There’s something unruly satisfying to a man when talking to someone (especially if the person happens to be a woman) and have them face you, and look you in the eye, even if they are lying. Like she has been doing for the past hour since we met. You’d feel thrilled to your bones; the satisfaction you’re conversing with a mature femine boiling your blood in a crazy chemistry. Yes, that’s how grown ups talk. Not the way these short-skirted mascara girls get around with funny accents while fondling their phones and playing with their hair.
Those round eyes did something to her face that made her appear easy to talk to. Though can’t say I understood everything about her. Absurdly, I felt contented not knowing much. Perhaps it was that I found less fun in chasing; the mind-numbing ventures to prove whether z really meant y… so I let her be. She was the kind who had dreads just because she didn’t like trips to the salon. And wore socks because without them she’d feel cold, and naked. I told her she’s weird and she said thank you. In most ways being strange was her charm.
And it’s hard to tell who begun the talking. Was it her to ask the time, or was it me to ask her if she felt tired from too much standing. Just because I’m the kind who does such: not to really get to someone’s nerves, but it’s often just out of the lack of something to say. Anything that won’t come out as too smart, nor too cocky. I had learnt early that people didn’t like that. So even though I would feel awkard in the first-contact silence, I often try to keep (my insanity) to myself. Because I lack simple things to say.
My watch strikes 7 o’clock. Quite an undeserving time to be still waiting for a matatu. Normally such waiting would have left me feeling bored, wasted and stupid. If not for her, I would have already started on my footsubishi; nganya inipatange mbele. Or would still be on maraundi: window-shopping, just to buy time. But not today. I let myself be entertained. She has once waited for them longer than this so she really doesn’t mind. Her only prayer is that it doesn’t rain. Amen.
Been helping myself to some roasted peanuts, a habit I had picked up to cool my nerves. As it happens, I ended up being hooked thus carrying tons of them with me everywhere. I offer her a satchet but she declines opting that we share the one that’s already in my hand. To persuade, I tell her about once a remote school’s code of sharing. Where we never stashed mandazis in our pockets after buying them from the canteen. And when someone would ask for some, you never pinched a shit. You either gave them a whole part of your bunch or gave them money to go buy their own.
“What if you didn’t want to.”
“Then you did neither, and the person had to walk away. Same if you had no extra money.”
“You must’ve been a bunch of rich kids.”
I break a laugh. “Not really, we were being moulded into gentle men.”
“Another of Barbara’s Mukibi’s?”
“Sort of, yeah.” I reassure. This one reads…
Then we spent moments reminiscing on the works of Barbara Kimenye. Apparently, the naughtiness of her special characters; Moses, Rukia, and King Kong, influenced patches of our childhoods.
“Now, being a gentleman, you walk around giving peanuts to strangers at bust stops?” She teases behind a wry smile.
“Is that what you think I do?”
“Am saying that’s what am seeing you doing right now. But looking at your tracks, sneakers and that,” she was pointing at a pair of roller blades strapped on my shoulder. “I’d say you are a sporty. But what do I know, you could be anyone.”
“Uko tu sawa,” I help out. “I write random stories in my blog.”
“Aha! How convenient. Perhaps I just availed myself for a spot interview.” Her face lights up with the sheer excitement in her voice.
“Maybe not. This is just two perfect strangers having conversations at a bus stop.”
“While eating peanuts.” She adds, right before my lips drop, waving the nuts in front of my face.
And we bust out in loud simultaneous laughters making heads turn in a thousand surprises.
She adorns a grey sweater atop a yellow dress, with green flowery patterns, flowing over a slim frame, ending slightly below her knees. The green flowers nicely matched her wristband. It’s Friday, official office-wear-off-day, she calls it. So she just had to let her legs out; in canvas, with no makeup. The rest of the week she has to forcefully drag herself in drab office wear. Drab because that’s how she feels about them. And twice towards her bosses who are strict on the company’s dress code: blouses and trousers. And it’s the one part of her job that she hates.
“Specific colours?” I offer.
“At least they didn’t slot that in their dress guideline.”
I make to respond and she hastily cuts in. “But what does that leave you with? A coat or a blazer sort of to make out the trousers. Which means you will have to dig deeper into your peanuts just to dress well for a f**k’n company. “
She pauses, maybe to let me take it in. From a corner I spot her toss and catch a nut which crashes with so much force that pieces fall of her mouth. She wipes her lips, turns up at me but I look away. Can’t stand seeing her in pain. Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked. And for a moment I don’t know how to proceed. But then I had nothing to lose — having already ignited her agony — for the peanut felt the wrath. So, so long as she had a dozen of them there was no way turning back. Or a reason to.
“But do you?” She gazes and I continue.. “Dress as they want?”
“Not as strict. Occasionally I slip into some denim and wait for them to fire me. But they don’t.”
She chews on with a relaxed tempo. Now comforted, I get the confidence to dig deeper.
“So you a little of a troublemaker.”
“So much for wanting to be left alone with my dreses.”
“Yeah, any! Am a woman. Every woman needs a dress.”
“Obviously they can’t. Do they have issues with dreads too?”
Rubbing peanuts in her palms she blows their chuffs away. They made her stomach hurt.
“Some of the bosses and colleagues fear because of these locs. While others adore them and I feel their respect on meetups. For one, I think it’s because the CEO has them. And two because the company says it is a cross cultural platform.”
Watching her locs densely perched up on her shoulders gets me thinking… One of the stray ones dangles above her eyebrow and she wafts it behind her ear, fixing it among the fold. Real wild thoughts… Do they itch on her skin? And I get tempted to do more than touch. This alone sets my cells arguing among themselves. Perhaps they itch. No, this lady must be grinding her liver for them not to itch. How would you certainly know? Well, she looks dope enough not to have itching hair. Look at everything else.
But I didn’t. I needed to concentrate.
“I work in IT.” She was saying.
“Awesome. But you are missing your lenses.”
“Nah, some of us are just fine without.” She chuckles.
See… What if the dreads come with some addictions. Means nothing. Also got my own. Then she would still have some hair when you’ll be old and bald. Hush it, will you? It’s still early to tell.
We were in the busy Uyoma street. Potters and hawkers all seemed to want to take a part of our idle spot. Around us various wares: clothes, utensils, fruits, vegetables, were displayed right next to our feet. And women and men of many faces and color were busy ogling at customers. The way belonged to them. Us, passengers were to be on the move; boarding – alighting, then moving to create space. But every evening in Nairobi when there was jam on traffic — as it was the case — every roadside hustler felt it. For now people filled the streets. Then impulse buying kicked in. Some with the day’s energy to spare would be roaming about. Others, mostly oldies would be standing in clusters talking quietly. Then there were the patient ones who would be in queues. We were in this category. Our transit seemed to be ‘held up’ somewhere. So we had to endure in this ever oscillating chain to let potters meander past.
“Just how does IT get along?” Wanted her keep talking.
“Nothing is new. But everything surprises you all the time.”
I was at a loss, so I look at her blankly… She reads then continues.
“Well I mean, when you find yourself observing trends on data, you don’t take things lightly. You ask yourself a lot of questions.”
“Why would you ask, yet you can see…”
“You see, it’s all the same as with people. When you meet someone, you’ll have an opinion of them. But if the person strikes you enough, then you would want to stick around just to get to know them more.”
“Yes. I see.”
And this is her take on locs. Perhaps my stranger was truely lying.
I was misled to think that locs are low maintenance and that was one of the main reasons why I got them in the first place. Then I found out that I was very wrong to think that way. In fact, lots need more attention than regular hair. My friend Ivy burst my bubble when I went to her for tips on maintenance of locs. Her mane is way past the maturity stage and she has only a thousand stories and experiences she’s had because of being loc’d.Mercy Bor, in MANE, at bortuber.