We are in a matatu. Dozens of us stacked in this green Forward Sacco nganya. The time is 7.00 a.m. The cold weather outside is numbing but our bodies have generated enough heat radiation to keep us warm inside. I am sandwiched between a tough looking, slightly built gentleman on my right and a stunning out-of-this-world-because-only-angels-can-be-so-beautiful type of girl on my right. She is keenly engrossed on her smartphone which is the size of my shoe, as if her whole life depends on it. The other guy has his earphones plugged in, but frequently throws adoring glances at the girl on my left. well, I decide, since everyone is minding his own business, let my mind get to business.
That’s what I love to do. Being at one place, but letting my mind wonder away. In those moments I gather my mental marbles, put them in a bag and then go mentally to paradise, or wherever seems plausible at the moment. To a by stander I will look bored, but fact is inside I am filled with ecstasy, as I explore a world that has neither boundaries nor limits. A world where I steer my fate as I deem fit. In that secret world of mine, I am Thor.Its called the magic of imagination. The art of giving your mind wings and letting it soar.
The tout, a slim lady clad in maroon uniform, comes by collecting fares. After handing over a fifty-shilling note, I lean backward on the semi-comfortable chair, heave, tuck my head on the headrest and as I stretch my sleep deprived body I noticed through the window tens of other matatus and hundreds of cars on adjacent lanes snailing their way through the mild traffic jam.
Then the reality of the moment strikes me in a eureka haze. Have you ever been in a house whose roof is ablaze, its inside choking with smoke?.Okay,let me explain.Every car, matatu and lorry on this road is emitting liters and liters of carbon fumes from its engine, constantly dumping it in the air and poisoning it. On the other end, our filter-free nostrils in their long-life duty to keep us breathing gulp in the air, channel it down to our lungs. A pair of exquisite machines of chemistry that take everything handed to them, and take what our bodies need then send the rest back outside. Quite impressive.
But the stuff send to our poor lungs this morning is no ordinary air. Aside from the normal oxygen, carbon dioxide et cetera, it is filled with billions of tiny carbon particles, thanks to the roaring engines and fuel tanks full of fossil fuel. So today, our lungs are going to have a surprise. As normal gaseous exchange takes place, some amount of carbon will get embedded in the lungs’ capillaries while the rest finds its way into the blood system, settling in vital organs like the heart, brain and kidneys. The first batch will be insignificant, but then we will inevitably take a second breath, then a third and a hundred more. Meanwhile, we bask in the pleasure of being alive while our organs fight for dear life.
Then we get to work. Enslaved by our love for money, we spend every single waking moment from Monday till Friday in the offices. Not an hour is spared to see a doctor. We assume our bodies are immune to any tear. We are caged, imprisoned by desire and awaiting our own execution.
Years move by and our bodies weaken. The carbon, the stress from overwork has taken its toll, but we still hope we have more time. We know we are losing it, but aren’t we the invincible humanity? Health experts warn us, environmentalists tell us to use clean energy, but, heck, we are too busy making wealth. We are immortal and those “naysayers” are just folk who lack something better to do.
Then one of us, one day, gets a cough. Day one: it will go away, it’s just a cough. He goes to work as normal but the coughing persists. Then another gets some pain in her stomach. She knows it’s just another stomach ache and therefore gulps some painkillers. The pain goes nowhere. She continues taking painkillers because she is too busy to visit a clinic. Her lifestyle of taking excessively sweetened coffee in the morning and feasting on oily potato chips in the evenings and does not stop.
They both finally decide to see a doctor. One has chronic tuberculosis and the other suffers from advanced cancer. Both are devastated. Years of work suddenly come tumbling down. It downs on them that they loved the money more than their own health.
If only I knew, the lady tearfully mourns, I would have done it differently.
The man quietly walks back home to break the news to his astounded wife and children. I should have spent more time with them, he regrets ,as it dawns on him that he will be leaving them soon.
We cannot be too busy to mind about our health.Our bodies are the only companions we will live with for life.