(In memory of my wonderful friend the late Dr Elijah Wawire Sikenye, one of whose witty comments, so many years back, contributed to the origin of this story.)
‘Sss … sssssss … customer … taata, jangu …daddy, come!’ You hear a soft female voice in a dimly lit area next to one of the buildings to your left. The bearer of the appealing voice is sandwiched between two of several parked cars and is no doubt calling and beckoning to you, despite the words ‘customer’ and ‘daddy,’ as you and your friend move along the street. She is in a short dress with leopard design, which ends halfway on her thighs, and her shoulders are bare, and she appears to be in white underpants as she quickly raises a leg and lets go, while making kissing sounds, to stress her point.
‘Ei! Banange!’ you whisper to yourself as your heart misses a beat.
Not far from this lady, between the next two cars, is another one similarly dressed but in red. The second lady is being hugged by a young man who seems to be on the highest end of the spectrum of drunkenness.
‘Sente meka, nyabo?’ The young man’s words drift to your ears.
‘Tuyagala “longie” oba “shortie”?’ The second lady is uttering. They seem to be bargaining for something.
A young man in a slow-moving car to your right, heading the same way as you two, shouts to the two women: ‘Gwe malaya! Njagala blowjob! Kuma-nyoko!’ And he laughs out loudly, ‘Ha! Ha! Ha! …’ as he moves on and then suddenly drives at high speed along the clear street away from the nightspot, upsetting dust and people’s movements.
‘Wooo!’ You hear a chorus, as some nearby young men laugh at the young driver’s utterance and behaviour.
‘Who are these women?’ you ask your friend Mukasa all of a sudden, smiling and breathing heavily as you continue strolling towards the entrance of the nightclub, your head not ceasing turning backwards now and again.
‘These are malayas my friend; you want to have one, “customer”?’ Mukasa says in his deep voice, also smiling.
‘Come on,’ you say.
‘There are so many along this road, all the way to the next club.’
‘Really?’ you say as you replace the smile with a furrowed face, swallowing some saliva forcefully, and then shaking your head from side to side; your heart missing another step or two. Down in your village you know that it is always the opposite, always the man to make the first move …
‘These are “natural resources,” some friend of mine once said,’ Mukasa says, and then laughs out energetically; ‘Ha! Ha! Haaaaa!’
‘And who buys them?’
‘Men of course, always men: Ugandans; Wazungu; Indians; everyone with a penis.’
‘How can you be sure?’
‘Of course, I’ve lived in Kampala for too long.
‘You mean they sell their bodies for money?’
‘Of course, don’t be silly!’
‘Come on, you know I’m new to Kampala.’
‘All right,’ your friend says, on a serious note, ‘I hear there is “short time” and “long time,” where one is from a brothel and the other from the customer’s house.’
‘But, is it legal?’
‘Yes, it’s illegal, but it happens openly, you see.’
‘Katonda wange!’ you utter, shaking your head from side to side as you move on. At the back of your mind, away from your prying friend, you are thinking as you swallow more saliva: very tempting indeed...
Now, this is the second time you are visiting Kampala. The first had been about a year earlier. Then, you had brought your grandfather to the popular Mulago hospital on one of the seven hills of the city. Because of the nature of the old man’s illness, you could not get a chance to have a good look of the city, to prove to your village mates that you had indeed been to Kampala; that you had without a doubt conquered the place of their dreams. The old man had some strange swelling on both legs and one side of his body was paralysed, and he had initially stubbornly insisted you take him to a local traditional healer. The village healer exhausted all magical tricks, cutting himhere and there with some rusty-looking knives, with no good results for about a month.
You have started a job – self employment – as a bicycle repairer at Mapiga trading centre, in the remote district of Mapiga. You have been on the job for just over a year now. You appear to have been a trend-setter in the area. You see many young men are leaving farming to the women to join you in competition in the trade.
But you are determined to show these young men who you really are - that you have undeniably been to Kampala - that you have indeed been to a city! You are starting something new. You have already put up a structure for a shop, and now you are back to Kampala to buy your supplies with your one year savings. You will also start a boda boda or motor cycle taxi business. Of course, you have planned to be the rider, and the shop will be run by a hired person, not a kinsman because you are not for the idea of mixing business with relatives; the business will without a doubt collapse if you employ one of your lazy bunch of cousins, as bitterly experienced by one of your uncles.
You arrive at the city today, on a Saturday, and plan to stay around for a few days. You are putting up at your brother’s although he is far away in the neighbouring DR Congo, being a Ugandan soldier, for Uganda has sent its troops to the east of the sovereign state amidst the chaos there. But you do not know much about politics or wars. What does a mere trader like you know about running a nation and chasing rebels in a foreign country?
The discotheque, Club Angel, is now right in front of you and your friend.
‘Banange! The music … Maama! It booms like it will crack my chest into fragments,’ you yell to Mukasa, impulsively, at the entrance of the club; amid a mass of possibly mostly students from Makerere University; for you can tell from the kind of English they speak.
At the entrance to the place are two long queues of roughly twenty young men and women each. The women are mostly especially in garments with parts of their chests or backs bare; others have their bellies exposed; yet some, the lower half of their thighs, which look attractive to you. There are also those with body-tight jeans – something that you think is very striking from the rear, because of the shapes and hips of Ugandan women. But some of the jeans are so provocative from behind with string-like underpants pulled above the belt line that it is hard for you to turn your eyes elsewhere; eyes that are accustomed to bolds and nuts! The men have no attention-drawing parts of their bodies exposed, except maybe round arms or completely shaven heads for a few. It is obvious that some of the people are too drunk and can hardly stand on their two feet and you are taken aback that instead of going home; they are adamant about entering. There are also some Europeans and Indians and Chinese. On your line you can see an old white man with a young girl – a Ugandan girl – holding hands right in front of you, with the girl giggling whenever the man says something, even when it does not sound funny. What is there about this place that even the semi-conscious and non-Ugandans want to come to, you wonder to yourself; you are yet to find out.
The men guarding the entrance are giants with shaven heads and big hands and swollen chests and thick arms. And again you question yourself whether all they do when off-duty is swallow pigs or goats, just like pythons do: with the hooves and the horns!
After paying for the tickets, for general floor, you and Mukasa pass one at a time, like everyone else, through a metallic door frame after surrendering metal objects like coins or keys onto a tray by the side. Then the muscular men run their massive hands around your waists and legs, and then they stamp the backs of your left hands.
DOOM! TAH! DOOM! TAH! DOOM! TAH! DOOM! TAH! The music goes on, booming inside the building.
‘Maama!’ you exclaim.
You and Mukasa have to raise your voices or shout when talking to one another.
You feel it slightly airless inside compared to outside, although you can sense some cool breeze that seems to come from several fans high up in the walls. In the weak light, you can see that the floor is covered with a dark woollen carpet that is reflecting a repeating pattern of a green and red image. And you notice some grey and funny look on people’s eyes – something that reminds you of wild cats in your village in the night.
You and your friend sit at a counter, on high stools, and immediately descend on several bottles of Nile Special lager. You two also mixed in with a few tots of Uganda waragi, a brand of local spirit. And after that, the more beers you take, the higher and higher you rise, like a piece of polythene bag in a wind, and the better you start to feel.
As you move your eyes around the surroundings now and again, you cannot help wondering as the number of people inside keeps increasing gradually; Ugandans, Wazungu, Indians,and Chinese – people of various colours or complexions. Some remain on your ground floor, but others carry on in the direction of a different section of the club, disappearing up some stairway.
‘Look at those two ladies,’ you say to Mukasa, all of a sudden, turning your face in a corner of the dance floor to indicate the direction of two young women that have caught your attention. ‘I like the fat one,’ you add.
You and your friend watch them dancing – the two ladies – both are in tight blue jeans and bare-shoulder tops revealing their bodily contours. One is big with huge boobs and bumps and the other slim, as slim someone with silimu; AIDS; as you like to say.
The more beers you take, the more beautiful the fat lady becomes. You continue watching the two young women, and you are relieved not to spot any man near them.
‘Gwe, we attack,’ you make a suggestion to Mukasa, referring to the two ladies.
‘Be careful,’ Mukasa replies.
‘You, you have a wife at home and you’re trying to be disciplined, but me I don’t, all right?’
‘I love my wife.’
‘So you want to get a wife from here? You want her for a wife?’ Your friend says and releases his typical laughter.
‘No, no you’re getting me wrong. It’s about fun,’ you say, smiling.
‘You will get AIDS! Ha! Ha! Haaaaa …!’
‘Come on, get serious. How do I start? I mean … with these city girls.’
‘All right,’ he says, his face glowing with a smile. ‘You start of course by saying “Hello” or “Hi!” and if she replies you in English she could be a Makerere University student, you never know. Now I’m not sure if you can handle those ones. But if she replies you in Luganda and maintains the language throughout, she is probably a house girl, or housemaid, from one of those mansions, or a prostitute who doesn’t speak English –’
‘Okay; okay,’ you interrupt your friend as you get up from your stool, ‘we attack, prostitutes or not.’
‘No, I don’t feel like dancing,’ Mukasa replies, a trace of smile still lingering on his face. ‘Besides,’ he adds, ‘some fellows might grab our seats and we shall have no where to relax for the whole night. I’ll guard the drinks and the stools.’
‘Okay; okay. It’s up to you,’ you say as you move away from him.
You make your way towards the dance floor dancing slowly – really walking and pausing, in rhythm with the music – towards the two ladies. Oliver Ngoma’s Afro-zouk beats seem to have captivated the general mood. Heads and bosoms and buttocks are rising and falling, falling and rising. Hips are being gyrated here and there. There is excitement in the air as an on-and-off flashing light blinks again and again, making you more and more drunk.
‘Hello!’ you say, in a raised voice, and smiling as you approach the fat lady with her small companion of a friend. Your only wish is that they will not drag a conversation in English exclusively for too long, for you do not have confident in yourself; you are not really that fluent in the language as you tend to pause a lot, searching for the words to say. Actually, you prefer mixing English with Luganda as you have noticed is common with many people in Kampala, especially the Baganda.
At first the bigger woman ignores you and continues dancing close to her friend, both facing one another on the dance floor; with roughly a dozen people around them. Her small friend keeps whispering something in her ear and seems to refer to you now and again as they both giggle amid the booming music.
You persist with dancing near them; unmindful of whatever they are up to, for you have always had this feeling that women are the same everywhere: pretentious; unsure. The man has to insist, that is all.
‘Hi!’ you repeat your approach as the music changes to another softer type and the room becomes dimly lit again and the flashing lights stop blinking and making you more and more drunk. At last the fat one turns her face in your direction with a warm and receptive smile, and your heart misses a beat.
‘Wanji,’ she replies – yes, please, in Luganda – as she faces you with a brilliant smile. Then, in a soft voice and tone and almost perfect English accent, like the one you have heard in the movies, added: ‘Are you from Makerere?’
Your heart skips a beat yet again. You do not know why the lady has that impression of you. But maybe the simple way you are dressed – long-sleeve shirt, trousers, leather shoes – and the smart look as well makes you look no different from any average person inside, more so the students. Not the villager you think you are, although you are adamant that unquestioningly you are a villager who is at least two steps ahead of the pact.
‘Yes … yes,’ you say. Of course you do not expect to lower yourself in front of such a beauty. She has already exalted you and you do not have to downgrade yourself and thus put at risk your chances with her. A chance to slaughter a goat should not be squandered, like you have said time and again.
‘I am Kibuuka Nixoni. I am … studying engineering … mechanic; and you? You are who, and … you do what?’ You stammer, trying to be extra careful with your English, as you shake hands with your catch.
‘I’m Cinderella, but just call me Cindy; I work at the Sheraton Hotel,’ she says, still smiling.
‘Okay; okay,’ you say, ‘but do you have another name? I mean … the other name?’
‘Rose-Mary,’ she replies.
‘Yee-eeee!’ You exclaim; disappointed that you cannot tell where she is from by the names.
‘Okay … okay … Cindy Rose-Mary, it is nice meeting you,’ you say.
‘And I’m Sharon,’ Cindy’s slim friend puts in, in a slightly hoarse voice, extending you a hand with another warm smile. ‘I am work from the phone company MTN Uganda. I am complete Business from University of Makerere.’
‘Nice meeting you,’ you say, as you shake the friend’s hands.
You dance and dance – the three of you – in a small circle, the number on the floor swelling steadily. An odourless smoke, the source of which you cannot comprehend, rises and engulfs everyone on the dance floor now and again. The flashing lights start their on and off blinking again. All around you heads continue moving up and down, down and up in unison and non-unison with the music. Some of the people keep waving their hands in the air. Others prefer to shake their hips or bottoms. Yet there are those who just stand by the walls, most of which are mirrored, and the only way they obey the music is by moving their heads forward and backward or shaking them left and right, or tapping a foot again and again on the floor, or just watch, with arms folded or in their pockets, and maybe wonder how crazy everyone else is. And the DJ is great at mixing: Congolese; zouk; ragga; American hip-hop. There is even local music and you are hysterical with dancing, when the music operator starts playing them one after the other; Afrigo, Chameleone, Bebe Cool, Abudu Mulaasi, Ziggy D, Paulo Kafeero – all your favourites.
‘Would you … like to have some beer?’ You make an offer to Cindy, after maybe a half of an hour or so have elapsed since you started dancing.
‘Yes … Bello lager, one; buyi my friend also, one Club-bu Pilsner.’
‘Okay; okay,’ you say, and you squeeze hurriedly between some drunken dancers to a counter, and then decide to rush first in the direction of the toilets.
At the toilets, on the ground floor, you find a short queue of about half a dozen young men, all clearly high, most likely at a level above yours, and supporting themselves on the walls, waiting for a urinal that takes two at a time to clear. You stand in a corner, facing a wall, and hurriedly check your wallet to estimate and plan how much is needed for the evening. Two to three beers each, you figure out, hoping the ladies will not ask for more, because you have a tight budget, a savings of just over a year. You intend to buy a motorbike the following Monday. You do not have the exact price for a motor cycle but your guess is at about half a million Ugandan shillings, or slightly above. You have in your bulging wallet roughly one million, in mostly twenty thousand notes. You also need supplies for your new shop back in the village. It will be all right; it will be fine: you comfort yourself.
‘Here you are my angels,’ you say as you hand the ladies their beer bottles. They both take a few gulps hurriedly as they pause dancing and remain standing on the dance floor, and then place the almost empty bottles on the nearest counter and continue dancing.
The music is non-stop.
You find yourself hugging the fat one, at first in rhythm but as time go on in non-rhythm with the music. Banange, those buttocks! Katonda wange! You exclaim in your thoughts. You remain glued together for some time, maybe twenty minutes, perhaps half an hour; you are hoping it will drag on and on for longer. Although she appears to have what you think is a bizarre and an unpleasant smell about her that seems to be a blend of armpit sweat and the bleach on her skin, you do not mind, for you are way beyond parting from her. The pair of moderately large breasts is complete and comforting to your chest. And what is more, for sure, there is nothing as soothing as the feel of her huge and soft bums on your palms. You wonder in your wild imaginations at that moment what degree of softness they will have when the hard jeans are ripped off them. And your fingers too are having a blessed evening, for they keep wandering between the magnetic bottom, the exposed string underwear that extends centrally above them, and the line of tiny beads around the waist. And your mind is just lost in its own world, roaming riotously in the region between her waist and knees. The lady, too, seems to be as much interested in you as you are in her as she holds you tightly, massaging your back now and again, occasionally squeezing your rigid bottoms in retaliation. She is the perfect queen for a king! I have a catch … I have a woman, a city woman! You keep praising yourself, silently in your hidden thoughts.
‘Nikisoni,’ Cindy says abruptly, as the two of you continue on the dance floor, glued together.
‘Yes … honey.’
‘Cany you buyi for my sister foodoo; she is hungry,’ she says, as she interrupts your comfort; your proximity to her bosom. You notice the gradual change in accent from the original.
‘Yes … yes,’ you say, reluctantly, for you are not really interested in this friend – or sister. But the way she is slim, maybe no man is interested in a flesh-less woman like her, you consider; maybe they are all like you with a taste for giant and wobbling bottoms and full-size breasts. But it is also possible that men are afraid that she could be sick, with AIDS of course, you concluded; and it is highly possible that she has silimu; otherwise why is she so thin?
‘Okay; okay … what do you like to eat?’ you ask.
‘Chipsyandchickenee,’ replies Sharon. But you are not sure whether you should go with her to the restaurant in one corner of the club or just give her the money.
‘Okay … okay … let her have this,’ you decide, as you pull from your wallet and hand her a twenty thousand shillings note. You estimate quickly the cost for chips and chicken to be around three to four thousand. That means she will have a change of sixteen to seventeen.
You carry on dancing with Cindy. She keeps on releasing herself from your tight grip on her, but you continue to pull her back now and again and she would giggle.
‘I have to go to the ladies; I have to go to the washroom,’ Cindy says, after maybe half an hour has elapsed and her friend has not yet reappeared.
‘Okay … okay. All right with me,’ you say, releasing her from your firm grip. ‘You will get me seated with my friend over there,’ you assure her, pointing to your high stools on one side of a counter.
‘All right sweetie, I’m coming back,’ she says, in her charming tone, while kissing the tips of her right hand fingers and then waving at you, making your heartbeat skip yet another step.
She goes in the direction of the washrooms, and you seat next to your friend Mukasa. You start feeling the tension coupled with pain underneath your trousers, and you are quite relieved that probably you have been saved at the last minute from a trigger of some embarrassing consequences. You try to cool things by briefly manoeuvring a hand blindly over the zipper area. Then you start sipping and gulping your liquid.
The place is fully packed now; too many people; too many beautiful women. And the more you swallow your beer the more beautiful the beautiful women become.
‘How is she?’ Mukasa asks finally, after the two of you have remained silent for several minutes just watching everyone around.
‘Ei! Good ssebo! I willi … Ei! Banange!’ you reply, biting your right index finger, shaking you head briefly.
‘Ha! Ha! Haaaa!’ Mukasa laughs, his typical laughter. ‘Be careful, I tell you.’
‘I’ll use condoms, if that’s what you mean.’
‘Use them; but always be careful.’
Thirty minutes … then about one hour passes by but your sexy queen is nowhere to be seen. Maybe two hours goes by but neither Cindy nor her friend Sharon can be seen coming back to join you.
Already very high, you continue drinking at a slow pace. Now you can see Mukasa struggling with sleep on the counter now and again and a huge bouncer keeps patting him on the back again and again. But after emptying a bottle of mineral water, he begins to feel much better within a few minutes.
It is most likely towards the break of day now. The music has changed course to a slow category. Few people can be seen clutched in pairs on the dance floor. The number inside has reduced markedly.
‘The woman is not coming back; I don’t know why,’ you say to Mukasa finally, after tiring with looking over your shoulders again and again.
‘Those were sluts. Forget about them.’
‘More beers?’ The man at the counter asks.
‘Yes, please,’ you reply, feeling cheated; ‘two Nilos; I mean Nile Special lager.’ You deep your right hand in your right back pocket, but there is no wallet! ‘Mukasa!’ You exclaim as you got off the stool and run your hands in all your pockets again and again and then bend to look under your stools.
‘What’s happening?’ your friend asks.
‘Oh my God! My wallet … I mean … it was here!’
‘I told you those women were malayas!’
You rush from one section of the general floor to another of the now almost empty club, but can neither spot the fat lady nor her tiny companion of a friend.
‘Ai!’ you lament as you rush outdoors. But it is the break of dawn; the previously lively street now looks empty – deserted.
The only active scene is of two men in the middle of the street, who appear to be drunk and quarrelling over what seems to be the right to ‘take away’ what looks like a prostitute, probably the last one available, as each one holds her by a wrist and tries to snatch her from the other. And the serious and seemingly desperate driver of the remaining taxi is shaking and holding up his keys, as he stands in front of the trio, uttering; ‘Customers! … Gentomen! Justy ten sausand shillings to City Square! You cany fight in my taxi. No ploblem!’