Seated on the seats opposite the Kenya archives, at a spot directly opposite Chicken inn, one Sunday afternoon I observed people; dark people, light people, tall, overdressed women in their Sunday garb, Nairobi ladies in these chiffon tops that have refused to go out of fashion, men in shiny suits and others in casual jeans, drivers who did not stop at an active pedestrian crossing, over-speeding drivers, I even saw a matatu that refused to start and was single-handedly, jump-started by one guy who I assumed was the tout; everyone going about their business as usual, oblivious of a curious observer.
Lest I oversell my curiosity, these people were not particularly interesting as I am sure they would have been on another day, in a different mood, but as it turned out, waiting for people for nearly an hour when you have boycotted a most auspicious lunch elsewhere can be tiresome. I was as tired as an ox. Not that I claim to know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly tired about an ox. I presume it is to be an ox after a long day’s work. I might be inclined myself to regard a dog as the most tired animal in the trade. But, in the words of Charles Dickens, the wisdom of our ancestors (or his, maybe?) lies in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the queens’ language is done for. You will, therefore, permit me to repeat, that I was as tired as an ox.
A meter or so to my right was a dark-skinned lady in an over-used weave who I gathered was waiting for someone. Just like me. As to her relationship with whomever it was she waited, I did not get an inkling of. I thought maybe a boyfriend, but then her tone when she called the aforementioned to hurry him or her changed my mind. I was a bit too pre-occupied with myself to form other opinions. I have no idea who was to my left.
Soon after her phone call, while I was lost in my reverie, I noticed a pair of curiously dirty legs stand between us (me and the lady), but averted to her. The toenails were unkempt and had accumulated dirt underneath them. The skin between the toes was scaly giving the impression of long exposure to water. I looked up to the sound of what turned out to be a young man asking for twenty shillings in impeccable English. His grammar was top notch, and I would notice, trust me. Rather than his speech, nothing else was impressive about him. He was dirty and rugged in appearance. He sent shivers down my throat. I had half a mind to get up and leave lest he harm us, me and the lady, who by now was beginning to look like a friend – us against the world.
I do not recall if she gave him an answer or just shook her head, but he was on to me, next. I shook my head and told him that I had none to spare. He walked on to the next person.
Fast forward to that evening, around 6 o’clock, my friends, the ones I had been waiting for, and I were seated in the exact same spot, of course by my suggestion, savoring ice-cream, unaware of how chilly it was getting and how so risky that was on our health. We were wrapped up in our sweet bubble of friendship, ignorance and quite frankly, when compared to the young man earlier mentioned, one of abundance. Although, for the sake of one of those friends who may read this post sometime later and recognize herself, held on its own, rather than against the young man’s, our financial status, is lowly, barely worthy of the name, which if I might add, sounds like a rich man’s rouse.
Seated there, who do I see? The young man again, still asking for twenty shillings. The conversation went something like this.
‘Excuse me, ladies, would you please help me with twenty shillings’
‘But you asked me again for twenty shillings, have you forgotten? You did!’
‘I’m sorry, you know I have spoken to so many people today I wouldn’t remember…(some words I don’t remember) …It is so hard to get people to give me’
‘What do you want if for anyway?’
‘I want to use it as fare, to Juja’
’20 bob?! You live in Juja?’
‘Yeah that is where I live’
We went on for a few more minutes while my friends and I each fished out a twenty bob coin off our purses and gave him. He thanked us and started to walk away before turning back to inquire if I liked blogs.
‘Matter of fact I do. Why?’
‘Do you read Bikozulu?’ (I am tempted to pause here and send a shout out to him and then tell all his fans that it is refreshing to once in a while not ask me if I read him, to ask me something else, someone I wouldn’t expect. Jane Austen, maybe? Charles Dickens, C.S Lewis, Agatha Christie, Richard Ramsay? No? Okay. I will neither attempt a shout-out or a culture change lest I be labeled as ‘hater’)
‘Oh! Interesting! What do you blog about?’
‘I’m sorry what?’
At this point, he must have perceived that either I did not know what that was and he was in no mood to explain when I could read for myself, or that another conversation was about to ensue that would probably have us on differing sides. I suppose we will never know which until he responds to my message on his blog if ever he does. As it turned out, bemogul.wordpress.com is his little corner on the internet. Or was, seeing as it was lastly updated last year. I promised to check it out later, which I did, and so here we are. Before I forget to mention, he quoted to us Friedrich Nietzche, a quote I did not grasp over his halted speech, perhaps because of alcohol, which by the way, he reeked of. As he left, he told us and I quote, ‘This is me, being radical’.
When I read a lot of his posts, I was first surprised by how different, how composed and sophisticated he sounded. It was as though the words I was reading were someone different from the person I had met. Slowly, I began to notice a pattern as would anyone reading an authors work in bulk, for example, most of Agatha Christie’s novels, have an architect, and a character named Michael. Perhaps because that was her husband’s name, and he was, as it were, an architect. So, in Edwin’s case, (yes, that is his name) the things that stood out for me were his desire for success (not surprising considering the name of his blog) and his feeling of hopelessness.
It is past midnight and I am seated here thinking about this young man, and many other young men like him and unlike him. I wonder what happened of him, what twist life brought his way that caused our paths to cross as they did. Somehow I hope more of us were like him. Heck I even wish I was like him.
Let me explain. While I do not pretend to know someone I met for only a few minutes and read their blog for a few more, I beg to make a few observations. Make that just one. That he, struck me as someone who lives by his convictions. I do not claim to agree with them, but I admire him for sticking to them. That takes guts.
It takes guts; in a society that values having no organized system of thought, to try and develop one, and then stick by it. In a society in which indifference of masses reigns, and everything is acceptable, where no one holds anything sincerely as he has no absolute certainties, where nothing keeps anyone awake at night as opinions can always be changed as fast as a shirt, where truth is not found but made, such men as he, I gather, are a rare find.
I can only hope that this path leads him to the source of all truth, in whom all that is and ever was, is.