DISCLAIMER: All characters appearing in the next post are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons or events, is purely coincidental.
It was 19th April 2012. 7:06 am. Location Haile Selassie Avenue. Nairobi. Just outside Canon House.
It was an insignificant moment for me: I did not notice the cracks on the pavement, the shadowy figure in the car parked nearby or prowling thugs lurking around. It was an ordinary morning with a fair weather and I followed my usual routine: park the car, locate the nearest Kanjo fellow and get a parking ticket then get my water and a snack, lock the car and walk briskly to the office while pondering weighty matters or contemplating the meaning of the newspaper headlines screaming at the sidewalk.
I totally didn't know what was in store for me that morning as I overtook several pedestrians on my way to the office. Most Nairobians at that time wear a serious look. Self absorbed. The women taking quick glances at you seeking admiring looks from you to validate their dressing or look and looking away in disappointment when they find your eyes locked into the distance ahead of you.
At any rate, as it turned out, this would not be a routine morning for me, or for the shadowy figure lurking in the car parked next to mine. In that car was a lady I work with. Lets call her Brenda. Now Brenda is huge. She is not overweight or obese. She is past those. She stopped being able to use a bathroom scale several years back because she crossed 120 Kgs way back.
Where I work, many of people are overweight. Most are obese and when you walk into the building, swollen ankles in tight shoes are an ordinary sight and gout-nursing men who wince when they climb the short flight of stairs into the building are the norm.
I routinely bend down in lifts to pick up buttons that have popped from shirts that have been extended to their limits by distended bellies trying to spill out into the atmosphere to get some air. Often, as I hand over such buttons to the owners, their beady eyes glinter in embarrassed delight when I place such buttons in their puffed paws. And to cover their embarrassment, they deliver an accusing look at such buttons and then their puffed faces explode in a wide grin and they say things like, "Ah! haka kakifunguo! hizi shati za siku hizi sijui zimeshonwa vipi. Ufunguo inaanguka tu!"
I smile wryly and say to myself "you are welcome."
Anyways, to cut the long story short, Brenda is the biggest female colleague I have. We are talking about her taking the cake with her competition being above two thousand odd women some as tall as six feet, well-fed and well paid. Well, relatively anyway.
Over the course of time, she and I have bonded. I used to helpfully deliver website links on weight loss, one after the other, from couch-to-5k to weight-loss-for-dummies, and she keeps asking me for advice on how to lose a Kilo. A Kilo? She needs to lose about 80 Kilos!
Aaaanyways, weight complications have given her truckloads of misery to grapple with. From high blood pressure, cellulitis, multiple miscarriages, denied promotions etc etc. Recently, her fluid-filled lungs had to be drained in hospital and of late, she has a massive, swollen leg that has survived amputation once and she needs surgery to transfer lymph nodes to that leg to help drain the lymph fluid away.
So she has pushed matters higher up to God and to show God how serious she is about escalating matters to him, she spends thirty minutes in her car each morning persuading God to do something about her problems. All indications are that God is not doing much about her observable problems. At any rate, she sometimes takes Fanta madiaba (500ml), fried Chicken and chips; such a huge amount of calories that even I squirm at the sight of it. Moving on quickly, on on that day, as I walked from the car, she was parked next to me, she was reading the Bible and seeking divine intervention for her gathering difficulties. I suspect that her painful and heavy leg must be top priority in the list of problems she passes to God every day for action.
She saw me park and get out. She even saw me go back with a kanjo ticket and pick my water and snack from the car. Heck, she even saw me throw my workout bag at the back seat.
I am normally tuned out at that point. Just emptying myself of everything so that I can start taking the new day in. What that means is that I did not notice her or her car. Like I said, it was an insignificant moment for me.
But that moment enabled Brenda to notice me and my car. And she was later to do something selfless and heroic. She went on praying.
I walked off breezily. Carpe diem, I thought. The time was 7:05 am. Brenda proceeded to engage the forces higher up. Ten minutes later, a gang of six men approached my car. One of them pointed at Brenda with concern. She could not hear what they were saying but she looked up at them and knew some shit was about to go down. Her blood pressure started to rise. Her prayers were irreversibly interrupted even though she didn't know it then because it was happening fast.
They quickly surrounded my car casually to block the views of passers by and one of them reached for the driver's door. Brenda hauled herself out of her car. In her chest, her heart was pounding like it wanted to get out and run. They saw her. Nobody could have missed her hulking frame.
In her racing mind, she was terrified that they would shoot her if she tried to stop them. So she grabbed her handbag and ran to a nearby shop (Laptrust office) from where someone would help her and she put her forty year old vocal cords to good effect.
She was worried that passers by would think she is a mad woman but she said she would not let her friend's car get stolen as she watched. At least that is what she told me later.
She bawled out loudly, "Heeelp, heeelp! They are stealing my friends car! Heeeelp! Somebody help me!!!"
Her scream could have put a crack on a stone wall. Especially if it was not in English. At any rate, it literally ripped into the choreography of the thugs and made their little ring fall apart.
Without looking at her, the thugs scattered and took off, leaving my car door open and leaving my bag in place in the back seat. He screams stampeded after them, ringing in their ears.
A crowd quickly gathered to soak up the unfolding drama. If they were young yuppies, they would have surrounded Brenda with their iphone cameras trained on her and thoughtlessly recorded what has happening. But most just gaped and gawked at the scene with a puzzled look on ther faces as if they needed help in understanding what the fuss was all about.
She continued screaming in the off chance the thugs came back. Then when there was a sizable crowd, in between explaining to them that she is not a mad woman, she tried calling me without success.
She called a friend who called me and I was there in about two minutes.
I made my way to the car. I could not believe it. These fuckers had screwed the lock and the door was open. Brenda kept explaining to the onlookers that I was there and I was the owner of the car and I was her friend. I thanked her. I wish I could have hugged her but I try to keep the drama away from my life. I was bewildered at the audacity of the thugs and at the fact that my car could be burglarized at that place I thought was so secure. I tested whether I could lock the doors with the alarm. I could. I felt some relief. The crowd was milling over the place like worms on rotting flesh. Invasive eyes stabbed their way into my car's interiors, searching for what the thugs missed.
Brenda whispered to me that one of the guys who was in the crowd was one of the thugs.
I located the guy and looked at him to memorize his face. I sized him up. Snaggletoothed little tweaker of shit, I thought as my anger welled. Do I take him and attempt a citizens arrest?
What if he resists and starts a fight with me and I lose a tooth or eye in the process? For what? My ego? Could he be carrying a knife? Could his other accomplices still be lurking around?
I decided to go to the nearest police station but changed my mind after walking a short distance. It is useless. Let me salvage what Brenda has saved and move on. I looked around to see the suspect again as I make up my mind. He was gone.
Maybe I was a coward and should just have been macho and jump the guy. Maybe.
As I moved my car to another parking, I thanked Brenda and appreciated the hero in her. She saved me a whole lot of trouble.
She was my hero that day.
But I should be cursing my employer for failing to provide me with secure parking. I should blame myself for not knowing that between 7am and 7:45am, Nairobi is not safe. I should question why I did not report it to the police.
But I appreciate Brenda and whereas I have given up on her ever beating her weight, I hope she has not. Because she beat the thugs. The little tweakers of... never mind.