Ahmed looks at the card once again. The navy blue glossy letters spell out ‘Kenya Professional Counselors Association, Narok Road’. He looks at the building infront of him but it does not say anything of the card.
A voice from the other side of the phone greets his ear.
“Yes hello, this is Ahmed, I’m here for the afternoon appointment?”
“Ahmed Swaleh?” The voice inquired.
” Yes, but where exactly is here? Google lead me to an Indian doctor clinic and a hardware store in the same storey building…not exactly a Dr. Phil setting”
The voice chuckles, ” Yeah we get that a lot. Let me come down and show you up.”
“Actually, I’m not comfortable in closed spaces; gets me very anxious very quickly. Do you mind if we went somewhere else for my session?
I promise I only eat cooked meat”
A short silence wears the voice, and finally,
“Why not. Where do you have in mind?”
“I saw a decent place just across the street, Tic Tac Pastry.
“Ok, let me get my things then we can start the session there in shaa Allah.”
“In shaa Allah. Nimetangulia.”
The entrance of the restaurant was fitted with glass doors attached to glass walls on both of its sides to its concrete walls. It was a small space but the white theme of its wall colour and furniture enlarged it’s dimensions.
The cool air from the ACs mingled with the smell of baking bread greeted anyone who dare opened its doors.
It was like a pint of fresh brown baking air for the nose and the eyes, he thought. He is proud of his decision.
He goes to ask for a table set up and pulls one of the characteristically heightened chairs to face the entrance.
All the glass seem to disappear if it were not for the metal hinges and plates. He savours the baking air once more as he makes a call to confirm details for his next meeting.
A few minutes later, she walks in. Ahmed notices her flash a smile as she quickly scans the place briefly for him. She walks by his table and he stands up signaling her to take a seat. He winds up his call,
“Yes but only imported papers…yes. Angalia, let’s meet after Dhuhr at Qubaa mosque we finalize the deal…naam…Ok in shaa Allah. See you then.
Hey, asalaam aleykum,” he says smiling whilst turning off his phone and pocketing it.
“Waaleykum salaam warahmatullah,” she replies and takes out her notebook and pen.
“Ok, this place is waay better than I imagined so I hope you like the food and laugh extra hard at my jokes”
She breaks into a smile and flips the pages for a new chapter.
“How’s the air?” he continues.
“Crispy” she replies after a pause. He smiles back.
The attendant arrives with a plate of pie and places it, it’s silverware and napkin for Ahmed.
“Currently my favourite chicken pie is Café Arabica’s for its juicy, moist bitter-sweet chicken fillings, but let’s see what Tic Tac has to offer,” he explains as the attendant finishes.
“What will you have?” he adds
“Just tap water please.” she responds to the third party. “So you said earlier you get anxious in closed spaces, let’s begin with that.”
“We’ll get to that in shaa Allah” he responds as he finishes his first bite. “Do excuse me though for I am hungry.”
He quickly gorges down his order as she notes down whatever psychiatrists usually note down in their notepads. Her order arrives and she puts it at the very end of the table. He follows through this movement and stares at the bottle for sometime.
“I want to start from the very beginning…
Our lives, our destinies, are cemented by the fraction of a millisecond we take to make a decision. After we decide, our lives are never the same again.
My decision begun on one fateful Friday morning on the 17th of November, 2014. I had planned to go to Malindi for my cousin’s wedding the following day. We grew up together so it was a special day for both of us.
Just as I finished packing, a close friend from university called for pleasantries. We caught up like any bro dudes would and then a thought came to mind.
I remember he used to tell me about this ancient freshwater well located at the very shore of the ocean in Kibokoni, so I reminded him.
‘Tuishie’ he said. ‘Tuishie’ I confirmed. And since it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other anyways, why not; I mean, I can always travel at dusk.
We agreed that after Jum’a prayers at Masjid Al Azhar that day, we would eat lunch at his place and go for an afternoon at Forodhani and Co. There’s something about kahwa tungu and oceans that did it for me. It was a plan.
What neither of us knew, was that in the neighbor mosque, the police had planned a raid. One that would forever leave a mark in the rich history of this beautiful city.
I was sitted in the matatu constantly checking my phone for the time because of how heavy the traffic jam was for a Friday afternoon. It was on its last 1% but the Ultra power saving mode was keeping it alive.
I should have charged it the night before but I thought I’ll probably charge at his place.
I arrived as the sermon begun so I wasn’t able to search for him. More so, my phone died before I arrived. So naturally, I’ll just have to wait for him after prayers.”
Ahmed leans back in his chair and gazes through the disappearing glass of the shop, his breathing noticeably heavy.
“Then what happened?” She inquires, completely absorbed in the unfolding.
He shifts his gaze to hers and without moving a muscle, replies,
“After prayers, I sat at the mosque’s baraza waiting for my friend, as the customary skin colour and soft hair of Arab descendants played about with my hopes. Everyone of them seemingly him but certainly not after the complete view.
After awhile of waiting, I went into the mosque and even checked the toilets for him. I found old people for sure, but not him. So he isn’t there, my phone is dead and I had all this time left.
I decided to go to his home. maybe he was late and ended up praying in the nearer mosque to his house and he probably couldn’t reach me on phone. The nearer mosque just happened to be Masjid Musa.
I avidly recall the feeling of not wanting to go but, when you start something, finish it; unless there’s a better alternative.
So I started for his house. And that’s when it all unraveled.
The road leads straight to the main road and finally the mosque. At the end of it are chapati and samosa parlors on both of its sides. I used to buy samosa dough for my mum from them all the time.
As I approached the mosque, there was an eerie silence to the place and I recall this, this low hum…like shouting and wailing heard from underwater.
And I move closer and see these navy blue and military green Land Cruisers parked Infront of the mosque, beside it two or three police officers.
The wailing gets louder. I move closer. And as I walk to the very edge of the junction road, Bang! Then silence. Then bang! Bang! Bang! The sound of gun fire.
I felt my body shake in shock with each shot. I looked at my torso. My knees were giving way.
Suddenly a group of boys erupted from the mouth of the mosque shouting, screaming, pushing and pulling with a few geared up men in blue hauling machine guns.
I was now lost. Confused by what I saw. The men holding on to some boys as others pour between them. Some running for their lives others battling with the men for their freedom. And finally, the one boy who run to where I stood, picked up a stone besides me and threw.
A long annoying sound pierced through the air and I turned to look at where it came from. A huge navy blue lorry came in to vision just a few feet from me, speeding from Bin Agil with the hazards on. I threw myself out of its way as it swooshed by me and hit the brakes a few yards from the mosque’s entrance.
More geared up men dispatched from the back of the vehicle like ravenous robots from Clockwork with teargas launchers and almost immediately tackled a few unlucky youth to the ground.
I picked my unbelieving self up and joined the now scattering crowd.”
Ahmed looked to the table smiling for a second and continued,
“I sprinted towards MEWA Hospital and a few feet ahead were four more boys leading the run and maybe a dozen behind. I remember how quiet this street was; no open shops, no one on the street. Just the sound of hefting youth and running feet as the four boys took a sharp left towards MEWA library.
Just as the rest of us were making the corner, one of the boys let out a cry and a front of men in dirty green uniform came into sight. They had the boys. And they were letting loose their anti-riot batons on them.
The rest and I braked and started for the right side alley, falling in the middle of the running group. The sound of teargas canisters being fired inherited the air and calm of wind amplified it more.
A sudden realization hit me when I noticed how the running group had only 7 people now. And I was the third one.
We made our way between parked cars and tuk tuks in the alley, running, panting… I was scared.”
Ahmed pauses at this word. He swallows painfully, lightly gazing at the table. He swallows again. He continues,
” I knew that I was done for when the first from us made it beyond the alley and abruptly toppled over and rolled a few times, stopping just enough for us to see his torso. He let out agony as he tried to nurse his rib. Then a military grade boot swung for his back and was joined with a few more. A hand pointed in our direction repeatedly and my heart sunk.
I slowed down and all the adrenaline was now replaced with anxiety. I felt my body giving up on me. There was this Probox that was parked infront of a canter next to a fenced construction site.
I came to a defeated stop and slid under the saloon car lying still on my tummy, not minding the dirt that highlighted my sweaty arms. I struggle to catch my breath swallowing gulps of saliva, as I worked to make my panting quieter so no one would hear.
3 boys sped past the car and I watched their feet heading for the exit. They suddenly stop and turn back. 4 police boots now chase after them with speed.
The boys run and then slow down infront of the Probox. My heart is now beating outside my chest. They then jump for the construction gate and disappear over the other side.
‘Kamata hio!’ A rugged voice immediately exclaims from the start of the alley accompanied by accelerating feet. I turn to look and see a boy come round the front of the car and tries for the gate. The fastest from the 4 police men grab him and throw him down.
He cries for mercy…”
Ahmed stops again. He clears his throat and swallows a couple more.
” I still remember the sound of the batons and the metal plate boots hitting his bones as if it were just mere hours ago.
‘Nyinyi ndo mnataka kuharibu usalama sio?’ the raggedy voice threatened as it’s baton hit the boy in emphasis after each word.
The boy lied there, helpless. And I beside him, scared like a little girl.”
“You were afraid, Ahmed. There’s nothing you could have done to help them” she interrupted.
“I should have tried… And you know what the worst part of it all was?
After they were done, they rolled him on his chest to arrest him and our eyes met. He looked at me, eyes red shot from tears, from pain, and he looked at me. Deep into my soul as they tightened the hand cuffs on his back.”
Ahmed stares on the table, tears rolling from his thinking eyes. He continues with a tone such that if the attendants were to hear him, they wouldn’t have known he was tearing unless they looked at his face.
“I shook my head, pleading with him as tears rolled down my face as they roll down now. I was drooling from the fear, the butterflies in my stomach turned carnival.
Then the raggedy voice interrupted, ‘Unaangalia nini? Eeh? What are you looking at under here,’ it asked as a pair of boots start to walk towards the car.
Suddenly a loud crush came from the car and a stone fell on the ground with some glass. The raggedy voice let out a girly shriek. Everyone exploded in laughter.” Ahmed smiled briefly.
“He was like, ‘wanataka kunimaliza, eeh?’ and laughed along as they lifted up the boy and dragged him back wherever they were taking him.
I laid under there for so long. Very still. Until all I heard was my heart, still in hype. My eyes were itchy from the gas, my mind exhausted from paranoia and all I my nose could smell was oil.
I thought about home, what everyone would say of me when I didn’t show up…I thought about the boy, about who I was as a person, what I’ve achieved.
I thought about alot of things, and I closed my eyes as they bled water. And before I knew it, I was asleep.
I woke up to the distant sound of someone calling me, ‘Khui…bro…khui!’ and I felt someone holding my arm. I jumped up from my slumber startled and hit my head on the axle of the car so hard I opened it.
My ears kept on ringing as the brother pulled me out of my hiding. It was late afternoon, that’s all I made out. Nothing from what the brother was saying to me.
He put my arm across his neck and helped me walk a few yards to his car. He laid me in the back, put something under my head and drove.
The next thing I remember was waking up beside my mother and the rest of my family in Mombasa Hospital 3 days later.
I came to find out that my friend had actually cancelled the meetup due to family issues and even tried calling to explain but, phone was off.
That day, 4 people died and approximately 250 plus people arrested. Some never to be heard from again. And that boy was one of them.”
Ahmed clears his throat once more as his eyes tear up again. He looks straight at her and says, “I should have done something, anything…”
“Look,” she interrupts standing up, moving her chair close to his, and resting her palm on his hand, “there is nothing you could have done. It wasn’t for you to save that boy otherwise you’d have done it.
We all can never get something that’s not meant for us and can never miss something that is. Whatever destiny the boy had, all you were meant to do for his is just that”
“Hide under a car,” he jumps in,
“No. Live out yours just the way Allah willed it for you.”
“I know,” he concurs.
“Thanks Zauj,” he adds placing his other hand on hers with a smile.
“Always happy to help Zauj,” she places hers on his other hand smiling back.
“But it still doesn’t explain why for the past few months I’ve been dreaming about it. I mean I’ve not talked about it with… anyone…”
Ahmed looks outside with a frown, not completing his sentence.
“What is it Zauj?” his wife looks at him then outside.
There parks a dirty green Land Cruiser and from it three men in dirty green uniform alight. Ahmed gets butterflies and his blood starts to boil. He looks at the chubby of them as he talks with a short range frequency radio and stands up from his seat.
“I know you,” Ahmed remarks.
Their eyes meet and the man’s face lights up in giggles.
“We ndo ulikuwa unajificha chini ya gari? Hehehehe” he laughs with his belly. It was the raggedy voice. He looks towards the other two men and says with a straight face,
“Hebu kamateni hio”
The two men charge in the shop and Ahmed charges at them. He welcomes the first with a punch sending him stumbling to his left and kicked the chest of the second out the shop.
The chubby man draws out his pistol and Ahmed reaches for his wrist with his right hand and grabs the barrel of the gun with his left, disarming the man.
He dismantles the pistol, throwing it and takes the man by his collar ready to unleash his punches when his wife steps out and yells,
Ahmed turns his head to her and sees the scare on her face. The man inturn pulls out a taser and tasers Ahmed by the neck.
Ahmed falls to the ground subdued by the shock. The two subordinate officers pick him up and drag him to the cabin of the Cruiser. His wife runs after them pleading for his release but null and void.
They throw him in and he tries to recollect himself up. One of the men picks up his machine gun, turns Ahmed to face him and brings down its butt on his face….
Ahmed shoots up seated, breathing heavily and arms up in defense. He catches up with his breath as the room comes into focus. He is sitted in bed. He sinks his face in his hands and exhales a sigh of concern rather than that of relief. The dreams are getting more avid.
He gets up and walks to the bathroom sink, washes his face and stares into the washroom mirror, his hands on the sides of the sink.
“You Ok Zauj?” her voice breaks his thought pattern.
He looks at her from the mirror, leaning with her elbows on the bed, watching him.
“Yeah,” he flashes a brief smile, “Just a bad dream, probably forgot to read Dua” he says as he’s turning off the bathroom light and shuts the door behind him.
(Conversation continues behind the bathroom door in muffled voices)
“What was it about?” she continues,
“Shoes” he answers
“Yeah, I was trying them on and it just wasn’t working out”
“I know right” he says as the bed springs squeal from his jump.
“What colour were the shoes?”
” Yeah. They had guns on them”
“Ah, those kind of shoes… classic”
“The one and only”