Nairobi Nights: January Mind Games

by George Matsheke

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The stereotype of a Street prostitute is that of a birdbrain, a girl dull enough all she could think of to earn a living was open her legs and lower herself to the bottom of society. Over time I have learnt there are few advantages of trying to prove otherwise to those clients who still stick with the stereotype; to show I have more thoughts, and not only of the vulgar, thieving kind.
So most of the time I go with the flow, displaying some ignorance and avoiding any of the so called serious talk. But sometimes I want to tease a man a little bit. To get to his nerves, or remind him he is not the only one who knows. Sometimes though it’s strategy, playing mental games with a mentally weaker but financially endowed man, so that his ego is crushed and he tries to make up for it in a way that will benefit me.
Not long ago a man who looked in his early 30s picked me. Once in his car he muttered “Hey” which he quickly changes to “Sasa“, supposedly a greeting in the language I could understand and comfortably communicate in. “I am good” I replied, and not the “Poa” he expected me to say. He didn’t seem surprised, after all every street girl knows some few English words. “Kumekauka sana”? ( Aren’t things tough?)  he asked . He was now acting saviour and wanted me to acknowledge the big favour he had done by picking me .
Kiasi but things are brightening up“.  I said. The last phrase caught him off guard. He expected an answer in some street Swahili, in addition to acting the damsel in distress like girls on the Street sometimes cleverly do. He sneered then stared at my thighs. I knew I was skimpy but no sexy. Looking a little stylish but wearing cheap. He smiled. ” A wannabe” he must have said to himself.

We hit one of the roads recently constructed by the Chinese. It was slightly past 1am,  the road  empty. He accelerated to about 100 km/hr then slowed down abruptly to 30 km/hr or so. ” Hawa wa Chinese kweli wanafanya kazi” ( These chinese are really working) he said.  Its the common ice breaking phrase in the city. I grunted in acknowledgment. “Ukiwa naa gari kama hii ndio una appreciate better” ( When you are driving a car like this you appreciate better ). His was a Toyota Avensis or one of those new big Toyota models. I decided to up the game by ignoring some of what he had said and gently go beyond the pedestrian.

” Why do people seem to trust the quality of Chinese roads but notmost of the other products? ” I asked in English.

” You cant appreciate a good road unless you own a car” he said. He was right that I  don’t own a car but wrong assuming I will never own one. Owning a car is one of my distant dreams. But that was besides the point, he had subdued my kimbelembele, and he loved it.

“FYI China is the next super power” . I grunted  because I didn’t
have a clever quip to reply to that. After some seconds I remembered
something. Something I had heard on BBC, the station I prefer listening to because most of the local stations will in one way or another end up reminding me of my work. And I don’t want to be reminded so much of it.

“Isn’t interesting the Chinese don’t seem interested in  pushing for the
dominance of the  Yuan like they are pushing everything else?” I asked
a little curt .

” It doesn’t matter” he said and accelerated once more. I was not sure my question made sense, but it didn’t matter, I had gotten him  and now wanted want to yap more.
” I think it does. Anyway what role do you think the euro crisis had in the battering the shilling got last year? ” I asked. Another sweet collage of a question  from BBC snippets. His face tightened and he accelerated more .
” If you know so much about the economy why don’t you become the minister for finance?” he said ” Instead of parading your ass in the cold!”  I laughed out loud. I had got him where I wanted. I didn’t want to push him so hard lest he dropped me or something. I rested my hand on his fly.

In the room he was rough. He twisted and pressed me hard. His ego was
hurt and that was his way of subduing me, of  redeeming it. I didn’t
struggle and looked physically and mentally humbled. He loved it But there was one final thing, just to be sure. He paid me an extra Ksh.500. I thought that was his way of saying “It doesn’t matter what you think you know or pretend to. You are still a prostitute and I have more money and respect than you do. That’s what matters.”

I didn’t care. The money is what mattered to me.
Writer: Sue 
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