There was a Saturday night in my first weeks in Meru when I said fuck it I need a drink despite the hole in my pocket where my wallet used to be. I left the house headed to this keg joint nearby where I could drink on the cheap and not have the Samson treatment on my eyes. I left the apartment and began walking. There is a dearth of artificial light and in my first days I used to walk with the flashlight on my phone turned on. This night though there was a full moon. The light flooded the earth. To my left there were trees and some houses. The moon-light turned them into something out of a dream or a fantasy book. The moon’s light is more silver than white. The greens of the leaves turn almost black. The browns of the trees can only just be made out. There were shadows from the light. Not the normal daytime shadows though, these barely existed, wisps of shadows and they didn’t stretch too far out. The landscape looked layered and stacked. Darkness shot through with streams of silver, even the dark wasn’t black. It looked almost blue.
The main method of transportation around town is taxis. Personal cars into which people jump and are squeezed together two in the front and four in the back. Comfort is the last thing that is expected on these rides. I remember once seating in front but in the middle and we were two big guys so space was negligible. The driver insisted he could make it and every time he shifted gears the plastic would dig into me. Dig deep and hurt heaps. A bone massage. I feel like I spend all my time opening the windows on these things. Turning the dial or pressing down on the switch when it’s modern. Once someone picked me up without waiting in line, I guess he wasn’t allowed to pick people up from there. He told me if there was a fight he could trust me to help him. I smiled uneasily. He then took out a knife from its sheath and said he would slit anyone who tried anything. The knife was sharp. With a handle long enough for proper grip and too short to act as a fulcrum when cutting tomatoes, meat, onions and all the other things a nice boy like me imagined knives were for. This knife was for fighting. It was for stabbing and stabbing and stabbing again. A combat knife. The kind whose metal drinks up blood and begins to gleam more if its human haemoglobin it’s drinking up. The kind of knife a hero in a moon-lit landscape would need.
An old man in court was sitting talking to police in Maua. He was really old. He said he had worked in a colonial farm back in the days of slavery. He hated the white man. Hated his goods and hated his technology. Refused to use a phone said that if someone had something to say to him they could come see him in person. He was asked why he hadn’t joined the Mau Mau case for some compensation from the British government. What Mau Mau? Was his response. He went on to tell us that there were no Mau Mau left in Kenya. That Jomo Kenyatta had acted to finish them all off killing all the remnants of that proud rebellion. In a deal with the British that we will never be fully privy to he had wiped out the most organised armed resistance to their rule as soon as he became president. They asked him next about Christianity. If he hated white people so much what about Jesus. All the arguments sprung to my mind. The fact that Jesus was not white but Israeli. A Middle Eastern man. Perhaps even a black man but not white. The old man said that God is not white he was just born amongst white people. To him the concept of the deity was so grand, so big that it was ridiculous to try and assign a thing like race to him. God is not white, God is not male, God is God. This is the message in the bible that we read over and over. Another old man once approached a burning bush and received the message “I am who I am” and since then it has been forgotten and misinterpreted by millions and by me. It took this old man to remind me that if there is a God he is none of the things we are. He simply is who he is.
From just outside my place I can see a range of hills. When I have to get up really early there is a red sun blazing in the distance. Sometimes this is hidden behind trees, the hills not the sun. Once I woke up to find mist everywhere, a fog had descended. Visibility of a few metres. Like Ngai had used the crater in Mount Kenya as a bong. Other times it rains. It fucking floods. Out of nowhere the taxis have laid carton down so that you can step on it. Then after the rain it’s so hot I’m sweating at 8 in the morning. There are times of cold. Cold so biting its felt in the bone, not the skin. This cycle of weather can take place in a week. It’s ridiculous.
I had every intention of learning the language but it’s difficult. It’s difficult because everyone speaks swa and English. I can survive without kimeru though it irks me when people lapse into it in conversation and immediately start laughing. Everyone talks it, everywhere.
I’ve been bawled over by beauty a couple of times. A girl will pass by and all I’ll want to do is get up and follow her. One of them got into one of those taxis and the driver drove off so fast I’m sure he had designs on showing her his “knife” if she was willing. The beauty demands more than one look. It demands more than a glance. It demands being drunk in. Just like watching a sunset, the beauty here sometimes deserves a minute or two of silent contemplation at the wonders of nature.
At work I have occasion to mingle with older people a lot more. I’ve begun noticing that with age their eyes go blue. It’s like the colour in the irises begins to fade away. So that there is a glassy bowl surrounding the black. It’s not a straight demarcation, the colours bleed into each other and it’s beautiful. When they talk to me I get distracted by their eyes. I want to keep them talking so I have an excuse to keep looking, to keep staring.
There’s a guy who sells me mutura. He makes these huge thick sausages. One cut almost fills you up. He cuts pili pili into it so that it has an extra tang. It’s wonderful. The other day I was weekday drinking and needed some of it. He was out of stock so I went to the fancy fast food place. The place that makes pizza and amazing garlic fries, a place called bradegate. As I waited for my order I went to the toilet and found it was a pit latrine. This place is flawlessly classy. The kind of middle class haunt that we aspired to in university (nowadays people I know are giddy about art caffe opening all night, art caffe!! My age mates done sold out) and in the back is a pit latrine. I have to go on a date there just so when she goes to the loo I know she squatted.
This morning i stood just outside my door. My apartment is on the second floor and to the distance there are hills. This was one of the sunnier days so that even though it was 7:43 the sun was out in force. The light was almost white and as I looked off to the range of hills they looked like they were disappearing in a fog made of sunlight. All that stood of them was a faint outline of one against the other and that one against the sky. They were ephemeral, ghosts of hills, see-through but not quite. There is a tree that seems almost level with them but that’s just because it’s closer, at the top of the tree there are these red flowers. Blood red, especially against the backdrop that seemed washed of colour. I stood there for a while and then I left for work.