The cold bites at my cheeks as I cross the road, watch lazily as a matatu growls past me, nearly cutting off my rear end, and adding flashing lights to my disinterest. The driver yells at me, something lewd that I have to think through, translate into Swahili, then fall into a muddy stinking ditch.
I can hear my phone vibrate as I pick myself up, somewhere deep inside a now wet denim pocket. I mutter, just loud enough for me to hear myself, I did swear. The phone is glowing blue, the kind that still makes the guy at the cyber café step back because he expects a more sophisticated phone on a rather artistically dressed woman. What, everyone asks if I am an artist. And when I ask why they think I might be, they say I dress like one. So I guess artists dress in fade blue jeans and strangely colored tops, with worn out sneakers, and maybe a mismatching hat.
Anyway, I am currently in a stinking muddy ditch and my Moto C113 is now letting out a high pitched jingle that signals that…yeah, same same, him calling to find out what kind of mischief I have been up to. There are people who do not expect me to be up to any good, even though I am convinced that I would not have much trouble walking through the gate at the Salvation Army headquarters. Dad would prefer to send them all kinds of warnings.
I will not take that call. I have disappointed myself enough without adding any tears into the equation. Tears, they happen when I’ve had a rough day at work, want so much success, and doubt myself all the way through. I don’t mind my tears, they remind me how much I want. But I prefer not to share them. Because then I get distracted and bask in the attention more than I concentrate on my goals.
I negotiate through the darkness, walking down a path where street lights…, wait, they never worked here. I slip on mama mbogas left over tomatoes, and rotting cabbage leaves. It was more fun doing this, the tomatoes and the stinking ditch when my best friend was here to giggle and swear that she was sober and I was drunk. Well, maybe I was drunk. I mistook a man for an electric pole. Happens the other way around usually, but I needed something to cling to.
I wonder briefly how she is, best friend. Somewhere in Juba, without me, not needing me; I need her. When did I walk into this club, the diva club, where attention must be heaped on me or I sulk? Well, last I checked I was at the bottom of the diva club and a man was the empress of the diva club. The man, who has an opinion, and wants any title that is regal, apart from the one his mum chose for him.
Juliet, you and me, how about it? Irrelevant, but my mind always goes off in a tangent anyway. I can see the light of my mum’s house. I long for warmth and food, and sleep. I have not slept in five days. It has been all very weird. Not that it is not usually weird, but now, I can feel it, and it awes me. What would he think, Romeo, if he saw me now, muddy, stinky, tired, trying to get home from a long day at work, and only succeeding in… well, attracting the muggers.
They are nice. They stop me, “Niaje siste.”
I know. I can smell the ganja, and taste my own fear.
“Niaje.” Do I still sound uptown? I need to find a lot more friends who can teach me ghetto Swahili. I am not doing very well here, and I live on Riverside just in front of Kware slums. Yep, I am it, and have no excuse for that. Why do I need to excuse myself for anything? And yet, I feel the need.
The one on the right, I don’t look straight at him, takes my bag. The other one advances at me, to search my person, I assume. I am terrified. And I have an urgent urge to giggle. They pause, and I launch, “Niko na mia, ya fare kesho, phone yangu ni Moto C113, na nishakula matope chafu.” (I have 100 shillings, my phone is a Moto C113, and I ate the stinky mud already)
The MO of the local muggers is stop you, rob you of all your money and valuables, and if you have no valuables, they force you to drink the muddy, stinky water in the ditches which might include sewer leakage. Well, they could rape me, but I bet and so do they that it would be so much easier for them to get caught if they tried that. So I’m betting and they know that they can only rob me and humiliate me. I’m halfway there.
A pause. Long and fat. Then I hear a chuckle, from the shadows. Now, I see. The other shadow. He moves up now, gains form and towers over me. He slides a rough finger under my chin, and forces me to look up. He can see me from the dim light of the building that always looks like it is about to collapse. The light is in my eyes, so I can’t see his face. His brings his face up close to mine. His scent surprises me. Not the sweaty stink of unwashed neglect I expect from a mugger.
I am still reeling, when they disappear. I am not sure what shocks me most, the scent of sage, sandalwood, nutmeg and allantoin, or the cool brush of his lips on mine. He laughed once more, I saw his brazas withdraw, and then he said, ” Kimbia, nitaanagalia mpaka uingie kaja.” (Run, I’ll watch till you get into your house.)
I am cool and calm, and I wave into the darkness just before I walk into my mother’s home, and she hugs me, today of all days, she hugs me.
Juliet Maruru is a kooky writer who sometimes airs her kooky thoughts on www.jmaruru.wordpress.com