A sign near the entrance was saying, 'USITUPE TAKATAKA?
(don't dump) to anyone who could read it. Next to it a large mound of dirt stood like a hill about to become a mountain, almost
covering the words on the board.
"Well, at least the paintwork is great," said Ochibox,
distractedly, while staring at the graffiti filled walls.
Nyagothii glared at him, and he smiled blandly. "But do I
say," he added and went in first.
The midday sweltering heat made his silky print-flowered shirt cling in all the
right places and he tugged at it. "A nice, quiet place this is going to be."
He was right, though. This plot's rooms
and compound were bigger and better than the 7 by 8 foot crib they had been living in at Mathare estate, where it was a rare
hour without the echo of a gunshot. Nobody squatted here, there were no clatters of aluminium utensils at the water taps --courtesy
of the womenfolk, no kids daring each other at night in mock fights, no drunkards sprawling on the trenches outside the houses;
this place looked like a scene cut from a 'Tinsel town' horror movie.
"This is an old plot," Nyagothii said, and he
started, his head half turning towards her.
"Did you have a better place?"
"And there are practically no windows
left now." She added in a half-daze.
A couple of the doors in the plot were open and he peered in, seemingly at random,
undecided where he should put in his rug and mattress which were now weighing him down. A rat was nibbling at an electricity
wire, its head and forelegs stiffly pointing at the ceiling and Nyaguthii felt a cold sweat trickling down her brows.
least we've seen our first neighbour." Ochibox intoned as he kicked it out of the way, sending the pest scurrying. Ochibox
had the disconcerting ability to say the most annoying thing in any given circumstances, everyone knew but no one dared face
up to him.
It was all a joke to him, life was, but she had decided to be with him for better or for worse though right
now she didn't know how to term this current residential shift. The ever-present ashes of a half burned mattress littered
the floor, and the air was dry and cold. On an old couch in a corner, half burned clothes lay. She could feel her blood quicken
as the flutter of the doves above became frenzied and Ochibox laughed on seeing the look on her face. He ran into the bedroom
then, wishing he would find something there. Nyaguthi knew it was a twenty year old man in the throes of excitement at shifting
to a new house and didn't follow him. She heard a whispering then, like it had been before in her bedroom some five years
ago, she was twelve, listening to her dad in the darkness saying dreadful things to her mum.
Cold arms had wrapped
around her face and she'd screamed, running, feeling her arms stretch like taffy and fall away. In their parents' bedroom
was the fire, and though she could not see it, the flame burned away the air and seared her lungs, her eyes watered and though
her flesh did not burn, it felt like it was sloughing away. She'd run towards the kitchen, trying to shout for Mwaniki, ten,
her younger brother, to follow her.
Nickolo, her elder brother, was already there, filling up buckets with water. He'd
turned to her and directed her to pick the already full one. She'd run towards their parents' bedroom and found the door locked.
she had wailed then and now she called, "Mama... papa..." and slithered along the wall to the dusty floor, just as she had
done that fateful day.
Ochibox sauntered towards her, "getting the creeps are we?" he said then smiled. "This is our
new home, babe."
She sat and stared at the door which was directly in front of her and he now eyed her suspiciously
then lowered himself next to her and said softly.
"What's the matter dear?"
She whimpered now. Behind that
almost collapsing door held bad memories, but that was now history, a history she needed to forget.
She feigned a
smile and said, "You wouldn't understand."
"Well, suit yourself, coward." Ochibox said in his usual brusque tone.
Inside, her heart was still thumping, like violence, mixed with hatred and vulnerability. She'd always hated his smugness
and insensitive nature. She then leaned in. "It's the baby, its upset." And she smoothed her protruding belly.
felt her stomach and put an ear to it and said. My boy will be fine. Then jumped to his feet and swaggered down the hallway
and into the adjacent room, whistling.
She glared at him then and looked out the grilled, half
glassed window. What had she done to deserve such a man? But where would she go? She was stuck with him. After all, hadn?t
he saved her from the claws of the cold nights on the streets and accepted her for who she was? She thought as she held her
scarred face and her head drooped, tears now flowing freely.
"Can we start arranging our house now?" Ochibox's voice
rang from the other room.
"I don't think so."
There was a short pause then and his tall frame appeared at
the almost collapsing door. "And why not?"
"W-w-we used to own this plot and when my parents and two brothers ...
died ... in it no one was willing to develop it saying it was? haunted." And then she sat down and began to cry. "And ... that's
... why ... we ... must ... find ... another ... house."