The common mwananchi

Harry loosened his tie as he sat on the park bench. The sun was high up and getting hotter with each passing minute. From his Tusky’s paper bag he removed his lunch; milk and bread.

Tuskys Supermarket had realized having a bakery within their stores would entice people to buy bread. Every time he passed by one these stores with his daughter, she’d squeeze his hand tightly and beg him to buy that bread instead of Kenblest which was more affordable.

Harry was an office messenger. He had been one since he cleared his high school education and came to leave with his uncle in the city. He had been his uncle’s houseboy for two months before getting the promotion to a messenger boy with Barclay Bank. It had since been twelve years and he had a wife and a daughter to feed.

He bit on to the bread and savored the taste. That bread tasted so good. He couldn’t help but smile.

A street boy taller than him passed by with a sack full of plastic containers. He was sniffing glue.

“Niaje buda….”he said standing in front of Harry. “Niaje hako kaloaf angalau…”

“Get out of here!”he hissed grabbing his bread tighter than ever. He was afraid but he would not show it.

“Sawa buda…”said the street boy smiling. “You’re the people who deserve your outfits painted. Buda…next time, next time, me I’ll paint your suit.”

“Toka hapa!”he shouted reaching for a stone on the ground.

The street boy laughed and sniffed his glue, slowly walking away like he had no fear.

Harry shook his head in anger. A man seated at the opposite bench looked at him and smiled.

“Don’t mind them,”he said.”They are used to the hard life.”

“Aren’t we all?”Harry responded. “But you’ll never hear us threaten others with fecal matter if we don’t get what we want.”

The man chuckled and grabbed his paper.

Harry looked at his bread as emotions swept over him. That boy was somebody’s son. Maybe he ran away, maybe he went mad after a bad ordeal, maybe he was born in the streets, maybe, just maybe he wanted a decent meal for one day.

And here he was, with a roof over his head, with a loving family and enough money to buy more bread if he wanted. He felt guilty and angry. Angry that his pride would not call the boy back for the bread.

His pride had cost him a great deal today, he thought. Twelve years of service of service down the drain simply because he felt too proud to move files to the storage room.

He remembered that morning well. He got to work at eight as usual and did his usual rounds from desk to desk, collecting all letters and documents that needed delivery. He picked madam Wario’s food order as well since she gave him a tip afterwards. By eleven, he was back at the bank. Maria had been waiting for him. She said she wanted some files moved up the stairs to the last office, and she wanted it done immediately.

Now Maria had joined the company a month ago, as an intern. She was young enough to be his daughter if he had started a family earlier. And yet, here she was barking orders like she owned the office. Mr. Waiganjo, the Director never even addressed him like that. And nobody ever gave him such kind of work without paying him.

He said no. He said he would not carry those files unless he was paid. She said he was absurd. He laughed and moved to the coffee room. Samira the coffee girl quickly joined him saying Maria had run into Waiganjo’s office with a fit going on. He was told she was his niece…from there on he knew he was in trouble.

He pressed on the envelope in his pocket. He had fourteen thousand shillings with him. His last pay and a proof of twelve years.

He took off his tie now and stood up.

He had a long walk home. He had to go and tell his wife the sad news that they were moving back to the country side.

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