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The workday is over. Her boss stands to leave, placing a hand on her shoulder as goodbyes were exchanged. She hopes no one notices her cringe and try to shrink away.
She could leave, but she chooses not to. Rush hour traffic comes in pedestrian flavour as well. Masses of worker bees squeezed into narrow sidewalks and walkways; crashing into each other as divergent streams of people merged....she'd pass. It never hurts to be ahead with your work.

Two hours later and she has her bag packed, warrior mask ready. She’d make an effort to look sour; less people would cross her path that way. Less people would invade her space. A smiling face is an invitation, it seems, and she intends no such nicety.

The guard at the gate gestures to the bag slung over her shoulder. It seems the sticky fingers have gotten creative, finding ways to smuggle out entire keyboards in child-sized bags. The thought amuses her, distracting her until she is brought back by the foreign hand at her shoulder, reaching to palm her bag. A rapid adjustment of stance, an extension of an arm that now held the bag at a comfortable distance, and her personal space is hers again.
Dancing just out of reach of the mandatory pseudo-frisking, she is free, facing the journey ahead.

Dusk rushes in to claim the city, as what remains of the worker bees trudges along. How many people could there possibly be in Nairobi?

She swerves to avoid the man with the bicycle as he whizzes past her in a cloud of sweat and a dark mist from his bag of charcoal, quickly sidestepping the child rushing after him. The couple coming up ahead continues to hold hands as she approaches, releasing each other at the last second. Both brush by her as they separate and reunite behind her. She clutches her bag closer, raises her arms higher, her shield against the Invaders.
She sees an idea there; a superhero tale about Personal Space Invasion. The hero would swoop in and hand the victims security bubbles, and everyone would live happily ever after. She would.
A faint chuckle is ripped from her lips by the wind, as she rounds the corner into Uhuru Park. The path narrows and she grows uncomfortable: she knows the city is on hand.
Ah, the city: fair Nairobi. Head down, she makes her way through the crowds.
The teenager with a massive handbag that bumps into her, weaving in and out of her path, preoccupied with her phone.
The street-smart children still in their uniforms who brush past her, headed for an afterschool treat.
The street vendor who reaches for her hand as she walks by, goods precariously displayed on the sidewalk.
The overeager conductor who chaperones her to his vehicle, hands on her shoulders.
The woman in the matatu, insisting on joining her in her seat for the journey; she’s small, she doesn’t need the space.
The smirking older man refusing to move, she is left to push past him as she alights.

Finally, her destination is in sight. Her heart races as she closes the distance between her and the gate. A moment of hesitation as her thumb touches the doorbell. Her hand finds the cool plastic of the DVD case in her bag as the gate swings open.

He smiles and she is sure she feels her heart stop. A casual greeting, questions about her internship, universally accepted “small talk”. She feels his gaze on her as she responds; feels his eyes on her face, feels them travel down to her bag. He compliments the custom print bag, she asks after his family, school, barely listening.
Finally, to the matter at hand. She hands over the DVD, his fingers brush hers. Her face lights up with a telling blush and she is thankful for the relative darkness, perhaps he didn’t see. Leaning against the gate, he begins to discuss plot points of the movie.
She nods absently: the movie was science fiction, a genre she had no interest in. She’d only borrowed it for the chance to speak to him, be in his presence, drink in his features, as she was now. The perfectly sculpted brow, the eyes that lit up with every mention of his favourite character, the lips that curved into a greater smile with each sentence: it is all almost too much.
A shy smile as she mutters a thank you. A knowing glance as he says she's welcome. He shifts position, intending to leave and her breath catches in her throat, hoping for a hug goodbye. A playful salute and he is gone. “Sawa, chekiane,”. Alright, see you later. She hopes it was a promise.

She cradles her fingers as she walks away and a slow smile spreads across her face.

A  long while ago, in a more innocent time - when food was cheaper and gentlemen held doors open (May 2013), I wrote a thing for the Story Moja monthly photo drama contest and came in second. The story was originally published here and you totally just read it. Welcome to 2014, folks!

PS: Do I win Most Theatrical for this image or what?


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