This story is weird, because you might get lost along the way. Here goes the story of Shiku, a drunken, delirious, and deranged homeless woman.
I go to downtown Nairobi two days every week, attending evening classes. Class ends at 8:30pm, at least that’s what’s official. Sometimes, we go up to 9pm. It’s a stretch from my bus stop, and I enjoy the solitary walk in the dark. Nairobi streets are never dark, save for some abandoned alleys. Those I avoid for obvious reasons.
Then there are alleys full of street families. At first, I tried avoiding walking on the sides with groups of street families for my safety. What if they decide to mug me? That is what we all ask, don’t we? Well, maybe I am alone in this.
Two people in Shiku’s head
One night I met a middle aged woman in the cold sitting alone and holding a sachet of cheap liquor. Half of it was already imbibed. I don’t know what made me stop to talk to her. She talked about Shiku, who had a baby. The baby needed hot milk, and they lacked money for charcoal to keep the house warm.
She said she lived in Wangige or Uthiru- I can’t remember. She only came to the streets to get money so that the child could get warm. Oh! She also said that 200 shillings would be enough for her to get a taxi to Wangige or Uthiru- her home.
Asking her why she drank alcohol, yet she needed money for Shiku’s baby. She said that it keeps her warm. She didn’t even buy the alcohol herself. She told me that someone bought it for her. Oh! She also said she drinks to keep the nightmares away. That snakes come to make love to her at night. She also mentioned that the police also take advantage of her. She spoke fluent English. Shiku must have been well educated.
After standing there for ten minutes, talking to her, I realized I was talking to Shiku herself. This reminded me of a schizophrenic girl I had talked about earlier. I know you must be wondering how twisted this story is. I decided not to give my money to Shiku because someone else in Shiku’s head would buy her alcohol and she already smelt like the local wines and spirits. I told her I would bring her milk the next time I passed by.
One 22 year old street boy was fascinated by the conversation between a seemingly normal person and this insane homeless drunk. He even joined in and said that people normally don’t want to associate themselves with ‘parking boys’ or ‘street families’.
“You are different”, he said. Then asked me where I lived. He offered to pay my transport home. I told him that I appreciated the offer but I would be more grateful if he bought Shiku a packet of milk. He walked off as if going for his money. I don’t know if he honored the offer. I left Shiku and walked to my bus stop feeling awful. Had I had some food with me then, I would have given her. That was Tuesday night.
Thursday, I went to the supermarket for some shopping before going to class. After class, I decided to do my solitary walk. There! On her spot, I found her sitting. She recognized me, “my friend”. I gave her a packet of milk, bread and an orange I had carried. Two other street mothers came with babies asking for food too. I told Shiku to share with them. She wanted to give the whole loaf of bread to them. I told her to eat first, and then share the rest.
I see the stares from taxi drivers every time I stop to chat with this seemingly deranged woman. I hug her and button her coat while talking to her. July nights are cold. I’m just thinking of how it feels to sleep outside in the cold.
Two times I have walked past the corner and missed Shiku. I wonder what happened to her. I wonder if she’s safe. Does this make me selfish? Wanting to see Shiku outside on a cold July night, in her spot on the street?