We are in free fall and everything below comes into sharper focus.
There is colour everywhere in the world: Nyayo House orange, I&M dark blue, Teleposta cream. All these tall buildings are in the centre, casting blurry shadows across shorter ones.
On the left side, at Uhuru Park, there are flowing carpets of green grass. The sun is inside the boating pond and scattered trees cauliflower across the park landscape.
And everywhere there are rivers of grey roads jammed with cars that look like toys from up here.
Jets of fountain spray in the middle of Uhuru Highway.
On the right side there is grey and darkness: the massive flyovers shooting across Globe roundabout; the dirty Nairobi River, hidden in parts by the flyover shadows, coursing past acres of junk food architecture; the dusty printing press factories and the sprawling car garages; the dukawalla nests, brothel hotels, Liddos and 24-hour-bars around River Road.
At the bottom of our vision there are still buildings everywhere. Browny and dead coloured government buildings like K.I.C.C and Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education. Harambee house or The Office of the President.
And scrolling our eyes to the edges of the bottom there is the rust and the leftover steel of Railways.
There is the Brownian motion of human rats.
This is a downtown seething with all our five senses, cockroaches and booming construction.
There is an ambient noise: car engines purring in the traffic jams, human rats squeaking in voices alto or soprano or bass; random machine humdrum, like photocopiers chucking out paper, a pneumatic drill machine gunning through pavement concrete, fans whirring inside the million desktop PC’s. There are ungreased revolving bank doors letting out shrill moans.
The haram in Harambee house.
Just before we crash land, we catch sight of some human rats funnelling toward a point where a tall rat, dressed in black, stands. Glint of gold chain around his neck.
We crash land. We breathe the ground level air like the human rats. Some wrong gas in our noses, something carbon monoxide, something sulphur. We have crash landed next to a car exhaust. Our saliva has mixed with the tarmac dirt which we couldn’t avoid kissing and it tastes extra terrestrial. We brush against the cotton shirts of the human rats and their rough jeans scrape our faces as we get up to stand straight after the fall.
Industrial R&B blasts out of matatus.
We get up to look straight at him. Straight at his eyes but he’s wearing sunglasses. So we adjust our focal length and optically zoom in. Macro focusing on the shiny, dark and gently curving slopes of sunglass. It shows a fishbowl landscape of downtown. There are dust specs clinging on to it because of static.
The fishbowl landscape shows a woman, middle aged, fat with many years of eating white flour ugali. Ugly in the face, some wrinkles, smelling of sweat, dressed in a long boring skirt that hits the dirt on the ground. She’s doing a half dance, something warthogy. Her hindquarters wiggle fast for a few seconds then freeze, and her hand goes up like a warthog tail. White drool spitting out in equal portions from the sides of her lips like she is sprouting small warthog tusks; and she takes a step forward and repeats; words coming out of her like diwali firecrackers: Ananona, anaconda, anatoka ulaya ya kaskazini. Nobody knows what that means.
The sunglasses show two bent men in the corners. Both looking identical, both leaning against two curving windows, simultaneously, high up on two dark blue I&Ms, both looking down together.
Then we see all the human rats pouring out of the funnel spout that is Wabera Street – I&M – Safaricom shop – ICEA – Kenyatta Ave, and stopping behind the middle aged, fat woman. Rats sweating adrenaline. Someone kicks the air. Another one poses in kung fu. Someone wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt unbuckles a belt and swings it overhead. They are begging in varied tribal dialects to tyre him: Jaluo sex moans when the begging choral voice, surprisingly synchronised, goes bass note; Kikuyu hysteria when it goes high up in a g sharp something.
Armenia, here we come.
He grimaces and feels tightness around where his skin touches the frame of his sunglasses. Horns, engine purr and Adele roll in the deep of the Kenyatta Avenue traffic. He grimaces because he now smells gasoline. He keeps an eye out for that working fountain maybe four hundred meters away on the President ready Uhuru Highway. Keep that in mind, he tells himself as he chews his cinnamon gum. Fountain water to douse the coming fire.
A white capped policeman stands lonely on that empty highway, biting into his walkie talkie, eyeing the mob lynch in middle Kenyatta Avenue. When a dukawallah steps out of Chaganlal Naran & Bros and spies from a safe but near enough distance with our cousin, the SONY DCS-W570. He spies the tall-all-dressed-in-black-sunglassed-rat climbing to the top of the car roof. The dukawallah thinks the guy looks like a badly shaped Keanu Reeves.
A fifteen year old prodigy comes alive from a dreamy walk when approaches the funnel spout. His left hand for some reason moves over the bag he holds in his right. The bag has books he has borrowed from the next door McMillan Library. Pages of analysis by two legendary Armenians: Tigran Petrosyan and Levon Aronyan. Tiger and Lion. The fifteen year old prodigy walks away from the funnel spout, past the cars stretched until the junction where Moi Avenue runs perpendicular to Kenyatta Avenue and he disappears.
The human rat wearing the Mickey Mouse t-shirt squats and separates the rubber meat of a tyre from the steel bone of a rim. The particular car’s bumper hits the ground. Because he is not wearing his belt, his trousers slide down a foot and reveal the arch his adiposed buttocks. Mickey Mouse instinctively drops the tyre and frees his hands. The tyre bounces and hits the knee of a human rat nearby who is old, thin and wobbly and this old rat collapses to the ground upon contact.
The other human rats waste no time. They grab the tyre and hand it over to the fat, middle-aged woman.
Behind the sunglasses, the tall, cornered rat thinks with his eyes. He sees alleyways between the cars in the jam on Kenyatta Avenue. He foresees his burning body caroming around those alleyways, slaloming toward the fountain, four hundred meters away where water gushes and sprays. All the ways to cool the coming fire.
He believes the drivers seated on the right hand will bring back in their elbows which lean out the door now; the passengers seated on the left hand will be caught by the surprise of sudden heat on their face skins as he passes by.
Behind the sunglasses, the tall, cornered rat looks at the legs of a blue chip damsel walking down the other side of Kenyatta Avenue. At her high heels which are faux suede with peep toe fronts, ruffle ruched around the front keyholes, and they have back zipper closures, and comfy cushion footbeds, and ribbed soles, not to mention the one and a half inch platforms and five inch heels, fuschia coloured.
Looking at the legs of the blue chip damsel reminds him to remove his sunglasses before they grab his hands and pin them at his back, before the fat, middle-aged one garlands him and douses him with a jerry-can worth of super unleaded petrol. The plastic on the sunglasses will otherwise melt and stick to his eyes and he will not see his way to the fountain.
This is his mercenary training. He has never felt fire before but this is what he will do. He can spot fountains in foreign lands.
There is a crash of human rats. Car windows cracking. Stampede. Kicking people out of the way. Cheering on the caroming fire. The throwing of stones and other peoples lost shoes at the slaloming fire. Missing the target. Hitting the target. Everyone losing their vocabulary in the language of eiowah eehh! Heh boh hooh kay heyweah.
They move with violence and hit us and we overturn and crack our lenses on the ground. We see only the colour of the blue sky. We are in free fall and everything above is out of focus.