My Lovely Woman,
My heart is heavy as I write this. I can’t remember the last time I felt like this. It is not even about you this time. Something beat you to my ‘what makes my heart heavy’ this time. I wish you were here, to take away all this pain and fever.
I grew up in Kisumu. I spent most of my life wondering the streets of Kibuye Estate and Nyalenda. I apologise my Rundaness might fool you though. I had friends from all over the place. This was solely because I was a very cool kid and I went to six nursery schools. Yes! Six nursery schools. I went to Bayani, Aga Khan, MM Shah, Arya, Siri Guru Sigh Sabah and Bhagini Samaj (All Indian schools). I was a famous. Most of the kids in Nyalenda called me Mayor (or Meya if said in a strong Luo accent). It killed my mother, me having so many ghetto friends in Nyalenda. She could not stand the numerous dirty children who streamed into her manicured lawns. I even stole food from the house to feed some of these kids. My best friends were Daddy and Philipo who is now a bouncer at the famous Club Buccaneers in Kisumu.
In Nyalenda, we had the ‘Cinemas’ best known locally as ‘Ka Movie’. Nothing like IMAX or Fox Cinemas though. These were 5 shillings movies that were aired on a 20 inch TV that barely had colour. The sound was terrible and the picture grainy. This tiny TV was set ontop of a deck (VCR) on a high table at the front of a really dark room with life threatening air supply. Ten to fifteen wooden benches (like the ones in churches in shagz) of different heights were set in from of the TV, just like at the movies, lowest to the highest ones at the back of the room.
The room was a tiny hall of 5 by 10 metres. The windows were small and set high up the wall like the ones in a Muthaiga Police Station prison cells. The cemented floor had eroded from the thick traffic of human beings hungry for a good movie. The windows were blinded by a thick black curtain that blocked most of the light and oxygen from getting into the room.
This room could handle up to 60 seated people at a time. But when Manchester United was playing Arsenal, all the benches were taken out and people stood… This could be any number from zero to a million and seven!
6 movies showed at Ka Movie every day. Most were intense action movies. Rambo First Blood, Commando, American Ninja… Some really intense shit! Movies those days didn’t come out in bulks as they do these days. There were very few ‘new’ movies at a time. Titanic came out and nothing newer hit Ka Video screens in like 2 or 3 months. Because of this reason, movies were often replayed during the week with a random Nigerian movie thrown in.
Kids in the estate flooded Ka Movie. They could watch American Ninja every other day. Ka Movie was home to kids who did not go to school and unemployed adults.
Kids would walk out of that room and imitate their best Starring (actors). The term Starring was derived from the dusty black board outside Ka Movie. There would be a cover picture of the movie and beside it the names of the guys who stared in the movie. Example: Universal Soldier starring Jean Claude Van Damme!
It would cost you 5 shillings to watch an ‘old’ movie. Old here being a movie that had been playing everyday for more than 2 months. To watch a ‘new’ movie or Titanic was 10 shillings. Titanic was always 10 shillings because it was a really long movie. Also Titanic was loved by local couples. Boys took girls to watch Titanic, and Jesus knows what happened in that oxygen-less darkness. I am certain a boy made in there walks this earth today!
A football match was 10 shillings as well. Manchester United and Arsenal matches were 20 shillings. Nigerian movies were 5 shillings because they were too many! I think a new set of Nigerian movies were shown every week. I remember watching my first Nigerian movie at Ka Movie… It was called From Grace to Grass. Scariest shit ever. There was a full day fee of 40 shillings. For 40 shillings, you could watch all six movies of the day. This fee could not be transferred to a different day or a different person.
Now you might be asking yourself what I was doing in such places. Let me explain. We have never owned a VCR. Never! Never ever! This would be a shock to my classmates in primary who I told we had 3 VCRs, one of which was in my room. I am sorry I lied to you all. When I was a kid, I sold our first and only coloured tv for 10 shillings. That story is somewhere on this blog. My father swore he would never buy another coloured tv. And he never did. So Ka Movie was the only place I could keep up with my classmates on ‘who had watched what.’ It was near impossible to have watched something I had not. I saved 10 shillings off my lunch money everyday and spent most of my weekends at Ka Movie.
My mother did not know about this though. Every time we drove past Ka Movie, she would warn me never to go there. She told me the estate thieves hid there from the police.
I frequented Ka Movie so much that it got to a point the movie guy allowed me to watch movies for free except football matches. I have never been a football fan so I was pretty fine with the deal.
There was one thing I could not fathom though. From 1pm to 2pm the dusty blackboard outside Ka Movie that had the movies, was blank. The only thing written on this part was 50 shillings. I asked myself countless time why someone would pay 50 shillings to watch nothing! I knew about the canoodling couples at the Titanic screenings so I figured couples paid 50 shillings to do ‘bad manners’!
So one time I sat outside Ka Movie at 1pm to see which people got in. And for about 15 minutes, not a single woman got in. Men flocked the doors though. It was very confusing. I was old enough to know that for bad manners to go down, men and women had to go in. I was still very confused so I decided to investigate further.
The next week, I went into the 10am movie and when it ended at about midday, I hid under the benches at the back when people were leaving. For about an hour, I was alone in that room. Waiting!
At about 1pm, two men walked in speaking loudly in Luo. I could understand what they were talking about but it did not make sense. One guy explained to the other that they had to play the same ‘clip’ as yesterdays because the supplier had traveled to Uyoma. The other was worried that the customers would complain. The other suggested they should charge half for that day.
I could see them test a video but I could not see anything plus there was no sound. It is tricky trying to watch something from under a bench and staying quiet at the same time. They switched off the tv and left the room.
It was not long until men started streaming in. I could hear the voice of one woman but I could not see her. I got out from my hiding spot and sat on the furthest bench from the tv. It was too dark and I thought no one would see me there.
“Inbe in ka!?” (Luo: You are here?) A random man asked me.
“Ee,” I replied with confidence. He looked a bit confused.
After everyone got in, the movie guy put on some really loud reggae music. The tv was still off. Then the movie guy did something I had never seen him do before… He locked the door from inside. Normally he would stand at the door and leave it open just enough to see outside.I was scared at this time. Why were we being locked in a room together? Everyone else was so excited though. There were no new movies so it was quite confusing to see them all jumpy.
The movie guy switched on the tv. Whatever was about to play was like nothing I had watched before. It started with the credits.
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