Walking Home in the Dark

I was walking home the other day; it was past 7 pm. So when I saw a boy walking alone ahead of me, I was concerned. I quickened my pace and caught up with him. He looked clean and well-cared for. I asked him why he was out walking alone so late. He told me he was from church (it was on a weekday) and that he stayed for the second service instead of leaving after the first. That he usually attended the first service and so usually got home when it was still light outside. And that the only time he stayed out so late was when he was with his mother.

I crossed the road with him. He knew to watch out for cars and wait until the road was clear before crossing. I asked him if his mother would be worried and he told me that she usually walks out to meet him. I asked where he lived and he told me. I didn’t think there were any residential houses there and for a minute there, having watched too many paranormal and drama shows, thought this had the makings of a horror story. It is the innocent or vulnerable-looking that draw you in sometimes and next thing you know you are strapped on a medical table, minus a limb or having undergone some creepy unnecessary operation. Or you are the meal for a coven or a family of wendigos.

I was still worried about him being out alone and so decided to walk him home despite it being out of my way. The horror stuff did not happen. What actually happened is we walked and talked. Along the way, we came across someone selling roast maize and a man who was there buying maize, bought maize for me and my young friend, and then walked away. Should we eat the maize? Maybe the boy wasn’t the dangerous one. Maybe it was this man who charmingly bought and offered us roast maize. Who knows what it was laced with? And it was back to that medical table again – two tables this time, one for each of us. Or did the man buy the maize because he pitied the young mother and her son? Did I look old enough to have a boy his age? Maybe an aunt? Sibling? Or maybe he was just being a good human. I don’t know why he bought us the maize but I decided to go along with it. We thanked him and started eating as we continued walking and talking.

He’s in fourth grade right now and when he gets to high school, wants to go to Starehe Boys’ Center and then later on become a pilot. I told him about the high school in Murang’a County, Pioneer, that I think has an aviation program. He thought that was cool, that it has an aviation program, plus the fact that the school name starts with the letter “p” just like the word, pilot. I was impressed by how focused he was; and I told him that as well as my hope that one day I would be reading a newspaper or a magazine, and come across his picture posted next to an article about him and his amazing aviation career. Or get on a plane one day, only to discover that he was my pilot. He really liked that bit. Maybe that will spur him on even more?

We talked about his favorite sport- soccer. He loves soccer, and plays after school; when he is not studying, helping his mum with chores or at church – he is in the church choir and goes to church 4 days a week. And I told him about that time last month when I was the goalkeeper for our team and after the game ending with no goals scored, we went into penalties. The opposing team scored on their first try and that was the end of the game. We lost! He told me how much he hates being a goalkeeper because it comes with so much pressure, one small slip-up and you’re responsible for your team losing. He also told me that I should have kept my eye on the ball and to try and remember that next time. I promised that I would.

As we got closer to his house, I reminded him that in future he should always try to get home before dark because it is safer that way. I didn’t want to scare him so did not elaborate on the kind of unsafe things that could happen to him but they were floating around in my head and scaring me, knowing that after dropping him off, I had quite a bit of walking to do before I could get home. And back to the medical table again. I should probably start watching less scary stuff. I got him home safely, waited by the road until he got to his gate. He stopped just before he got in, waved bye and called out his thanks. I waved back, he got in and that was the last I saw of him. And then I headed home, hoping not to end up on a medical table in a dank basement or an abandoned house.