Yesterday I left the office later than ordinary. Usually, when I leave the office early I alight at Safaricom Headquarters and stroll down to Westlands. I find that walk therapeutic. It helps me stretch my muscles after close to 11 hours of sitting at my desk. It also helps me to unwind, unclogging my mind from statutes and legal codes that constitute my daily routine. But when I am late, I usually just go down to Westlands in the Matatu.
I made an exception to that general rule yesterday though. I suspect it is because the sky was clear save for a few scattered clouds. The moon was almost full and there was a lone star a respectable distance from it. You see, the moon is royalty, you don’t get too close. It was around 7pm. I could not resist the idea of taking a moonlight walk.
I will give you a little background of my affair with the moonlight. In the village, moonlight walks are the most refreshing things I did. You know, going to the local kiosk at say, 8pm. The village kiosk is quite some distance from our house and the path is lined with thickets, tea bushes, macadamia forests and coffee trees. The cool breeze of the evening coupled with the dark shadows that the moonlight casts are just glorious. Then there is the adrenaline rush that comes when you hear noises in the thickets. The first thing I would remember is the leopard my grandma told me she had seen on that path when she was newly married in 1956. If I happened to be alone, I would quicken my pace constantly looking over my shoulder.
However, if one of my female cousins had insisted on accompanying me, I would walk towards the bush where the noises were coming from in an ostentatious display of bravado. Of course my heart would be waging an atomic war against my chest cavity all the while. Usually it was just a dog that scampered away as I approached, leaving me to utter something courageous for the benefit of my frightened cousin. I would then bask under the glow of her adoration, which was often emphasized by the reflection of the moonlight on her face.
What my cousins didn’t know was that if by any chance the noises had turned into a growl as I approached, I would have taken flight leaving them to negotiate with the beast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I am afraid of leopards. Far from it. It is just that they give me an allergy. Long ago I was self diagnosed as having Feline Phobiaosis Syndrome. The symptoms include sudden jelly filling the knee caps, uncontrollable urinary bladder, accelerated heart beat rate and in severe cases, hyper-active tear glands. The doctor specifically said that the bigger the feline, the worse the symptoms. That means my body can easily manage effect brought about by domestic cats. It is the bigger, more wild cats that pose a health concern.
Back to yesterday. There was another reason I decided to take the moonlight walk in spite of the fact that there was a feline that was recently spotted prowling the streets of this city. In the matatu I was in, two gentlemen had alighted at ABC Place. They were wearing fitting shirts that emphasized their flat stomachs reminding me that the soft mass that is my belly is as much a health issue as Feline Phobiaosis. I therefore needed the stroll. Not that the softness of my belly is regarded as a problem everywhere. It is just people in this city who are nosy and judgmental.
I can assure you that when I go to the village for Easter this weekend, my rotund figure will earn me a few admiring glances. My grandma for one will be genuinely over the moon. She might even start suggestive conversations with questions skirting around the issue of when I intend to get someone to share the blessings. Of course it wouldn’t occur to her that a cylindrical figure might be one of the chief impediments in that quest. You see, in the village where people know how to count their blessings, a portly figure is prima facie evidence that the Lord has been good to me. In fact, I strongly suspect that it will save me the agony of reciting my testimony when I meet mamas in the village path. If you are a Christian villager you know the drill. After greetings they will tell me how the Lord has been good to them since they got born again in 1967, how they have vowed to stay under his feet amongst other things that will take around 20 minutes to say.
The problem is that I have stayed in the city for a while now and have even joined an urban Pentecostal Church. That means that the testimony template in my brain might have been corrupted by some Pentecostal virus. You see, these testimonies have a script. There is a way you start, climax and finish. You don’t just blubber miracles the way Pentecostals do. No way. There is a template that was probably made by an inspired John Knox in the hills of Scotland in the 16th century and graciously brought to Kenya by James Stewart or Ludwig Krapf. I forget who. So you see, if my belly can testify on behalf of my mouth, it will save me several blushes that would occur if I am exposed as having departed from the ways of the good old Presbyterian Church.
I know the more cynical of you are wondering why I didn’t just join St Andrews or some other PCEA church in the city. Truth is, I was scared. Would an urban PCEA church meet my expectations of the Mother Church? Do they for instance have a large giempe (drum) that is beaten by an elderly deacon at a standard rhythm irrespective of the song? Or they use those shiny sets from Japan manned by young men with fancy haircuts? Is their Woman’s Guild made up of women who are at sixes and sevens as far as music is concerned but who nonetheless make a presentation every Sunday singing Kikuyu hymns off tune but loudly and with gusto because the joy of the Lord is their strength? Or it is made up of polished mamas who have just retired from their banking jobs at Barclays and who hum away the latest tunes by Lauren Daigle? Do they even spend an hour before the sermon selling eggs, sugar canes and bananas that congregants had brought as offering and another half an hour counting the proceeds and recording them in offering books? Do they have mauntu ma mujii (things of the home-am translating, don’t stone me!) to discuss for like 45 minutes or they project succinct notices from giant projector screens? No. I couldn’t dare risk getting disappointed. My memories of the Mother Church must be preserved so that I can prove to my son that our good old days were better.
We were talking about a moonlight walk by the way. So for the reasons I have mentioned, I took the stroll. It was simply glorious. The mixture of the white light from the moon and the yellow beams from the traffic heading out of Westlands. The trees lining Waiyaki way creating moving shadows which added to the effect whenever a gentle breeze swayed the branches. I am not even mentioning the red tail lights of vehicles whizzing past from behind me. I was soon carried away by the breath-taking effect of a defiant nature imposing herself against human encroachment.
Of course my moonwalk ended when I entered Westlands. The buildings blocked my view of the moon. The trees were left behind. All I could watch was a man who was nearly knocked down as he carelessly crossed the street near the Sankara Hotel. I crossed the same road shaking my head at the stupidity of the man, only to get nearly knocked down by a motorcycle myself. I rushed to safety but found myself in the path of a small saloon car. The driver mercifully braked and let me pass. Maybe I should start minding my own business like that scripture in Thessalonians says. And I have plenty of business to mind. Like the contract on my desk that needs to be reviewed. Or more urgently, finding something to eat having been left famished by the moonlight walk. Then making crucial decisions like whether to pen down this story to amuse people who are also having trouble minding their own business. Like you.