Running Stomach O’clock


Ciku, nda yakwa ni iratuura,” she groans in the dark. Ciku, my stomach is aching.

It’s been a while since she woke me up in the middle of the night. I turn and grope around for my phone. 03:56. Jesus Christ. I was hoping to sleep for longer since it is a Saturday morning.

Ukira uthii kioro,” I retort, half awake. Get up and go to the toilet.

Yesterday was Jamhuri Day. We spent the afternoon at a family shindig, where food is always central to the matter, as it is everywhere else there’s a party. Funny enough, the caterers were stuck somewhere with the food, so it took a bit longer than expected to get there. In the spirit of keeping the family occupied, my dad, the guy who is almost-always MC at such events, decided to give us spiritual food. (My aunts and uncles had tried to make me do it, preach to the men, women and children (mostly women and children) but I vehemently refused. Apparently since I teach Sunday school, I can preach to members of my extended family at the drop of a hat. No can do.)

Anyway, dad told us that we should not focus on the fact that the food delayed since life is not all about food. Little did we know that the food we were all looking forward to would interrupt our sleep in the wee hours of the night.

Back to the bedroom. Claire walks out in the dark, still sniffling like someone told her tears will cure her stomach-ache. The lights have been dim since we got home so she has to ask where I placed the mulika mwizi before we slept a few hours ago. I am clearly not going to sleep until she feels better. In that silent darkness of the night, I hear the bathroom door in my folks’ bedroom bang. Clearly Claire is not alone in tummy trouble land. To confirm my conclusion, Mark, the 16-year-old is banging on the bathroom door urgently. “Wambui ikanga!” he half-whispers, half-shouts. Wambui hurry up.

Now I am exasperated. I convey the same to him and tell him to give the girl time to do her thing. Immediately she walks out, Mark rushes in and I can hear the tumultuous release in there as Claire walks back to our room. I want to laugh now. I want to laugh because I was going through the same thing a few days ago.

It was on a Wednesday. My work deskie and I took a stroll down our recently-discovered kibanda. A luo mama serves scrumptious dishes here. It’s not your average middle-of-upscale-suburbs kibanda, it’s a little ‘classier’. It’s located inside a residential plot overlooking a building under construction. They are always building something on Riverside Drive. Two tables sit on the gravel with plastic chairs all round. A blue shade is draped over the area across from which the table with the dishes stands. It’s a clear contrast from the vibandas outside the gate. The ones where you sit on low benches and equally low tables waiting for your rice and ndengu.

Anyway, we ordered fries and matumbo. Like who orders that kind of mix? Well, we did. It was delicious, in case you were wondering. Until it was not. I did not realize I had made a mistake until about 04:00 that Thursday. I felt like I had water bucket loads of water in my belly. Water that was under a lot of pressure to get out of my system. It was making sounds. I jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom, phone in my hand. I sat down and let it run. My God. Why in the world did I eat that lunch? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? These are all questions I asked myself on that toilet seat. I sat there for a long time. I even tweeted while at it. (Do pretend that you do not carry your phone to the loo my friend.)

I barely made it to work the next morning. I made several trips to the loo. I Googled “How to stop diarrhoea”. Google Instant completed it for me. Don’t even ask how a running stomach and a public toilet go together. But I made sure I left it the same way I found it. 😀 To cut the long story short, I have never gone back to that kibanda. I almost ate there this week, but didn’t. So when my entire clan raided the loos this morning, I laughed because I couldn’t help but think that 4 o’clock is officially running stomach o’clock. Claire went back after Mark again. Mum came out to offer more tissue. I got up to survey the situation as I was clearly not going to sleep in that atmosphere. I read Out of Africa the next one hour. Claire could not stop sniffling. Eventually I decided to ignore her and fall asleep.

In case you are wondering how I did not have a running stomach when all my people were doing the same, wonder no more. My tummy woke me up at 07:00. The rumbling. Sema kuendesha bila license. So much for thinking I had been more careful than all of them. It was not as bad as last time. It was nothing to write home about, but yes, I did suffer a lesser fate than the rest of the family.

After a day of consulting with other close members of the extended family, it turns out it was widespread. The Jamhuri Day effects have been felt. I am trying to imagine what happened to people who went for second helpings. And they that poured in food into their bags. Maybe they have stronger stomachs. Maybe we need to go through these things to clean our systems.

That was my Jamhuri Day. And don’t you dare laugh. Your day is coming. It always is. Especially now that it’s December. No pressure.

6 thoughts on “Running Stomach O’clock

  1. Hahahahaha and yeah I carry my tab to the loo too lol its boring in there what else are you surpose to do betwn the first batch and the second…

  2. I have worked with food much of my working life. As a general rule, I mostly never eat out. If I have to eat out, I only take tea/ chapo or fried eggs in the typical eateries (except when I am paying over Ksh 1000 for a meal – the weird me takes a dinner for breakfast, mostly skips Lunch, and takes mainly salads for dinner). Food Poisoning is rarely about Uchafu, its mostly about food safety- the handling and storage.

    1. I’m not so picky myself, I just don’t eat much. That’s what tends to keep me grounded. And true, it’s about handling. Because, for instance, I had that same mix like a week before that. And all was well.

  3. Hahahaha! Eyy bana… Trying o imagine the scenes that night. But I stopped carrying gadgets to the toilet. They sort of “distract” me from “the process” and I end up making many visits to the place. I just wonder why I usually have piqued thoughts whilst there. I mean, I could write a master book or something from those quarters 😀 I hope you guys are feeling better.

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