A little over an hour ago I was knee deep into a piece that has to be ready before sun down tomorrow. It’s a story about a bike and a bag and watching the first draft take shape is the most heart-warming thing. I have a paltry 400 words to fork in and this is one of the few times I’m ahead of schedule, and I must say, time management doesn’t feel too bad.
Anyway, I’m on my break, which means that I have some time to make my weekly noise. And I’ll start with last Friday, when I stepped out and headed for the movie shop.
That was how I ended up on a lonely section of Namanga Road. It was windy as hell and I cursed under my breath because I didn’t remember to bring a sweater. Trucks roared past and they sent a ripple through the tarmac and the ground shook beneath my feet. Once in a while a gust of wind would blow dust into my eyes and I did what I’ve been doing since I was little. I willed tears into my eyes by forcing a few yawns and, sure enough, my eyesight was soon restored.
There wasn’t much traffic, though. The sky turned darker as a tourist van floated past me, probably heading for the border. A shiny white Subaru zoomed past too, and my betting was that it was some youthful blokes on a road trip with enough alcohol and need for speed to infuriate a red bull. I stood there for exactly the amount of time it takes for my back pain to kick in and decided to walk ahead bit.
But, as luck would have it, that’s when I heard the sound of a beating motor in the distance. A tuktuk. It was yellow. I waved it down and jumped in. Then I immediately noticed the driver.
He had red nail polish and a tight white shirt. There was something about his mannerisms that I really couldn’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it was in the way he opened the door as he was letting me in, or maybe it was how he kept running his hand all over his pimply face. Or maybe it was the ear piercing. Whatever it was, I pushed it to the back of my head and decided to instead think about what movie I would buy. Until I saw that this guy had one of those ugly skinny pants that are torn at the front. I cringed.
It reminded me of this time I was chatting up a girl in school. She had thunderous thighs and her pants were also torn at the knee area, exposing a tantalizing circular patch of flesh that begged to be slowly licked. We were seated at the back of the classroom and the lecturer was just winding up (Okay, to be honest the class was pretty much underway. But my mom reads this blog, and I don’t want her to think school fees is paid just so I can dream about thigh licking).
The girl seemed to think that I was funny. And I somehow took this as permission to go ahead and touch that patch of bare skin on her leg. Looking back, it was quite silly of me, and I briefly pictured myself in a small administrative office being held over a sexual harassment case. She gave me a long expressionless look. And for a moment I was scared as hell because I thought that maybe this was the quiet before the storm. I mean, what if she suddenly stood up and cried rape? I had to act quickly.
So what I did was, I let my hand linger there and said –and listen to this- “This is the best part about your pants.” Her eyes held on to mine, and then she let out a sigh and turned away from me, rolling her eyes all the way to the back of her head. Meanwhile I sat there and congratulated myself for being such a charmer. I could even start selling snake oil.
Back to the tuktuk.
So this driver I’m telling you about, I was really compelled to say that he was gay. I’m not saying that he was, effeminacy doesn’t quite qualify one to be gay. But let’s just say that he was, for the sake of the narrative.
You can expect many things from Kitengela. One of them is a debilitating lung disease from all the dust. Another is the heavy smell of tobacco and the sight of khat addled youth who do nothing but cat-call and wait for a bodaboda rider to be rammed off the road so they can make a scene. You can expect to find cheap market produce and affordable foot wear. You can expect to see a pretty girl with big hair. You expect, at least once in your lifetime, to sink your teeth into a juicy piece of roasted goat meat and wash it down with a beer. But one thing you don’t expect to see is a gay tuktuk driver, certainly not one in a yellow tuktuk.
And it made me think. This is the sort of thing that makes legends out of a place. I mean, Rongai can be just as dusty as Kitengela but they can’t boast of gay tuktuk drivers. Kisumu town may have the largest number of bodabodas per square foot but they won’t have gay tuktuk drivers. A big city like New York may have a staggering number of foreign cab drivers –like Ranjit from How I Met Your Mother. But Kitengela has gay tuktuk drivers. A brochure would read [cue in Alicia Keys]:
Kitengela: the dusty jungle where dreams are made of.
As we neared my alight point, the driver began to floor it. The tuktuk complained under all that pressure my teeth were knocking against each other and I almost swallowed my tongue. He swerved a few times as he got off the road in a bid to escape the town traffic and the movement made me sick, like I was going to spill the contents of my gut all over his skinny jeans. This guy was really milking the tuktuk for everything it had.
And I thought, “What a show off.”
Anyway, when I finally got off I made my way to the movie shop and spent a few minutes looking at their inventory before finally deciding on a sitcom titled Men at Work. At the end of every episode there’s a voice that comes on and says, “Watch a new episode of Men at Work next Wednesday on TBS.” And I chuckle because technology has made sure I don’t have to wait that long.
It’s a hilarious show about a bunch of writers working for a magazine, but, because they’re too busy cracking a lot of jokes, they never really do much. The show makes you feel like you’re a part of them, like they are your long time buddies from college. The irony, of course, is that by watching the show you’re not actually doing any work. And you risk missing a deadline.
Otherwise my break time is up.
Sshh…Man at work.