The Train Won't Stop

Kasee is the evening buddy who has a choma grill just next to the road, conveniently next to the estate matatu stage. The delicacy served here are intestines of a cow, head of a goat and legs of a sheep. Let’s call it mutura baze, no more beating about the bush. Reminds me of my early days in the city. I had co-habited with two buddies of mine, and we definitely didn’t have a lot going on with our lives save for some little jobs, poor relationships if they ever qualified to be called such, a lot of fun that slightly exceeded the amount of work we did. But we always looked up to the evenings; the appointment with Kasee.

Now this guy was God sent, feeding a hungry population of junior bachelors like us who at times preferred to have mutura as our supper, not that it came with some imaginary satisfaction, but the pockets did speak otherwise. And as one of the many bachelors at the Mutura stand, I counted myself as one of the young Kenyan bachelors who were afraid to bend every evening to draw circles in some sufuria over a gas stove in the name of cooking Ugali. The mutura rounds would begin from ‘kata ya mbao’, then ‘ongeza ya ten’ then ‘kata mara ya mbao’ as the bill goes up. Mara are the intestines. But it wouldn’t go beyond a hundred bob for sure.

Then something happens that a lady comes by the mutura stand and makes her order. Well, she looks fine, and as a typical Nairobian you wouldn’t mind making a pass at her, so you invite her to your delicacy as she waits for her order. She smiles shyly as if she is about to reject your offer then agrees as she digs into a few pieces of the mutura. When she reaches the third piece, you sense some discomfort among your buddies who you are eating with, especially when you see Vicken’s hand meet hers at the board hosting the last few pieces of your mutura. Seeing a red flag, you ask Kasee to hurry up with the lady’s order, giving a misleading quote of ‘ladies first’ encouraging him to avoid those men who came earlier and serve the lady, meanwhile you ask for another piece of mtura ‘ya mbao’ with kachumbari.

The lady’s mtura comes, sizzling hot. Now it’s only fair that you dig into her mtura too, but you have to make it not look like a revenge of some sort for her earlier excitement on your delicacy. So you give an excuse of something like you testing if her’s is as good as yours was, then you pick the second piece from her serving as you ask about her name, the third piece goes as you tell her yours; yes, “My name is Kevo” now you are even. In this city it’s a tit for tat, nothing is free.

I was taking some trip from Kisumu aboard easy coach somewhere back in 2019 before this Chinese dilemma, Covid. If I’m travelling by bus, the norm is that I travel at night, it’s kinda sweet. The level of trust you give the driver when 90 percent of the passengers are asleep, and he is most awake human being in town, the trust is almost sacred. So I find myself seated next to some lady, I had reserved the window seat and had predicted that probably no one would be interested in siting in the middle seat next to me. Actually, my prayers that no one sits next to me were more than my predictions, because I’m a half introvert I suppose. I enjoy listening more than I talk, but obviously not on a bus. Anyway, fast forward, we exchanged a few pleasantries as the bus left Kisumu, then she adjusted her seat backwards an hour into the journey and slept off, somehow. An hour into her sleep she would wake up and ask me ‘Tuko wapi?’, then I would tell her we were in Kericho. She goes back to her sleep. An hour later she wakes up from the sleep with another question ‘Tumefika wapi?’ I tell her we are approaching Nakuru, even though I start getting uncomfortable that the only thing we are sharing is location, she could as well open her google map. By the time we were in Naivasha, she got me thinking Google maps should have as well awarded me for my patience and resilience in answering what would have otherwise been their question to answer. More than ten times, I had answered this same question ‘tumefika wapi?’, so I finally told her to relax and let me wake her up when we are in Nairobi if she was actually headed there. In my head I was like, are we really headed to the same place that I had to take this new role of a silent chauffeur. It just happens that when you travel, you never miss interesting people.

And this travel apple won’t fall too far from the tree.’ My friend Blacks some time back gave Easy Coach a customer service dilemma. He was travelling from Nairobi to Kisumu. Everything about his trip was well planned save for the meal he had before he left for upcountry. See, there are things you avoid taking before you board a bus, say Yellow Beans for instance. So Blacks had gone into some kibanda that evening and taken some beans chapati at Railways Bus Station before leaving for home. It only took about half an hour before a UEFA-like champions league final match began in his stomach. The rumbling in his stomach shook him and his seat, the gentleman seated next to him could notice the unusual sounds and shaking of seat from the rumbles but mistook them for the non-smooth terrain of Nairobi-Mahi Mahiu road. Before they could reach Mau Summit, Blacks asked the driver to stop the bus, he had to relieve himself.

The normal travel procedure for buses, especially those that travel at night is that there is usually only one stop over, at Nakuru or Narok and that is usually after 3 hours of travel, that’s half-way the trip. The driver wasn’t happy with the call to stop, he had only driven for 40 minutes.

“Si ungeenda choo mapema bwana” the driver responded.

Blacks gave him a blank stare, whatever it was that was pressing him down there, he was really holding it. So the driver finds a favorable bushy spot and parks the vehicle on the road shoulder. Blacks literally flies out into the darkness. He comes back in five minutes relieved. He is having a running stomach and he just realized that he is going to have such a long night in this bus, and the only thing known to him that the driver doesn’t know yet is that this is just but one of the many stops he is having tonight.

As they approach Naivasha Blacks approaches the driver again to ask him to stop the bus once more. He is walking bent, holding his tummy passing between disgruntled passengers who are wondering which villager is this one who can’t hold his sh** together. The driver throws him a look of ‘I’m not having it’, Blacks equally gives him a look of ‘You know what happens if you don’t stop this silly bus’. Now both you and I know too well that there is no science to holding a running stomach, so once again, the driver parks on the road shoulder and Blacks vanishes into the darkness, this time for around three minutes, shorter than the first time.

By the time they reached Kericho, the bus had made like ten stops, everyone was disgusted. Some even mumbled that this guy seems to be cursed or something, or did he fail to pay for that stupid meal he ate? At least some asked themselves. The Kericho stop really angered most of the passengers because apparently Blacks went to relieve himself and squatted against the wind. Whatever smell hit the bus when he was away could only be told by the ‘fu** you’ expressions on all the passengers’ faces when he walked back in. Even the slightly old lady seated close to the driver who had earlier on seemed to be sympathetic to him had this unbelievably disgusted frown on her face.

Muhoroni is about one hour from Kisumu which was supposed to be Black’s final destination. It’s famous for it’s large sugarcane plantations. As they rode through Muhoroni and its sugarcanes, Blacks couldn’t think of a better time to ask the driver to give him one more stop, because the train in his stomach wasn’t stopping either. It was like a conflict of interest, the bus has to stop for the train to run, or he would have to derail.

“Dere!” he called from the back.

By now his stops were so normalized that he didn’t have to walk to the driver.

The driver ignored him.

“Hey, Driver!”  he called a second time. Louder this time, but you could sense that he was not strongly loud, lest something slips through his pants.

No response.

So he thought to himself, these guys must have had enough of him. He stood up and pulled his duffel bag from the luggage shelf above his head and asked the driver to stop the bus, he was alighting.

It was 3 am. He had surprised everyone, who immediately became sympathetic once again, but Blacks wasn’t buying into their sympathy anymore. He had to end it there.

The driver stopped, and he walked briskly out of the bus, into the darkness. He couldn’t wait to get into the sugarcane farm. This had been the longest night of his life, at least he was now free to see how the dawn breaks.

Kisumu could wait.


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