“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.”
So the landlord called to say he’s selling out that Mansion. He’s wrong. I thought. Why should he anyway? No he’s right. Am wrong. In fact Ave not been paying him the market price. But decision time is decision time. So he gives the option of linking up with the new owner but I doubt. Perhaps he’ll be a Chinese and did I say am no racist but I hate their small eyes; they might bump into you when drunk possibly. Or yet still they might be those Mafia guys who come walk around, put up some paint and say “add me money, you see paint is expensive. So I gotta get moving from this comfort crib…..
What next? I call my guy Jemoh; the one holed up on Ngong road at the Rocky school upstairs. He sits in a room so small with an ego so big. Sounds like he was planted there. His cluttered table is decorated with tired phones supported towards the middle with rubber bands. A pointer that he used to have lots of money tied on these rubber bands but now all he does is link people like me to vacant houses and make a cut of it. The jungle is indeed vast. The tired phones keep vibrating, dwindling and throbbing on the table. Calls come in at a rate you might be tempted to doubt authenticity of the callers.
“Yes this is the Estate guy limited” (read loud in Midiwos voice)
“Am well but need some house ASAP”
“What size and what location sir?”
“Will prefer Kileleshwa or Lovington. Fix me for a two bed spacious”
“I have a two bedroom in Lovington going for sixty thousands amonth” (says that with ease like he got triple that amount on his chase bank account)
Am seated across his desk trying to make sense of the jargon filled house search agreement form am tasked to fill. It’s boring long with no flow. Only rhetorical questions with spaces to fill against. I sigh, sit back and stretch the form in his face. Sorry enough of this Jemoh, let me just explain to you what I need precisely. He stares back with widened eyes and he’s about to say something strange then one of the phone rings.
(This one is on silent mode can’t hear what the madam says but he answers)
“Yah. Yah. That tenant is moving out today. Are you ready to ship in your stuff as well?”
(Long silent pause phone glued to the left Antenna supported with the shoulder bone, hands fumbling with pen and paper.
This one is boring. I can’t follow through. I switch off and ship my phone out of the pocket and fire up the data icon. What’s-up conversations stream in like they had just been waiting at the door like destitute Street kids scrambling for food. Am about to ammerse myself reading word for word, I hear him rush through the conversation promising to get back. “pole my friend. I have been home for a while. Am putting up some permanent house” he said struggling to break the ice clueless to the fact that I was already at home.
“Yes my boy, I have like five options for you. Am sure you will like all of them and choose one of them” Some guy walked in. He introduced him as his assistant. He pronounced his name as Ruben but maintained a shaky eye contact. “Please go round with him to check the options and update on which one you love” I tucked out a five hundred shillings note and rested it in his palms. He wrote back some receipt in a handwriting his mother would struggle to read. “Give him the balance sir”
We staggered out. Him ahead of me. Me behind his steps like a Dad with his son. It reminded me of the neglected Father’s day. The one I have to keep on reminding you happened yesterday. Sorry I will deviate and bring in something for that old man; my dad. The product washed away but the sign stayed put, centered and commandeering like a boy coming out of teenage hood. It read boldly “imperial leather” like this damn thing came home aboard KQ. It reminds me of my father as we grew up crumbled in his crib or is it our crib? No it’s his because all decisions were made by him. He taught. No he dint teach all his life. He was once a boy younger than me. Then a man of my age, unmarried and confused of what the future held. He went to Dar Salem University (I had to say that because he did say always; it meant the world to him. He did statistics while there, came back and worked at the treasury. He was a big man, he says. He’s big headed. He quit and went back into teaching college. Have always doubted if teaching is his passion. Every time I sneaked into his place of work to find him in class, they deliberately made me stay at the staff room then the head said “patieni mtoto wa mwalimu chai” dint I say tea is boring.
He was adult. Always occupied and absent from home. Mornings were characterized by him battling with his bushy beards. It was a battle. He coughed hoarsely and rattled the blade on the wall. Gillette was not invented by then. He dressed, left then tension eased around the home. OK point is, he bathed with Imperial leather. It was uniquely his. You smelt it. Saw it placed on the window pane leading to the bathroom but never touched. The rest of us used “Jamaa” You remember that notorious advert on Kbc radio. He’s retired. He lives upcountry and does small scale peasant farming but drinks alot. We talk. We met over the weekend at Nakuru and hit the locals. He ordered Allsops. I found it weird. We laughed. When I grow up I want to be like daddy. I want to bathe with Imperial leather. #Happy Father’s day.
Ruben- my house search guide smelt of cigarette. I hated the smell but had to follow on for the house. He dint talk much. He yawned soundly and covered his mouth with his palms mumbling some words at the end of every yawn. “Jesus of Nathareth!” (Just came up with that hehe). It made him appear tired beaten and vulnerable. His job sounded like boring routine. I could tell from the stare of his eyes. I broke the silence. “Will have some lunch later on” That jolted him back to life. He spoke in a fatherly tone. He asked of what kind of house I need. He asked of what my current house contains. I thought that was not a safe question but quickly connected the first and second question to need assessment. My house has lots of stuff. I said and strode on faster to catch up with him. Had lost steps thinking of that unsafe question. “We start from the nearest option to the furthest,” he said. We walked on.
That question kept ringing in my head over and over despite the fact that I had chosen to respond positively having associated it to need assessment. He had asked to know what I owned in my house. We were on a mission to find a new home. It had all started by my former landlord selling off his place. His asking of what I owned in my house and the ongoing home search was related. I dint know at first. He knew but without my answer he knew not. So again we walked on. No, we hunted on, one gate after the other. One door then the next, one house then another one; the old one, the fenced one, the one adjacent to the main road, the one tucked far away from the main market and in a far place that sounded isolated by life itself. Then finally this one compound owned by a toothless granny.
The gate wasn’t closed from inside. No, it was closed with a padlock that didn’t need a key to unlock. It was all but a game of push and pull. I could not tell though, but he pulled and let the gate loose open. We flocked in one after the other. It was him then me behind like two sheep headed to a slaughter house. He did this with speed and accuracy like he had been there before. He remained behind to lock the damn gate. I dint move an inch, instead I remained rooted to one spot waiting for him to lead as I followed. Was getting used to this follow me rhythm but the real reason was, the compound was bushy, neglected with knee-high grass. I feared I might trend on and step on a basking snake! Have you ever stepped on a snake’s tail in its own territory? Have you?
The main house stood isolated in the middle; an old Italian-like architect design that had stood the test of time. Bamburi chaps should use that aged house in some Cement advert! Swear. Behind the structure stood hush-ly erected structures fumbling against the winds for attention. They were one, two, three then four. Small, ugly and bloody scary like they were meant to house pigs. All of them were vacant. They smelt of second class paint with floors forced to exist. We moved from one to the next with the old man in tow explaining in a voice marred by trembles. The prices were exorbitant. I hated everything my eyes could lay sight on; the foggy gate, the unkempt compound, the old-centered structure and worse the ‘Pigsty’ erected behind. “Which is your choice?” he hissed in jubilant salesman voice. “Let’s search on,” I commanded.
It was a tiring morning and by afternoon we reached some compromise and settled at some spot I decided to call home; a tall storey of mixed commercial and residential adjacent by walking distance to some famous shopping mall on Ngong road. The name though intriguing. Scribed in catchy calligraphy towards the roof top it read “Bachelors Court” I sensed mischief. My mind got preoccupied by thoughts of the type of people who live there. The landlady was however kind. She took the cash and held to it like security was the top concern that side of town. It sent shivers down my spine. Imaginations of coming back to my crib to a grotesque sight of an empty hall with all stuff shopped out by some guys with master keys crisscrossed my mind but I desperately needed a home. It’s how I chose to avoid that security question when finally she went “anything you need to know first and foremost” It was like I was looking forward to this moment. I asked tons of questions but categorically avoided that security question. From the type of neighbor to expect to what will happen on that day am short of liquidity and its end month, “will they auction my stuff?” I asked of entirely everything. He answered hysterically, laughed in between, choked, paused for a gulp of water and joked like all the time. I found her lovely. Have developed phobia for those aged-granny landladies who always converse in some strange local dialect, rarely laugh and often send their cute granddaughters with food like they heard you are bloody starving. She scribbled some receipt; rubber stamped it and shoveled it to me. I stared with intent across the piece of paper in my hands then shifted my eye contact to her. She searched my eyes and said “Kijana, no loud Music over here, No rowdy visitors and no defaulting on rent” I wondered why she had to begin with that loud music part. It got me guilty as charged.
Have you moved a house lately? I bet you have. You serve the notice. Phone the inner circles about it and do a pre-visit of your next home destination. You literally arrange that place in your mind; the bed over there, the study table here, internet cable in that far corner, the TV over here and the radio under it, Furniture over here facing the bedroom, the wall hangings in this order, the cooking space centered here, the fridge touching the entrance wall. “Perfect,” you conclude.
You go back to your current place and imagine how badly you’ll miss the place but the thoughts of your new place dampen that. You disentangle everything, clean up and pack one by one. In between, you phone Kamaah the transport services guy. “I will be there in an hour’s time,” he says and hangs up as you hear his clutch sound in the dim back ground. He has been moving you for like four rounds so far. You hate the engine sound of his aged Datsun Pick-up but his price keeps you going back. One hour is fast enough. You pace up putting your stuff in order in preparation. This turns out to be a vivid stock take of your “Earthly possessions” You have a one on one touch of all you own. You start with the kitchen. You handle the glasses briskly like they came home aboard KQ. You lay them one on top of the other. At this point you remember your aging granny; she kept a side-cupboard at her mud kitchen it housed utensils she said “Hizi ni za wageni” She never served you on them despite the fact that you considered yourself a visitor in her home. It kept you wondering which kind of visitors hers were. Damn! For the many years you had visited her she had rarely had visitors save for you, but to her you are not a visitor. How now? Those utensils remain locked, dusted then arranged in place. You wonder. Fast forward you enter the bedroom. The wardrobe is in a mess. You have not been in good form lately and that has a way to show by the disorganization exhibited. You put your clothes into bags then in between come across some “Yolo” T-Shirt with Prints “WE RAN THIS TOWN NIGGA” Those words don’t sound like you. The T-shirt is smaller and stuffy of sweat, it’s dirty but it can’t be yours. Who’s? You wonder. Do you leave it behind? Doubtfully no. You decide to pack in in some polythene then stuck it inside your bag towards the sideways. “If it doesn’t find some owner, I will take it to the children’s home on my next visit,” You assure. Community service is turning out to be your thing lately.
Your next stop is the living room area. It’s perhaps the simplest of all since Furniture occupies the fair majority. You tack away the TV Set in its box, the Radio alongside the surround speakers bundled in a metal box; this one is all that survived your high-school years. The metal box, not the radio! Then one by one you drag the couches and table towards the exit squeezed closely. This gives space to roll up the carpet occupying the floor just in between the furniture. This turns out to be an adventure of its own! It’s now when you bump into your keys; the ones you decided were lost and couldn’t leave the house for that reason, instead you called the key-cut and fixed a new pair which you use to date. It makes you sound a fool of yourself. Assured you check on and on. You come across some stray coins, enough to exchange for a packet of Tuzo that day visitors’ show up, yourself you find tea as boring as high-school tuition! This changes your perspectives on saving. You clench your fist “I can save boy!” “Fuck those Centonomy Guys,” you brag. You roll up the carpet in a cylinder like rounded shape finally. You choose to sweep the floor. You heap the dirt centered and sieve through with your barren hands. You touch some more coins. You dish them out and your mystery bank is all but ballooning. You sieve on and touch some shiny-golden metals. Your heart palpates. It’s like you have hit a jackpot. But how? You move the dirt off gently and look closely with a keener view. The metal is a bit clearer. Only that your jackpot idea freezes out of your mind. It’s incognito now. You dish the metal out of the dirt. Ooops! It’s a mere earing. Knock It! (NKT; have always wanted to use that word) you touch your left ear then gently but suspiciously shift your hand to the right ear. You feel nothing. Nothing. Stories of guys who don earing’s crisscross your mind. “Am S-t-r-a-i-g-h-t,” You shout amid stammers. Not that you doubt and neither is anyone doubting as well. Indeed you are straight. It dawns on you how perhaps “these strange possessions” became part of your “Earthly possessions. That realization is boring. You want to shade it off your mind. It’s the only thing you wish to leave behind. You phone Kamaa “How far?” “Out here,” he says. You stumble outside, your phone in hand and eyes towards the gate. KXX 000T, you read the number plate; it shouts out loud “I was there during the second world war. You were not!” Kamaa’s just negotiating a bend around the fig tree to pick a reverse position facing the gate to exit swiftly. You gesture in the air ordering him to reverse closer. He rolls the steering his face a concoction of folds. It’s wide evident that his is a tiring role behind the wheel. He gets closer, halts noisily and jerks out in a dash.
Kamaa unceremoniously opens up a bargain on the charges.
“Customer hapa utaniongezea kakitu. Umejaza nyumba sana siku hizi”
It gets you un-aware. He has been ferrying you at the same cost in four rounds now. You argue.
“Kamaa mtu wangu hizo ni gani” (You have already picked up his slang)
“Ni hivo mtu wangu, last time stuff zako hazikuwa mob hivi!” he says in a pitch that announces defense.
It dawns you are losing this out.
“Ukihamia kwako nitakupatia canter for free,” He offers to close the deal.
He won. You lost.
By the way you are not going to win a bargain with someone who promises an offer that sounds like will come five years from now. That’s Future speculative tense! Lie there’s no such tense in the queen’s language.
You drive out. You and Kamaa tucked in the front seats with all your “earthly belongings” behind you on the pick-up’s back. The gears are not picking up as fast as you would love or is it this Kamaa who is aging out of this driving thing? You drive past your noisy neighbor driving in; the one who normally barks at your entrance when the gods tell you to play the music loud. You feel like starting trouble. You are tempted to raise him the middle finger but you remember your mum’s advice against burning bridges. You tell him (in your heart though) “Boss, if the music is too loud, then sorry you are too OLD!