FERMENTED DISH-WATER

When I woke up, the sun’s rays penetrated the curtain in a brilliant dash of beauty. I could hear the birds merrily chirping outside my window. They had nests in a tree that grew just outside my room.

A gentle breeze disturbed the curtains and they gently played on my face. This is what woke me up, I had dreamt of gentle fingers stroking my face. They were beautiful and belonged to no one. I was sad to wake up.

I lay still and considered my environment. I slowly began to hear sounds of children playing outside, a conversation of people who were walking down the path nearby, a rowdy noisy old car wheezing and struggling on the equally unruly path, a donkey cart rolling by. A smile on my face tells me good-morning and I throw the sheets off myself.

“Ukiona mwathani guku muthenya uyu ni munene!” I chanted to a song in my mind only to find that it was there in the first place because a distant radio I was not aware of was playing the song. I felt annoyed, as if someone had stolen my thoughts. Although I tried, I could not think of something else but the song.

My room was as untidy as usual.

The mattress lay next to the window. The window was on the left hand-side of the wall facing the door. Away from the window, in a dark corner, a bundle of dirty crumpled clothes lay . It had been a while since I last did my laundry. I was always too tired to go looking for water whenever I came back home. Then again what is the logic of folding dirty laundry? And my clean clothes? They were stored in a small cupboard I had converted into a wardrobe that lay somewhere underneath the bundle of my crumpled and dirty laundry.

I looked at my room with some satisfaction. At least today the clothes were not all over the room, and I had managed to wash the dirty dishes at last! The only unclean utensil was the dirty cup and plate I had used the previous morning. The rest of the dishes were fighting for space in the small overburdened basin I used to store them in. In fact, one of the cups looked like a tout hanging from a matatu,now I would………. but why would I waste my beautiful morning arranging clean dishes? And anyway, it was just me…… and the roaches. They didn’t seem to mind the way things were.

I must say that though my room was untidy, it was clean. That, I will always maintain. Untidy but clean. I simply cannot stand dirt despite my chaotic sense of arrangement. Anyway,there is nothing I can do about the chaos. I was born that way.

I stepped outside my room and………Auuuuwi! What do I see? Dirty dishwater had been poured just outside my door. Even now, I still feel the hot anger that I felt rise from the pit of my belly. I looked around and all I could see were children playing in a dirt patch under another tree in the compound. They looked so happy and carefree in contrast to what I was feeling at that moment. Even the merry song of the birds that had woken me up was annoying.
“Najua ni nani!” I know who it is. “That marauding monkey! Donkey! Nkt! she will know where I come from today that witch!”

Before I could go fight it out with that ‘witch’ though, I had to get ammunition and support. I marched with the same energy to Jane’s house next door. I had to offload my chest. Nishikiliwe!! Somebody had to hold me before I killed that woman.

“Ngai! My dear God! Jane, I cannot believe it. That witch with no shame has poured dirty dishwater on my door again! Again. This is the third time this week and she had been doing it from zamani. Ni mimi nimemnyamazia! Hmmmm! Huyu mama anajifanya yeye ndio nani? Eeeeh?! Who does she think she is?”

That is how I greet Jane good morning. She welcomes me and knows better than to ask me if I had a good morning. She pours me a steaming cup of tea, which is always welcome. We call it nylon because the milk is usually so little the tea is almost transparent.

Jane gives me an attentive ear as I tell her all my troubles. How that woman, who was not even my next door neighbor but lived five rooms away form me, would after washing her dirty dishes come to pour it in front of my house. I suspected that she must have also fermented it just to annoy me further since the water was so smelly. It was making me look bad, as I would be the only one with a dirty front door.

We talked for a while and I felt a little bit better about life. All the while I kept a sharp look out in case anyone decided to get into my house and take away something. Let me tell you it had just been the other day when someone got into my other neighbors’ house, Wanjiku and took away her phone and the few coins she had placed on the table. And the way things are, who has even a hundred shillings to buy food let alone money to buy a phone?

Jane just listens but she does not suggest anything about my situation. We actually forget what had brought me to her house and end up discussing about a man who went mad because his only son had been shot by the police. It was so sad. That is how most young people die nowadays, just like flies. For some reason I feel better discussing the distraught father than my issues. I leave Jane’s house as undecided as ever.

I had to do the most important things first. I was torn between going to report that scandalous, evil woman or go sell peanuts by the roadside. Maybe she would stop her shameful behavior if I ignored her. I remember we had a neighbor like that when I was growing up. She used to let her cows and goats feed from our shamba. Imagine! There you are having planted maize, the rains have come and it is looking as if the harvest will be prosperous and suddenly someone releases their goats and cows onto your shamba. My mother kept quiet and never questioned the woman and one day we found her dead in the chicken roost. She had crawled in there and hang herself.

I thought to myself “Maybe I can kill two birds with one stone. I can carry my peanuts and call out for buyers on my way to the chief. Who knows I can even sell some to the hungry people waiting to see bwana Mkubwa. I can take a risk before the askari manning the door rudely reminds me that the chief’s camp is not a market place. Yes, why not? I have to make money. Everything in my house has run out. I do not even have salt and nowadays you cannot even borrow from your friends. Things are hard!”

With that resolve, I stomp out of my house. I balance the blue karai where I keep my peanuts on my head, fasten my shuka and head to
the chief’s. That woman would meet my other side.

That day the sun must have been on a revenge mission like me. It was so hot! And to make matters worse, there were no trees to create any shade. There used to be some by the roadside but they were cut down five years ago when they were laying pipes for water. Do not ask me, I also do not know where that water goes to, I am also like you. I buy water from those thieving water vendors. To make matters worse you always have to go looking for them; they have to hide from the city council askaris. This is how it is whether you live in the city or upcountry, you will spend half your day looking for water. In the country it is far away and in the city it is inaccessible.

At that point, I was cursing whoever decided that trees were not compatible with pipe laying and other maendeleos. To make matters worse, it was dusty as well. It had been a while before the rains had fallen. Anyway, it was the will of the gods and that fight was too big for me. I had my own small battles to fight anyway.

“Njugu tano, kumi, njugu tano, kumi.”I wipe sweat off my brow and do what I do best. It is a good thing because I get to the chief fifty shillings richer. This is all thanks to my young friends who find peanuts irresistible. They also put a smile on my face and I arrive at the chief’s camp a happier person.

The chief’s place was full of people and for a while there I wondered if I was not better off leaving that evil woman to Gods mercy. However, where would she hang herself? The trees in the compound are too tall…or maybe in her house there was a…………. Ah! What was I thinking! God forbid that I was having such evil thoughts. Even for a person like her.

Of course, ten o’clock was too early for the chief to have arrived. I went and notified the askari minding the chief’s office that I was around and went to listen for some latest mucene. The camp was just a dust compound with a single iron roof building, the chief’s office. It was now rusted and if one took time, they could tell whether the chief polished his boots by looking through the gaping holes on the iron sheet walls. Just outside the building grew a scantily leafed tree. That is where everyone went to wait for the chief. There are a few stones placed under the tree where one co rest. They were all occupied now.

I see mama Awiti, my very good friend. She was a boisterous woman with an easy laugh and a booming voice. Infact I must have heard her before I saw her. I loved her adventurous and impossibly crazy stories, and she had many. I walk towards her curious to know what she was up to at the chief’s camp. Who had she been fighting with?

I also could not help noticing baba Waceke, drunk as usual and preaching his philosophies about how stupid people are. It always amazed me that he always found an audience.

As I was walking, I felt as if the earth had shifted under my feet. Yaaaa…ni?! I had no words. Even thoughts dried up in my mind.
The evil witch. Yes that evil donkey was standing in a crowd of women eyeing me with some defiance. Nkt! Even the chief was too late, I could solve my issues right there and be through. I walked towards her. I imagine I stamped on the ground so hard I left a cloud of dust on my wake. She would know where I came from!

“Hmmmmmh! Kwangu uliambiwa ni sewerage? Eh? Ndio unakuja kunimwagia maji machafu mlangoni mwangu? Unanionyesha madharau juu mimi sina bwana na watoto? Mimi?!” Heh! She would know that there would be questions to answer.

“ Ati mimi? Usiniwekelee maurongo! Miiiiii…mi? Kwanza ukae ukijua hata mimi nimekuja kukureporti…………….

Aiiiiiiii! What was this mad woman talking about? What would she tell the chief? Lies! Lots of lies no doubt!

I stepped away from her in surprise. Then I got so furious and before I could stop myself, my hands reached for her and I grabbed her hair. I pulled as hard as I could. Of course she just did not stand there.

People gathered around and their excited voices rent the air “Chapa huyu mama amekuzoea sana.” That was encouragement from Mama Awiti. I told you she is my friend didn’t I?

“Mmmmh! Si huyu ni yule mama wa Njugu? Kweli ana nguvu ya kupigana? She is just looking for trouble!” Whoever it was, they were not my friend.

People just love fighting. Especially when they are the ones watching. And most of all when it is women who are fighting.. It gave them fine stories to fill their idle days. Well, let me tell you I gave them a story so good, they are still talking about it.

The wrestling matches I used to watch back in the village could not compare to the one I was having that day. People gathered around and clapped and cheered for their favorite wrestler. Screams, curses and traditional wrestling song electrified the air. You can rest assured that they are still talking about that fight to this day.

The chief came. That man has the worst timing ever. He stood there with hands on his hips and watched. His eyes glittered with some excitement as he looked at us. I can tell you that he was having a very good time. After he had had enough, he called for his askaris to separate us. Then he casually told them to call the police to arrest us.

Dear God! I still hide my face when I think about that day. Do you know the chief had the askari frog march that woman me and to the police station! The whoo……le town came to witness that episode. Eeeeh! I do not even want to remember! I was glad when I saw the police van half way to the police station.

Hot from a fight with dusty feet and a head ache from all the hair pullin; I was bundled into the police van. A baton landed on my shoulder in order to encourage faster movement into the van. I felt like those cabbages that come bundled in lorries early in the morning. I was grateful to get to the police station.

The police van was very hot, full of smells of fear and frustrations from all the people it had ferried to police cells since it had been put to work. Even worse for me, the van was very old. Shock-absorbers were long gone and my bones, aching from a fist fight, were further rattled as we rode on the bumpy road.

“Ehe! Nyinyi ndio mlikuwa mnachapana kwa chief?” A bulky policeman with a rough voice greets me and my accomplice. I had even forgotten how evil she could be at this point. I must also point out that mama Awiti was around. I had only a few seconds to fret about where my peanuts were before the bulky policeman bellowed, “Weh! Kijana kuja deal na hawa wamama.” The kijana, thankfully, was young. He looked like he was fresh from primary school. I nearly hid my face in shame, what would he think of me?

His name was Robert and he turned out to be uncharacteristically kind and well behaved. He politely asked us to record our names and took facts of the case. He then proceeded to shock the life out of us by sending us home after giving us a severe warning. The bulky policeman gave a grunt of approval and started walking away. When the fat policeman had gone away, he said he thought it was a very minor offence and requested us to reconcile. It certainly shamed us.

We quietly filed out of the police station and since then my front door has never been cleaner.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s