There’s a line of buses just outside the Tuskys supermarket behind Archives. Followed quickly, by another line of matatus plying the Town-Kiambu Rd-Ndenderu route. The buses, painted yellow with stripes of blue, are from your hood. They end their journey into town here. The conductors, jumping off and assisting the ladies to alight, while seemingly turning blind when the male passengers attempt to alight. I don’t blame them, this is Nairobi after all, a man eat man society.
I am standing some meters away from the buses, to the right of the supermarket’s entrance. Next to some lady hawkers who’ve spread their wares on the ground. I am particularly close to one’s wares. Onions. The majority are the kawaida type, big juicy, burgundy colored onions. The type that whisper when you pass by them in the kitchen. “Weeeeeeeh, weeeeh, si unikate?” Of course, you say no, because why would you be cutting burgundy colored onions at 3 am in the night? The lady also has some white onions, though these ones are kept a bit to the side. She charges 20 bob for each, robbery in my opinion, but I am obviously not the target market.
She keeps eyeing me, as if to ask, “na unatoka hapa lini?” I ignore it.
I shift closer to the wall. Fish out my phone and check the notifications, nothing. You asked me to wait for you here. You said, you hate wandering through town alone, apparently you don’t feel safe. Never mind that you have lived in this city for over 2 decades and you’ve never been robbed.
But you asked in the sweetest voice, “Unaweza ningojea kwa stage yetu?”
“Utanipatia nini nikingoja?” I asked. You sent an edited photo of your chest in a Manchester United jersey in response. I agreed, the tone of my text betraying my delight “nitakungojea hapo.”
The only problem with standing here, is there’s delicious smells dancing in the air. They do crazy things to me, my nose keeps doing that “mmmppph, mmmppph” thing. As if its irritated, when really it’s trying to take in more and more of the scent of those frying sausages. The cook, who I can spot through the glass windows does this thing every 5 minutes, when another customer order comes in. He throws in a bunch of onions into the fatty oil, sprinkles a tiny bit of soy sauce into the mix and by God you can almost taste it. The crunchiness, the tanginess! Then he slices open a bun, plops the sausage into it, then proceeds to spray the mayonnaise and mustard all over the….
“Weeeeeeeh, kwani husongi?” The onions hawker asks, bringing me quickly to reality.
“Pole ma’am” I apologize for standing near her space. Never mind that this is a public space.
“Si basi ununue vitunguu basi juu unanimalizia hewa?” She demands. I apologize again, promising to disappear quickly when you show up. I fish out my phone, and call you again. You have Sauti Sol’s “Intro” as your Skiza tune….”Do what makes you happy, do what makes you smile….” You end the call. Following it up quickly with a, “Sorry, can’t talk right now.”
I fidget. Though I am careful to hide it. I slip my phone back into my front pocket, then I cup a feel of my ass just to make sure my wallet is intact. It is.
“Atakuja kweli?” The hawker asks. “Unajua hawa wasichana wa siku hizi hawajui maneno ya love.” She says this as she points at the roses I am carrying. I, of course, attempted to camouflage them inside a red paper bag, but the rose stalks keep peeking out.
“Anakuja,” I insist.
“Basi kaa hapa tumngojee,” she quite kindly but surprisingly, makes space for me on the stone she is sitting on. I sit.
“Unajua kuuza ama wewe ni kijana wa college?” She asks as she bursts out laughing. Her friend, a colleague selling plastic water bottles next to us steps in. “Wambui tigana na uyu!” They dive into 5 minutes of feverish conversation and the only thing I get from it are the words “college, valentine, and mbesha.”
When they are done, she turns to me and explains, “anasema niwache kukusumbua, unakaa kama mtoto wake!”
“But naona unakaa kupenda wanawake wazee kama bwana yangu,” she bursts out laughing again, stopping only to speak to a client who eyes her wares. The client bends down to inspect the onions, grabs one and “hizi ni fresh madam?”
“Kama huzitaki wachana nazo!” She barks. The man quickly retreats, no doubt vexed by her customer service. “Hawa watu wa masuti wanakuwanga na madharau mi……”
I don’t register the rest of her speech. My phone just beeped, I fish it from my pocket, slide the notification bar down and I see your text.
“Pole babe, I don’t think I will be able to…..”
I don’t read the rest of it. “Madam asante,” I mutter as I stand up. Leaving the red paper bag with 22 stems for each of your 22 years behind.
“Umesahau bag yako!” the other hawker shouts out.
“Nilikuambia hatakuja,” Wambui responds, following it up with a laugh that haunts me all the way to railways.
PC: Nairobi News
Apologies for the silence, how are you doing?