So I got done sulking around the same time matatus resumed their routes. Ironically, however, I had managed to get myself alternate transportation at this point. My consigliere and her man had a car and were heading in my general direction, so I ungraciously hitchhiked.
As we neared my destination, my mind was afloat; I reminisced about previous encounters with law enforcement and drowned in a pool of self-pity. Police hate me. This is a conspiracy. Blah Blah….I barely remember getting out of the car. Once I did however, I remember my phone buzzing. I reached into my pocket and saw my cab driver’s name marqueeing across the screen.
A few minutes later, I was helping him push his vehicle to it’s normal resting place as it had run out of fuel after his own, more hectic, encounter with Johnny Law earlier that day. As soon as we’d tucked it safely on the side of the road, we began walking to a nearby gas station where we figured we could negotiate our way into acquiring some fuel using the credit line of friendship. Being broke is a terrible thing.
While we walked, we exchanged stories starting from that days horrors all the way back into the most dated recesses of our memories. As it turns out, the oppressiveness of the Long Arm is not only timeless but widespread; it’s an epidemic culture of opression.
On our way to the gas station, we ran into the neighborhood kid. You know the one; youngish guy who’s never in school so instead he hangs with the older loiterers in hopes of one day joining their ranks. For most of them, they are matatu touts in training. In this guys’ case, it was Taxi Drivers that he looked up to. We didn’t even know his name so we called him Junior. He was a cool dude; real jovial and positive. Always asking to drive regular clients home when he wasn’t cracking jokes and entertaining the rest of us. Most times though, he was just quiet.
Not today though. Junior was screaming – furious as we’d never seen him – cursing up a storm in languages I was not sure I completely understood.
The cabby decided to try and calm him down and called him to walk with us. Junior began vomitting out this story that had us quite disgusted.
As it turns out, on Tuesday night, he was outside watching one of the other guys’ car. He was also smoking some cigarette butt he’d found on the ground. He was really in his own space, daydreaming. Right at that moment, a black Nissan with blacked out windows flew by. Besides being mildly amused, he ignored this happening. Not very much longer, several officers – accompanied by a “fat, sad grandmother” – stopped in front of Junior’s car. The officers asked the lady something as they pointed at Junior. He immediately knew this could not end well. He tried to remain calm, but then he saw them reach for their weapons. He immediately lay down on the ground, limbs spread.
He stopped telling the story and his boyish innocence disappeared as he lifted his t-shirt up. A huge scar spanning the diagonal length of his torso – poorly stitched up and badly healed – stunned us silent as he said. “Police want me dead. I wasn’t going to try and run away again. I’m just a kid.”
You ever had one of those moments where you felt petty and insignificant?
For the next 3 days, they held him in a little cell in Kilimani station with a horde of other innocent people. He tried to escape several times and each time he kept finding himself back in detention. Finally, they tired of bullying him and kicked him out. When we found him, he was arguing with them as they threatened to give him another scar to remember them by.
At that point, there was nothing left to say. We arrived at the petrol station and all 3 sat in silence on a nearby step – stunned. For a few moments, we meditated and detoxed from the injustice of the day, knowing full well it was still out there – waiting to tap our shoulders and surprise us when we least expected it.