The Doves of Nairobi

The kiosk she sat in was a few yards from the school’s gate. She hoped this was a safe distance to watch him from and not raise any alarm. Although she had a cap on, the makeshift umbrella she sat under also served as the perfect camouflage, allowing her to intently survey who came for who and at what time. It didn’t matter that she had done it a thousand times, seeing her son this close made her boil with anxiety. It’s when she sees him run clumsily with his friends, chattering and laughing like puppies, that she’s reminded there’s still some life in her, however hidden it may be.
The school’s bell rang incessantly, and in a minute, students had flooded the dusty road. Mwende sipped her soda as she peered through the small crowd of kids for her son, hoping the few seconds she stared at her phone didn’t cost her the one chance she had. Her eyes caught his shabby hair amongst other boys, and with a weak smile on her face, she took the small gift she had and followed them closely, hoping she’d talk to him once the school was far enough behind them. Mwende hated that she was a stranger to her own son, hiding and sneaking behind him like a thug. But she had no option, the path she had opted to take was too dangerous for anyone she had an iota of love for. And her son was her everything at this point, so fighting her own instincts just to keep him safe was a task harder than giving birth to him was.
Before the boys could cross the road, Mwende caught up to them and tapped her son lightly. He first turned to one of his friends before realizing it was a whole stranger that had tapped him.
“Sasa Jeremy…”
“Poa”
“Mimi ni mama ya friend yako mwingine mnasoma na yeye, aliniambia ulimsaidia na homework so shika hii present…wewe ni good boy”
The poor kid stared at Mwende like she was talking about aliens. She clearly hadn’t thought this through.
“Mi hakuna friend nishai saidia kufanya homework,” Jeremy said, confused out of his brains.
“Hukumbu…ni sawa tu…salimia mum ukifika home” she said, and quickly turned her back on them. She’d rather go back with a broken heart than have the kid tell his foster parents that some random woman that knows his name tried to give him a present. Mwende walked away dejected, the rejection weighing heavy on her despite her honest efforts. All she wanted was to feel like a mother again, like she had brought life to earth. But Karma seemed to have other plans because of all the men she had in her life, he was the one that brought her true peace. Not excitement or fleeting happiness, but peace. The kind that allows you to soak in the moment and feel everything as it is. She could say less about the others, the other few men that still pulled the reins in her life and used her like you would a mug.
Her mind was still clouded when she walked in. The small pub was already full, with a few drunkards yelping and singing along to an old gospel song. The stuffy room smelled like they boiled socks and shoes in there, but it was their office alright. They all met here before they could go out for work, mainly because Macharia was their boss who supplied them with the needed pills. She didn’t know where he got them from but that never bothered her, making her money was her main concern, not playing a moral cop. Macharia sat close to the counter, with a girl giggling on his lap as they shared his Keg beer.
“Trish alikam?” Mwende asked whilst staring daggers at the drunk girl on Macharia. Feeling the animosity, the girl staggered away, leaving the two alone.
“Masha si nakuuliza kama Trish ako job leo?” Macharia chugged his beer and motioned for her to follow him. They stepped out through the back door, and sat on a bench in the dimly lit backyard.
“Leo ni kama hamtaenda job, nataka mpumzike ndio Thursday niwapeleke club fulani mpya… si unajua Friday ni holiday?”
“Ooh, so ushaambia akina Trish?”
“Eeh, wanajua. Lakini Njoki ni msick, sijui mbona hio shida yake haiishi….hio rash ako nayo inaeza kuwa nini?” Macharia asked, lighting a cigarette that had been dangling on his fingers.
“Hio labda yeye awaambie, nilikuwa nimemkataza kukulwa raw lakini haskii… so kesho tutakuwa wangapi?”
“Ndio najaribu kupiga hizo mahesabu lakini siko sure bado… hako kadem nilikuwa nako huko ndani sijui kama kanawezana”
He passed the cigarette to Mwende and coughed uncontrollably, wincing as every cough cut through his chest.
“Na wewe uko sure hii kukohoa yako si pepo punda, umeekelea corona sana…”
“ata ikue pepo gani mi ni mafia,” he laughed.
He dug into his jacket’s breast pocket and pulled a small bag of white pills, handing them to Mwende.
“Hizi ndio za kuvuruga Thursday usiku, uzieke fiti usipoteze juu ukipoteza kitu ntakufanya hutaki kujua,” he said, then kissed her on the cheek and disappeared into the pub again. Mwende followed him, passed by the counter for a keg then left; tonight wasn’t one of those nights she felt social.
Macharia was their go-to man. He took care of them as long as they did as he said. He owned the pub they met in almost every night, but only a handful of people actually knew. He liked being under the radar, his business was his and his alone, plus his girls of course. Mwende was one of the girls he’d trust his life with, owing to the dozen times she saved his ass. How they made their money was the problem. His gang of ravishing hot girls were the bait, Nairobi’s clubs were the ponds, and horny, reckless men the fish. This was the job that buttered his bread and the bread of a couple other adults that didn’t mind drugging drunk bachelors. He, however, had stopped all operations after his brother got shot in the back. Although he didn’t die, Macharia knew the DCI detectives that shot his brother would gladly pump a few more bullets into his head if they ever crossed paths again, so for the sake of his girls and himself, he laid low.
Mwende tossed and turned in bed like a dying fish. It was 1am but it felt like 1pm. Nights before work-nights were often sleepless for her. It had been a while since she had worked and her attempt to go see her son today was her way of atoning for sins she hadn’t committed yet. She was glad Jeremy knew nothing about her, but she hoped that someday, she’d walk up to him and explain everything. That day just wasn’t today. Determined to sleep, she reached out and grabbed the pills from her bedside drawer, carefully took one and smashed it. She then pinched some of the powder and sprinkled it into her glass of water. If she was going to make money the next day, she needed a whole night’s sleep, and what better way to go out than getting drowsy on your own supply.

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