Helpless

I can feel him looking at me through the window of my cousin’s car. I shiver at the thought that he can see me, that he is judging me from where he barely stands, from where he hobbles on his worn out crutches, the metal has been worn smooth where the plastic sheathing has peeled off and the handles wrapped in scraps of cloth. A sad reflection of his life: barely holding together. I avoid his eyes, unreasonably, because I know he cannot see me at this distance and, furthermore, he is preoccupied with his own survival in the swell of people and activities that is Nairobi.

I am embarrassed that I should live in such relative opulence, while the world has reduced him to a begging stuttering mess. In the face of this atrocity, I find myself feeling guilty at my good fortune and thinking, “That might as well have been me.” There is nothing that separates the blessed and thenot-so-blessed but dumb luck, inexplicable, that lands where it does without reason and without warning. I look away and instinctively feel my pocket for money. “I should buy him something to eat, or at least let him buy it himself.”, I think. But I stop. What good is a hundred shillings going to do? What good is a thousand shillings going to do? It is the proverbial drop in the ocean.

I look at him again, a glance, then I turn away completely, allowing myself to be swept up by the music on the radio, Homeboyz Radio. I never feel more lost and confused than when I am confronted with such suffering. I turn away because I do not know what else I can do. I cannot save him and even a simple gesture of kindness seems inconsequentially stacked against the immensity of his suffering. Hot Nigga starts playing and my cousin and I exchange knowing looks, laughing at once,

Hii ngoma inashindanga ikichezwa na siskiangi huyu msee anakuwanga akisema nini! (This song keeps getting played and I never hear what this guy is saying!)

Anaitwa Bobby Shmurda, na ni ka-kijana tu (He is called Bobby Shmurda and he is just a boy). The shit passing for music these days.

However, I do like that track because the violence it openly embraces resonates with the dark parts of me, I imagine, but that is as far as I go in my grasp of it. The N-word is censored all throughout. One can barely hear the other words. In the face of all that is wrong with the world, the best we can do is talk about a hit rap single that makes almost no sense to both of us. I immerse myself in the song, bopping my head like I know what I am supposedly appreciating. That crippled beggar quickly becomes a distant memory. I have succeeded in burying my head in the sand. Maybe if I close my eyes, he will disappear completely, and I do, and he does. I cannot feel helpless for someone that does not exist. We pull ahead in the traffic, towards more drinking, more eating, and more merriment. It is Christmas, after all. Ho ho ho.

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