’s big pleasure to know you. I’m charity. I was on my way to Kamba night. But my car failed me. Kindly repair it for me”.
After coming from Aston Villa pub to pick ‘one for the road,’ Charity finds her car breathing gently. “Wow! That was so fast”, she compliments Kakai. He mumbles a barely inaudible ‘thank you.’
Charity knows she has made a good catch. Kakai to her, although poor, is handsome. She is always on the lookout for such men. Not that fat ass – the son of the Minister of Finance – her father had suggested her to marry.
Before leaving, Charity gives Kakai several red notes. He is so amazed that the word ‘thank you’ forms and dies in his throat. He just waves at her, and closes business for the day.
God of Abraham. God of Moses. God of Isaac. God of Jacob. God of Kakai. God of the car repairer. May your name be blessed and exalted among nations forever and ever, Amen!
When two are in love, you can’t keep them apart –the Kamba says
Mombasa road! The home of long transit vehicles, buses, cars, motorbikes, bicycles. All these light the highway like a thousand glow worms.
Even though Kakai has been to this part of Nairobi, he is amazed. The way the whole highway resembles a huge city. He alights at Mlolongo from a number 34 Embassava Sacco bus. Pulling out his Nokia mobile phone, he scrolls up to Charity’s number, and calls. She confirms that she is at Kwa Muli Royal Tervan bar. Not Intercontinental Restaurant, as she had informed him.
Kakai finds Charity sipping red wine. She is seated on a tall sina taabu (I have no problems) stool, her left thigh bare. Her lips twisted into a smile.
“Where is the car which you said needed repair?”
Kakai asks, trying hard to overcome the urge of placing his hand on Charity’s thigh. She pleads with him to relax.
“I just wanted to thank you”.
She calls to a passing waitress for a bottle of beer. But Kakai sticks to soda – sprite.
“I heard that you lost your mother and all possessions during that fire in your area?” Kakai suddenly becomes emotional and his eyes begin to cloud with tears.
“I’m so sorry. I will talk to my father. He is a good Minister for Housing and African Culture”.
“Ati! Your father? A minister? Tell me it’s a lie and God will bless you”
Charity has to pull out a family photo to convince him.
“Do you love Muthina, your girlfriend?”
Kakai doesn’t understand. A single nod of his head satisfies Charity, however.
“I see. Then she does not deserve. You deserve somebody better than her. I can make you rich. Become an airplane guy”
Kakai is more confused than before. Charity is talking as though she is a politician soliciting for votes.
At last, Kakai finds his voice.
“She is my woman. And I love her a lot.”
Their bottles are now empty. A waitress passes by and places other drinks on their table.
A Kativui is singing. Young women with fat buttocks and men, eyes closed, fingers clicking loudly on their sides in rhythm with the song throw their hips provocatively in dance. Kativui’s dreadlocks dance from side to side.
Penzi penzi penzi, Penzi ni kitu gani,
Wendo waumie naku w’o
Kakai is also wondering what love is. Where did it come from? What makes love love. Is it influence, material wealth or purity of the heart?
Charity misses Kakai’s vote. His heart belongs to Muthina.
But she would appeal the ruling!
The Swahili says that he who desires what is hidden (under something) must bend
Charity moves fast. “I don’t want you to keep on staying in a shack”.
Kakai has no time to protest. Soon, Charity builds two modern flats at the heart of Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Kwa Reuben slums.
“I have appointed you the permanent owner of those buildings”, she tells Kakai via phone.
Then the media assaults her with questions. Do you plan to marry Kakai? Don’t you think it’s against African culture to take away one’s lover? What about those buildings in the slums?
“My father upholds African culture and housing facilities. And so I must also do so.” She maintains that the buildings were part of her agenda to help her father develop housing in slum areas.
“If there was better house planning, that fire would not have claimed such a big number of lives.”
Again, Kakai turns down this offer.
A feather of a ‘ndei’ bird isn’t picked on paths; but on high trees – says a Kamba proverb
Kiimani estate! The Nairobi estate where people doesn’t fall sick. Where Kenyan shilling notes are used as toilet paper. And tears and grief are unknown. Only laughter.
Charity is relaxed on the sofa, watching a soap opera on Telemundo TV. Her mind is preoccupied. Busy thinking of how to tame Kakai’s heart.
“Hello Sweetie,” her father greets, walking in from the bedroom.
Honourable Otunga senses something is troubling his daughter. He passes the question to her.
“Dad, there is something I want to know”
“What is it, my dear?”
“When you love somebody. And you don’t get the same response, what do you do?”
“Money is everything, my dear. Money can buy love. Money can buy things which can buy love”
He dials a number on his phone.
“Nang’o, Otieno”, he greets.
“Berr, Boss”, a response comes from the other side of the line.
“Help somebody who comes to your place tonight at around eight. Kenyan ladies are really civilized. They like to be attractive to their men. I will order some more.”
“Okay, tell her she will find me in River Road at Nenepa building, room number 6.”
The Kamba says that eyes are good liars
Kakai is moved by Charity’s attractiveness. He desires her a lot. Look at her captivatingly rounded buttocks! The way her breasts are popping out of her push-up bra! The way her hips are elegantly shaped!
At last Charity wins. At last Kakai lifts her skirt. His fore-finger, cock and tongue tours in and around her thighs, and her whole body’s orifices. Feels her womanhood. She is nothing special than Muthina.
The Swahili says that a monkey’s running stops in the wilderness
Mukuru kwa Njenga slums! The home of trash. Of smelly dumpsites. Of carelessly farting and defecating children. With good people and robbers.
Muthina is sitting on Kakai’s lap, a ngwatie lamp flickering in the night. Muthina is angry. “Why are you playing games with my mind, Kakai?” She disengages herself from his lap.
“What games? Didn’t I swear to love you in happiness and grief, till death does us apart?”
Muthina pulls out an indisputable proof. A newspaper cut out with Kakai photographed with Charity at The Kenya National Museum.
He can’t deny that. Before he can explain, she runs out and into the darkness. Where is she going?
Kakai has nothing to lose. At least for now. He does not follow her.
In bed! Where there are no secrets between lovers. Map lines are drawn and redrawn. Grunts and whimpers shared. Kakai knows the farm is fertile now. He would plant a seed.
The two lovers are on their knees.
They meet at the centre of the large-sized bed. Hungry for each other. Their muscles erect and blood hot with passion. Kiss each other on the lips and get closer. Their hands explore each other’s body. From head to toe. But Charity’s push-up bra is still on. When she doesn’t take it off, Kakai goes for it.
Surprisingly, he discovers her left breast is like a fat thread. He unfolds it until it reaches her waist. She starts sobbing heavily, questioning her father’s advice. She mentions an Otieno, one of her father’s friends.
Kakai runs out. Leaves Charity to her dismay. He will have to roam the city. To find Otieno. And club him to unconsciousness, or even death. To look for his dearest lover, and confess that he has been under a spell.