Life in the Police training camp was one of the nastiest things one could ever dream of. Most folks joined the force for lack of jobs and poverty. Nobody wants to idle in camps in some rusty-roofed ramshackle, away from your family, in some jungle uniform and a gun, harassing poor youth and villagers for the fun of it. Not to mention exchanging live bullets with criminals who are not afraid to kill or die…As I later realized, without the gun and handcuffs, a cop was a lonely person wishing for a better life like any other Kenyan. My past life of sleeping until eight and watch movies until noon, wake up and take a lazy shower, have lunch and back to the movies or sex, was mercilessly replaced by torture in the name of discipline and physical fitness.
We woke up at 5 o’clock at the crack of dawn. Ran through the rugged terrain in ice cold air for a grueling three hours. Relax with a cup of tea and two slices of bread. At 10 there were a number of gymnastic exercises to be subjected to by the harsh hard-faced instructor. This included 50 press-ups as a warm up. Something I never did in my life. The first time I tried it my chest felt like it had been pounded on by a sledge hammer.
Though I loathed it at first, the ji-jitsu class became my favourite session. I visualized me breaking ribs, shattering knee joints, twisting necks, scooping intestines with my index finger from imaginary criminals. I enjoyed shadow-boxing like I was in some Jet Lee classic movie.
We were ordered around like slaves. Obscenities were flung at us like bitches. Some lazy and arrogant heads got whipped and kicked viciously. At the end of the day, I would feel like my body belonged to Jesus Christ on the cross. Were all these ordeals really necessary? However, there was always the lighter side of things.
I couldn’t explain the thrill that swept through my body the first time I held a gun. It was a 1943 Wesson rifle, probably the World War 2 paraphernalia. It took a real muscle to release the safety catch, load the cannon ball, cock and fire. Firing could easily throw you off-balance if not steady enough. The following episode we were given real machines. The grip on a Colt. 13 Eagle was the best feeling I had ever experienced since squeezing a girl’s nipple in the dark. Unlike the rusty rifle, the shot gun was real. With it I felt invincible, ready to conquer the planet. We went to a quiet forest for target practice. My first shot was so perfect the instructor couldn’t believe it. Seeing the impact the bullet had on the cartons and watermelons was overwhelming. That could be the chest of a rapist or any villain that danced in my imaginary world. I felt a spontaneous dislike for all criminals and the urge to go wild on the streets smoking out each and every one of them with a gun powder over their ugly faces… being the national hero …receiving The Silver Bullet award if there could be such an award for the outstanding cop of the year…
That night as I lay on the thin mattress in the training camp, I enthused to myself that maybe that was my destiny. My path, my goal in life: fighting crime. Funny how we find purpose in life from very unlikely places.
I couldn’t sleep. I walked out the verandah and lit a cigarette. The smoke fused through my system like a wave of pranic energy, soothing my brain tissue. Oh Christ. I missed mum. I missed dad too. I missed my brothers. Dear Lord, I missed Kate. Is she still in the movie theatre? Still single? I felt lonely. I’m not good at making friends. Besides, the officer had told us one morning in the parade that your enemy number was the guy next to you. Trust was not a cop’s best weapon. Your weapon is your dear gun and your instincts. I cursed under my breath and tossed myself on bed.
I heard a sharp knock on the door. As I slid the bolt, the door frame smacked hard on my face. A barrel of a G3 was right on my nose. I brushed it aside as my leg swooped the rickety hooligan in the mask. I gripped his wrist, hurled him around and hit his hulky torso on the floor. The other two hoisted their guns. I twisted the gun in the hand I was still holding and squeezed the trigger. Brains splattered on the wall. The giant I was struggling with hit my face with his left fist. I lost balance as I let go. Before I recovered, he managed to free himself and made for the door. I went after him. I stumbled and fell on the bodies lying by the door. When I was about to jerk back up, a silencer pressed hard against my temple. The face above me was familiar but I couldn’t place it. Double chin swallowed in rolls of a rotund neck. Dark suit. His smile revealed a gap in the lower set of teeth. There was something sinister about the smile. The kind of grin one gives when they are about to blow your brains off. His fat knuckles hardened as he slowly pulled the trigger, the nozzle grinding the side of my head. God I’m gonna die…I’m gonna die…I’m gonna..
“Wake your lazy asses up, boys!”
Jesus. My head. I hate nightmares. The officer can go and dance tango with his mother-in-law. I threw the bed sheets aside and changed my sweaty Polo T-shirt. I still shook from the dream. I dashed out for another jogging torment.
Six months had totally reformed my spiritual and physical well-being. Shaving was a daily routine. Not the funky rapstars’ sideburn trimming, just a thin moustache while any other facial hair belonged to the razor’s sharp edge. A closer look in the mirror and my face, like the rest of the body was a bundle of taut muscle.
Today I am going to graduate.