Its 6 am. Break of dawn. The sun is rising again, peeking through the horizon in brilliant colours. The skies slowly light up in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink. The thin morning clouds lazily pillow through the sky. The magnificent rays illuminate everything they touch with beauty, colour and life. The tall towers begin to glow in the golden shower of light as the sun rises higher and higher, waking the sleeping city, as it yawns back into life, putting dreams on hold.
He is standing there.
He’s standing at the entrance of a tall office building. He is wearing his uniform; a sky blue shirt, a black tie and black pants. Every item of clothing he’s wearing has a badge, except his shoes. The company at least spared his shoes. There’s another item of clothing he is wearing; a mask on his face. He’ll have to appear put together and calm at all times. Inside, he is not. He won’t survive a day without the mask on.
Today he watches the sun rise. Normally he doesn’t. Perhaps he’s always too engrossed in his thoughts to notice. You always see this guy at the entrance, or back exit, always visible, always present in your life. He’s paid to guard the building. Generally he is meant to be as visible as possible to dissuade anyone with nefarious intent from trying anything shifty. He is basically there to make sure you watch silly YouTube videos at the office in peace.
His job is to prevent whatever crime you are thinking of committing: theft, vandalism, breaking and entering, assault, twerking, buying Justin Bieber albums, etc. You know the drill. His job description also includes fishing out fornicators and nixing narcotic transactions. Also spend thirty minutes in the john and he’ll fish you out. Long occupancy is call for suspicion. “Chief, unafanya nini kwa choo siku mzima?” He’ll enter your name in his mental black list of people to pay particular interest to. He’s good at his job. He can smell wayward people from a mile off. He can tell by how you move, how you look at him and the expression on your face.
So he is that guy always at the door. He was up by 4, while you were still dreaming about mangoes, because he has to be at work by 6. He lives in the outskirts of Nairobi, probably in Mlolongo or Kinoo, where rent is in four digit figures. He’s a master economist who knows how to live on 15 – 20 gz a month while feeding and schooling four kids and maintaining a wife. He’ll tell you how he pulls that off if you talk to him. Anyway he’ll take a quick shower, or he won’t. Probably too cold. He’ll get dressed quickly and step out into the dark chilly morning air. The matatu will be almost empty. The pinch of the cold wind will make his stomach growl. He’s hungry. The wife and children are back in shagz so he is more or less a bachelor in the city. There was no marriage ceremony. He promised a marriage ceremony, dowry, a fat cow and a honey moon but after spending two months together, shit happened; a baby bump emerged. He dismissed it as a mistake. He said emphatically there was no way it was his. No way on earth! But after two months, the striking similarities with the baby were too much to argue with. He lost the case to the little man. Nine months later, another one came knocking too. He didn’t learn. Marriage was at this point assumed. He’s got four kids now. So now he’s Baba Mike, and she’s Mama Kim. No bae or darling or sweetheart. What the hell is bae? So in short, boy meets girl, babies were made, and it was happily ever after. Would make a great story for a movie or a Nicholas Sparks novel, no?
Anyway, he speaks to the Mrs. regularly, once or twice a day, not more. She gets on his nerves. She’s paranoid and suspicious of him with other women. She’ll call at random hours. She’ll buzz at 1 or sometimes 3 in the morning. He’ll miss the call. But he’ll wake up to a case to answer at exactly 8 am, when the official hours kick off. She does not particularly like city girls. She believes they should be shot on sight or at least be rounded up, put in those kanjo trucks and dumped in the Indian Ocean. But he is innocent on that charge, because he does not have the time, the energy or the resources for city girls. He can’t provide the security she needs. But he’s paid to provide security every day. Ironic. He will flirt with the ngwaci lady once in a while. This will earn him free goodies, nicely packaged ones at that. She’s not subtle, she does not mind making babies with him. He’s given the impression he’s loaded; he didn’t want to disappoint her when she said “Aki askari” with an inviting laugh while she touched his uniform.
It’s 6.30 am now and he hears somebody walking in, the first one that day. Probably has a work deadline that morning that needs to be finished up before the boss shows, demanding either the work or his neck. Or it could also be the guy who lives in Rongai or Ngong, who has to be at the office at six or would otherwise get to the office at 10 am because of traffic. He will be checked as he mutters “habari ya asubuhi”, walking inside.
Many more will soon start coming. He’ll check their bodies for weird stuff. Then he’ll peek into their bags, hoping to find something unwelcome or dangerous, like bright coloured panties, hypothermic needles, beer cans, weed or explosives. Yeah that too. He’ll be slightly disappointed for not finding unwelcome undergarments.
This guy is always surrounded by money, wealth and power. He spends his life in close proximity with the high and mighty of the society. He opens doors for them, waves at them and sometimes washes their cars. He feels the power, the money and the wealth. He smells it, and hears it, from a distance. He’ll sniff the aroma of the hot sizzling coffee. He can almost feel its heat. He hears the conversations, the deals being struck right there and then, can see the money exchanging hands. But that’s as close as he’ll get. So close, yet so far.
There was a time this bothered him; when he was young and hungry and new to the job. It used to give him some drive to improve things and work his ass to the top. But as time went by, he got resigned to it. He gave up the chase. May be some things were only meant for some people, he told himself, in resignation. He’d probably blame it on his old man, for not being there for him, to guide him, and give him a decent education. But the old guy was probably a struggling alcoholic, who was absent most of the time anyway. So the stars were at fault, they were never aligned for him from the beginning.
But nowadays, he’s more practical and lives in the real world. He doesn’t live in his head as much as he used to. But he still has secret plans of quitting one day to start a business or do a course or something. Most of his colleagues don’t have such dreams or plans. He’s bidding his time.
But for now he’s here, the present. He’s been in this business for quite some time now. So he has seen and experienced a lot. He’s seen the good, the bad and ugly. There are no good people, he’ll tell you. Because of this, he doesn’t trust anybody. Even though he carries a club, his designated weapon around his waist, he’s generally a friendly guy, with an affable smile.
“Habari ya mukubwa?, he’ll great you, even though you are not particularly big in size or stature. But you’ll take it; how often does someone call you that? “Zile vitu tunaonaga kwa hii kazi..!,” he’ll begin, shaking his head. “Sasa mutu anafikiria sababu uko hii kazi, akili yako ni kama hii rungu..! Saa zingine nasikia kunyorosha mutu nyoro nyoro!” Hehe I confess I added that nyoro nyoro touch. Anyway, he’ll tell you that he remembers only one thing from his training, if at all it was one: no matter what happens, do not break any limbs, we repeat, do not beat up anyone.
So it’s not an easy job. On certain occasions, he’ll come face to face with danger. He doesn’t have guns, just guts. No James Bond moves here. Thugs will come charging in, with real weapons. They’ll laugh at the club dangling at his waist. They’ll threaten to shoot him if he does anything stupid. He’ll almost bolt and take to his heels, hoping nothing metallic will rain on him. But he’ll remain calm and discreetly call for back up, and he’ll survive. The thugs will be gone, but the trauma will remain. For a few days, he’ll suspect everyone for a thug and will mistakenly call for back up only to realize it’s the nduma guy. He will insist he saw something shifty.
Sometimes danger will present itself in the form of a man in a suit, big and burly, who’ll park at the wrong place, block everyone else’s way and walk out attempting to scratch his balls which he can’t reach. He’ll ask the mukubwa to park at the right place, and hell will break loose. “Who are you? What are you? I will put you down and pay you!” He’ll back down, noting not to bark up the wrong tree next time. Others will not be so kind as to put him down and pay him. They’ll simple want to lodge a piece of lead in his “useless brain”. He’ll exercise his skill of calmness and let it go.
Sometimes, especially when the wife had pissed him off that day, by demanding a set of of sexy lingerie to be immediately shipped to Bungoma, he’ll be quick to lose it. He’ll offer to guide a guy pushing a Subaru while he reverses, but he’ll be accused of intentionally placing himself behind the vehicle so as to get hit and paid. In this instance, he’ll fly off the handle, reach for the club at his waist and almost whoop some sense into the idiot’s head, and teach him a lesson his mother did not teach him. In the end, he’ll take a deep breath and let it go; not because of common sense but he’s not in a position to foot hospital bills.
Occasionally, someone will walk in, probably in shorts and slippers and say: “Soldier wee unakaa kaa tu?” He’ll fight the urge to break the fella’s knees off. So he’ll respond by saying; “Sasa unataka nifukuse aje wezi kama unataka nishinde nikitembea siku msima nimechoka bure? Kazi nafanya na akili sio na miguu!” The guy in shorts never saw it coming, there will be no response to this.
On a lazy afternoon, he’ll encounter a friendly chap, who will chat him up for a few minutes, perhaps at midday. Probably bored, waiting for something. Stood up perhaps. They’ll have a few laughs, probably discuss politics. He knows his politics. He knows it stinks. He knows its tribal and he’ll tell you. But he’ll defend and stand with the politician from his tribe, no matter what. He’s resigned to it now, just like he’s resigned to a lot of things. He can’t change things, so he goes with the flow.
For lunch he’ll have Radio Jambo or Radio Maisha. He’ll sit down for a few minutes. The afternoon will a bit lazy, so he’ll watch paint peeling off the wall. He doesn’t mind; he’s getting paid for it.
Soon it’ll be past four o’clock, and people will start streaming out, in a file. He’ll be at the door to see them off. Some will wish him a nice evening; others won’t; also pre-occupied with their thoughts. The last ones will soon be out, the hard working guys who will rather put in a few extra hours than sit in traffic.
Dusk is here. The sun will be setting, the place almost completely deserted. He’s tired. He knows it, but he can’t feel it. He’s grown numb to the feeling. He’ll lean against a wall, breathing in the last of the long day. He’ll light a cigarette, and as he inhales, the glow at the end of the cigarette will match the glow of the sunset. The sunset soothes his mind and calms his spirits. It casts an orange haze above the horizon, lighting the sky on fire.
The orange sun will whisper “Farewell” as the lights flick on, and the city will bathe in orange light. The sun will lazily sink further and further, almost as if it never wants to leave. But he knows it’s time to leave. He knows that, things like the seasons would change and that everything would be alright. And he knows that like the sun, everyone had their time to shine. And he knows that it would someday be the same for him. One day, even him will be a mukubwa.