I had just gotten my first job!

Your first job is special. It is like your first love, it introduces you to the world and you never really forget your first love. When you first get employed you are naïve because obviously, you’ve never been employed before. You’ll come to work at 6 a.m. and leave at whatever time they tell you to. You’ll sweep the floor and mop it sparkling clean even though you are the data manager. If you are not careful, you become the office errand boy or girl; you’ll fetch everyone coffee and bring everyone homemade doughnuts. You respond to every mail using polite lingua and endings such as ‘Kind Regards’. When people call your name you answer ‘Yes Sir!’ and ‘Yes Madam!’ Your sin is trying to fit in and people who crave for a fit can do almost anything.

Your first job also gives you a sense of pomposity. You are finally making some money, you mostly feel like you can buy the whole world, sell it to the highest bidder and buy it again even though you earn a meager salary. You walk with a spring in your step when you travel back home for the holidays. You are now a working Kenyan who commands a certain level of respect. People even start referring to you in light of your workplace. You suddenly become ‘Njeri wa Safaricom’, or ‘Kevo yule wa Equity’.

So I’d worked for this private university for a two years. I had transitioned from living with my parents to living in my own house. I use the term house very loosely because, really, it wasn’t a house. It was more of a dwelling place. It was a 3 by 4-open room that had one large window. The person who built it had no preconceived intention of it ever being someone’s house. He must have meant it for a store or something. But maisha ya Nairobi ni hard and I needed an affordable house. Nairobi will make you take what comes your way even if it is a store turned house.

But this my house was in a nice neighborhood. The kinds of neighborhoods were Mats don’t ply. The main houses were flats, high-end flats. Wealthy people lived there. These rooms were I lived in were originally stores that the caretaker had turned into SQs in order to make a quick buck; bright man that one!

My room was self-contained. I had the bed in one corner and the meko and all the kitchen stuff in the other corner. I could possibly stretch my hand and reach anything in the room while lying on the bed. I had a TV; a 21 inch black Sony television previously owned by my father. It had faithfully served the family for more than 10 years and had now been handed down to me. Needless to say, it had seen better days, but since I was starting off, it was perfect. I was just glad that I had a TV. Gratitude is a virtue.

The amenities there were shared among three tenants. You had to exit your house to use these facilities. It didn’t matter how much of a neat freak you were if the other tenants cared nothing for cleanliness. You’d have to conform or keep cleaning after them. The former was always much easier.

My workplace was approximately a 10-minute walk from where I lived and so I didn’t need to take a mat to work. I loved walking, I still do. It gives me an opportunity to think and I love thinking. I would leave my house at 7.30 a.m. and stroll to work. I am not a very chatty person so I’d mostly just have my earphones on. There were a couple of shops on the side of the road leading up to where I lived. There were also a number of people selling stuff in temporal structures beside the road. One of those people was a young man called Pato. He was tall. In my estimation, he must have been a 6’2. He was neither bulky nor light he was betwixt the two. He mostly wore blue pants and t-shirts and had a trademark brown jacket to match whatever else he wore. His footwear was one pair of shoes- legendary safari boots.

I loved to stop at Pato’s stand in the mornings and evenings.

During the day, Pato sold PKs, all kinds of sweets, and cigarettes. When the dark set in, he’d add a few other things to his portfolio, things that night people needed to do night business. The neighborhood had a lot of night things happening which I won’t mention but like they say, “if you know, you know!” I would stop by to buy PKs, because I love to chew. The other reason that would make me stop by is that Pato always had stories. He’d have stories about anything and everything from politics, to who’s husband was cheating with whom to what the government was planning to do in the next 10 years. Pato was always talking, and I loved to listen.

Whenever I’d pass by, we’d chat for a few minutes then I’d walk off to work. We’d gotten to a place where we knew each other on a first name-middle name basis. If you found us chatting, you’d think that we’d known each other for years. He always said that I needed to learn how to walk faster because ‘hii ni Nairobi na tear gas inaeza nyesha’ at any one time. I would often tell him that if running were ever needed to save my life, then I would most probably just lose my life. Little did I know that one day, I would eat these very words.

Pato would always tell me that I needed to get married. He said that bachelors wasted a lot of money on things that didn’t matter and that financial stability was overrated. He had got married at 20 when he had nothing to his name. All he had then was a birth certificate and a sweet tongue. Pato always told me that if you can talk to a girl then you could get married. He said that money never made any man and that any man worth his salt ought to talk himself into an opportunity and get himself out of any fix.

I had known Pato for almost a year now and in that time, I had gotten to know very few things about him. All I knew about him was that he sold sweets and that he was married. I never got to know his second name or where he lived. On the other hand, he was very good at getting people to talk. I had told him my two names, he knew where I lived, he knew my workplace and even knew that I was a part-time lecturer. I had also told him that I wasn’t married and that I came from Machakos.

I always wondered how he made ends meet by selling sweets. It looked like a lost cause to me. How does a full grown man live off selling sweets? It just didn’t add up. I always thought to myself that Pato had something else to do other than selling sweets but it didn’t make sense because he was there all week. He also looked too polished to be selling sweets. His English and Swahili were good. He spoke like someone who had gone through both high school and university. But all these were speculations, Pato didn’t give away much. He was an open-closed book. You knew Pato and didn’t know him at the same time. He was a sort of a quagmire.

I stuck to him being my PK guy. I was content with that.

We were cordial and I never passed by without saying hi. My mother taught me that it was ill manners in the African culture to meet someone and not greet them. She always said that you’d never know when that person would come to your rescue. So even when I didn’t need to buy PKs I would still greet Pato and go my way.

So this fateful day, I had met up with a friend in town in the evening. We hadn’t met for more than five years so we had a bit of catching up to do. I wasn’t in a hurry either because there was no need to rush and get stuck in traffic. When we finally got ready to leave, it was after 11 in the night. I walked to the stage and found that there was no immediate available mat plying my route. I waited. When the first mat got to the stage, it filled up almost immediately. I decided to wait still.

It was almost midnight when I finally got a mat home. My neighborhood was very safe so I wasn’t worried. I got dropped off by the mat at the stage. You had to cross the road, walk for about 100 meters, cross the road again, then walk a few meters to my place. I crossed the road and started walking home. The road leading to my place was very clear; there were no people there except Pato of course. The street was well lit so I could clearly see him. He was still at his usual place.

I was slowly approaching his stand when I noticed that he was frantically motioning to me to hurry up. This was completely unlike him. Pato was a cool, calm and collected guy. He was never fazed by anything. When I realized how frantic he was, I hurriedly walked up to him. I got to where he was and was about to say hi when I noticed that this wasn’t the man I thought I knew. His face was cold and serious. His eyes were blood shot and he was pensively checking out the surroundings. He also had a walkie-talkie from which I could hear a voice belting out orders. Pato’s right hand was tucked inside his jacket and there was something bulging out.

He walked up to me, pulled me aside and in a hushed tone said “Mutua, hii ni ile siku unakimbia kama mwenda wazimu. Ni kubaya.” I didn’t need a second invitation. I took off. They say fear is an adrenaline and they are not wrong. If I had a record to break that night, I would have shattered it. I was littering fleeing. If christians fled from sin the way I did that day, we’d all make it to pearly gates of heaven. I took the turn that headed to my gate in a manner that would have put Usain Bolt to utter shame and desperately knocked at the gate. The guard on duty had probably heard me running so he quickly let me in. I ran into the compound and straight to my house. I opened the door and was getting in when a barrage of gunshots filled the air. The sounds went on for about three minutes and then died down. The place went back to the usual quiet neighborhood. I kept going over what had just happened for hours. It took me a while to finally fall asleep.

I woke up the next day, got ready for work. At the gate, I found the guards talking about armed robbers who had been gunned down by the police at night. I said nothing. I took my usual route. I got to Pato’s stand and found him calmly arranging his sweets and PKs. He looked at me with a straight face and asked “Ulifika home poa Mutua?” I almost chocked on my own saliva as I tried to collect my words to answer him. I said yes, bought my usual fix of PKs and walked on to work dumfounded.

We never talked about what happened that night but I learnt a vital life lesson. I learnt that in life you will do well to be nice to people because you never know who they really are.

Be nice people, be nice.

  1. Wow pato…..a friend for keeps. U never know your route source help every one including the night guard at a house manager can be your angle on a rainy day

  2. Wah…Pato .”In life you will do well to be nice to people because you never know who they really are”.
    Deep message here.
    Be blessed

  3. Pato was a calm, collected guy. Arranging sweets and PKs. Pato was also a thug, who “graciously” allowed you to take off in that dangerous situation. Yeap, you really never know people… Great piece.

  4. I also found myself laughing, unfortunately 😂😂. You didn’t want to know whether Pato was CIA? There really is more to a book than it’s cover.

  5. Pato was definitely an under cover police. I know one guy who was a cobbler, kumbe ni polisi under cover, story for another day. Nice read!!!

  6. Pato was either a cop or a gangster, but that didn’t matter. He needed more that sweet selling to make a living. Awesome suspense story

  7. Armed robbers had been gunned down by police and Pato was in his usual place calmly arranging PKs……..🤔. Nice read Mutua.

  8. Hiyo story ya first Job ni kweli………..njeri wa safaricom,lol
    It’s good to treat people well despite their social class or ethnicity…

  9. Wooow!!! my online library. So you mean Pato was @his usual place @midnight arranging sweets? enyewe hes an open-closed book.
    Make it a habit to respect people without knowing what they do for a living.

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