Stories have been told. Hearts broken. And marriages thrown into the wind. Economic crunch. The great depression. Even Muamar Gaddafi came and vanished, but this rare species has refused to be extinct, in fact it has only managed to evolve and redefine itself in the society. We can only wish it away but as far as I know, it’s here to stay. It has been operating under a lot of aliases. Latest is the more swanky name, SPONSOR. Former and old fashioned being, Sugar daddy/mommy. Hope you now catch the drift, yeah?
A few days ago, one sponsor decided to act up, or simply teach a sponsee(one who is under the sponsor’s care) some unforgettable lesson. I suspect the sponsee had been a bother and the sponsor simply wanted to get rid of her.
And the story was…
I had gone to Migori, in South Nyanza, on a personal commitment and I was now traveling back home to Ugenya through Kisumu. Next to me inside the mini bus I was traveling in sat this fair lady. Fair because she was somewhere between beautiful and ugly, fat and thin, light and dark skin. She wore heavy make up that made her look so ridiculous. Her eyebrows trimmed to thread-thin then she did paint it with an eye pencil to make it look bolder. Why would she even do that! Isn’t that time wasting? I have seen a lot of ladies do that but I fail to get the humor in it. If you don’t want to have eyebrows and you decide to shave them off, why again draw imaginary ones? Then she had this blood red lipstick on her full lips. Gracing her head was this blonde wig, that was bold. I’m sure she got it off second hand clothe vendors on some open air market. It must have cost her Kshs. 80 after some 30 minutes of haggling, she looked like that type, the type who could bargain even at the supermarket. A yellow chiffon blouse top and black jeans plants with yellow doll shoes (those shiny plastic ones that cost like Kshs. 150), was her dressing. Then she babied a black shiny handbag, I’m sure it was plastic too. Thank God she had thought of wearing some perfume, even though it was hurting my nostrils, like some noxious gas. Her nail polish was of different colors in every fingernail and a little worn out.
Her phone rings from inside her bag and she fiddles with the zipper and finally opens it. She was short of ripping the bag apart like it was a timer bomb that would go off if she didn’t reach for it within milliseconds. Fishes out the phone and places it on her ear that was on the side I was. I couldn’t help eavesdropping on the conversation.
” Achieng ne isewuok?” (Achieng’ are you on your way?) the caller in a male voice enquires. Now I know her name.
“Yea,” she responds plainly.
“Ne iwacho ni idhi kanye?” (Where did you say you were going? ) the caller enquires further.
“I’m going to Nairobi!” She says in a heavily Luo accent. She’s not loving this conversation at all, it’s evident from the minimalistic answers she gives. The caller was about to ask another question but I suspect she hang up on him. She must have suspected I was following the conversation because immediately she got off the phone she looked my direction but I pretended to be preoccupied with something else out the window. I guess she was cursing the caller for putting her through all that humiliation, talking to her in Dholuo.
There’s one thing that got me thinking, her ringtone, about what kind of lady she was or secretly hoped to be. It was of luo rhumba, Johnny Junior I suppose.
There’s something about these songs that make them so popular with beer drinkers, I guess it’s because they are always played at most locals – bars, mostly where luos frequent. By all standards she would pass for a drinker, Tusker must be her favorite brand I conclude.
I’m seated beside Miss. Tusker here and none of us has said a word, save for the occasional surreptitious looks. I’m always scared of starting conversations with strangers sitting beside me while traveling because I never want to know where it might lead, and Miss. Tusker here wasn’t going to be an exception. Something ever happened to me, really horrible, but that’s for another day. For now allow me to keep my reservations. Another ringing and she receives the phone call. This time her face is glowing, the caller must be special.
“Hi babe!” she says before the voice at the other end could talk.
“Hi,” a deep male voice responds at the other end, “how far are you?” he asked.
“Like an hour hivi! ” she informs him.
“OK, call me mkifika!” the voice says and the line goes dead. It’s bad manners but I just can’t help following…
The bus conductor is doing a routine check of the passenger tickets and asking if there’s anyone demanding any a change back. When he gets to our seat I pass him my ticket and he marks it and hands it back to me. Miss. Tusker looks at him in the eyes trying to smile, while the conductor maintains a serious face.
“Madam hebu lipa pesa. Sitaki mchezo!” (Madam pay up. I don’t want jokes) he commands.
“Si alikuambia atalipa tukifika”(He told you he is going to pay when we get there), she responds in almost a whisper, an embarrassed look on her face.
“Mwambie anitumie kwa Mpesa.” (Tell him to send me money through Mpesa) he declares and sashays along alley not giving her room to talk back. She looks at me and when our eyes meet I give a blank stare. I almost told her that I didn’t hear whatever they were discussing in a bid to reassure her. Her eyes darted around to see if anyone else was looking at her. And indeed all eyes were on her.
“Don’t worry honey, they are just admiring your wig, they are probably fascinated by your guts, you are the only lady who can travel to Nairobi in a Kisumu bound minibus without paying.” I played the monologue in my mind.
She tapped my elbow and I almost jumped out of my skin. It felt like I was dreaming until she did a second time and I heard her voice close to my ear, it was so close like she was going to bite it off.
“Could you please assist me with your phone I make a call.” She whispers.
I hand her my phone set to dialer without uttering a word. I’m eager to eavesdrop on the call and it’s becoming addictive. And when the call finally goes through, the deep voice echoes from the other end. He passes the conductors message to Mr. Deep Voice who promises to call back in two minutes and direct her on what to do and hangs up. She flips my phone over several times and then tells me that I have I nice phone. As if I didn’t know. Why would I go to a shop and buy a phone that to me wasn’t nice! I’m eager to have my phone back while she’s pensively waiting for Mr. Deep voice to call. She remembers she also has a phone and hands me back my gadget.
The bus is going fast and I can now see signs of Kisumu. The conductor walks to her and demands for the money again. He’s finally lost his patience and he’s determined to have his dues now. Then she does the worst mistake. She stepped on sore puss-filled whitlow! And the sin was, asking the conductor for his phone so that he could call back Mr. Deep Voice. The conductor took it as an insult and what ensued was hurling of unprintable. I gave her my phone to call his Mr. but he was unreachable. She tried and tried, and tried one more time but nothing…
“The number you tried to call is out of reach, if you wish to leave a voice message please do so after the tone… ” that’s all Miss. Tusker could hear.
She double checked the number and dialed an umpteenth time but the response was the same. Her eyes were almost watery. Passengers had now joined the conductor and jibes were outpouring.
“Mano onyale kabisa!” (That serves her right ) a passenger shouted from behind.
“Ochal jakwal chuo jowetege!” (She looks like a husband snatcher) a female voice teased somewhere at the front row.
Miss. Tusker was in deep shit. Her tears were now flowing freely, she couldn’t contain herself. The insults kept flying from all corners of the bus. She leans over and asks me if I could pay for her then she would refund me, or even do anything I asked of her. That was the mother of all shockers! How the hell was I going to pat with my five hundred bob for some stranger I met on a bus! She must have been sick. I told her the only cash I had was Kshs. 200, my fare to Ugenya from Kisumu. She told me all she had was Kshs. 70 in her purse, how was that even a concern of mine? That is desperation to you. A sponsor had decided to act up. Maybe a better option just came up. Or the sponsee had humiliated him and he wanted some revenge. When he thought out this plan, he was boiling with hatred I’m certain of that. He wanted it to be perfect, no mistakes. She had to pay. And Miss. Tusker here was paying the price. She wouldn’t suspect any foul play, not if it was well orchestrated. Mr. Deep Voice must have been a sponsor gone rogue.