There is something about being in a Nairobi jav on a rainy day. For starters, getting into a jav is a problem. You have to wade through flooded streets. Past hawkers who will not screaming ‘Umbrella mia mbili umbrella mia mbili’. They are annoying, these hawkers; not just because they are attempting to sell you bootleg merchandise at inflated price but mostly because they remind you that you left your good, original, beautiful Kings Collection umbrella on the couch at home
So when you finally get past the hawkers and wipe that scowl off your face, you want to breathe. Take a minute and feel the nice cold air go through your nostrils feel that nasal cavity dry up in the wake of the nice cold air and then, and then you will feel yourself come alive.
But here is the deal breaker; that delicious yummyness that is cold fresh air after you have escaped from the ‘umbrella mia mbili’ guys never happens. Instead, you are thrown into a pack of conductors; each insisting, pulling at your bags, your coat, your shoulder. Whatever that is yours that they can lay their hands on really. They all want you to board their jav, it doesn’t really matter if it is plying your route, not to these conductors.
On rainy evenings when streets are flooded, when you wore one of those really, really long optical illusion skirts to the office, when umbrella vendors insist on making you deaf, when touts pull at your arms; you will realize that none of those conductors is plying your route. That that crowd you can see in the distance are actually people from your hood waiting the same javs you are looking for.
When it rains on your first day of your internship; you are totally and completely screwed. The jav will drop you at Ngara. Ngara people! Ngara! In crazy cold rain! You will walk on the foot bridge contemplating your future, but mostly that of your hair. You see, cotton beanies do not offer much protection for your afro. So you will think shrinkage. More shrinkage and even more shrinkage. If you are as vain as I am and probably suspect that hair is the reason you are beautiful then by the time you get to the other side of the Ngara footbridge; you will have contemplated suicide.
Once you make a step from the foot bridge, the rain will take that as its cue to increase its pace. It will take an angle and beat at you like rain should not be able beat a human being.
There will be traffic, endless piles of tin on wheels attempting to walk down a hill but not really making any progress, in fact not moving at all. So you will walk your surprisingly warm yet half drenched self into town. Past khodja roundabout, pour yourself into Tom Mboya street and keep moving.
You will have your shoulders rammed into, your body moving forward but still your right shoulder will be forced by the hurried bodies of strangers to face directions that should have been designated to your back.
Rainy nights on Nairobi streets are terrible. They are too fast paced to be dreary, but still they remain dreary, so much so that when you eventually get past the bunch of touts with grapy, probably dirty fingers, you do not take in a celebratory breath.
No, you just move to your stage. Join that crowd that you saw from a distance. At this point they are scrambling to get into a jav.
Your dignity will become a thing of the past. You will feel a stranger’s elbow push into your ribs and it will not surprise you when you feel yourself push back. It will come with a feeling of satisfaction actually. Then, then you will raise your leg, put it on one of those staircases that follow a jav’s door. You will push yourself forward; launch your body into the jav.
When you finally plant your feet on the floor of the jav; it is then that you will notice that your floor length skirt is riding around your knees, but better that than murky waters, right?
You will find yourself a seat. The seat will be next to a dude you judge to be shy, one you hope will be too shy to initiate conversation. You will sink into that seat; watch the jav fill up then feel it take a jump forward and move back. Take another jump and move back a step.
Traffic snarl ups are the children of rainy Nairobi nights. I advise you sit still, watch people and pray. Pray that the you get home before the shut windows, the warm matatu and mixture of body scents and odors stifles people’s oxygen intake and has them breathing humid dust; but you probably won’t be as lucky- instead you will be questioning why you are not enjoying the rain and your name is Nyambura