I went for a haircut at my usual barbershop the other day, but the barber was nowhere in sight. His workmate phoned him and he trotted in, one hand hitching up his pair of jeans to cover his yellow boxers, which he had pulled up to his armpits.
“Vipi boss!” he hailed me cheerily, oblivious of the fact if I were his boss, then I shouldn’t have been waiting for him. I nodded and mentioned in passing that I hadn’t found him at the barbershop the previous day and that I had indeed passed by that morning and ‘bounced’ as well.
“Pole boss — nilikuwa kwa shughuli fulani (sorry, I had an errand to run),” he answered as he went through the process of preparing me for ‘surgery’.
I chose not to mention that I had already been made aware by the chatterbox who was frying a woman’s hair behind us that the ‘shughuli’ that kept him away was the charms of the pretty wench at the M-pesa outlet next door.
“Anashindanga tu na huyo mkamba. Sijui alimpatia nini (he is always with that Kamba girl. God knows what she gave him)!” she had mumbled. Half way through my haircut, the barber suddenly stopped.
I noticed because I had been studying him secretly, noticing how he would occasionally pause to admire himself in the mirror or pull at his jeans to cover his yellow boxers.
But this time, he wasn’t fiddling with his trousers or stealing glances at the chatterbox’s yellow undies, which kept peeping each time she bent, making me think, rather unfairly, perhaps, that yellow was the salon’s corporate colour.
My barber had stopped shaving my square-shaped head because he was instead staring at the TV, spellbound by the dramatics of a Nigerian woman who was screaming her head off and prostrating on the ground in an oga flick.
Then he laughed — deep and throaty — and announced, “Hizi movie za kinaigeria zinakuwanga funny sana (these Nigerian movies are hilarious)!” as he pinched me with his instruments for lack of concentration.
A while later, the chatterbox started feeding her customer with the ‘latest’ — juicy bits of information about her employer. This she did as my barber nipped over to a tiny room at the back to boil water on an electric kettle, water meant de-feather the remnants of hair off my head, as one would a dead chicken.
“Huyo mama ni malaya. Anapenda mabwana wa watu sana. Ame-abort sijui mara ngapi. Imagine anaendanga na huyu kijana na vile yeye ni mtoto (That woman is loose and a husband snatcher. She has aborted so many times and has a thing with this barber although he is just a boy...)”
This, she said, while pausing to flip an imaginary strand of hair off her face while admiring her dimples in the mirror. Then my barber popped back and whispered, “Boss? Unaweza nitafutia job? Huyu mama anatunyanyasa sana na mshahara ni duni (can you get me a job? The boss here is a tyrant and the pay sucks...)”
How he managed to say that, while scalding me with hot water, keeping an eye on the oga flick (the Nigerians were kissing this time) and stealing glances at the salonist’s ample posterior is a miracle.