I’m listening to it right now. Thick, heavy, voluminous rain. Rain that seems like it came with a jam-packed agenda. It’s not raining just because…this rain knows what it came to do! I can tell from the quick succession of explosive thuds on the roof, on my bedroom window, on the ground.
I hate to imagine the annoying patter it must cause on corrugated iron sheets. Perhaps it’s mission there is to cut someone’s sleep short.
I shudder at the thought of those without the luxury of even a roof over their head. Definitely no sleep for them. Huddling close to others for warmth in dark, dingy, hopefully warmth-promising corners located as close or as far as the eyes can see. Whatever, according to their judgment, will get them through the night. This cold, thunderous night.
I love the rain, on condition.
Right now for example, I absolutely love it. I love the rain best when I get to merely listen to it, when I am lying in bed, my larger than life duvet weighing down on me, trapping every modicum of heat that is being generated by my body. I love it best when I get to hear it from afar, when I am blanketed by warmth, when I have the option of looking outside and just watching it come down, entranced by the almost invisible repetitiveness of water falling from the sky. I love it best when I don’t have to go out into it, naturally.
When I can cuddle in bed with a book and have it be the soundtrack to whatever story I’m reading.
It’s 4.30am. Normally I’d wake up at 5am, but its raining and I happened to stir out of my sleep a little earlier. No doubt an automated mechanism against sitting in traffic. I wish I could stay in bed and just listen to the rain outside, but then who would pay for the roof over my head? So I wake up. I cut my morning routine in half, jumping in and out of the shower almost too fast for even the water to make contact with my body, not to worry, the rain outside awaits me. I grab some breakfast to-go and quickly hop into the car.
Soon enough I am on my way, listening to radio. Just music, no intermediate conversation or commentaries characterized by locally manufactured foreign accents. Discovering what radio is like before presenters come on air and start shoving contentious topics and conversations down our throats. Perhaps they too are late on account of the rain. Stuck in traffic. Traffic that sooner than I would have guessed, I find myself stuck in. Seems everyone decided to leave home a little earlier than usual on account of the rain.
It’s 5.12pm. Friday. What a slow Friday it has been. I have barely sold anything. Today, of all days, everyone that has stopped to look at the shoes seems to see right to their flaws. Almost as if my goods had turned on me, revealing their oddities to every potential customer.
The official, black matte heels. Three times today they had baited in interested customers. “They’re too wide in the front.” “The heel seems a bit unsteady.” “That’s too much money for these shoes.” All responses I had heard today. As end of day approaches, I begin to wonder if perhaps I should have made the sale to that one lady that haggled and haggled and wanted me to come a little lower with the price. Now the sun is almost set and the clouds look heavy with vengeful rain. “Mia mbili, mia mbili, viatu zote mia mbili!” In desperation, I drastically slash the prices of all my wares to a fixed low cost of two hundred shillings. I know this is my last chance to at least make something.
Just as a few pedestrians start to gather round and show interest in the shoes, more likely in the potential bargain no doubt, the heavens open. Without so much as a drizzled warning, heavy downpour is upon us. Reflex, I grab all 4 corners of the gunia that my merchandise is displayed on, expertly swing it onto my back and start running, mayhem all around as we all scramble for shelter. You might be mistaken in thinking kanjo is on our case. No, it is just the rain. I find a recess somewhere on the side of a building where I hideout and watch the water fall from the sky, entranced, wondering what my little girl will carry on her school trip tomorrow now that I haven’t made a single shilling.
It is 2.15pm. I glance outside my office window and notice the relentless downpour. The air-conditioned building mutes the sound of the rain, in the office we are warm and cozy. None the wiser that outside a storm rages on. I think of my baby. Based on the skies this morning, no one could have predicted the weather would change this drastically. The skies were clear, an easy, fluffy blue. Sky-blue.
I think of his warm anorak hanging in the closet at home. I wish the weather would in the least give mothers of toddlers some fair warning, for our children’s sake. He must be shivering. I wonder if I can leave the office right now and head to his school to pick him up, make up some sort of emergency so that the school administration will let me take him before time. We’d also be home before the crazy traffic that is signaled by the rain begins.
I have yet to clock close to three hours of work today before I can even contemplate leaving the office, so I whisper a prayer, for perhaps a bubble of warmth around my little buddy and then I get back to work.
5.15pm. I am sitting on a mkokoteni propped against a streetlight at the bus-stop. Watching, waiting. There is always a never ending stream of people milling about their business, busy as bees, up and down, up and down, I watch them, while waiting for my matatu to get to the front of the queue.
I love it when it rains. It always seems like the scene gets put in fast-forward. Suddenly, people are running around all over the place like headless chicken. All because of a little rain. Everything changes in an instant. Hawkers gather up their wares and disappear. Gone in 60 seconds. The enterprising ones crawl out of the woodwork with umbrellas. People buy, more to add to their collection of umbrellas thrift-ed when it rains, left home the next day and forever more. A growing pile. Ladies reach into their handbags and out will come little black paper bags for their heads. Weaved ladies, in solidarity, will rock that black paper bag and have you thinking it is designer.
We, we hike up the fares.
Rain is a blessing. Moreso in this industry. It means double, sometimes even triple returns.
Rain is like a signal that gives us permission to flaunt the rules. A trip that initially cost 60 shillings could go to as high as 250 shillings. Why? Well, it is raining. Yet the people still come. There will be lines and lines of commuters, fighting to get their overpriced ride home. Fighting to pay us three times what they normally would! Because they are desperate. They have no other option. Thank you rain.