Let’s call him Bob. Bob is a nice enough name for a guy as amiable as he was. I don’t remember him for anything particularly awesome. He wasn’t one of those smooth fellows in primary school who could sweet talk a mandazi from your lunch box into their hands, and tummy. But I don’t remember him for anything terrible, either. He wasn’t one of a gang of five herds boys who found pleasure terrorizing the nerdy boys we were as we walked home from private school. By virtue of being in a private institution, we were prey for the boys who ran home from neighboring public schools, discarded their uniforms, and took the cattle out to graze. They proved their courage, and self-worth (?) on the backs of our assumed privilege.
No, none of those are why I remember Bob. Bob is committed to the memory of my time in Ngong Hills Academy because of something embarrassing. You and I both know you’ve got similar compromising memories, about acquaintances from the past, so stop giving me THAT look!
One day while at school, Bob had the misfortune of experiencing a tummy ache. It wasn’t the kind of stomach ache that is content to rumble in your belly, occasionally letting out what resembles Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of mustard gas. No, this particular stomach pain was self-confident; self-confident in a way that needed to be announced to the whole school. Unwilling to remain confined in Bob’s abdomen, the upset stomach spilt itself out of his body. In a very messy way. As a very messy number two.
“Bob amejiendea! Bob went on himself!” This was the statement trending on every student’s lips. The news spread pretty fast across the school. It was not often that a grade 4 boy, having long left the daytime naps of kindergarten, was caught in such a compromising act. A teacher, or perhaps a staff member, helped Bob out of his soiled shorts and into a garment that resembled either an oversized pair of shorts or a Scottish kilt. Just in case anyone had missed the news, all they had to do was take one look at Bob’s new lower half of his school uniform, inquire after it, and they’d soon walk away smiling from ear to ear. I didn’t torment him about it, I must add. But I can imagine that Bob walked away from that day either permanently scarred, or forever trained to ignore public ridicule.
I was on a bus from Kampala back to Nairobi. Just past the Kenya-Uganda border at Busia, the driver and conductor do what most crews do: picked up a few passengers to occupy any vacant seats, and whose fare meant extra pay. I was seated towards the back. Not the back seat where your head grazes the roof after each pothole, but one of the last two pair of seats immediately in front of it. Two gentlemen boarded the bus, and took up a pair of empty spots on the back row. The Nairobi-bound bus proceeded on. We were all eager to get to the Green City in the Sun.
The two fellows who’d just joined us turned out to be quite jovial. They were chatting between themselves, not particularly loudly, but you could tell they were in a good mood. We kept driving for about 45 minutes when one of the men called out loud for the driver to stop the bus. He said his friend needed to attend to a call of nature. For the last 10 or so minutes, I’d had to open my window at little wider because a mysterious smell had began to make its existence known. It wasn’t quite the smell of feces, but it smelt dangerously close. Perhaps like someone who’d evaded a shower for about a month, during which time he’d gotten buffed on by several babies. It was unpleasant, to say the least.
As the fellow asking for the bus to halt went back and forth with the conductor, who’d responded to this request by saying that the bus was not due for a break for another 4 hrs, at Kericho, a woman let loose a blood curdling scream. “Wuui, mavi! Feces!” All of a sudden the other passengers were now very interested in making sure the driver pulled over the bus immediately. The woman, who happened to be sitting next to the two men, kept shouting and making a ruckus. As soon as the driver pulled over, she jumped up and rushed towards the front of the bus and out the vehicle. The fellow who’d initially made contact with the driver also followed. The rest of us were left engulfed in the nauseating, unmistakable smell of feces. Windows were hurriedly opened but that was not enough.
The culprit looked around, dazed and perhaps embarrassed, perhaps defiant: I went on myself, mta-do? One or two passengers begun to use the words refunds, and alternate bus in their sentences. The tout and driver figured they’d better act fast. They marched to the back seat and asked the fellow to get up and exit the bus. Big mistake.
Turns out these two guys were imbibing the whole time. In their drunken state, one of them had lost control of his stomach and sphincter muscles – blame the rough Busia-Nairobi highway. Unfortunately for us passengers, these were not the polite kind of feces, the kind that calls in advance before showing up, or at least knows not to visit when guests are in your house. No, these were rude kind. The kind that moves from 0 to 100 in about 60 seconds. These were the go-getter, hustler kinda feces. They show up, then proceed to stare you down. These were kind of feces that are close relatives – think first cousin – to liquids such as soup and porridge. Like water, their second cousin twice removed, they always, and I mean ALWAYS, seek the lowest point.
When asked by the driver and conductor to stand up, the man’s excrete vacated the thin space between his behind, his pants, and his seat, and began its downwards safari towards his ankles. By the time he’d shuffled out to the aisle in between seats, they were nonchalantly rolling down his socks, and spilling over his shoes. By the time he got to the door, he was trailing a substance that was disgusting beyond belief. The bus reeked. It took about 20 minutes of cleaning, using soil, leaves, newspapers you name it before the traces were erased. But that, of course, did nothing to abate the smell. That stayed with us, rebelliously hanging on to the end of our journey in Nairobi.