I hate snakes. No, I’m paranoid about snakes. Or, let me just say, I hate snakes and I’m paranoid about those damn reptiles. I can’t stand the sight of a snake. Whether in real life, or in a photo, or on TV: I. Just. Hate. Snakes.

Did you watch The Anaconda back in the day? Well, I couldn’t stand it. I mean, there’s no way I was going to torture myself watching such a grisly thing when there were better things to watch. Better things like Air Force One, or The Titanic.

I never understand people who go to the parks, or orphanages, or sanctuaries to watch snakes. I can’t understand why a guy would tell his woman; “Babe, I’m treating you today. We’re gonna watch snakes!” And she’ll light up and throw back a handful of braids and, looking at him suggestively, she’ll croon; “Aaaaw look at you romantic thing. You’re such a darling. You’re so sweet. Let’s go!” and she’ll then post pics of caged spotted pythons on Instagram; ‘snakes manenos!’ Msheeew. It’s sadistic and colorless. I mean, go watch baboons or even frogs for crying out loud!

A little disclaimer though {much as you hate disclaimers}; I wouldn’t use the word fear when describing my situationship with serpents. Because I’d like to imagine that I’m a tough Maragoli guy, and I would be embarrassing my clan. And my dad would be summoned by those scruffy, tea loving wazees and asked why his pedigree is embarrassing the whole clan like that. We’re supposed to be brave and proud and cool, especially if you have hairy legs that chicks are falling over themselves to touch {haha}. Great legs. Sexy legs. Legs to die for. {you can roll your eyes all you want, haha}. But seriously, I don’t fear those ugly things.

Anyway,

My hatred and paranoia about snakes is borne out of a snake bite. Yes, a freaking snake bite. A snake dug its ugly poisonous fangs into my toe one rainy night, some years ago.

Here’s that dark dark story;

It was December of 2002. I was transitioning to standard 8. I should have been 13 or 14, on the cusp of pubescence. Pimples had started to show on my forehead and I’d begun to notice asses and boobs of chicks in the hood and at school. {There’s this particular chick in my digz I always tried to impress with my perceived smarts and charm but it all hit a snag.} I was increasingly becoming grumpy and impatient and my voice was beginning to sound funny – like a faulty stereo. I suddenly became too self-conscious and invested in a mirror. Suddenly image mattered. I became pathetically vain. A romantic.

I insisted on having my own room, and I got it. At first I kept it all prim and nice; spread my bed, folded my clothes, arranged my shoes neatly, kept my dirty garments in the laundry basket, meticulously arranged my books in neat stacks on the table, kept my pens in this fancy green pen holder… I was this methodical, responsible lad. Then it all went south, quickly. I somehow lost my knack for neatness. The room became a mess. There was no telling the dirty clothes {and they were always many} from the clean ones, it was one humongous heap on the bed. A few could always be on the floor. It was an eye sore. My books were scattered everywhere. Books and pieces of papers. There were random love letters too. Beautiful love letters {oh I miss those days! Whatever happened to this generation of millenials. Saitan is to blame.} Anyway, the room became dusty. Dusty and smelly. It smelt of teenage and lethargy. My window, overlooking a hedge of bougainvillea, was forever open. Mosquitoes plied freely. I didn’t give a shit because I never picked a bout of malaria. I was the invisible man!

We fought severally with my dad about the ugly spectacle in my room. I often wondered why he was meddling in my affairs. I wondered why everyone could not just stick to their lane and focus on keeping their bedrooms in the state they wanted. I mean, why would someone insist on imposing their beliefs on people? Nkt.

Then one rainy evening, groping in the dark, trying to get something from my shambolic table, shuffling through the mess of clothes and books and papers on the floor with my bare feet, I stepped on this smooth, almost supple and cold thing. Then I felt a sting on my toe. My right leg. It happened in a flash. I almost ignored it. I thought it was a rat or something, so I announced it to whoever cared to listen. “A rat has just bitten me.” My mum, who was in the adjacent room preparing the bed for a visiting family friend, lurched to my room with a spotlight and saw it slither away. She let out a deafening, ghoulish scream that reverberated through the house, “snake!” I panicked. My heart pounded in my chest. A snake had found a safe haven in my warm messy bedroom from the cold night outside. I dashed to the living room screaming. I met my dad in the corridor and leaped on him – hard. I held on him tight. I was hysterically shouting the word snake. I swear I saw death coming. It was grotesque. That is not how I’d envisioned my death – dying swollen and jaundiced by venom. I stuttered an incoherent prayer. Then I remembered all my deliberate sins and gave up midway.  I just beseeched God to take me. I didn’t want anything to do with hell and saitan, even though I know many cool people are there, smoking shisha.

There was panic in the hitherto calm house which was just about to catch prime time news. Everything was spinning – fast. My mom was tearing a piece of cloth to tie my leg with. My dad was slicing my toe with a rather blunt razor, and ruthlessly squeezing the blood out. No gloves. The pain was numbing, but I couldn’t cry. Otherwise he could have drilled my eyes with his, wondering, “hapa nilitoka bure?” Our family friend, an old man in his mid 60s, watched helplessly, rooted in the couch, holding his chin. My dad told me to calm down so as to reduce the rush of blood. I knew that shit, but I just couldn’t. No one ever came down by being told to come down. My kid bro, Rodger, had rushed to call my friends in the neighborhood. They swung by in an instant, some smelling of fish. Some smelling of sweat {we’d played football till late that evening.} The atmosphere in the room was taut with tension and anxiety. My mum couldn’t recall the color of the snake so it couldn’t be established right way whether it was the poisonous type or not. Time was running out. I had to be rushed to hospital. My leg had now started swelling into a size of a mature banana stalk from Kisii. But there was no car.

One of my friends sprinted for his bike, a black mamba. Look at that irony!

And so on his bike, we trudged to the hospital, a contingent of about a dozen guys braving the biting cold {including my dad, the elderly family friend and a dad to one of my friends. No one cared for tribe; it was all about saving a life. Lending a hand to a neighbor, a friend. We were all Kenyans at that time. But most importantly, we were mortal beings fighting for the survival of one of us. But suspicion crept in five years later, in 2007, when friendships grew cold curtsey of tribe. Like it will this year, you wait. We are that primitive, our cosmetic accents notwithstanding. We are pathetically vain and shallow. We are terribly tribal!

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital. That was 40 minutes after the bite. We weren’t doing badly, I thought. It was almost 10 pm, and so the hospital was fairly deserted. I straightway got an anti snake bite jab on my left arm at the outpatient wing. At least I knew I wasn’t going to die now. I was wheeled to the ward to await specialized diagnosis from the doctor. We waited for over an hour.

My leg was now aching in a pulse like fashion. It had become like one long thigh of a voluptuous socialite. I started feeling jittery again. My friends had now left – some to finish their fish – when they ascertained that I wasn’t going to die. The three men remained, waiting for the doctor.

He swung by at about midnight, looking exhausted. He wore a checked brown shirt and a forlorn look. Said he’d been in the theatre for about three hours. He was young and amiable. Really cool. He cracked jokes with those yellow yellow nurses who were clearly smitten. He sort to know the color of the freaking reptile. No one knew. He did his prescriptions nonetheless, and had me admitted for a week. I shared a cubicle with this guy who’d been stubbed by his neighbor over a piece of land. The dagger had missed his liver by a fraction of an inch. His midsection looked messy. Ghastly even.

By this time our elderly family friend was getting worn out, and so the men had to leave in haste with the promise of seeing me the following day. He was the last to leave my bed side. Touched my forehead and assured me I won’t die before him. I watched as his frail frame retreated to the exit and his silhouette disappeared into the nippy darkness. That is the last I saw of him. He died two months later after leaving home the following day.

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