By Kemboi Victor
I understood the nature of Terry’s sickness well and I was not ready to see her in that distressing state for the entire night. We had been in a come we stay relationship for a year and half now, and I had come to learn ofher stomach ulcers whichoften came inpainful and petrifying pangs. I pitied her.
She was neither lying nor sitting on bed. She was on the floor, writhing, curling, squirming and twitching in agony, as if every place in the room had grown thorns which were pricking her.
I looked at her with sadness swelling up in me, not being able to comprehend how to help. I had tried all I knew howto help her feel better but still could not see any improvement. At that moment, all the anti-acid medicine which she often took when such burning in her stomach worsened was finished and the milk, which was said to help, in the house was almost finished too, and the condition seemed to be getting out of hand. Taking her matter lightly was like seeing a half dead human and doing nothing to save her life.
That scared me, and I decided to get to the pharmacy to buy the medicine for her, despite the prevalent danger. There was a rumor that there had been attacks by groups of thugs at night. We only had moved here two weeks earlier and I had learned the residents of the estate lived in fear of potential attacks in the night. But despite that, I decided to brace myself in courage;than watch Terry die in my hands. I decided to ignore the stories about Kona Mbaya estate for Terry’s health.
The time was 11pm when I stepped out of our perimeter walled compound like a lion in the jungle, and walked out of the gate daring myself to the nearest Nehema Pharmacy. It was roughly 200 meters from our flat and I hoped it was still open, or Georgina the pharmacist would understand my fate and welcome me to buy from her.
For real, the entire place evoked fear. Except the chirping of crickets and zoomingof one or two cars the whole neighborhood would have been as silent as the graveyards. There was no one walking on foot, apart from me and now I echoed Julius, our caretaker’s words when he had refused to open the gate for me a few minutes ago.
My blood seemed to rush to the tips of my toes due to fear. I was nearly a hundred meters away. I whispered a short prayer that I would be safe tonight, and that those alleged “owners of Kona Mbaya’’ would not emerge and make me their midnight meal.
Every week someone would be murdered or robbed
Stories had it that they would be around during this time taking advantage of the situation and once or twice in every week someone would be murdered or robbed. They said a corpse of a shot or butchered person would be collected along the paths of this estate once or twice in a week by police, which is why this place was patrolled intensely to ensure no one was out at night. And if by chance you happened to meet the police then, you would be spending the better part of the night in their cells.
All that I had in mind but I had to find the medicine. I continued walking. It gradually dawned on me that there was no shop that was still open. Unlike the ones in my previous Amani Estate that often operated until after midnight or up to morning, here, every shop was closed. From a distance, along Eldoret to Nakuru highway, all I saw now were vehicles speeding like stray bullets or like they were chased by ghosts. They buzzed like a swarm of bees without stopping.
It scared me that no one was even alighting here, to mean everyone was aware of this place very well. The nearly dull street lamps could not give the paths full illumination either but I finally got to Nehema Dispensary in about ten minutes. I stood on its lobby and knocked on the door. But silence. I knocked again and again but I still could not hear any response from inside. People often warned that it was prudent to ignore voices from outside at that odd time of the night and I guessed the pharmacist was responding to that advice. It was unlikely that she was going to open it.
Then I thought of Terry. I had left her alone, even without letting anyone in the compound know of her condition, except Julius the caretaker with whom we almost fought when he tried to stop me from going out, for fear of being attacked. I feared for what might happen to Terry if I missed the medicine.
I no longer thought about the larking danger which was outside then. All my thoughts had been rammed into Terry and I completely forgot about myself as if the world would understand me, or understand that she was in need of medication. I stood there and pleaded to no one in particular in Nehema, to sell me the drugs.
No option was easier
“Daktari, I beg, my wife is dying. I need some drugs for her,” I cried out trying to sound as urgent as possible, a futile effort which abated all my hopes of seeing my dear Terry better.
Hopelessness crept and curled into me like a fig tree that will eventually cover the host plant. I tried to figure out where to find the drugs if no one opened the door for me. The next dispensary was about a kilometer from my house and I could still be attacked on the way anyway. No option was easier. In fact, further in search of a pharmacy would add to the chances of me being ‘deleted’, because I would be entering the deadliest places of Kona Mbaya. Nonetheless, here, I was expecting nothing new except losing my life or Terry.
“But wait”I thought as I took a deep breath. “Wasn’t my biggest intention to give Terry my best and keep her alive by all means possible?”. I was not going to just leave her dying. I had to get her the medicine even if it meant losing my life in the process. If I failed and found myself in the hands of those inhuman beings was all fine by me. I would have given her the best that I could, I had resolved. In no case did I want to see her suffering as I truly loved her.
I decided to continue knocking. Knock until something happens. In fact I increased the knocking pace now not caring who might hear the loud noise or who might attack me. There was a small hole on the window, a hole that could allow me peek inside, which I did and continued knocking and calling.
I stood there dumbfounded seeing no help coming
Then a loud sound, like a gunshot flared into the air from a distance. Fear gripped me to a point of almost wetting my pants. Definitely someone was shot or had missed the bullet? Were they dead? I wondered. With this, I felt like I had walked myself in the wrong place and wondered if the stories would become reality tonight. I worried that the pharmacist wouldn’t open the door no matter what.
For a moment I opted to go back before the worst happened, hoping I would find other solutions back in my house. It seemed the world had changed to a den of carnivores and I feared to take the path towards my house. I stood there dumbfounded seeing no help coming. Yet it seemed the distance I had come had increased its length and the night had conspired with the universe to make my night a long one.
Confusion increased. Not believing that Terry would not find any medicine tonight, suddenly another man appeared breathing hard as if he had just finished a race. He stood in front of me in the shadows and avoided the dim lights of the street lamp. But from his appearance, which I could see from the closeness, I expected the worst. The way he was dressed was scary enough. He had a shabby jeans trouser that I could see big holes on the knees, and a trench coat. His head was capped, and he had a scarf around his neck. A smell of cigarette from his body wafted into my nostrils as he tried to peer on both of his sides while he scoffed statements towards me. His other hand was in his side coat pocket. I prayed that my gods would land and protect me.
“Who are you?” he asked and giggled. I wondered why he was asking such a question. What did I look like? His dress code had made me believe that he was not likely to ask questions, but do unpleasant things. My eyes were now keen on his other hand in his pocket, expecting him to do something like retrieving a pistol and shooting me as I had already assumed he was armed, and might be the reason for the gunshots I had heard awhile ago.
“Um—h—yes,” I said, awash with fear, not even remembering what he had asked.
I said some prayers asking God for protection
“Go down and…,” A sound of a zooming car and its flash lights from the direction he had come from stopped him from continuing. And he paid attention to that side. Meanwhile I wondered what he wanted to say next and I went down as his orders had demanded, shaking. By now I was so afraid, aware that I was about to reap what I had come to look for; only waiting his next instruction or beating, or shooting. I was experiencing what people had said since I came here a fortnight ago.
He didn’t continue talking to me. He was also worried, possibly because he was being searched for. Suddenly, he dashed away. I assumed the car belonged to the police who were not likely to listen to my ‘stupid’ explanations. But what could I do? There was no escape. Even after the man had already left I continued kneeling down.
It then dawned on me that he had gone and I jerked myself up to wait for anything. I knew the police would not spare me either.
As I stood there, my mind boggling with expectations and unable to move, a man that was also walking quickly and looking on both sides as if to investigate something passed by. He was no better than the one that had left, with his unkempt dreadlocks on his uncapped head. His hands too, were in his pockets. For some seconds he stood, said nothing, and walked away silently taking the right side path into the semidarkness.
I said some prayers asking God for protection, since there seemed to be more danger ahead, like something terrible would happen to me. It was as if I was standing at the hell’s gate and in my mind I started imagining bloodbaths and skulls.
A police land cruiser pulled out of the streets leading to the estate and came to a halt next to me. Two officers jumped out and scoffed towards me in Kalenjin accent, their AK47 pointed at me as if they had caught a suspect of a crime. So organized, other officers jumped and faced the other side as their driver who was standby on the steering wheel, ready to start the next move concentrated on the front.
“Enda chini na uweke mikono yako chuu,” one of them ordered. I had to obey.
Then he spoke to the other afande that was tip-toeing towards me with his gun pointed at me too, “Afande, leo hii chambasi itajua.”
In any case I had landed into the wrong hands and in that state he started to question me, to know what I was doing.
“Bibi yangu anakufa afande na nimekuja kununulia yeye dawa,” I said, shaking like a feeble leaf in wind even while I spoke, which made the two officers laugh.
‘’How shall we know unasema kweli? Labda unataka kurob hii duka,” the other one said. I bet he was thinking my presence here was to study the door to find a vector at which I would break into Nehema Pharmacy. “Pengine wewe hata ni ile chambasi tunatafuta,” he added as this other one started to put his hands into my pockets, I think to search for anything suspicious. He found nothing.
“Na hii ni nini umeficha kwa mkono?” he asked rudely grabbing my hand.
“Enda chini na uweke mikono yako chuu,”
“Ni pesa.” And I opened my palm and he saw the two hundred shilling note, which was to buy Terry medicine; and a prescription from Terry’s doctor from the last visit to the hospital. He took it and read it, then ordered me to stand up.
“Kumbe hii kijana iko na shida,” he said lowering his gun and started to knock the door calling the doctor. It was unusual and I concluded my gods were working out miracles for me. Weren’t they my guardian angels? I thought. You never know when to expect such miracles anyway, especially when you are dealing with police in patrol at night in a crime infested area. They would never listen to anyone at this ungodly hour under normal circumstances.
They appeared to understand me so much to the extent of allowing me to explain myself. It was unbelievable. Normally, they would have pulled me onto the land cruiser within seconds, takenme to the police station and charged me for robbery, and…
About few minutes later the pharmacy’s window was opened. I bet Georgina the pharmacist had been peeking through the tiny holes on the window to recognize the police.
“Kijana uko na bahati sana. Lakini utaonyesha serkali mgonjwa unasema iko kwako ama twende station. Unatoka wapi?”
I pointed the next flat, in the direction at which the two men had headed to, and added, “Wanyama’s Houses. About a hundred meters from here.”
“Haya, utatuonyesha,” he said. With that my heart experienced a sudden surge of relief. I had the drugs, and I was to be taken back to my house by a cop.
As Georgina finalized the transactions the two cops continued to speak.
“Na si hawa machambasi walikuja pande hii afande?” then they turned to me, “Kijana iko watu mbili hatari sana ilikuja pande hii tunatafuta. Una bahati wajekupata hapa. This place is not safe. Hukusikia milio ya risasi?”
I feigned innocence and nodded otherwise. Then I concluded that indeed the two men were armed and dangerous. They were the people responsible for the gunshots I had heard awhile ago. No wonder their hands were in their pockets. Wasn’t it another miracle they had left me untouched? Guardian angels!
“Could there be a possibility ni hawa wameenda ivi,” I said pointing at the direction at which they had disappeared to. And instantly, they ordered me to be quick which Geargina responded well too. They ordered me into the cabin of their land cruiser, jumped inside too and the cruiser hummed towards the place, along Wanyama Houses too. I thanked God they were taking me home. They dropped me shortly and the moment I entered the compound, being opened to me by Julius, they went on with their search, and cautioned me never to be found out another day, at that time.
Watch out for Part TWO