It was a dark cloud hanging over a hot chick on a hot day.
Here’s the thing about me, I’m introverted bordering on reclusive. My life is really just one long hibernation period and during my spring, I pack in enough chatter to see me through my three-season winter.
I wasn’t feeling chatty when I boarded the bus but the universe had other plans for me. It started with the girl that I sat next to on the bus and ended with a mzee – not mzee in the sense that he was old, but that he understood how things supposedly work. There’s a certain kind of wisdom to that, one that doesn’t need hair whitened with age.
The Sudanese goddess sitting next to me was a few melanin shades short of Alek Wek’s complexion but just as promising. With her shorn hair, giant gold hoops, black and silver club dress, coolly contrasted by a silver anklet and red converse sneakers; she looked like she could grace any catwalk in any of the fashion capitals. All except for the odor – granted it was a hot day, but still. It was a dark cloud, hanging over a hot chick, on a hot day. Seemingly conscious of that, she took out of her black clutch bag, a nondescript perfume bottle and proceeded to spritz perfume all over herself – clavicle, cleavage, calves, you name it. That didn’t help.
Her asking me about directions to Chaka place – she apparently had a photoshoot around there, at a “serious” modeling agency (which she’d almost given up on finding) – opened the floodgates to an animated conversation about the casting couch in modeling, her current job at a club hence the getup I guess, and her need to lose her belly fat – which I only noticed when she stuck her tummy out and held her belly fat for me to see. She also talked about her love of junk food and her laziness in the face of exercise. I, in turn, spouted all the gym-related wisdom that I have picked up over the years from my gym-loving brother and dropped buzzwords like cheat days. When she got off the bus, the stink didn’t leave with her and that’s when I realized that it hadn’t been coming from her at all.
For the real source of the odor leaned in as if he’d been waiting for his chance and under the guise of asking for loose change, asked for my number. When I refused, he jumped in with the assumption that my refusal was because of his profession. So I resorted to the kind of female wisdom that in days of old, elderly aunts divulged in seclusion.
Ladies, lean in, for I’m about to impart wisdom as told to me. When in sticky situations, invoke the all-powerful mzee. It’s our version of Simon Says. The Mzee card is really handy and though people will feel a certain kind of way when you use it, not many will question it. Someone asks to borrow money from you and your past history with them makes you think that they won’t pay it back, but you don’t know how to politely turn them down? Tell them you have to ask the Mzee first and later, that he said no. You got railroaded into plans and are now dying to get out of them? Well, tell the planners that Mzee has other plans for you.
It goes against every fiber of my feminist being but needs must when the devil drives. And it really works. For when I told the conductor that my mzee wouldn’t approve of me giving out my number, he lost the hostility that had started creeping in, saying, “Aah kama uko na mzee, naelewa.” When he bemoaned his lack of a missus, wondering at his misfortune, I was tempted to point at his body odor as the culprit. But alas, my stop came up and winter beckoned, putting paid to the chattering.