On the Street of No Hope
Well, I never thought the day would ever come but it did. Maybe it was my assumed arrogance, my belief I totally owned her. My total confidence then not yet challenged, certainly not shattered, that whosoever was granted audience into my company became mine. I had never thought her separate from me until that day. Until that day I had had such feelings, I had such thoughts. Until that day, I had thought I was imperious. I had thought I was the Don in my world. I was until that day. I would never be again from that day. Returning from another defeat that would never leave my lips in words. Walking home. In the evening. Later, I couldn’t remember what made me choose to divert from my usual route along Kampala road, instead of walking the whole length of that road like I always did, coming from another futile attempt to erect a world in which everything would spin at my whim.
That evening instead, influenced maybe by the endless series of defeats I had had that week, nostalgic to pass through one site of a former triumph, I had turned when I reached NEMA house and crossed the road, seeing Spear House with the big lettering of a place safe and secure to work in, Gordon Wavamuno’s WBS, and leisurely squeezing myself through the angry hooting bumper to bumper cars and taxis in evening traffic made my way through the National Theatre car yard and to my destiny.
It was evening, 6:45pm, changing my mind in the foyer, because I knew without going there that in that small office where I had once suffered and hungered and waited for my shs2000 transport home with some cookies with the barely there sugar tea, they were having tea in the Sunrise office, my old place of work, once were I was King. Or as close to a King as an employee can be when you are working for someone else, with that false sense of power. I would have been welcome there but then I didn’t want anything to lift me out of my funk with the superficial optimism anyone who worked here had to have to not go home and swallow an overdose of Panadol tablets hungry with only with only a dry doughnut to eat for supper and water to drink in your bare, rented one room in a slum around Makerere University.
I wanted to walk. I wanted to walk and remember how I came to work with Sunrise newspaper at one time in my life. I wanted to remember the afternoons I walked all the way from Makerere University, down Nile Avenue, sweaty and thirsty, with a reworked handwritten draft of an article going to be rejected for the third time, lost in wonder at the only Kampala street I knew that had a continuous row of straight standing working electric street light poles that stretched out into the distance like the poles that seemed to go on for miles I used to stare out of the window at in the backseat of my mother’s blue Datsun as a boy as she drove to the airport in Entebbe to pick up my father from another trip. I wanted to remember the mornings when I left home with a rucksack on my back wearing my oldest pair of shoes with the new ones for the office shiny and well polished in my rucksack, to change in a store in Speke Hotel because I had a primary school friend who worked as a security guard there and he could sneak me in.
I wanted to walk by the wood statue commemorating a bogus independence and look at the well trimmed Sheraton Hotel gardens with their very high white fences and remember Mirabella, Mirabella with whom I used to sit in those gardens sometimes, in companionable silences in the long mornings before the lunchless lunch hour after we had finished with our round of handing in our sweat stained brown envelopes of job applications at the chilly reception areas of big companies.
I wanted to reminiscence in solitude because there would be the world and time enough to worry about my future in my bed tonight unable to sleep in the dark because there was no electricity. I wanted remember my many times of survival, to remember to love myself, remember I was lucky to have the love of a certain special girl. And there I saw her.
I was never to be sure if they had been coming out of Speke Hotel’s Mamma Mia’s where they had got an ice cream or something else to eat. I know she looked well fed, looked like she had just finished eating. And I will never be able to forget how so full of joy she looked. How happy, contentedly, deliriously happy, with him. Playing. Laughing. He hanging back, pleasure on his face at her happiness coming from him, watching her. She a girl, careless as women can be, when confident in the protection of a man. Running laughing circles around him until she came too close to the road.
And he reaching out to grab her arm, his other arm going around her to her waist and tipping her back from the road to against himself, briefly. And I knew they were lovers. I knew she was in love with him. From across the divide on Nile Avenue, I learning my girl was in love with another man.
In the booth: Hazard by Richard Marx