Raising money was a challenge. The main reason being; it was after business hours and people were settling in to sleep already. The second reason was the reason for the money. The third reason was, I did not have security. My immediate circle knows I no longer have a job. This is a factor many consider while giving those soft loans. I was on the unlucky side. However, two of my friends came through. I would not call it strategic or just coincidence, but the money I had borrowed for the exam fees was just about to be sent in. But, there was another problem.
I had already given my friend the details of my exam. We had agreed she would send the money the following day. Sally was her name. She was a tad confused when I called her later, to ask her to send in the money earlier than planned. Which she said it was okay. My other friend was a neighbour from home. Close enough to tell him the story. In brief, I just told him I need bail and I would explain later. He decided to call my sister, and ask when she last saw me, and if she knew where I was. My sister was clueless. That set her up for a worry train to the end of the world. The reason I chose not to tell Sally the details was so that she would not freak out and start getting worried about my welfare. She cares a lot and this would definitely disappoint her. My battery was running low, and I could not afford to make more calls than necessary. For safety net purposes, I called another friend to help me out, and he told me “Okay, I am sending it right now.” I even received a text from him saying, “Give me a few minutes”.I relaxed. I was then hauled towards the cell and I was told my time was up. I quickly handed the phone to Young, and told him to handle my calls. I was only expecting three. That is from the people who I had borrowed money from. In my absence, Sally called and Young picked. The rest of the conversation was not so pleasant.
You see, I had not told Sally that a situation I never anticipated turned up and had forced me to divert the resources for fees to my bail. I intended to call her as soon as I left the government lodge and explain everything. She was calling to confirm if that was the number to send to. And because she could not access money at the time, she had someone do it on her behalf. As any security conscious person would do, she was curious as to why someone else was picking the phone and why they were talking a different thing to what she knew. Add this to the time I called, around 8pm, the change in transaction time and the mention of jail. She went to overdrive mode and she thought I was kidnapped, and this was ransom money. Her second analysis was that I really got myself into bad trouble and she would be tracked for being an abettor in any of the crimes I had been suspected for. She told Young to bring me the phone. By this time, Mrs Young had returned to their vehicle with their son. It was cold outside, and it was raining already. I was already guilty of having to put people through this. Damn! This life!!!. I called Sally, and she asked, “Chris, what is happening?” My name unsettled all I had in mind. But, I managed an explanation. Brief enough and it calmed her down – to an extent.
“Why have you been lying to me?”
“It’s not a lie. Maybe a little omission on my part. Something unexpected came up, and I am in a real sticky situation.”
“How do I know you are not lying as we speak? You could be doing illegal business, and my call will be traced and they will call me an accomplice.” “How do I know what you have been doing all this time is legal?”
“Just trust me, I wouldn’t put you through trouble, but my phone is going off, and I will explain everything to you as soon as I am out. Trust me.”
She had a point. It occurred to me we have not met in years. It is almost three years now. As much as we communicate via calls and texts, one would not know if I changed. I went underground for a while and anyone would be careful to deal with me at this point.
“Then who is that who has your phone?”
“It’s Young, my friend who came to get me. I had to give him my phone when I was taken back to the cell before we finished talking.”
“How do I know you are not kidnapped, and that they want ransom?”
“That is not the case Sally. Sorry for my omission when I sent that text, but I don’t have any ill motives.”
“I wanted my colleague to send you that money, but I think you might put her at risk. But I will find a way to send you the money. I just hope I don’t get messed up along the way.”
She hanged up and Young was anxious to know what happened. Turns out he had asked her “if she was sending the money or not, and if she wasn’t, she gives him a head up so that they can look for alternatives” (“Kama unatuma pesa usaidie Chris, utume na kama hutumi utwambie tutafute mtu mwingine atusaidie!!!”) Woi!!! I admit that was harsh. My ears twitched when I heard Young repeat what he had told her. But looking at it now, the tension at the time was too much. He thought I had told her everything, and she knew it was bail money. The money came through and I waited in my cell as they went to withdraw it. My third friend never sent the money. To this day.
I was then given my items. Later learnt the lady officer was from the coast region. Her Swahili was enough evidence. She was still having that bad attitude towards me and it was even evident as she was calling out my items. She would have thrown them given the chance. I picked them and signed out. I wore my shoes, and walked outside. It was too cold to be outside in this weather, at this hour, without a sweater. We walked to the OCS’s office. He was there wearing his worst face! His aggression face. Mrs Young came in with the boy who was fast asleep in her arms. Evidently heavy and quite a load. So I sat down opposite them like a young class 4 pupil who had been summoned to the principal’s office. Ndun’gu sat at the farthest corner of the office by the door. When the OCS started speaking, I could tell he was a bright fellow. Most of the conversation was in English & he knew how to chose his words & address a “Suspect” within the legal limits.
He explained this law, and that law, and this part of the constitution, and the other; I was lost at some point. It was too cold to concentrate, and my nose was running like a broken tap. I just held my hankie there as if I was nose bleeding. A call came through and the cop fumbled with his phones and radios on the desk as he tried to figure out which one it was. He even picked a Two Way Radio at some point. When he started speaking, Young stepped out of the office and walked towards the parking lot. I did not know why, and that thought was swept away by my currently splitting headache. Then I started shivering and noticed the OC looking at me inquisitively. Young returned with a red Masaai Kikoy in his hands and he handed it to me. “Thanks!” that was so thoughtful of him. I wrapped it around myself and the shivering calmed down. The OC was done with his call, and was ready to continue.
“This case of eeeerrr, Chris B…, EEEi! Una majina mingi aje bwana! We! Suspect! According to my officers and one Mr Onkwani, you were trying to steal a car,” “Well I don’t know how true that is, but looking at you, I don’t think you did it!” Unakaa kijana mdogo sana lakini!”
*Looking at Young* “Huyu ndio mnaniambia alikuwa jeshi?” “Jeshi gani hio?”
*Has my body wasted that much really?*
“Ha ha ha ha! Hako ndio kalikuwa jeshi” said Young and they all burst into laughter. Only a weak smile came from me.
“Wewe kijana, car theft can earn you five years to ten years.” “So sijui kama ni ukweli ama ni uongo. Ama ni nini ulikuwa unajaribu.” “Had your friend not come with his family, ata yeye ndani! & I would say you are a team” “That is how car robbers are operating nowadays! eh!!!” “So! The case was filed and it will be in court on Wednesday. A very serious case. There is nothing I can do. Some of these people say we release suspects and the only way this case can be solved from our point is if you talk to the accuser and tell him to withdraw the case.” “Otherwise, ataenda kortini kusema his case was thrown outside…” He then talked and talked and talked and I could not hear most of what he was saying but I could tell it was another harangue from his body expressions and his tone. But my headache and fatigue were on another level it had no time to process what was going on around me. I just stared at him but my mind was chasing butterflies a place far away.
He reached out for a yellow-paged book that was obviously a receipt or form of sorts. The cash bail slip as it turned out. He counted the money and wrote it there. I was given my hearing date and then we were told to contact the accuser so that he could withdraw the case, or I could get a good lawyer. It was way past 10pm, and there is no way we would contact Mr Onkwani at this hour. I decided I would call him the following day. With my new addition to my wallet – which was nothing now but just a passport cover holding a yellow fever certificate, we walked out and headed towards Young’s car. It was still raining.
|Credits: New York Times|
Young drove slowly towards the shopping centre. After surveying Ngong road for a while, we figured matatus would take their time to pass by towards town and so they suggested I go to their place and they would accommodate me for the night. On our way, I gave them the whole encounter from start to end, and by the time we got to their place. Nobody had a word to say. Were they disappointed? Were they angry at me? Was it pity?… I couldn’t tell. We had supper in silence, and I was shown the guest room. I took my time in the shower. Too much time. My mind was totally blank! I had a wonderful night in a warm, cosy bed. Felt like I have never been in a bed before. We woke up early the following day and by 5.15am Young and I were on the road. It was a workday for everyone else, but I headed straight home where I settled down to think.
Friendship, Trust, & Freedom