His eyes feel grainy, as if they had fallen out into a bucket of sand and he hadn’t gotten all the particles out. He knows that he shouldn’t have stayed up for that long but you know, shit happens. It’s colder than he thought it’d be, and the chilling breeze hitting him from the open matatu door is not doing him any favours. He glances over his shoulder to see if there are any empty, better seats. There’s an empty seat beside a rather well-fed boy. Or man. But he’s quite meaty himself, so he chooses to brave the cold from where he’s seated. 45 minutes are all he’s got to avoid being late for the second time this week. If only he had gone to bed at 10pm yesterday. His phone vibrates. Dear customer, your loan of 4360 is due on 09/12/2022. If you pay your loan today… he heaves loudly, disappointed that Safaricom had the audacity to remind him of the few coins he owes them, coins that he spent on everything he didn’t need. The bus coughs to life, and the radio comes on. Let me tell you Maina, hawa wanaume sikuizi ni fake sana! Unapata kimtu kimekaa tu… he slides his air pods on, locking the outside world out and simultaneously drowning himself in his chaos of choice.
“You were late again today, what’s not happening Dickson?”
“Uum, I’m sorry..ni venye the matatu I came in got stopped by cops, I’d have made it”
“Where did you say you live again?”
“Sikuizi Thika Road imekuwa apartment,sindioo?”
“No, it’s just that I don’t think you’d know the place nikikuambia jina”
“Oh, because you think I’m stupid…anyway, wapi ile report nilikuambia utengeneze?”
“I’m sending it in a few…and sorry for being late, won’t happen again”
He drags his weight past a couple of quiet, unenthusiastic colleagues on their desks, fist bumps one of them then slumps onto his chair. The day already feels a thousand years old. He sets his laptop up but curses under his breath as the gravity of what he’s just discovered hits him.
“Sasa Mary, hio lappy yako inakuanga Dell pia?”
“Maze I forgot my charger kejani,nisaidie na yako for a couple of minutes kuna kitu nataka kutumia ule msee”
“Gai,imagine my laptop is a desktop sikuizi,nikikupea itazima na kuna files nafaa kutuma by 10”
Damn it, Mary!
“Nani mwingine unajua akona lappy ya Dell, isipokuwa Musyoka?”
Musyoka’s the guy that just grilled him for coming in late.
“Imagine sijui, I think you’ll just have to go borrow him.”
It’s a couple of minutes past noon now. Dickson’s done with most of his day’s work, thanks to Musyoka’s ‘generosity’. Except his boss had to make him feel like a moron, again. It’s almost lunchtime and it feels as if someone drilled a borehole in his stomach. He’s on a budget though, so a couple of mandazis from the kiosk hapo nje and a cup, or two, of black coffee should do the trick. He decides to fix himself some tea just to scale down his starvation. Mary’s in the kitchen too, warming something in the microwave.
“By the way si last week ulinipromise Kebab ya ile place na hukuwai niletea?”
Please don’t ask me to buy you that kebab today, he thinks to himself.
“Kama utatoka kwenda lunch na akina Tony si utanibuyia? Kuna minute maid niko nayo aki inataka hio kebab tu”
“Leo ata nlikuwa nataka kunywa kachai tu lunchtime…”
“Aki Dickson, of all days aki leo ndio umeamua kunywa chai lunchtime, ama ni venye nimekuitisha Kebab ulinipromise?”
“Ziii…ama… sawa, acha ntakuletea,ulisema unapenda ikiwa na kachumbari?”
“Yaay,eeh…didn’t think ungekubali, you’re the best!”
The sun is out and so are they. It’s a small group of his mates from work, and they’re scouring the streets for their favourite kwa mathe joint. It’s also one of his favourite times of the day: no supervisor is breathing down his neck, banter with the boys is always refreshing, and to top it all, food! And although the prices are always bordering on being unaffordable, it’s too good a deal to forego.
Fuliza M-PESA, you have insufficient funds, Fuliza… he quickly presses 1, pays for his lunch and that of his colleague that had forgotten his wallet, and off they head back to the office. Until he remembers Mary’s Kebab. And of course, he had to remember just before he got into the elevator. Begrudgingly, he excuses himself, crosses to the other side of the road and disappears for what should be a couple of minutes.
His eyes feel better now, but his feet are almost numb from all the standing he’s done since he got to his bus stop. Engines are revving, conductors are yelling and spanking buses, and the queue he’s on is as stagnant as swamp water. His stomach feels bloated too, so that makes the question of ‘nitakula nini supper’ ten times harder. He stares blankly at the people lined up ahead of him. A good number of them have their faces buried in their phones, and a few are enjoying small talk here and there, but most just look defeated. They looked as if living their lives was a chore. He shudders a bit. Does living his life feel like a chore? He hates that he knew the answer to that question before he asked it. He hates that he has to do this again tomorrow, and the day after. No breaks, no substitutes. The queue begins to move. He silently hopes he’ll get in this time. He does, but is forced to squeeze between others in the back. Honestly, he’s just glad he’s not on his feet anymore, the pain was killing him. He rests his forehead on the seat in front of him and closes his eyes. Peace. But almost immediately, someone seated at the front yells from the bottom of their lungs.
“Uuui! Simu! Nishikie Huyo!!”
Loud murmurs erupt and necks crane out of windows, but he just sits there, eyes closed and head rested on the seat in front of him. Only two things are on his mind, sleep by 10pm na usisahau charger.