You wake up confused. Your whole face is drenched in sweat. You slept bare chested and donned your jeans on like you’ve done every day for the past five weeks. The clock beside your bed shows that its forty minutes past two in the morning. Instinctively, you put on a hoodie and get into your Nike sneakers then slowly walk out of your bedroom. The living room is peaceful like it is during most nights. There are two pillows scattered on the floor. A table stands lonely at the center of the room. Four leather seats surround it protectively with one of them positioned strategically next to the door. You proceed towards the door with extra caution to avoid making any sound that could prompt your parents to wake up from their deep sleep.
Outside, the air is so cold. You’d think the world outside at 2am is a big morgue. You start running. You don’t know why but you just start. You have no idea where you are headed to. But that’s the point. You just want to escape from yourself. So you run. 2am is such a small hour you wonder. It’s silent than you ever thought. You pass through the shops outside the estate. They stand like short ghosts in the dark.
You take a turn at the end of the narrow path. Ahead of you is the only primary school around. The three watchmen that guard the place are probably in their fourth dreams of the night. It’s the primary school you went to. For a moment a wave of nostalgia hits your chest and you start thinking about your days as a little primary school kid. You were so naïve at the beginning. But then you gained confidence slowly and tilled your brilliance day by day till you became among the very top students. You had a crush on a short girl in class four. She was probably the most generous human being you’ve ever come across. She shared her snacks and sang you songs about birds and wild animals. But then she changed schools and just like that you were robbed of free snacks.
You keep running because that’s all you want to do for the night. So you go past the school and hit the tarmac road. It isn’t as busy and crowded as it usually gets by sunrise. Tuk tuks are a rare sight at this hour. There are no motor bikes. Neither are there vehicles. In a few hours, there probably will be a lot of noise and none of the pedestrians, motorists or the cyclists that use the road on a daily basis will ever know that you were there at two in the morning. There will probably be a rude motor bike guy who will ruin a man’s day and the man will whine about it the whole week especially if he is one of those men who wear pink shirts to work. What’s with men who wear pink official shirts to work? Why are they ever moody? You think about that and feign a small laugh to yourself then keep running.
You reach the deserted Western Junction and start thinking about your mum. You wonder when she will wake up today. You also wonder how long it will take her to notice that you are gone. She will probably think you are just out at the neighbor’s place or at the shop or maybe just outside taking a brisk morning walk. But then she will wait and wait see no sign of you till around ten in the morning. She will call your phone only to hear it ring under your soft cotton duvet. And she will be worried. She will probably call Jeff first because he is your closest friend.
And Jeff will be like “I haven’t heard from him in a while. He hasn’t been picking my call for two days.” She will then try Steve, Brian, Kev and Ray but all of them will tell her that they haven’t been in touch with you lately. And your mum will go nuts. She will become dramatic. She will be restless. She will argue with your dad on what to do about the situation. And your dad will give her hope by telling her “relax, he is a big boy now. He knows what he is doing. He will be back.” She will calm down but not for long.
Meanwhile, you pass Western Junction and keep running. You are headed for the turn next to Mega City Mall. At the roundabout, you see some street urchins sleeping by the abandoned gas station next to the mall. Poor chaps. You pity them. You wish there was a way you could provide them with shelter. But there’s nothing you can do about it. You aren’t even in a position to take care of yourself. How could you possibly care for others? So you go past them and trudge on the main road that goes to town. The road is empty but it does not match the emptiness you feel inside you. Some small drops of sweat are now trickling down your cheeks in a completely non-uniform manner. But you don’t feel like stopping to wipe them. Actually you don’t feel like stopping for anything. So you continue.
Out of nowhere, a sound fills the air around. A motor bike seems to be coming from behind you. But you don’t care. He or she or whoever it maybe can knock you for all you care. So you don’t deviate from your path an inch. Neither do you turn to look at who it may be. That’s how carefree you’ve become. But it’s not the first time this carefree feeling dominates your being. You stopped caring a very long time ago. So nothing scares you anymore. The person on the motor bike may have been a murderer, a thief or a thug. None of those cross your thoughts. For you are at a point in your life where a murderer pulling a trigger to your head would be doing you more good than harm.
But the motor bike passes. And you keep running. The city lights are becoming brighter and brighter as you draw near town. You are now at that big billboard with the writing “GOVERNOR ANYANG’ NYONG’O WELCOMES YOU TO KISUMU CITY”. You stare at it a while as you keep your pace. Then you reach the roundabout that is next to Kisumu Boys. For a moment you want to take the road that leads to Obote Street but you swiftly change your mind and take the left. You move along the road that has Naivas and Tuffoam Mall along it. As you pass Naivas, you are sad all over a sudden. You start thinking about your little sister and the number of times you took her food shopping at the supermarket. You remember how the little mundane things like shopping or eating at a supermarket impressed her those days. For a moment you feel like a tear is coming from your left eye but you suppress it and keep running.
You are now at the KCB roundabout. You slow down. You do so because Oginga Odinga Street is on right and you want to see how it looks like at this hour of the night. The bright orange lights above cast an empty glee on the deserted streets. From a distant you can see someone crossing the road just next to Choppies Supermarket. He could probably be a good person or a bad person. Or it could be that his wife chased him away that night after he came home drunk. You will never know. That’s just how life is. There are things that people never get to know. The best thing they can do is live with that fact.You have stopped for a while now. Your eyes are still fixed on the streets. You see Rocky Driving School somewhere around and think of your driving school days. You suddenly remember those chaps who used to ask questions just when class was about to end. You wonder where they are now. Then you remember that girl who was brought in so confused and suddenly became your friend. Later on you would learn that she lives in Milimani with her parents. She was such a kind soul. She brought people snacks every day in class. The tutor hated her though. He hated her because she was rich and he couldn’t stand rich girls.
Then you see Ali-Imran Plaza and you remember that the only time you ever stepped foot in it was to use a lift. It’s where you overcame your phobia of lifts. On the far end of the streets is Choppies. You remember how faithful you were to Choppies when you were in high school. You never cheated on it a single day with any other supermarket. But did they ever know? You guess that they probably didn’t know that.
You resume your run. There’s Maseno University Plaza ahead of you. You have tons of friends in that place. You wonder where each of them maybe at this very moment. Some of your friends there are models who walk on runways with decorum while others are geeks who if the CIA heard of would recruit to Langley immediately. On the left you see Kisumu Hotel, your swimming destination on hot days. The pool attendants and everyone know you there. You have lost count of the number of times you have swam there for free.
You keep running still. Your pace is increasing and your breathing is heavy. A song from the old days suddenly rings in your mind. For a moment it really hits you that you are in your mid-twenties. If not for the twenties you would probably be not running in these streets at this hour of the night. Your twenties have not been kind. You think of people in their thirties and forties or even people like your parents in their early sixties and wonder to yourself how they made it past their twenties without drinking concentrated sulphuric acid. But you tell yourself that you are not them. You are not as strong as them.
You have reached the road on which State House premises sit along. The area seems to be well lit. A dog barks from a distance. You can also hear some laughter behind the steel gates. You wonder what would light up a person at fifty eight minutes past two in the morning when you can’t seem to get laughter even during daylight. And so you go. And you pass the heart of Milimani estate. Only the sound of shaking leaves can be heard. It’s dead quiet. But there are lights all over.
By now you are running out of breath. You feel like stopping but your spirit isn’t willing to do that. You try to toughen up as much as you can. Your pace has reduced to now. But the large lake lies ahead of you. That gives you motivation to carry your heavy weight forward. And when you finally reach the shore you throw yourself inside without thinking twice. Time stops. Your heartbeat slows down. Your hands cut through the water as you sink down to the deep bottom levels. Your sneakers become heavier than they were. Your mind races from childhood to present time. Images of your mum and little sister flash across your mind like lightning. You cry but your tears get lost in fresh waters of the lake. All this while as you sink lower and lower, you hold your breath and close your mouth. But you tire at some point. And you let loose finally. But then as water gets into your system, a sudden inner voice tells in a commanding way “NOT TODAY”. And just like that you fight your way up back to the shores with a renewed strength and confidence. You Rise. Your name is Donovan. You live another day.