[The Story So Far...]
“So, Potash...” Dinda drawls. He is high on shit like Martha Karua is high on power. And there is no let up as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out at least a hundred grammes of you know what, in a Ziplock bag. He spoons it out, sprinkles a neat line on the butt and grease-marked bench next to him, kneels on the dirty floor and shoots. I visualise, in graphic detail, his nasal membranes drying up like he just chugged a litre of formalin.
Dinda sits up and hands me the spoon and the sachet. I ignore it but dip a wary finger into the bag and with it bring several specks of powder to my mouth. “Looks high grade, tastes high grade,” I say to him continuing to ignore the spoon.
“Try it,” he coaxes, “if its mine, you know it is fine.”
“Is bilas,” I respond shaking my head for emphasis.
“You is a pussy, P...” He spits. “...always was.”
“Indeed.” N.M. Interjects even though the guy does not use and never did. “Trouble with this pussy is that he always gets fucked but never gets paid”
“You bastard.” I sneer at N.M. “You done fucked me a couple of times and you know it. You knew all I wanted to do was write and you said you were going to get me places but all you did was try sell my arse to tabloids.”
“Come on Potash,” Dinda is coming out of a vigorous nose rubbing session with his face crinkled by something half way between a smile and a grimace, “writing is writing... and some of us- see, those of us from where we coming from- have to work a little harder than them others; start at the lowest rungs and work our way up.”
When it comes to starting from the bottom then Dinda knows what it is all about. As he speaks my mind wanders back to those crazy years in the mid-nineties. We were all out of high school, or on our way out. Some prematurely and others with O'Level certificates that they would soon realise they couldn't use even for wiping their own backsides with. If the eighties decade was lived under Moi's political tyranny, then the nineties was lived under the excruciating pain of his economic misadventures.
Those were the post-Goldenberg years and the phrase Kenyan Economy was a paradox more baffling than President Kibaki or Nairobi Water. While the world out there had long landed a man on the moon, we were trying to land inflation there. While every one else was on the race to map the human genome, average Kenyans were mapping their ways back to, if not ignorance and pestilence, at least abject poverty and despondency. It did not help that the armchair economists at the World Bank had long unleashed their Structural Adjustment Programmes on us: Retrench; Retrench; Retrench. Cost sharing was the buzzword in the government hospitals but who could afford to be sick after that measly severance pay they so ironically termed Golden Handshake?
Our parents had nothing to begin with, and now they had lost it all.
We left school and stared at the future; an unrelenting wall of rapidly diminishing choices. Choices that came with the caveat: Do You Know Anybody? But who was there to Know: the father who took that Golden Handshake, went to Dubai and came back only to realise that every one else had been to Dubai and back bringing the same goods to a cash-starved market? The mother who spent more time ducking or bribing City Council askaris than selling her tomatoes on Tom Mboya Street?
Our parents were not worth knowing. At least not when it came to navigating the economy of a new Kenya.
We stared at the future. The future stared us down, clicked its tongue and turning, bared its calloused backside at us. The future forgot us; left us to strive for one day at a time. Left us to eke simple pleasures out of living to die another day.
For most, school was out of the question. Who could afford it. All things considered, two options remained: toiling for sub-minimum wage in muhindi sweatshops or a life of crime. Two options, two disparate sides of the law. Dinda chose crime. The rest is history. (Or fodder for yet another essay seeing how much time that mercenary writer N.M. spends with him.)
“Is true.” I agree with Dinda. “But this guy could not think out of the mainstream. Think about something like a blog. Anything that would put my work out there...”
N.M snickers and then says, “My blog, oh... My blog, oh... Negro please! That blog, Potash, is nothing but a crutch. It is like all that Napshizzle you ass holes used to drink and whatever you drink these days... Oops, sorry, I forgot you have no money now... Dinda, we need to take this fucker out for a drink...who knows, maybe even buy him a pussy so he can see and smell himself...”
“Enyewe...” Dinda agrees. “But do cut the brother some slack... though I agree that that blog has, in the broader scheme of things, not done anyone any good. There have been wars that needn't have occurred, animosity where goodwill would have profited all and alliances smashed where unity would have kept this city safe from snitches.”
I maintain the obsequious silence of the guilty.
N.M lights a cigarette, blows a plume of smoke towards the ceiling and then turning, the thought just occurring to him then, he offers me one. Our eyes meet for a moment and I do not read even an iota of malice or distaste in his.
Dinda blows his coke stuffed nose loudly. The young boy, who had disrespected me earlier, makes lewd slurping noises. Kamwana groans with yet another self-induced orgasm. Everyone else keeps their eyes glued to the 42 inch television screen as Lexington Steele squirts cum onto the faces and breasts of two white girls.
“Everything you write on that fucking blog, Potash,” N.M. hisses. “the world out there can take it for entertainment or whatever they fucking feel like... but down here, down here it makes all the difference between living or dying. Everything.”
He rises from his seat and Dinda and I follow him into the garbage streaked street.
The Saga Continues in the Next Episode: The Night Watchers