Mamdani

The Boy.

The meeting went up in flames. Scholars jumped up, waving their fists at each other with bloodshot eyes bulging out of their sockets. The sound of chairs scraping against the concrete floor floated through the otherwise empty hall, making curious passers-by wonder why the cleaners were dragging chairs around at midday. “These people should be fired...”, one of them muttered to herself as she clicked her tongue and hurried off with shaking legs. A chair had fallen on its back and caused the poor old woman’s blood pressure to shoot up to a record high that month. She would have to board the taxi home immediately to prevent any more surprises. 

Unknown to her, inside the enclosed conference hall, Prof. Odongo from Infectious Diseases Institute had just started a feud. He declared that 25% of year’s funding should, in fact, be diverted to a worthy cause – the Ford Ranger XLT 2018 that his office desperately needed. “Rubbish!”, Prof. Byamigisha bellowed. “Utter nonsense”, Dr. Baingana added. The other 9 intellectuals picked from the country’s rather small and muddy pool of scholars to attend the meeting all chipped in expressing their disagreement and disgust in loud cries. In that moment, they were no different from their male counterparts a few kilometers downtown, nearing blows to the face over a 500 shillings coin. Odongo leaned back in his chair, their words bouncing off of him like a cyclist riding over humps. See, he knew that Byamugisha needed to stock his farm in Rwampara and that Baingana’s wife in the UK was heavily pregnant and had begun demanding that he buy her an apartment in West Brompton. The men simply thought that he didn’t need comfort during the city’s unbearable traffic jams as much as Byamu his cows, and Baine, the sustenance of good pussy. His indifference infuriated them the more, the men were set to start flinging 10,000 shilling pens and hardcover notebooks at him and ripping the arms off his coat once they could get their hands on him. Oscar, the office attendant had been seated by the edge of the room, inwardly gasping at the sums of money these men casually discussed over cups of tea. If he could get his hands on just one of the items on the budget, he’d be able to buy everyone in his small village in Butaleja a crate of beer. However, these seemingly composed and educated men had turned into native Butalejans over something the Acholi man had said. And now, Dr. Ssebunya was signaling at him. When he arrived, the man grabbed him by the shoulder and jabbed a finger in his face. “Go find Mamdani, now!” 

The Girl.

Hellen checked her Facebook religiously. Slay Jajja Nnanfuka was her favorite, she always had the hottest gossip and best relationship advice! Just last week, she made a post about rich men and how to snag one. 3 hours after the ridiculously long post with even more ridiculous typos went up, the girl rushed down from her job as an attendant at Mulangira’s jewelry shop in search of the best skin lighteners. No, she wouldn’t bleach her skin - she would just make it lighter and brighter. Those bleached women always looked horrible with their patched skin and black elbows anyway. A week later, there she was, distraught in the vast expanse of Makerere University. Her skin burned. She’d bought her skin lightener from “Maama Beauty Skin Care Products”. The attendant’s name was Meddie, and all the girls at the shop laughed too loud at his jokes. The girl wondered why Meddie, surrounded by all the products that could make him handsome, still chose to remain dark-skinned. It was all she could think about as Meddie went on and on, assuring her that the 3 bottles of pungent lotion they had picked out together (each labeled with before-and-after photos of Maama Beauty’s face and knuckles, the name of the product and the company slogan, “YOUR BSET CHOICE!”) would take her from a regular “Kawala” to a “Dame”. That night, as she applied the pink cream on her face for the first time, her eyes watered, her cheeks stung and her face flushed. 

Now, when she walked in the sun, her skin started to hurt. Her cheeks were turning raw and red, painted across with angry acne, but her friends assured her that it was merely an allergic reaction that would soon clear. “There’s no beauty without pain!”, they declared. She sat down outside the strange offices - the transcript would have to wait for the sun to sink a little lower. 

The Boy.

He broke his jog as he approached the administrative offices. The sun was high up by now, and he’d moved all over the campus, bouncing from one office to the other as he looked for the one they called Mamdani. Eventually, one of the fat old women seated in a cramped office (stacked so high to the ceiling that if a fly so much as landed on the stack, it would come crashing down and taking with it, the woman’s slightly lopsided wig) told him that Mamdani wasn’t available, but he could ask his secretary to attend on his behalf to take notes, and that she would report to him later. Now, here he was outside the offices. He walked in and out of each one, but it was 12.30 and most of them had left to inhale steaming matooke, dribble soup down their chins onto their sweaty shirts and blouses, and chew on the cooked hooves of cows. After stalking the offices for 20 minutes, he found one last option. A lone young woman seated by herself outside the offices. She looked reasonable, in a tight-fitting white dress and red pumps. As he got closer, he noticed the eyeliner smothered on her eyelids, the chipped pink lipstick drying on her thick lips and her freshly done braids. Surely, a classy, beautiful young lady like herself could only be working for the big man himself. After all, these rich old men had a liking for young things such as herself. His assumption was sealed by the envelope she had rested on her lap. Important documents for the professor, perhaps? “S’choose me madam. Can you direct me to your boss?” he knew already that the big boss wasn’t around, but a fine girl like this had to be charmed. Besides, in no time she would notice the bright smile on his handsome face and in time he’d be taking her dress off. 

The Girl.

She was irritated by everything. The sun, the tight feeling in her forehead from the new braids, the fact that she’d have to wait another two hours to get her transcript, and now there was a grinning buffoon walking towards her. She stared at him. “S’choose me madam. Can you direct me to your boss?” it was even less appealing when it spoke. She rolled her eyes, how dare he ask her, a graduate, for directions? “Me I’m done,'' she declared, sizing him up. 

The Boy.

She had confirmed his suspicions. The big man was her boss. “Come with me please”. 

The Girl.

It pronounced with as wiz. Some people were so distasteful. But still, he had invited her out, probably for lunch. The skin was working for her already. 

The Boy.

He pushed the doors to the conference hall open, beaming because he had surely earned Dr. Ssebunya’s approval with this small but gravely important act. The men were still in the room (lunch wasn’t a problem for these men, it was delivered to their offices so they didn’t have to scramble with the rest of the staff. Maybe books really did do wonders). As he walked in with the girl, a few of the eyes turned to them, one of them, Dr. Sssebunya. “Excuse me, Sir, he wasn’t around but I managed to find his secretary.” 

The Girl.

She was more confused than the time a drunk muzungu man stopped her in Kabalagala and asked if she knew about something he called 'Uba'. She wondered whether the man had spotted the Kuber in her purse and wanted a share. Was he a blubbering idiot abandoned in Africa by his frustrated family? Now here she was, expectant of lunch and greeted with a room full of old men in suits. She panicked. Would they send her off to Dubai? She’d heard that the girls there were prostitutes! Why were they waiting for her to talk? Was this stopover on the way to the restaurant? Perhaps the buffoon had come to beg for lunch money. 

She stared. They stared back.