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The regrets of a dying man

Sunday Magazine

It is raining when I pick Sumba up from Nairobi Hospital. First thing I think of when I see him is a light piece of a scarecrow being tossed around by the wind. He looks so fragile. He must be pushing 80 and it looks like he hasn't eaten since the 1982 attempted coup d'é tat.

It is going on 18:00hours but the traffic is light. He instructs me to drive him to Kinoo and since he doesn't appear to want to talk, I switch on the radio to listen to some soothing music.

There is nothing more beautiful that the sound of soothing music as you drive in silence.

"Have you ever noticed how everything we do is recycled from something that's been done before?" His voice is strong. It reminds me of Morgan Freeman's. And when he speaks, it is sudden. Like an engine that has just spurted to life.

"What was that?" I ask as I turn down the volume slightly.

"These cities that we build, the houses that we live in, the food we eat, the classy restaurants we dine in, the exotic women we meet, the clothes we wear; have you noticed that it has been done before? And now in 2017, we are just a repeat of everything?"

"I um, I don't believe I have ever thought about it."

"Uh. There is nothing to think about." He rolls down his window, puts his hand out and spreads his palm against the rush of the wind. "The only thing that matters in this world is human contact son. Do you have kids?"

"My fiancé is pregnant. We should have a child in about six weeks."

"Your fiancé is pregnant." He pauses thoughtfully. "Huh. Do you see anything wrong with that sentence?"

"We'll get married." I mention hastily because I know what he's driving at. "As soon as the child joins us."

"No you won't." His reply is immediate and his eyes are on mine. Like he is promising me something. "The child will come and everything will revolve around it. Its baptism, education, marriage; and before you know it, another child will come. And another. And then you'll be sixty and she'll still be your fiancé."

There is a pothole coming up as I drive past Chiromo Mortuary on Waiyaki Way. I step on the brakes, maneuver around it, shoot my hand out of the car to apologise to a driver hooting angrily behind me and smile at my passenger.

"Jen and I, we have it all figured out."

"That's what I always thought son. But then one day I woke up and found that I was 60-year- old. My wife and my children were strangers to me.

I was rich. I had business associates but none of whom I could call a friend. And the society had given me a new name; 'Sponsor'.

In my head I was just living day by day. Because what's the use of having money if you're not enjoying life, right? Before I knew it I had pushed everyone away.

Thing about pushing people away son is you wake up one morning and find that the only person left is you. You and a cough that won't go away.

There is a knock on the door. You answer. It is a process server with divorce papers from your wife's lawyer. Your eyes land on the calendar. It is your kid's birthday. You call and call. They don't answer. You are nothing to them.

You and the cough that won't go away. You find yourself kneeling by the toilet seat. There is blood in there. Blood that you coughed out. You head to the hospital all alone because that is all that is left. Just you and your persistent cough.

No friends. No family. They tell you have HIV and an aggressive form of Kaposi's Sarcoma that is going to be the death of you. You're too immuno-deficient for this life.

So do you know what you do when you leave the hospital knowing that you're going home to die alone? You meet a young man driving a cab and you tell him, it is all recycled. Nothing in this world is original but the family and friends you have.

Not the money, not the pretty girls and certainly not the vivacity of youth. It was all there before you were born. You'll leave it all here after you're gone. All else but family, is vanity. Take it from a dying man."

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