You have never met Mr. Horace. But if you did, you would know.. I saw him once, for an ounce of a second. But his memory imprinted on my brain. Etched; for life. Like it was tabula rasa. I bethink not his physique; his neck downwards rests a complete blur. My recollection of him lay on his head….like head, thorax and abdomen (my science teacher would be proud of herself, clearly her daily scientific yells were not in vain)..
His face spoke a thousand words all at once….it was expressionless yet oh so vocal at the same time. His mouth; black succulent lips, dry and cracked, like they had no idea of Vaseline petroleum jelly. Like the sun had assaulted them, and sportsman was their best friend. Or perhaps rooster, supermatch, the works. No, not embassy kings or dunhill. Not those. And this succulent set seemed to constantly say something…sssssssss..ssssssportsman. sssssssurely..ssssssssssengenge(barbed wire).
And his nostrils; they yearned for more breathe. He had twin round well-defined nostrils, the size of two plums. One nostril could easily house a mobile phone, and leave enough room for carrying the charger as well. Shortage in oxygen..0-2..pure oxygen jam..if he attended it, it would read ‘pure carbon dioxide jam’.
That alone, I get to Horace’s most prominent feature; the prominentest feature. The one that you must skew when you look into his eyes. Eyes, did I just say eyes?? Horace had eyes. Well. So do many other mortals. But these were one special pair. Vessels of honor, fashioned just for him. For never has it been seen, a pair so large. Gigantic. Humongous. Name it. These eyes could see all. In another life, Horace could have been an overseer, a foreseer, a visionary, or perhaps a disco-lighter. He could dart his eyes around at a night club for hefty sums..and the ladies at Rezorus would say ,“oh, what brilliant light!”, as they sway their hips to Mr. Vegas. In a Mexican film, Horace would be known as Horacio, like his counterparts Fernando, Arturo and not forgetting, Alejandro. His parents had named him Horace Ongili, hoping that he too may one day become a great and powerful man of sorts.
But no, Horace was none of these things..he was a construction worker. This I could tell from the piles of cement dust puckered at the corners of his eyes. This man did hard work, he toiled hard every day of his existence..he had creases lined at the corners of his eyes.. Horace was a unique being; he knew nothing of it, but he was.
At times, his short and stout Indian boss at the construction site would anger him. He would say things such as ‘kijana we nakuja apa mafanye kazi majuri majuri-tik’ things he barely understood. And his breathe always reeked of methi, and fenugreek. Occasionally, paprika. Papparika. Chilli.pepperth. red hot chilli pepperths. These aromas and the man’s annoying voice would so annoy him. And his anger; Horacio’s anger could cause a ground-breaking. His owl-like vessels would speedily turn from snow-white to red beetroot. With Kenya’s transport system well elaborate on them. Rivers, valleys (like the one formed at Narok). Superhighways. You could see them all in this red network. You could almost envision the Chinese engineers dashing orders at young robust African men. You could almost feel these men’s pain, as they take these orders, with thoughts of their famished kin back home…and with that, they would carry one more brick. It was always one more. One more brick to further enrichen a roads minister’s pocket, and enrichen the Chinese economy too.
This anger would consume Horacio, so bad that it would heat up the fluids inside him. The ‘strungi’ that he took in the morning, bouts of water, and last night’s ‘chibuku’…they would all boil inside him. Boil. Boiler. Boilest. Then they would rise up in vapor form, finding their way back up to the head. Evaporation. And when they met with his cold round eyes, they relaxed (condensation), and formed some salty liquid. Tears. And Horace would cry. Fountains, rivers. And when Horace cried; Ngamau who was innocently playing by the riverbed in his hometown Kathiani, Kabaa, would be swept away by the floods; into the Tana River, turned Galana, into the Indian Ocean. And Amina, who would be crossing from Mombasa to Diani, would drown in the MV Likoni, a sad and salty perish. So no, Horacio must not cry. He would better go home to cool off.
And he cannot afford to pay the hefty transport costs to his home in Embakasi. No, so he walks. And walks. From Westlands to Embakasi he walks. Darkness falls, but he still walks. He owns no torch, for Horace needs no torch.; his eyes illuminate the way. Like a Bedford track’s headlights; old but functional.
He finally arrives. Happy, satisfied. Having breathed in tones of exhaust from the passing industrial area trucks. His nose is good for global warming, he thinks. He now walks briskly, closer to his home. His one-roomed house; a king’s palace in his eyes. Suddenly, his knees shiver, and salty liquid streams from his skin pores. Freedom is for them. Fatigue, we’re home. Solace.
The door ajar, Horace staggers in. Seeps in and goes straight for the superfoam mattress. For he has no sense left to smell his wife’s cooking, or let alone exchange niceties. All systems closed. Boots kicked off. Stinky feet..fumes spreading through the one room. A housefly drops in dismay; a stinky death. Horace’ back on the foam, the journey to rest land begins. He quickly recaps his day, and two bright lights show on the ceiling. His eyes. And these huge vessels do not close easily. The large masses of skin begin to come together. Preparation. Like the closing of a shipping dock. Or a garage. They gather together, shaking, unified. Harambee-harambee. Slowly by slowly, they come together, the bright lights slowly fading. Slowly, slowly. Darkness gradually prevails, leaving just the candle that Mrs. Horace had lit. The eyelids make one last attempt to resist sleep, they try. In vain. And when they finally close; when the garage doors finally meet; large and heavy, like the eyes they protect; they go “BOOM!”