A Kiss from the Devil by Wafula p’Khisa

 

The heavy steel door flung open and one policeman in an oversized uniform entered. I had never seen that before; he must have sneaked into his boss’s uniform. So rather than worry about what horror awaited me, I laughed uncontrollably. He stood at a distance and sized me, perhaps wondering if I wasn’t ripe for Mathare Mental Hospital. The frown on his face, however, revealed that he hadn’t come to tell me ‘good morning’, ‘nice day’ or ask if I had slept well. Nobody sleeps in a police cell anyway. When he spoke, my laughter died immediately. He chained my hands and feet, and dragged me to the interrogation room.

There were two small chairs and a table. His colleague sat awkwardly on one chair, smoking his life away with a roaring appetite like a chimney. The floor was littered with thousands of cigarette heads — a clear evidence of his unwavering contribution to the growth and existence of the tobacco industry. He blew the smoke into my face and stood up. His big, bloodshot eyes, which danced dangerously in their sockets as if they would fall any time scared like hell. I saw death right before my eyes.

“The rule here is very simple,” he said. “You talk or I make you talk. But you’ll regret if I prefer the latter.”

I stared at him blankly. The few days I had been around as a state guest had informed me the expected results of police interrogations. Whatever one said wasn’t true until it was acceptable truth. They would pull and pinch you at unimaginable places to extract information from you. And if you failed to respond to their treatment, there was no guarantee that you would come out in one piece.

“Now tell me,” he thundered. “Where the hell’s she?”

“Where the hell’s who?” I asked innocently.

“Listen, boy. Here you don’t ask questions. Don’t think we aren’t smart here…”

“I’m sorry sir. But I don’t understand you…”
.
“Don’t sorry sorry me! Where’s Janet?”

“Janet!?”

It was a strange familiar noun. I ran through the register of the women I had; the women I had had affairs with; the women I was chasing; the women I had broken up with; the women I admired secretly and dreamed about every night; and the women I had promised to marry. But Janet didn’t feature anywhere. “She must be one of the few that come into my life and leave without consequence,” I told myself.

“Don’t waste my time,” the fella screamed.

I had even forgotten that he was there. “I don’t know any Janet sir,” I said.

He shook his head, unconvinced. “The woman you left Eden Hole with on the Christmas eve six months ago. She’s a person of great interest to us, and you’ll tell us where she is…”

“But officer…”
.
“Stop officering me! Speak up…”

****

The three disco lights of Eden blinked lazily. This created some necessary dimness that couldn’t allow one to recognize you however hawk-eyed they were. But the well-contoured, massive figures of the barmaids could be seen from every corner of the club.

Eden wasn’t really a club for, apart from the long stools that stretched their necks to kiss the rotting ceiling and the violent music, there was nothing. However, given that people on that side of the world had a strange obsession with big names, baptizing that tiny hole a club was just befitting. It was in that dimness that I spotted a lone figure in a corner.

I had nearly stumbled on a Sportpesa jackpot a week before by winning $ 3000 as bonus. I was in Eden then to celebrate my success by getting myself drunk. Doesn’t everyone celebrate in their own fashion anyway? Besides, nobody got such amount of money during the economic drought of the time. I therefore needed colourful thoughts on how to spend it, which couldn’t freely come without divine intervention of the bottle. It cools the nerves and unlocks the mind to wander freely in the realm of imagination.

It was 1am and nobody was retiring to their homes. In fact, the club was swelling with patrons at a very high rate. You would think it was the last drinking day on earth! When you have money, the passing of time doesn’t worry you at all. Isn’t time money in itself? Some patrons just tipped the manager for them to drink till dawn. I looked around again, with keen interest this time, and saw the lady in the same position.

However, she was no longer alone. A couple of men hovered around her like vultures over a carcass. I looked away quickly, resting my eyes on the cleavage of the barmaid that had been serving me. She wore a tiny skirt that was originally meant to be a belt and a top that left all her possessions bare for the world to see. These, with her beautiful, long, black hair; heavily painted lips and nails; angelic smile and soft voice epitomized her as a great beauty. She was the queen of the night that completely arrested my eyes. I shook my head to confirm that I wasn’t drunk. You see, beer has the magic of changing faces of things.

“Hello handsome…” a voice came from the back.

Before I could turn and see the person, the lady was right before my eyes.

“You’re lonely,” she whispered. “Am I welcomed here?”

“Yeah, sure,” I answered excitedly.

I ordered for more drinks. I had emptied a whole crate but didn’t feel anything yet. I was beginning to doubt the honesty of the brewer when I just remembered that in drinking, the strongest man is he who drinks a lot and doesn’t black out fast.

“I’m Jasmine,” she said after a couple of sips.

“That’s a pretty name. What’s its meaning?” I asked.

“Does meaning of one’s name matter?”

“Mmmh…I really don’t know. But I think names speak more of who we are.”

“Then? Can that bring food on the table.”

“Not at all. Perhaps it just satisfies the heart. Anyway, I’m Max.”

She tapped on my shoulder and smiled. I smiled back. It was getting late. I had to go.

 

I woke up at midday stark naked, with a condom on my shrunken manhood. The door was wide open and the room virtually empty, except for the rastamen pictures on the wall, water containers and the bed. Everything seemed to have vanished in thin air overnight. “Am I dreaming?” I asked myself.

“Kwani jana kuliendaje?” I wondered.

The stinging eyes of curious neighbours reminded me of my nakedness. They had started gathering around the room to witness the rare episode fate was offering. One sympathetic fella whom I had saved from his wife’s beating a week earlier offered me something to wear.

“Hey dude, what happened?” he asked.

“I woke up in hell bro,” I answered. Embarrassed.

“But how could that be possible? Weren’t you celebrating last night?”

“Celebrating!!?”

“Yes. You came with a brand-new Mercedes. Then you banged on our doors, shouting ‘kila mtu akule mali yake…I’ve money…. money at tender age will kill me’. You really disturbed us, but what could we do? A man whose stomach hasn’t tasted anything for ages has nothing to tell another that’s holding a yam.”

“Why am I this way then?” I asked desperately.

“We heard a vehicle pull up outside early in the morning. Then I saw your Mercedes leave with some items and I thought you’re relocating to Runda. I’m surprised you’re here still!”

I understood everything then. Jasmine had conned me. But how?

At Eden, she had been so innocent and soft spoken. I had been particularly attracted to her smile and model’s body that yearned to be caressed. She spoke words of honey. Her thoughts wandered far and wide, revealing her obsession for model cars, sumptuous lunches in Norfolk and holidays on coastal beaches. She hadn’t objected when I asked to meat her. However, I had been a little nervous. The rich are always worried of their money. I had therefore been a little wise to give Agneta, a barmaid friend a good chunk of money to keep for me. The road tells not the traveler what awaits him ahead. It’s just good to be prepared.

She had been too procedural in bed though. I wasn’t interested in consuming the chunks of lipstick on her lips in the goddam name of kissing. So after wearing the helmet, I endeavoured to meat her with real appetite. But she jumped on her feet in protest.

“This isn’t rape, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Why rush then? Waenda kuzima moto mahali au vipi?”

I pulled her closer, and listened to her heart sing. Then our lips interlocked, urging our tongues to wander deeper into each other. Whatever venom she spat into me, after visiting the washroom endlessly, only the devil knows! Sadly, I didn’t cross the great river to bathe in glories of the promised land even though I had already paid. I blacked out, waking up only to find my life totally different!

 

I would report the matter to the police three weeks later. However, it was due to pressure from neighbours. I reminded them that it was my funeral and they needed not to weep louder than the owner of the corpse. But they would hear none of it. Honestly, I lacked courage to relate such a shameful incident to anyone.

The tall, dark officer with a thin waist like a wasp stared blankly at me. He expressed no feeling as I described my predicament. Occasionally, I felt as if I was playing a guitar to a goat.

“So how much was stolen?” he asked.

“Five hundred dollars sir…”

Ati what? That’s enough to boil githeri for students for a whole month you know! Where on earth did you get it?”

“Gambling sir…”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes sir…”

“But you look emaciated! You think we don’t know how people with money look like?”

He threatened to put bracelets on my hands, claiming that gambling was an illegal business. This made him to dip his long hands into my pockets. I left without any sheer hope of recovering my property. The evening found me in Eden, drowning my stress with a few bottles. I didn’t bother to wait for the police investigations to go through. Sometimes they are mere gimmicks that bear no fruits. So I looked for Jasmine on my own.

Her phone was off forever and all her social media accounts deactivated. I therefore travelled to Namanga where, she had said, her parents lived. I would have given up the search had she not taken my treasures: school certificates. I had spent a fortune on them. And even though they hadn’t earned me a job, they breathed life into my miserable self. They gave me the hope of seeing the sun from a different angle someday.

The journey was long, tiresome and uneventful. I easily located the homestead after making a few inquiries. But it was after narrating my story that I realized I had dipped a hot nail inside a fresh wound. Jasmine’s supposed mother wept bitterly. I apologized countless times and quickly rose to go. However, the old man pulled me aside.

“My son,” he said, “I’m sorry about your predicament. But we can’t help you.”

“Why? Aren’t you her parents?”

“We are…”

“So where’s she?”

He pointed at a red mound of soil a few meters away. My heart sagged and I started sweating. Confused.

“Wh…wha…what’s the meaning of this?” I asked incoherently.

“We buried her two months ago. They killed her…the police. ..” he sobbed.

Something completely escaped the grasp of my thoughts. I stared at him like a zombie, unsure of what to say.

“I’m sorry sir,” I said, “But I don’t understand…”

“My daughter was shot in a protest…”

“Oh, I’m really sorry sir.”

“It’s ok, son. That’s passed now,” he whispered.

I was sad that Jasmine was dead. I was sadder that she wasn’t the pretty devil I was looking for. I gave up searching for her; it was as though I was searching for a white elephant.

 

A few months passed without incident and the memory of Jasmine was gradually erased by the wind of time. I drank my fortune, and started doing menial jobs in town to survive. I learned a few things though. Lightning doesn’t strike a tree twice and a man can’t dance in the arena twice regardless of how great he is. My hunger for riches grew wild. Nothing was enough in the economic meltdown of the time. I invested the peanuts I earned in Sportpesa and harvested stones!

Then one evening, while retiring to my house, I found six heavily armed cops at the gate. I wanted to take off, but something told me I hadn’t committed a crime. So I approached them with one of my happiest smiles.

“You’re the one Maxbet Sham?” one of them asked, ignoring my humble greetings.

“Ye… Ye… Yes sir,” I replied meekly.

There was fear that the green, guerrilla uniform and the instruments of death elicited. They exchanged knowing glances and grabbed me. I struggled to break free in vain.

“You’re under arrest,” one fat guy, who appeared to be their leader said.

“Arrest? I haven’t done anything wrong sir…”

“You’ll say that at the station…”

I was bundled into a waiting Land Rover and taken away.

Three days of sleeping on filthy, cold floors of police cells and rough treatment revealed the shit I had dragged myself in. Jasmine, I learned, was a criminal– wanted for murder, robbery, drug trafficking, fraud etc. Jasmine wasn’t even her name; she had others. I was the last person to have been seen with her, according to intelligence reports. Therefore, I was suspected to be her accomplice. I would be beaten and tortured in attempts to extract information concerning her whereabouts.

 

 

 

 

 

Wafula p’Khisa is a poet, writer and teacher from Kenya. He studied English, Literature & Education at Moi University. His work has been published in The Seattle Star, The Legendary (issue 48), The Beacon, Scarlet Leaf Review, Antarctica Journal, Aubade Magazine (issue 1), NYSAI Press, AfricanWriter.com, Best ‘New’ African Poets 2015 Anthology, VoicesNet.com, The Pendulum, Mgv2 Magazine, Best ‘New’ African Poets 2016 Anthology, Emanations (issue 2), Basil O’Flaherty Journal, PPP Ezine Journal, Tuck Magazine and several literary blogs .

 

10 Comments

  • Pamela July 1, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Wow a nice and touching story ,,,,,

    Reply
  • David wasungui July 1, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    Good peace of work my friend

    Reply
  • Harriet Nasambu Mwiruka July 2, 2018 at 5:44 am

    So sweet..
    Go go dear..
    Your dreams are valid

    Reply
  • Isabella saikwa July 2, 2018 at 8:48 am

    wow such a captivating story!

    Reply
  • Andrew Mutoro July 3, 2018 at 8:12 am

    It’s a great piece keep it up Mr p’khisa

    Reply

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