I think right now most of us are having money problems. I know so because I am also in the same predicament, grappling with the current hard times where I don’t have to think hard about the boxers I wear because I can’t afford to buy more to supplement the two pairs I got right now. If you want to know if they are torn, they aren’t, at least not yet. What I can assure you is that they are fading fast from the constant baths they receive. I know they must be undergoing some trauma right now, I just hope they understand. In the event that they don’t, there’s nothing more I can do other than subjecting to the same treatment until I cop more.
When I bought them, I used to hang them outside after a wash. I understood they needed some sun and a breath of fresh air after spending hours and hours hidden inside, trying their best to protect that which they must do as it is their vocation. They were looking lovely and I had no shame when I hang them outside on a line for everyone to see. They were mint and I know, for sure, my next-door neighbor, Njeri, must have admired them. I often caught her seated outside her verandah facing directly to my hanging lines.
I felt proud when I wore them for the first time. They had a soft, comfortable feeling that gave me a sense of purpose. It is as if they gave me a pep talk because I never missed a step while wearing them. My self-confidence was untamed. I was untouchable.
Now that they are beat, they no longer earn the luxury of sun bathing. If they need some sun, they must enjoy it under a shadow, breathing slowly under my face towel. Njeri doesn’t seem interested in them anymore. Instead, she’s been looking at me differently- perhaps wondering what kind of man owns only two pairs of highly faded boxers. I often dread anything bad happening to me, something that will make people discover His Highness, Mzangila Snr is wearing faded boxers. Now that would make me lose my honour. It is all I have.
I know in your streets I don’t amount to much because you know me on a personal level. However, in other streets, I have admirers. Fans. People who come up to me and greet me in reverence. People who invite me to talk to their kids. People who call me Sir. People who beg me to just spend some time with them. People who invite me over to their homes so that I can taste their food. People who pay tickets for me to travel to wherever they are because they have a beautiful beach they want me to relax on. People who stuff me in a suit, ask me to attend a meeting where they are presenting and give my views on how they performed and what they can do to improve. People who hire me to literary do something a class eight drop out can do and pay good money.
There are parts of the streets where Mzangila rings a loud bell. And once I step on those streets, I stop being Justine. I become someone else, an important person. If I were to tag you along, then you’d be a complete shadow when we get there. And you’ll hate me for being more popular than you thought I am. That would eat you up for days, it’s what jealousy does. I know you’ll say you aren’t jealous for shit. Trust me; you aren’t until you get to that point. So cut me some slack if I have my own fears of people realizing I’m wearing a thoroughly faded boxer under my nice suit. I’ll lose my name in those streets. I won’t matter anymore. I won’t be that motivating factor for people living in those streets. They’ll no longer want me near their kids. I no longer will enjoy vacations that I haven’t paid for myself.
The other day I went to the bank. Equity Bank, Kawangware branch. I have two accounts with this bank. Not that I use them much. I use them for the rainy days. There were few people than I had imagined. Most of them had just come for the same reason like mine- to withdraw some money. It was my third time to visit the bank this year.
The first time was to activate my dormant account as well as open a new one. Sounds crazy. It is crazy. The one person attending me wondered why I needed another bank account when the one I had was already not being used at all. I didn’t feel the need to explain because that was my business and I was entitled to as many bank accounts as I could open. So I told her, “Just open the damn thing. I want to be on my way soonest, or else I won’t catch my flight, damn it!”
Was I going anywhere? Yes, I had a taxi to catch to JKIA. There was some random nigger flying in that needed to be picked, and since I don’t own a car, I thought a cab would suffice. He was a friend who wanted my help in drafting some report for ‘a meeting’ with no name. In that report, there were words such as ounces, millions, stash, and likes. If you are smart enough, you must know what is measured in ounces.
The second time I was going to withdraw some money. At the time, most people had come to make deposits. I did withdraw almost all of it because it was going into business. I remember leaving around 500 bob in my account.
The third time was yesterday. Wednesday. It is when this article was supposed to be up here but I was beat with poverty. Therefore, I had gone to the back to get the 500. I don’t own a card, so don’t blame me for being old school. I’m used to cash. It doesn’t leave much paper trail. Not that I am into shady business, but what if I were? I am the kind of person who would stay with my 100k in a bag stowed away under my bed. Every day I get out, I pull it out, get myself some petty cash of 2k and bounce. Until it is finished.
When I am in the mood, I’ll go to the nearest Equity Bank Agent and deposit some 5k for the rainy day. And when they rainy day calls, I’ll go to the bank and get all of it back.
As I sat waiting for my turn, there were like 20 people ahead of me, the soja came and asked if there are people who are here to withdraw who would like faster help. He wanted 5 people. Since I don’t have trust issues, because it’s a bank, I was the second to follow him upstairs. To the executive lounge.
Here people with money come to discuss business. There are leather chairs, very comfortable and large to hold even a burly man of 200kgs. There’s a glass table and magazines. There’s a better TV than the one downstairs. There’s a lot of space and it smells of oomph. You can actually notice the difference right from the door. The place is spacious and well decorated. No clatter. No noise. Just serene.
When being attended to, in this closed room counters, you don’t stand like they do downstairs for common folk. There are comfortable chairs and the tellers attending you are in no hurry. They take their time. They look you in the eye when talking to you and ask for clarification in case they think they might have misheard you. They are very kind and use the sweetest voice ever.
I wait for my turn. In my head, I’ve been playing and rehearsing the conversation I’ll have with one of them. You know how hard it can be withdrawing 500 hundred, if that is possible.
In my head I am like,
Me: Good morning!
Teller: (Without looking at me) Good morning.
Me: (While handing over my ID and account number card) I’d like to know how much I’ve got in there.
Teller: (Typing and looking into the computer) You only got 500 bob.
Me: Can I have all of it?
Teller: Looking at me for the first time, rather annoyed. No! You can’t!
Me: (Annoyed and ashamed at the same time) What’s the maximum I can withdraw?
Teller: 300 bob.
Me: It is my money, and I want it all.
Teller: I said you can only have 300 bob.
Me: And I said it is my money I want it all.
Teller: and the bank account is in our bank.
Me: (shouting) then I’d like to close it immediately. You’ll no longer have me as a customer.
Teller: please don’t shout. I’ll refer…
Me: (Shouting more) I just want my money now! You hear me? My money now! All of it.
Then I’d imagined the soja will come and try to ask what the ruckus is all about and all that shit.
Now that the situation has changed, and I am in the exec lounge, I have to reframe my conversation all again.
Me: Good morning!
Teller: Good morning to you Sir! How many I help?
Me: I’d love to know how much I have in this account and the maximum I can withdraw please.
Teller: Okay, can I have your account number and ID please?
Me: Sure. Here you go.
After a while.
Teller: Sir, seems you have got 500 bob in your account. Would you like to withdraw all of it?
Me: Yeah, for sure. Hard times you know.
Teller: Couldn’t agree more. Please place your finger right here please.
I do as instructed. Calmly.
Teller: Here you go. Thanks for doing business with us again Sir.
Me: Thanks for your service.
After few rehearsals, I find it perfect. I am satisfied. I stick my earphones back to my ears and listen to Akon awaiting my turn. Think of me as old school. I still love Akon.
Another man comes in, a man clearly out of his line because he brings his common folk behavior to exec lounge. You know. He doesn’t follow decorum, he stands by the door, when there are unoccupied seats, ready to forge ahead of the line. We allow him to do so because maybe that is what massages his ego. Maybe if he didn’t do that then he would sweat and suffocate in his all blue suit and die from low ego.
One lady came in. I could tell she was different. Like loaded or something. She could smell that she’d walked into the wrong crowd because she went back. Maybe she thought that they had relocated the business lounge. But she came back later. Before her, some young Somali dude had come in. He had a laptop bag on his back, and wore this sandals that most Muslim men where. I observed him because that’s what I do for a living. He looked like he had been here before. There was something about him. Confidence. He knew he was in the right place. He took a seat and asked if there was someone being attended in the room directly opposite him, to which he was told yes by one of the common folk waiting.
The lady came and sat to the empty chair next to the Somali guy. She was calm and she fetched her phone and perhaps started going over Business Daily. I took her of that kind. She wore fancy and her skin was fair. Nothing forced, just like the Somali dude. They didn’t have anything to prove.
I always envy people who are that confident. Calm people who know their worth and don’t have to flaunt it. They are the coolest people I know. They just sat there soaking in their silence. And I felt they were important from the way they just handled themselves, right from their outlook.
Oh shit! It’s my turn.
I fold my earphones and pocket them. I’m wearing mfuto and a jumper and loafers. This makes me look like the ordinary man I am. Anyway, all depends with the different paradigms we have. I walk in and guess who I meet?
The first time I come to this bank in 2020, there’s this chic who opens a new account for me. A really calm chic, in her 30s I guess, with sexy glasses on. She’s got a natural hair and she looks quite beautiful. Brown skin, petite and short enough. My second account develops some issues so I don’t get my card (I want the card because someone else will be using it) in time and I am gonna be late. She leaves other clients (respectfully) and helps me with it. I’m so grateful. I hand her a note written: “You’re beautiful. Thanks for the help.” To cheer up her day, in case she finds that alluring as I do.
Then I disappear.
I meet the same lady here. Call it fate. I doubt if she remembers me with the mask and hood on. Anyway, we get down to business.
Me: Hey you!
I hand over my ID and account number card.
Her: Hello to you.
She checks my account as I wait.
Her: You’ve 1200 in your account.
This for sure throws me off my path. My thoughts and the conversation, the one that I had rehearsed for this occasion, go out for the window. I am thrilled because I didn’t expect to have 1200 in my bank. I secretly say, “Thank you Lord!”
Me: Can I have the a thousand please?
Her: Coming right up. Place your finger on the scanner.
I place my thumb on the scanner until I see a light flash and then lift it off. I am so overjoyed that I can’t stop smiling. I just can’t believe that I had 1200 in my account. When she hands the five 200 notes over to me after signing the receipt, I hold them dearly.
Me: Thanks for the service.
From the moment I walk right out the door of the bank, I start developing different feelings. I’ve been downing cabbage with ugali, porridge with weetabix for the last one week. That’s all I’ve been surviving on. Right now with 1k in my back pocket, all that smells so bad. In fact, all I am thinking of is maini. I am not going to eat today, I need to celebrate. Got to a hotel for lunch.
By the time I was doing this story, I only had 200 bob in my pocket. Haha. That’s how broke I am. How exited I get when I get 1k. Which doesn’t last long.
Are you jobless? Do you want a job that pays 2k-5k on a daily basis, right from the comfort of your chair?
If you know one, I’m also looking. Keep me looped.
Where shall we go, we who wander in these wastelands in search of better selves?