The one thing about living in these overpopulated Nairobi flats is that you are always in people’s business. Gossip blogs can corroborate this for you if you are in doubt because practically everyone is a tea student, to their tea master. I’ve been a tea student too before, but it got rather exhausting, so I quit.
Anyways, this morning, I work up to a commotion outside that interfered with my sleep. There were two lady voices, hurling insults at someone who was silent the entire time. I can’t really tell whether he was responding or not, but I couldn’t hear anything. As I struggled to drive myself back to sleep, a male voice came on, shouting at the top of his lungs.
“Unapiga dem? You are beating up a woman?” The man asked. The sound of banging metallic doors made me want to get up to find out what was going on.
“Who the fuck are you?” Another male voice responds. “What are you doing here? Are you a thief?”
I take this as my cue to reach for my pale blue robe that’s been beached white by the sun. It’s nowhere close to the beautiful sheen I purchased five months ago. Regardless, it remains to be the coolest five hundred shillings I’ve ever spent in the Toi market.
As I rush for the door, I lie to myself that I’m only up to see the thief and not to gossip. I can hear a few other people opening their doors rather too loudly, in haste to probably beat up the thief even though there have never been reports of a robbery in the flats.
“Where are you coming from? Are you a thief?” The man asks again. I’m still reaching for my Crocs when I hear blows being thrown around and I want to reconsider my decision to run towards the direction of the commotion. By this time, the two lady voices have disappeared, and I’m wondering if they are okay. Also, I’m eager to find out who among the two has been beaten and why.
I’m on the second floor of the building, where the commotion is happening but on the other side. A few other people are out, covered in lesos and some in their pyjamas. Two men are at it, the one in a cap is throwing blows after the other at the shorter guy who is trying to get back to the house. I’ve bumped into him a few times at the gate, he must the be tenant. When he finally frees himself from the ball-eyed stranger, he retracts into the house quickly. In a hush, he peers through the door and his eyes parade fear and terrible ideas. He appears from the house with a knife in his hand, the sharp edge and the green handle in the air, spewing threats.
“Get out of here before I kill you!” he says chasing after the stranger. I take to my heels when I see the knife, you know accidents happen and I wouldn’t want to be a fatality in what could possibly be a love triangle I’ve never been a part of. The knife-wielding man runs past a short, brown girl in biker shorts that appears intoxicated. A group of people have gathered by the gate at this time, asking questions to the parties fighting.
“I’m going to count to five, if this man is still standing here, I will kill you!” he says pointing the knife at the stranger. The caretaker, holding a big log of wood, seems rather disturbed by the stranger on the premises.
“Who are you and how did you get in here?” he asks as the angry man continues with his countdown. The other men join in, “are you a thief?”
“Open the door this loser will stab me!” All the people are ignorant of the man’s countdown that’s now at four and are demanding to know where he’s come from. The brown skin girl in biker shorts opens the door, and he runs out.
The knife falls on his left arm as he runs out, and blood seeps through his hooded jacket.
“What the hell? You stabbed me?”
“I will kill you!”
“If you are man enough, come out here, let’s fight!” The stranger calls out.
The caretaker quickly closes the gate and the stranger resorts to hurling stones at the gate, he must have been an active participant in the recently concluded Maandamano Mondays, I think as I rush back to my house to have a better glimpse from the bedroom window.
“Go away or we will beat you up!” The caretaker screams at the stranger. “Don’t throw stones here.”
“Let that coward out here! Let me beat him up so I can fuck his girlfriend for him!” I immediately cross-check the vicinity to ensure there are no children around as the conversation is getting vulgar.
“What happened? Why are you causing a commotion here?” One of the men asks the stranger.
“I met this girl at the club last night, we had fun and she said that her boyfriend left her. She also said that her man doesn’t satisfy her and that she wanted me to step it up. What was I supposed to do? Turn her down? So, I told her we could go to my place but she insisted that we could come to her place and I did. I didn’t expect to meet this loser in there.” He says, throwing his hands in the air.
“Why didn’t you turn back when you met another man in the house?”
“He started beating her up, and I don’t appreciate men who beat women up, I had to teach him that women aren’t beaten.” The pain from the stabbed wound must have worsened during this exchange so he removed the jacket, exposing it. Blood is flowing freely from his arm and it seems to agitate him even more.
“I must that loser up! I need to take my phone, it fell on the stairs while I was running.”
“You can’t get back in here, just leave!” the caretaker commands. “Go and come back with a P3 form or an OB number.”
One of the Nigerians living in the flat brings him the phone and he thanks him. The stranger walks off, issuing threats to the caretaker and telling everyone that cares to listen, about his manhood and how pathetic my neighbour is in bed.
“I’m a chef. I’m not a thief!” He shouts, as if to affirm himself, even though his hygiene is nothing like that of a chef’s. His long unkempt nails immediately disqualify his claims. As we retract back to our houses, whispering to each other what we think, saw or heard amongst each other, noises draw us to the same house all over again.
The girl’s friend, drunk beyond recognition is struggling to narrate to some of the neighbours what happened.
“We went to the club last night and my friend met a guy she brought home. She lives with her boyfriend, so they started fighting.” Hiccups are threatening to take her out and her breath smells like she was throwing up before she ran out to give her own account of the story.
“Get the fuck out of my house!” The man screams and the girl opens the door.
“I pay half the rent, half for Wi-Fi and everything else in this house. I won’t leave my house!” She says as she throws him a faint slap.
“Who are you really?” The man asks in a defeated tone.
“Your woman, the woman that pays half the rent.”
I notice the swelling bump on her head that must have occurred during the commotion, Her drunk friend gets in and they lock the door behind them. The man is trying to hold it together, as our eyes are fixated on him. I join some of the other neighbours who are going back to their houses, laughing, asking questions and drawing conclusions.
The man has been faintly knocking on the door, trying to gain access to their house with no success. I’ve been stealing glances from my kitchen window since the incident happened at 7 am. I agree with the caretaker, if I was in his shoes, I’d probably be house hunting right now and move out tonight. What would you do?
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