The world’s biggest showerhead is in South B. There’s an estate past the second bump after ‘Sanasana’, where the fruit shack owner has a lisp and it never gets old to hear him ‘fresh salads’. My friend lives in that estate, him, his girlfriend and the world’s biggest showerhead. They got it after the old one, a regular-sized white one broke down and the caretaker didn’t fix it. My friend’s girl went and ordered for the largest showerhead she could find, and at the landlord’s expense, and that’s how group showers at the Otieno household became a thing, (just them two, we’re not sexual deviants in the 60s).
I was in my shower, (using a much smaller showerhead) when the news that the country was due for lockdown filtered through. Uhuru Kenyatta, President, wearer of floral shirts and billion dollar loan sponge, went on live TV and rendered people jobless, immobile and back to a grimy period they thought was over. A period so painful, a lot of people thought they needed years just to get out of the financial and psychological holes they had found themselves in. Job losses, rent arrears, poor diets, loans, and loan sharks, all the things that the people making the declarations that brought the pain didn’t have to deal with.
They were back to it. The nightmare that was for a lot of people, 2020. The year that crawled where other years had flown by. The slow, vivid phases. Starting out at curiosity at a virus that was wrecking havoc in China. Then the fear that it was almost here. Then the numbing feeling that something we knew so little about, would kill us. Then the physical and financial effects of it; no contact, no business, no movement. It was like a nightmare within a nightmare, where you wake up but the monster chasing you with an ax in the previous dream, now has a chainsaw in the new dream.
I stared at the man on the screen, as the water run down my ears and onto the floor as he spoke. Each drop a stark reminder of how slowly time seemed to move. The declaration meant that curfew was pushed back to 8 p.m. It was 6:30 then and I knew the policemen were grinning from the money they’d make that day. Parents, and their children caught up through no faults of their own, but who now had to adapt, or die. Not figuratively but literally. Feel the weight of a policeman’s boot on their windpipe, holding a whip, and handcuffs in their hands, only easing when they saw their victims reaching for their wallets. Or the teachers, secretaries, clerks, repairmen, mechanics, drivers, beauticians who lived with dependants living with chronic illnesses kept from freedom, and a journey home, because they didn’t have a spare thousand shilling note.
That declaration also meant there was going to be no more parties in LA (not Los Angeles, but a colloquial term for the Lang’ata area). The Nairobi West/Lang’ata area carries one of the most densely populated areas for clubs in Nairobi, and Kenya at large. In Nairobi West, alcohol flows like rainwater in an African wet season, and music fills the neighbourhoods like a gas leak would a well aerated house; Rhumba, West African music, raunchy Tanzanian songs, all of them find a home in the numerous bars. Now, waitresses, bartenders, security people, cleaners, deejays, band members, and the butchers and cooks who fed them were unemployed. More than $1 billion later and the government had nothing else to stem the tide with but throw the common man under the bus. No expansion in ICU beds, no additional trained doctors, no free/subsidized masks. Just scandal after scandal. Insult to injury. Salt and pepper to a raw wound.
The music would die down hours after the declaration. And with faces in their palms, and hungry electricity and water meters, children and landlords, most affected Kenyans would realize they have nobody on their side. Nobody. Not the government, not the opposition, and definitely not the overpaid and underworked UN staff. Fortunately for the politicos, they’ve beaten the national will to question mediocrity and theft to a pulp. There’ll be a few whimpers on twitter, a few brave men and women will record angry videos but that’ll be that. Belts will be tightened. Playlists will have more gospel songs added to them. Landlords will have more ‘Vacant House’ signs than they have tenants. With tempers fraying, children will be beaten for questioning why they are eating cornmeal instead of bread for breakfast. Wives will cry themselves to sleep, nursing swollen eyes and joints, next to their drunk husbands.
At the second bump near ‘Sanasana’, near the fruit vendor whose stock will be soon be reduced to emaciated, overpriced vegetables and fruits, the world’s biggest showerhead might get discarded. It was fun while it lasted, but it ‘eats’ too many electricity units, and right now there are too many mouths to feed and not enough money to go around. To be a Kenyan who isn’t wealthy or well-connected under Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership feel like it’s only better than working for Leopold ‘The Butcher Of The Congo’. The vile, heartless, mad man whose name the earth should suck to its hottest, most brutal parts, for what he did to my people.