I wouldn’t want to live in Plot 10, even if I were offered a house rent-free. Plot 10 is the source of most estate gossip. It’s not just other people who talk about them, the residents of Plot 10 love to talk about each other too. And I always offer a listening ear.

Plot 10 is located about a hundred meters from the matatu stage. It’s rather ordinary looking, with about ten houses in various stages of completeness but they are all inhabited. What’s different about it is its residents: they are all related. My friend, Mama Stress, is now on leave and she could be said to be the patron of Plot 10.

She has a job as a messenger in the nearby secondary school, but since she’s been on leave, she knocks on the door every morning declaring how very stressed she is.

“Aki niko na Stress.” She’ll say as soon as I open the door.

She’ll then lie on my sofa most of the day and regale me with what could be the cause of her stress, ranging from her mother-in-law to her other relatives. Did I mention she lives with her mother-in-law (tragedy), whom she does not get along with it (double tragedy)?

I remember she was telling me how she and the mother-in-law have been having cold wars. They were not talking to each other because she had decided to buy her sukuma wiki from someone else other than the mother-in-law. You see, her MIL has this shed by the road where she sells assorted groceries and they usually buy from her but that day her vegetables were looking particularly withered.

I asked how they could be buying from her, yet they housed her? She told me business is business and we laughed because she added she did a lot of buying on credit anyway which she rarely paid back.

She complains about how lazy her house-help is.

“Can you imagine I have to wake her up? She should be up before me…. All she does is eat. You should see her taking numerous cups of tea, and that time the house hasn’t even been mopped.”

She never sees the irony in this, because normally she’ll be telling me all this while drinking my tea and bread with Blueband. Nowadays, I simply let her make the tea and clean up the dishes afterwards. After a few days of playing hostess, regular visitors cease to amuse me.

She tells me of her brother-in-law’s promiscuous wife. Her brother-in-law lives in a different house in the same compound. He leaves for work early in the morning and comes back very late in the night, even though his job doesn’t pay much. Did I tell you he took a loan to give his wife’s relatives and now his belongings are in danger of being auctioned? But no, the wife goes and cheats on him. If it were up to Mama Stress, she’d have kicked her out a long time ago but she’s afraid to tell the brother-in-law. She thinks he has no clue what’s going on.

She tells me of her sister who lives in an adjacent house. Her sister doesn’t pay rent because the owner of the plot is her husband who is now living abroad. He promised he’d come for her after he settled in the United States; he got a green card you see. It’s been three years of settling down and Mama Stress says she’s worried for her sister. She thinks her sister should go ahead and marry someone else, but then she could lose the house and that would put all of them (the residents of Plot 10) in jeopardy. Since they are all related to her sister, they pay subsidized rent.

She tells me of who’s been fighting with who, who’s cheating with the house-help,  who hasn’t paid rent for the past six  months, who’s lost their job and I wonder if all the stories are true. I often ask her if other people’s problems are enough to give her stress on a daily basis. She says they all look to her for solutions and she’s just had about enough. Besides, she has numerous problems of her own too.

This morning, she was particularly distressed and she had to finish a whole thermos of tea before she could be calm enough to tell me what had happened.

I heard a knock on the door just as the tea was beginning to boil. I cursed under my breath and wondered what impeccable timing she has. I left the tiny kitchen that’s visible from the sitting room and opened the door smiling. I found Essie, my six year old neighbour’s daughter, grinning toothlessly back. I breathed a sigh of relief: it wasn’t Mama Stress. I don’t really want company this early in the morning. Essie wanted to borrow a pen, I told her I didn’t have one and closed the door on her. She just wanted to come in and play in my sitting room.

I brought the thermos of tea to the sitting room, where there is a three-seater sofa on one side of a table and two separate sofas. Just after the table, next to the wall, is a TV cabinet, which has no TV (it was stolen along with other electronics during a break-in at my previous residence), making the DVD player and speakers utterly conspicuous.

I sat in my favourite sofa, next to the TV, put on some music, poured my tea, opened the copy of Purple Hibiscus am still reading and leaned back in my chair. Being in-between jobs can have its benefits, like enjoying your breakfast with your favourite novel and good music in the background.

I was about to take a sip of my tea when there was knock on the door. It just had to her. I set the cup trembling down on the table, forced a smile to my face and walked to the door.

I opened the door and there she was, bursting in like it’s her home, then she went to the kitchen and got a cup, a plate and knife and sat on the larger sofa opposite me. She is tall and slim, and dark. Her complexion may have once been glowing but now. She got the Blueband which is usually on the TV cabinet and began spreading it on the slices of loaf she has put on her plate.

“I’ve told you Peter’s brother was coming over for his holiday, didn’t I?”

Peter is her husband. I told yeah, she may have mentioned it.

“So he came yesterday from college to spend his one month holiday here, but I’ll be damned if he stays one more day. I’ve told him to pack his bags.”

“What did he do?”

So she narrated how, instead of sleeping on the couch as expected, he had slept in the house-help’s bed. What’s worse, the house-help shares a room with the kids and Mama Stress just can’t begin to imagine what her kids may have heard or seen. Mama Stress has three kids of about the same age, probably six or seven years old.

Then she told me how she differed with her husband who didn’t want the brother to leave. Instead, he asked her to leave if she couldn’t stand his brother.

Now it’s evening and she doesn’t want to leave my place. I mean, it’s one thing to offer her a listening ear and some tea, it’s another to interfere with her life and get involved in Plot 10 shenanigans.

© savvy kenya (Read her blog here)