I have heard many “normal” people talk ill of Jevanjee gardens. Strategically located in the middle of Nairobi’s robust central business district, it must have been placed there to provide the much-needed hideout for relaxation amidst the stress levels razing around the city life. One day while eavesdropping, i got to know that a lot of town dwellers call it a dangerous zone, a dungeon where thugs and rapists hide. I don’t hide here, I reside here. This is my home, I guess it automatically makes me queer that I find solace here.
I am not a thug nor a rapist but I steal occasionally. In the hard knock street life you got nothing apart from your reflex action. You have to take that which doesn’t belong to you to survive through the man eat man circle of life. Just like a tale of the hustle, stealing is accompanied with a great deal of risk. Only last week Omosh succumbed to the brutal horror of mob justice. He was caught pick pocketing from a beldam’s handbag on Biashara street. For close to thirty minutes, normal transactions at the rather assiduous trade area came to a standstill as the angry mob pounced on him with big boulders from the nearby construction site. The fat women who sell juicy fruit salads for the construction workers were on the same camp with the Muslim women who peddle “mabuyu” near the mosque. In a bid to waver the crowd’s intent the females had all their arms high up in the air while crying out loud, “Woiiiii asamehewe!” Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the angry gathering yelled and kicked Omosh as if he had stolen from every one of them. Only the police would have saved his life, that’s if they had come to the scene and scared off the wanainchi by shooting bullets into the clear skies. This is the kind of metropolis where the echoing sound of gun shots usually disperses a crowd faster than any word of mouth. The police were however very late, they always are! When they got to the smoky vicinity, all that was left was the ashes of what used to be Omosh. The masses had taken the matter into their own hands. They hurriedly took an old tyre from the Indian vehicle spare parts shop and put it around Omosh’ body. They set him ablaze.
Inside Jevanjee is my favourite bench that I like to sit on. It’s my definition of magic because at night it transforms into a bed, my bed. I have spent a lot of sleepless nights on this surface, a problem most probably caused by its shape and make. I am too tall for its length and it’s too cold for my health, these damn scrap metals! Sometimes, the nightmares of the pot-bellied Italian man chasing me from the back of his pizzeria leave me tossing and turning. One of the best nights I have spent on this bench was when I once cuddled up with Shiko till the break of dawn. I could hardly let go to the warmth her feminine bosom provided to my chest. She was one of us, she still is even though she left. She was beautiful, I think I had feelings for her. I also think that I am a shy boy.
I have however never hesitated to grab half-eaten food from motorists with their car windows open in slow traffic, I have never felt guilty of wearing a foreign jacket. People always come to the park and forget their paraphernalia, we normally inherit them in a heartbeat. Around this location, my bravery is way above average. I am surprised that I never had the balls to tell Shiko that I loved her. I was also afraid to tell her because I had nothing to offer. Love is no spoken language in these dark and cruel alleys. In a real world, men who love women have gifts and trips to offer them if not fancy dates, things that I only dream of. Sometimes when i miss Shiko so much, I start to have illusions of her. I must have been the one person who cared most for her, after all she had no real home or family. She was one day found dead on Waiyaki way. Raped and killed.
It had been a long day, It was going to be yet another lonely night without Omosh. I was sad but perturbed much that the stars were brighter than usual, as if the universe was trying to light me up. I wished I had told Omosh that morning before his unprecedented departure that he was the only brother I had, the only friend I had left. I wish he knew that if I was given another chance to be with him, I would let him cover himself with the tattered piece of cloth we had both salvaged at the Ngara dump site. Not a fortnight went by without us fighting over its fair share; for it’s the closest we had ever been to a blanket. I am somehow glad that every morning after our disputes, we always woke up to a new beginning, after all who needs a cloak during the day? To make hay, it’s the clock that matters. I shed a tear right after I said an invocation for Omosh.
The prayer made me think of Pastor Kamau. He comes to the gardens every morning from eleven to four o’clock. Adorning his expensive suits and cheap perfumes, I care less about his image or prayers, for all I know he always interrupts my version of death to the world. My sweet sleep is always cut short by the clergyman’s blaring sound system and the out of key choir of at least five people always dressed in bright purple or blinding fuchsia. Some days he leaves as late as nightfall thanks to two different but very possible scenarios; when the garden is packed by passersby wanting to give their lives to the Lord, especially over the weekends or when kids visiting the city on educational school trips are incidentally stranded in the garden while waiting on their school bus to come pick them. Just like the rest of his church brethren, he pisses me off! It’s been close to five years since I forcefully started hearing his word, as he likes to term it. My life is still as pathetic. The word could not save my friends, Shiko and Omosh. Only the good Samaritans give me food if I am lucky, the word has never fed me, I wonder if it will save me when my time comes. Pastor also likes to be called “Mchungaji”. I find that rather bizarre because it’s a nickname. I hate them almost as much as when people call me a “chokora”. I have a name and that’s not it …
To be continued …