The day was hot; extremely hot. Normally, this would not hold much importance. Except on this particular day he’d spent close to four hours waiting for clients who returned each call with an earnest “We are on the way. Just give us thirty more minutes.” So he waited at the infamous Uhuru Park and tried hard not to gawk at irate parents flanked by over-excited kids who were swarming the park.
At long last, a befuddled man and wife rushed in tagging along a brother in-law, two seven-year old nephews and a very much dependent and irritable grandfather. They had agreed, earlier that week, that Jack would shoot their second-year anniversary photos; just the man and wife. The meeting time was set at 10:00 am and the shoot should have taken approximately four hours.
When the call came Jack practically jumped at the opportunity. Business had been slow. His usually meagre savings were practically non-existent. He needed to get his hands on some much-needed money, whatever way he could get some and this photoshoot was so timely he almost wept when the call came. When the clients did not show until after three hours then proceeded to wrangle and yell at the the kids for one more hour before settling down for the photoshoot, Jack maintained his cool and seethed quietly. It helped a great deal that these were paying clients and with the unannounced additions, albeit exhausting, he knew he was looking at more money. So as the sun scorched and seemed to particularly target his forehead, Jack worked at encouraging brighter smiles and getting viciously active seven-year olds to stay still for shots.
After the shoot, and eight grand richer than he had been earlier that day, an exhausted Jack trudged back home with his photography equipment taking years off his life. He was hungry and haggard. And unsurprisingly had a craving for sausages. The decision to stop by a supermarket and grab a packet was immediate and quite automatic – after the day he’d just had, he deserved to eat sausages if he so wished. The plan was simple: Get to the house, shower, eat the sausages (whole packet ofcourse), nap then get down to editing the photos; these paying clients also happened to be very impatient.
Darting into the supermarket, he was so tired he failed to notice the guard at the entrance watching him a little too closely. His bag pack carrying his precious cargo stayed with him; he was not going to hand his equipment over at the bags counter and risk having them banged up. He was in and almost out in less than five minutes. He walked in, made a beeline for the meaty goodies, grabbed a pack that would cost him somewhere around Kes 400 then dutifully joined the shortest queue at the paying counters. Two people were in front of him. At the counter, as he waited to be served, he absently added two packs of gum to his list and again failed to notice the guards (the one was now joined by another) who were both watching him keenly. He paid and on his way out, right at the exit, was interrupted by a curt summon by the taller of the two guards.
“Kijana, kuja hapa” barked the man. Jack looked up and into two pairs of angry eyes. He obliged. In his hands he was clutching his unbagged pack of sausages – the gum had disappeared somewhere inside the pockets of the baggy sweatpants he was wearing.
“Umenunua nini?” the second one demanded.
Jack held out the pack of sausages. He knew what was about to come. Had lived it too many times; especially since he’d decided to grow his hair out into dreads. The mild headache he had been nursing the whole afternoon gained momentum and quietly gonged at his temples with each question the guards threw at him. People were starting to stare, a few had stopped. The pat down was about to come. His bag would be turned inside out and ransacked. And he would likely have to provide identification to ascertain his claims.
The first time he was stopped was at a bank, a local bank he had been a customer of for close to two years. The guard at the entrance stopped him and insisted on patting him down then proceeded to ask what services he sought. Usually (and when spotting a clean shaved head) Jack would have walked in uninterrupted and directed any questions he might have had at the customer care desk. But that was rare; because usually he had very specific needs that absolutely needed him to physically present himself at the bank. The guard at the entrance had no real reason for questioning him. A miffed Jack was finally let in after showing what was in his bag, flashing his ID and atm card and clearly explaining what he needed to get.
That first time he was so hugely offended. On his way out he yelled at the guard and demanded answers and went as far as threaten to move his small money to a different bank. They placated him (the guard and a bank attendant) half-heartedly and with their eyes averted from his sprouting dreads dyed part blond at that time. He walked away glad to have stood for himself and put some silly stereotypes to rest. He would come to a shocking realisation less than two weeks later. This time it was at an electronics shop. He needed a particular type of Bluetooth headphones and when he walked in, one of the attendants followed him around and pain keen attention to everything he touched.
The third time (at a restaurant) then fourth time (trying to secure a taxi) he had these encounters he made peace with the fact that he simply was not trustworthy because he had dreads, happened to not have a lot of money and generally dressed on the baggy side. It no longer surprised him whenever he was forced to explain himself but the sting and humiliation struck true and clear each time. Today, he answered questions and wished he was not on the guard’s direct line of bad breathe. What he wanted were bloody sausages and the comfort of his house. It should not have been much to ask for but when were things ever easy?