I furiously rummage through my purse looking for the 600 bob I found in the pocket of my dirty jeans. Pocket one– crusty handkerchief. Pocket two– expired lipstick. Pocket three- sheets of paper as old as great grandma Mambio. I curse.
Panic starts creeping in as the super market cashier in front of me starts tapping her foot impatiently.
I see the contempt in her eyes as she sizes up the contents of the small shopping basket I’ve placed in front of her.
Her gaze lazily skips from the diapers to the baby powder to the wimbi porridge flour then to me. ‘Madam, kila kitu iko sawa? You’re holding up the line.’ The tone of her voice is full of disdain. She might as well be saying, ‘Kama huna pesa, asalaam alaikummm. Next!’
Without answering her, I embarrassedly decide to return my items to their respective shelves. And of course, all the aisles now seem to have changed their positions. Today is a great day to be alive.
As I desperately wonder in search of the precious aisles, I try to avoid the gazes of other customers by pulling up the sleeves of my yellow sunburnt jacket. I try not to think of how I’ve lost the only cash that was standing between me and poverty.
I try to forget how I was laid off because of Madam Rona-19. I try not to remember the toddler who I’ve been raising singlehandedly. I try not to remember that we’ll go hungry for the third day in a row. I try…I try and I fail.
It is in my hopeless thoughts and wanderings that I stumble into the clothes section. I don’t know whether it’s out of desperation, sadness or depression that I note how deserted this section is. Are they always this empty? It’s been years since I went clothes shopping.
Immediately, I start to hear sounds from one of the changing stalls. It sounds like the occupants are engaged in some sort of tug of war because I can distinctly hear them groaning. As I inch closer, curious to see what madness this is, a lady shouts ‘Ni lazima hizi skinny jeans zipande…mimi I’m slim. Zivuteni juu kama watu wamekula. Alaa!’
I stifle a laugh as I imagine all the shop attendants awkwardly pulling some Mama’s jeans up as they think to themselves ‘Enyewe hii job si a must btw.’
Purposefully, I move away from the disturbing noises and my eyes start scanning the pretty clothes on the racks. For a second, I force myself to ignore the price tags. What would I choose if all was right in my world? Ah yes, the flirty pink dress that’s draped loosely over a mannequin.
Just as I’m about to reach for it, I see a shiny object from the corner of my eye and I tilt my head ever so slightly to have a better view. It’s a shiny white container on top of a stool near the exit. It’s written DONATIONS in comically large print.
Red eyes. Bruised cheek. Split lip. That’s all I see when I stare into my car’s rear-view mirror. I have been parked in the basement of our hometown’s supermarket for the past five minutes.
My mind keeps reeling back to this morning’s events. Were it not for the bruise on my face, I would insist everything was a dream. She barged in at exactly 0803 hours. I know because that’s when I’m usually tying my husband’s tie. It’s when I usually straighten his shirt before handing him the car keys.
Technically, she did knock on the door. But is it really knocking if you knock the wind out of whoever opens the door for you? Because I can still feel my ribs begging for medical help.
She made a beeline for him, screaming in what seemed to be a mixture of three languages. Her last statements, however, echoed through every inch of the house. ‘Now that I’m pregnant it seems I’m no longer good enough for you. And you had the audacity to break up with me over text!’
In that moment, I felt what Trump must be feeling right now. Shock. Denial. More shock. More denial. On repeat.
Before I could wrap my head around what had just happened, he stood up and promptly dragged the crazy lady out. Then he sat. He sat and he avoided my gaze.
Madam Crazy kept screaming profanities outside the door and I did what wives do best…I questioned. Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the best mistake of my life.
My questions earned me silence. Silence from the man who had promised to never be unfaithful again. He was silent for a total of six minutes, his eyes glued to the unfinished cup of coffee on the table. ‘Steve, I’m going to ask you this one last time. Is she telling the truth?’
He looked up at me slowly, his eyes unblinking. ‘Yes, but I lo…’
Betrayal 2.0. I promptly made my way to the bedroom to pack all my clothes. It was time to leave while I still had some dignity left. He followed, pleading that I stay…reiterating that it was a mistake. ‘Were all the other women mistakes too?’ I snapped. ‘Was Kitana a mistake? Was Shaniqwa a mistake? Answer me!’
‘I changed. I changed for you. Ata you don’t appreciate it. This was just a small slip up. She approached me.’
‘Oh, this is precious. I’ll mail you the divorce papers. Goodbye Steve,’ I said, as I dragged my suitcase out to the living room.
He yanked me back. I resisted. His grip tightened. I squirmed and got free. He got hold of me again, and whispered, ‘Njoki, you belong to me you hear. If you want to leave, I better just finish us both off so we can be together for all eternity.’
Panicking, I pulled one hand free. And I slapped him.
He slapped me back. Yaani he…
Regret flashed across his eyes in an instant and he loosened his grip. I made a run for the car keys. I didn’t stop running- not until I made it past the crazy lady, not until I was in the car. And I drove off like a mad woman.
And here we are. After five minutes of balling my eyes out, I still can’t believe all that transpired.
I take out the make up stash I keep as a backup and I start covering my bruised face. Two minutes later, I look like perfection. Flawless skin. Winged liner. Red lip. The only negatives are I ran out of the house in sweats and I feel like poo.
Pushing all emotion from my mind, I make my way into the supermarket to get supplies since now I’m starting from scratch.
In the aisles, I can’t concentrate so I just pick whatever I think I’ll need. My pocket will definitely feel this one. As I move, I can’t help but feel like someone is watching me.
I nervously glance around, afraid that Steve followed me but all I see is a beautiful lady doing her shopping. She is pushing one huge shopping cart. She seems like she’s doing monthly shopping for her house. Her moves are slow and calculated. She picks each item with purpose, first glancing at its price then at its quantity I presume. I can tell that this is a family woman.
She has no makeup on yet she radiates beauty and innocence. I can’t help but envy her. It feels like she has her life together. She’s even buying baby items. It must be nice to have a child. Maybe she even has two. I wish I had children.
She finally makes her way to the checkout point and all her things are packed nicely for her. A nice gent swoops in to help her out with her bags. He must be her husband and he’s a real looker.
The nice couple walks away and I feel a lump in my throat. I watch them walk until I see the lady’s floral pink dress swish out of view. I wish I had her life.
She almost catches me looking. I just manage to avert my gaze.
I spotted her the moment she walked in. She’s one of those rich boss babes- those babes who wear sweatpants with a bold face of makeup because they can. It’s either that or she lives in the posh neighourhood right across the street. The supermarket must be her version of a kiosk.
Her face is very striking and the red lip she has on commands attention. She’s doing a lot of shopping- maybe she’s going on a road trip.
She picks items haphazardly from the shelves. So that’s what it’s like to have money. After I almost get caught staring, I promptly go back to my shopping. Each item I pick weighs heavily on my chest. If I get caught, I’ll go to jail. I’m a terrible human being.
But then I tell myself that this is a necessary evil, that my child will starve if I don’t.
My hands brush against my new pink dress as I pick items. It looks better on me than it did the mannequin. I deserve nice things too sometimes, don’t I?
In my bag, lies the source of my guilt- 4054 Ksh. Enough to keep us going for a month. Yes, I did the unthinkable. This money belongs in the DONATIONS container. Desperate times however, call for…
The money was originally 6054 Ksh but I had to get the pretty pink dress. It reminds me of a time when I was happy. And if I get caught, I might as well go down looking stunning.
I finish my shopping and move to the checkout point. This time I pick another cashier and a nice guy offers to help me carry my things to the bus stop. The dress must be working wonders.
As I board the bus, my mind wanders back to the crime I’ve committed and I start wondering where it all went wrong. I think of the rich, stunning lady with the beautiful, bold red lip. I bet her life is perfect. Life isn’t fair. I wish I had her life.
Post inspired by the little pergola.