Basket of Deplorables
For six years I have functioned on weed, vodka and cocaine. I get my cocaine from a Nigerian; it’s terrible quality, but everything is shit in Nairobi. My weed comes from a woman in Kariokor; she has never changed her price. I have a daily-litre quota of vodka that I buy from a drinking hole built into a wall near the office – when I am broke, I mix it with water; when I am not, I mix it with soda.
I have no power. I am a dead eagle. I do not remember who I was before my fall from grace. They sky has poured me out, and the stuff I just told you about definitely does not give me wings.
I used to date a woman. So traditional, focused, knew how to make life add up. I thought fucking her and telling her malleable and confusing things about love was enough, but her mother warned me that she liked things she could see and touch. I thought she would save me. She didn’t. She got tired of my – disgusting high dependency on substances.
Our arguments about my drugs were like dialogue between badly written robots in 80s movies:
Me: Isolation and lack of connection are important factors in the beginning and sustenance of addictive behaviour, properly adjusted people, whatever that means, seem to carry on fine despite trying substances at some point or other. When we say it’s just selfish, we ignore the physiological strength of alcohol, heroin and other substances that cause physical dependence. Any form of dependence, which is a real force to reckon with, should be accounted for before we just write addicts off as just selfish. I’m not denying selfishness, just saying it’s not that simple or simplistic. I will resist pun of high horse.
Today I don’t even know what that means, but at the time of saying it – and I said it again later – my brain felt like smooth molten gold. So fluid, hot and rich.
Her: No one is properly adjusted. People just make choices, selfish or otherwise. And addicts are not the likely candidates to attract understanding for their non-simplistic intangible woes, which have visible effects on family and friends. Some may say…it’s easier to understand and even empathise with a troubled serial killer than it is to understand people who inflict suffering on themselves…like they are the only ones with problems.
Me: You choose how to look at whatever you’re looking at then.
Her: As the world should be.
Me: Also, you do not, cannot, understand the appeal of drugs (or anything else). So OK, let us lost souls fleet in the background of you with rich vibrant sober lives. We’ll be fine.
Her: You will die like a dog on the streets. Drowned in a garbage pit by the contents of a truck full of your drug-contaminated waste.
Me: I’ll get out of this, I’ll get my place in the world, and a better woman. This is not the end. I have seen what that looks like and I don’t want it. This is not for you to believe, I think we’re way past that, it is a statement. There is better. There is all the world, and it is mine.
Her: Your world is hell. Your better woman will be the devil who will sit and watch you burn.
I don’t remember how we met. I don’t know how. I remember when she left, she did not seem to care for what she would miss. I found it strange that she did not weep for me. All my ex-women still think I am the shit. I think it’s the size of my penis. Small – so no pressure to fake orgasms while hiding the vaginal pain that comes with a big fat dick. I am thinner than I used to be when we were dating. My head sticks out the top of my body like an adopt-a-light. Food is not tasty anymore. Plus, I owe the Nigerian money. I can’t eat knowing that my throat can be cut anywhere anytime. Every cent I get is his.
The worst part is that he keeps giving me cocaine on credit.
He owns me and he likes it.
My best friend has two other friends. I like to hang out with them. It’s usually me, best friend Bob, his fuck mate Nduta-Joy a.k.a Remove My Joy, and Waf. We are deep people. Rarely a dull conversation, of course aided by unnecessary evils. Drugs have an effect on thought and conversation. It’s like gods talking to gods and sharing ideas on how the world should have been designed and trying to figure out shit like who put the male sex organ in its overt position and hid the female one where it is. And why?
Last time we congregated at Bob’s flat, Waf was talking about a Disney cartoon called Lion Guard and how he dreamed that he was in Lavi when post-election violence erupted. His dream did not have sense of time, but some bulky men with a certain tribe’s accent banged at his door. It was him against them and their machetes. He let out a Kion-like roar from fuck knows where that pushed the guys out of his house, out of Lavi. He didn’t say how the machetes reacted to the roar.
I should have asked.
Bob: What the fuck are you doing watching cartoons man?
Waf: That dream scared me. You know they never come for guys in suburbia. What if the next time they attack the middle class?
Bob: Not a chance in hell the outlanders will come to your pride lands asshole. Again, what are you doing watching cartoons?
Waf: I have kids. Also, research. I am writing an essay on how Americans can’t tell Kiswahili’s ass from its mouth.
Me: Who is the essay for?
Waf: What do you mean?
Me: Who is going to publish it?
Waf: I am writing for myself. Not for money. Not for establishments.
Me: Not even your kids? Why did you even let her have all those kids? You can’t keep up.
Waf: You can’t talk about things you don’t have. Things you haven’t experienced. My kids mean the world to me.
Remove My Joy: That’s great Waf. Guys like him talk about kids with so much disdain you’d think they gave birth to themselves. The world would have been a better place if he was aborted. I take that back, the world would have been a better place if the first woman aborted and died doing it. Then none of us would exist in this form.
Bob: You’d better not get pregnant.
Remove My Joy: And what if I do?
Bob: Imagine yourself as the first woman and go sit by a river bank with a metal hanger and drink bleach.
Me: Trump was right when he said pregnancy is an inconvenience.
Waf: For businesses. Just for businesses.
Me: It should be declared a general inconvenience.
Remove My Joy: Not before considering how inconveniencing an erect penis without a condom is inside a woman.
Me: No excuse. Emergency pills.
Remove My Joy: Emergency pills are not mints. You can’t just pop them every after sex.
Bob: Who cares? Get the fucking uterus removed before you open your legs. Waf how far along in the mad essay? When are you giving birth? Pun intended.
Waf: Like two pages and change.
Bob: I think you are full of shit for writing about Hollywood’s use of Kiswahili. Because none of them have written about Nollywood’s use of English.
Bob: No. I am serious. Listen to me. This bullshit of Africans clicking and clucking about modern slavery while slithering and sliding in first world benefits is fucked up?
Waf: What are you talking about? You are so ignorant.
Bob: So will you also write about Lupita saying she is Mexican and then later coming out in kangas to show some white folk how ugali is cooked with “corn flour” in rural Africa and how she did not even know how to cook it in the first place, and turning a mwiko is like a workout. Fuck your stupidity. It’s good you are writing for yourself because if someone else published it I would boycott the publication. Heck I would buy the internet and shut it down just so no one reads your Neanderthalish essay on a fictional stupid little worthless lion cub. Fuck you and all that time on your fat hands to write nonsense and fill the earth with stupid little trust fund fucks. You are such a colossal contradiction and you don’t even see it.
Bob is generally a bastard. In real sense since he was born that way. And metaphorically because he just is. So I tried to change the subject because Waf was fuming and when Waf is mad he beats the person who annoyed him. Bob is a small guy. Really small. Waf is a giant. The angrier he gets, the bigger he gets.
Me: So there is a Nigerian who sings to Lingala beats. Watched him on YouTube. He is really good. Plus, pidgin sounds great on batoto ba Congo tracks…
Me: Okay, how about the Indian I saw making suya in some cooking show on Zee World. Talking about living in Nigeria all his life and “dying for the suya of the streets”. No?
Waf threw a beer bottle at Bob, and before Bob could stand up and prepare for the proper assault, Waf was punching his face in. Remove My Joy started screaming. Bob started screaming. Waf kept going at him. I left. There was alcohol, drugs and a fight. If the neighbours called the cops, I didn’t have anyone who would bail me out. Those three were at the end of the day rich kids with connected parents even though they looked like hippies vomited by a stranger planet than ours.
The cops were called, and my friends were arrested. They spent two nights in the cells, and as soon as they were out, they asked me to meet them at some stupid-ass art exhibition near Yaya Centre. They said there was lots of free vodka.
Before I went, I called the Nigerian. I went to where we usually met and paid him half of what I owed him, which was most of my salary. Then I asked for two grams on credit. Like how you pay an Okoa Jahazi debt and then get more airtime on credit. Making things worse for yourself. He didn’t say no. He gave me the usual shitty stuff, and I went to my friends.
The exhibition was as I had expected. Abstract art I couldn’t understand selling at ridiculous sizes and prices. The vodka was indeed free, and my friends were grand and there. I was always comfortable drinking with them. They did not judge my intake. They marvelled at it. Their awe plus the intoxication always turned me upside down inside out. I talk a lot when I am drunk. I say a lot of wrong things to the wrong people.
Waf: So I think I lost some weight while in the cells. I feel lighter.
Me: Is lighter better?
Waf: It’s not like I am complaining. I hate being fat. At home I have access to food 24/7 but in there, food rations are fucked up and far apart.
Me: People make themselves fat, not food. I bet if you didn’t touch it, food would not increase your size.
Waf: You are full of shit.
Me: And I have some of its Nigerian kind in my pocket.
Me: Yes. Want a line?
Waf: Maybe later. Let’s go ask Bob and Nduta-Joy if they are in.
Bob and Remove My Joy were talking to a bunch of immigrants about some humanity-type nonsense in politically correct tones. Waf and I joined the circle and listened. The vodka people passed more around, and I turned into a different part of a dandelion every time a tray came by. By the time I opened my mouth to chime in I was a full-fledged flying object. My tongue was thin as air.
So this Scottish guy said he thinks getting help for his house and childcare for his kids is much cheaper than it is where they came from. He said back at home he and his partner probably wouldn’t afford help and one of them would have to stay at home and look after the kids while the other worked their ass off. And in bad weather.
Me: So you come here to get slaves to wipe your shit and do dog’s work, and then you say they are wonderfully affordable?
Him: No, I didn’t say that. I pay my help more than an average working local does.
Me: I can’t even understand what you are saying with that nosed up accent. Speak slowly man.
Him: I am not taking advantage of anyone. I treat my house workers and nanny well.
Me: So you think that if you pay them more than we do you are better than us?
Him: Do you have help and how much do you pay them?
Me: No shit. Bob, did you hear him? Waf? Nduta-Joy? Say something to this imperialist slave-driving punk ass who thinks Africans are circus monkeys that he can pay with two bananas and then give himself a pat on the back. Hoity toity nose screwed up sideways…
Bob: Waf: Remove My Joy: …
Me: No? You will just keep quiet and kiss ass? Well I am going to lick his white ass until it’s bruised. How about that Scotsman-Scotchman? Mh? More vodka? More vodka.
Him: I won’t put up with this. If you can’t have a reasonable conversation, then there’s no point in it at all.
Me: I win. I win. More vodka. And you? What do you have to say about your life in Afwwwwwika? I am all ears.
His friend said they live far better lives here than they would back at home. He said he felt guilty about it and knows it is unfair for the “locals” but what can he do about it? Then he shrugged.
Me: You could leave.
His Friend: But you don’t understand the humanitarian concerns in the region. They need us here. And we only get paid more because of certain hardships we may face.
Me: May face. Highly likely but not…just maybe. Do you see any of us natives going to deal with humanitarian concerns on your end of the world? Because I am sure some of your guys are suffering too. Do you think I can, say, go there to assess the situation in the comfort of a five bed-roomed mansion and write fucking reports and get paid for projected and imagined hardships?
His friend: I am not stopping you.
Me: Of course you are not. I win that round too. Hey. More vodka. It’s free, isn’t it? And you darling what’s your deal?
She said she did not want the job she had but she was forced to take it because there were no qualified locals.
Me: Are you a genius type chemical engineer?
Her: Oh how I wish.
Me: What do you do?
Her: I work as a personal assistant of a chief of party of a small time IO.
Me: And there are no qualified locals to work as PAs for IO chiefs of party? What is it you are assisting this guy with? Are you carrying half his soul and conscience on your back or what?
Her: If you ask me I would rather be making dolls with raffia because that is my true talent.
Me: And what do you want me to say to that, raffia-ruffian?
Her: Nothing. It’s just that I feel trapped in a job that I hate, and you seem to be of the opinion that I enjoy it because of the money. Plus, I am not the one who said that there are no qualified locals. It’s the IO. And being a PA is not child’s play you know. I take a lot of bull on a daily basis. And I came here to enjoy some art and good company not to be marauded and maligned by a fucking drunk.
Me: Oh-ho-ho-ho! You want to see some art. I will show you some art by a drunk. Art attack!
High as a clichéd kite I went for the nearest painting. I pulled it down and threw it at Miss Marauding Maligning and her company. I didn’t check for their reaction. I went to the toilets to urinate.
When I came out there were cops waiting with the assaulted company. Bob, Waf and Remove My Joy were MIA. Probably didn’t want to go back to the cells. That was cool, I could handle my first arrest. Being in jail seemed like fun from what they had told me anyway. I was actually laughing when they arrested me for creating disturbance and battery and assault, god only knows what else. My head was abuzz, and I felt like I had done well by the “locals”.
I was bundled into the police van. It started moving and I blacked out. The next day I woke up in a cell. It was a Wednesday. I was taken to a bloody court room and my charge was read out: possession of narcotics. Some guy was asking me how I pleaded.
Me: I plead that I need to talk to my lawyer first.
I did not have a lawyer. The republic does not give fucks like me lawyers as seen in movies. This is Africa. You are on your own until you are on your own again. Period. No phone calls either so I was totally fucked. And anyway, my family would never lift a finger to help me – story for another day though. Bob, Waf and Remove My Joy…their phones were most likely off and they were probably moving on with their banal conversations without me.
I had no way to defend myself because those fucker cops put more cocaine on me than I had; I assume just for kicks or for the trouble they had carrying a knocked-out asshole from their van and into the cells.
I stayed in for four days. On that Sunday I got called by an officer. The Nigerian was waiting for me.
Him: Come on my man. Let’s get you out of here.
Me: How did you know I was here?
Him: I am a businessman. I have to know where all my coins are. No matter where they are hiding, I will find them, I can guarantee you that.
Me: Thanks. I owe you…
Him: You owe me money, and this is what you will do. You will get out of here. You will work very hard to ensure I get all my money by Friday. If you don’t, I will extract all the cocaine you haven’t paid me for from your own blood, meat, hair and nails. I will cut you open and get what is mine, you understand? I should be thanking myself for not letting you stay in here long enough to cause me problems with your fish mouth. Soon enough they would have figured out that all they need to do to get you talking like a bitch is two shillings worth of vodka.
Me: I will get your money.
Him: You know you won’t. I am just giving you a chance to try so that my fortunes don’t become accursed for killing a junkie without fair chance. An unfairly dead junkie is a hole in my pocket.
Me: Isolation and lack of connection are important factors in the beginning and sustenance of addictive behaviour – properly adjusted people, whatever that means, seem to carry on fine despite trying substances at some point or other. When we say it’s just selfish, we ignore the physiological strength of alcohol, heroin and other substances that cause physical dependence. Any form of dependence, which is a real force to reckon with, should be accounted for before we just write addicts off as just selfish. I’m not denying selfishness, just saying it’s not that simple or simplistic. I will resist pun of high horse.
Him: What nonsense are you saying now? Stay away from rich children and white people and their funny talk. Look where it has left you; isolated…and with me. See you Friday. With my money please.
He left and one of the officers gave me back my shoes, belt and phone. I switched the phone on and called our nice HR manager on her mobile phone. She was just getting into church and asked why I was calling her on a weekend. First, I told her why I had missed work. Because of a family emergency in Busia. Then I asked for a salary advance and she hang up on me, sealing my fate. I walked out of the station knowing that I had a few days left to live the worst life possible.
Linda Musita is a Kenyan writer.