November 5, 2018
The first thing that ran through my mind in the morning was that everything was rubbish. I decided to stay in bed for 15 more minutes while I scrolled through Twitter. Theory confirmed: everything was rubbish. Instagram was more interesting, except now they hide the top of the screen where the clock is, so by the time you realize you are running late, you’ve spent one hour on the app. My body felt off but I crawled out of bed. Sunrise comes very early in Kigali and even at 8 a.m., it felt like midday.
My hair was in a state (it always is) and after unravelling the three matutas I had braided the previous night, I assembled it into an awkward afro-puff that looked like it was trying too hard and not succeeding in the least. I slathered sebamed sunscreen on my face, and grimaced at the scent, a nice little ritual I have developed ever since the guy who cleans my house threw out my nicer-smelling one. I suppose part of his proactivity is throwing things out when they have almost run out. I don’t have the Kinyarwanda vocabulary to tell him that I grew up learning to cut lotion bottles in half just so I could squeeze out every last drop.
I finally left the house one hour after I was supposed to have been in the office. My neighbors’ mother-in-law watched as I climbed down the stairs. She was adjusting her sari and, as always, was seated on the little terrace near the stairs. I’m not sure she’s anyone’s mother-in-law; this is just an educated guess based on the permanently disapproving look on her face. I briefly considered waving hello but decided against it because I did not want to create a daily obligation and then forget a few days later and potentially offend her.
I walked up the hill (there is always a hill in Kigali) to the entrance of the estate to board a moto (motorbike taxi). There was one already there but his passenger helmet looked dodgy and I am paranoid about inadvertently getting head lice, or worse, crashing my skull into smithereens in the event of an accident. My plumber recently passed away after a motorbike accident and the dread that I’m next constantly lingers. I waited and flagged down another one with a cleaner and sturdier looking crimson helmet and negotiated the price in broken Kinyarwanda. We settled on Rwf500 and I climbed on, taking care to avoid the exhaust pipe. I still have the scar on my calf from the second-degree burns I obtained from a moto exhaust pipe during my first week here, after I’d moved from the UK. If you have ever been new to a country where people are less friendly than in your home country, walking around with a burn blister the size of a golf ball and freshly heartbroken, then you know how I felt.
I listened to the Thirst Aid Kit podcast on the way there to distract myself from the death-defying speed of the moto. The conversation was about the Chris-es of Hollywood: Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Messina. I realized halfway through the episode that Chris Messina was the main love interest in The Mindy Project and laughed out loud at the drabbles they made about him. The drabble section is basically when each of the podcast hosts does a 100-word fanfic narration about the character du jour. I liked Nichole’s better but knew I would forget to vote on the Twitter poll. It’s not that serious, and sometimes I like to pretend that I have better things to do.
I bought a cappuccino at the coffee shop near my office and the nice barista threw in some extra cookies. Score! I ignored the app on my phone telling me that I had gone over my coffee budget for the week. I got to the office, washed my hands, and switched on my outlook and Gmail accounts. My office is meant to be occupied by two people but my colleague left a few months ago and her replacement is not due to arrive for a few months. I saw that Goodreads had sent me an email on the book I had just finished, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” and I googled the author. I read one of her interviews. When asked what sparked the idea for the book, she said she had been thinking a lot about loneliness after reading of a twenty-something-year-old who said she did not talk to anyone between 5 p.m. on Friday when she left the office and 8 a.m. on Monday when she went back. I tried to remember if I had verbally spoken to anyone in person all weekend. I closed the tab.
I persuaded myself to get some work done. At lunchtime, I walked to a nearby cafe where they serve a buffet. Today, there were potatoes, rice, pumpkin, sombe (cassava leaves), a vegetable I could not identify, beef, and some chicken. I blacked out and a little bit of everything ended up on my plate. The thing with buffets is that even with the best of intentions, you end up with a mountain of food at the end of the line. I walked back to the office. I had to undo the top button of my trousers as I sat down and I felt bad about my lack of self-control around carbs.
I argued with a man at work about his refusal to do his job, and almost immediately regretted showing my irritation. I wondered why I even cared. I left, and immediately sent him a conciliatory email to defuse the situation, but could not resist a little passive aggression. Something along the lines of, “as per attached emails…” No one came to my office today, other than lost visitors looking for direction to a meeting. I wondered idly if the office grapevine was blowing up about my confrontation with Mr. “It’s not my job” from earlier.
I got distracted from work and downloaded the MyFitnessPal app. I put in my calories for the day and briefly considered rejoining the gym but remembered my bank balance and decided to try P90X3 at home. I mentally planned to do the first workout when I got home. I set a calendar reminder.
My workload was not getting any lighter and there was a persistent ache on my shoulder, so I decided to make my pending work a problem for future me to solve. I left the office. It was already dark outside but the streets were lit and the footpaths here are easy to navigate.
I got home and saw the reminder to work out flashing on my screen. I snoozed it, put on my kimono, took out a beer from the fridge, and washed my face. The reminder started flashing again and I snoozed it again, then opened my food delivery app to order from this dingy but beloved fast food restaurant near my house called Mr. Chips. I began watching an episode of Grand Designs, a British program that features people with more money than sense carrying out self-build projects. My food arrived and the reminder went off again. I dismissed the alarm and bit into a drumstick of fried chicken.