I saw this kid once at Big Square, Lavington Curve, speaking on the mobile phone. She was about 5/6years old, protectively clutching a Winnie the Pooh doll under her armpit. “I was not sure what to order,” she was saying,”…yes, but last time I eated chicken wings…I ate chicken wings,…yes,….yes, but will Cynthia take me to see Garvin?…Why mom?” Then she did something extraordinary, she looked at her phone and said, “ Wait, dad is calling me, wait a moment mom.” And she pressed a button on her phone and said, “Hi dad… I’m fine…at Big Square, I am talking to mom, can you call me back after five minutes?” then she pressed another button and said, “That was dad, he was aksing where I am,” then at that moment the little spacecraft thing they give you when you order food started vibrating and lighting up on the table and she looked at it and simply told the mom, “Food is ready, I will call you later,” and then hung up, pap without any ceremony! Haha. They always hung up fast when they see food. I watched her and her nanny go to the counter to pick their order and I was completely mesmerised and in awe. I sat there and thought, shit, what school does this kid go to? I particularly loved how she said, “aksing”, not “asking.” Dad is aksing where I am. Reminded me of Snoop Dog in the 90s saying “you berra aks somebady!”
I didn’t want her to leave. I wanted her to stay there a little longer with Winnie the Pooh and receive a million calls for me to eavesdrop on. She had these small pudgy fingers with nails painted silver and with some princessy things on them. Her feet dangled from the edge of the wooden seats. Pretty as a goddamn picture.
I watched them leave. The nanny carrying the food and her hopping and skipping along beside her confidently, with her Winnie the Pooh doll and her mobile phone that connects her to the world. A little girl who knows how to keep you on hold, pick another call and then put you off hold. I struggle with that stuff, yet she did it one fluid motion and with such class: “Dad, can you call me back in five minutes?” My God, I bet that kid eats Weetaflakes for breakfast and flosses her teeth twice a week!
She has always stayed on my head, that kid. I know this might sound cuckoo but I wanted to adopt her. I wanted to show up with her in the digs and the Missus would ask, bending to greet her with a smile, “and who is this?” and I would tell her, this is Winnie-The-Pooh and she would say, “OK, I know but who is this other pretty one?” and the little girl would speak up and say with confidence, “My name is Brea,” Of course she is Brea, nowadays nobody calls their kids Jane or Milka or Pamela. That’s like buying a Motorola phone. And Brea and Winnie The Pooh would sit and have milk and biscuits and she would aks Tamms if she has another sister and Tamms would say she only has a brother and she would aks, Is that him? while pointing at Kim, as if Kim were not a living object but a sculpture, and Tamms would nod and Kim would stare at her and her doll rather suspiciously and later the missus would summon me to the bedroom and ask, Who is that kid, is that your kid? and I would say, No, relax, I saw her at Big Square and I took her. And she would look at me like I’d gone mad and ask incredulously, “You took her? Like you would take a free magazine?” And I would say, “I mean, she didn’t mind, I think she is too cool, I heard her hold and unhold a call and I just had to take her…don’t you like her or her Winnie the Pooh?” and she would hold her head in her hand like it’s going to explode and then fatherly put one hand on my shoulder and say in a very slow tone, like I’m slightly younger than Brea, “You can’t take other people’s kids from restaurants because you think they can swap through calls! It’s illegal. Now I want you to take her back right now, her parents must be sick of worry!” Then I would ask if she can at least finish her milk and she will say sure, of course then watch me leave the room with a very worried look on her face.
Does that happen to you? When you see a child and you want to adopt them even if they are with their parents? There is another kid I wanted to adopt because my life is full of kids I want to adopt. This one was a boy of about 7. He was performing at a school concert a few weeks ago at Impala Club. They were a whole bunch, dancing up on stage to Eddie Kenzo’s song Sitya Loss. Chubby boy with a gorgeous smile that never left his face and that boy could dance! He had such a robust spirit, such a vim for life and he was there dancing upfront, moving his chubby limbs, his large cheeks strained in that lovely smile and he was killing it! I wanted to adopt that one as well even though I could tell his appetite would get me bankrupt in a week. Boys eat. Kim eats anything. If it doesn’t cause convulsions he will eat it.
I told some pal of mine this story, the story about Brea, and he said it was kind of creepy. He said that he has NEVER looked at someone’s child and thought he should adopt them. Which made me wonder if I was kind of a creepy middle-aged man. Then another friend of mine mentioned that I should try meditation and yoga to- and listen to this – “calm my mind.” That I needed “clarity.” You see a kid who swapps through calls and suddenly people want you to have clarity! Yogis are always trying to get the world to seek clarity. They want you to “center” yourself. I feel centered enough, thank you very much. If I didn’t feel centered I would be jaywalking.
Anyway she sent me this Russell Simmons book called “Success Through Stillness” co-authored by Chris Morrow. It’s about how Russell, a hip-hop mogul, found his stillness but I really never read past the third paragraph and every time she would call and ask me, “Biko, have you finished the book?” I would say, “I’m taking my time with it,” until finally she asked, “You aren’t reading it, are you?” and I said I wasn’t. I said I had a clot and I have been waiting for it to disintegrate first because really, I don’t think you can “center” yourself when you have a clot in your leg. So now that the clot is no more, I just have to read it. But she also asked me to download this app called Meditation Made Simple by the same Russell Simmons and it promises to reduce stress, anxiety attacks and insomnia, and to increase happiness. How about that, an app that will increase your happiness. Regretfully , it didn’t mention anything about urges to adopt people’s kids.
So this morning I started meditation. I woke up at 5am and went to the sitting room and sat in silence, eyes closed and I played the app which is essentially Russell Simmons asking you to breathe in and out while swami-like music plays in the background. “…to recognise all the pauses between our breath in the second of stillness…” Russell says sagely. The whole point of the exercise is to empty your mind of thoughts and find peace. But my thoughts refused to leave, I couldn’t focus. I heard the clock tick loudly above, I heard the fridge hum and the water dispenser purr and outside the neighbour’s cock make a racket. (Oh boy, I can’t even find stillness in a sentence like that). It was ironic that I heard more sounds while meditating than when I wasn’t. It lasted ten minutes of me sitting there shirtless in my sleeping shorts, legs crossed like a swami, breathing in and out and trying not to to imagine the help walking out and finding me there, which wouldn’t surprise her because she is Kisii. Hehe. Which is why I think people should meditate in a forest, probably Karura. Or Ngong.
Talking of forests. There was this time I was coming from Oyunga’s brother’s funeral in Seme. Driving back I found myself alone because the person I had gone with decided to stay behind. So I was in the lead car and some chaps – Oyunga’s colleagues at Spielworks media – some fresh guy called Gabantu and some two guys were in the trailing car. We left Kisumu at 3am because I had to catch a flight to SA later in the day. The previous night I was out having drinks. Slept at midnight. Stupid. I know.
Have you ever dozed off at the steering wheel? It’s the scariest thing ever! Apparently Gabantu was also dozing on and off but he didn’t want to stop the train because, well, it was dark and all and nobody wants to be the pussy driver who stops everybody because they are sleepy right? An hour before Nakuru I was woken up with a start by the front wheel getting off the road. My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my neck. I rolled down all the windows, and killed the heating system. I called Gabantu and said, Boss, I’m nodding off, can we stop somewhere and do a power nap? He said, “I was nodding off too, but where do we stop man, where is this place?” I didn’t know. It was dark. And cold. All we knew was that we were in Kikuyu land and it didn’t seem like a bright idea to just stop in that ominous darkness. We might wake up and find kina Kama helped themselves to our tyres as we slept. So after a bit we said fuck it pulled over at the side of the road in a small clearing and blacked out.
When I woke up at 6.30am there was an old man tapping on my window. He had on those grungy hats farmers those sides wear with some a heavy brown jacket with a red collar turned up. His face was weathered and curved like something from a slave-movie. He startled me. I started the engine and rolled down my window slowly. Here is the weird thing, In my confusion, I thought it was Jesus. True story. I thought I had died at the wheel because of sleeping while driving and now Jesus was here with his grungy hat. He said something in Kikuyu and I thought, aah this is just great, now even Jesus has to be a Kuyu?
I said something in Kiswahili and he asked me if we were OK and I said we slept, we were tired. And he said, Ohh, poleni kwa safari and he trudged on, hunched over. I went over and woke the rest up and went and peed in the bush. Then I realized that I really needed to use the bathroom so I went to the little boma 50-meters away and found the old man standing near his gate reading smses on his kabambe and asked him if I could use his bathroom. He pointed at this drop-toilet and I walked in, past mud-houses, a cattle shed, past a kitchen with musky three-stone smoke coming out of its door and when I got to the drop toilet I realized it had no tissue so I walked back and embarrassingly asked him if I could get some. He called out a name, Wanjiku or Wairimu, I can’t recall, they all sound the same, and said something in Kikuyu and Wairimu or Wanjiku, a girl not more than 13, brought back a bunch of old newspapers which was a bit insulting because really, how big did she think my ass was? When I came out, I found her waiting with a jug of warm water to wash my hands and she poured the water for me, that shit touched the shit out of me. They boiled water for me! A stranger! My goodness!
You know, as we drove back I thought to myself that the old man could have been Jesus. You know how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples? What are the odds?We fell asleep on the wheel, we stopped at some random and who knows, dangerous part of the road and napped and some old man, with a curved face and a red collar gave me his toilet and his daughter handed me old newspapers and warm water to wash my hands. What is that guys? Isn’t that the hand of God? I don’t know what the Bible says but I think this is how Jesus shows his hand. We will wait for burning bushes or tall men with white robes or hymns and harps but that might not be Jesus. When Jesus shows up he will show up in a different form and we will miss it because we will be looking out for something that we have been conditioned to believe. Can I have an Amen, guys?
I thought about Brea and that old man and his red collar when I was trying to “center” myself in the morning. I’m sure I saw the face of Jesus that misty dawn. I don’t think I need any more centering or meditation or even to buy a yoga mat. I just need to close my eyes and think of Wairimu pouring me the warm water to wash my hands as the old man pretended not to watch. That was my center. That is stillness.