I walked into work one day and was asked to go to the criminal courts to help out a guy who had been arrested. Have you ever been arrested? I have and I can tell you that it’s one of the worst experiences a person can go through. They strip away your dignity and your freedom. They make you feel like a criminal as if you don’t deserve either the sympathy or the help of society. To have a lawyer there with you, stand up for you and speak for you is something that can make a world of difference at least psychologically. It also helps to have somebody who seems like they know the system because the law is labyrinthine and winding.
I though was just excited about talking in open court for one of the first times. I was asked if I could go and immediately my heart began to beat as I imagined the charisma and deference with which I would approach the court. Speaking in a voice that was modulated to carry to the bench and slow enough that the magistrate would be able to write down what I said. In my mind I could remember the way Kethi Kilonzo spoke to the Supreme Court and I’ll be honest I was excited.
I needed a shit though and at times of nervousness it’s very important to take a shit if the stomach asks because nobody needs this to be another kind of story. I finished and I pulled up my trouser and the button immediately popped out. This was not the first time that this trouser had done me wrong. You see over the last year or so I have put on some weight, I wouldn’t call it considerable or even worrisome but my clothes have become steadily more uncomfortable. They strain as I pull them on, my stomach has become more prominent, my face has become fuller, my girth more garland. So this trouser button has popped and been fixed and popped again. And a third time.
I looked at it and pleaded with the god who turns back time “not now!” but that was ok, I could just pull the belt over the waist and pull up the zip and hold the file in such a way that nobody noticed. This was my plan of action, I had in fact put the little button in my shirt ready to ferry it home. I pulled the belt tighter around my waist and realised that it was not catching, for some reason the trouser was refusing to properly be held up by the belt, it was a sickening looseness though. I could feel it give in the most complete way, become so loose it was the clothe version of diarrhoea. Something was definitely wrong, horribly wrong.
I fingered my crotch section and then I realised with a sinking feeling that the zipper had come loose. This is something that everybody has gone through in life. Usually it happens when you are trying to pull on a jumper and the zipper refuses to cross sides deciding instead to stay to the left and move ineffectually up and down. This is usually easily fixed. A trouser does not have that catch where you can hook it and pull it up. Nope. What a trouser has is the horrible loose feeling.
At that point there is no way to gather up the trouser it turns into something much worse than a short or pyjamas. The waist is so wide you could fit one of you and then a half again into it and it would still want to stay open.
I walked up to the other male advocate in the office and let him know I had a major problem. Go to victoria house was his advice and don’t worry criminal courts begin much later than civil ones. I agreed, took my notebook, my diary and a novel and used these three things to hold up my trouser in the least suspicious way I could. It was very suspicious because at that time the only way you can walk is to adopt a crab-like gait that is not helped along by the fact that there is one hand at your back holding up your trouser like an errant schoolboy. Out front you have gripped your diary right in front of your crotch trying your best to hold both this book and your trouser.
So, I shuffled off. Walking down Kimathi Street, towards tom mboya’s statue and then shooting my way between that and archives in order to make my way to the house. I walked into the building as bold as I could be and asked the guard where I could find a tailor. He could see the desperation with which I was holding on to my garments and he took me upstairs to the one guy who was already open.
“niaje? Boss, leo niko na haraka. Sana. Hii unaweza tengeneza?”
I delivered the sentence as i took off my trousers and laid them in front of him so he could see the full extent of my problems. There I stood in my boxers and socks, my shirt and tie, my coat and…well not my dignity. The lady who cleans the room chose just that time to show up, I really couldn’t care about modesty at that point plus she said the thing everyone says at this point,
“Kwani unadhani kuna kitu hapo sijaona?”
This was to the tailor who warned her about my state. But what I always wonder is why people think that as long as they have seen one other penis they are ready for the sight of all others. It was a risk she was taking, perhaps seeing the outline of my ball-sac and dick would send her penis crazy. This did not happen, the probability of this happening is not high for many people but the fact is there is a possibility and she should have taken notice of that before so glibly risking her sanity and place in society. Ok I didn’t think any of that, and maybe it’s a thing about men and women, I would never say that so callously because no matter how many naked women I see the next one is like the first time. My heart beats and my eyes thank the brain for interpreting the signals it sends back. This may be why it’s so much easier for me to get naked than it would be for a woman in my position.
I stood there waiting. No sandals. No way of letting this guy know that I had to leave. I called the guy in jail because there was no music where I stood whereas later, in a matatu he would know I was in matatu. I introduced myself and asked him which court he was in and to tell me as soon as he knew.
“Kweli una karaka Leo”
The tailor finally understood that my hurry was not because of an interview or a meeting. Somebody’s liberty was at stake. Somebody’s life depended on me getting my trouser back. So he took the thread in his mouth, pulled it back and continued at the same meticulous pace he had begun in.
This was a transaction without any bartering. He told me the price as he sewed a brand new zipper into my trouser and I took it out as he continued and put it there for him. When everything was done I pulled my trouser on and walked very quickly to the matatu stage.
Here’s the thing though every time I went for a piss or pulled off that trouser for a long while it felt different, this zip was bigger than the one I was used to and it’s taken me days to get used to it. I got to court on time and the man got the liberty that he would probably have got without my presence but none of the comfort that help at a time like that gives.