Love at a time of Lent

Brothel owner bears the scars of his own romantic pursuits

In Summary

• Omosh has flashbacks of the day he was nearly lynched in 2007

Picture of a roadside shop
Picture of a roadside shop

Somewhere in Githurai 45, there is an old roundabout. Its design rekindles a tyre. The tyre was the major method of lynching in the end years of the Moi era.

Githurai 45 in Kiambu and its sister roundabout in Kisumu called Kondele perfected the art of trying suspects by mob justice. They would then would be summarily tied up and tyred. Never did the crowds tire as their ire went skywards with tireless howls of those who died by the tyre. 

Not far from the right side of this old roundabout, one finds a man with a scar at a canteen facing Thika. You know you have arrived by his kiosk when tunes from the lakeside accost your ears with abandon. This zone is pro-government, unlike the other roundabout he emerged from in Kisumu at Kondele with his bare life. He left that old one and his wares and former life with only his breath and a scar of third-level bans. That was in 2007. He happened to be in the right place but at the wrong time.

Everyone here in Githurai 45 calls him Omosh. He was born in Mathira. Up in Nyeri county rests his roots, but his past is buried in Kisumu. Now it is his present that inhabits this kiosk painted in colours of Ras Tafari Makonnen, the one-eyed last of the emperors of Addis Ababa. 

Benga music in Dholuo plays loud. It muffles the murmurs of those making love quickly in this stand-and-do-it roadside brothel. Camouflaged nicely as a public toilet, it appears as innocent as the mound of cabbages and potatoes sold by it. The stench of urine hits even the noses of the weekend camel feeding at the nearby dumpsite. It is blind save for one eye, the lead camel. It loves Omosh, who mono-eyed is, also. He left his other eye in the tyre that roasted half of him in Kondele. 2007 was a bad year. 

He sometimes puffs ganja to remind his fading memories of the scent of his roasting eye and ear. Mostly, it is the odour of singed hair he recalls as his own voice screams into his heart, giving him day nightmares. He has learned to live with them and assuaged them from time to time by overcharging the randy merchants of here. 

Last night, he sat here for hours and no one wanted to do. Whenever they refused to do, he went hungry to bed. His moods the next day were always dry like the spell of music he plays repeatedly. 

It is hard to imagine the same song played day in, day out for days, weeks, months and years. Yet, as he replayed it noisily at the highest pitch, he affirmed always his meaning. Those who know him withstand him. Those who don't never ask why  this song over and over again. 

The singer is Mali ya Mungu. The song is Adongo Nyanangor. No one in Githurai knows what it means. As lovers married for a few minutes or an hour only inside his makeshift market brothel wiggle and diggle, the long and so sonorous voice of Mali ya Mungu escorts them to tiny bubbles of stench.

Omosh normally hiccups when the kiosk starts jumping hither and thither. At such instances between the third and fifth hiccups, he often remembers his true name, Jason Wambugu Farm. He shuts his good eye tight. He stares at the blazing sun above. He sees red with his eyes shut. He sees her.


The day was a normal one. There is a bar near the Kondele roundabout. It is popular. As you leave the famous site and head towards the CBD of Kisumu, the popular joint is not far.

People come here with big cars to relax. Some eat nyama choma. Others prefer to watch the best sport on big screens. Others just loiter hither and thither, hunting for eyes they can lock with. If the initial chemistry is there, often they end up in bed in lodges nearby.

There are those who come to sell bootleg phone accessories. They hawk from table to table, as do the ones who sell peanuts. Omosh was one of them. He also loved to come here because the deejay knows his job.

Though born faraway by a mountain, his asthma made Kisumu his bae. He had become one with this lakeside base. His accent had changed markedly in his 10 years of Luoness. It took a closer look for one to differentiate his blackness of Nyerians to the blue-black blackness of this part of Kenya.

Many knew Omosh the hawker, and market women he took to bed spread the fame of his sharpened assegai. It was said that though different, it could flatten a mountain or dry up an entire lake. This is what she told him the day they first met. 

Selling aquatic cuisine at this Kondele joint can make one cute. It is not just the neon lights at midnight and crooning voice of Prince Indah or Johnny Junior that make this so. One can earn tiny hefty tips from the mafioso with machismo who patronise this city. Top that up with shrapnel of fish from the kitchen and a body to behold can appear. Voila.

She was at the prime of her roundness when they kicked off their violent love affair. He had rescued her from a powerful politician who had opted to rape her behind the loos one starless night. Her rotundness became his bed and divan for months afterwards. 

They had just moved in when 2007 happened. They had just sold his bed for one larger one. They had just stopped using rubber johnny. They had just started saving their peanuts and tips to head to Alego then Mathira for formalisation of their sex. They had just started to even make love in daylight or with lights on. They had just started enjoying githeri mixed with omena. They had just started to live. But 2007 happened. 


We are always told even at a young age not to greet strangers. Whenever Wambugu remembers that it is not strangers who harmed him, he finds it difficult to forgive his mother.

He curses the world each time the Githurai 45 roundabout preachers talk about repentance. He abhors the word of God. He prefers to embrace the strangers who come to his stand-and-do-it brothel by the roadside. He cares for them and their attempts to discover love; to mine feelings from deep inside each other's lost eyes. 

Occassionally, the bony preacher with a fake gravel voice comes by also. He prefers the fishmonger always. They come together, the bulky lake lady first and then the bony man from Kinangop next. They say Kinangop is a cold place. Kisumu isn't. The two always make the green kiosk to bounce. They are his favourite. 

Each time this bony and horny preacher of the roundabout comes by, he takes time to read his Bible. All clients hand over their valuables to Omosh before they venture into the bowels of Githurai to hunt for... love. One verse alone always pops up whenever he flips open this dog-eared copy of God. It is always the one, no matter how many times he opens it. 

One day he even tried to open it upside down. That time as he read the same Bible verse albeit upside down, he remembered her. He recalled vividly how Adongo looked the day they were violently disturbed as they made their firstborn and he was nearly lynched at the famous roundabout.

He could not produce his voice that night. His little finger was purple. His defence was meaningless. The sound of Mali ya Mungu had soothed him as the blows tore his body. He heard a small voice say:

John 3:16.

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