When things go wrong, which they inevitably will at some point because life is a bastard, it helps to be able to afford retail therapy. Greedily accumulating things we don’t really need is all we capitalist babies need to deal with life and its many bumps, right?
Recently, my heart was full of black, clumpy feelings. My stomach felt as if it had been used as a reservoir for tar. I felt no good will whatsoever towards my fellow man and woman. It was a stupid day. A silky voice whispered unto me, “Why not go shopping?” which is how I came to be standing outside the old park.
All the entrances and exits of Uganda’s taxi parks are open markets where you can get things that would normally cost you half your face for cheap. This place is mostly frequented by campus girls and interns- people that don’t usually have a very large margin of disposable income. I say mostly because I’m not a campus chick anymore and I sometimes stare at my bank balance to brighten up my day (ha!) and yet on that not so good day, I found myself in the familiar push, shove, grope, fondle world of the park market.
I’d wedged my purse into my armpit and started to scan the area for cute buyables when I felt somebody fondling my elbow. True to form, I turned with a thunderous scowl and was presented with a playful, slightly familiar face. It was beaming. I opened my mouth to say something incendiary when it hit me who this smiling, elbow fondling idiot was. Zakke!
Back in campus when a modest allowance had to stretch to cover feeding, partying and the regular addition of clothes to my tiny akamwesi half closet (seriously Aka. Stop being cheap. Build bigger closets), Zakke was famous in my circles for having the most beautiful, authentic looking jeans that would tear like cardboard the moment you wore them.We called them SVPs. Scandalously ventilated pants.
I was genuinely excited to see Zakke and his partner again. I didn’t even give him the long lecture that I normally feel obliged to give men who do such things. When you stop and calmly ask a man what the hell is going through his mind as he feels random, unwilling women up, like some kind of rapist, he becomes very uncomfortable.
Even though I had no desire to own a pair of cardboard pants, I patiently listened to their wild lies about the top quality of their wares. First class! Designer! I didn’t even flinch as one of them whipped out a measuring tape and wound it around my hips in one swift movement.
When I asked why they weren’t in their usual spot, Zakke’s partner shook his head and said, “You know this guy called Musisi”. For a second, it occurred to me to correct them about Musisi’s sex, “She’s no ‘guy’, she’s an awesome woman!” but what did it matter.
After hunting for a kaveera and handing me a pair of pants that I won’t wear until its seams are thoroughly reinforced by my tailor, one of them offered to walk me to my taxi to “protect” my elbow from the abuse that men on the path would doubtless have subjected it to. It was with a big grateful smile that I said yes.