DAY 28: In One Picture.
Friday, January 27, 2017, at 6:32:08 PM.
Location: Kenya National Museum, Nairobi.
Every photo in our gallery has a story. Perhaps a nostalgic memory of a time we had everything; laughter at the tip of our lips, family and genuine friends at the stroke of our speed dial button. Other photos serve as a painful remind of the things we wanted but missed, or of the scary changes we had to embrace. With trembling hands, with doubts in our hearts. Don’t be fooled by the smile, for in the above photo nothing about me is normal.
Three days earlier: The early morning cold with no trouble penetrated through my light Chinese’s scholar shirt and sharply pierced my skin. Immediately the overnight bus had arrived at the station, passengers had alighted hurriedly, scrummed to the waiting room and bundled themselves on the seats. I had slept soundly throughout the travel, never caring about my surrounding until the irritated driver roughed me out. At the waiting lounge every space was occupied, I had to endure the cold as I wait for morning.
About an hour later the still, lonely streets of Nairobi began to stir up. Few matatus tickled in, dropping the passengers and speeding off. In between heavy tranquility engulfed the city. The frequencies of the vehicles became regular, people started to move about. The mummering in the lounge on how unsafe Nairobi was in that early hours transitioned to various topics, with parches of conversation on politics dominating. At five thirty, I decided to leave.
A couple of blocks, down on the right, from the junction of Koja station and River road, the stage for Garden City estate was deserted when I arrived. The streetlights illuminating the place akin to daytime. I recklessly decided to venture further and try if the Ngara stage was operational. The chill was numbing. I had a bag with nothing in it, two phones in my pockets and the clothes I was putting on; I always travel easy. Nothing valuable.
Approaching the dim backstreets after crossing the Nairobi River, I clenched my fights in surprise. I had not expected the sudden dark alleys within the CBD. I looked ahead and the underpass on the Kipande road appeared daunting. Surely, after coming that far I had no choice but to continue. That reckless decision was to set the background for the ugly horror of my life. There was no way around the dark underpass. I crossed my heart and marched on.
Two steps into the belly of the dark underpass and something heavy and blunt landed on my head above the nape of my neck. From the anticipation of the terror than the terror itself, a loud shriek in a frightened voice, barely recognizable to me, escaped my throat. I lost my stability and scrambled to the ground. Then the reality that someone had attacked me dawned on me. I lurched back to my feet. A rock in both hands.
No time to process anything. I hurled the first rock from my right hand at the dark figure, a pain-filled screamed followed. The silhouette stood momentarily at a distance, menacing. I shifted the left rock to my right hand and aimed again, while screaming threats. In the split second, before the rock could reach his position, he dashed away. My whole body trembled with terror. I fled the place in an astonishing speed towards Ngara.
Under the safety of Ngara’s powerful highway lights, I slowed down. Most business persons had started opening their shops. The shirt was damp at my back. I run my right hand from the nape of my neck to, then brought my hands to my nose. Blood. Warm and metallic. I felt the fluid trickle down my spine. My head became heavy. I tried to ask for directions to the nearby hospital, but no one stopped to listened.
Everyone along the path gave away for me. I kept going forward. Past Ngara, towards KICD. My feet felt sore, and when I checked I had no shoes on. My bag too was gone. I lacked the will to confirm my cellphones. There was an acute throbbing in my head. I strained to focus on where I was heading to. After passing KICD, before the flyover. A middle-aged mom took one look at me and rushed to my aid.
The next morning, I woke up in a hospital bed at Guru Nanak hospital, bald head and with a bandage. It was my first time with a clean-shaven head after a long time of enjoying afro hair style. Some photographs are a reminded of the ugly things we have escaped; the memories of healed wounds. Three days after the incident, I wore the same clothes and traveled the same path I had traveled that night. I am able to handle traumatic experiences better when I face them while the memories are still fresh, but I took this photo to always be a remind of the horrible incident.