Everybody has a special place of disguised blessings, unforgettable romances, weary trials and precious memories. For me, that happens to be the village. And that is where I went to pitch last weekend after it occurred to me that the Mayor of Nairobi doesn’t even know my name!
I ran into Wangila just as I made the turning into a pool of stagnant water right in the smack of the road. The thing about the village is that everybody’s name has a meaning. Wangila for instance means one who was conceived by the roadside. That might explain this dent on the road that was now full of water.
‘Kiddo!’ he shouted. ‘Long time, bwana! You vanished like a car with Track-It’
I rolled down the window. I had to talk to him. What if my car got stuck in the mini-pool? There were two nick names for Wangila: Joe Black and Gish. The former for his Sudanese like skin and the latter merely a pet name.
‘Gish! You aren’t looking too bad,’ I fibbed. With good reason. Courtesy of my memory bank, peeps always wore their best threads only on Sunday, so the tattered clad could be excused.
‘It is because I have three!’ he replied with a hearty laughter.
Another laughter as he gripped my hand and pinched my cheek. ‘You are still a funny man! Three kids! He he. Three wives man.’
Wangila is 30. That makes it one wife for each decade he has lived. I am with Hillary on this. It really takes a village!
Later that evening two things occurred to me. All the three were pregnant at the same time. Knowing that Wangila was very vocal in his support for PNU during the last election, this was proof once again that kazi inaendelea!
The other thing that occurred to me was that his third wife was Jackie, a girl I had been quite fond off. She had made the words ‘I forgot’ very famous when back in the days, I was schooling in an all girls school in this village. My parents had been requested by the Headmistress of the all girls school to allow me learn in the all girls school so that the grades of the school could improve. Being the only boy in a class of eighty girls was something I could deal with.
But Truphena Hill, our class teacher, seemed to forget my gender and would ask all the girls each morning to lift up their skirts so she could check who wasn’t wearing panties. Two whole minutes of bliss! Jackie was always caught having gone commando and would then utter the words ‘I forgot’.
I bought her a pair as a birthday present when we were in our teenhood. It was more a joke than intent. But we were close that she even once whispered in my ear: ‘Am not wearing any’ after I had slipped a note to her in church with the words: Gravity. It makes panties fall off.
She also disliked Wangila. And now she was married to him! He insisted we had to go cut a drink at a pub. If you want beer in the village, you needn’t go far. There is a pub called Simbi Bar. Simbi means near.
On our way, we met the local tailor who insisted I should order a suit from him. He is so accurate in cutting up pieces of cloth, that he doubles up as the village circumciser.
‘Hey, isn’t that the dude who owns the Bata franchise shop?’ I asked Wangila as I saw someone in a corner drinking in solitude.
Wangila raised his eyebrow and nodded as if we were in Code Speak.
‘See that bandaged hand? He was caught with someone’s wife in bed. The man had been tipped about the wife’s infidelity and laid a trap for him. When they were in the act, the husband stormed in with a supporting cast!’
This wasn’t good.
‘He was stark naked. He was given two choices. Do we chop off your manhood or do we chop off your finger?’
‘No!’ I said.
‘Yes!’ he replied. ‘He chose the finger!’
‘I wonder why?’ I mused. Sipped my beer. ‘Perhaps he was only fingering her’.
‘Love rectangle, my friend from the Big City,’ Wangila said after his laughter diminished.
Perhaps this was why Wangila made the decision to have his rectangle in marital bliss. I also learnt that Wangila wasn’t formally working. No, no, he hadn’t turned from ‘Joe Black’ to ‘Joe Bless’. He provides bicycle transport popularly known as boda boda. From what I hear, it leads to quick impotence. Small price to pay for having three wives.
‘So Gish. Three wives all pregnant at once. Isn’t that illogical?’ I asked. I mean the dimwit in me would imagine that spacing out pregnancies ensures you are sexually active through out the year. Isn’t that a simple obviousism?
‘Cost sharing my friend’, he says, but am still not convinced about this nappy sharing. And the three are all due in December. ‘No Maternity Ward and all that modern jazz. After all I was born by the roadside. My second wife is a midwife.’
Oh. So his name means ‘born’ not ‘conceived’. I am thoroughly ashamed at my thoughts. Considering I resist asking ‘Your last wife. Does she wear panties?!’
He is actually thinking cost. Hmm. They say 2007 was a horrible year for the Prime Minister’s or ‘annus horribilis’. If those three wives each give birth to triplets, Wangila will close an annus as horribilis as the Prime Minister’s.
We pub crawl to another bar called Pewama Bar. My mind is thinking ‘pewa’ is Swahili but it’s is only called this because the owner is called Petro Wafula Masika. If Gavin Joseph Bell knew about this, Kengeles would be Gajobe rather than the translation. Same reason teacher Truphena refused to call herself Mrs. Sikulu (which means hill) when she got married and translated her name to Mrs. Hill.
At Pewama, we encounter a chap called, you know, Chap. He is a real dipsomaniac and is already singing. When he sees me, he lights up and adds an octave to his song. His expected reward was a beer but I demur.
‘Our Kid! Every day we have to be thankful. And today I am thankful that you will never be my MP. You are so mean!!!’
Wangila isn’t happy and he swings his glass at Chap. Beer splashes over Chap. Chap leaves. I am informed that he has two wives. But that they were both playing him. They would pretend to go to the posho mill but instead end up in some dingy lodgings with their men.
Recently, one of those men was stood up and he rode his motor bike to Chap’s home. He met Chap and presuming that Chap was a hired help, he asked him if he could go and call the woman he was interested in.
‘That is crazy!’ I utter in utter shock. ‘So what did Chap do?’
Wangila looks at me and says. ‘Get me another beer!’
Turns out Chap went to get a machete instead; the philanderer narrowly cheated death as Chap wasn’t the best shot in the village; and the motor bike zoomed off.
From a distance, I see a fine woman approach.
‘Who is that?’ I ask.
‘Wait. Let her pass by first,’ Wangila answers. ‘I can never tell a woman from her front.’
And that is not said under the influence.
‘That is Kisima’, he continues. I open my arms to gesticulate a request for explanation and he informs me that she was called that because she is the first woman in the village to fornicate in church.
‘Fornicate in church?’ I whistle.
‘Yes’, he replies. ‘She kissed the groom. In front of her parents! And her in laws. On her wedding day.’
Scandalous. Just like me who went straight from a High School to a Law School, she must have gone straight from an in law to an outlaw. Kisima means well. Why is she called Kisima, you ask. Her husband reported that she wasn’t a virgin on the wedding night and people immediately coined her nickname. Well well well.
I would have thought Kisima is a corruption of ‘Kiss me.’ The church had since banned the ‘You may kiss the bride’ line from its weddings.
I look closely at Kisima. I remember her! She once went out with an altar boy who served Mass with me. He was the crooked type. He once drank half the church wine and filled the bottle with water. In Biblical terms, it was equivalent to the turning of wine into water!
We call for our bill. I am jolted when the barmaid comes over and Wangila slips his hands under her skirt. She doesn’t offer any protest. I have seen enough. He has three pregnant wives and he is feeling a barmaid?
It is time to leave and I give Wangila a ride. He often takes people for a ride but I reckon he needs the break tonight. After all he is staggering. When we get to one of his houses, he is asleep. I knock and Jackie opens the door.
‘I forgot’, I begin and pause and we both laugh, ‘to bring him home earlier’.
‘It’s okay Kid. They say better late than…’ she also pauses and points at her belly ‘… pregnant.’
‘I always thought you will marry a Scotsman,’ I say and she laughs.
Wangila slumps on the couch.
‘I wish I had,’ she says. There is a tinge of regret in her voice. ‘I wish I had,’ she repeats herself in a whisper as she looks at Wangila. His snore is loud.
‘Good night,’ I say and start to leave.
‘Good night?’ she asks. ‘I haven’t had any good night since…’
‘Good night’ she replies and smiles. ‘Good night Our Kid,’ she adds and closes the door.