I had completely forgotten about this incident but for some reason, it came back to me yesterday as crystal clear as though it had occurred yesterday.
I used to live in Ruaka. Back then, it was a sleepy hood where the uncool people stayed. No one knew about it. If you told someone you lived in Ruaka, you would spend the next five minutes explaining how Ruaka is not Ruaraka. Now I just found out Ruaka is among the estates listed in Pizza Inn’s deliverable estates. New Kitusuru is not. Let that sink in. That’s how cool Ruaka has become now. And that is precisely why I moved away.
I also used to ride a Honda Shadow cruiser - a 600cc motorcycle with a throaty grunt - a looker and “sounder” that turned heads. It’s main purpose was to turn heads, but there were some fringe benefits, like being able to get from point A to B, and stuff
One fine evening, about 6pm, I parked it outside a shop in Ruaka and went in to buy some credit for my phone. Or fish... I honestly don’t remember what I was buying. What I remember is a rugged looking man in the same shop, who approached me and asked me for some money.
“I don’t have matatu fare to go home,” he said, with a droopy forlorn face that would have put any puppy to shame. “That’s all I need, fare to get home.”
I eyed him incredulously, taking him in from hair tip to toe nail, holding my helmet and prancing around a bit in my riding gear, like a stormtrooper sizing up a Tatooinian captive. He was not going to get money out of me that easily.
Grammar Nazis, allow me to switch tense...
“All you want is to get home, huh?”
I say, in a tone laced with a warning that there’s something I have thought of, that he hasn’t.
“Yes, all I want is to get home.”
“Well, good. Where do you stay?”
“Kiambu... And all you want is to get home...”
“All I want is to get home...”
This classic Afrikan meaningless verbal tango goes on for a while before I go in for the kill:
“See,” I say, “You are in luck. I have a motorcycle, and an extra helmet. I will drop you home.”
He hesitates. He never saw that coming. There is a brief look of defeat in his eyes before his fighting spirit comes back.
“Unfortunately I’m scared of motorcycles,” he says. “I’m afraid of crashing. Just give me some money for a matatu...”
The stormtrooper prances some more around the Tatooinian. Haughtiness takes over.
“You know I have been riding for three years now, and have never been admitted into hospital because of a crash. I’m here, alive and well, don’t you see me?”
“I’m afraid,” he whimpers.
I get my phone credit, or fish, and walk out. I’m happy that I have not let that swindler pilfer a cent from me.
It’s a short distance to the tarmac road, and the tarmac is a bit higher than the side road I’m on. I just recently tuned the bike’s carburetors, it’s roaring mzuri, and has so much power at the low end.
And that’s exactly why I do not realise I‘m in gear two, and not gear one. As I climb on to the road, I blip the throttle, let out the clutch and lean the bike into the turn. I look where I want to go, just like I learned from all those online rider tips I read religiously. The bike stalls, while I’m leaned over. The rear wheel fails to climb the road and I fall into a road side mama mboga’s wares. She screams and jumps, calling out to Jesus to save her. The bike is on it’s side, the rear tyre spinning haltingly and the chain making loud crackling noises. I’m surrounded by sukuma wikis, onions and tomatoes scattering in fright.
I try to lift the bike but I’m not yet fully used to it’s weight. I beg someone nearby to help me, I just want to get on it and run away from all the stares. Shame is rolling in warm sweat down my forehead and my back. A small crowd is already gathering...
Before I can hightail out of there, I catch a glimpse of the Tatooinian standing at the shop entrance, just looking at me...