Our Little Troubles

The sun is rising lazily and introducing a new day, and as it does the city is slowly humming to life. Jane is in a hurry to get a good bale of clothes at Gikomba for her shop in Nyamakima so she does not notice the new behaviors her teenage son has gotten recently.

Jim has a big presentation. His nerves get the better of him and he puts his daughter’s homework into his briefcase instead of the approved construction plans he has been working day and night on. He starts driving his Honda Vezel without checking the tyre pressure and gets a puncture after a few kilometers.

As all this is going on, twenty-year-old Julia is preparing to tarmac yet again, although with a smile on her face this time around because she has a blind date in the evening. She has a shower and rehearses her lines. “Hello, nice to meet you, my name is Julia. I have a diploma in hospitality. No, it’s not about hospitals. No, no Julia, you should not bring the cringe to first dates,” she tells herself and giggles.

Jane is in the thick of it. She got to Gikomba late and she has to settle for a mediocre bale of clothes. Her son would call it mid. Speaking of whom. How has he been lately? The thought is smacked out of her mind by a loud mkokoteni guy. “Fifty bob to Nyamakima,” he screams and Julia stops him realizing he needs his services.

Jim’s tyre has just been fixed at a petrol station and his foot is hard on the accelerator. He can’t be late for the meeting of his life, he thinks and fails to see the puddle of water next to the pedestrian walk, so he splashes the muddied water all over a well-dressed lady.

The lady in question is Julia. Her dress which was white is now full of brown splotches. “Hi, I’m Julia, I also double as a homeless person,” she thinks with a painful grin as she crosses the road toward Nyamakima, realizing that she will need to use her lunch money to buy a dress.

“Dresses are 250,” Jane says without looking at the lady who just entered her store. “I only have 100 bob,” Julia sings. “Then go to a cheaper place,” Jane barks.

Jim just got into his big meeting thirty minutes late and everyone is looking at him with disappointment. The board of directors is wearing faces that say, “You have dropped the ball incredibly, you better have something good to turn this around. And he does have something good, at least he thinks he does until he opens his briefcase and finds her daughter’s homework instead of the construction plans.

Julia just bought an 80 bob dress on the roadside and used 10 bob for a public toilet to have a quick change of clothes before buying a 10 bob bag for her soiled dress. My date will sort me out with lunch, she decides, as she spends the rest of her day dropping CV’s at the restaurants dotting Nyamakima.

Jane’s phone won’t stop ringing, she has been ignoring the unknown number for a while thinking it’s one of her creditors asking for their money back. She thinks of blocking it, only to pick it up and it’s from her son’s teacher; he just skipped school with other boys and the teachers strongly believe they are in the drinking dens of downtown Nairobi.

The hammer has fallen on Jim’s head and he has been punished with 30 days leave without pay. He feels regret and for his shame, he decides to visit a pub in downtown Nairobi, a place he had vowed he would never go back to again and have one for the road. Maybe two, he corrects himself as the number 3 figure swims in his head, growing bigger with every second.

Julia is seated in a pub in Nyamakima with a mischievous teenage boy and not the macho man she had thought she would be meeting. Pictures can say a thousand lies, she is realizing. The boy seems to have some bravado and some money so she decides to entertain him while sharing a plate of chips, chicken, and Guarana. Only, after they clear the food and drinks she realizes his pockets are just as empty as hers.

The sun is going down lazily, closing the day, and as it does the city is roaring to life. Julia is now a waiter in the pub to pay off the tab she couldn’t afford. “How dare you sell a child alcohol,” Jane is barking while grabbing her son’s wrist and dragging him across the pub. Jim is on his fourth bottle with his hands on his head. For a split second their eyes meet. All of them connected—without knowing it—by their little troubles.


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image credit: Yonko Kilasi


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