THE MALAVA TRAVELLERS 012
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
BRUNO went to the back of the bus and made the last-row seats his bed. Syp and Lodoviko settled about the middle; and Lady G. was still standing when C The D roused the engine and then started Genge music--and the climate in the bus became grand.
Bruno made his backpack his pillow, and lying supine on the back seats, lit his roll. Let us not forget that he has a guitar, which he now started playing. His fingers were rigid; and the tune disappointed him. He placed the guitar on the next seat, and smoked some more.
--Lady G. observed all this. She smiled to herself; but did not come to disturb Bruno--she went to the front, to sit with C The D, who was steering the bus out of Kisumu City’s traffic.
To those who’ve ever sampled Bruno’s roll, how does it taste like? Is it like a cigarillo? Do tell us someday.
Anyway, Bruno was smoking his roll away. He laid one leg over the other, and placed his free hand over the chest. A song came to his mind, and he started singing to himself. The lyrics of the song soon dragged out, and then fell and dissolved under a tranquil layer of contemplation. Out of the layer, a thought about this or that thing would jut out, and his mind would grab and ruminate over it, before the idea fell back into the expanse of misty notions and memories.
He had chosen to join this trip. It would provide a critical variation to his life. Now he was on speaking terms with Syprosa, whom he had never spoken with back at home. This was a good thing. Glad he also was about learning to be patient with people like Lodoviko; who was loud and annoying--but generous. But why had Lady G. refused him?
--Was he fat? No...some women liked big men. Was it because of money? No--no--no--that could not be it. Maybe Lady G. only wanted to enjoy herself during the trip. She wanted to experience the Kenyan culture--see the wild--connect with the people--without any entanglements. And that was all right; Bruno told himself; he would support Lady G. access the finest of the Kenyan experience.
He smoked some more.
He’d exit his rumination and hear the music that C The D played in the bus; he would see the lights from vehicles reflecting off the windows--and then he would vanish into his thoughts again.
--He thought about his grandmother. He loved her. She was controlling but caring. He had rejected the job she sourced for him. He did not want to be a police officer like she did. Chase after criminals? No. He would turn twenty-five in a few months. They expected him to secure a job. He was a graduate after all. Secure a job; work in the city--like his uncle and auntie. And then settle into a marriage. And live.
--The bus had braked by the road--suddenly.
Bruno became alert.
All this time, C The D had smelt weed about, but she did not know wherefrom the smoke issued. Lady G., who sat by her, was not smoking. Syprosa and Lodoviko were lovebirding themselves, but not smoking. When C The D repositioned the rearview mirror, she saw the ember from Bruno’s burning roll. She stopped the bus by the road. And turned on the lights.
“Big man!” said C The D. “What is his name?” she said to Lady G.
“Bruno,” said Lady G.
“You!” said C The D, “Bruno!”
Bruno sat up.
“No weed in my bus. I have no money for Karaos. You get caught, you go alone.”
“You don’t have to scream,” said Bruno, restoring the roll into the backpack.
“Open your windows,” said C The D--and the journey resumed. They were on their way toward Ahero town.
Now Bruno found his phone, and visited Site F; where he posted an update. He mentioned that he was traveling with a group of friends--the most exciting bunch he had ever met. They were traveling across the country in a big bus. If anybody wished to join them, he/she should catch them in Nakuru town or Nairobi City in two or three days--more updates to follow. And he attached a photo of himself with Lady G., which he had taken discreetly.
SYPROSA had never been closer to an older, male adult before. Let us recall that she hardly spoke with her father; and that she was more comfortable in the university than at home. Did she wish that the bond between herself and her father was stronger? Perhaps. Anyway, at this very moment she was sitting next to Lodoviko. She was not speaking to him, but her head was on his shoulder; and her hand on his knee.
Thus posed, she remembered her boyfriend.
They had dated for three years now, total. They’d started soon after highschool. He was tall and dark; with big eyes and thick lips. He wasn’t handsome--but he loved her in a manner she believed no other male could. Yet as we had observed earlier, they weren’t speaking now.
A feeling unlike love and unlike friendship stirred in her as the bus advanced. This is what she felt for old Lodoviko. For the last few days, he had made her feel content. What Lodoviko felt about her she did not know--and she wanted to discover:
“Your heart is beating fast,” she said. Her head was on his shoulder, and her ear could catch his heart’s throbbings.
“Does it?” said Lodoviko.
“What are you thinking?”
“This journey is beautiful.”
Syprosa raised her head off his shoulder; but the hand remained on the knee.
“Tell me what you want,” she said, in the softest voice she could make under the sound of the moving bus.
“What do you mean, Little Flower?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I am not a young bull.”
Syprosa blushed. “I don’t mind.” She rubbed Lodoviko’s knee, then up the thigh, by inches.
Lodoviko pressed his legs together, to stop the rise. Then at once he looked Syp in the face, and said, “What do you want from a withered man?”
--Syp grabbed his chin, and kissed him on the lips; Lodoviko turned his face away, slowly.
At the front Lady G. and C The D had not spoken much. Lady G. had been typing on her phone while C The D concentrated on the wheel. Now C The D said, “Yellow-yellow.”
“Mmh?” said Lady G.
“You got light skin, is what I mean,” said C The D.
“Ha ha. I don’t refuse the nickname. Though yours is cooler.”
“Hah. You fellas are raw, I say,” said C The D after a moment.
“You are real. Big man smokes weed. Small girl there with grandpa. What about you?”
“Yah, what’s your deal?”
“Nothing. I am myself.”
“--And what is it about Bruno’s smoking? --And Syprosa with Lodoviko--aren’t they lovely?”
“Syprosa,” said C The D, while lighting a cigarette with one hand, “what a name.”
Now let us leave our friends alone on the road toward Mbita, with journey mercies upon them.
IT is truly amusing how stories change from mouth to ear. An event that occurs at one station, immediately wears a different cloak when it is told at another spot. It is because of the quenchless hunger of the human ear and heart, to hear of, and believe in, the absurd. We all continually look for the quencher of curiosity.
Speaking thus, let us note that the mouths and ears in Malava town had not rested in the past few days. Word had now spread around the town that Syprosa, the girl of the church, had eloped with Bruno, the odd young man with unkempt hair.
The youth who knew Syprosa, not least her churchmates, were astounded. A certain girl there, who had deputized Syprosa’s organizing secretary role, was the most shocked. She was but a girl of seventeen, in the fourth form at a local secondary school. And Syprosa was her mentor. Syp guided her on what courses to choose for university, how to prepare for examinations--and so forth. --And at one time, Syp counseled her against casting her virginity, with a handsome boy who sold movie CDs at the market.
She was called Adelaide.
When she heard the story, she rushed to Syp’s home, and met Joana--Syp’s sister, who with a lot of tears, confirmed the rumour, true. “No, no! That is not normal,” said Adelaide, “Syprosa? Our Syprosa? That is the devil!”
“I don’t know what has gotten into her head,” said Joana.
“I tell you,” Adelaide said, “it is the devil. We must pray for her!”
Adelaide would then rally her mates and friends in the church; she led them through vigils and fasting--in prayers for the two lost souls: Syprosa and Bruno. And for those who called Syp’s number, they all said, “Ni mteja” as the phone was off.
Only parents and grandparents can describe the distress that Mama Pelela (Bruno’s grandma) and Syp’s mother underwent. Syprosa’s mother had hypertension, which this sorrowful development exacerbated. When a mother is sick, the family becomes downcast. Joana therefore became depressed--and her son whined the more. The man in the home, Syp’s father that is, maintained that Syp was an adult who understood what she was about; and that the family fretted for nothing. He said Syp would come back; Syp’s mother refused to speak to him.
On this very night, when our friends travelled to Mbita via Homabay, our grandmother--Mama Pelela--had a dream. Bruno and she were strolling their sugarcane farm; and little Bruno (in the dream he appeared as a 10-year old) plucked mushrooms from the earth.
“I’ll cook this for you, grandma,” said Bruno in the dream. Bruno was unusually delighted this day. When they returned home Bruno prepared the mushrooms and served Mama Pelela. As they ate Bruno got choked; and he coughed his lungs out, and ejected all the bolus that was in his gut. Yet, having coughed thus; and with tears about his eyes, he still laughed. --When she began to ask him why he laughed, she awoke from the dream.
Mama Pelela was a superstitious woman for whom happy dreams portended tragedy. She believed that any person who showed excessive jollity was often about to die. Despite Bruno having reassured her--when they last spoke on the phone--that he was safe, she lost sleep over him. On the bed she now sat, and prayed for him again. Dawn came by and by. Mama Pelela picked her phone and called Bruno; but this time she found his phone off.
Earlier we said that Mama Pelela and the children in the neighborhood had the relationship of cat and mouse. Her very fearsomeness gifted the kids with a reason for jests. They played pranks on her, and made faces at her--from a distance. But this was not all. They also plucked her mangoes and avocados; her dogs would not bark at them because: they always brought a bone or a dead rat.
Weary of this business, Mama Pelela recently set up a trap in her garden; but three weeks hence no kid had been entrapped.
One’s luck can be somebody else’s misfortune. It thus happened this morning that when Mama Pelela was ruminating about his grandson in the bedroom (for she hadn’t left the bed yet, although it was past nine o’clock) she had a sharp cry from about. Next, one of her dogs barked once, and ran off toward the garden. She could not mistake this. About her shoulders she threw a shuka, found her slip-ons, and out she hurried.
A boy--the most notorious of the gang--had been ensnared. The wire had gripped his ankle, and in his grapples for freedom, the wire had instead tightened, bruised his skin--and he was bleeding a little when Mama Pelela arrived.
“Simba! bite him!” she said to her dog. The dog disobeyed; and gave out a whine of pity on the prisoner.
Mama Pelela had a terrifying look. Her wide mouth and wide nose intensified this look. The little boy knew a dreadful consequence awaited. But he said, in a trembling voice, “If you forgive me, I will trap the other children for you.”
Mama Pelela laughed.
“I tell you the truth, I know when they come for your fruits.”
“Please let me go.”
“Simba, look at him. He thought I would not catch him. Ha!”
“They laugh at me--they spit on my wake--they steal from me--these kids...as silly as their mothers.”
“Shut up, rat!” She severed a branch from a tree--for a cane.
“Noo…” The boy began to weep.
“Simba--why don’t you bite this scoundrel? He is my enemy. Silly child. Bite him. Bite him!” The dog whined. “OK then.” She raised her cane.
“Wait!” cried the boy, “I will tell you something--”
“Tell me what?”
“Which Bruno--my Bruno?”
She rapped the boy’s head with the cane. “Don’t play with me!”
“I say the truth.”
“I know where he went.”
“I don’t know exactly--” cane in the air “--wait! But I know whom with he was--”
“He was with an old man who was well dressed--”
“--and a white woman who had a dog--”
“A white woman?”
“Syprosa of Mama Gaudencia.”
Mama Pelela stood straight, relaxed her features, placed an arm on her waist, and regarded the boy for a while. “Boy, who told you this?”
With this disclosure the boy attained his freedom. Once released, he skipped over the fence as though his ankle did not bleed.
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