Free for Life
Opere walks down the streets, into down-town Nairobi. The sun is in its full glare. He breathes the air in his surroundings. Opere purchases a banana from a street hawker. He feels his head wobble from side to side. He turns up the music in his head phones, feeling the nerve ends of his body tinge with a drop of excitement. He strolls down the street path. Even at such hours when the energy of the people has been drained by the tropical temperatures, Opere seems in full throttle. He looks at the banana. With one eye closed. Holding it up to the height of his nose. He takes care to notice the blemishes on it. The little strips of imperfection that stain the fruit. He hears the tempo of the music rise in a crescendo. Slowly. Beat by beat. An afro beat rhythm. Takes him into a trance with the banana. He imagines himself in a club. He feels the music cause goose bumps on his skin. He moves his head in sync with the beats. In exact configuration. Like a bubble head of a vehicle. His body follows. But with the banana still raised up with one arm. As if it is the only observer of how the music is moving him. He opens his mouth. Looks up to the sky. Lifts the other arm up. Then returns and focusses his gaze on the banana. His mind goes into overdrive. Opere imagines himself in the flow of rhythm. The up-and-downness of it all. A deep rush of blood. He loves every bit of this. Sometimes he wishes that everyone else could join him in this journey into sound.
Pealing it slowly and eating it, he knows, the banana, though short-lived, has experienced something with him.
Opere walks to a salon in this thick and busy part of Nairobi. It is where he will meet Moraa, his sister. He doesn’t enter but he waits for her to get out. He does not want to enter the salon although his sister owns the place. Beauty planet-. Her sister had picked that name. Of course Opere had no say in deciding what to call the place, otherwise he would have tried to convince her that beauty is not something we can just manufacture. Opere waits out for no longer than ten minutes before a short, dark and work-oriented woman with an apron emerges from within the door and places the three thousand shillings in Opere’s hand, folding it out of view and embraces him. They later part. Opere walks toward the bus stop where he will take a matatu home.
As the vehicle gradually fills up, Opere scrolls through his playlist. Some chilled music, not to get him to sleep, but rather to get him to think. The matatu jerks off with a screech. Opere is seated right in the middle of the van. As they move on, the driver occasionally stops to pick up a passenger or two. Until the tout tells him ‘imejaa!’. As if it was not full in the first instance. Approaching toward a steep gradient, the vehicle begins galloping up the incline. Its slowness amplifies the silence in the air. Opere removes his head phones to listen to the silence. It creeps into the vehicle. He can feel its weight on the people. The old vehicle’s parts are screaming out. People are looking at each other as if to suggest that they should hold hands in case the vehicle decided to roll back down the hill. The matatu is in full gear- Upwards.
This little moment of looking is when Opere notices the little posters plastered all over the matatu’s interior. Si gari imechelewa, ni wewe. Hakuna stage inaitwa “Hapo Mbele Dere”. Posters of Alicia Keys. An advertisement for advice on love and relationships. He is interested by this one in particular. This Beta versions of life, perpetuated by false precepts of life’s truths are what make him mad. He thinks that such is what life has to offer for free. Love, for free. Laughs, for free. Friends, for free. Rather, life, should be Free for love, free for laughs, free for friends. Lessons of life, for freaking nothing. Because you cannot teach someone to love, to laugh, to cry, to smile or to feel. It’s what life has in store for each of us. At least. If not the pleasures that come with life.
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