My boyfriend is in Lagos, Nigeria for work at an Engineering firm. I am surprised his absence has not left a dent in my life; I almost don’t miss him. We have been talking on phone, PK and I. He says he does not like working in Lagos. He says he finds downtown Lagos much similar to downtown Kampala: there is a general sense of fear that you might be robbed and so you must be overly protective of your possessions while you walk, people are not generally receptive or cordial and as an outsider you tend to feel rejection, there is too much noise; from the generators, the okadas, the loud and aggressive business men and women.
He cannot wait to come back to Uganda. I am not excited about his return. We still have three weeks to get through December but January already feels so close.
Mom and Dad asked me to go home for the weekend and I am aboard a Taxi headed to Kireka. Home is in Kasokoso but I could not find a Taxi heading directly there so I used a Kireka taxi.
It is a Friday evening and the traffic jam along Jinja road is everlasting. I busy myself with staring at the environs and the wonderful people of Kampala. Some are driving in cars next to the Taxi, others are walking the streets maybe walking home, and others are standing in crowds at stages waiting for Taxis that have been held up by the traffic jam.
One woman catches my attention. She is dressed expensively; you can tell from her leather stilettos, her leather handbag, and her unique blue office dress that you will not find being sold in bulk in downtown boutiques. She is aware that eyes could be staring from the line of cars stuck in traffic. As she walks, she swings her arms in a deliberate show that she has car keys worn like a ring in one of her fingers. I think she does this consciously to explain to onlookers why a well dresses sophisticated woman like her is walking instead of driving. Clearly she is walking to an unknown destination where she parks her car probably because her office has no parking space.
I see another woman clad in baby blue jeans and an orange blouse. She has a clean look, like she just took a shower. Her face is a little pale when contrasted against other pedestrians whose faces are glistening with sweat after a hard day’s work. Her walk is easy as though she is not in a hurry to get home soon. The lipstick on her lips appears to have been freshly applied. She crosses over and stands on the pavement that divides the two way traffic road. Another woman driving a Rav4 to the right of our taxi attempts to stop herself from staring at the jean clad beauty.
My Mini-bus Taxi stands a little higher than her Rav4 and I have a good view to watch her watch jean clad beauty. I see her head tilt slightly in a careful way that will not make it obvious she is staring. I follow her eyes. She is staring at jean clad beauty’s ass. The jean clad beauty is still standing at the pavement waiting for an opportune time to cross the road. Cars coming into Kampala are speeding fast on the road she intends to cross. The Rav4 driver looks away with guilt and a second later, she stares back. I follow her eyes still. I see what has caught her attention. The roundness of jean clad beauty’s ass is so emphatic and irresistible to look at. The jeans hug her backside in a very delicate way as it they were two hands holding up two calabashes for the masses to see; the way the Independence Monument on Speke Road holds up that little child.
After the traffic lights on Jinja road, we proceed swiftly to Nakawa and again we are caught up in traffic jam. I see men walking briskly past our taxi. I see women with little set ups on the concrete streets selling tomatoes, onions, oranges, bananas. Passing vendors stop at my window to ask if I would like to buy toilet paper, or, sunglasses, or, rat poison, or, PK (I remember when it was called Orbit. I still call it Orbit. I remember it used to be packed in a neat box shaped paper- now the four tablets are packed in slim polythene with sharp, rigged edges. I still prefer the old packaging. It was easy to open.)
We get through Nakawa and for a long time, we are stranded at Spear. I keep praying that the Taxi will use the Kinawataka route but when the Traffic Officer releases cars on our lane, the driver takes the Kyambogo route. PK, my boyfriend, stays in Kyambogo. I have not been to his apartment in a week although he asked me to keep checking and if possible to keep-house for him. He is scared thieves might rob him if anyone notices that the occupants of his apartment have been away for a while.
A lady seated at the back of the taxi lets out a scream of shock and in that instant, a youthful boy skates past my window. The skater tried to grab her phone through the window. It happens a lot along this road. When you sit near an open window, it is safe not to use your phone, otherwise it might be poached by skaters.
I feel exhausted. I have been seated in this taxi for close to two hours and home feels like a long way. During the day at the hours of 2, 3 or 4 pm, it would take me approximately 30 minutes to get home. After 5 pm, the roads get clogged because everyone is driving home. The taxi has been very quite but the driver now turns on the radio at a full blast volume. It is 8 pm and Sanyu FM airs a sports update in Luganda. I am not happy and I wish to ask the driver to turn down the volume or switch off the radio completely, but I am intimidated by the memory of what Kaine suffered (or what the rest of the passengers suffered) the last time she asked the driver to slow down.
I suffer through the noise and I am grateful to the gods when we get to Kireka.
“Ku Total”, I say to the conductor. I remember when this fuel station was Caltex, back then.
Copyright © 2016-2017 by Daphine Arinda
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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