Surviving The Streets



I gave her 50 shillings for the little nicety she had offered. It was my first time. I was 16; sort of felt nice to kiss a prostitute. It was then that I realized they’re human. She looked to be in her early twenties, seemingly lost as I was, standing there by Kenya Cinema, winking at potential customers. I had no idea how unforgiving the streets were, wouldn’t even treat its own kindly. That girl was beautiful. Her shy smile somewhat gave an impression that her conscience knew she was not in the right place, but what to do? I did not know her story. Perhaps with my situation, I would have been wearing her shoes if I was a female.

The walk to Riruta was after all fruitful. You see, when you are in trouble, you never think twice about going the extra mile. I had barely rested from the previous night’s trek on Mombasa Road. After having a word with my uncle, Calipso, who gave me favourable clothes to survive with in the cold, I trudged to Margaret’s house. She was my mother’s close friend. Her fiance was at home, I think preparing to leave. Can’t quite recall his name, but he was a good man. After making me feel comfortable, he left for the bathroom, which was outside the house. Immediately, some demon took over me and I rushed to their bedroom. I was looking for money. I can’t explain what led me to check below the pillows first, but it seemed God was on my side. Two 200 shilling notes lay there as if waiting to be freed from suffocation. I’d like to believe they gasped out some air of relief. I quickly tucked them into my side pocket and went back to my innocent face on the sofa. The mister came back with a towel wrapped around his waist and a fairly wet chest. I begged to leave before he entered their bedroom. Could not give him a chance to suspect anything. Of course he couldn’t. I was a good boy. In fact, I also passed mother’s greetings to him and his girlfriend, Margaret. Yet mother was looking for me.
I got into a barber shop for a haircut. It was time to look different, to feel different. When you live in the jungle, you dress for the jungle. You become the jungle. 30 shillings to town in a matatu did not hurt. At least I came back to town a little richer and could afford Dairy Fresh Milk, Vanilla Flavour, and some cake. I was empty inside and I knew it. I could tell how lonely I was, how desperately my soul craved for peace, for love. It astounded me how hard life could push a human being. What was I thinking running away from home? How could I come to such a conclusion, so young, so naive, so fragile, so broken? I’d feel the million sighs my mind breathed as I walked up Moi Avenue through Tuskys Pioneer. For a moment, I forgot the cold.
This silky voice stole me from my thoughts. Someone was calling out- from afar. My eyes met a stunning body of a woman sighting me up flirtatiously. My clothes were not dirty yet, so I was certainly admirable. And with the clean shave, I imagined I was attractive. She surely wanted business. I hadn’t interacted with a prostitute ever before, but movies had helped a lot. 
”Ukona ngapi?” She bluntly asked, after I had shown interest in indulging.
”Finje tu.” I responded. I was not ready to burn all the remaining money for five minutes of pleasure.
”Ai! Hiyo haiwezi.” Shaking her head. That ostensibly shy look on her face.
”Hata munju tu?” I asked in quiet desperation. Munju is Swahili slang (sheng) for a kiss.
She gave in for the kiss, a touch here and there, after which I paid her the agreed amount, then we both walked to continue with our journeys, never to see each other again. I wonder where her soul is today.
I’m glad the streets did not destroy me. I lived to tell my stories. I live for my stories, and I want to keep telling them. There are many kids who never get out, and most who never live to tell what they saw or the things they felt before they met their death.
In all things, I give thanks to God.



Post Author: Eric Onyango Otieno

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