Look, I like to consider myself a brave, bold and beautiful man. I have applied for jobs the only qualification I had was that I was breathing; I have been sad and still said no to drugs when furaha was kulewa na marafiki. Heck, I have even dated in Nairobi, which if we are being candid is akin to converting an alcoholic in a bar.
Cockroaches however have my number. I secretly fear them. I despise them. Loathe them. Hate them, hate, hate. I hate them with the burning fury of a thousand suns. It’s a conscionable hate: no one except the Buddhists will tell you not to kill them. Honest to God, they give me the ick.
Recently, a quick entomological glance across my kitchen opened the Pandora’s box: I have German cockroaches (or rather they have my kitchen).
Switch on the lights and they scamper for safety, I come for them in one direction, they scatter in seven ways like protestors under teargas. I want to squidge all of them but the damned vermin are sentient, always a step ahead, always seeing you coming, always beating a well-timed tackle with a tactical retreat. Many a girl have wondered why I am hurtling across the kitchen, chasing the same roach, as it darts behind the sink, in and out of drawers, behind the cooker, until its final taunting dash across the tiles and behind the fridge, my eyes bleeding from attempted murder. Days later I’d clean the kitchen and find the same roach, that bastard, dead as a dodo, on its back, almost as if its jeering me. Alone. Hurts like a Kung Fu kick to the chest.
Oh, and Nairobi roaches have picked a thing from their two-legged feline counterparts—those creatures are hard to get rid of. Like the tardigrade, evolution struck the jackpot with the cockroach. These things just refuse to die! Lo and behold, these are not those stealthy critters stealing along the crevices in the cracks of the wall, nay, these are proud-to-be-here KaNairo City roaches, with main character energy, crawling openly across the floor, like a kept Kilimani boytoy.
Roaches are the wretched of the earth, the Twitter of pests, so it wasn’t long before I found myself slaloming my way through Moi Avenue, past Tom Mboya Street and into the badlands of Luthuli Avenue for the antidote.
“Karibia karibia customer. Tuko na dawa ya mende, panya na kunguni. Karibia karibia customer.”
Sold openly but packed discreetly—nobody wants to know you have mende in your house—I was handed this sachet, with its clandestine, samizdat feel and a complementary mouthful of its praises: ‘The Cockroaches Killer.’ The English didn’t make sense and that’s how I knew the dawa would. This one, they said, performs more miracles than that Hebrew bloke in Cana of Galilee. “Mihujesus,” he called it.
“Mbao tu,” he said, oblivious of the many ways that statement can be interpreted. Gutter mind aside, I gave him KShs 20 and a complementary sneer. And off! I went, armed and ready to feng shui my hacienda.
Every city has its quirks. New York has its rats. Lagos has its mosquitoes. Kanairo has its roaches. A place people live because they can’t leave, at least not now, not yet.
For a quarter-billion years cockroaches have lain down and died out of their own volition, for personal reasons, not merely because I cleaned the kitchen. These are not the meek, yet they may well inherit the Earth. But tonight I declare war. Call the cops. Murder, he wrote. A writer is in custody.