I could see my brother clearly even though all the other dancers blended, intoxicated by Taarab music till they cast all distinctions aside and swayed in motions that could blister the eyes of the onlooker. I could see him twisting his head back like a flamingo as he tried to reverberate his buttocks to the gentle seduction of the song. But his buttocks were not the overwhelming swell-ness of a mother of five selling tomatoes in a market, covered constantly with a leso. His buttocks were squashed as if a thief came in and ran away with all the buttock juice. They resembled two loaves of bread that had been laid under stones. Seeing him embarrass himself like that made me wish to kill him, and I thought of dancing my way to him, my hands held out, and how I would grapple his throat as he turned to face me, holding his hands to his knees, swaying his body from side to side. I wondered how it would be. My hands itched.
I had no love for him. At least not in my mind (that died when I repeatedly found notes missing from my wallet till I had to sleep with it, its leather prickling my skin at night) and not at all in my heart (the way he danced and his disgusting buttocks had set that on fire and left only ashes). What love was left was in the blood, and that is strong and almost permanent, unless one drains all your blood away.
He wiggled his way back to me, grinning, his pot-belly swinging up and down, like a gob of fat sliding off the edge of a pan. I could see the crow’s feet round his eyes and the greying hair, and that his teeth were full of tartar. I calculated my dental cover and wondered if I had enough left to include him.
“Why are you so uptight?” he squeaked, and a wave of hate flooded me.
“You need to relax and make friends. No wonder you are so alone. No one would want to be friends with a weirdo like you.”
That is true. I only talked to him and my boss. And my cat, though this last one had not been seen for three days, and I was already thinking of purchasing a goldfish. He had clapped eagerly at the idea and said he knew “just the thing” and that “fish was so in, especially the large aquariums with seven fish in the different colours of the rainbow.” I only shook my head this way and that and changed the TV channel.
Let us make one thing clear. He does not live with me, though he comes often, sometimes at night, sometimes during the day. I have told him where I keep the keys so that he can walk in anytime. He keeps his wigs at my house. I do not know where he lives, and I do not know what he eats, but somehow he keeps walking each day with a big pot belly. I think Jesus was thinking of him when He told the disciples not to worry so much about what they will eat or where they will live.
My brother is a lily of the field.
But I know he spends a lot of time under the bridge. We call it the bridge because we do not know what to call it. What do you call a road that goes over another road? Those Chinese constructors are an amazing people!
Beneath the bridge, held up by giant pillars much, much wider than my two arms outstretched, is a place of total peace, and at night it is totally dark. The wide roundabout weaves cars in and out without their lights spoiling the darkness. Apart from Fridays. That is when it glitters, car lights blending and intertwining in a kaleidoscope tapestry. My brother knows the drivers to pick like the back of his hand. They are driving alone, and they slow down, leaving a wide gap between their car and the one ahead, and then they turn to look outside and gently nod. My brother skips merrily to the car and jumps in.
I know because I have been under the bridge with him. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a malaya, but I like witnessing. I am like an unblinking star up above in a clear night sky, noticing everything that goes on at night, taking it all in and recording it permanently.
One day I was with him under the bridge. He looked like a woman. He had on lipstick and long, luxuriant hair that cascaded down his back like a black waterfall. He told me it was real human hair from Brazil, and I wondered about those Brazilian women selling their hair, and I wondered if in Brazil there were ranches where women were kept for mass production of real human hair. He had on boots that squeezed his fat feet as tight as if they were caught in a trap. There was a red line at the edge where the boots ended, where the blood had been squeezed. He did not act as if he was in pain however.
He told me that he had just pooped on the road under construction above. He had scooped a bit of gravel and made his call of nature and rapidly covered it up, knowing that the next day, the Chinese would lay tarmac over the gravel and he would have made his own personal contribution to the road, and one day, thirty years from then, he would point a withered hand at that spot, telling a new generation of children exactly where he left his poop.
His clients are many but not an exciting kind. Shifty-eyed men, the kind to have left pregnant clueless wives at home. Some are covered with mud spots, all the way from their shoes to their shoulders, and it makes you wonder where they have been. Sometimes they pick their nose and stretch out arms marked with bruises. My brother tells me they are farmers from upcountry bringing their potatoes to the Nairobi markets and heading back home, but of course not without a little taste of him.
I just sigh and let him be.
There is a mall just after the bridge, about five storeys high and with a 24-hour supermarket, selling everything from ice-cream to quails’ eggs to ready-made food. Up above that is a bar, where you can sit under the stars and stare at the road, cars and everything else from up above. My brother always insists that I take him there, but I always refuse. I know he just wants to eat my money, and I always tell him angrily that he should ask one of the men he sleeps with, that since he is a brand, he could as well include beer and ice-cream as part of his fee.
So this one day, he had not called me for three days, and I did not mind for he was always like that, making disappearing acts and only appearing when he had money issues. But on the third night, I could not sleep. It was as if someone with daggers for shoes was walking all over me, and I stood upright in the dark, trembling. I stood for about ten minutes before it hit me that it was not yet the dead of night. People were still moving about. I put on my jacket, stepped out and boarded a matatu to the bridge.
When I reached our spot, he was not there. It was silent and eerie, and the invisible man with dagger shoes began walking all over me again. I held my arms over my head and pressed my forehead on one of the pillars, and found myself crying. That was when my heart confessed, overcoming the sensibilities of my mind. I loved him, I needed him, I wanted him so bad.
It was him standing next to him, and his eyes were dancing with glee.
“Where have you been?” I asked.
“Pee, my brother,” he repeated. “Pee under the bridge and leave your mark on the road. It is exciting.”
And I did, and felt a thrill as the fluid rushed out, something naughty in me, long dormant, awoke, and it added a glint to my eye (or so my brother said).
“Are you okay?” he asked.
And I told him how much I was worried about his silence, but he pooh-poohed the idea with a flurry of his elegantly manicured fingers and said something about business being good. Then he turned to me and said, “Let me buy you a beer, my brother. Let us go to the bar at the mall.”
Written by Kiprop Kimutai