It is the kind of worry that kills you but does not take your life, thankfully. You all think it is going to rain because the clouds outside are dark with bad intentions. The winds blow cold and hair stands from your skin, and for a moment there you think polo is about to let rip. On Twitter, something else is brewing. You guys are laughing at pictures of people from 10 years ago – and it is amazing just how many people loved wearing shades in 2008/09. We all look like a band of welders in that #10YearChallenge. Especially @the_mentalyst, who had spent the previous day taking swipes at all of us, until someone posted a two picture of him from back in the day. In one, he looks like a typical yoyo – complete with timboots and a pair of jeans with pockets so big he looks like a kangaroo. Everyone is having a field day with his throwback, and you are leading the charge, painfully unaware of what is about to happen.
The first tweet calls it a tyre burst. The second, a loud bang. The third, an explosion. The fourth calls it gunfire. The fifth, a robbery going on at Prime Bank inside 14 Riverside Drive in Westlands. But who the fuck still robs banks like in 2019? I mean, if you are still doing Bonnie and Clyde (just because y’all wazungus reading this never heard of John Kiriamiti) kind of hold ups in this era you need to be locked up for madharau more than anything else.
What is going on in Westlands?
It is a robbery.
No, it is a terror attack.
Who told you the nature of the attack? Stop being alarmist.
Oh my goodness, there are Al Shabab militants killing people. Guys Send help.
Where is it happening?
Dusit Hotel inside 14 Riverside Drive.
So where is it exactly? Prime Bank or Dusit Hotel?
The news is calling it ‘an incident’. Why can’t they just call it a terror attack? Some chaps wearing black attires blasted their way through one of the more secure business parks in Nairobi and started shooting. How is that not a terror attack? Or are they waiting to confirm the tribe/nationality of the assailants for them to decide whether or not it is a terror attack.
Shit. What a minute! Did they say this is happening at 14 Riverside Drive? That is when Daniel comes to mind. You and Daniel were in University of Nairobi school of law together, and because he knows that you quit the practice to—among other things—sell books, he buys from you. This morning, he had reminded you about that Born a Crime by Trevor Noah order and you had delivered it to him at 14 Riverside Drive. The same place where a bunch of crazies have just lipuad with a bomb.
You get off Twitter and start calling. You call Daniel. Twice. Both times, it just rings and rings. And that is when the worry that kills you without taking your life cracks a hole on your skin and seeps in and sits. Your chest is taking a beating from inside. You try again, still no answer. You call Khaemba—the bookstore rider—and he answers. You tell him not to go to Westlands area. He asks why. He has not heard about it yet because he is not on Twitter. You tell him Al Shabab are in town and it is best he keeps off. He says asante sana and you hang up.
You call everyone who is not near you—and that is, well, everyone. They are all okay. The one cousin who works around Westland had an out of office meeting on the other side of town.
Then you call your mother.
You call her last just as a formality. There is no way she is anywhere near the incident—the old lady works in the CBD. Downtown CBD. But even so you make that call because sometimes it is good to check in on your mother on days when terrorists in the city have announced their arrival.
She does not answer either.
Maybe she is on another call. Mother Karua has refused that story for putting call waiting on her line because it interrupts her conversations. You tell yourself she is OK, even though you do not believe it yourself.
By default, your anxiety levels are always high like they smoke weed. So when an order in the kiosk delays by a second, you freak out. When a rider gets a puncture and doesn’t say, you freak out. When you’re driving and someone with a brain the size of an ant’s poophole cuts you off even small, your entire life flashes before your eyes and you start seeing your ancestors dancing in anticipation of your arrival. Your factory settings have your freaking out at the smallest things.
Now imagine what happens when terrorists have come calling and you cannot reach your customer and your mother. They get on steroids. They are so bad that when your phone rings and you see it is Daniel calling, you hesitate for a second to think could it be his ghost?
He is alright, he says. He was only at 14 Riverside Drive in the morning and then left. You wonder if he also thinks about just how narrowly he missed being in the thick of a terror attack. You wonder if he felt something when he left 14 Riverside – if the cold winds felt different. If the sky was telling him a different story. If he, by chance, smelled death in the air.
He is alright. But many others are not. The Kenya Twitter timeline that was awash with pictures of ridiculous fashion choices from 10 years ago, is now holding its breath in fright.
@SonnieRox said Just heard another really loud explosion #RiversideAttack
@ronald_ngeno confessed If I die I love the Lord and believe I will go to heaven please tell my family I love then I love you Caleb, Mark and Carol
@OduCobra asked Waaaah. What’s happening at 14 Riverside fam? Any news from out there?
It was 3:36 PM on 15th Jan 2019 when Odu Cobra tweeted that question. It would be the last thing he ever tweeted. Perhaps even the last question he ever asked. In this lifetime anyway.
By then, your mother has still not called you back. Your imagination is running wild. When she does, after 4 hours, she does not understand why you are yelling at her. Apparently, her phone was on silent.