Some days are good. Some days are bad. One can be both.
On a good day, a random, rummy, rascal within the slummy part of you neighbourhood, will run past you on his way to the most popular duka – a kiosk, Mzee Masai’s – because that is what his apparently very loyal and fond customers call him – duka. You are there to borrow money which will enable you to cover your matatu – bus – fare for the next one or two or three days as you wait on your financial advisors and sponsors to send you a substantial sum from across the border by way of a bank transaction. You are confident Mzee Masai will be of help as you have helped him out on several occasions before as well.
Random, rummy rascal, who had previously rubbed shoulders with you while on his way to Mr. Masai’s duka, will, surprisingly, turn to you, and in a thunderous voice bellow out a rather generous statement, especially coming from a person of his kind; “you are dressed nicely”. A statement that will make you dig deeper into your mind, for why he simply never said something like or even close to “you are smart” just like most people would ordinarily say. Then it will occur to you; that, amongst so many things, he is not any ordinary man, that he is the same drunk fellow who as a matter of coincidence happened to be in the same place and at the same time as you, that, like many others who make up his legion, he has probably seen enough blackboards to make him say “you are dressed nicely”, that besides the impression made by your cheap, Kampala tailored, and, of course, unlabeled suit, and second hand, brown, vintage, Tuscan leather bag which you carry in your right hand, he does not know who you really are. You can only smile, nod in approval and let him be, and not interrupt him while he purchases a matchbox which will contribute to an exponential bill and or death when he sparks one of its contents and lights his cancer sticks. A bill he certainly is not aware of lest he would not be smelling cigarette and weed smoke, he would be not be intoxicated. You want to tell him about the numerous cancer induced deaths and the costs of invariably unsuccessful medication before his own death but decline. Yes, it is selfish but how else do you talk sense to an almost insane individual. It remains an itch close to your private parts that you want to scratch but, reminding yourself of the lack of privacy, you, like your hands are too disproportionate to reach, let it keep itching. You get your loan, and resume your short walk from the bus bay on the main road and into the depths of your neighbourhood, where your home – an extravagant cubicle – is housed in a much bigger, storied structure.
When morning arrives, you rise, ready yourself, and, on the strength of Mzee Masai’s money, head to your place of work in the central business district. On alighting at the same bus bay as you do every other morning, you look around you for that lady who has, gradually and inevitably, become a part of your own life. She does no, help you, at least like Mzee Masai does, but in an equally important way; she gives you a copy of the free newspaper. You always look forward to one and have on occasion followed her into the shack where she keeps and picks more copies to hand out to early risers who include the taxi drivers, boda–boda riders, office cleaners you share the same street with you just to ask for the few pages of your own copy. You have to as they will start running out from about 7:30 am. A very good indicator that people in your City read. If they cannot afford a new book in a bookshop, or a tired copy sold on the streets, they will see to it that they read a free newspaper. A newspaper is a status symbol. With one in neatly folded in your hand, your workmates will think of you as a rich person, until you start unfolding it.
However much you try to salute her, shake her hand, enlighten her, or polite you try to be with her, she – the lady – never talks to you. On this very unique, good day, she says something. You pause, wait, and listen – hard. “you are smart”, she, smiling, says. Shocked, you smile back and say thank you. The start of a, hopefully, beautiful friendship and, perhaps, a booked and kept-from-the-pile-for-you free newspaper. In a boosted mood, you walk ahead to a nearby building round the corner. It is in the foyer of that building that you start chewing and digesting the scandals that make news every morning while you wait – for an hour or so – for the person with the keys to arrive and open the office doors. It does not help your productivity that you have to wait. In fact, it is boring and makes you lonely. People whose offices are already open and working ask if you have been locked out, and join you in hoping and praying that whoever it is does not make you wait much longer.
Later, as your good day grows, you will hug the sun while you pace the clean lanes and broad avenues of the City, and find your way through the imposing government buildings on your way to Court. While climbing up and round the Court’s staircases, you will meet a lady. It is a meeting that you never setup, and, also, were not invited to. It is a meeting with a lady that you were not so long ago, just last year, attracted to but, unfortunately, never got your ever so shy self to let her know. She will smile, and you will return the pleasure albeit with a lot of encouragement from within. You will shake hands and, recalling that you prefer hugs and kisses, regret why you never hugged her. You will talk – professionally – to her, answer all her questions about how you have been and try all your best to keep from literally running away from her. All because you, previously, liked her, and may probably get just lucky enough to get her phone number so that you can, as matter of course, keep her on text. You, out of your poor telephonic ways, never call anyone. Not even your kin.
She is gorgeous. You are joyous. She is talking. You are smiling. God is in heaven, and most of the things on earth are well. Being tall, you slouch and lower your eyes to look at her and give her all your ears. That soothing sound that is her voice! You do not even follow her conversation. It is your good day. She looks nice, you tell yourself. You take time to study her; large, lovely, pearly whites that are a pair of eyes; a well shaped and, bravely, hairless head, right above a fitting, long neck, and a bright future behind her. She reminds you of a French Montana, P. Diddy, and Rick Ross song; shot caller. In it, French raps; “hair like Amber/ ass like Nicki”. In your head, you know that even if French had not seen her before, he was talking about her, or someone like her. Yes! It is still a good day! You try your best to outdo yourself, and make meaningful conversation. You ask her about her recent experiences, how she has been, and what she has been doing lately, just to illustrate that you are mindful of her well-being as well.
As you talk, the nasty animal in you comes out. However minimal the revelations, you will recall how a mutual friend of hers and yours had once relayed to you that she is from that tribe which is overly generous with their sehemunyeti – private parts, that she has been single and could still be available for your sorry, lonely ass’ taking, that she was not taken up by the motion and rush for a white or any other foreign man, and that they had, like most shameless girls, seen and felt each other’s asses. It reminds you of the time a drunk girl rubbed your small behind, in the full glare of revellers in a Kampala night spot, and said that it is as soft as boobs. Your thoughts return to what she – this lady – is carrying or rather supporting behind her. It is one hell of a good day!
You keep her engaged. You keep talking, about this and about that. You even find enough words to discuss the geography and weather of the City, and the flaws of your profession. She is a colleague, who is a member of your profession and, therefore, presumably smart.
When it is time to part ways, a difficulty ensues; you know not whether to shake hands or hug. With so many people moving up, down the staircase and around you, you choose to do neither, save for watching her walk away and, with effect, finding happiness in being awestruck by the sight of her endowment. In an unnecessarily loud voice, too loud for a public environment, you promise to see her again, on some other day.
She goes, from the resting area of the staircase, and further down her way. You, also, continue, up, to the Registry you were headed to. On your way up, you thank your gods for the blessing of that extemporaneous meeting and the only tincture of beauty in a yard populated by sad, boring men and women. You promise yourself that you should indeed meet again, under better circumstances, when you, like for example, remembered her name and, preferably, in a private setting, where you can ask her what she has, for the period of almost a year, been doing with that photo you are certain she secretly took with her iPad when you had tea together in the kibanda – the common man’s cafeteria – especially at times when her lonely self found herself alone, in her bedroom, with her sugar walls calling, when her thighs can ably give the answers you want to the questions that you ask. You promise yourself to complete that conversation.
When it is a bad one, you will know. On a bad day, you will feel alienated. You do not know what the word means until you skim through your email, through the many mailing lists and numerous newsletter subscriptions, and stumble upon the word, left there by the folks behind the Business Dictionary daily email as your word for the day, to read and appreciate. They tell you that, in human resource, it is a sense of estrangement felt by employees, reflected, in their lack of warmth towards the organization, and in believing that their job or work is not meaningful to other aspects of their lives. On a typical bad day, it is such a simple word that is the definition.
After you have read and understood it, all those moments from not so long star popping in your head. When your boss calls out your name, you, like the dog that you really are, holler an affirmative response and rush to their office. On your way there, you vividly remember how horrible your first days at work were and privately pray that a repeat does not happen. You remember how, on different days, you were paid – very well – in barrage, how you were told that everything you did was terrible, how you were not a critical thinker, how you were not keen, how you could not understand, communicate, and comprehend, how your work looked like feces, and how, after such talk, all work that you could possibly do gradually went elsewhere. You pray to your gods for a better conversation – by many means.
Fortunately, while there, you know not why they – three officers – are laughing. You do not understand what they are saying. It is all in a language that you neither hear, nor speak. After a couple of minutes, you are told that you were invited only to be laughed at. You laugh with them, thinking that they were sharing a joke which you were too slow to appreciate as and when it was shared. None of them is aware that even if you do not comprehend what they are saying, your highly sensitive bullshit sensors can detect that they were saying something that a twat would.
You excuse yourself, walk out of their office and back to your workstation from where you pack your second hand, brown, vintage, Tuscan leather bag, and walk out of the office, filled with so much angst.
On walking past Mzee Masai’s duka, you see the mzungu – white – woman who lives on the same floor with you, the Scandinavian looking one, the one you fear, the one with an ugly, dirty dog which spends most of its time eating noodles from under a tired and forgotten Volkswagen. She is paying back the 380 shillings on her tab. It is for the goods which she says that she had purchased on credit. Mzee Masai is not sure. He thinks it is 400something shillings. She pleads with him. You can hear her gently asking him to check nicely. It consoles you that there are poor white people too, who run to Mzee Masai, the neighbourhood’s newfound financial messiah for a few shillings. Being in the same boat and ocean as her, you laugh quietly to yourself and excuse the weed smoking, rummy rascals seated on the perimeter walls of the flats on your way home.