I still remember vividly that Wednesday evening when my son walked to me and said he had seen his bike in the next block.
To contextualise this; we live in an estate where things like bikes, skateboards and toys are left on the front patios sometimes for days on end and no one bothers.
So it did not raise alarm when my son’s red tricycle went missing, because I knew it would be found lying somewhere around the estate or brought back by whoever had borrowed it.
A week later, the bike was not back, and walking from block to block did not yield results. My conclusion was that one of the boys who accompanies the garbage truck must have carried it to sell as scrap because for a bike bought on his second birthday, it honestly was aging.
The mention of the bike spurred interest, like a tourist who just heard the guide whisper “can you see the pride of lions resting under that tree?”
I trailed him, like those Proboxes that chase cash vans, all the way to the backyard of Block 8. Through the rails, I could see the tricycle I personally went to the supermarket and bought with my money.
Anyone could argue that bikes are produced en masse so it was a look-alike, but like I mentioned it was an old thing so I had done a bit of repairs here and there to push him another year, or two.
The first was the front wheel which broke off in a manner I’ve never understood, so I had replaced it with a different one.
The plastic saddle too had come loose over time, prompting me to tie it back with heavy rubber band lest he soon rode it while sitting on a protruding pipe.
It was either that was my son’s tricycle or another dad in this estate thought, acted and repaired things exactly like I did.
I rung the bell, and the door was answered by a middle aged woman in a grey dera with black and white flowers.
After introductions, I informed her that my son’s bike had been missing for months and we had spotted its replica safely parked in her backyard, so we were there to check why they looked so similar.
“Ooh, hiyo alikuja nayo kutoka huko nje huwa anaendeshea hapa kwa nyumba.”
A seemingly well-educated and responsible woman was telling me her son just rode a strange bike home one day and she never bothered to inquire where he got it from.
For months, a whole family watched the young man scuttle around the house on something they did not own yet went to bed every night and slept soundly.
Did they assume God dropped it like He did for the Israelites with manna? These are folks who can easily kill someone.
My own son has one Friday come home from school with a strange pullover in his bag and I was disturbed a whole weekend because I knew a parent was troubled somewhere.
I could literally feel the pain of a fellow parent searching for that piece of clothing with frustration. It would be the first thing I packed the following Monday with a note that it be returned to the real owner.
“Liam, rudisha bike ya wenyewe,” she told her son.
He frowned, wondering why mom was telling her to give away ‘his’ bike. A tricycle he had walked four blocks away, nicked and personalised without an iota of guilt.
That is how land grabbers are made, man. I told him to keep it since he loved it that much; I would replace it on my son’s birthday in two months.
I pitied that young man because the path his ‘loving’ mother has set him on is disastrous to say the least.
The terms ‘theft’ or ‘illegal’ may not exist in his vocabulary at home, but they do in the society he is fast growing into.
He will probably help himself to something else, but this time the confrontation will not be with a parent who does not mind walking away; it will be with an angry mob, or a burning tire, even an officer’s bullet.
As I walked back home in anger, my boy quietly disappointed in me for not getting his bike back, I appreciated how the mothers of our time brought us up, including all the whips my own gave me the many times I innocently picked money on the road. She was teaching me out of shortcuts and petty theft; that people must work hard for their money.
Never mind the fact that she always forcibly took the money, finding ways to convince me it was hers even if I had picked it somewhere she has never set foot at.
My heart bleeds for that young man.