Once upon a time, way back when you were first admitted to the bar, you worked at a legal aid NGO downtown (OK, maybe not that long ago) and you came across this case where some city council askaris had stabbed a hawker in Ngara with a broken bottle. They had then proceeded to arrest him, dumped him in one of those mobile tins they like calling vehicles for an hour during which he had bled like a pig, then finally after driving around for a while, decided to do him a favor and take him to the hospital. You know, because they were nice like that.
After that, they had decided that it would be in the best interests of justice and for the good of all Kenyans, to charge the stabbed father of four with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, handling stolen property, being in possession of illegal firearms, being in possession of controlled substances…they had basically accused him of being Pablo Escobar. You had never before seen a lengthier charge sheet.
You were still young and enthusiastic and would chase justice all the way to hell for a client. You were a true believer in justice being the shield and defender of all Kenyans and all that other fiery crap. You woke up smelling like justice those days, spent your 8 to 5’s with your nose deep in pursuit of justice and when you took your evening shower, the smell of justice stuck with you.
So when the file containing this case was thrown among a pile of others on your desk that cold Monday morning, you stuck with it like a tick. You did the research and prepared an admirable defense for your client…in the course of which you uncovered some damning evidence against the city council criminals in uniform working for the newly created Nairobi County.
Then one night you woke up to the sight of the muzzle of a gun between your eyes. You were in a tiny brightly lit room, surrounded by five (if they could be so called) ladies and gentlemen. Only one of them (hereinafter referred to as “the leader”) spoke to you.
The Leader: In case you have any illusions, we are going to kill you. So, do not at any point in the course of the time you will spend with us, think that you can charm or beg or cry or piss your way out of this. (Turns to his colleagues) Right guys? (They nod affirmatively.)
You were on the floor with your feet and hands bound tightly by rope and a dirty cloth gagging your mouth shut. He yanked the cloth out of your mouth smiling kindly at you.
The leader: Now that we have established that, we would like to torture you a little. (Holds your chin prompting your to make eye contact with him. He is smiling) Would you be OK with that?
You: Torture? No, not really. Would you? (They all laugh)
The leader: No. I am not sure I would. But, tonight you are the center of attention. (Rubs his hands together as he stands up. He was squatting beside you) Well, at the peril of us appearing inhospitable to our guest – namely you – we are going to beat you up a little bit. Think of yourself as a tough piece of meat that we would like to tenderize a little bit.
And they proceeded to beat you up with their boots and batons. It was you in the middle of five pairs of boots, all in a frenzied competition to see who lands a heavier kick. And that is how you broke a leg (literally), a few ribs here and there and cracked your skull. Among the things you lost at that moment was your consciousness, patience, fear of death, sense of justice, need for friends and a caution for life. When you regained your consciousness (and nothing else), there was a leather belt tied around your throat. As soon as they saw that you were awake, they picked you up and slung the free edge of the belt over strong beam where the ceiling was supposed to be and hang you. You never told anyone but you defecated on yourself that night. It was embarrassing.
Right when you thought you were on the verge of death, they released you and you crashed hard on the floor breathing like your life depended on it. Coz it kinda did. They waited for you to regain your breath before hanging you again. And again. And again. And again. They repeated the procedure for what appeared to be days. When you begged for them to kill you, the leader said that they promised to kill you. They just didn’t say that they would be in a hurry to do it. And then they hang you a few more times.
You blacked out at some point in the century during which the torture took place and when you came to, you found yourself nicely tucked in your own bed with a nurse seated on the chair beside it. She said that she had received an anonymous call about someone needing urgent medical attention then she had been given cash by some random guy in the streets to nurse you back to health with the message, “We hope you learned your lesson. If you didn’t, we would welcome a chance to be your dedicated teachers once more.”
And that was how you quit that NGO job and went to JTI only to quit. But what was permanently lost was the urge to fight for what’s right no matter what. There was the option to fight for justice and or for life. You unequivocally chose life.
Fast forward to a couple of years later: You and your lady, who still smells a little like a cell, are in bed at her place when someone places something cold on your forehead. You open your eyes and there beside you, stands her ex boyfriend with a pistol in hand. He is pointing it at you. He puts his finger on his lips as a “keep your mouth shut” signal. Half his face is bandaged up from the beating he received from his ex earlier in the courtroom. Maybe he expected you to get scared and stammer and shake and give him a chance to laugh long and hearty at you. So you decide to annoy him a little. You turn over, put your hand across his sleeping ex girlfriend and your thigh on hers and shut your eyes with a smile on your lips.
You: See anything you like?
Him: (Pulls back the hammer) If you are trying to show cause why I should shoot you, you are doing a good job.
You: If I were you, I would leave before she wakes up.
She wakes up and asks sleepily, “You talking in your sleep baby?”
You: Nah. You ex is here. He is wondering who to shoot first I’m sure.
She gets up as if the bed has suddenly grown very hot. One moment she’s under the covers, the next she is on the floor, advancing on him menacingly.
Her: Really dude? Really?
Him: Look, I tried calling you but you weren’t answering.
Her: So my father dies and you decide to call my mom? How was that going to help anyone?
Him: I just wanted to tell her sorry for the loss. Look, I wasn’t thinking, OK?
Her: Then you break into my house, open my safe and point a gun at my man? (She yanks it from his hand and tosses it on the bed beside me) Get out. Now!
Him: Is this the part where we pretend like we are over each other?
Her: (She is shorter than he is. Way shorter. She stands under his nose and looks into his eyes) If you were even close to half the man my man is, I would probably be comfortable breathing the same air as you. But the shell I see in front of me doesn’t even deserve to wipe my bottom. Now why don’t you leave?
Him: The woman I knew fights with her fists not her words. I guess you get that from him. (Refers to you then talk to you) Do you let your women do all the fighting for you?
You: Not all the fighting. Just when what I am supposed to be fighting is trash. In that case, I let them do the fighting for me. Now what don’t you leave before she embarrasses you further?
Him: Can I get my gun back?
Her: Yeah. Right after I shoot you with it.
He glares at her then at you then at her again and is about to bounce away into the night when you ask him to hold up. You take the gun, empty the clip then hand it over to him minus the bullets. Those you hold on to. When he’s gone, she starts pacing and you jump in the shower. Once you are done, you start getting dressed.
Her: It is 2 in the morning. Where do you think you are going?
You: Because lady, I have questions whose answers I figure I won’t be getting from you. Not tonight at least.
Her: Well, are you going to ask them or are you going to kill me with the suspense?
You: I figure I’ll just kill you with the suspense, then come back in the morning and kill you with your ex’s bullets.
Her: We are adults you and I. Stop acting like a child and stop treating me like one.
You: OK. How did he get into your house? I don’t see signs of forced entry. And how did he get into your safe? And why were you insisting on holding on to his gun?
Her: Because he likes that gun and I wanted to make him be without something he likes. I forgot to change the password on the safe and I forgot to change the locks.
You: Yeah well, you also appear to have forgotten that I am intelligent. Intelligence which you insult with every word coming out of your mouth.
Her: What do you want me to say, huh?
You: Figure that out, and then give me a call.
When you start walking, she doesn’t stop you. When you open the front door, she doesn’t say a word. But she follows out through it and she follows you down the stairs and when you walk out through the gate, she follows you. She waits with you silently as you call an uber and stands a few feet away as you wait for it.
She keeps glancing at you, wanting to say something but her voice keeps dying off in her throat. Finally when the uber gets there, you get in and just when it is about to pull off, she yanks open the door, kisses you hard on the lips and cries, “I wish I could make it easy to love me.” You push her away screaming, “Next time you try being honest with me, don’t quote me a song.”
Through the side mirror, you see her get tinier and tinier with every meter the uber puts between the both of you. You want to end the story of the two of you with, “…and they lived happily ever after…” but happily ever after takes work.