Saturday, 14 September 2019 22:51:11

Counting On Your Ex

Love Secrets of a Census Enumerator

On census night, David was a census enumerator; but he woke up in a hospital.

When he recalled what happened, he regretted coming to Nairobi. He wished he was still teaching at the village school. He came to search for his two children, but he ended up with a broken leg and a huge hospital bill.

Emily and Erick left home with his wife four years ago, but they never returned.

Maureen, his wife, was his high school sweetheart. They attended the same day secondary school, but David was a class ahead. She lived with her uncle, a police officer who was also the OCS of the local police station. Her parents had died when she was a baby, so her uncle brought her up.

She got pregnant in Form Two, but her uncle retired before she gave birth. They relocated to their ancestral home, and she and David lost touch. However, four years later, she brought Emily, her three-year-old daughter, to meet her dad.

David welcomed them with open arms. He did not want his daughter to grow up in his absence, so he and Maureen agreed to get married. After ten months, Eric, the couple's second child, was born. Soon after, David joined a teacher's training college to pursue a diploma in education.

With David in college, Maureen struggled with the kids. Her father-in-law gave her a portion of land on which she grew vegetables, and she supplemented it by doing odd jobs for neighbours. The couple was struggling but happy. David worked hard in college, and they both knew things would get better if he got a job after graduating.

However, when he came home after clearing college, he did not find Maureen or the children. His mum told him they had left three weeks earlier, but she did not say where they were going or when they would return. He looked for her among her relatives, but they also didn't know where she was. He got a teaching job at the local primary school, but he remained hopeful that his family would return.

Last year, someone told him he had seen Maureen in Nairobi; and he applied for a transfer. He believed that if he was in Nairobi, he might bump into her or the children. He hoped to persuade them to come back home.

After six months, he began to despair. The cost of living in Nairobi was so high he was finding it hard to survive. In June, he decided to start his life afresh, so he asked to be transferred back to the village school. However, before it came through, he was hired as an enumerator for the population census in August. He felt lucky because he was struggling financially. He needed the cash to help him relocate back home.

He and Joseph were assigned an estate off Limuru Road. Joseph, who grew up in Nairobi, told him the estate is the home of the nation's rich and powerful. However, on the day of the census, Joseph was unwell, so David went out alone.

By 9 p.m., he had enumerated four households. He pressed the bell at the gate of the fifth, and a security guard ushered him into an imposing mansion built on two acres. Soothing LED path lights lined the driveway, and a bright floodlight shone brightly on the garden, revealing the manicured lawn that looked like a dark-green Persian carpet.

There were six cars in the parking outside the house. As he waited at the main door, he wondered why some people enjoyed such plenty while he struggled with simple things like bus fare. He was ushered in by an elderly man in a spotless-while chef's uniform who told him that "Mzee" and his family would join him soon.

Martin, the head of the household, came in first, and David recognized him. He had seen him on TV many times. He is one of the people journalists describe as a "flamboyant city tycoon", and he was warm and welcoming.

"What do you do?" Martin asked.

"I am a teacher at Leo Primary School," replied David.

"I know Leo Primary School," said Martin. "My wife is a board member."

When his wife and five children joined them, David's census kit dropped. He looked confused, but he composed himself quickly.

"Are you OK?" Martin asked.

"Yes, I am," David replied.

"OK. Let me introduce you to my family," declared Martin.

"Maureen, here is my wife," he said as he pointed at her.

"David here is our firstborn, and he is 20. Next, we have Jeremy, our second-born, who is now 17. Our third born is here. She is Emily, but I call her Adorable Emily because she's gorgeous. Emily is now eleven. Next is Erick, our fourth born. He is eight years old. Our last born is the little one my wife is holding. His name is Brian, and he is three years old".

The exercise took about 45 minutes, but David did not hear half of what Martin said. His mind was struggling with a million things.

As he got ready to leave, Martin asked him if he had a family.

"Yes, I do," David replied.

"How many children," Martin enquired.

"Two. A boy and a girl," replied David.

"Do they live in Nairobi?"

"Yes," David replied. He wanted to add "they are in your house, in this room", but words failed him.

"Take care of them. Family is important," Martin advised as he escorted him to the door.

David broke his right thigh bone. Doctors assured him it would heal, but they said it would take time. He was, however, worried about his hospital bill. A car knocked him down as he crossed the road from Martin's home on census night, but the ambulance that rescued him brought him to an expensive private hospital instead of taking him to a public hospital. After eight days, his bill was 1.2M.

His bank balance was 23K, but his M-Shwari loan of 12K was also due.

He shared his fears with a nurse, but she told him not to worry. "There is a lady who has promised to clear your bill," she said.

He didn't understand what she said, but he slept so soundly.

When he woke up, he felt someone squeeze his hand gently, and a soft, familiar voice asked him: "How are you feeling now?"

He looked up, and he saw Maureen, Emily, and Erick.

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