Welcome to A Glimpse of Life Behind Bars: Part 2 as I continue sharing my experiences under police custody. Follow this link for Part 1.
After the preaching was done, the preacher told us to close our eyes.
“You’re going to gain your freedom today, just like the Samaritan woman did,” a lady in the team said.
I did not know what to believe. All I knew was that I wanted to be home. I also wanted to be able toe go to Kumekucha Self Help Office so I could teach children. Immediately the preachers left, we were commanded to squat for counting. But no one escaped with the preachers, I wanted to protest.
“Kaba mtu tano tano!”
I had gotten so used to the command, I immediately bended my knees to a squat. The policeman doing the counting would start and then stop if he thought there was something out of order. Most times, He would start over if any of us swatted a fly from his face!
At five pm, the bell at Our lady of Visitation sounded. Our dinner was also served at that very moment. It turns out that a young man was tasked with cooking and bringing us food. That evening he brought more half-cooked ugali, a mush of yellow cabbages that sunk to the bottom of the plate.
Once dinner was over Mustapha had all of us sit in a circle.
“Well, Pastor it is your turn to talk to us,” he said as all the eyes turned on me.
“Okay,” I said. “I am going to share verses from the Bible on condition that everyone shares the lessons they have learned and also say a prayer.”
“Can I pray in Arabic,” one of the youngest inmates asked.
“Yeah, that’s okay,” I replied.
End of Day 1
I shared about King David and how God had raised him from being a shepherd to being a king. After I had shared, every one said a prayer, one after the other. Then we went to sleep.
We actually did not sleep more than hour. We would be woken up for more squatting and counting. The officers would also call us out to be counted every time another young man joined us in the cells.
The other thing that made sleep impossible was the sweat that clung to your skin and made mosquitoes buzz to a stop on your skin. During the day, I had thought that the dirty floor was going to be cold. That was not the case at all. The floor was hot, clogged with sweat while bed bugs ran amok.
Every so often, we didn’t feel the sharp needle-like suck our blood. But we would notice their existence. My underwear was already getting soiled from all the sweat and heat evaporating from the floor.
Apart from the constant counting, going to the toilet was an act I dreaded. In fact, I shuddered every time I felt the urge to go to the toilet. There were times I was lucky to hold it in by pushing the urge to visit the toilet to the back of mind. When I couldn’t, I would grit my teeth and get on with it.
A Glimpse of Life Behind Bars: Part 2
It didn’t take me long to figure out what to use in place of toilet paper. I had been taught by Mustapha and the others how to peel the shiny layer from milk packets and cigarette packet linings. It is an art that took an eternity to pool off. But it was well worth it.
I also discovered how to peel the layers off and have something to write poems on. A full day awaited me the next day. Only I didn’t know what I was going to do. However, I was prepared.
It was barely 6 am when we woke up. The first thing we did was squat and get counted. The young men who brought us dinner the night before came back to bring us breakfast. Breakfast was made up of heavily diluted milk tea and crusty bread. I was sure the bread had outlived its shelf life but also knew it was the only food I had available.
Just before we went to sleep the previous night, almost half of us were freed. I don’t know whether that had anything to do with the preaching about the Samaritan Woman. Or those inmates simply got lucky.
The mass freedom of inmates resulted into the cell next to the toilet being vacant. I went to sit there, my mind settled on reflecting on my life. Earlier, just after breakfast, I had been instructed on how to go about getting what I needed from the police officers.
All I had to do was pay a small commission in order to get a 32 Pages Exercise Book and a blue biro pen. I sat down and started to scribble down the things I was going to do after getting released.
The OCS had promised that I would be released once they established that I wasn’t involved in any gang. I knew that my fate lay on the group I had weekly Bible Study and rosary prayers with. At 9 am, I was delighted to hear my name being called out and being told I had a visitor.
It broke the monotony of being regarded as a number whenever we squatted for counting. My visitor was not my relative or my girlfriend. But it meant the whole world to me. The tea she brought tasted like heaven and sharing it with the remaining inmates cemented our bond more.
I went back to the empty cell and sat down in corner.
“Excuse me,” Mustapha said, standing at the open door. “Can I join you?”
“Yes you can,” I replied.
“I don’t want my children to end up the way I am,” he stammered, revealing a long knife scar on his right thigh. “This is from a crime I committed,” he continued.
“I wish I had listened to my dad and not despised him,” he said. “I know you’re going to leave here soon. When you do, please go and talk to my sons.”
I reached out and held Mustapha in my arms.
Time is the healer of all wounds
He completed his speech while sobbing and weeping. Four young men came after Mustapha had gone. All of them lamented about their absent fathers, which came as a shock to me. Having lost my dad when I was 13, I blamed my lack of progress on not having a father. Yet here I was, listening to young men who were blaming their dads.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
― Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
Watch out for Part 3