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When I applied for a job in Kenya’s first nuclear plant, I did not know there was no plantation there. I did not realise how quickly it would move me from Kibera to Huruma, drain the blood off me, how I would go back home desiccated, a husk of what I used to be. Before this, we lived in an iron sheet structure I had grown up knowing only chicken resided in them. My wife was the famous Mama Mboga who supplied the whole of Kibera with veggies grown from sewage farms. We survived fires that were known to ravage such estates of penury thrice, blamed the government for our woes, waylaid and attacked government officials who wanted to make us their charity projects, survived the government-sanctioned eviction by the National Youth Service when it was discovered that we were renting out the bed-sitters the government had built for us preferring our former Squalid Quarters (SQs) where toilets instead of birds flew.
Ten years have passed, and I now have a few days to live. There is a motorbike outside my house that I should be looking for scrap metal dealers to buy. The Municipal tow trucks delivered the junk to my doorstep after my cousin, whom I had elevated to working-class, succumbed to its inflicted injuries after a street racing stunt went wrong along Jogoo Road. My latest addition to the world is on my lap, a bundle of disfigured joy my wife delivered two years ago. The girl has never spoken a word, and though doctors tell my wife that our daughter might be late in her development, as though she is an infrastructure, I know that she will never speak.
Twenty years after nuclear energy was discovered in Kenya in 2011, the first plant was built. It opened job opportunities even for the youth whom the President of the Republic of Kenya (PORK) had been promising jobs since independence. It was a break in the economy, and I applied for the Chief Security Officer job in the plant in charge of opening the main gate to the compound and keeping idlers from Mathare and Kibera away. The night of the day I was hired, my wife and I made what we called love till the large cock we were preserving for Christmas crowed, telling me it was time to go and report for work.
With my new social class, I moved to Huruma so the idlers I entertained at the Kibera’s jobless corner for days on end wouldn’t find money minting machine in me. If they thought by our past association they would claim connections to the Chief Security Officer of the plant and canvass through me to get a job in the nuclear plant as engineers, they were mistaken.
But a year later, one of the reactors exploded. The radiation it spewed was ten times Hiroshma’s according to the Daily Nation newspaper pieces Maina of Kwa–Njugu’s Butchery wrapped meat for me with. The tragedy robbed the country of its beloved men and women. Others gave up their lives, their future, to save the country – firemen, Red Cross workers, volunteers, disaster managers, the gallant Kenya Defence Forces personnel who had survived al-Shabaab’s IEDs and ambushes in Somalia for two decades, and those who went to build the first shield to entomb the reactor. Over a million people died from the exposure. Another seven million were exposed to date. The result was a trail of cancers, genetic abnormalities and birth defects, of which my little Ciku was a living testimony.
Up until when I was given six months to live three months ago, I did not know what I had done by applying for that job, even for generations, not until I saved the last meat wrapper from incineration by my wife who wanted to light the jiko with it. Whatever my body gulped in gallons for ten years in that plant will live with me for generations to come. Up to my tenth, or even a hundredth generation, genealogy was forever altered – inoperable tumours, mental retardation, genetic configurations and other effects of the radiation that my body absorbed during my stint at the plant as the Chief Security Officer and passed it to my wife while consummating our love instead of rubbering it off.