Right from the very first time I started living in my former house (yes I have shifted to another that is far away from town and cheap!) I knew my landlord and I were destined to part ways soon. The question was, just when? Now it has already happened, thanks to Gloria.
My landlord is a funny one. But then again I think all landlords who own City Council houses in Nairobi are like this. Picture this. A guy owns a tiny house by the virtue of having inherited it from his father who had a couple of wives, whose children now depend on the tiny house for survival. Ribs are bound to get broken, teeth (I wish I could say teeths!) are bound to get smashed in and the tenant played like a helplessly hopeless puppet on a string.
Where was I? Oh, I remember! I was telling you how funny my landlord is. I am happy we have parted ways with him. My former landlord is a disgrace to all landlord who lay claim to city council houses in Nairobi! Every month end he would send me a 'please call me, thank you' flashback and I would call him only to be informed that he was on his way to collect house rent. The last time he did that I was having a ball (there was no ball really and I don't know why they call it 'having a ball' so don't ask me) posting stuff on PULSEWIRE. I am posting stuff and getting to learn things when my phone vibrates. It is a new message. I am very delighted to receive such, thinking it could be a client asking about my writing.
When I get to the inbox my eyes light up with familiarity. It is my landlord. The message is short and precise, the kind that most Kenyans (especially on Safaricom) get to send for free. Before I can get to the end of the first message my phone vibrates, not once but four more times. All of them are from my landlord and they all have the same message... 'Please call me, thank you!'
I call my landlord, thinking this must be an emergency.
"Hallo," I say in my Florence-of-Nightingale voice, thinking I am about to do the whole of humanity a great service. "Hallo, James," my landlord says in a voice that reminds I am not, in any way helping humanity. "Yes." "I have spoken to my mother and she says you should look for a new house next month!" "Okay," I say, though what I want to do is shout at the top of my lungs. What I want to say is.... you thieving landlord! You 'please call me, thank you' sending landlord! But I don't, as much as I want to. Instead I breathe, in and out thrice, the way I saw on Dr Phil.
It is only then that what happened weeks before this dawns on me.
My landlord came one day at my house to tell me he was travelling upcountry and therefore he needed me to pay for an extra month. That meant I was to pay two months rent! I told him I was going to pay for one month as usual. He asked, kind of begged (begging is asking for something desperately!) me to give him the money, borrow if it came to that. I didn't promise but I told him to come the following Sunday. When he came that Sunday, I saw him looking at Gloria. Gloria was lying on her sides, having refused to accept the operating system. I gave my landlord the rent money.
"I thought I asked you to pay two months in advance?" he said. "Yes, and I told you I was going to pay the usual rent for one month!" I replied seeing his interest in Gloria. "I have not paid for this. I have inherited Gloria for a week!" "You should have helped me! Now I don't have enough money for bus fare!"
So I was just about to leave I heard a story that he told the girl next door. He wanted me to shift because I had refused to pay two months rent when I had just bought a computer. Long story short, it is hard depending on a city council house when you inherited the house from a father who married two wives. It is hard living next door to your neighbour, for when you cook meat and you haven't paid rent he screams murder at you. It doesn't matter whether to have bought the meat on credit or you killed the bats inside the house! All he knows is, you owe him and you have done the mistake of cooking meat!
I am now doing okay. I am in a new house. Gloria and I are in good terms and we are having a ball. I have a new landlord (oh it is a landlady!) and I am sure the days of receiving 'please call me, thank you' are long gone!