I WAS going back home from church when I saw him. He must have been there for quite some time and grown weary of the place, but for some reason was finding difficult to leave the area.
I stopped dead in my track and observed him for a moment. For about 10 years I had known the man, a fellow with a complexion so light people named him ‘mzungu’ – a white man.
Mzungu lived in the same neighbourhood as I. Whatever level of academic education he had completed did not allow him to speak much English, but his diction suggested he had completed Form Four or some level thereabout.
Mzungu was an amiable guy, so I regarded him and whenever we met he would exchange with me some pleasantries in English. Never once did either of us ask the other his name. And so years passed without us knowing the other’s name as, I presume, it has been and possibly is, with a good number of people.
By his appearance Mzungu must have been an Absalom, but he long had seen better days and his face which, despite strong negative effects of alcohol against which it struggled to maintain some of its shine, had powerful marks of alcohol battering.
Mzungu, who shortly later on this particular day, told me his real name, was a short man with a sly smile on his face. For the purpose of this story which may be sad and painful to those related to Mzungu in one way or another, we shall continue calling him Mzungu.
As Mzungu stood on the structure for it was a foundation of a house that had remained incomplete for over a decade, looking this way and that, he saw me. Our eyes locked and he beckoned to.
“Please come!” he said to me. “Give me help. Take me home,” he mumbled in a weak voice, offering me his hand. I took that hand, the right one and, holding by the waist with the other hand, walked him homeward.
Ahead of us, about thirty metres away, was the main road we had to cross to his house. I wondered how he had crossed the road or why at all he had done it if he could not return home on his own and at this hour for Mzungu could only toddle.
Perhaps he had been doing some exercise. With Mzungu the toddler, we walked the 30-metre dis tance for so long that I thought of abandoning him and hurrying home to eat my breakfast since rumbles of hunger were now growing louder and louder.
It was fortunate that the traffic was relatively lighter at this time otherwise it would have been a disaster. A rouge driver might come with his car hurtling along and find me with Mzungu toddling across the road.
Mzungu walked sickeningly slowly. A two-year toddler would have been faster and I dare say we managed to cross the road by mere luck. Obviously Mzungu was a man in big trouble, trouble with himself, trouble with his soul and body.
He seemed a loner but needed other people like we all do. We now walked towards his house and how happy I would be if I took him home. Of those three houses close to the road by which I always walked on my way to or from my house, I did not know which one belonged to him, but I knew he lived thereabouts.
This incident of taking him home would give me the opportunity of meeting his family, his wife particularly. But a short distance from the road, as we walked by a pub, Mzungu said, “I am tired.
Let me rest here in the pub.” He was almost falling down and I applied more power to keeping him up on his legs to reach a chair close by. A man helped me put him on the chair.
We barely made it. He could hardly stand up. Any ounce of energy he had left in his blood was gone. But once on the chair, he was rejuvenated. He raised his head and opened wide his otherwise tired eyes and mumbled: “You can go now.
I will make it home. Thank you.” At least I had done a good deed to a fellow human being that Sunday. Nothing could satisfy me more. I walked home and told of the incident to my family.
Two days later I went on a safari and when I returned after five days one of my daughters told me of a shocking news. “Father, your friend is dead,” the girl said as if she was sure I would know who she was talking about outright. “Who do you mean?” I asked.
“Don’t you remember the man you told us you took across the road to his house when you were coming back home from the church?” Indeed! I remembered the person very well. “How did he die?” What my daughter said and what I later heard were the same.
Mzungu who lived in his house he had kicked his wife and the children from, lived as alone as a leper. He kept one room to himself, but rented out the others. One evening they saw him about the house but nobody saw him go into his room.
The people in the house did not make much of it when he did not appear the following morning. Perhaps he just slept late. When they touched the door, it was locked on the inside.
But Mzungu’s disappearance for two days early this May when it rained and the weather was cold, was too much for the tenants and they called the neighbours, who suggested they call the police who came, broke down the door and they entered the house.
Mzungu was resting in peace on the bed, alone like a rock in a sandy vale as he had done for many days. His body was cold as a witch’s tit in a bra and stiff like a door nail. Mzungu had divorced his wife for some reason and kicked her from the house they had built for their family of a couple of children.
After his wife left, reports said, Mzungu turned their family home into a brothel before he rented out some rooms. It seemed he had a way with women and would have beauty queens in his room as he liked and, like a pair of socks, changing them with abandon.
He loved it and life was sweet, so they said. Mzungu was reliving his younger days, but time was not standing still and coming for him with a better present than all the beautiful women he had ever had in that ghostly home in Tabata, Dar es Salaam.
Marriage, Mzungu may have learned, is not to be taken lightly and one’s wife or husband is not just a romantic partner, but means a lot for one’s honourable life. Mzungu is gone the way of all men and I did not get the opportunity to speak to his wife to get the other side of the story.
It is therefore not fair to blame him for how he lived. He just lived his life and he was right to live it.