Get this from a Sufferer’s mouth my friend. How, if or whether you survive in this city is directly proportional to the persons you know, how you know them and how you use them. Learnt that very early and that is how I keep a raft of friends in influential places.
Don Bosco, aka Njugush aka Daniel Njuguna is the chair of our route’s Matatu Tout Association and a close friend of mine. Invoking his name when times are dire can get you a squad from an unwilling crew.
Then there is Inspector Boni. He is always playing the good cop when we get arrested breaking a law, or not, and since we know his bluff, call on him when some newbie cop manages to get those cuffs on our wrists.
However, one of my most crucial friends is this journalist fellow from some media house, I forget which. He works on radio or TV, I am not certain but he is a really nice fellow, and quite polite too.
He is very useful to me, especially during the first ten days of the month. By the 27th of the month, I usually know that if push came to pull, and it almost always does, I just need to drop by his crib and there would be enough chow to drown the miseries in my tummy. Very accommodating, this fellow is.
The other day, Thursday it was, I spotted my media friend alight from the matatu at around eight in the evening. It had been an especially hard day as the matatu I was to work in for the day broke an axle and spent the whole time in the garage.
It was threatening to be one of those nights that the rumbling protests from my tummy compete with the landlord’s snores. But then, I saw him. He was carrying a package and on closer scrutiny, I deduced that it was the characteristic wrapping of meat. The shape, the newspaper…the quantity… at least half.
This was promising so quick as lightning, I stumbled onto his path and of course tagged along, vilifying this Wenger fellow for not signing anyone for Arsenal this closed transfer window.
One of the bonding factors is that we are both avowed Arsenal fans and once in a while, we watch the game together, with him, of course, paying for the liquids. I was now quite definite that this was about half a kilo of meaty sweetness he was carrying. It is why I love salaried fellows.
They are assured of a kingly lifestyle for a few days each month before they get broke. This was within the window of plenty and so I went straight to the kitchen to get our supper ready. The gas wouldn’t go on so I shouted to my friend who apologised that it had ran out a few days before.
“Lakini kuna tumakaa hapo, tumulikishe.” Well, there was a beefy meal to have and even if it meant frying it by moonlight, that was what I was going to do. After coughing half my lungs out from the smoke, the stubborn jiko was finally glowing nicely, ready for the onion that I had already chopped and was waiting impatiently in a sufuria nearby.
Soon, it was sizzling, changing colour to a brown tan ready for the all important merge. “Nyama imekatakatwa by the way?” I asked my friend amid the choking fumes. “Nyama gani?” he asked.
“Yenye umekuja nayo…” I asked lunging for the package. Well, I tore into the paper, unwrapping the neatly packed sukuma wiki. My friend, have you ever jumped into a river head first, only to discover what you thought was a river was a painting of a river? I have never.
But if you did, I’m sure it would hurt almost as bad as it did when I discovered what I thought was meat was sukuma wiki. I felt crashed, conned. To imagine that I was going to cross all the way to my crib, risking the cops, because of some cheap vegetables.
Considering how silly cops can be, I was certain if I met any of them, it would be impossible explaining that the redness in my eyes was not a result of the evening spent smoking weed. Regular job I asked my buddy why he had not received his pay, which was very unlike his employer.
I asked whether he had been fired and he confirmed not. I then asked if he was indeed a journalist or a teacher and he reiterated that he was indeed in media. He said while we, in ‘self employment’ or like me, employed now and then, think that salaried folks have it very easy, it was a proper struggle for the most part.
He confessed that unless you were earning a salary in the scale of a politician, then living through a month was usually a magic trick you had to perfect. “By 31st, unakuanga umekaukiwa, expecting kasalo halafu kakidunda kaa hii mwezi, inakukoroga miezi ingine tano.”
For once, I felt better, that I was expecting nothing at a particular date. I worked for the day and if I made something that would last me three days, then I was happy. I never worked with an expectation beyond a few days away. Would I still like a regular job. Heck yes. If it came with a number of zeros at the end like the MP’s, I would be even happier.