Dear Diary, I come to you with my worries because you are the only one who listens. My name is Mathagiro, Sospeter Mathagiro but you can simply refer to me as Sufferer. I, too, know that they are dumb names but, what the heck! I didn’t have a say when my old man’s woman gave them to me. Rumour has it, however, that neither did she.
You see, my old man always wanted to be a boxer, but he suffered from a condition I like to call chronic fistophobia. It’s a sad, incurable condition that causes the bodily fluids to flow freely at the sight of a fisted hand progressing towards your face at a speed that’s likely to cost a tooth. The lay-men call the condition cowardice, but you and I are not lay-men, right?
Any way, dad swore that if he could not take some pain on his person, he would take it through a son. He vowed to win a few boxing titles through a son, if it killed him —the son, that is. So he named me Sospeter Mathagiro, arguing that with a name like that, I would get enough boxing practice at school —from the bullies. And I did.
Something you should know dear friend, bullies hate stupid names. I guess it’s all to do with the law of like times repelling and stuff. See, bullies are dumb, so they can’t take competition from a dumb name. I was a favourite of the bullies since nursery school. Those days that I went to school, we did not have kindergartens and pre-units. There was only one academy in the whole of my confounded district and a district those days was the size of three continents.
In those days, you went to school at the proper age and with your arms the proper length. Your hand had to go over your head and touch your ear for you to get admission. Many of my classmates wrap their hands round their entire bodies, meaning they were seriously overqualified by the time they joined school. So, when I say we had bullies, I mean real terrors that had the uncanny ability of failing all their exams so that they repeated each
class at least three times. Joined school with a beard, they did, and by the time they got to standard six, their first born would be the class one terror. Very much hereditary, this bully business. Just like Kenya politics.
But as you can see my dear friend, my problems started the day I was born. Every day is a problem. I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it out here. I don’t. That is why I wailed so much when I was born. I gave one heck of a protest but no one gave a hoot.The Eye, are humans on a self-destruct mode?
That rumbling you hear dear friend is not one of our beautiful buildings crumbling down, nope. And it’s not a train either. In fact, I am nowhere close to the railway station. I am seated at the Jeevanjee gardens of the city of Nairobi and the rumbling you just heard is nothing but some protests from my tummy. Poor thing, haven’t put anything in it for the past 22 hours but my saliva and that has also run out. Damn, I am hungry!
I have not always been like this, dear friend. I was working only a month ago, earning a measly salary that could barely cloth me but at least I ate. I was employed by this mean faced Asian who had bad teeth and a worse breath. Whenever he smiled, which was only when he saw a client reaching for his back pocket, he would remind me of my grand pa’s he-goat Kiremu.
Other times, he would sniff the back of some unsuspecting goat-girl and then grin mischievously exposing his blackened teeth.
Now, let me tell you about Kiremu. He was one heck of a funny he-goat, that, he was. Generous with his backside too. He would let us ride on it sometimes, I guess to show off to the girls how strong he was. Other times, he would sniff the back of some unsuspecting goat-girl and then grin mischievously exposing his blackened teeth. Very sneaky, this Kiremu. I would exchange glances with my cousins from our vintage places and smile mischievously. Very cheeky boys we were. Mighty envious of Kiremu, we were too. Stunk like him most times and wished we had some unsuspecting girls as well, but that’s besides the point. As I was saying, my ex-boss looked very much like my grandpa’s he-goat whenever he smiled, except that he looked slightly stupider.
The man was the meanest son of his mother that I ever saw. He had a very irritable temper too, especially around end month. His eyes would get very red and swollen around the same time as well. Word from reliable sources had it that he would lock himself in his dingy basement office and weep his eyes out every pay-day. Could not bear the thought of all that dough leaving his accounts, the poor blighter.
I’ve got to move from this bench I am seating on, that I should. It’s not the hard concrete that’s piercing my butt, no way. I could comfortably watch Arsenal beat Man U while seated on a bench of nails and with a girl on my lap. Very hardy butt that I have. Made tough from all the caning in high school.
But, I am thinking that I should move because this dreadlocked mad man with his dirty clothes and dirty claws has chosen to come and seat next to me. His locks remind me of my favorite reggae musician, Burning Spear. I have nothing against dirty, dreadlocked men as long as they don’t seat on my lap. But this particular one is armed -with a pack of potato chips. Imagine that my friend. Some crazy bloke can get to feed his stomach while a righteous dude like me sits and starves.
I am watching him dip his dirty claws into the paper bag and come out with a chip, a golden piece of sweetness shining with the fatty niceness that it was fried in and gosh! I am swallowing my teeth. The smell gets to me and what a heavenly thing to reach my nostrils. Now this Burning Spear looks at the chip in his hand and considers it for a while, then raises it slowly but meticulously to his mouth. I watch as the potato disappears into the darkness of the mouth…
My tummy can’t stomach sour saliva anymore and it gives out a huge rumbling protest. Sounds like seventeen malfunctioning diesel posho-mills and Burning Spear looks up at me, startled. I am eying his glistening bag and he doesn’t like my looks so he clutches it closer to his body. He doesn’t feel entirely safe so he moves to the very edge of the bench and seats with his back towards me. I stand up and walk away.
The other option was to become a Member of Parliament but people won’t elect an honest broke, bloke like me to represent them.
I am walking away from the mad man with his chips and listening to the rhythm of the rumbling from my tummy and the crunch, crunch of the gravel on the pathway. My shoe sole is so worn out I feel like I am wearing paper under my feet. As I walk, I am cursing everything and everyone, including you.
I have decided that I hate mad men and especially mad men with dreadlocks. How can, a university graduate, be reduced to ogling some crazy fool’s chips. Oh yeah my friend. I have a degree. Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and some other thing that I forgot from this here university in town. Problem is, there aren’t any jobs going for my career except in the museum and when I went to drop my C.V there, I found them retrenching.
The other option was to become a Member of Parliament but people won’t elect an honest broke, bloke like me to represent them. I stood no chance against the moneyed person running in my constituency despite him having dropped out of school in class three. Life is unfair.
Anyway my friend, I found myself employed by the mean boss I told you of earlier, in downtown Nairobi at River Road. Used to sell spare parts; original, counterfeit and hybrid- that is a cross between the former two. Our boss was one cunning son of an Asian. We had a room at the back we called the ‘industry’. There, the hybrids were born. We would take a few original parts and a whole lot of counterfeit parts and come up with a complete unit which we would sell off as an original. Very clever I tell you.
We were not too foolish as employees either. Sometimes when the boss was distracted, we would sell off two products and receipt for only one or none. Got away with it always, we did and that’s how I could afford my rent. Never got caught, not once, so that’s not how I lost my job. In fact, I was not fired. I quit. This is how I did it.
My small sister came to visit me at the workplace one day because she had a fight with her new husband and wanted that I talk to him. She is always getting married, and then getting divorced and getting married again and so on. So, I am seated with her outside the shop when my boss appears suddenly and stares at me with a sneer on his face.
“Sothfeter, veve naketi hafa naongea na misichana baadla ya kufyanya kasi?” -honest, that’s how my ex boss spoke. Very funny person, that he was. I start to answer him but he interrupts, “Na veve natoa vapi hii misichana nakaa kama spare part counterfeit?” Now, this blighter can dish an insult and he goes on. “Haki ya maama, mpaka nafanya sura yako nakaa mirembo.”
Now by jingo, you insult my face or my whole clan for all I care but you do not insult my sister. I looked at her and saw the tears welling up in her big, round eyes and something turned in me. Whoever that said that the greatest water power known to man is a woman’s tears was damned right. I walked over to my boss and told him exactly what I thought of him.
“You know you Sir, when you look at yourself in the mirror the next time, make sure that you look in the shiny side, not the painted one. Yeah, then you will know for sure how seriously unpretty you look,” I was burning with rage. “You will then realize how tolerant the human race is for accepting you among them after you were rejected by the animals in the zoo.” I wasn’t done. “You will be looking to strangle your mother for lying to you who your dad really is…,” then the blighter gave me a slap that made me see stars. I stood there dumbfounded, mad as hell. I just had to give it to him.
I then spat on him for good measure, which was a miscalculation on my part
So I cupped him one good one, right in the mouth and he fell flat on his silly behind. Nearly broke my knuckles on his yellow teeth, I did. He sat there staring at me with blood oozing from his split lip and I could see a tooth missing. He was too shocked to say a thing but I wasn’t done with him so I went after him and gave him some kicks here and some more kicks there. I then spat on him for good measure, which was a miscalculation on my part because that miraa taxi had taken the entire morning to build up, if you know what I mean.
I knew I had lost my job the instant I hit him but I could not wait to give him the pleasure of firing me so I gave him one last kick in his behind and told him I had quit.
Anyway my friend, that’s how I lost the only job I ever had. I am now back doing ‘hustling’. I will have to leave you now and go find something to put in my tummy if I have to beg. I will see you next week if I won’t have starved to death.