There’s loads of experiences a woman in Nairobi could classify as unpleasant. While a few more unique ones can be classified as downright awful. And I went through one of them last Friday.
See for most Nairobi women when it comes to the worst of the worst, it ranges from getting your hair stuck somewhere, street harassment by ragamuffins that resemble the hairballs my cat spews out, the usual fare of getting robbed in broad daylight, heels breaking, nails cracking, old buses spewing black smoke, even older buses splashing the grimiest water all over your brand-new outfit or getting caught up in riot.
But still I feel like they rank lower than what I was forced to endure. The humiliation left my already charred heart but a dusty spectre of its former self. Wondering what it is yet? Well, wonder a bit longer.
It began like any other Friday. There was the endless struggle of getting out of bed but the chilly air surrounding my warm cocoon of blankets and duvets wasn’t encouraging me to get ready. Eventually my alarm yanked me out of my snooze when I dropped my phone on the unforgiving concrete. That had me dashing out of bed to confirm the blasted thing wasn’t- well- blasted. But then Infinixes are built like wannabe Nokia 3310s. Probably only an avalanche, followed by an earthquake, dipping in volcanic lava and the running it over with a 40-tonne truck is what could destroy an Infinix. Well my “delightful” little Infinix survived the unceremonious fall.
I took to the shower, forgetting to wrap my head in a waterproof cap so had to keep tilting my head at odd angles to avoid water getting in my hair. Waste of time that was. I still ended up with wet hair.
I went through the horrid process of picking out an outfit from an array of endless clothes but in the morning, everything is either not weather friendly, ugly, doesn’t go with my remaining pairs of shoes, is dirty or isn’t suitable for Friday.
Eventually I settled on a cobalt blue chiffon (read polyester) sleeveless top and ripped blue jeans with black boots that could only wish they were of the biker variety. Yeah, a cast member of Sons of Anarchy I could never be.
My hair was brushed into an arrangement that would be acceptable in a Before picture and with that I was on my merry way to work.
The day was innocuous enough. Piles of work, an extraordinary amount of self-inflicted pressure because I had been working on an 800-word article for a New York based contest for about a fortnight. So far, all I had managed to do save it as Article Draft 1. The body of the document remained emptier than a reformed prostitute’s “hot pockets”.
By lunch time, my brain was too itchy and my anxiety had me wanting to crawl out of my skin. Everything was just screaming at me to write a story and I couldn’t for the life of me just come up with one. My mind was bare. My thumbs uncooperative. Even reading some of the best non-fiction essays of 2016 had my brain stuck in even more of a grid lock because all I could see was brilliance I could only hope to achieve. It was a desperate feeling.
To offset it, I decided to take a walk. I mean, I work in Kileleshwa and we all know what Genesis says about walking… “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” Right? So, staring at all the luxurious building complexes and even more luxurious cars dashing past me, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would ever become mine. But fate had other plans. And shitty plans at that.
As I slowly trekked the extent of about five steps from my office, I somehow tripped and fell. A heavy thud that rippled through the earth. The tremor was probably felt in the next town. In full view of two construction crews, three security guards and a crowd gathered around a kibanda. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me but since such melodramatic embarrassment is saved for flighty damsels in bad romantic books I decided to stand up and dust myself off.
A chorus of vague apologies and insincere sympathies reached my ears from the shells of buildings beside me. I ignored them as I slapped my left leg, dutifully watching as all the dust rose off my jeans, the motes glinting in the afternoon sun like a dull powder. When I moved to the right leg, there was a problem. There were no jeans.
I looked at my left leg wondering why I couldn’t compute the severe lack of denim on my drumstick. My hand continued to attempt to dust my legs. Fingers caught on the rip along my right leg. All the way from my crotch to my ankle. The tear was so inconsiderate that it decided to turn my jeans into some kind of Aladinn-esque split trousers effect.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem for most women who have legs as toned as Akothee’s but my legs look like pillow case stuffing. White, lumpy, something-you-wouldn’t-mind-burying-your-head-in but don’t necessarily want to look at. The fat thigh was bared for all to see and for the entire second where I was bent over trying to understand why the hell I had fallen, I struggled to think of a solution.
See in the bourgeois neighbourhoods of Central Nairobi, it’s very difficult to get regular-person assistance. Matatus are as rare as acne on Jessica Alba’s face and kiosks are even fewer and farther between. I wondered if I could find a tailor but there wasn’t any sign of one. I wrapped my scarf around my waist the heavy cloth wrapping around my legs like a fine silk towel. I walked gingerly, wincing every time I heard a skkkraa from the never-ending rip.
Eventually I stumbled on a small boutique. Unfortunately, the bewildered shop owner wasn’t a seamstress as well but she had pairs of jeans she could sell at me at Sh1200. But there were only two problems. One, I barely had two ten bobs to rub together. Two, I hate trying on jeans.
It’s the worst thing ever. See the problem is, my body isn’t designed the way denim makers expect women to be. I have a narrow bosom, a rather small waist and hips that are planetary. My height is also caught somewhere between tall and short because growing up, my body wouldn’t pick a size. Some haberdasheries sell jeans that are one-size-fits-all but they are waaaaaay outside my price range and I don’t really trust them.
Anyway, as I frantically tried to call people to assist me with the Sh1200 for the emergency jeans, the shop keeper kept handing me pairs upon pairs of jeans. And it was horrible trying them on. I distinctly told her that I was a size 12 but she kept handing me jeans that could barely make it past my calves. Which are essentially moons to the planet of my hips. Others would make it as far as the equator but ended up stuck there. While others would slip on as comfortably as a condom only to be too large at the waist or too tight. The muffin top effect is not hot. I tried on roughly fifteen pairs of jeans until I found one that was passably acceptable.
They were a pair of black skinny jeans that fit like a glove but that’s where it ended. The crotch was as loose as a deflating hot air balloon. The thigh gap was tight enough to make me realise I couldn’t do jumping jacks in those jeans. My ass was beautifully framed but the waistline left a gaping hole inviting any manner less buffoon to take a peek at my granny panties.
I left the boutique feeling worn, fed up and about ready to give up. But as I walked back to the office feeling parts relieved and frazzled, I had to wonder, why does trying on jeans have to be the worst thing ever?
To all my readers,
This is my 50th post. Thank you for finding joy in my misery and laughter in my misadventures. To more pedestrian shenanigans. Thank you once again for keeping me going.
The Nairobi Pedestrian.