The truth is, the scream escaped from me the way a fart escaped when I was slapped by the deputy head teacher in high school. One minute I was ruler of my voice box but the next I was screaming like a scared little girl.
I was being mugged, or I had just been. Its a blur now really. But here is what I know happened.
I was in love, and love is a terrible thing. It makes you do silly things, like walk alone at night in Juja town, on your way from seeing her. But I was in it and I was a lover!
There is a place in Juja called Muchatha, the junction where the road straight from the overpass/bridge meets the one on the immediate left just before you get to the JKUAT gate. To anyone who does not live in the actual Muchatha near Banana, Muchatha is to place names what Kona Mbaya is to corners – dangerous places that will frequently try to kill you. I didn’t know that then, now I know.
My bonding ending at 11 pm, and I, Braveheart, ventured out into the dark. There were two options: One, I walk back towards Rising Cock, which is totally an apartment building and not the name of a porn set; the other, I take the shorter route past Muchatha and get to the stage. Shortcuts, guys, avoid those. Trouble lurks there.
I saw them. I saw them and the little siren in my head went off, but I brushed it off. There were two guys standing under the only lit area in whole pathway, which was quite the bait. That they stood in the light meant I could see them, everyone could, but they couldn’t see me until I walked into the light. That is what I thought at the time. It was genius.
I walked right into it. I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to run back. All I had on me was a leather wallet I use to date, which should tell you I never lost it, a duffel bag with a bunch of papers, a calculator, two pens, and an orange. A ripe orange in case you are wondering. I was cheating on bananas.
Two guys, one shorter and more violent, the other taller than me and more intimidating. When it hit me that I was being mugged, I stood, perturbed and a tad bit amused. One grabbed my sweater while the other circled me like a hungry wolf.
“Aki nimesurrender msiniumize” (Me, giving them ideas)
“We! Toa pesa ama tukupige na bunduki” (the shorter kept one hand behind his back as if pulling out a gun)
“Unataka kufa leo!?”
“Aki nimetoka kuona dame yangu naenda home, niko na hii pekee” (TMI, and then I remove the wallet)
“Niachieni wallet tu aki.”
They take the money anyway and thankfully, don’t kill me. Yet.
My phone was in my back pocket as it almost always is when I am walking in the dark. My rationale is always that thugs are people too and they first jump on the right front pocket to get the phone. Which is what Shorty did.
Shorty was missing a thumb.
He was holding me with his left hand as he kept the right one hidden to give me the illusion of a gun. His grip didn’t feel as strong as a grown mans grip should, something was clearly missing from it. A thumb. I figure he had lost it in some gruesome accident, or some mugging victim bit it off.
I did no such thing. I have two excuses. One is that he kept his hand on my chest the whole time, and to bite off another of his fingers would have required I push his fingers in my mouth. I was not going to lose my things and get someones bacteria in return.
Second is, I am a skinny guy with a big head. If you look at me from some distance and at an angle, I look like a giant half-licked lollipop. The only guys I know who are skinnier than me are Ngartia of Story Zetu and Ian Arunga of Dear Doris, both of whom are exceptionally tall. I am not tall. Ngartia has a scary smile that includes his entire dental structure and gums, and Ian often rips his pants trying to do dance moves fit for shorter people. Guys like us do not fight back, unless we are pinching babies. Small babies. Or in video games.
So if you are being mugged, you let it happen. You live to be robbed another day. You just let it happen because, well, it is going to happen anyway, and if you can come in with a bruise less than utterly necessary, the better for you.
My mind registered what was happening but took long to process it. As the shorter guy grabbed my bag, he grabbed the outline of the orange. It was funny because he opened it to see what it was, maybe he thought I had a collectors baseball? Or a tennis ball signed by Federer? I will never know.
In the process, he touched the phone, my Samsung E240, the black slide phone that got us attention before smartphones waltzed in like they didn’t know lanes. Lanes phones, lanes.
The glee on his face as he took the phone as I stood there helpless, still begging for them to return my wallet because I needed the documents in it and they already had the money.
Then it hit me! Well, Mugger 1 hit me. He punched me right on the temple, squarely, unexpectedly. He did it as the other shoved the wallet in my hands and then they both ran away, into a dark alley. I’d give them a medal for catching me unawares, and for the ensuing shock. I didn’t fart this time. The last time anyone ever hit me squarely in the face, that unexpectedly, was a cold Wednesday morning in June, when I was in Form 2. I walked into the deputy principal’s office ready to say things in mitigation for my crimes, but he didn’t even wait. It landed on me so fast that I didn’t catch myself until I was on the floor. And until I had released noxious gases, eager to escape my cursed body, much to my tormentor’s amusement.
Back to the mugging.
They were already running away when my mouth just opened and let out a shriek of a scream. It just broke out of prison and just ran to the stage like it had been practicing all week. It just owned it! I bet to this day those two guys, if bullets or burning tyres have not ended them, still remember and laugh about the shriek that followed them as they ran into the darkness.
I mean, who does that? I screamed when they had already ran away. I didn’t scream like a man. I know a manly scream because I once heard my father scream, or howl. Which told me then that if a man ever has to scream, that’s how it should be done.
When I was about five, thugs broke into our house and terrorized us. Well, terrorized everyone but the youngest of my sisters and I. My sister and I shared a bed, I on the top bunk and she on the lower one. She slipped under the bed and I froze on mine. The robbers never found us, one even touched my bed but, and this is one of the few times being skinny will count for something, neither saw nor heard me. I was lying down so flat, so well you couldn’t tell there was anyone on the bed. Being thin saves people, lose the baby fat. It makes you an easier mark, and when the zombies come (and they will), you know who they will have eaten first.
I had my dad howl that night, a weird sound I can’t even explain to date. Whatever lessons it taught me though, I couldn’t replicated on the night of love and muggings.
I had to walk my robbed ego and shrieking self back to her house, and explained in detail what had happened. With whatever remained of my ego still at Muchatha, I accepted her money and left, this time using the longer route and taking a boda boda to the stage. Don’t even ask why I couldn’t sleep over (it was her dad’s building).
Time between these events? A few hours. It was 2 am before I knew it, and I still couldn’t find any matatu. It seems everyone turns in early on Monday morning, and matatu drivers are either at home or in the bar doing things. I ended up cruising down Thika Road on a bodaboda, with a swollen temple and a ripe orange.
One Story is good,
till Another is told.