Njenga is a 35 year old Nairobi cab driver who’s been in the business of transportation for just over a decade. This kick off a series of events that chronicle his experiences in a rapidly changing Safari capital of the World
*Disclaimer: the post(s) is/are fictional. Any likeness or resemblance to characters in real life is purely by coincidence.
It’s a quarter past ten pm on a Thursday night and Njenga is agitated. He’s been in the parking lot of Suranji Apartments for over half an hour now, waiting for the client he’d picked up in Westlands to come back and pay him the KES 1,000 she owes him. It would seem Kate’s ‘2 minutes’ gives African timing some excellent competition.
I knew I shouldn’t have picked her up. He thought to himself. One look at her and I knew she was trouble.
Njenga’s Nissan had been parked outside of Bendera Plaza along the ‘neon highway’ of the Westlands District for about an hour, without much prospect of a client. It was smack in the middle of the month, when most of his wateja were broke, and therefore he had to bribe his way through some askaris who were looking after the Plaza all night, just so he could get some strategic parking and increase his chances of getting customers from the numerous nightclubs along the street.
Woodvale Grove is literally a concrete jungle at the heart of the only commercial district that comes close to competing with Nairobi’s Central Business District. By day, it’s a flurry of financial activity and retail showcase, whereas by night, the traffic perfunctorily grinds to a halt, as shy of 50 entertainment venues switch on their dazzling neon lights, as if magically transforming the 3 kilometre stretch into a revellers piece of heaven.
Njenga himself is a born-again Christian. He was born and raised in Kiriamiti village, a stone’s throw away from Kiambu Town, to the Pastor of Kiamenyi Church, Bishop Gatundu, and his wife, Mary Otieno. He grew up faithfully reciting John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and all he knew was that good intentions took you to Heaven, and that thugs and crooks would either get shot by the police, or burn in hell when they met their demise. The search for a better life however soon took him to the capital right after he graduated with a diploma from a college in Kiambu. And it was Nairobi that exposed him to much more than he bargained for. The things he saw would not only make angels blush, but have his father have a heart attack.
Sights to behold such as the evidently young woman who was callously dressed in an ill-fittingly tight and skimpy little white dress, beaming bright red 6-inch pumps and what looked like a ridiculous mane of an expensively-bought yet cheap-looking pitch black weave. She was staggering slowly but steadily towards his silver sedan, clutching onto a bedazzled rose purse and seeming deeply inebriated.
‘Taxi?… Unaenda?’ she managed, finally reaching the parking bay and placing her hand against the back window.
Njenga hadn’t wanted to entertain her, but it had been a very slow night.
‘Errm… Yes, madam. Unafika wapi?’
‘Kilimani, Suranji hapo karibu na Chaka’ she said, half smiling and half looking like she wanted to throw up all of her insides. ‘Ngapi?’
‘Thao tu,’ he confidently said, expecting some sort of resistance, but she quickly accepted.
Njenga’s half-heartedness dissipated as he opened the door, gently nudged her into the back seat and closed the door, as he raced back to the front and into his driver seat. The engine purred to life as he exited the parking bay and took a left turn towards the hotel at the end of the Grove that would lead him onto a feeder road straight to the highway.
Unfortunately drunkenness often knows no modesty, as the client sat with her legs wide open. He decided to start up some small talk just so she could adjust herself and stay conscious.
‘Imekuwa siku mrefu?’ he chimed.
She looked up at him groggily and replied, ‘Yeah, nilitoka na mabeshte kiasi, but nitarudi bado’.
Njenga’s eyebrows slightly raised in surprise, because in her condition, he figured the only place to go was home, and not back out again. From the manner of her reply she seemed not more than 23 years old.
‘Si mbaya. Naitwa Njenga. Hiyo ndio base yangu’ he added, happy that the conversation was working as she crossed her legs and straightened up.
‘I’m Kate! Pressure!’
The Yaya Center was right up ahead, so Njenga indicated left and got onto Woody Street. For such an African capital, he was surprised there were still quite a number of kizungu names for streets and such. Some grey apartments peeked out around the bend and at the entrance which they approached was a huge signboard engraved in orange bricks ‘SURANJI APARTMENTS’.
‘Kate, tumefika’ he said, as an askari responded to the headlights gleaming into the driveway and peeked out. He switched on the small lamp above his head so the fellow could see into the vehicle and that prompted the caped guard to come and open the gate.
Meanwhile Kate was rummaging through her purse and said, ‘um, Njenga… wait for me kidogo. Give me two minutes I get some money from upstairs then I’ll be back!’
He didn’t even have time to respond as she’d unlocked the door and miraculously sped across the asphalt pavement parking area into ‘Block C’.
Thirty minutes turned into one hour, and just as he was about get out of the car, a man in a trench coat came out of the same block and steadily walked up to a blue BMW about ten meters away, got in and switched on the engine, taxiing towards the entrance.
A lady in dark wide sunglasses and a long beige coat popped out, and it was tough to see exactly who she was, but she then got into the vehicle and shortly thereafter, it sped off and out of the parking area, as Njenga kept drumming his fingers on the wheel.
It took him about twenty more minutes for realisation to hit that Kate had left the building!
Continue Reading (Part 2) >> An Uphill Task for the Faithful