How long are 60 seconds?
The simple answer would be one minute. Philosophically speaking time is the experience of durations thus in reality 60 seconds can pass in the blink of an eye but at times it can feel like a lifetime.
I had always thought I would die a natural death; sleep never to wake up again. Old and grey surrounded by family. I never figured it would end like this, with two gunshots and a pool of blood. Her cries and tears, strangers trying to pull her away from my bleeding body. Her eyes and being willing me to live as they try to bring breath to my lifeless body. To live 30 years and die in a minute from two bullets meant to scare, one from the law and the other from the wrong side of the law.
I am getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning.
It was a normal day for the three of us. We all did our morning routines, one innocent man, a bank robber and a cop. Our paths would cross this fateful day and make a mess of all our plans…
5:20 We all woke up and looked to the side of our beds. The cop could see on one side of the bed his wife in peaceful sleep and across the curtain of the iron dome hut he could hear his fellow officer already arguing with his girlfriend. Deplorable is a generous description of police housing.
5 km away a young man wakes in Kibera, and looks around; he can see his wife next to him, beyond the curtain separating his bed from the rest of the wooden house he can hear his son snore as his daughter tosses and turns as if disturbed by the noise.
5 km away from him I wake. I look around, my hands feeling for her, I kiss her on the forehead, and pull the blanket over her. She turns and whispers a mild good morning. I walk out my bedroom door into the kitchen and grab a glass of juice.
6:20 The cop grabs a bucket and with a kimbo tin draws two full cans of boiling water. He has to leave enough for his wife to make his tea as she stumbles out of bed. He walks out of the dome and into a small polythene-covered room that acts as the bath.
5 km away the young man walks to the stove and on the way grabs a basin, pulls a cup from the cupboard and pours 4 cups of hot water into the basin then adds a cup of cold water. He walks to the corner of the room and pulls a makeshift curtain turning the small space into a bath.
5 km away I put away my jogging shoes and switch on the instant shower. She hands me a towel and steals a kiss. She pulls me to her and we make out, the kitchen kettle whistles and we part, she into the kitchen and I into the shower.
7:20 The cop gulps down his tea and a mandazi then pulls out his boots and shines them to reflect the now dawning sun.
5 km away the young man grabs a slice of leftover ugali and gulps it down with a cup of sugarless tea. The 4 teaspoons of sugar that are in the sugar bowl he saves for his two children. His wife pulls out a set of rubber shoes and wipes away at yesterday’s dust.
5 km away I flip the last pancake as she slices some fruit and hands me the syrup. I gulp at the fresh coffee as she pulls a chair next to me. As she clears the table I grab my brown shoes and she nods disapprovingly. As I grab the black pair she winks and is off to the kitchen.
8:20 The cop is at the armoury; an officer hands him his AK-47. He counts the bullets. It’s a routine, he hopes never to use them. He has never had to fire his gun. He knows all the serial numbers of his 20-round magazine almost by heart and he should, he has counted them two times a day for the last 5 years. Today is his last day as a patrol cop, his promotion letter just came in. From tomorrow he can move out of the dome. He is intelligent and the bosses have noticed. He is moving to headquarters, he is going to be a detective. It did not come easy, he had to sacrifice his free time to go back to school and move back into police housing units to pay for the classes.
Downtown the young man walks into a building and heads downstairs to the basement. His gang is already here. He has worked his way from scout to ringleader, the brains of the operation. His former leader fled the country with all their money from the last bank job. For him too, the move did not come easy. He had to beat up half of his gang and kill one stubborn thug to lead. They hand him his Smith and Weston pistol, an American handgun, his favourite. He pulls back the barrel to ensure there is one in the chamber then pulls out the magazine to check the other 10 bullets. This will be his last job. He has learnt from his boss’s betrayal.
In the CBD I pull up outside her office kiss her goodbye and wish her a lovely day. I watch her walk away and drive off. My cameraman is not happy I have kept him waiting for 10 minutes. I grab the mic and a tripod and rush off for my assignment. It’s my last story, my one-month notice lapses today. From tomorrow am a businessman, my consultancy firm, all 10 staff is already running at least or it has been for the last year. She gave me an ultimatum when she said yes to my wedding proposal. It was simple really, no long work hours. The wedding is next week, a one-month honeymoon and I come back to run my little firm. Not much work ten brilliant people who need no supervision I suspect I might have to spend more time at the farm to keep busy. Imagine me in a greenhouse picking tomatoes or milking cows.
12:20 The cop who is on the street hears some commotion. He runs across the road towards a bank.
In the bank, the young man and his gang are done cleaning out the safe.
100 million shillings he keeps telling himself. There is the 25 million for the bank manager, and 25 million for the man he has never met and will never meet. They just call him the man. He arranges all jobs, few have seen him and lived to remember, so it’s all the same a good thing that he will never meet him. That leaves his gang with 50 million. As the leader, he gets 20 million and the other 6 split the 30 million. He has to pay off a few people from his share but no more than 5 million he estimates.
12:30 I am running late for our lunch. She will kill me; we have to get so much done over lunch. Meet the wedding planner, cake tasting, sample some dishes, and approve some colours. My head is in the clouds…
12:35 I walk towards the bank I see the cop signalling something. I don’t understand I look behind me. Nothing. the cop raises his AK 47. I run away from him. The young man and his gang walk out of the bank wielding guns. I stop.
12:36:00 I freeze
12:36:01 I turn towards the cop
12:36:02 I start running
12:36:03 The young man sees the cop
12:36:04 I see her behind the cop
12:36:05 Thee cop shoots in the air,
12:36:06 Across the road my cameraman rolls his tape
12:36:07 She looks worried
12:36:08 I am confused
12:36:09 The cop takes aim
12:36:10 I turn away from the cop
12:36:11 The young man raises his gun
12:36:12 He aims
12:36:13 The young man squeezes the trigger
12:36:14 Gunpowder ignites
12:36:15 Bang bang bang
12:36:17 My body shakes
12:36:18 Something flowing through my clothes
12:36:19 Another shot
12:36:20 Did it hit me?
12:36:21 I turn to the cop
12:36:22 He is saying something, gesturing wildly moving his gun up and down
12:36:23 Spark boom… boom…
12:36:24 Did the cop shoot at me?
12:36:25 I am spinning, something hit my left shoulder
12:36:26 There is blood everywhere
12:36:27 I am falling
12:36:28 The world is spinning
12:36:29 I hit the ground
12:36: 30 The young man is hit too
12:36:31 He and his gang are still shooting
12:36:32 She is running toward me,
12:36:33 They are still firing
12:36:34 I am shouting noooo Stay down!
12:36:35 She is still running to me
12:36:36 I am shouting
12:36:37 There is no sound
12:36:38 She falls down beside me
12:36:39 God no please tell me she is not hit
12:36:40 I can see blood all over her clothes. Whose blood is it?
12:36:42 It’s my blood… Thank you God she is OK
12:36:43 She is holding me
12:36:44 She is kissing me
12:36:45 Why am I not kissing her back?
12:36:46 I can still feel her lips on mine, her tears flowing down my cheek.
12:36:47 She is still kissing me; my lips are not moving… I am still here
12:36:48 She is still crying ‘baby say you are alright, don’t leave me, stay with me!’
12:36:49 Sirens… ambulances… red, blue lights, screeching brakes, the smell of burning rubber
12:36:50 She is still holding onto me
12:36:51 The cop has pulled her away from me
12:36:53 Checking my pulse, fading
12:36:55 Clear, charge
12:36:56 Flatline no pulse
12:36:57 I am sorry Miss he is gone
12:36:58 Wailing… screaming
12:36:59 Where am I? I cannot hear her
12:37:00 She is punching the cop ‘you killed him’
12:37:00 The cop is on his knees
12:37:01 She is kissing my lifeless body
I am dead, the young man shot me then the cop shot me, my dreams are gone, her dreams are gone. The young man is dead, with no future for his family. The cop shot me, no promotion for him, it’s all on camera. His dreams died with me. Had we met under different circumstances we could have been friends…
It is our wedding day I am all dressed, in nice clothes, lying peacefully in the box.
She is crying… She has dyed her wedding dress black
Today was her day, our day. For that bouquet of flowers, we chose red roses and white orchids, not Daisies, Lilies and Gladioli. It was our wedding day, new dawn but now it’s dark, a funeral wreath instead of a bouquet. Across the Bridge instead of here comes the bride, no wedding bells.
Three young men, three lifestyles, three lives changed in 60 seconds.
How long are 60 seconds?