They hugged. The passionate hug by the bus stop. The hug that says we aren’t staying in the friend zone for long. That hug should have been done an hour earlier but when they got to the bus stop, they realized they had time. So they walked up and down the corridors of Garden City Mall admiring the merchandise that neither or both combined could not afford. He thought of her in a designer dress and her of him in a pair of shoes they had seen. She loved a guy in a good pair of boots and a matching belt. He possessed neither but she liked the person in him. An hour passed and the hug came.
She was Alice and she lived in Kahawa west so she boarded a Zuri Genesis bus and fished out her phone to check the photos they had taken with him, Joe, in the mall. Joe decided to walk home from the stage. He lived with his mother and sibling in an apartment in Mathare North. The three of them grew in Mathare Valley and had moved up when his mother got a promotion at KCA University where she worked and him a job as a nurse in a hospital. He shared a room with his brother who was in high school and his mother took the other room.
Alice texted when she got home. Joe told her that he decided to walk home from the stage. She knew he loved walking. ‘It helps me unwind’ he had said time and over before. He promised to inform her when he arrived. Neither happened.
When the bus filled with Mathare bound passengers, Kamau knew that it was the last trip for the day. It was five thirty o’clock on a Sunday evening. He could not say he hated the driver’s job, but he didn’t like it either. He worked from four thirty in the morning to nine o’clock in the night daily, and only on weekends did he start at six and close at eight.
In reminiscence, Kamau had quite a successful career as a driver. He had driven for more than a decade and never once was he involved or caused an accident. He had broken the status quo that City drivers are the most unruly and reckless drivers in the country. He had earned the title Dere Sober, a name he savored. In a couple of months, he would throw in the towel after what was seemingly an illustrious career. But Sunday had something in store for him. He didn’t know. He never understood why.
Driving a matatu placed food on the table but removed him entirely from the room. He saw less and less of his young family and the vacuum was taking toll on him. It was a matter of time before he called it quits. As he ignited the engine, his mind was thinking of home. On the dash board was a dress, a gift for his wife. He made it a habit to call her when he was free and he had noted some improvements. She stayed up late for him and though tired, they talked for about half an hour before tucking in. The sex had also improved in quality and frequency. He had learnt the cheat codes and they were working. For a moment. He had bought the time he needed. Now he was working on starting a cereal shop in Kariobangi and if the landlord had finished with the room, he would be a shopkeeper in a couple of months. He smiled at the thought as he drove past KICD in Ngara.
Alex left Nairobi for Nakuru in 2014 when his Mhindi decided that business was better in Nakuru. Alex was a fabricator and worked for an Indian owned company that made bodies for trucks. Since he moved, he visited the city fortnightly during the weekends. He loved the city. The love was mainly because his mother and all his friends lived there. For Alex, there was no better place to spend a long Easter weekend than Nairobi. His mother was not feeling well as her pressure was very unstable. On Sunday, she was better and in the company of her sister when Alex left for a camaraderie with friends. They drank White Cap as they caught up. On the table were few ladies and the ambience was great. Somebody would order beef- Dry fry or Choma and they would celebrate. The joint was owned by their close friend and it was the first time the group was meeting there. The party would have gone on till late if the phone did not ring. Alex picked it and by the expression on his face, the group went silent.
“Wuuii ni mathe, ati pressure imepanda sana wacheni nimkimbize hosi,” Alex told the friends as he rose.
The news must have hit him bad because for a while he forgot he had been drinking for two hours. He felt for the car keys and seconds later, he was cruising towards home. A friend had joined him on the passenger’s seat. They didn’t speak. They picked up his mother and were on their way to the hospital; horn blowing incessantly and the hazard lights flashing with intent.
Kamau saw a car drive straight into his bus. It must have fallen from above because the road had been clear all through, he tried to avoid a head on collision and he veered of the road. He was sure there were no pedestrians and when he heard a thud, he thought it was the car that had ran straight into the body of the bus alone. He killed the engine and jumped out, the bus conductor jumped out as well. He, the conductor, had seen a black figure go under the bus but wasn’t sure what it was. Kamau was mad at Alex who was hysterical. Alex had never before gotten in a road accident but here he was, in a crushed car, a sick mother and an agitated bus driver. For a while, they thought the case was simple, damaged car and scratched bus but things would soon escalate. The bus had run over a pedestrian. A young nurse called Joe lay lifeless beneath the Isuzu NQR Max bus.
“Kwani leo hufiki?” she thought he would see it.