Happy socks are very comfortable. They are also said to bring luck, good or bad.
There are two voices in my head. One is telling me not to look, because I will not be able to sleep at night. In my head, a memory of the first dead body I saw at the age of six is replayed. The other voice tells me to look because I am a big girl who can handle death.
There’s a couple of people with backs hunched over the body. My mind is screaming, asking my legs to stop walking or else I will get too close and my eyes won’t be able to unsee. Having no ears, my legs fail to listen. I take a look.
His face is pale and his lips blue. He is half-swathed in a pink blanket. His tummy is swollen from all the water he took in. At the side of his tummy are fingers forever trapped into a defensive fist. He is shoeless. He still has socks on though; happy socks.
The same socks his wife took out the previous day saying, “Valia tu hizi socks leo juu sijafua na sioni zingine. Otherwise ni zangu.”
He had looked at her with disinterest, grabbed the pair of socks and was soon walking out. In the bamboo huts he had erected in his backyard were several men. They were either drinking or drunk. He went to one of the huts, to say hi to the customers therein.
He did not need to ask them how the drink tasted since it always tasted good. Of the three points that offered changaa in the village. His was amazing. The brew tasted different. They seemed to put enough of everything.
Hell broke loose when someone urgently stormed into the backyard and whispered something to his ear. The police were coming. He took to his heels, startling the drunk cowards who also began running.
Kipkem, the officer everyone knows to be corrupt came out of nowhere and shot past the gate and after him. They both took the route which led to the swamp that wasn’t far by. Two women had been washing there. They said he had run past them and jumped into the swamp. Kipkem who was running after him, retreated when he saw what had happened.
The water was cold. He realized that he had made the wrong decision jumping in since the water ran deeper than he anticipated. It seemed to swallow him. He began flinging his arms about like he was thrashing in an invisible prison. Tried bouncing on his tippy toes to get to the surface, but the clay clung onto his shoes. There was urgency for oxygen.
Then he reached the break point. He yielded and inhaled. And he found out that the only thing more unpleasant than running out of oxygen is breathing in water. The water flooded his lips, freezing them as it all poured into him. That foul water he had seen a boy pee into the previous day found its way into his lungs and ended any waning oxygen transfers to the blood.
The panic turned into numbness. The red splotches that had been dancing in front of him with the water gave way to the darkness. Falling down slowly, he thought, “Oh shit, I am dying.”The next time those happy socks would see daylight again was ten hours later when professional swimmers that had arrived from Belgut found his body, long after rigor mortis.
He looks peaceful. Almost like he is going to smile the next minute. Isn’t it funny how when you die people know you more? You should see the number of people who like me, came to see him for the last time. His family, friends, acquaintances. And people who did not really know him, but felt like this would make a really good story. It is hard to tell where all these people came from, there’s so many of them.
His wife is sobbing not so far from what was previously the man of her house. She is wondering why he wouldn’t just let the police catch him. What is fine or imprisonment compared to death? The mother of the departed, on the other hand, is wailing and sprawling on the muddy road. It’s a sight. A painful sight filled with unspeakable love and deep contrition.
Chelogoi was his name.