She flung the door open and immediately shouted… kwani unakaa kwangu bila kulipa rent?!” Loosely translated would be, “idiota! What kind of man are you! Pay up fool! She oozed explosive anger.
I almost rushed for a knife that was on top of a sufuria….to commit suicide and rest. Upon more urgent reflections, I changed my mind and decided to sneak out at night and hung myself. It was useless to live when every problem seemed to want you gone!
I was not thinking straight. Who could under such circumstances?
The woman who had forced herself into my house was Ruth; the landlady. In the Bible, that I carried and cried to daily, the name “Ruth” depicted one who was patient, understanding and positive. This cruel some, stingy and weird landlady was not supposed to be called by that name…she always bothered me every day. Now that I was going to commit suicide, I wonder who she was going to turn to.
Anyway, so she rushed into the house and began shouting rudely and uncontrollably claiming that I was the only tenant who always delayed her financial growth. A lie! Even Nioroge my next door neighbour had the same “rental” challenges. Two of our neighbours, Odongo and Samuel had disappeared leaving just a mattress, a bed and some insignificant house staff. They had cleverly taken out one thing at a time…they both had two months’ rent arrears.
She spoke non-stop for about 9 minutes. Once or twice, I saw neighbours stop to eavesdrop. That greatly disturbed me. Seeing them, Ruth shouted even more!
At first, I tried to interject but she couldn’t let me utter a single word. So, I just looked at her and waited. In fact, I took the time to closely interrogate her body features. You had to look keenly in order to be sure if she had any buta or buttocks if you like….otherwise I didn’t see any. Each time she turned, I saw a flat behind…However, she was heavy on the upper side…loaded is the word. She also had a huge stomach….picture that!
Nonetheless, I didn’t mind how she looked.
Unknown to many, there are months I had gone without paying rent even up to the 17th day. During those months, Ruth had hoped to get “a taste of marriage life” through me. You must understand that she had been divorced for about 3 years… Knowing that I had a family to take care of and rent to pay, I had initially played along to her sexual suggestions. I was also strongly thinking of “falling” if my efforts could help reduce the rent bill. We really never got the chance. I swear I couldn’t have said no…
What really hurt our plans or rather my plans for being a willing victim to Ruth’s antics was a fight my wife had had with her. Like all sharp women, my wife had noticed that we smiled to each other weirdly. She noted Ruth’s increased visits to our house. She also saw her open laughters that were a little exaggerated mostly because she ended up insisting on tapping my hand mid-air and remaining interlocked for a couple of seconds. So, my “razor-sharp” wife asked Ruth if we were seeing each other, one afternoon; before I came home. They argued and almost fought. Had my wife known that I wanted to raise our rent by all means, she could have just “understood”. A man has to do what a man has to do, right?
Anyway, after noticing that nothing would be forthcoming from me, Ruth started insisting that I pay my 3-month rent arrears. She nagged, tossed and almost fought me on a daily basis. “Our mutual love” had suddenly died. I even found myself naturally annoyed with my wife who I blamed for all the troubles…especially when I noticed that my neighbour Njoroge had become friendlier with the land lady. She never asked him for rent and I know that he had visited her house. He was a true entrepreneur; succeeding where I had failed….thanks to my stupid wife.
The 3-month rent that I had was Kshs. 10,800 inclusive of water and the garbage bill. Broken down; Kshs. 3,000 for rent, Kshs. 500 water and Kshs. 100 for garbage… multiply that for 3 months. It was a small rectangular room with a single window unproportionately fixed on the left side. We shared a toilet among 9 tenants who occupied her houses. So, it was not a place where one decided to go to the toilet leisurely…no, you had to time accurately. It was rougher in the mornings because the 9 households had to share one squeezed bathroom that stood adjacent to the toilet. I had to wake up at 3:00am to shower and even sleep on the chair waiting for normal working hours to leave the house and hustle. It was really terrible when a child “forgot” and used the bathroom for a long call!
Our house was sandwiched between two others on each side. Coincidentally, one of our next neighbours were newly married and they seemingly wanted children so badly or so we thought,…they always started their theatrics even at 7:00pm when we were watching news….which explains why our TV/radio volume was always high. I sold the 32 inch Sayona TV later on.
For a man with two children, the conditions in that estate were really not favourable! But, I had tried as much as possible to make my kids comfortable. For starters, I ensured that there was nice gospel music playing at night…each night to shield them from hearing the neighbours’ “fights”.
I had a curtain in the house which divided the house into half especially during the night. We at times needed privacy too. The children had a small mattress on which they slept, and ensured that it was coiled and stocked at a corner each morning. On another corner, we had a stove, a jiko and some utensils. So, other than a bed, a radio, utensils and clothes, we had nothing else… I think that’s why the land lady decided not to chase us away. She must have calculated the worth of our belongings and decided to hold us hostage till we pay. Selling our possessions wouldn’t have raised even a quarter of the amount we owed her.
Anyway, back to when she came and pushed herself into the house …
She found me seated on a plastic chair dozing. My daughter was on my lap. My son was on our bed with his books, trying to draw a giraffe or so…my wife was making some sugarless porridge.
We really had no food for even that day. I thought she could see that…but, she went on demanding for unique amounts such as Kshs. 10,800. Had I held such an amount, I could have quickly disappeared to the village….am talking about even Kshs. 1,500.
She claimed that I was lazy! Damn it. Had she known what I had done for money, she couldn’t have allowed herself to speak stupidly and carelessly. I wish she could have been told that I had tried to sell fruits, water, soap, bhang and changaa. I had even offered to sell one of my kidneys; it is just that I never had good connections.
Like few lucky Kenyans, I had a job; an awesome job. My work was to clean- A clean master or expert. I washed toilets, dusted floors, licked carpets and seats…at a famous TV station around Kilimani. At the end of the day, I went home with Kshs. 38,000 each month. Coupled with the daily tips I got, I barely touched my salary for anything else other than rent. I started a fruits’ business near the plot we lived in at Jamhuri. My wife took over as the CEO/ resource manager. She employed a young girl to help her in the lucrative business.
Then a Chinese or Japanese (I can’t differentiate them) ate a bat! And voila, there was Corona. Several journalists went home with me because the station couldn’t pay us; they blamed it on Corona!
Within 3 months, I found it necessary to change residence. I had to travel south to Kawangware…thinking that it was just a matter of time before everything went back to normal. I gave the situation just 2 months.
Within a few months, I had to change again and go north… this time round we found ourselves in Madongoporomoka or Kibra in a one-roomed house belonging to a crazy landlady.