The split second


Saturday, 3rd March.
It’s a wet Saturday mid-morning as I jump onto the next bus in line somewhere on the outskirts of the City. The rain slashes outside, as I shake the raindrops that cling to the umbrella. It’s been years since I carried these things, and luckily, it’s one of those tiny ones which can fold two times and fit into a backpack. We take off and slide down Waiyaki way, through the heavy downpour, all cars on fog lights. It’s minutes to 2.00 o’clock but looks somewhere between 6.00 and 5.30 Am.

Traffic is awful, and I keep checking my watch, keeping my phone on silent, since I have to make a 2.00 PM appointment, and I knew they will call, and I can’t stand picking a call in which the other person might chew guilt into my eardrums. In half an hour the bus pulls up at the Moi Avenue primary stop, and some of us alight, and are welcomed by the still heavy downpour. I walk against some buildings, and stop opposite the Jeevanjee gardens entrance, waiting for the traffic to cease so I could cross.

We were roughly half a dozen, huddled under the roof of a city restaurant, watching paddles of rain splash under the tires of moving traffic. Nobody notices him, as he leaps off where we stand, and three leaps later he dodges all incoming cars and stands on the patch between the dual carriage.

He looks disturbed, with a rugged oversize blazer reaching slightly above the ankles, a faded blue khaki, and a baseball cap. His face looks a late twenties.

He looks onto his left, at the oncoming cars, and leaps forward. A lady standing next to me gasps.

“What’s he doing…!” She exclaims, with a motherly scold.

The last we see of his actions is a frantic left arm, trying to stop an oncoming garbage track whose horn blasts through the cold in the air. It’s at high speed, and the rain does little to help on the visibility. We hear the sound, not one of breaking bones but just a sound you cant like to get used to. The kind of banging noise which can take lives. Boom! A split second.

The silence of death is split open by the lady on my left’s scream. In the same split second, all we can see are the truck’s taillights fade away, it takes a right and disappears into the dark rain before the splash had settled on the deceased. Thunder rumbles from a distant closeness.

“They have killed him…!” She shouts, pointing the direction of the truck. “They are running!”

A tiny group has formed beneath the rain on the roadside, where the man’s body lays lifeless, the baseball cap hat looking on a few meters away. Dirty water threatens to flush it away, but it stands there, watching and hoping that its master picks it up like always, and places it on his head.

It’s solemn, a cluster of people braved the rain, and I feel like throwing up. The lady on my left throws up, and a gentleman, who I presumed had been through this holds her arm, and they slightly embrace in a hug. When we cross to the other side, traffic has changed course to avoid the scene, and a bigger crowd has formed. The corpse lays there, staring at us, with the face almost smiling, and a distant stare. My stomach turns, and again my body threatens to throw up.

A cop’s pickup comes along after some calls have been made and two gloved men hurl the body onto the back. Just like that, no pulse check, nothing, just hurls the body at the back. One cop asks a few questions, somehow scribbles it down beneath the now receding rain, shakes his head and jumps onto the passenger seat and they leave, probably for City Mortuary. In less than 10 minutes we have scattered and traffic is back to normal, with a murderer on the loose, and an innocent breadwinner on a cold slab. The rain has already washed away the blood stains on the tarmac, and the area now looks innocent like nobody had died there. The bloody rainwater becomes the city council’s problem/

I walk away in thoughts, just like the gentleman told us before walking away under the umbrella of the lady he had comforted, ‘These things happen, justice is a far cry.’

I imagine the family of the deceased (if he had any), okay, let’s call him Job because Job is a name I won’t be killed by any friend for using.

Job looked like a family guy, not the kind to get away from home on February 13th and resurface on February 20th, deeply ‘hangovered’ and hungry. His wife would miss him on the first day and assume he is out there working towards their future. The second day, the daughter will get home from school, a tiny piece of blue paper, creased a million times.

‘Daddy, daddy! I passed my paper’ She will shout.

‘Daddy is not home yet from work…’ The mother will say, embracing the excited girl in her arms, and spreading out the paper to read “9/10, Excellent!” They will hug for a moment.

‘You told me he will be here mummy…’ She will complain, slamming her lips on each other, to reveal a left side dimple.

Her phone will ring, the first and the second, and she will hop into the house hoping it’s her husband calling, but it will be his brother, John, the pastor at the make-shift church in the shanty area. His voice will be shaky, so much unlike his usual jovial self in Church. Her heart will slam.

‘Its Job. He, uhm… he is…’ He will sob on the other end of the line, but she won’t realize. She will only smell the pain in his voice. She will get hysterical, her hands will shake, and her face will turn pale. With no more strength to hold her knees, she will sit on the plastic chair where she has been making her hair.

‘What happened? What is wrong? Where id Baba Jackie?’ She will ask, in a low voice at first, but which will grow to a high-pitched scream.

‘Am sorry, he is at the Morgue..’ He will pause again and sob, ‘He was involved in a hit and run. Am coming to check on you in a few hours.’

He will hang up, so she doesn’t hear him sob. Jackie, the daughter will be out playing with her friends, oblivious of the happenings. Her uncle will come in later, hand her some sweets which she will share with the friends.

‘When it’s dark, go to Mama Kangi’s place, if I will not be back.’ Mama Jackie will tell Jackie, and they will leave for the Morgue with her brother in law. It will be a tough matatu ride, she will hate her life, she will wish they were kidding, but again, will look outside and cry again on seeing Joh’s red eyes. He will have cried his heart out too. They will get to the morgue, follow the attendant, into the cold room, walk through a number of stacked chests, and the attendant, with a normal face will pull out one with the tag “Job/3/3/18”. There he will be, looking at her, with a calm face, almost smiling, cold and silent. She will want to go close, but her feet will fail, and she will sit on a cold slab outside and sob. Her world will crumble, at 24 years, with a young daughter in lower primary and son in Boarding high school, she will watch fate take a stroke after the next, as John holds a heated talk on the phone, with his left leg placed on a broken piece of the stone wall.

She will think about their young family, her daughter, now top of her class in lower primary, and her son in a boarding secondary school in Nyanza, as the sun sets on some nearby skyscrapers.

‘We can have evening prayer meetings at the Church, I will talk to a number of faithful and family, to help raise some money for the funeral…’ He pauses and thinks, ‘which we can hold on Saturday’.

She wants to resist because she thinks it’s too soon, but she knows it’s best, so she will just nod and pretend to hear a word he says, then they will leave, after the attendant lets them have ‘a last glance’.

The week will be tough, she will run Job’s milk delivery business in the early mornings, receive visitors and mourners in their Kangemi house, and go for the evening prayers for the next few days. Friends will come and cry with them, then they will leave her in the emptiness of the house, with nobody to repair the broken power extension.

‘Mummy, I was told that daddy died…’ Jackie will ask, teary one day after they have cleaned the plastic cups. She will cry and hug her daughter, who had been left oblivious of the happenings.

‘Is it true?’ She will insist.

‘He is not dead my daughter…’ She will reply and wipe her eyes with her hand. ‘He just went to be with the Lord’
‘But that is dying mama’ Jackie is wiser than her years.

‘Yes, it is, but we have to smile because he is always going to look after you.’ She will say and smile at the young girl.

‘How?’ She will ask.

‘Let’s say, like our Angel in Heaven’. They will both look up and smile.

She will call her mother and sisters, and they will camp in her house and weep. They had liked Job’s humility since he was introduced by their daughter.

The village will be hectic, Job’s son will get home from school on Friday, and it will be his turn to get wrecked. He will hate life for taking away his motivation and role model, the only man he would sit up with till late in the night outside their humble home in Nairobi, just talking, about shit, girls, money, education, future, just anything.

He had been more than a brother than a dad.They will be huddled in a tiny Church somewhere in a lonely village on the outskirts of Kakamega. It will be sad, and everyone will curse the truck driver. Job was their darling since his father and mother had perished in a bus accident from Kisumu when he was young. They had brought him up, and he always came home with ‘Mugadi’ from the city. Those from Nairobi will have traveled the previous night, and Mama Jacky, Jacky, and John will be on that bus. Mama Jacky will be in a black veil, and sunglasses to cover her red eyes.

Her family will arrive a little late from Nanyuki, in a dusty looking Nissan, whose driver will lean his seat in the shade and fall into a deep sleep and leave them all to bury their dead.

During the service, John will be too shaken to preach, he won’t even be having his Bible with him. Everyone in the family will be too broken to Eulogize his brother in a tribute, so he will gather some courage and walk to the tiny wooden pulpit. His lips will shake, and he clasps the two edges of the furnished pulpit, exposing drying up knuckles. Everyone will be silent, and he will take a deep breath, clear his throat and greet everyone, first in Luhya, then Gikuyu, for the sake of the in-laws. He will disregard those who use the Queens dialect. His voice will be cranky and a little hoarse, and people in the back will strain to hear his words. He will eat the words, repeat them, and in some lines make no sense. He will just talk on, and when his voice gets too shaky, he will end with a heavy remark.

‘As a family, we have no bad blood with the person who brought this grief to our family, we have forgiven them, and we pray they make better decisions in life.’ He will walk away, rubbing his eyes with a creased grey handkerchief. He will sit under an old tree and let the tears flow, as the compound evoked their young memories growing up. A youthful boy will bring him a bottle of canned water and squeeze his shoulder in a small hug. The youth, his nephew, John’s son.

It takes a split second to cause an accident, and a similar split second to end a whole family’s dream. Kenya loses an average of 3,000 people through accidents yearly. Such a damning statistic, right? Pedestrian deaths recorded in 2017 was at an estimate of 714 deaths, a decline from 2016’s 766. It may be a decline, but it would be better if there was none than just a decline. It’s our responsibility if you can’t care about yourself, care about your family and that of the other person whose lives you put at risk.

5 thoughts on “The split second”

    1. True… It takes a split second to make a decision which can either ruin or mend a generation. Thank you Jane for the support!

  1. It’s sad that such things happen and no sooner does the mishap happen than it’s forgotten. It’s high time we roll back to humanity. Value life. Thank you for your insights on the same

    1. Welcome, It should be a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves and those around us. Thank you for the support Karis!

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