“When did you collect this sample?” The lab technician stretched clinical latex gloves onto his hands, before he could touch my little container of shit.
“Thirty minutes ago.” I responded. I’d ambled my way there after my last bout of diarrhea that morning at 7am. It was less humiliating to hold the can under my burning ass and to wait for my stomach to empty its contents into it. He hesitated another half minute before taking it from my outstretched hand.
“Is this your first stool this morning?”
I assented while his assistant next door brought in my medical card. It was my 4th visit in 5 months. It was always either typhoid or parasitic worms. Judging by the gassiness and now familiar pain; I could bet it was typhoid this time. It was rampant in Roysambu and the numerous labs, chemists and pharmacies springing up in every building were evidence of the ‘sewer system’ pouring into the ‘water system’ and both becoming one in many household cooking pots. My situation was even worse, there had not been water in my building for weeks on end, and the landlord, an untouchable politician, didn’t care and didn’t hide it.
One cup of water was enough to wash my face with Acne Aid soap, tone with Sebamed and moisturise with Neutrogena sunscreen block factor 100. The rest of the water I splashed on to my underarms, chuckling as I mumbled to myself information I once gleaned from some random book. “The vagina has a self cleansing mechanism.”
“Have you been buying cooked food from around?” His gloved finger holding my shit indicated a circular movement in the air, his spectacles slid down his nose while the stench of my stomach in the can filled the air. I ate githeri from the vegetable seller packed in a plastic bag, and once a week, choma from the butchery next to the abattoirs sewer. Who can cook without water?
In time, I had grown used to brushing my teeth with spittle, and leaping up from my mattress on the floor at 4am, the only time when quiet trinkets of water became rivulets, to quickly fill my bucket. Still, the toilet in my room stank of uric acid, despite the copious quantities of Vim I poured over it.
“You’ve had typhoid before?” It was a redundant question just idle chat now. Noise; just like the noise that made me shut my room window to avoid the rising dust from motorbikes ferrying passengers from the mat stop over the open sewers into their middle class houses while blasting reggae tunes about freedom. Sometimes I did it to dim the music from the Kamba fm radio the security guard on the ground floor was always tuned to at night to keep him company while he peered into the piles of rubbish dotting the yard. Across the street, the labourers at the soda depot would be hard at work loading crate after crate into the nearby lorry with a resounding crash, after crash, after crash, till 5am. On weekends the makeshift churches would pick up where they left off; blaring their megaphones to high heaven about their brand of religion. The off tune singing was punctuated by preaching on top of their voices about the miracles that take place in their mabati church, because God was there. Then they asked new members for sadaka.
By morning I was tired from the nightly noise and now sick on top of everything else.
He stood up from his desk and pushed the microscope aside. Taking off his spectacles he placed them gingerly into his lab coat pocket with a satisfied look. He was done examining the sample.”Looks like typhoid fever” he said triumphantly. No shit.