This story begins on a Friday. To be precise, the Friday just before Jamhuri Day on Monday. You know how it goes; a lazy day at the office, prepping up for the coming Christmas holidays…. The year has moved so fast, but then again, it is refusing to end. So, you resist a colleague’s offer for a quick drink and head home. You have a whole series of GOT to re-watch. Winter is coming, and so is the weekend. One long weekend that lasts up to the whole of Monday.
You are now at home. You enter the small gate that leads to your house, bypassing wamama wa ploti– the resident womenfolk- in the process. Today is water day, so they are lined at the communal water tap harvesting this precious commodity. You greet them, no need for them to say that you are proud so that they can start hating. Then again, you know how the meme goes, ‘salimiaga majirani, ufunguo ya gate hupotea’- that it is prudent to greet your neighbours as you can lose the keys to the gate.
Flight or fight mood… adrenaline pumping, your heart about to explode from all that fast beating… You see, your door is slightly ajar, and that cannot be a good thing. A thousand possibilities run through your mind: perhaps you forgot to lock the house- it has happened before after a Man United losing weekend when you were drunk with spirits unholy; maybe the cleanliness lady came by even if it is not her scheduled day to do your general cleaning… Deep down though, you know things are thick.
It hits you hard. You almost keel over. You know the song that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, well, they got the lyrics wrong. For I die ten times in the span of ten seconds. Gaping at me is a wide, wide hole… a wide, wide hole previously proudly occupied by my 32” flat screen TV. Skyworth. A whole range of emotions engulf me. Mostly, I feel violated. That someone had the temerity to invade the space that is my house and make away with my most prized possession. I feel like shouting and screaming to draw attention, but then, that will be unmanly. My recourse then is to quickly sit down before I can swoon from all that pressure my body organs are undergoing.
I may be in denial, but my mind is still processing additional information. That the decoder, plus the salt dish, lie scattered on the floor- so it must have been a quick job. That my bachelor meko- the ubiquitous 6kg self-contained gas stove is present. So too is the sub-woofer. And my clothes. And my bed. I look for my passport, it is present in that Tecno phone packaging at my bedside.
Relief. Rather, a bit of relief. My laptop is present too, though in the most of peculiar ways. Thing is, I usually keep it locked away in a locker when not in use- no reason for that. Then again, the locker always has its key on the lock. Well, today, I must have been in a hurry as I threw the keys to the locker on the table once I was done rummaging through it for some thing or the other. And with the table cluttered as it usually is (unless female companion is coming over- and no, family doesn’t count) – my laptop, with all those hours and hours of projects and softwares, survived the purge. I really should be counting my blessings. Still, all that scrounging and scraping and saving…
Once the initial shock has subsided, I beckon to one of the women and inform her of my misfortune. I dramatically demonstrate the robbery of my TV- which I condemn as ‘robbery with mental violence’- and invite her to have a look. A minute later, neighbours known and unknown come to offer their condolences- at least, it feels that way. Even our recalcitrant caretaker pays a visit and mutters the right noises, no doubt for the record as news of my robbery will eventually reach the landlord. The bottom-line being that this has never happened before, that clothes stay outside overnight and are never stolen, that these must be people who know me and have tracked my movements, etc., etc.
It is now some minutes past 7 and I am all alone in the house. I should be watching news as I cook my quick bachelor supper, then on to a rerun of GOT… Instead, my news teller is gone, and so too is my appetite. In the morning, I will throw away the takeaway madondo– boiled beans I was to fry to accompany my ugali- and keep the avocado. What to do, what to do… I decide to go out and look for a new padlock. At least, it is now common knowledge that I have been robbed, vigilance is heightened and I don’t think the robbers are stupid enough to do a robbery 2.0.
I am now seated at King George, having a couple of cold beers. There is nothing really to caress away worldly concerns as a couple of cold beers. For one, one’s thoughts attain a lucidity to see the bigger picture. That a TV, Skyworth, 32 inches, is something trivial. Why, my colleagues are playing in the league of parcels of lands, company shares and other investments. That I need to man up, cut my losses and move on very fast. It is not like someone has died.
Saturday. My body aches, but then again, I will have to wake up sometimes in the day. I might as well wake up now. Its 10 am and I would have just finished watching an hour of The Avengers… I will have to report the robbery, just for the record; you never know. And that’s how I rationalise my way to Riruta Police Station. I practically have zero confidence with our police, unless I am paying them for a particular service, say, providing security for a political rally, but the law is the law. Plus, my neighbours won’t take my robbery seriously until I show them the police slip indicating I have reported the memory of the robbery.
Now at Riruta Police Station. I am all servile and humble and greety-greety, that’s how you get served at a police station. Rudeness or arrogance simply won’t do. My cap is now in my hand and I have just greeted all the three officers stationed behind the reporting desk. In front of me is a mother and a sister cajoling to be let to see their son/brother. One of the officers enters a door behind him and shouts for a John Njoroge. This Njoroge – or Njoro, as his mother/sister, address him is a ruffian alright. Bloodshot eyes, unkempt hair, scraggy clothes, he looks like he has not been in acquaintance with water for a week.
As they talk, during which they plead with him to speak all the truth so that they can know how to manoeuvre with the OCS, the OCS makes an appearance. He obviously knows the mother, greets her and starts saying that if he was the one who had gone searching for Njoroge, he would definitely been calling the mother to get her dead son at City Mortuary. “Kijana wako ametusumbua sana, mum,”- that the son does not portend well for public good.
“Wewe, shida yako ni nini?” The OCS barks at me. In my most meek voice, I start by greeting him and informing him that I have no problem. “Mkubwa, habari yako, mimi sina shida ila tu…”- Your Lordship, I bring no trouble, but only too… “Kama huna shida, then umekuja kureport nini?”- If you have no problem, then, what are you reporting?- but you can see his voice is a bit softer, which means I might get justice today.
I tell him my TV is gone, last evening. He barks to the mother that his son and his group of friends were caught with stolen goods, among them a TV… Which area? I tell him that I reside in Ndwaru? Well, these things were reported stolen in Ngina, and with that, he dashes my rising hopes that I am about to be reunited with my dear TV. He goes away.
The mother and sister are done with their son/brother and he is being returned to the police cell. It has vastly improved, I can see that from the door which has been left ajar. For one, there is lighting in the cells, when I was last here four years ago, we embraced darkness… The sister is now talking to Ochi- short for Ochieng, a buddy to the brother. She is giving him her phone to inform his people where he is being held, else he turns up dead in City Mortuary with fatal bullet wounds. Prudence is the name of the game, for with our police, you can never tell.
Meanwhile, I am narrating my case. One of the police officers asks for the name of suspects. Suspects, suspects, suspects… Hmmm, let’s see. Joy, the cleanliness lady, too saved and too honest; she has returned substantial amounts of money found in my clothes several times as she did my laundry. Mama Mbone, the matronly lady who fetches my water at the communal tap, she is too matriarchal to cohort with housebreakers… My opposite neighbour who is always inside the house and never seems to work, a potential suspect. Or my friend Jack who owes me a lot of debt and never repays; I have not been picking his calls recently to address his money woes; definitely a suspect. Or Joan, the single lady.
Let me tell you a little about Joan. So, I moved in to this neighbourhood on a Saturday. On Monday at 8, someone is knocking om my door. I open cautiously, I don’t know that many people around this locale. But before that, I lower the volume of my music, could be a fellow tenant come with the caretaker to complain about aloud music. Some people just don’t get it. That some songs were just meant to be listened to at high volume, preferably in a residential area. (Hail the OG, Dr. Dre – Lyrical Gangbang – The Chronic).
So there is this light skin chick, saying that they have a resident chama– merry-go-round, that I should join it. 500 Bob a week. Now, I have lost quite a bit of money in chamas. First weeks and everyone comes through with their contributions in a timely and honourable manner. Then a few unscrupulous members start delaying on their payments, then other join in by defaulting on their loan repayments, then the chairlady makes off with the whole lot… No, thank you! I tell her that I already have commitments in an investment club- land, matatus, that kind of think. Plus, where are your manners, with a stranger, you start with introductions… I am forthright with her. Might as well set the tempo for the kind of power-relations I will have with my neighbours, ndio tusizoeane– familiarity builds contempt, goes the adage.
For a week, Joan the light skin chick doesn’t talk to me. I, on my part, couldn’t care less. I didn’t come here to make friends. In fact, I hold a one week house warming party and only two people are invited; me and my girlfriend. Then my girlfriend has to go back to college and that’s when Joan starts talking to me. At first, small small talk, how was your day, how was your night, goodnight… that kind of small, small talk.
Then, she starts coming over to my place, ostensibly, to watch news. She is daring in that she even comes to complete cooking her tea with my meko as hers has ran out of gas. She even brings me some bananas which I give away, then insist on leaving chapatis at my place when I decline them. I throw them away the next day. Hivo ndo mtu hukaliwa chapo– my friend, witchcraft is real. Gradually, I am now her unpaid therapist, listening to many a sob stories; supervisor this, colleague that… I am all patient, hoping to get lucky.
Why is she a suspect? Well, on the Thursday preceding the Friday robbery, lights went out in the evening. I went to the shop to get some candles. Now, I am back in the dark house fumbling for matches, only to catch a silhouette in the dark. A still, silent silhouette. What a fright Joan gives me. Coming to my house and sitting in the dark like a malevolent spirit from some horror movie. When I am well recovered, I tell her that my wife is coming shortly. She startles, she jumps, she runs. But not before waving a quick goodnight at the threshold and which I promptly ignore. On Friday, I get robbed.
Still, I name no suspects. The officer starts recording my case on the OB. Says his colleague, where did you say you come from. Ndwaru. I say. Well, Ndwaru falls under the jurisdiction of the Kabete Police Station, he says. So, to Kabete I proceed. Now, Kabete Police Station is notorious for offences traffic. That being the case, I load my phone with additional credit.
At Kabete, the drill is more or less the same, only that the offenders are mostly touts and the occasional matatu driver or drunkard. In no time at all, I am giving out my phone to a few touts, as they are brought to the reporting desk area in turn, to call family to come bail them out. The holding cells seem to be just as I left them when I was last here. Drunk and disorderly. Drunk, yes; disorderly, not, but as I said, the police are a law unto themselves. I too borrowed a phone to make a call from a stranger reporting a crime. My crime and details are recorded in the OB, then and now. I head to town to buy a small TV with which to catch up with the news. You know, those cheap and small TVs that lack stereo and which you watch with one eye closed.
After church on Sunday, I return to Kabete Police Station as instructed. Well, the superiors are out, I am told. Come back on Monday. So now, Monday is Jamhuri Day. I make my way to the police station again… the officer assigned to your case was on night duty. Could you come back tomorrow? I am being given the run-around, so bye bye my 32 inch Skyworth TV. Was nice knowing you. I head back home to catch up on the president’s speech.
Later in the day, Joan faints in my house. She goes all dead on me and I am trying to revive her by fanning her and splashing her with cold water. I am seeing myself in court, answering to murder or manslaughter charges. Now, who among my friends can I call to help me get rid of a dead body without snitching. Luckily though, she resurrects and I escort her to the bus stop to go home. FY1, this is another Joan. I really should stop dealing with anybody named Joan. Pure trouble, I tell you.