The penultimate passenger to enter the matatu at Ken-Com is a fine missus who is draped in a well thought out, groovy attire – a blue, studded blouse, a black scarf that is carefully wound around her nape – lest it distorts her look, with a big, matching, black bag, dark brown Ray Bans, and extravagantly plaited, light brown hair which is held back in a bun at the back of her head, slightly above her nape.
Even as the day grows older, into its evening, she is pristine, like a model cut out of a magazine where she was having a good time, and placed in the midst of the, apparently, poor crowd in which she finds herself. Her appearance is comparatively different, one that is invested in, purposely to portray its heavily enriched nature.
She is, like every other day when she arrives at the bus station, listening – or otherwise – to music which plays through her white Samsung headphones which look like they were, also, cautiously, placed in her ears so that only she can ably listen as they help distract her from the detestable world around her.
She would have known how detestable it is only if she spared a moment and, with the help of a glance, turned her overly fixated head to indulge herself. However, her sight is set forwards; on an incoming Citi Hoppa. Unfortunately for her, this particular one is not Ngong Road bound, so she fixes her head still, onto another, and another, until the one which she has, in a tested, tried, and acquired patience, learnt to wait for regardless of how long it takes to arrive and get properly parked in its designated lot.
Choosing not to board this particular bus, she is now in her most preferred position; the first in a queue awaiting the next one. In it, she is in control; of the progress of all her followers, and the seat that she will take when she hops onto the hoppa. For that, she will have one of two options; the one seat on the driver’s left, or one of the two convenient seats immediately after the entrance which she will share with the ever unsettled conductor.
Her sight is set on the things and people ahead of her. People, like the suited female security operative who will; for ensuring that a placard detailing the fares and stops the hoppa will make is properly held in her hands before the bus arrives, and, thereafter, placed by the bus window when it arrives, and, also, for ensuring that potential passengers are kept in a coherent file, and, that their bodies and bags are checked for and removed of any weapons of the ever impeding mass destruction receive a five hundred shillings note for a job well done.
She will, in addition, witness the conductor stealthily slip to a waiting traffic controller who will, not long after they set off, arrest the hoppa for approximately half an hour and engage the driver over an offence that even the pedestrians seem not to appreciate lest him – the conductor – and the driver enjoy the luxury of free accommodation and food courtesy of the state as the engine of their vehicle cools off in the compound of the nearest police station where they would be held.
It is not easy to tell what she is listening to. It never is. A pirouette would have pointed to James Brown’s I Feel Good (I Got You) as she attempted to dance. A flipping of her fingers would have told of Logic’s Relaxation, as the lines got more lit. A lifting of her shades and roving of her eyes would have showed the effect of Michael Kiwanuka’s Bones, as the words sank deeper. A readjustment of her brassiere would have revealed the impact of Wiz Khalifa’s Young Wild and Free, as she tried to restrain herself.
However, there is no reaction. No motion. Nothing happens to her. All she does is keep her attention ahead, and concentration on the sliced cucumber in a plastic container that she is carrying, and keeps switching from one hand to another as she waits.
Unbeknown to her, a rather unordinary man is causing a scene. To, and not so far away from her right, a mysterious creature of an indescribable, supposedly human being was standing. On the basis of a first glance, it was, undoubtedly, a robust, well built man, but, on further examination, it was not hard to notice that on one side, it was a man who was probably kneeling on one knee, his other knee. However, on closer examination of that support providing knee, it was, also, not so hard to notice that the creature actually lacked an entire thigh, and was, therefore, an imbalanced, full-legged, half-legged person. How unfortunate!
Due to that imbalance, he swayed like a disabled, see-saw of a person who was, by many means, trying to find a convenient step, to find comfort – if any – so as not to disrupt the flow of people’s movement from their workplaces to their homes.
Unfortunately for him, he, as matter of course, slipped, tripped, and dropped down onto the pavement. All thanks to his improperly fitting car-tyre sandals which had gotten stuck in and been held by an exposed manhole cover. He, the poor, full-legged, half-legged man did not go down alone. Together with bowl of coins, they – himself and its contents – splashed each other on the people-filled pavement.
Maintaining her position and attention, the hitherto imperturbable lady awaiting the next hoppa was, like the people she did not have to lead, unmoved, undistracted, and unimpressed by the supposed schemes of the poor, full-legged, half-legged man. Not at any one moment did any of them bat an eyelid or move an inch for the benefit of this unfortunate creature of a being. Their faces were the perfect illustrations of the never shared struggles and challenges that they endured living in a metropolitan city. Waiting for a probably jammed bus was not doing them any better, especially in either drying their wet eyes or lightening them up. The town had already shared with them more than enough to deal with. This was, therefore, nothing but another challenge for the poor, full-legged, half-legged man. If he had managed to take himself down, he, then, could somehow, miraculously or otherwise, pick himself up. To each would be their own.
The earliest expectation was that one or two impoverished people would, as normal circumstances dictated, rush in for their fellow poor man’s coins. They could have used them to supplement their fare, or grocery shopping on another, darker day. There was no motivation for that, especially now that the poor, full-legged, half-legged man had proceeded into an epileptic convulsion of sorts. Any movement closer to him would turn into an invitation for unsolicited responsibility. Responsibility; for the poor, full-legged, half-legged man’s flying coins, ill health, and, perhaps, undetermined death. In a City of so many and where so much happened, anyone could be anyone, and up to anything, or, in a scheme with more who were only interested in doing more damage than the initial, innocent, incident could have possibly caused.
With the unfortunate being lying on the pavement, getting uncontrollable, and unattended to, an old woman found it within herself to leave her spot in the queue and become the only lifeline he could possibly have in his time of perpetual struggles. Many had observed him. More had ignored him.
The old woman walked, past the cut cucumber carrying, music listening, young lady, who happened to be closest to the poor man, and up to him. Without a care in the world, that it could possibly be taken by an ill meaning idiot, she laid one of her bags down and attended to him. She stretched him out, on his back, positioned his legs and hands before turning him onto his side to enable him breathe with ease and vomit if it suddenly became necessary. She did it clinically, like a paramedic probably would, or, perhaps, like a mother only knew best.
The old woman was, thereafter, followed and joined by a few other hitherto hesitant fellow members of the same queue and other passing pilgrims who were now encouraged by her rare kind of zeal. They stood, in a circular formation, around the poor, full-legged, half-legged man, as if to see if he was real, alive, and not acting. Realising that they should have done so, and more, much earlier, they went around him and, by picking his bowl, collecting his coins, and finding his sandals, helped out too.
Back on his feet, finding himself, his bearings, and his wares, he found a resting place on an isolated stab column. Using it as his vantage point, he planned on how to beg for more coins. He could not start from anywhere further than the nearest to him. He started, at the front, with the cut cucumber carrying, music listening, young lady who had, for all the duration of his struggles, been blind to it all, before continuing, in his remarkable sway, to the rest of the queue.