I don’t even think she remembers the story but in all the things I remember about my Louise, this story stands out the most.
We grew up in the same neighbourhood with Louise. She was a simple girl in her O’ levels vacation, still a gawky teenager with a ready smile and really big afro hair. Louise was always the girl ready for a quick laugh so that when she told me this story we laughed together. And when I look back I can feel the hollowness in that laughter.
Here goes the story: one day Louise went on a mini shopping spree with her father. It was meant to be a bonding experience because her dad is really tough. She was on her best behaviour for the whole trip and made sure to carry herself with extra poise. Now just as they came to the entrance of Owino market where the shopping was to be done, a group of idle men began to catcall. Loiuse brushed it off and looked ahead with steel determination on her face. She didn’t want in any way to embarrass her father. What if he never took her for another shopping trip or worse never entrusted her with shopping money for solo trips?
So Louise ignores the catcalls but the men, not to be out done, continue to call “muwala, girl, size yange, jangu” Poor Louise was now about to cry, and her dad was eyeing her with disapproval as if it was her fault. Suddenly one catcaller’s voice rose louder above the rest. He said “Gwe osibye ki face simanyi onyapye” to translate “You why are you frowning have you farted?,”
My poor Louise couldn’t help herself. She burst out and laughed because it was her natural defence and came home to tell me the whole story. Of course I laughed too. Mine was a little hollow – a little embarrassed- because these men clearly insulted Louise.
Now this story seems very petty in comparison with much more painful experiences but to me it represents a lot. I wonder if a fellow man could ever yell at a fellow man in public. And I wonder if that man could ever forget the insult.