May 6, 2019
Ongata Rongai, Kenya
One of my sisters added a series of WhatsApp stories to her birthday wishes to me that was just the right blend of mushy and hilarious, and made me feel some type of way. As I was finishing the last of the too-sweet chocolate bomb cake I’d bought the previous day another text came. This one was from my father, who also wished me a happy birthday and many more. It was the first time he’d ever done something like that.
I still had to go to work even though it was Sunday, so I got ready slowly, took some birthday pictures and waited until the last possible second to leave the house. I got a bus almost immediately. It was filled with mostly families with small children going to and from church. A lady in front of me was telling her friend about my mum’s pastor, and how good he was. I amused myself by looking out the window and noticing places I could visit later, including a ‘Chips from 50/=’ sign, which got me really really curious.
The bus progressed slowly, stopping at every stage. This dance has fascinated me, how the conductors greet you softly, talk to you nicely, hold your hand and help you cross the road, all just to make sure that you board their specific bus. I didn’t mind it much most days, and it was always an ego boost when they told me I looked good, but I just wished they would stop touching me so much.
I got to work at noon, went to ‘my table’ and powered up my laptop. There was a very chill mix playing at the bar and a couple were seated two tables in front of me. Even though I had my earphones on, I could still hear them talking to the waitress as they ordered pork and ugali. After the waitress had been gone for a while, they asked me to tell her to add on to their order because a friend was coming to join them for lunch. Afterwards, I just went on YouTube and put on “Medellín” by Madonna and Maluma to get me pumped and ready to tackle a work problem I’d been procrastinating about for days. If there’s a way to listen to that song without bursting into dance, then I haven’t found it yet.
There were more birthday wishes, even some from people I didn’t know and had never spoken to. About an hour later, a wonderful, glorious smell made me raise my head. I hadn’t yet had lunch, and my stomach was growling. I passed by the pork table, which now had one additional person, and it was surrounded by cats who were fighting over the few scraps thrown down. I almost joined them because I was so hungry, it smelled so good and it would have been a fine birthday treat for my broke self.
I was among the last to eat the staff lunch, rice and beans; the food had gone completely cold, but a few minutes in the microwave made it eatable again. My sisters called me while I was eating. They had just come back from church, and they were very angry with me for not responding to their earlier birthday messages. I explained that I’d planned to call them later after work, but they’d hear none of it. My other siblings and my mum also sent their birthday wishes and told me I was getting too old to still be single. My bff also called, and we talked about my birthday, work, life, moving out and made a date for burgers when our finances allowed.
I had to take two buses home, and the first one’s last stop was at a market. I bought onions and tomatoes at very good prices and then shopped for the best place to find meat. Once again, I found myself looking at the ‘Chips From 50/=’ sign and decided to go in. It was a very simple and small fast food. Just one long counter in the middle that could seat maybe four on each side, and two smaller ones along opposite walls. All the walls had mirrors, which made the space look much bigger than it was. There were harsh bright lights everywhere and a speaker at the door blasting gospel music at earsplitting volumes.
I was initially going to buy some chicken and carry it home to eat, but then I figured I might as well see what the fuss with this 50/= chips was all about! It wasn’t like I was adding that much to my bill anyway! I sat on one of the high, uncomfortable fast food chairs as a waitress got my order ready and brought it to me packed. Then I changed my mind and asked for a plate because I was really hungry and home suddenly seemed so far away. I was pleasantly surprised by the chips, which were really well done and a good sized portion for the price. The chicken was also really big, with the wing taking almost half the space. It also had a lot of meat, something I was not used to in the regular wings I eat at home. While scrolling through my phone, a friend sent a text and offered to take me to the movies to see Avengers:Endgame on my day off. I was super excited, because I’d basically given up on watching it in the cinema on account of being broke and all. I was done with my treat within thirty minutes. Then it was performing the dance once again with the conductors as I took the last ride home while looking forward to my first movie date.