“Yeah… (Pause…) No, no, my daughter just passed.” (Pause…), “Thank you, the one that was in Butere Girls” (Pause…) “Yes that one. We had gotten her results, she had a B+…..” See I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but he was walking right in front of me, and even if I had tried, not that I did, there was no way I could shut my ears and for some reason, I felt myself get involved in a conversation that was not meant for me. He was on the phone. The conversation went on. “We had just rushed her to Nairobi Women’s.” (Pause…) “She was complaining of headache and back ache, she passed before they could find out what was wrong with her.” (Pause…sob…sob…).
He stopped, and I walked past him. I walked slowly, and curiosity got the best of me so I turned back, here was a man that was openly crying on the streets. He seemed to be in his mid fifties, he was dressed ok, black trouser and a grey coat, I didn’t notice the colour of his shirt and neither did I look at his shoes. What I noticed though was the pained expression on his face. He looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, like he had totally given up on life, like it didn’t matter to him if the sun ever rose again or if the sky suddenly turned green. He didn’t even care that he was crying in the streets.
He started walking again and I reduced my pace. Yeah, I know, I know, my mother did teach me and I knew better than to eavesdrop on a private conversation. I was trying to mind my own business, but here was a man crying, talking on the phone and crying. He wasn’t screaming, howling or causing a scene, if anything, he seemed totally oblivious of his surroundings. He walked on and the conversation went on. “No, I am alone right now. There is a shortage of matatus and the ones to Ngong are charging seventy shillings.” (This was happening somewhere along Ngong road near Uchumi hyper.) It was true, there had been a shortage of matatus that day and I was actually just stalling to see if I would be lucky to get one heading to town and if not, then I would be forced to walk to town. The man too seemed to have decided to walk to town. He passed me again and I increased my pace, don’t ask me why but I just did.
From his conversation, I learnt that his daughter had just come from Butere the previous Friday. She had fallen ill and had sadly passed on. I did not get to know who was on the other end of the phone, but from what I got to hear, I assumed it was relative. I also learnt that the man did not have enough fare to take him to Ngong, so he was walking to town to see if he could meet another relative who could hook him up with enough fare to get him to Ngong. I wondered if I should intervene, but this being Nairobi, I hesitated. Why I hesitated? Well, Nairobi is known to be full of con men and women that would go to extreme lengths to exploit the unsuspecting victim. So yeah, I hesitated for just a second. Second.
“Mpsesa? (Pause…) yeah, I think I can find one.” (Pause…) Go to prestige and wait for you there? Ok …thank you.” He hung up and turned back. I got a chance to look at his face again, closely this time because he was just about to walk past me. I smacked myself for the one second I had suspected him to be a con, because his face registered pure misery and the tears hadn’t stopped.
I don’t know what got into me but I stopped him, and when he stopped I didn’t know what to do. What do you tell a stranger who you know nothing about other than what you had accidentally overheard in a conversation that was totally not meant for you? What do you tell a man that is clearly mourning a daughter he just lost? Really, I don’t know why I stopped him. To him, I was a stranger who knew nothing of his pain. None the less, he stopped and he looked at me with a face so pained, I wanted to just hug him and tell him that everything thing would be ok, but I did not know that it would be. So instead, I gave him my condolences, reached into my handbag and gave him one hundred shillings that I hoped would get him to Ngong. He looked at me in amazement, thanked me and asked God to bless me. He then got his phone and as he walked past, I heard him say,” meet me in Ngong, I am going home to tell her mother. She needs to hear it from me first.”
So yeah, maybe I was scummed (forgive me for having beef with Nairobi), but when a man talks like that, when he cries like that, you gotta be touched. Your heart goes out to him. because when a man cries, then you know he is truly hurting so you feel a little of his pain, and for his sake, you pray he is not just a good actor. I hate to see a man cry.