I still see her contorted face sometimes. I don’t even have to actively think about her or the incident, it just happens, and the disturbing images bombard my head out of nowhere. It was nothing anyone could have seen coming, and I bet anyone that was present that day still has occasional nightmares about her to this day.
I had just cleared high school, and my idle self thought it would be a good idea to go learn something at my aunt’s place- she was a tailor and from all the stories and bragging she had done at our family gatherings, I was convinced that being a tailor was the best thing I could’ve been. This was close to 10 years ago before we got flooded by TikTok tutorials on how to crotchet and make anything out of anything. So when the time came, I bid my parents goodbye, took the few t-shirts and trousers I could wear nikifika Nairobi and off I went. It was also the third time I was going to Nairobi, and one of the two previous instances was a trip to Nairobi Showground nikiwa class 6, so the excitement I had while anticipating this trip can’t be articulated enough.
Life at my Aunt’s place was better than anything I had imagined. I had never eaten fish twice in 3 days until I got to her place. We didn’t even have to go looking for these things, she had this delivery man that dropped her groceries at her shop every evening. But there was also this hotel on the 2nd floor that made the best ugali matumbo I’ve ever had, and even better, the waitress that brought me the food was gorgeous to her very bones. The only crush I had had at this point was those silly crushes we had tukiwa primary. This one was a little different, more intense I’d say. It was as if she stirred my insides every time she looked at me, and it didn’t matter how hot the day was, she still sent shivers through me. But my communication skills were as good as a rock’s, and all I remember doing is replaying the moments she had brought me lunch at the shop over and over until I couldn’t fall in love any further. She also liked sitting on the kitchen balcony rails every time she was having a break, and from where I sat at my aunt’s shop (which was on the ground floor), I could see her perfectly every time she came out. She also smoked a lot, so the tobacco whiffs would sometimes catch my attention before she did.
My aunt on the other hand couldn’t stop showering me with praises. Praise for how dedicated and hardworking I was, how no one had to wake me up so I could go open the shop, how fast I was at learning the ropes at her shop, and within no time, she’d leave the small jobs to me and I began making a few coins here and there. I also preferred coming in that early because that was the period Wangeci wasn’t so busy, so she’d sit on the balcony for close to 30 minutes, smoking her troubles away. I remember thinking I’ll make enough money to take her out, then convince her that filling her lungs with nicotine wasn’t the best thing for her, or our children. Haha, I was so oblivious, but in love nonetheless.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to when my aunt left for ushago. Her mum, my grandmother, wasn’t in her best shape so they needed to take her to hospital, fast. It had been raining the previous night so I left the house a little bit earlier than usual just so I could go wash the corridor outside the shop. That was when I bumped into Wangeci kwa barabara, and even though my heart felt like it was going to pump itself to death, I managed to sneak in a little bit of small talk. She seemed distracted though, and even the few smiles she flashed me felt forced. But before I could leave her alone, she borrowed me fifty shillings for her cigarettes. Utalipa lunch 50 bob less, she said, but I declined, hoping that this generous gesture would show her how different I was from other men. Don’t worry, 19-year-old me was that deluded.
A couple of hours later and the corridor outside our shop is squeaky clean, thanks to your boy here. I also had a couple of outfits I needed to mend, so all of my attention was on the sewing machine. Then a gust of tobacco hit my nostrils, and for a split second, I could see her seated on the balcony rails, her small frame engulfed in the cigarette’s smoke. But she wasn’t alone this time, a man stood beside her, and it seemed as if they were sharing the cigarettes. That sight honestly stabbed me kidogo, but I didn’t overthink it, or at least I chose not to. Her occasional laughs echoed through the building, and almost distracted me, but I had resolved to remain busy, so I kept my head down and continued sewing. Then, after what seemed like a couple of minutes, I heard a distressed ‘ebu chunga wewee…’ and before I could look up, a piercing shrill cut through the air, making me shudder in fear from where I sat. Now, I know most of you have had someone scream before, but this wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. It was as if the scream had emanated from the depths of hell, and almost immediately, the hairs behind my neck stood. I didn’t even know I had those.
This scream was followed by a loud sound of something snapping and breaking under pressure. Then blood, lots of it. In front of me, on the corridor I had just washed, was the waitress’s body mangled and twisted in ways a human body shouldn’t. She had slid off the rails and fell head first. And it didn’t help that when I raised my head, I locked eyes with her, or rather, what used to be her, and the sight of her blank eyes bulging out of her skull made me sick to the core of my being. I’ve never projectile vomited like I did that day. There was chaos and mayhem everywhere in a matter of seconds. Some of her colleagues were screaming their lungs out, and other vendors just shouted ‘Ghai!’ and went back to their jobs, but most of us were so confused and terrified, we just closed shop and left.
It’s been close to a decade since that incident occurred and when I say seeing people sitting on balcony rails makes me sick, I mean every word. Being a witness to how fragile humans are did a number on me, and I still keep my distance from balconies or anything I can fall off to this day.