I’m sitting in this black Nawasuku matatu looking at men’s shoes before the hollering stops and we get to go. The theory is that men’s shoes tell a lot about them. Its not the best view though as the windows don’t afford the best possible view. I can only afford to see the feet only from the hip downwards. A black polished pair in grey pants walks swiftly past. Tim, maybe not his real name, is walking fast towards his car parked somewhere I can’t really see. From his serious pair of shoes, I figure Tim has an office somewhere in Upperhill with a lonely plant at the window which is kept alive by Sarah, the kind motherly secretary. A brown pair of tattered sneakers stand at my window. They are attached to jean clad feet. This guy is in no hurry. His feet are slightly apart, kind of like an incomplete V. He shuffles from time to time but still maintains the V. He calls out to Jemo, his voice nearly cracking from all that unexpected shouting. Cigarette smoke permeates the air. He was asking for a cigarette. The V quickly walks away and crosses the road.
The driver has taken his position and keeps on disturbing the engine to fool us that we’ll be on our way in less than a minute. “Karis, ngapi?” he shouts. Through the side mirror, Karis indicates two fingers when there’s only one seat remaining. The driver honks loudly as if to startle unsuspecting people into boarding. My view at the window is scarce for now. My fellow passengers are starting to grumble and the heat is not helping. My eyes are about to close when these brown brogues pause at my window. Interesting… He, the Brogues, asks Karis how much the fare is to town. We usually know but have to ask either way. There was a time our government paid fare for people in certain routes during the campaign season. But it was not campaign season and hand out season was basically over. Brown brogues sits next to me with a heavy sigh and closes his eyes just as Karis kicks the matatu and spontaneously dive inside. I cant look immediately, it will seem rude. I fidget with my phone and smile at a meme my sister sent me the previous year. Then the black catches my eye. The black ink on a seemingly light arm. Its partially hidden by his T-shirt but i can tell its a woman’s tattoo. Long dark tresses of hair cascading down his arm. Must have taken hours and a lot of pain to get that masterpiece done. The driver misses a really bad pothole throwing Brogues’ head onto my shoulder. I try to move a little but he only gets more comfortable.
Karis reaches us pretty fast and I give him a tattered 50 shilling note. His arm is still outstretched, ‘Hulipii boyfriend?’ I start to shake my head when another pothole jolts him awake. He reaches into his back pocket and pays his fare. Karis is satisfied and goes to the back wherever conductors sit when the vehicle is full. ‘Pole nimekulalia,’ Brogues is trying to apologize indicating my soldier. I get to see his eyes and they are bloodshot. It could be the sleep, it could be other things. I try to shrug coolly and mumble something unintelligible. He speaks again. ‘Utamind?’ he asks pointing at my shoulder. I start to shake my head again when his phone rings. I pause my shaking. ‘Ati?’ ‘red what?’ ‘umm, sawa, ntaleta’. He pauses, listens, nods his head as if the other person will see him. ‘Bado haijaisha?’ I guess he’s being updated about a faulty facet. I’m not looking but i see a tear drop onto his well worn jeans. he says ‘hugs’ then hangs up. ‘Do you know where i can get red velvet cake?’. I think he’s still on the phone but he’s looking straight at me, his eyes looking like a pair of sad pools. ‘She still has the cravings…even after we lost him,’ he says looking at his phone. A smiling woman with heavy locks is looking at us, glowing like she’s carrying the sun with her enormous bump. I tell Brogues I don’t know where we can get that cake. He sighs slowly and resumes his position on my shoulder.