Have you ever paid any attention to the conversations that happen in matatus? Have you ever just stopped fumbling with your phone and listened to that Luo chap in a sharp three-piece – holding a tablet the size of a Citi Hoppa close to his ears – in the backseat negotiating a 3% discount with a client on the price of a Mercedes S-Class? What about that Luhya guy two rows ahead of you lamenting to his friend back in Shamakhokho how the economy in ‘Naropi’ will kill him because he just got out of the supermarket and the price of Unga was a staggering Ksh. 250? What of that blonde campus mami talking to his boyfriend on the phone asking about the weekend’s plan? And the guy probably tells her he’ll be going to see Chronixx and she retorts “Who T.F is that?” and the chap replies “He’s a Reggae Musician from Jamaica” and her face registers a completely blank look because the only musicians she knows from Jamaica are the ones that sing things like ‘Pull up to mi bumper’ and ‘Whine and Kotch’ and ‘Whine and Jiggle.’ Of course she knows Justin Bieber too.
Personally, I hold the opinion that there are just some calls one should never have to answer in public; especially in a matatu. Like calls from your Boss asking you to pick him a latte or an extra pair of sock on your way to the office. And calls from people you owe money telling you they’ll send goons from UoN to shit on your doorstep and break a few bones in your body if you don’t pay up in a week and calls from your girlfriend complaining about how distant and disinterested you’ve become of late and asking whether it’s because she told you she was pregnant with your baby and you have to gather the little strength left in you to say “No, Babe, it’s not about the baby, I’ve just been a little busy at work” when in reality you’re just there like, “Of course it’s the fucking baby!”
And then there are phone calls from your Mother. Random calls with no particular reason. These ones you should just receive in an abandoned alley somewhere along Luthuli Street, away from the rest of the world. Mimi I love Auma Nyar Keya – my mother – to bits but, for the sake of my own sanity (or lack thereof), I can never pick any of her calls in public. That is a conversation that is bound to get weird and creepy and awkward and grossly embarrassing, all wrapped up in one package. Let me explain.
So, a while back, I’m in this Thika road bound Lopha Travels bus from town, right? And, if you have ever boarded any LophaTravels bus, then you know those guys never play any music. Beside a few taps on the phone screen here, a couple giggles there, hushed conversations back there, it’s basically silence the whole journey. So when you’re talking to someone on the phone, everyone in the bus is listening. It ceases to be just about you and the caller anymore, it becomes a public affair.
My phone rings somewhere past K.U and guess who it is? Why are you even guessing, I already told you who it is: Auma Nyar Keya. And, like the stupid boy I am who never gives any second thought to anything he does, I receive the call.
“Hello Kijana. How are you?”
“Peachy, How are you?”
“Good. Do you know where I can find that sufuria of mine?”
“Haya. What now? What sufuria again?”
“You know, the one I love so much.”
“Hold Up, There’s a sufuria you love more than the million others you own?”
“Yes. Sort of like how I love your brother more than I do you.”
“Uhmmm, really now? With his big head and his dark face and that kitambi he spots these days?”
“Watch your mouth young man, that’s my son you’re talking about.”
“Right. Because I’m not. I just dropped down from the hills and landed in your doorstep, aye?”
“Where’s my sufuria?”
“Why are you asking me about a sufuria? I don’t even stay with you guys anymore.”
“Because you’re the last one who used it.”
“You’re telling me you guys haven’t cooked since I left? But that was like a year ago. What have you guys been living on, manna from heaven?”
“Who is that msichana on your WhatsApp profile?”
“You’re on WhatsApp? Since when? How? Where have I been? Has Jesus come back too? Is he turning water into Whiskey somewhere na sijaambiwa?”
“Keep Calm, pod apek. Who’s the girl?”
“Just a friend.”
“You put all your friends on your WhatsApp profile?”
“No. Just this one.”
“Why her? Why not Medo, the one I like, are you guys not friends anymore?
“We are. But, it’s complicated.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we’re not in a good place right now.”
“So, this one on your profile, is she Kikuyu? She looks Kikuyu? She’s too yellow.”
“What has that got to do with anything? And who said only Kikuyus are yellow? Kambas are plenty yellow. Si even Medo is kidogo yellow and she’s Luo?”
“I’m just letting you know I don’t you bringing a non-Luo to my doorstep eti she’s one you want to marry.”
“First of all, that’s Tribal. Secondly, who said anything about marriage?”
“It’s not tribal. It’s just the way we do things where I’m from. Sasa why are you displaying her for all to see if marriage is not in the picture?
“It’s just something the youth of today do on Wednesdays. It’s called WCW. You would know if you were twenty.”
“Ati it’s called ang’o? Na kwani how old do you think I am?”
“Are on Instagram?”
“No. What’s that?”
“And you’re seriously asking me how old I think you are?”
“Where are you?”
“In a bus?”
“Going to where? Why are you not in school? Kazi ni kutembeatembea tu hapo Narobi, donge? Ndio maana hutaki kusoma.”
“I’m on my way to school yawa. Tho!”
“Sasa, now that you’re also on WhatsApp, do you also use emojis? Like those ones with the eyes popping out?”
“What are those?”
“You’re kidding, right? Please ask me how old you are again.”
Do you guys see the kind of drama I have to deal with when my mum calls? Si this one I should just answer when I’m handling my business in the gents? Hehe.