By Kemboi Victor
Inside the cabin of the cruiser was nearly dark as it was covered, such that it was difficult for light to come in; and the policemen hung on the back. I almost thought the night had started inside there. Yet it was also smelly and sweaty, maybe because everyone was sweating out their worries. I wondered why it was too hot despite the evening that was approaching with dry cold winds outside. Actually, the heat was killing me and I almost thought it was two o’clock when the sun would be overhead scalding properly. I tried peering outside and I nearly let a tear tumble down my cheeks as it dawned on me that I was heading to the police station, and we were about to arrive at Shimoni Central Police Station.
“Shukeni mkishikana viuno kwa laini mkiingia ndani,” one of the police officers that had accompanied us ordered. We jumped out one after the other holding each other’s back with police standing next to us, holding their guns toward us and ordering us to march into the station. We were let in, in a line that snaked into the reporting desk where two other officers stood. At the reporting desk, the officer on duty, after being sure that we weren’t able to afford the fine, led us to another door behind them after ordering us to remove our belts and shoes, leaving them with them. Even our phones and other valuables we left them at the counter. I did not even get time to make any other phone call from then. Tamara might come for my safety or Kandie would come to let me out, so I hoped and waited.
Then the waiting continued: my mind ringing Tamara each moment. It was few minutes past 5pm when we were pushed into the cell.
From the almost twenty guys that had been transported with us, two of us who were sitting on the sambaza were pushed into one cell: a cell dungy, dirty and sweat smelling like it had never seen a mopper since it was build. The girl that we had come together went to another cell after we had already surrendered all our valuables to the police. What I did not understand was whether we would get back all my valuables after I leaving there. Again, we did not understand where our fellow ‘prisoners’ had been taken to but we guessed they were also having their terrible evening somewhere in one of the many cells.
Freedom is coming tomorrow
About six other men were in our cell the moment we entered. Four of them were drunkards who seemed to have been picked up from one drinking den, and they were now the only ones speaking here. We could not tell the other two. They quietly sat on the floor next to each other, leaning on their backs against the walls that had several writings. On one side of the wall was written: freedom is coming tomorrow. And I wondered what freedom I was expecting yet no one except my darling Tamara who had sent to me all the money she had knew my whereabouts. I had just entered in and it was past release time, meaning my release would be scheduled for another day, the next morning if anyone would come for me. And now, the only freedom I knew could come by, though I was not sure, was Tamara to come and get me out the following morning if she got some other money.
I started speaking with the other man we had come in together for the first time. He told me the girl I had seen with him was his sister, and that they were heading home in the other side of the town after visiting their friends. But then the drunkards were speaking so much, at times hurling insults at one another and forgiving themselves at the same time and laughing as if they had not realized they were in the cell. We even feared they would start insulting us from how we looked at them and for a moment we kept quiet. Fortunately they were in their own world. In the past I had heard that you could be locked in one cell with real trouble makers who could start beating you up there and with that, I shuddered hoping these guys were good. You wonder what things drunkards think about when they are drunk for they seemed unperturbed.
The coldness did not give any of us any sleep and after some moment, the two other men we had found there started to speak in a bit to kill time. One of them had been arrested for beating his wife and injuring her and the other one had conned his client some money, after promising him to find him a job in Dubai.
“I took a client’s money hoping to make a dime of it. He was to fly to Dubai for work. The plan didn’t work and my client reported to police that I am a conman.”
You are going to be jailed for more than five years
The drunkard laughed and asked, “You are a conman. We are better off, as we shall be freed or jailed for one or two months. You are going to be jailed for more than five years.”
From there the drunkard continued to talk. And he talked and talked. At times he would anger the conman and the conman would slap him once or twice to silence him. But even with that, he continued to talk with his fellow drunkards until they fell asleep. They only woke up after midnight when alcohol content had gone down in their nerves and realized they were in a cell, eventually joining us in worrying. For us, we tried to sleep but the sleep did not come due to coldness, which even got worse after everyone had kept quiet.
It amazed me that some hours later we would be seated again, guessing about our fate in the morning.
“Can you imagine the money I owe my clients has already been spent? At the moment there is nothing to refund,” the conman said. “Maybe I take a bond, and then go back and sell some of my properties to refund their money.”
Then he wondered how many of his clients might have reported him. The police had told him that there were several cases of travel agents in their file, and perhaps there were some that he could be linked to.
“That you will know in the morning,” the wife beater advised. Then he said, “As for me, I think I am spending more days here. And if I don’t get jailed for three or so years, I would be made to pay a hefty fine. My case looks serious friend. Can you imagine my wife, my own very wife is faking pain of a pulled out tooth which she has handed to the police for evidence.”
The drunkards seemed to understand their fate properly
One of the drunkards that had several fallen teeth laughed. The wife beater did not mind. And he added, “You don’t want to know that the police told me I would be in remand until my wife heals in order to attend court sessions, maybe, in a week or so. Kwani how long does it take for a pulled out tooth to heal?” he asked. Then he decided to ask the drunkard, “How long did yours take to heal man?”
“I cannot tell because you said your wife is faking. Hahaha…And why did you beat her up? How foolish was that of you? Don’t you know it is wrong to beat someone, especially a woman?” the drunkard asked as if he didn’t know what he was saying. The wife beater stood up wanting to beat him too. If it wasn’t for the conman to intervene, the drunkard would have received a slap or two.
“If you were a law abiding citizen you would be home now you moron. What are you doing here?” the wife beater asked and the drunkard seemed to come to his senses again.
That incident made all of us to take a break from stories for nearly half an hour, when the wife beater had cooled down. He swore to be careful with women next time, and regretted his actions deeply wishing his wife forgave him. He would not even touch his wife again, or even anyone in future, he swore.
The drunkards seemed to understand their fate properly. They would be released to work in the community on probation for three or so months, as it had happened to them in the past, or so they believed. A number of them, they said, had previously worked in chief’s office slashing grass and cleaning community hospitals and schools. However, they only did not know how to end their addiction in order to avoid being frequent visitors of the cells.
My only hope was in Tamara and Kandie. As for the man I had come with, he said after their arrest he had phoned his friends too and like me he hoped someone would come for them in the morning.
I saw Tamara
That night, which seemed like it had taken two nights to end, we didn’t see any meal. Not even water that God gives for free. It seemed God had abandoned us in that cell. By morning I was feeling like I was no longer on earth, maybe in hell. It seemed like my soul had been removed out of me and had gone somewhere I could not trace. I could not remember the directions of my home from there, let alone where Eldoret town was despite that I was still incarcerated within town. My mind was completely shut down and the world appeared dark. I could not even tell what time it was.
A few minutes past 8am, a cell warden came, opened the cell and called my name.
“Yes, sir,” I responded.
“Can you come out,” he said.
As I walked to the clerk’s desk, being led by the warden I saw Tamara standing, holding a receipt there. She came toward me giving me a radiant smile which made me to tumble a tear for the first time after so many years. She truly loved me and I felt so overwhelmed with emotions. She had paid 3000 shillings fine for my freedom. I took my items which I had left the previous evening and we left the station. Tamara spoke first after we had gone out of the gate.
“At least you are free, I did not sleep last night,” she told me.
“I also went through hell. Thanks for coming for me. Where did you get the money?”
“I borrowed. Let’s not even talk about it, you need breakfast.”
Then she gave me a sweater from her bag and took out a shawl covering me. She understood the shivering I was battling with. We walked to a tea shop along the road and ordered breakfast.
As I watched the police station from the safety of the restaurant, I thought I would never want to go there again. Even to report anything.
©kemboi victor 28/5/2019