Today’s little story begins with something that many people do every morning. The commute to work. That special time in the morning when millions of men, women and children from all walks of life leave home for their offices, factories, banks, shops, schools, colleges and other places of occupation. The movement of a huge population across our city in the space of a very short time is a moving testament to human organisation. It would be an amazing spectacle to observe from a decent height; think of the famous annual wildebeest crossing of the Mara river all taking place before 08.00 am.
My own daily commute is a more sedate affair and it begins with a twenty minute bus ride to drop my young daughter off at primary school. I then walk the rest of the way, about thirty minutes, to the the huge grey building at the corner of Maputo and Kisangani roads where our small office is based.
Every morning we aim to catch the same bus at 06:50 am. Most days the bus is on time. As we travel along Jonas Savimbi Avenue in the slow-moving traffic we notice familiar people along the way. There is the cheerful news vendor, always talkative, fussing about finding change for the motorists from the bus conductors. Then there is the old hawker selling screwdrivers and hammers, handkerchiefs and sunglasses on a dull and drizzly Nairobi morning.
There are many people who walk to work. Many months ago my daughter pointed out two young ladies who were walking towards the town. She remembered that we had passed them just before the Caltex petrol station, on Thursday of the week before. After that we saw them nearly every morning. When our bus was on time we passed them by the petrol station. When we were running a bit late we would find that they had walked all the way down to the big roundabout on the road that leads to the Industrial area. We now referred to them as the The Twins. They did not look like sisters. It seemed strange how we now knew them by sight just by travelling on a bus. They always seemed to be happy always laughing and joking as they walked to town.
Did you ever hear somebody describe an event and say “Everything was like in a dream?” That was my experience last Friday evening. I had just finished a long and hard day at work and as I arrived home I was looking forward to a nice relaxing evening sitting in front of the telly with a nice amber liquid in a glass by my elbow. I heard the sound of loud laughter coming from the kitchen as I shut the front door. I suspected Mrs Woolie had visitors. Perhaps I could sneak out unobserved and go to the pub or something. Too late. She had heard the door open and now called out to me “Hey Kondoo!!” So I opened the kitchen door and stepped in. “Come and say hi to my work mates.” She said. She was in a pretty jolly mood and it was not even 8.00pm yet.
Mrs Woolie’s friends were seated at the small dining table in the kitchen and when they turned to say hello I was stunned. It was none other than The Twins. It was like in a dream. Of course they had never seen me before but Mrs Woolie never misses a thing. She said “Kondoo kwani it’s how? You look like you seen a ghost.” She laughed loudly and the girls joined in happily. I noticed the large bottle of triple distilled Vodoski on the table and poured myself half a glass. Mrs Woolie went on to explain that the two girls also worked at the TV station and they had met recently. “I told you about Irene and Marion last week, you forgetful old man,” She said pretending to be cross. She reminded me that they worked in the editing room.
The ladies continued chatting. They had been looking at a techy website that sometimes offered independent reviews of useful gadgets. Mrs Woolie told me that the girls were looking to upgrade their mobile phones. They had spotted an advert in the paper about a shop that had a special offer on the Samsung Galaxy S3 mini. Mrs Woolie knew the shop and had offered to take them there the next morning. They would meet right here at 0900 am, Saturday morning. I shared the small talk for a bit and bade them farewell.
I was up bright and early the next morning mostly because I did not have to go to work. I had a few odd jobs to finish around the house and got down to these as soon as Mrs Woolie and her friends had gone off phone hunting. I unblocked the small bathroom sink, fixed a cupboard door in the kitchen and replaced some fence panels in the garden. I had the work rate of some doped up athlete. Moments later I had finished all the jobs and I was walking around the house with a hammer and some nails, just looking for things to hit.
Just before noon the ladies got back. They settled down and were soon opening up the posh boxes containing their sharp new phones. They had bought similar phones, one blue and one green. They inserted their sim cards and batteries and played around with the phones for a bit before putting them on the sideboard to charge up properly. They asked if I would show them how to install and set up google mail and whatsApp once they were fully charged. Apparently, Mrs Woolie had suggested that I was an expert on such things. We left the phones sitting there charging for an hour.
We had a late lunch. Mrs Woolie had left a list of stuff for me to prepare and when they returned she did some grilled chicken and salad. There was some freshly made passion fruit juice and we sat at the small table chatting about this and that.
As we were talking I noticed that Marion had reached over to the sideboard and picked up a phone. She said, “I seem to have a message here already. Hahaha. It says it’s from Mum.”
She read the message aloud. “ Where are you? Been trying to call you. I am sorry to have to tell you your……” She stopped and then read on, “Father was struck by a lorry and was killed instantly.” Marion was shaking now, holding herself up on the dining table. “My father is dead. I don’t believe it.” She wailed.
Irene said, “What do you mean, dead?” She was now looking at Marion. “What are you talking about, Marion?” Then she said, “Oh my God I am so, so sorry, Marion.” Just then as I watched Marion looked again at the phone. “But this is not my phone.” She said, looking at the offending instrument in terror. She gave it to Irene, saying “This is yours. Mine was the blue one!”