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East kwa ma-beast… Who shat me?

 East kwa ma-beast… Who shat me?

Pewa Street, ‘mtaa wa ulevi’ in Umoja, Nairobi’s Eastlands, which I have chosen to bid goodbye as part of my strategies to quit drinking. PHOTO BY OTIATO OPALI

I woke up with that splitting headache; an all too obvious after-effect of having one too many. But that morning-after agony wasn’t the only thing that abruptly cut my sleep; a skunky smell wafting across my room was becoming unbearable. What’s that smell?

My house has never had a nice smell on account of the packets of cigarettes I chain-smoke daily. What’s more, G-spot’s litter box had not been emptied for almost two weeks and the odour it heaped onto the cocktail of the repulsive stench was awful, to say the least.

Well, I named my pussy cat G-spot but that is beside the point. This morning, I woke up to a smell that was so strong it rose above the otherwise unbeatable stench that has taken residence in my house.

Anyway, first things first. I decided to deal with the throb in my head that was pounding in sync with my heartbeat. I stretched my hand, reaching to the side of the bed and groping for the water jug that never misses by the bedside during my regular weekends of carousal.

After helping myself with heavy gulps, and emptying the water that was half empty in the jug, I collapsed back into bed with the hope of catching a good sleep. It was 9am on a Sunday morning and the best thing I could do for my adamant hangover was to nurse it by sleep since I had no other plans for the day. But that unwelcome smell kept blocking my nose incessantly. What’s that smell?

I decided to muster all my energy and investigate, the hangover notwithstanding. Maybe G-spot caught a mouse, dragged it into the house and later lost the poor dead rodent in the heap of clatter strewn all over my bachelor pad, and the reek might have been coming from the rat’s rotting carcass. But once I stepped out of my bedroom, I realized that the smell was not that of a carcass; the frowsy stale leaned more towards human excrement. Had I forgotten to flush the toilet?

On opening the toilet door, the smell of human waste hit my face like a tonne of stone, forcing me to take me a few steps back. I wondered loudly, what did these people eat? Since the toilet was the source of the reeky odour, I decided to walk in and flush down whatever they had left behind. Who goes to a toilet and leaves without flushing? Though these people were my friends, they were not the right type and it was time for me to steadily drop them.

On stepping into the toilet, my bare right foot sank into a tepidly warm mound of a slimy substance and slid for a few inches. On looking down, a huge, mostly green mound of adult poop lay smack in the middle of the floor. “Oh my God, they shat me!” I yelled.

Just yesterday, my house was full of lively banter, cheers, and all manner of drunken activity. I had just returned from a week’s holiday in Busia County and my friend, Maf-deh, had asked me to bring along litres of that pure chang’aa Western Kenya is famed for. I did not disappoint.

Upon arrival in Nairobi early in the morning, I stopped by Umoja’s Pewa street to pick up Maf-deh so that we could proceed to my place and do justice to the chang’aa. Maf-deh works at one of the many pubs on Pewa street.

Umoja is famous for its drunkards. Even former Chairman of NACADA John Michael Njenga Mututho, a man with two Saint names, once quipped that Umoja has more pubs than shops that sell bread.

Read also: A sobering break: Rehab changed my life

I came to Umoja, and Nairobi for that matter in 2007. Being mtu wa ku-come I found myself with a limited number of friends. In the capital city’s neighbourhoods, there are those people referred to as ‘watu wa kuzaliwa’ and the rest are ‘watu wa ku-come’. Wa kuzaliwa are the people who were born and raised in Nairobi while wa ku-come were born and raised in the countryside and only came to the city later in life.

One thing I have realized about wa kuzaliwa is that you cannot come across a bunch of lazier humans than this crop of guys. For instance, it is commonplace to find a 40-year-old man who still lives in his parent’s house trying to demean you simply because you were not born in Nairobi.

In Umoja’s Pewa street, wa kuzaliwa patronizes the watering holes round-the-clock. And even though bars in Nairobi should open between 5pm and 11pm, the outlets in Pewa street never close their doors. This has been of great convenience to watu wa kuzaliwa because over 70 percent of them do not have jobs as per my observation and they can only hang around bars waiting for wa ku-come to buy them alcohol when they visit.

For someone wa ku-come like me, staying jobless in Nairobi is taboo and painful because, without money, I will have no roof over my head nor food to eat. Should I be thrown out of my house, my fallback would be catching a night bus to Busia to survive by hanging onto my parents’ little retirement benefits.

On the other hand, most of these wa kuzaliwa characters have parents who own homes or apartments in Nairobi. They, therefore, eat at their parents’ homes and sleep in their houses, too. As such, searching for a job for them is not a priority and the next big thing for them is simply perching on Pewa street.

Maf-deh became my friend because he comes from the Coast, and like me, he has also been labeled wa ku-come. I have also come to learn that what actually drew me and many others to Maf-deh is his outstanding ability to talk with people. And by talking I mean Maf-deh can talk. 

Normally, nearly all pubs employ charming waiters, mean-looking bouncers, and smart cashiers at the counter but Maf-deh introduced a new role in the business in Pewa street, that is, talking. In his job, Maf-deh’s role in the pub is to talk to customers, keeping them entertained, and for this, he earns his monthly upkeep.

They say that people from the Coast talk too much but who knew Maf-deh would turn this into a career? At almost 40 years of age, his short stature is another area he is harnessing to the fullest. He can easily be confused for a college student, and for that Maf-deh can mingle freely with the younger generation without looking out of place.

What’s more, despite his age, Maf-deh always keeps himself abreast with the latest in town be it music, fashion, and sheng or is it shembeteng? On the other hand, the older generation like myself still fit in his company because we shared a lot of experiences while growing up in the 90s. This ability to entertain both the young and the old is what gave Maf-deh his talking job and it is also what attracted me to him.

Read also: WhatsApp to the aid of pubs amidst a post-pandemic glut

However, on this particular Saturday, I was picking up Maf-deh with a secret pact at heart. I had just turned 40 years old a fortnight ago and since life begins at this age, there were serious changes I was planning to make in my life and one of them was the decision not to go to Pewa street anymore. The chang’aa I had brought from Busia was supposed to be a secret celebration of this fact for me.

For a long time, my younger brother has been trying to convince me that I have outgrown Pewa street. The dingy, poorly lit pubs that line up the street were a good place to start when I was a sufferer but according to my brother, they were no longer good for working and well-respected fellows like me.

However, since I identify with the sufferer mentality may be due to my bias towards reggae music and communism, I found it very difficult to bid Pewa street goodbye.

While trying to dissuade me from frequenting the place, a friend of mine once told me that I should spend time with people who are above me professionally or economically so that they can lift me up to their level. I liked his advice but from my skewed point of view, I asked why should those who are above me want to spend time with me yet I am below them. By following the same advice, won’t they go looking for people above them to lift them further up? And if I don’t sit with those below me, am I not denying them a chance to be lifted by someone higher, in this case, me?

But as I approached forty, I could no longer run away from the fact that everything has a beginning and an end. Sadly, the end of my Pewa street days had come. I had spent last year weaning myself off the niceties of the street, making myself a rarity and that is why I decided to pick Maf-deh from Pewa street so that we could have the chang’aa at my place.

Pewa street, ‘mtaa wa ulevi’ in this photo taken in 2014. The dingy, poorly lit pubs that line up the street were a good place to start when I was a sufferer but according to my brother, they were no longer good for working and well-respected fellows like me. PHOTO BY OTIATO OPALI

An old habitual drunk back in my rural village used to say that you don’t drink chang’aa when the only meal you have taken is guavas. And that is why on our way out of Pewa street, Maf-deh tagged along his current girlfriend to come and manage my kitchen.

I say his current girlfriend because, despite his age and his love affair with speaking, Maf-deh has never entertained talking at length about settling down. At times he has girlfriends, yet other times he has okoa jahazis, and still, quite often, he plucks low-hanging fruits whose owners are not so keen as he did this morning with his current girlfriend.

Okay let’s address the elephant in the room, you might be wondering why at forty I still dwell in a bachelor pad where we have to tag Maf-deh’s current girlfriend to take care of kitchen duties in my house. Well, to cut the long story short, I was once married and things happened. As I discovered the road does not tell the traveler what lies ahead so here we are. The rest is a story for another day and all I can say is we are living in strange times.

Now that is out of the way, we ended up at my house, opened our chang’aa and after pouring the libations, the drinking began. To be honest, I have struggled with alcohol for a long time and my visits without a number to Pewa street proved unhelpful. Though I don’t consider myself a troubled drunkard (I doubt anyone considers themselves so) I still felt that I needed to tame the bottle. I normally don’t drink on weekdays due to work but once the weekend sets in, it’s a carousal, I drink my lights out.

However, I realized that the drinking was not boding well for me on several fronts. With ghosts of a broken family haunting me, the alcohol was threatening to become a lethal fallback plan. In addition, my drinking zone, Pewa street, is awash with wa kuzaliwa and this meant that most of the time I ended up buying most of the alcohol and that is not good for my pocket amid the ongoing economic meltdown.

Though I don’t fully agree with my brother about the caliber of friends I should keep, I realized that I might have to get a makeover when it comes to close confidants. Not that Maf-deh was not friendly enough but for me to completely detach myself from Pewa street, some appendages had to go. Wasn’t it Jesus who taught you should pluck your eye off if it makes you sin?

So as we drank chang’aa happily, I let myself go. After all, this might be the last time we are drinking together. It was me silently saying goodbye to Pewa street, too. We must have eaten the food Maf-deh’s current girlfriend prepared but I don’t remember eating.

I later found an empty Konyagi mzinga in my sitting room that I suspect I bought and we drank it over and above the two litres of chang’aa even though I don’t remember a thing about it. In other words, I chewed blackout and I don’t remember how the day ended or how Maf-deh and his current girlfriend left the scene of the crime.

All that I remember is waking up to an overwhelming stench and now I was sliding on human poo. Who shat me? My feelings were mixed. I was definitely mad. How can you get into a toilet and leave your business on the floor when the hole is there for all and sundry to see?

Was it Maf-deh who shat me and if so why? Did he scheme it all along? Is this a case similar to what Edward Clay, a former United Kingdom ambassador to Kenya called ungrateful people, who after eating to their fill decide to vomit on your shoes? Or had he sensed that I was drifting away from him and from Pewa street and decided to make a bold parting shot? Maybe in my drunk state, I said something about leaving Pewa street that left him annoyed. I have realized that in my stupors, I become generous with drinks, and nothing but the hard truth.

Who shat me? Was it Maf-deh’s current girlfriend? Though I am loosely acquainted with her, I wouldn’t put it past her. But why would she? I also wondered, did I do it myself? No way in hell! Of all the drama I have created in my journey of discovery with alcohol, nothing has ever come close to this, even remotely. This is hurting me the most.

As I opened the tap to begrudgingly wash the sh** off my feet and sweep the rest of the poo off the floor, my resolve to never again get close to Umoja’s Pewa street, cut ties with a bunch of unhelpful friends, and bring to an end a life of senseless drinking became final. Maybe it is fate that shat me, maybe this was fate telling me to lift myself up, look into the horizon and walk out of excrement.

And just like that, a new chapter in my life started.

opash2k@gmail.com

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  • Awesome piece of story

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