How to become a typical Kenyan in 21st Century Kenya.
1. Don’t follow your dreams because they are paths straight to suffering and despicable poverty. And you will pay lots of cash and take crazy loans (This is to say that you will sign your death warrant) before your song is just aired on radio or your book is even considered for publication.
The drops of water, as clear as newly bought glass and as perfect as newborns, reflect the deep yellow Sulphur touch of the overhead street light as they fall onto the puddle of water in the sink. Mweni listens. They drop in rhythm. Much like an orchestrated masterpiece. Drip drop. Drippity drop. Drip, drip, drippity drop. Mweni starts to bounce her head as she listens to the rhythm. Maybe it is only her who can listen to the water drop in such an organized grace. She takes care to listen to the frequencies underneath all the noise that the city has to offer. It is never quiet in the city. Even at night (I mean in the darkest times of the night, when no one would be sane enough to roam the streets) when you would think that it would be sullen, silent and calm; underneath all that she could hear them. She could hear them shouting. She could hear the muffled voices crying out to something. Dreams. Hopes. Ambitions. Loves.
Mweni leans on the City Council sink, with her back facing the tap. There wasn’t anything that she could do to quell her thirst. Even if she tried opening the tap further, the thing was always broken. What was the point of it all then? She looks at the night sky. A usual one. Like always. She loves looking at the bodies move. Bodies of people and bodies of things in people. These people are moving away from the city. Because they do not belong to the city at night. Because they are not welcomed at night. The city belongs to the bodies of things in people at night. Things that have happened to people that they are no longer people. Things that have sucked the life out of people.
Mweni sees such things in people. You can see them on their faces. Laughing. Crying. Indifferent to the lives that the people wanted to live. Some hold papers in their hands sometimes. Staggering off into the darkness. Papers of promise. Rather, more specifically, papers of job application. But even more specifically, papers of promise of a better future if they would do away with their ‘ridiculous’ urge to play some music. Or draw. Or dance, and take the 20 billion-price tag, four-lane super highway to success Mweni usually sees them. Mostly tattered pieces of paper folded up nicely into a ten-shilling envelope but ending up as fatal dreams. Most of them do dream. Or rather, most of them have their dreams dreamt for them. As if they do not have brains of their own to get out of the random, useless eye movements that other people have preconceived for them.
Mweni had never known what she wanted to become. She had never known how to dream for herself because life had become her. She feels goose bumps forming on her uncovered arm. She has a sweater, but it isn’t really a sweater- with all the holes on it. She cuddles herself.
2. Please do give the conductor 1000 bob when the fare is fifty shillings. This is to show that you are not a person of petty mulla.
She gets lucky sometimes. A man walks out of a bus and drops the loose change in her arm. But at other times, she wonders. If something happened. She overhears such stories from people. It is a skill that she has learnt. To listen to conversations. Of others, while walking behind them or in the restaurants. That is how Mweni has learnt to make sense of her world.
“Ati alidai kumpatia punch!” He wanted to give him five hundred shillings
“Si nilimlipia tu. Ilikuwa tu 30 bob Ha..ha Huyo konda alikuwa karibu alipuke…”I just paid for him, just thirty shillings, before the conductor got mad. “Alafu mjamaa mwingine akampatia punch. Hehe. Si alijam mbaya.” Then some other guy gave him five hundred shillings. He got angry
“Alido?” What did he do?
“Alisaka hizo madoh zimechapa akampatia kama change” He looked for the oldest of notes and gave him as change.
“Alizikubali” Did he accept them?
“Huyo konda alimshow asiwai mpatia pesa za bank hapa tena!!” The conductor told him not to give him bank-like money again
“Ha ha ha!!”
3. Make sure your phone is stolen at least three to four times because how the hell do you expect to learn how not to fucking use your phone in public.
As the night gobbles on deeper, she sees the flock of faithful workers pour out of the mammoth buildings like ants. Some of them tired as hell. Mweni thinks of them as slaves. Working their ass of for some other people. As it stands, they all disperse, like glass falling to a floor. Perfect. Some are still working on their way home, making call to who-knows-where. This is how the streets survive. On preying on people such as these. People who walk the streets with their eyes closed. Unknowing. Naïve.
The one time Mweni took somebody’s phone, the innocent victim had it crying out for someone to please steal it from him. Sometimes she wonders whether the person really did want it stolen. I mean, really? She only got some money to keep her fed for a week. After that, she had to change tact. Find something else to pilfer.
4. Buy another pair of shoes because maybe the other pair you bought last week doesn’t match the clothes you have just bought.
Bright night light
Incandescent Luminous florescence
Epic sights of Dopamine-filled exchanges
Calling out the weak and strong
To fill their non-self-effacing egotistical smiles
And wave them bye bye
The night and day seem to be all but the same in the excessively lit soiree in the city. This is Mweni’s favorite time. For she watches at the little businesses try to lure people into their little tiny stalls that somehow seem to contain more than they can hold, to buy at least something; A watch. A wallet. A hat. A shirt. A blouse. A shoe. Its hectic but its melody. Someone became a celebrity out of all this. And it is the voice of the one person that speaks loudly in the speakers, advertising. Mweni wishes she could meet that person. In person. Maybe he is famous. Mweni doesn’t know any famous people. All she sees are strange people on large paper all over the streets in the city.
People walk past the shops, some looking at the items in the stalls, with their bodies already farther away. Some finding their bodies following their eyes and back into the stalls. To look but not to touch. Often the look turns hands against the minds and into the pockets and handbags to make the exchange. A brief but impulse split of a second. A moment of victory and pain. Of capture and sane insanity.
5. Don’t give money to beggars because they will keep on borrowing and never stop and make you poorer and poorer
Mweni struts onto a couple. A man and a woman, who look like they have just landed a wholesome dinner or come from the club. They struggle to keep up the pace with the rest of the world because they were in their moment. She stands in front of the two of them holding out an outstretched hand.
“Nisaidie…” Help me.
Then, like some piece of chaff, the man, not even looking at her, pushes her to the side with such a brutality that she lands hard on the pavement, into a little puddle. Mweni, a soft spoken little voice, pure in her intentions feels her mojo escape her. Unwilling to rise up and try her luck again because that action of denial has shown her that life is not at all pretty. She feels her sinuses heavy with regret and pain. She feels her arms and chest heavy with despondent irreverence for the actions that have been shown to her. She sits there, in the corner and starts to feel tears from her eyes. She rarely cries. She is rarely brought down. She rarely falls
6. Pray to God to become richer. Because He will see that you have worked hard and make you richer
A silent cry rises from the souls of those in fine form. A prayer of the tax collector. Here in the city, people, rich people want to own the world. And they think that a higher power will help them to that. That is why souls gather in churches even at times when the devil’s agents have been working in them, so that they may seek. So that they may be ‘blessed’. So that they may be given the courage to take from others what ‘they should have in their possession’. Mweni hears them. Every night
7. Eat and Eat and Eat as if you are preparing for a global apocalypse. But own a fitness kit just in case they start saying you are growing too fat.
No wonder the city lacks air to breathe. It is taken. All of it. By those obese creatures. It is said that the number of obese people is growing every new dawn. It is as if they are feeding themselves like pigs. The ministry of pigs. Moms and dads gobble up mounds of food. Simply because they are African. And it is how they will show their children how to eat. Like this. Mweni doesn’t remember ever having a mom or dad. But if she had, she would wish that they would look like those fatsos. All round and fluffy like a ball. Then she would be sure that she would eat well.
She also sees those same fatsos race all the way into the shops to buy stuff to keep them in shape. Maybe it is because they cannot simply go to the gym and do it there. Why go to the gym only to be rendered a hopeless cause? Si,’ We can just show them that we can buy the whole gym and the people inside it’.
8. Go to a five-star hotel. More precisely: The Villa Rosa Kampenski-For Valentines; And do not finish the food on the plate. Because it shows that you have class and that you care for the dogs.
The time nears for Mweni to make her way to the nearest hotels. It is close to the time when the hotel is at its busiest. With buffets and fully occupied tables. And so Mweni’s friends meet her at Sarova. They wait for the left overs like vultures. Mweni knows that she cannot wait for the next morning because by then, there would be nothing. And so she waits now.
For the fresh, juicy steaks and ribs and uneaten food that was too spicy or too plain for their liking. But food that they still paid for because they cannot afford a sideshow and taint their reputation in front of their friends and bosses.
9. Own a car. Because in it, you can fuck whoever you want, whenever you want and especially in the middle of a jam.
Here in the city, the jams can enter your mind, and rip your mind apart piece by piece, while you stand and watch. Most people prefer buses because they have music. Music that pumps through into your ears distorting the reality of the time. But that is most people. In case you are not most people, Mweni’s favorite kind of people on the road, she advises that a personal vehicle is the perfect thing for you. Mweni likes it when such people blatantly hold out their middle finger to ass holes on the road. The likes of slow cyclists or matatu touts. Mweni blames the behaviours on the cars and not the people. Because people are not capable of such.
Mweni always wonders what goes on inside those vehicles, when the traffic jam has stretched for hours. When the rush hour has caught up with them. Where time moves really slowly. She wishes she was inside one of the vehicles. She imagines the atmosphere. The thoughts the conversations. But really. Maybe they could have been well off listening to the radio- To some news of a failing nation. Then it was a chance to let themselves be free in their own cocoons. Fuck Kenya. Or maybe they were listening to an arsenal game and some French overhyped striker missed an open net. Fuck Giroud. Maybe even listening to a badly produced hip hop single. Fuck Nikki. Whatever it was, it was grounds for the freedom of expression.
10. Lastly, make sure that you pay your taxes. Do not open a secret account in Switzerland or one of those places where you know you can legally evade taxes. How else will you fund this very exciting ongoing live game of politricks?
It’s everywhere. Like a scourge. Infecting like a virus.
The tall Times Tower stands like a warrior. Its magnificence a delight to the radiant night sky. It’s just there. Even after the stories that Mweni heard. Stories that it had fallen down once. But Mweni doesn’t believe it could ever fall. Especially because of its don’t-touch-this attitude. She ever wonders what make it such a place to behold. In reality, it is the source of Kenya’s downfall. The illusion that the nation holds far much more resources that in publicly known has blinded its leaders, chocked them with greed to eat. With fictions of insecurity and development; creations of government officials, they are fattening their security and infrastructure budgets. We have been played like pawns, against each other like animals. So weak in our long term silence. And when they tried to speak, they killed them. So others, decided to flee. Form ni majuu. But home sweet home lies here. It’s hard to deny that most of them have read The 48 Laws of Power and The 33 Strategies of war, not forgetting the Art of war. It is truly an art. For a chosen few. Who possess the quality if inhumanity.