Choices That Led to Her Death

From a distance he can hear touts yelling, “Githurai mbao. Ya mbele ikienda.” But he still can’t get himself to actuate. Instead, he hopelessly sits next to the bin that’s vomiting trash. Tear drops fall on the letter in his hands like water from a tap to the ground. He looks up to the sky hoping to find solace, but his view is blurred due to the endless stream of tears. His body feels weak, weaker than that of a starved camel in a desert while his spirit is more shuttered than that of a man who just lost all his investments. Tears of celebration were what he had hoped to end his day with, but life gave him this; lemons when he needed lemonade. Slowly, he rises and walks towards the entrance of the building contemplating whether or not to go up the flight of stairs then jump off the 10th floor. However, his feeble legs fail him and he ends up sitting back on the God-made floor. In his head he can still hear the last words she said to him for they keep replaying themselves like Christmas carols. Without realizing it, he drifts to 3 nights back.
It was around 9pm when he pulled up outside her gate. He parked his vehicle and said hello to the watchman before walking in. Unlike other days when he seemed dull and beat, today he had a priceless smile on his face. The type of smile that makes parents think that wedding bells are around the corner. Confidently, he walked like Obama going to deliver his victory speech. From a distance, you’d think he had just won the lottery. Before the gate was fully closed, he looked back at his ride. Many would call it a meaningless mkokoteni but to him, it was his baby; his hustle; his muse and his blessing. It was the one thing that brought him unmeasurable joy, well, other than the woman he loved most. The watchman called out to him making him forget the mkokoteni thoughts.
   “Eh, bwana. Raha kajaa usoni mwako. Umejishindia mwanamke wa maana na mwenye shepu ya chupa ama nini kinachofanya ukae zuzu tajiri?”
   “Aah, siwezi furahi bila sababu?”
    “Haya kaka, pia miye nitatabasamu bila sababu. Msalimie.”
He wished he could tell him the root of his joy, but no, Diana had to hear it first. On he walked. As if she had been watching him since he walked into the compound, the door flew open as he was about to knock on it. The reek of sweat that came from him didn’t stop her from rushing into his arms and getting lost in his embrace. After all, he was still her baby brother; her hero. She then welcomed him in. As she walked to the kitchen to get him a drink, he patiently sat down revising his lines on how to break the news to her. With a glass of juice in her hand, she walked back in and set it in front of him.
    “So, how’s life?” he asked
    “Not bad. I actually have something I need to tell you,”
     “So do I but I believe I should go first. I know they say ladies first but today allow me to break the norm,”
     (Smiling) “Okay Caleb, go ahead,”
     (Taking out the letter in his pocket and placing it in front of her with a smile on his face)
      “What’s this?”
      “Just go through it,”
      She opened the letter and began reading it. On completion, she let out a scream as tears cascaded down her face.
      “I’m really proud of you. Finally you have a job and a chance to study,”
      “Yes (grinning) Miracles do happen,”
      “How did you get these opportunities at a go?”
      “The other day a campus boy was moving into a new place so he hired me to carry his belongings. As we were walking, we engaged in a very interesting conversation that ended up with me agreeing to do his assignments for a pay. It wasn’t hard work since I had to study at night and grasp what was expected. The work I did impressed him so he asked his dad who turns out to be a CEO to help me fund my education and he also offered me a job that will help me get upkeep money,”
       “Wow. Your days of pushing that mkokoteni are finally over,”
      “I would say so. Back to what you wanted to talk to me about. What is it?”
      “I think we need wine for this.”
Diana rose up and walked to the kitchen then returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses. The look on her face was one of fear and regret. With 20 years of knowing her, he had come to know how she behaved when she was happy, angry, stressed, lonely, and moody. Was she getting married or was she pregnant?
  “I just want you to remember that I will always love you and you’re the biggest blessing in my life,”she said
   “I’m getting worried. What’s going on?”
    “Remember how hard life was when we came from the village?”
    “Yea. We used to encourage ourselves with the song courage brother but things did work out quit well and fast for you,”
   “They say every woman has a plan. I guess mine wasn’t the best,”
    “I don’t follow,”
   “See, before coming here I filled you with a lot of crap about how Nairobi is the place to make dreams come true but I didn’t tell you that I had already figured out what I was coming to do. Life wasn’t easy and my love for money wasn’t subsiding so I talked to Eric, our rich neighbor,”
   “Eric has a bad reputation back home. Oh Lord, where is this conversation leading?”
   “Eric promised to give me a job once I got here. A job to…” (She took a long pause)
   “To do what Diana?”
    “To sell drugs.”
Caleb maintained his cool but did his best to avoid eye contact with her.
    “Is this talk about you selling drugs or is it heading somewhere else?”
     “Please let me finish. Getting customers was easy and within no time, I got linked to people who own loads of money and that’s how I managed to pay for most of what I have,”
     “I get it, it was a good business but I still don’t understand why you’re telling me about this now,”
      “Because I owe you an explanation to why I stopped lending you money. It was never about you being a man, though, I am proud of the effort and the far you’ve come by yourself. It was about me getting hooked to coke. I couldn’t afford to maintain my lifestyle, fund you then get extra money for drugs, so I put drugs before you.”
At this point the expression on Caleb’s face changed. He looked like the perfect example of a man who had spent all his life being angry and disappointed.
      “Okay. So I’m less important compared to your drugs, ey?”
      “No. That is not what I’m saying,”
       “What are you saying?”
      “I’m saying that I got hooked and forgot my priorities. Look, I don’t want to fight with you. I want you to know that someone ratted my crew out,”
      “You even have a crew? God damn it Diana, this is not how we were raised,”
      “Hey, before you get all dramatic at least let me finish,”
       “Okay then. The floor is all yours,”
       “So, my crew got ratted out and we are planning to escape by leaving the country,”
At this point, Caleb broke into laughter. Not the sort of laughter that makes you happy or proud for making a joke. It was the sort of laughter that makes you hate yourself for the rest of your life.
       “When is this escape of yours taking place?” he sarcastically asked
        “In a day or two?”
        “Where are you planning to go?”
         “Um, I still don’t know but we might cross the border,”
          “Aha, won’t you look at that. Kingpins crossing the border without being caught. Will you do it like they do in movies?”
         “Caleb, please get serious. I’m trying to say that I don’t know if we’ll make it,”
         “Well, you’ve made it this far without me noticing you’re a dealer so I’m sure it will be as easy as saying banana.”

He rose up and walked to the door not intending to say another word. Recalling that he had not picked his letter from the table, he turned back. Face to face he came with her eyes. They were full of tears and pain. Pain of knowing that her blood brother was disappointed in her and currently walking out on her, but could she blame him? He picked the letter and silently walked towards the door.
           “I love you,” she said
These words made him halt. However, he didn’t turn back to say I love you too. Instead, he turned back to say, “Goodbye.” And just like that, he walked out of the room prepared to ignore her apologies for days. Little did he know that three days later he’d hear about her death over the radio?
 “Aye,mse wa mkoko. Maisha kakulemea ama aje?” went the voice of a young boy as it brought him back to reality.
  “Zi. Niko poa,”
   “Umeskia kuhusu wase walipigwa risasi leo asubuhi juu ya kuuza madawa?”
He wonders if the boy knows that one of those people was his sister or that he had just lost his muse. With no perfect words to use as his response, he looks down at his letter as tears streak down his face. Reading the mood, the young boy walks away leaving him to himself. He then takes out his phone and goes through the endless apologies Diana had sent him. He stops at one specific text that reads ‘You have every right to be mad and disappointed. I understand that I let you down but I need you to understand this, you never let me down and I’m really proud of you. I don’t know what will happen but either way, I want you to always know that I love you and I believe in you. If mom and dad were still alive, they would be proud to say you’re their son. If life gets too hard, sing courage brother for it always calms you down. Goodbye Caleb. You were the best baby brother.’ This time, tears do not well up in his eyes, he actually feels empowered and less bitter. A final look at his letter and he thinks of how proud his sister was when she read it. A voice within him says, “In her last seconds on this earth, she may have had many regrets but not a bit of her regretted being proud of you.” A smile spreads across his face as he recalls it’s his last day pushing the mkokoteni while the song courage brother automatically starts playing in his mind. Putting the letter back in his pocket, he rises up, walks towards his mkokoteni and begins his journey home. To himself he mutters a few words, “Rest in Peace Diana, it’s the beginning of a new story.”