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Thursday, October 11, 2012


A surgical strike, quick, clean and done. Antiseptic, professional. A wielded scalpel. Anaesthetic. Blackness instead of pain. One moment your eyes are open to the world the next they aren't  the one after that you have lost something of you. It may have been something that was killing you but it’s lost and you didn't see it go. A surgical strike is preferred.

There have been drones flying over Pakistan recently. Drones flying and dropping bombs, targeted killings and surgical strikes in America’s never ending war on terror. A war that if not carried out carefully could be as eternal as their war on drugs, the weapons they use could beget the weapons used against them. Am no expert on this thing, on its effects but I think everyone in the world should know a little about what’s happening and what may be the new face of warfare so if you have time please please click on the following link, http://www.esquire.com/features/obama-lethal-presidency-0812  it’s a long and harrowing story about responsibility, morality, integrity and the future. It raises questions about the drone war happening in Pakistan, questions that the whole world may have to grapple with one day. In the heart of man there is always conflict and there always will be and until that day when we don’t make the world in our image we have to always consider what conflict means.


The other day I was walking home from half a night out. Half a night is when you slip away from friends and make your lonely, weary way home alone. Slightly tipsy, well very tipsy but not drunk. I’ll use this as a sort of public service announcement about another dangerous spot in Nairobi; it’s near the Westlands stage just opposite that photocopy shop. It's not a place to be caught by yourself at night.

I was dragging my body along that place when suddenly I found myself on the floor. Rough hands reaching in my pockets, I could feel the weight in my bag lightened, I fought back but my reflexes were too slow and then I stood up. I saw retreating figures, like a star going off in different directions, not in a hurry at all and I impotently shouted at them(about my phone) “ichukue inazimwa next week” just take it it’s been switched off next week.

I stood up and reached in my pocket they hadn't taken my money since it was in that small pocket that jeans have, the one where you really have to reach in. They didn't have time to go rummaging this was after all a surgical strike then I got on a matatu and made my weary way home. Wishing I had made it a full night out. When I next chanced to look at the t-shirt I was wearing not only was there dust down the front where I had fallen but the back was peppered with blood spots. So many tiny ones like I had been pricked with a hundred needles. Needless to say I hadn’t felt these pricks I hadn’t noticed anything except that my knee took the brunt of the fall. Oh they also took my book and a foolscap I was carrying around, what the fuck will you do with these things you robbers?

It was a surgical strike you see. Quick, clean, no lasting signs of damage. I mean I am more aware of my surroundings nowadays, I hear running footsteps a lot quicker now and I turn to see what’s happening. I avoid dark places preferring street lights but there’s no lasting trauma like last time I can just pick up and go on with life.

Even though in those few seconds it took those men to rob me (I kept thinking to myself I have been robber baroned) a lot happened, I can’t remember any of it but I have been manhandled enough to imagine it and I feel like taking an exercise in description so am going to fill this in with a lot of fictional conjecture.

There I am tipsily loping down a dark street. Hands out of nowhere position themselves just beneath my shoulder blades, one hand lower than the other and they grab my t-shirt, it’s one of those cotton t-shirts and I like how it feels against my body when I take the time to think about it, soft, a whisper of warmth. The hands, they grab my t-shirt in pinches and pinch a little of my skin. My skin it tears and a drop of blood squeezes out. I am yanked back and pushed forward hastily, I stumble on an outstretched foot, you see my balance isn’t what it once was and even then it wasn’t very good. Falling I put my knee out and the ground rushes to greet it, impact on right knee and a shiver runs up my spine, I grimace from the pain and lie down on the ground. Forcefully hands reach into my pockets, they mine and burrow around, finding and yanking things out, there is a bulge there and then not and I feel empty like I lost something because I did. My bag hangs open and I can feel it hanging open. Isn’t it strange that an empty bag feels so much heavier than one with just a few things in it? And an open bag feels heaviest of all; it yawns back and pulls you into its sleep. My knee is scraped and my blood so hot that I can’t feel the cold of the night and impotently I yell...

There I am tipsily loping down a dark street. I like how it smells at this time of the night, cold is as close to fresh as air gets in this city. Plus at this time of the night there are few cars and fewer people, there is space to mmmmmmmhmhmhmhmhm breathe. To just breathe. When that is taken away from me. A smell assaults the air. A spice that I can’t quite identify. Except it smells dangerous. It smells close, a hand reaches near my nose and there is dirt and grime smeared on it. The sweaty smell of 5 grown men running in excitement assaults me. It’s  a blanket, smothering, black, impossible to escape from. I want to run. I want the freshness back. I don’t want to be drowned in this smell and then it’s over. An upward rush of air washes it away and I fall on the ground and I can smell the dust of a ground not touched by water in a few days. I leap back up from this smell. Taking in large lungfuls of angry air. There is another smell now, hot blood has coursed through me and I am drenched in it. In anger. In adrenaline. In slippery sweat. It’s invigorating, it gives me energy and impotently I yell.

There I am tipsily loping down a dark street. On my breath the stale of cheap liquor remains along with memories of smoke. When I am grabbed from behind. This jolting action reaches into my stomach and I feel it coming up. My mouth tastes some of the food it had earlier choked down, an unholy mix of acids, stomach fluids and food. It’s porridgey in texture with lumps everywhere. I force it back down. Another taste creeps into my mouth. It’s metallic. I can feel it there, just there not coming from outside as it has been in my body this whole time, not like the puke I forced down which feels like the impostor it is but different as if it had been part of me this whole time. Then I taste the floor. I have always liked the taste of dust. I can’t really put it in words, what would we say salt tastes like if it wasn’t called salt? So this tastes dusty, maybe because it doesn’t overwhelm your tongue, it just spreads film like over it finding spaces to settle mixing with the saliva, being spat out. And then I am on my feet again. It’s hot now, the metal has taken over by mouth, metal and hot saliva, I spit it out as I yell impotently.

There I am tipsily loping down a street when one of my senses fails me. If it hadn’t the hairs on the back of my neck would have stood up, the metal on the tongue of my mouth would have arrived earlier, deeper, mistrustful lungfuls of air would have been pulled in, my ears would have picked out the sounds of padded footsteps in the half-light, my eyes would have noted the shadows playing against the street. These things would have made me wary, made me aware and in no time at all I would see the space in between the bodies and feel the cold on my skin as I rushed through the night air, smelled only freedom and cold and my adrenaline, tasted victory and as I rushed away I would have heard them yell impotently.