I’ve slept in several cells more than I can ever care to count. This is not to say that I am a bad man. Doing what I do, the risk is bigger, more enemies, and the law always waits for me around the corner. When you begin to make bigger steps in life, you realize that the threats, risks and costs do multiply. It is here that you must decide whether you’re bold enough to face what is coming for you or not. But all in all, getting arrested sometimes has nothing to do with someone being a bad person. There is a litany of reasons why you can end up in a cell, or worse, a prison. And I for once, I have had the opportunity of enjoying the rough treat of a remand prison.
It almost certain that there is little difference between one cell in a police station in Kericho, and another cell in Kiambu, given that they follow the same system of operation. The experiences might never be the same, but for a man who has been accustomed, you can know what to expect.
Recently, I got arrested for reasons better known to me and a few others. Well, for one reason. It has been an ungrateful year and I don’t really want to talk about it because it has stolen that energy from me. Writing this story, I had to source hard for a pocket of energy to at least give me enough thrust to sit before a computer. Otherwise, lately I have been lost in my own thoughts, stressed, anxious and even suicidal at times. I have been living at the mercy of the silent prayers of my lovely sister who calls every other day to check if I’ve put a noose around my neck.
The struggles of an innocent man going through rigorous court processes that don’t seem to move in his favour sometimes can make one a bitter man. Bitter men can turn into bad men. There’s nothing boring as a court process. It is slow, exhausting, time wasting, money wasting, and most of all stress injecting son of a bitch. You can never know what to expect.
Upon my arrest, I wasn’t bundled into the boot of a car as other guys had been. I didn’t resist the arrest because I was sure that I was merely a victim of circumstances who was at the right place at the wrong time. I was cooperative all the way. Being arrested gets different when you get booked. It kind of changes the whole story, from an innocent person to a criminal. The reason being that I failed to tip or rather bribe these women the 20k they were asking for. I kind of thought they were joking so I laughed on their face as any other innocent man would.
If they had been reasonable enough, 1k or 2k would have been the price because I was willing to give that. It was all that stood between me and poverty that was staring at me. Corona had already changed everything and my business was doing poorly, well, I had closed shop and several other things had transpired afterwards that made me feel like killing myself. The young and lovely girl that I had employed at a small Mpesa shop that I had opened was conned a quarter a million shillings. 275k in a time like this, Corona period, is like a million bucks on a normal economic period. So you can imagine how stressed I was.
I didn’t blame the girl because having been in this business for some time now; being conned is one thing you’ll have to live with. Every day someone comes up with a new trick to rip you off. So I closed that shop too. I spent most of days in my single-roomed apartment staring at the roof, because it has no ceiling. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t, I wanted someone to understand my pain, but no one could; I wanted a warm touch of a woman, and a few words of encouragement, but none of that was forthcoming. It was me, my thoughts and my small crib. I tried to imagine that kind of setback, and every time I did so I got so tired that I wanted to die.
As it happens, I get to share bad news to people. I did share but the reaction, as you all know, people don’t give a shit. I have, for long, known that people don’t give a shit. But every time I do find myself going back, hoping that perhaps they might have changed, only to meet the same rudimentary shock of indifference. People will sympathise for a second or two and then begin telling you their motherfucking problems. This world yoh!
I hitch-hiked a lorry that was carrying sand to Mahi Mahiu. I didn’t have a penny to my name. My idea was to go to shags and rest my bones for a while, get things into perspective, perhaps even talk to my old man into giving me my share of the land, sell it off and get back to business. Well, I am not into farming anyway, so what’s land going to do for me if I don’t sell it? I got a lift at Mahi Mahiu and this guy dropped me at Narok town. I traded my iPhone 7 plus for a few bucks to get me going. I sold it cheap because it was the only way to get rid of it. I had this small iPhone 5 lying in my pocket and it came handy after that.
A journey of 5 hours took three days. I got to shags exhausted, hollow and harrowed by nasty experiences that kicked my head every moment I tried to think about the future. For once, for a man who has always had it figured out, I couldn’t see the future. It was more than bleak. Shags was supposed to be therapeutic but folks there don’t deal that way. They don’t sit down to mourn about shit. When shit hits the fan, they face it. They never sit down to ruminate or do those things that shrinks tell us to do. None gave or showed me sympathy. If anything, the place was isolated and nothing felt good anymore. Just emptiness.
I hoped into a car back into the city. I knew I was headed for self destruction or even into oblivion. A few friends insisted that I man up and get my mojo going. As you can imagine, it is easier said than done. If there is anything useless you can say or do to a person who’s been beaten down by life, it is to tell them to sit up, dust themselves off and get going. We all know the world is tough, and that life fucks us all from all directions. But when someone is down, they don’t need words of encouragement, they already know that if they don’t get their ass up they’re going to sleep out in the streets. The best thing you can offer a drowning person is company. Not words. You don’t have to say anything. If you value this person, take time off and pay them a visit, or invite them for a meal or a trip or something, whatever you can afford.
A drowning man should never be left alone! Idleness is a recipe for death for someone who is down.
One way or another, I managed to wear my big-man pants and started again. I was behind; I’m still behind, on my rent and other dues. All these folks who look up to me, the ones I support, the ones I mentor, their dreams washed away with my turn of events.
Anyway, two months down, I am getting into a cell in one evening. Two rough dudes with bloodshot eyes push me from the corridor and perform a thorough search on me. There’s nothing on me except this flash that contains very important files. Files I can kill someone for. So I throw it into my mouth before the dudes frisk me.
There are things you remember mostly when you’re in a cell. The reeking smell of the toilet. It is something you get used to. It is the same smell in every cell in this country. Apart from that, you’ve to prepare yourself mentally to the idea of sleeping on a floor. The thing with sitting and sleeping on the floor is that you get tired. Your ass becomes numb. After sitting for a few hours, you’ve to stand up. It is an intermittent exercise. Bones hurt. Everything in your body will hurt. Sometime you’ll find sleeping while standing more enjoyable than sleeping on the floor.
Sometimes, it is hard to even sleep. If there is something evasive in prison/cell, it is sleep. You can never sleep for 5 hours straight if you’re sober. The damn mosquitoes will keep you awake. You get tired of sleeping. Other cell mates will be talking. Talking and laughing is the only therapy that seems to work in a cell. Laughing makes you forget your miseries.
But after all is done and said, time never moves. It is as if cell and prison time stops. Do you know what happens when time doesn’t move? You’re left with you and your thoughts. You possibly think of anything and everything. That is worse. Thoughts. They break a man down. They make you do the impossible to get out of that place. The fleas and mosquitoes and the bad smell of the toilets cannot equate to thoughts. And it is here that using drugs becomes a fashioned affair. They make you forget your thoughts. They can make you sleep.
In order to get drugs, you need to know the right men. The right men work with money. So you need to know the right men and you must have money. The right men provide several things: protection, food, tissue paper (there is no tissue paper in a cell), and drugs. You never want to be on the wrong side of these men. Your life in prison will be horrible. And as you know, there’s nowhere to run to.
Anyway, after spending a night in a cell, and after seeing macabre things go down, like the two wildly looking dudes almost killing two cell-mates, I ended up in Kibera Law Courts. With me are three other guys. One is charged with similar charges as mine. Another dude is coming for a mention for his case, having been accused of sleeping with an underage girl. And I take time talking with this dude because I kinda like stories of seemingly bad men. He tells me that he has been living with this ka-girl (16 years) and they have a home. They were in love and they had decided to make this thing of theirs to work. He was supportive as he was making good money. Before I go further, the dude is 23 years.
But the granny to this girl is from hell. So she went ahead and reported this guy to the chief who did not hesitate to hear the cry of an old woman who only wants the best for her granddaughter. Sadly enough, when this granny had gotten ill, this dude had, out of his pocket, taken her to hospital and seen her attended and paid all the bills. Anyway, no one knows what happened in between the hospitality because suddenly the grandmother decided to see the dude go to jail.
The last dude is an old folk, probably in his 60s with old dreadlocks. He is the kind of man who can’t sit still. He talks and talks and sometimes you feel he needs to just shut up. He claims that he was sold to the Vatican or rather given as a sacrifice by his parents for riches. So his parents dislike him and the only time they are happy is when he is in jail. It is not the first time he is here. He has been here many times before. Same case. Assaulting his folks.
We go before the magistrate at this make shift court under a tent just outside the Kibera court. It is my first time here so I don’t know how shit goes down. I plead not guilty. Two things mostly happen when you go to court for the first time. You’re given bail/bond or go to prison. If you cannot afford the bail/bond, you’re a friend of the dens.
It is probably too early to tell what happens in prison. Remand is also a prison. It is called remand prison. It is worse than real prison. And spending two weeks in there changed me. There’s no way to describe the events of that place without breaking down, to which I won’t finish the peace anyway. So if you ever meet me in person, you can ask me to tell you what goes on in there. Be kind enough to hand me a handkerchief or tissue as I am sure tears will be involved. There are things that you can’t forget when they happen. And those things keep you awake at night. You have nightmares. You freak out at the touch of another man. You begin to see everyone as a threat. You isolate yourself. You become quieter.
The case is still ongoing. I don’t know how I feel about it- whether relieved or freaked out. I can confirm that freedom is priceless though. It is the last thing you want to be taken away from you. From time to time I do wonder why I had to pass all through this. It is a question you can’t stop from asking yourself over and over. If at all it was necessary. Why on top of all the drama and suffering that you’ve been through you have to be put through another dreadful experience.
All this can change a man’s beliefs. You can hate God. You can throw away every last bit of decency you had left in you. You stop believing. You begin to think that you are a bad man.
But one thing I have learnt is that I have no reliable friends. I don’t have friends at all. Because when I was given a bail of 300k, not even one friend came forth to assist. At the end of the day, I had to sell all I had left to raise that money, as well as ask my old man to lease his land for me. I can now formally say that I have no friends. Only family.
I can’t tell how things are looking for me right now, but if you asked me that right on the face, I would say I don’t care.
What will be, will be.
Yours Amicus Curiae,
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wastelands in search of better selves?