I have this thing with my timing. It’s either I’m exceptional in keeping time or I am a torrid late comer; the former being the most common outcome. I hate running late as a matter of fact. It’s depressing. That’s when matatus overlap for no reason and your driver is in completely no hurry. The vehicle you are in will always seem slower than all the others and people will keep on alighting and boarding at each and every stage. I despise that, it makes me wish I was capable of pushing the vehicle I’m in forward. I can recall, one day, on my way from South B, the driver thought it wise to use the City Stadium route. So, I was strapped to my seat, comfortable and all, swiftly heading towards town. Until we get to Landhes Road, just before Muthurwa Market. There’s always some sort of snarl up there. Three minutes in and I’m like, I’ll wait patiently. Then Vernon starts calling. “Uko?” So, I truthfully state my location since I’m close to town an even add that I’ll be seeing him in a matter of minutes. He must have called me on numerous occasions and I had to run all the way to town. I mean, can you pay 200 shillings for a nduthi from Muthurwa to Archives? So, I prefer keeping time.
Sadly, as much as you can keep time, some people won’t and you’ll always have to wait in anguish and for my case pre order because you can’t be idle in a restaurant. Like I did, waiting for Christine at AlBaik. She did not do too bad though, ten minutes is not bad at all. I’m half way through my soda can. She’s in a long, yellow sun dress that seems to sweep the sparkling clean tiled floor in glorious fashion. She’s a beautiful lady. Tall, slightly dark and petite. Then she has this sense of fashion, accompanied with her aura of confidence. It’s no wonder alot of heads turned to take a look at her, I included. Then there’s that stroke on my ego that such a lady would approach my table with such a wide, beautiful smile. Yes, I liked that. She’s my seasonal workmate. I say seasonal because we work on projects from time to time as brand ambassadors for different brands from time to time. The latest being Safaricom. She sits, signals for a waiter to attend to her. A bulky middle aged man approaches in the contemporary black trouser and white shirt. Restaurants should change that look, it’s too cliche now. I can’t even pull off that look nowadays. Anyway, after he takes both our orders we get straight right to it.
“Hey, you’re late.” I’m wearing a cheeky smile.
“Kwani what time did you get here?”
She really doesn’t believe me. For a moment, I want to prove to her that I got there early enough, but after second thoughts, there’s really no need.
“Never mind, we’re both here now.”
“Come on, I’m sorry,” she teases.
“So you are paying for lunch?”
“So, tell me, how did you go about work.”
She takes a slight pause, smiles in an almost vague fashion and looks away for a while. She had just completed a three day project with Safaricom, purposely on The Groove Tour in Mombasa under one of the various agencies contracted to partake the job. Yes, raia, that’s what I basically do when I’m not in school.
She begins, “Mike, I’ve been having a very hard time.”
“Why, what’s up?”
“So, we were contracted by a guy from Nairobi, I don’t even know the agency he works under. We all just took the job. I mean it really wasn’t a matter of interest. His name is William.” She shared some photos they took during work. Tall, slender guy. Ooh yes and he’s dark too. He has this slim face and a light beard.
“So Willy, was good all through the project. Interesting guy who’s got minimal pressure. He even bought us lunch the other day after a tedious morning work session.”
“Wait, kwanza where were you? You didn’t want the job?”
“You forgot I had exams to do.”
“Let’s make this about you, please”
“Okay.” She smiles again. Beautiful smile, I must say highlighted further with the thick shade of dark red lipstick. Why would you wear lipstick to a lunch meet and greet? I mean, do you eat the lipstick too. Just then, the waiter comes through. He’s sweating lightly, like he had to prepare the food himself. She laughs because I’m having vegetable rice and salad. She’s the chips, chicken girl who complain about body mass, keeping fit and yoga yet she’s always eating what I deem unsuitable. It’s like everyone was starving, because we both immediately delved into munching and yes, it’s tasty.
“So, a day after we were done with the project, William called. At about 10 a.m. You know formalities and all, saying hi and how we’ve both been. He asked if I’m busy. Honestly, I wasn’t, so I said no. He then told me to meet him at Milele Beach Hotel, where he’d been staying. I thought it was odd. Why? I asked. He said, he just wanted to talk. Still, at the hotel, I thought it was inappropriate, so I thought for a while and told him I’d think about it.”
“So, you thought?”
“Yes, I told him not on that day. He said he was leaving the next day for Nairobi. That he only had that particular day to meet and spend the day. In a sincere note, he told me to tell him if I had any doubts whatsoever. I felt like it was offensive to tell him It seemed akward meeting at the hotel. He’d invited me to the bar, by the way. I just had my reservations. I hope you understand.”
I’m halfway through my plate. No. I’m no glutton. She’s doing most of the talking. Last time I checked, good listeners do not talk a lot. But they can eat, right? She eats slowly for a while, takes a sip of her cocktail juice and proceeds. Her lipstick is still intact.
“So, I was sitting at home, thinking and I drew a conclusion. Prejudice is awful. You can’t go around doubting every guy, especially after having to work withou any kind of intrussion between you. So I thought I should go. But first, I’d play hard ball. He called later.”
“How later is your later?” I ask . She giggles a bit then sips her drink.
“Just about an hour. Seems more of soon that later, right?”
“Depends on your sense of urgency.”
“Okay, right. So he asked if I’d thought about it and I said I wasn’t going to make it. He didn’t sound disappointed a bit. He then told me he’d leave my drinks at the counter and I that I could go for them at any day. Regardless if he was still in town. Good gesture. So, I cut him short. I asked if he’d give me an hour and a half.”
“Of course he did.” It seems obvious to her that does to me. I don’t know why.
“So, I made up my mind, prepared myself, looking gorgeous and all and left. I was there in an hour and a half. Talk about keeping time.”
“I wish I had the same effect on you.” She laughs lightly and puts on a meek face as if to say she’s sorry. She continues eating slowly. No, in gracious fashion I should say. She speaks while eating and It doesn’t seem wrong a bit.
“So, I’m at the hotel bar. He was sitted in a corner in a pair of blue, floral shorts, a white polo shirt and blue moccasins. Very tidy. So we start taking cocktails and we are busy telling all kind of stories. He’s suave and cool. Plus, he got a lot of interesting ideas on his purported vision. I say that because I seemed to want to listen to more and more. For a while, I thought to myslelf I was completely wrong to judge him earlier in the day.”
“Perhaps I had a drink too many and I was a little tipsy. So, I wanted to leave. He retaliated, saying he thought I’d stay overnight. So, I sobered up and said I was to go home. He stood and held my hand. Asking how I would do that to him after he offered me a job. But I really had to go. So, I said I was sorry. I just hadn’t planned to stay overnight.”
“Any tension?” I asked Christine.
“Tension, fear, despair, betrayal and being belittled. Every possible negative feeling. I thought I’d mistaken him, yet my gut was clearly right. He’d held my hand, so I slowly retreated but just before I could turn to swiftly walk away he forcefully groped my butt and pulled me by my shoulder and pushed me towards him. He then kissed me on my neck and whispered something into my ear. I don’t recall what. I just pushed him aside and ran. He shouted at me saying, I’d always want a job. That he was the gaffer and he’d not allow for me to work for anybody he knew.”
I can’t begin to digest the whole thing. I feel sad for her. I feel exasperated and emotion is welling up. So I excuse myself and head towarda the lavatory. Just for a while, to think. How humans of certain capacity take advantage of others below them, just because they can. I shake my head clear and wash my face.
I’m back to our table and there she is silently sobbing. I pat her slowly and sit to console her. Just then, she wipes off a tear and says, “What hurts most is that I can’t do anything about it.”
She stands and swiftly walks away.