PASSENGER 57

I can still hear her voice. The woman whose wig had fallen in the boarding area. She had a preacher’s wife arrogance hanging on the hem of her long skirt. She paired it with a Kitenge blouse, slightly ill fitting but plausibly intentional-the sharp shoulders had brushed against me at the entrance almost pricking my eye.

She didn’t apologize and I held it against her until I got tired of bearing her weight on my shoulders. A Kathy Kiuna inspired set of jewelry, a Size 8-reborn’s voice and a Pastor Wanjiru’s entourage, she must be winning in the Gospel World.

She didn’t pick up the wig at first, not like the rest of us would- not with the rush it deserved and the stealthy nature it demanded. I let out a suppressed laugh and pointed it out to my nephew. 12 years shy of his aunt but with the height that spoke of maturity and experience. He joined in the laugh and made the attention shift on us.

I looked away and started talking to the Chinese man next to me. ‘So you like noodles huh?’ the nervousness had got to me. They are not as friendly as you would expect. He moved away while speaking Mandarin. I turned back to the Jehova witness wig bearer with terrible cornrows and our eyes met so deep, chaos ensued in my soul.

The voice from the machine called again for those boarding the SGR to Mombasa.
0820hrs the teleprompter read.

I was relieved not to see her in my coach. It was just my family, a few decent looking people and the hostess who kept flashing her butt cheeks unnecessarily (so I thought). Why do those with a small frame of assets walk as if they are having lower back problems? With their chest pointed to the sky and neck hanging loosely. The door was officially closed and I left for the washrooms.

The toilets are an episode of Trevor Noah, if you are past 65kg in weight, 6 feet in height, 40cm in width, you’d be coerced to help yourself in your seat. If you stretch your hand too far to wipe yourself you’ll hit the flushing button. Getting in isn’t the problem, getting out, now that’s the shit- count yourself lucky if you don’t brush UTI off the bowl with your leg.

The attendant greeted me again “Jambo” as I left the bathroom. I nodded as a Nairobian would and let out a cool nervous ‘poa’. I found it strange that he greeted me as if I was white; I have a set of neatly arranged African teeth with a gap. I’m often mistaken to be Samburu or Luyha or some mix of Masai and Kikuyu.

I’m so Kenyan that after washing my hands I dry them by throwing the droplets on the floor instead of wiping with a paper towel. I saw the interest in his eyes fade as I let out my response but I was not there for white-hearted.

On my way to the seat, I saw familiar cornrows facing forwards. A pair of white hands with black knuckles petting the hair as if to make it neat. I knew karma by her real first name at that very moment.

My nephew, who was seated next to the aisle, peeped and signaled me with his eyebrows almost falling off from the side of his face. It was her. I enlarged my eyes to show awareness and understanding also a huge sense of discomfort. She put on her wig and could feel the warmth in her eyes descend on me.

She was seated on the aisle facing the opposite direction. She appeared to have booked two slots by the way she was seated. Soon afterwards, another passenger from the matchbox lavatories came and secured herself in between her and the gentleman. She fixed the wig which she carried in her hands. I smiled while looking outside the window; I could feel her eyes all over me like lotion.

I couldn’t breathe without her turning her head and brushing off her fallen soldier off her eyes. This was going to be a long ride, I thought to myself. She perhaps reads minds too.

The glances, the uncomfortable shifts in the seat had become overbearing. I wanted to initiate a dialogue. Speak loudly about something so provocative that she’d be forced to engage. What would Kathy Kiuna say? I thought to myself as I looked over at the corner of my eyes.

She was still staring at me and my nephew who had already sank so deep in his seat and would rumble from time to time. He pretended to play on his ‘brickgame’ (I’m old school) whenever her eyes would wander and give him the 5 minute dosage.

As I was coming up with an Obama speech, the man on our lane commented loudly on the paper he was reading. People’s daily. He must have gotten it for free at the terminal. I gave mine to another passenger in the boarding area, he was white and kept asking for the middle pages, I almost gave him a finger when I ran out.

A newspaper always works; it’s the center of humanity, the mother of all conversations, a source of all disgust and gist. She looked at him and shook her head then continued to stare at me. The temperature inside was matching the one outside; I would be an omelette before we arrive in Mombasa.

The slender woman swallowed up by Cruella De Wig and the obese gentleman mentioned something about the plunging of economy. I could only see her hand waving and pointing this and that direction.

Her frail voice could be easily dismissed but the way she picked up the People’s daily conversation made everybody interested- including my nephew. She went on and on and the Big Mother Africa started contributing her thoughts.

I personally don’t advocate for conversations in any public means of transport or area. I don’t like the idea of broadcasting my ignorance or being misquoted from my soaked idealisms. Big Mother Africa talked so vast and in depth, arguing with lady Njugush about everything and nothing.

I don’t know why in all public conversations, the participants always bring on a relative, it’s always ‘bibi ya brother yangu or ‘ bwana ya sista ya bwanangu’. They added all the referees and misquoted all the politicians.

They loved Maribe’s husband but were disheartened by Jackie. They felt that Jowie fell in love with the wrong woman.They knew why Shebesh was toning down her hype and said that she is probably the one who shot her husband.

The Papa Fololo next to them interrupted and told them they are diluted. This was when I knew she was not Jehova Witness. She stood up almost felling Lady njugush on her side of the seat and started clapping her hands loudly while chanting something.

The Jambo attendant came and ordered her to sit down; she removed her wig and threatened to get the attendant fired. She ordered him back to his place lest she calls the sister to the husband of her ex sister-in-law.

I wanted to laugh but I didn’t want to be reported to a relative. Another attendant came in and got her to sit down and advised her to relax or she’ll be let off at the next stop. She listened but with her nose pointing to the sky and her shoulders high. She complained under her breath with a mouth full of obscenities.

Wewe ni mnono sana hata ndio umekula economy ya Kenya nusu’ she continued with a sneer across her face. Big Ted turned and faced the window; he didn’t turn much, only his neck. She was now sparked by People’s Daily and borrowed a page to read, she and lady Njugush discussed the whole paper, borrowing leaf from leaf. They also talked about Cruella De Wig’s son who had become an alcoholic.

She said he comes home at 2am and thinks she doesn’t know of his ways. He also drinks all the milk and leaves nothing for the rest of the family members. Lady Njugush consoled her and told her of her husband who had been run over on Mombasa road while he was drunk.

De Wig was not entirely buying the story or was too immersed in her problems, she continued saying that she is planning on moving during the day and won’t tell the son where they live. It was ingenious I thought. But this son how old was he and where would he go, I was hooked.

Lady Njugush told her that was a terrible thing to do to the son. She asked her if she was the real mother, she was almost used as her as a toothpick. They never spoke again of the son, husband or alcohol. They spoke about mother-in-laws and how they both don’t take tithe to the church.

Hakuna pesa hupelekwa kwa Mungu na DHL’ said lady Njugush.

Cruella was quick to support this statement. She added that she stopped going to church after Kanyari used chemical to deceive her. She narrated how they were close and they would go for prayers with her husband whenever they had marital issues.

The train was now passing mariakani terminus. It was about 1:20pm. These ladies must be high I thought. Cruella admitted to have planted the seed, not once, not twice but four times and had been waiting for her blessings. Instead her son opted for more alcohol and less Spirit.

She loved Kanyari because ‘aliniombea sana’ she even admitted that she would go back if her husband would agree. The obese gentleman laughed and passed out the way a chicken does by retreating its head inside its neck. Lady Njugush had started talking of her husband and his genitals but she whispered so I told my nephew to put on his earphones and so did I.

I soon passed out but could still hear the strange topics they discussed. I woke up only to find her seated directly opposite me…..

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