MY LONG JOURNEY BACK HOME by Waitherero Wambua

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Said I am easy like Sunday morning. Who really has easy Sunday mornings? Not even the Pope has an easy time with all the confessions of debauchery streaming in. The eight year-old who didn’t finish homework on Friday night trying to find his backpack then afterwards resigning to Monday morning Ctrl C and V. The teenager in church who doesn’t know whether Ruth comes before Judges or rather Judges Ruth. Omosh trying to steer clear of Baba Jhoni who he saw with a Spons-her in a compromising position on Saturday night- the awkwardness as she was his ex. My Sunday mornings are in bed or basking in the midmorning sun to get that creamy skin.
I love quiet rides back home. The sound of the engine roaring, the indefinite car hoots when two drivers pass each other, the rubber meeting the smooth road, the unkempt conductor yelling at a beautifully endowed pedestrian and the loud silence of the broken radio. It’s beautiful. It’s my personal time. It is God’s way of saying I can wipe you off the face of the earth right now but no, that’s on me.
The best time to sleep and draw back and forth into consciousness. I like sitting at the front with the driver where I can see death coming and still avoid it (youtube videos taught me). It’s comfortable, you can easily alight, and it has the convenience of fresh air and a perfect overview of Rongai city. Until a plump man closer to the ground than the heavens opened the door; courtesy is a trying trait that is called for when you least expect it and least willing. Being in the middle has a certain level of exposure, uneasiness and pungent sweat wafting around. I hate it. The driver’s constant readjustment of the clutch is even more agonizing than his breath of fresh miraa and keg. Kwani janaa kulienda aje? Kwani jana ulikunywa aje? Typa breath.
When the dere started asking me questions, I knew its either I pretend to be an Igbo or sick. Neither would work, he probably heard me on the phone talking of irregularities of events with my friend. Strings of questions….
In a mellow English forced tone, “Did you go to church today?” You seem like you are from Church, he asked in a condescending tone after I looked away.
“I went to church in the morning”, just to brush him off quickly and go back to my eerie moments. I mumble a silent prayer “forgive me Lord for I have sinned”.
“What was the word of today?” he goes on. He seems quite aloof of my dismissing looks and gestures. Probably misinterpreted cues or failure on my part of using gestures effectively to throw him off. Or to throw myself off the car.

“Faith” I respond peering at him so he can stop pushing me further into the gates of hell.

Silence prods on for a while.
The fat gentleman just couldn’t stop himself from interjecting. He fits the description of a sponsor, a sharp brown suit loosely fitting however, probably to allow ample space for his belly and thick thighs. Not a pleasant sight on Sunday or any other day at that. I love making new friends but I hate strangers- a topic for another day. He wobbles himself in the seat slightly pushing my hips towards the clutch, I sigh in low key disgust and discomfort. He can barely fit in his own seat so he pours himself into mine as well almost making me sit on the driver instead.

“What about faith?” the heavy gentleman asks. His voice had a slight inclination to a British accent but seemed rather forged or the Luo accent overshadowed it broadly. He went on, “Faith has..

I didn’t let him finish his display of arrogance and interest far too long.

“The teaching was to have faith in theLord and all shall be well, faith as little as the mustard seed can go a long way in life- it can move mountains and hills. Create wonders you have never seen”, I do not like preaching especially in a matatu but they prompted me to go on and I did.

I talked of Abraham’s wife, Lot’s wife and threw in real housewives to make the talk as light as possible. We talked of marriage and men together with kids, dag deeper into the realms of love and businesses. I mostly listened or drifted back and forth of the hamburger in my bag that I should be married to and had immense faith in.

Having the last word said, I reclined back to my seat ready to catch some sleep and ignore the two gentlemen.
“Preach to me why I should follow Jesus and not Mohammed? I am Muslim, you know, I love Islam”. He then quoted a few scriptures from the Bible.

I was baffled at first. I have been asked to do a few hard things like wash the dishes before you sleep or sell shoes to an amputee but change someone’s faith. Honey child, I am neither Jesus nor Kanyari. He became aggressive and asked twice again as if I did not understand English.

“Mi no comprendre dere” I thought out loud. The gentleman to my left chuckled. He mumbled something in my defense to sway the faith-seeker away but my loud mouth always has the upperhand.

“Faith is personal; It is not my place to preach anything” I interjected

“Plus you know your scripture already what else do you want from her” the stout gentleman emphasized.

I went through the flashback of boarding that car and realized the multiple benefits of walking. My headache loomed on even more.

“NASA tibim”

“Tibim”

“Raila Tibim”

“Tibim”
The dere went on relentlessly.
A chance to sleep. Well, not just yet…
The round-shaped man goes on to shower me with complements- “I love your long gown (kimono, I wanted to correct him but he seemed to well advanced in his years, I didn’t feel the need to talk fashion) and the way you have worn that skirt. I do not know much about skirts but all ladies wear it the same way- like pants. Where do you go to church? Ladies and gentlemen, this is how church girls get hooked- beware.
“I go to Buruburu” thinking he doesn’t know Eastlands. This conversation spiraled to his former house in phase five, his current residence in Kona Mbaya and his mother’s sudden demise. Nothing comes close to a stranger being emotional and you are just seated there looking like Bart Simpson dying inside. He then proceeded casually to ask for my number. I have to hand it to him; he had good game for his age. But you cannot bring games to a finesse coach like me; I gave him my big brother’s number. I passed a few condolences before the driver jumped in to tell his own version of events.
In a sultry Adele’s voice( not Adele Kenya, Adele international) the driver talks of his teething troubles.
“Last electioneering year, I was delivering ballot boxes to Namanga. I was there for a week; to be exact four days did not pass”
We all listened keenly to the odd story.
Upon arrival, everything was in place so my presence was not mundane. Plus I had to go back help my family move from Nakuru; the tension there was building up and given my ethnic lines, my family was not safe”.
His voice peered through the conductor’s rants and raves- a drunken passenger did not want to pay up the extra ten shilling.
“The house was oddly quiet for a Thursday afternoon but it didn’t alarm me as mama watoto anapenda udaku sana but I still called her because I bought for her new clothes as a surprise”.
Chilvary is nowhere near dead ladies. Go get yourself a driver. A Rongai driver.
“She never picked my call, I tried fifteen more times but they all went unanswered. I thought maybe she has another husband but it did not add up, she was the ONE” he said this with so much certainty and reverence you could see its truth beneath the pain.
“I asked my neighbors if they have seen her plus my two siblings (he meant children but kizungu though) one nosy one told me they had gone to Donholm at my mother’s. I called my mother to confirm the hullabaloo but she claimed not to have seen her but maybe she could on the way when she arrives she will notify me. Hours went by slower than usual; the idea of something happening to my family taunted me each minute”. He said this as he waved to a fellow driver who hooted at him continuously.
I was reaching my destination but I was so hooked to the story I would have probably missed it intentionally.
“I called my mother-in-law after a few hours went by, she had not seen her daughter with the two grandchildren since the last time we visited her. I was in a state of panic, confusion, disbelief and mostly fear. Could my neighbors have killed my family? Did my wife leave me for another wealthier man? Are they somewhere in an accident bleeding to death? So I dashed to the police station and gave out my statement. They did not seem concerned and even threw in a few jests just to prick my emotional state”
Huyo bibi yako amekuacha baba, enda utafute wa pili mzae na yeye watoto wengine lakini tutamtafuta 48 hours zikipita na hajarudi” (your wife has left you, simply look for a second wife and get other kids with her but we will look for her after 48 hours have elapsed)
“If the police cannot help you when you are most desperate then who do you rely on for protection or for security?” It has been five years right now since I last saw them. My first born son will be eight years right now, my daughter will be five and my unborn child will be four years. I wouldn’t even know them if I was to see them separately, I don’t know if they look like me or their mother or a crossbreed of both. I waited for them for a whole month but they didn’t come back home. I moved out before the election violence ensued and came to rongai to be a matatu operator”.
“I still go to our house and enquire about their whereabouts and whether they ever came back home”. He finishes in a disheartened monotone but still keeps focus on the road and oncoming vehicles. And just in time for me to alight.
The stout man throws in “I will call you tonight before I sleep” line but not loud enough for other passengers to hear and not vivid enough for me to care.
Forgive me Lord for not going to church that morning and lying about it also for giving me that ‘have faith’ point. Also bless me with that Rolls Royce I have been singing about for decades. Amen.
The hamburger was a complete delight.

 

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