Growing Pains

An Alien To The Status Quo

Guest Post: Losing A Gorilla In The City

Guest Post: Losing A Gorilla In The City

The first time I read this story, I laughed so much my stomach hurt. Kevin is a person who knows how to weave a story of any mundane thing, making it even more interesting. I can’t wait for more work to come from him.

How I Lost A Gorilla In Kampala

By Kevin M. Rushokye

The opening line of the bro-code book is, Rule number one of the bro-code is a bro should always be a bro, and here is how-

This story is about me being a bro, and how it cost me my gorilla.

A gorilla is a particularly difficult animal to breastfeed in the wild, let alone own in Kampala. That is why one would understand the intrigue on people’s faces on the streets of Kampala as I walked with a gorilla in hand. The street that I was walking along is found in Kalerwe, near Kalerwe market, a large market that receives agricultural produce coming into the city from Northern and Western Uganda. Kalerwe used to be a train stage during the days when Uganda was a British protectorate. The town is called Kalerwe, ‘ka-railway’ (Luganda for a small railway) after the road-rail that was constructed between Kampala and Bombo, via said town. It only operated between 1923 and 1926, after which the protectorate government considered it a failed project. Why? Long story, but the short version is that it couldn’t carry as much cotton from Bulemezi as its engineers had promised. And you know how white folks of old loved their cotton. There was little they wouldn’t do for it.

So, the gorilla.

But before I get to the gorilla, let me just confess how much I love Kampala City. It is, hands down, my favourite city, and not just because I am biased as it’s the only city I have ‘visited’. It has what we, Kampala lovers, primarily out of self-consolation, call beautiful chaos. A beauty so chaotic, you find it difficult to isolate any beauty from the noise and air polluted, wayward, dog-eat-dog, dangerous, and probably irreversible chaos. But we love that chimera of beauty and chaos nevertheless.

You can hear it in the sound of men and women spreading the nourishing gospel of salvation as they pretend not to feel the flames of the unjust midday equatorial sun evaporating their sweat faster than they can manufacture it.

You can see the beauty in the sympathetic passersby dropping coins onto the plastic plate in front of the reclined boy with the inflated head. His absent-minded mother nearby holds a placard showing the amount of money the boy needs to get a surgical procedure. ‘Is it a fundraiser or a source of income?’ some passersby will debate after realising that the fundraiser has been running for more than ten years.

You see it when another city lover holds her phone out of a taxi to preserve a moment with a selfie and loses it to a thief who aced the phone-snatching class.

A senior citizen, enjoying his city, tunes his radio as he walks on the sidewalk and is interrupted by a ‘clear-the-way’ alarm from a government SUV which creates a third lane, climbing the curb to overtake after the only two lanes have been filled up with traffic jam. The senior citizen has to grotesquely step aside and into a gutter to save the remainder of his life.

A cow, a piece of the lovely organic world, and another glimpse of natural beauty in the concrete metropolis, has stood still in the middle of the road, causing traffic congestion as cars have to drive around it. No herder in sight. The cow looks unbothered, deep in thought, probably thinking about what life means to a cow.

Bodaboda riders and Bodaboda accidents. Quick money and scammers. Cheap electronics whose duration is as long as the test demonstration by the dealer. And policemen wielding the flabby arm of the law, are occasionally brought to firmness when there is money to arouse patriotism.

This is the city that has stolen my heart. This is the city whose Ugandan rolexes line the tomatoes of my DNA.

And there I was, turning heads as I walked with a gorilla at twilight.

The street preacher paused her sweat manufacture to gawk at me. I even picked up the attention of the liquid screen protector vendors whose fake trade could otherwise be described as clickbait. What is clickbait? Well, clickbait is when a blogger/writer uses your curiosity to their advantage, by making you click on and read headings, where the information in the body is not as fascinating or related to the title. Not unlike someone talking about an encounter with a gorilla when they are actually using the word gorilla as the colloquial Ugandan word to mean fifty thousand Uganda shillings, the largest monetary denomination. It is called ezikke (Luganda: gorilla) because it has a picture of a gorilla.

I know. What a shameless act I have committed! But I can promise, unlike the majority of clickbait, I do actually have content, that is a story, to share.


Let’s return to how I lost my gorilla.

Realising that I wasn’t going to disclose the information, the chancellor wiped the sweat from his brow and then gave the dreaded command, “Cut off his gorilla!”

I looked at the priest holding the degorillizer, knowing what would come next, wondering if I could turn my gorilla inward, hiding it, which I could, and did. Unfortunately for me, the priest’s degorillizer was the suction-fitted version that…

Wait. Hold the phone. This is about how I lost my gorilla not my other work-in-progress, how it feels to lose a gorilla.

My apologies.

Let us continue.

As I walked, hoping for a taxi to take me home, I started to notice people looking in my direction and became self-aware. Eventually, a taxi van did stop by my feet with a few empty seats. The taxi conductor looked at me with an interesting smile. I’ll use a loose translation of what he said.

“Ssebo, you are really showing off your gorilla,” said the conductor. I looked around my person to find that I had a fifty K note sticking out of my pocket. Dangerous thing to do as it approaches 7:00 pm. In a city of harsh economic times and cutthroat competition, someone could literally cut your throat to have your gorilla.

As I pondered this, a man approached my position hastily, holding something that looked like a knife in his hand. Was this how I was to lose my gorilla? No, it was not, the man was just a carpenter with a saw, from work looking to get a free spot in the taxi before me. I got in after haggling the price and sat in the front.

The taxi conductor looked much like most the lot of them. A man who could be in his 30s or late teens. It’s hard to tell because he has the unpolished demeanour of a dropout who follows the trends. A pair of skinny jeans, usually ripped, a patterned or branded t-shirt, and scruffy top hair with a fade all around.

The taxi driver on the other hand had his own thing going on. You can always tell a Kampala taxi conductor and a taxi driver apart. Drivers usually employ conductors. The drivers tend to act more mature and even dress more gentlemanly, or as gentlemanly as a person whose life has pushed him to that line of business can dress. This means a button shirt, formal black trousers and shoes, and your classic Ugandan formal hairstyle, or lack thereof, the bald head.

If you find a taxi conductor wearing a shirt, then chances are, he is a taxi driver as well. These are the small bits of beautiful order I was talking about. That’s before you actually enter the taxi and find that it would be more sanitary to travel while seated on the taxi tyre.

“Those with big money, send it, and we get change,” the conductor said as we arrived at a petrol station where he got out. This was a queue for people like me to hand over big cash denominations like gorillas to be broken down into national monuments, game parks, buffaloes, and whatever else adorns Ugandan currency.

I have to say I was feeling rather gleeful that evening. I had spent the day doing some creatively laborious work and had been rewarded with the ape note. It is not the best pay in the country relative to different scenarios, but it was good pay that would keep my whole bachelor thing going for a day or two or in the case of my friend, Philip, an hour or two at the bar. Or if he was looking to impress a damsel, then a minute or two.

I handed my hard-earned booty to the conductor, but, he told me to hold onto it as he had found change. There is also the old ‘forget to pick your balance from the conductor’ way of losing your money. But this was not how I was to lose the gorilla. How do I lose money to a taxi conductor? That’s page one of How to be a professional Kampalan.

Despite the belittling of this, banknote to elicit staged admiration from dames by the Philips of this world, it remains of high value to many. Money that I pick off the ground or that is handed to me as a bribe does not hold the same value as money that I have earned from creative thinking. The latter feels more precious to me. I equate it to the number of neurons that suffered electrocution to forge a creative neutral circuit. Even spending it feels more different.

Tragically though, at the 50k per shoe market, a 50k note earned from emptying pit latrines will not be rejected for a 50k that was earned writing some stuff that was sentimental to the buyer. The first to pick up the shoe pays and takes the shoe. This is the side of monetary economics that is evil but necessary. Were it not necessary, people would still be paid in imprecise measurements of goats, spices, and, probably, people.

Despite all this, a gorilla remains a gorilla, and no Ugandan wants to lose one. It literally brought out tears from the eyes of Andre Bauma when he lost a gorilla. But that was in the DRC, and it was a 2014 documentary called Virunga where park ranger, Andre Bauma, lost an actual mountain gorilla. Does it count? Not directly. But was it an awesome documentary? Yes. Academy award-nominated.

As we approached the city centre, I reaffirmed with the driver, since I was seated close to him, if he was actually going to drop us around the old taxi park. No one who was going downtown to the taxi park to board a taxi to their next destination like to be dropped along Kampala road, the road that one would say, separates uptown from downtown.

“I will leave you close to the park,” the driver said. But he looked more preoccupied with what was going on in his rearview mirror as a concerned frown grew on his face.
“Why aren’t you telling people to pay up?” The driver spoke to the conductor. It got the conductor slowly springing to action as he turned back to ask for the passengers’ money. “Muweleze ku ssente zamwe, send forth your money,” The conductor told the people in the back.

The driver seemed upset by this, “This is what will send you back to the village. I told you never to wait until we have reached Kampala road before passengers have paid you. Oba wabaaki! Now, what if we reach the park and someone says they have lost their money, anha. Kati then what do you do?”

As the driver ranted with gestures, the obedient conductor continued picking payments, like a private cheerlessly taking orders from a sergeant. A phone rang, which the conductor picked from his pocket, received, and held to his ear.


“Va ku ssimu! Naye oba wabaaki! Get off the phone!” The driver yelled, half whipping the car to one side to turn up Nakasero Hill Road, taking a detour that avoids Kampala Road, and half turning his head to shout at the conductor in the face. He steered the car as steadily as a man whose eyes were on the road. But as you can imagine, it took the nerves out of me. My idea of how I would die did not involve a 500-year-old, used, overused, and reused Toyota Town Hiace taxi and a paltry personal net worth that had only increased by 0.05 million shillings. The last funeral rites would be embarrassing.

“The deceased left behind a number of possessions, including unmatching bedsheets, a blanket-towel, which we believe, because of the absence of a mattress, might have also been a mattress. A stained stainless steel bowl that served as a plate, a cup and a saucepan, stacks of files of pirated books and films, and a dried goat rib that we don’t believe he owned on purpose but rather tried to throw away but instead fell in his suitcase.”

“He was survived by a cat. Claims from the cockroaches about having also been pets have been bashed, and they, therefore, cannot inherit the stains on the bowl. As an artist, perhaps the dry bone must have represented, for him, the dry bank account as we cannot safely say that he had any cash possessions. He was indebted so much on his mobile money that MTN had to send representatives to the funeral to ascertain that he was actually dead and they would not get back their money ever. The fifty thousand Uganda shillings found on his person will be used to pay the boda-boda that ferried his body straight from the scene of the accident to the abandoned pit latrine project, not far from town, which so happened to be six feet deep. The balance was used to pay volunteers from the nearby construction site to go and mourn him.”

Maybe a little farfetched, but the point is, I am and was not yet ready to die in that taxi. Most hardworking people would prefer to have their funeral filled with praises about the good things they did. I think I work hard. The case was even worse when it comes to ambitious people. Heaven for an ambitious man is the legacy he leaves behind.

Also, a small point to note, I recently discovered that the language spoken by the aliens in the 2006 movie Arrival is called Heptapod A. And the written version is Heptapod B. This information will be useful as you continue reading this piece.

The youth had now left his phone and I could hear him counting coins.

“Nyabo weleza, madam, send yours,” said the conductor to a lady in the back as we sped on Lumumba Avenue. As I was still squirming in the chair, looking for my pre-taxi-swerve comfortable position, I noticed that the driver was still speaking and particularly speaking in my direction.

“Phones all the time. He can’t even do his job. Nze simanyi na kumanya, what is wrong with the youth of these days?” I did not know how to answer the question. Was I being asked so that I can comment on youth as someone who is no longer a youth? Or was it precisely because I resembled a youth that he sought to get my view on my people and what was wrong with them?

Perhaps, I would tell him that there’s no evolutionary disparity between the youth of nowadays and the youth of old. Rather than blame the youth of the times, he should blame the complex times in which the youth have been brought up where there is a proliferation of free information, distractions, broken down traditional social structures, stark income disparities, and political leadership that hasn’t played its role of being the guardian of the youth.

And not that his times were any better to be a youth, but just that now, it’s much more complicated.

And so I decided to play that answer to him in speech, “There’s no evolutionary disparity between the youth of nowadays and the youth of his old.” I paused as I watched him look at me as one would look at a book written in Heptapod B.
(I hope you didn’t miss it.)

Before I could continue, he turned his attention back to the conductor. “Oyo abadeki? What is wrong with that one?” He asked.
“Mbu she will give me the money when she is alighting,” said the conductor. Well, of course, the conductor wouldn’t use the word alight. As I had already mentioned, these are loose translations. He would probably think that someone who said ‘alight’ had mispronounced it and actually meant to say alright. Or a lighter, that his darkened lips would need at the end of the day to facilitate turning mummified dry herbs into smoke that said lips would lip as he inhales.

If by some slight chance he knew what that word, which I never use verbally, meant, then he must secretly be a graduate defeated by life or a spy. He might be a CIA agent who has infiltrated deep into the Kampala public transport system network, waiting for activation for when the time is right to assassinate the president probably or thereabouts and start regime change.

Obviously, that will not go as planned, and the new leader will be a more brutal dictator that will take us back to square one where will need a new NRA-esque outfit to take power but, hopefully, an NRA that keeps promises. But that is too much to ask. And stretching your imagination to that extent will rip a hole through the seam at the crotch of your mind.

But then again, I had seen the conductor earlier speaking on his button phone while the front face of the phone was facing outside so that he could hear through the back speaker. Any Ugandan knows that drill. Someone who uses a phone like that is definitely not pretending to be Ugandan.

Let’s get back to the gorilla story; we are sidetracking.

So when the poachers had left, the gorilla snuck back into her tent.

“I thought I had lost you,” she said.

“Not before I could see you one last time,” said the silverback, approaching her, standing upright to reveal its veiny, muscular, silver front.

Her cheeks flushed red as she said, “You’re not wearing any clothes?”

He replied, “I never have.”

She said, “I guess I just never noticed that you carried around such a big…”


This story doesn’t seem right.

Where is the driver?

Ah yes.

Pardon me.

That was from another work in progress that is also called ‘How I lost it to my gorilla’ and not the story I was presently supposed to be telling. Just to be clear, in that other story, the gorilla carried around with him a big… fanny pack that was difficult to see when it was not upright.

So the taxi conductor.

He tells the woman next to him, “Nyabo, ngamba gwe. Madam, it’s you I am speaking to.”

“Banange! I’ll pay you when we reach,” retorted the angry woman.

The driver replied, “Olaba! You see what I told you. We are about to reach, and she hasn’t paid, and yet we brought her from Gayaza. Do you know that you can end up transporting someone for free because of that carelessness?”

“Gayaza? You picked me from Kalerwe market.”

The conductor began with his muffled juvenile speech, speaking to no one in particular, “But even if I told her to pay earlier on, she would have said the same.” The driver turned his head back fast, shooting daggers at the conductor.

“Ogambya ki booyi?” What did you just say?

“I was telling this woman to pay up. Nyabo!”

The woman jeered at no particular person but did not budge. “Wama Ssebo in the front, send your money,” the conductor said to me. I sent my money to him. The driver shook his head and sucked his teeth before continuing his lamentations. We now slowed to a snail’s pace traffic jam.

“This is the kizibu with taxi business. Passengers do not understand it. Tebamanyi that we also get ripped off a lot. Naye, there are some times when you can know that a passenger will pay. Some passengers look like they definitely have the wherewithal to pay. But some don’t. This conductor ye, he can’t tell, naye, in my days as a conductor, I could always tell who has and who doesn’t have the wherewithal. No one could rip me off nomulundi na gumu!”

“Anyways, the times are changing. Enaku zino, things are not what they seem. No one would wear a suit in my days without cash at hand to back it up. Naye kati, a man in a suit, might be penniless while a youngster in a vest will tell you to keep the change. The only people who will never change are people who wear lugabire (tyre-rubber sandals) They never have the wherewithal. And also people who complain when asked to pay for things. Aabo, ho!”

“Naye gwe ssebo! Are you trying to say that I don’t have the wherewithal?”

I have to reiterate that these are loose translations. You will die of hunger if you bet your life supply of food on hearing the word ‘wherewithal’ spoken in a taxi.

The driver ignored her and continued, “Someone says they’ll pay you, and when you reach, they tell you that they can’t see the money in the bag. Especially women.”

“Ssebo, I am right here. Do I look like I don’t have the money to pay you? Just one thousand making your head swell.” The woman was getting more sour as she continued to raise her voice.

“The other day, we brought a woman all the way from Seeta to the old park. She was also saying the same things. Then we reached the taxi park then she starts saying that she can’t see the money, simanya, she wants to send on mobile money. With these fuel prices, someone refuses to pay you five thousand from Seeta,” the driver said.

“Nanti, you are the one who is foolish for letting people defraud you,” said the woman.

“I am the one who is foolish?”

“Atte, who else is the fool?”

The driver turned his head around to look at the woman who was speaking back to him and frowned. Over my shoulder, I could see the woman looking back at him with a cheeky look. She must have been in her late 20s. The other little conversations between other passengers suddenly went mum. The conductor pretended to be counting money. A hoot from a driver in the back brought the driver back to driving.

“Customers have a problem. Atte, when you speak badly toward them, they start saying that taxi people are quarrelsome.”
“Taxi people are quarrelsome. I’m just waiting to reach where I was going, I pay you, and I go. But, you are here widening your mouth for me, finishing my peace.”
“Naye market women from Gayaza, hmm! We just want to know if the money is changed or not so that we don’t waste time on arrival looking for change.”
“It’s changed. You think I don’t think. You think I don’t know how you taxi people when we pay you, you drop us on the way like refugees, and you go back. Nze nedda. Atte I told you that I’m coming from Kalerwe, you want to overcharge me. You are all bayaye!”
The conductor spoke, “Kalerwe of where? We picked you from Gayaza.”
“Look at the head of this man. I have just entered right now with that gentleman sitting in the front. Wama not so?”

That question was directed to me. The driver looked at me to pick an answer that would solve the disagreement. It was not a comfortable situation I found myself in. I couldn’t remember. My head on my way to the taxi, even until the present moment, was only filled with romanticising Ugandan Rolexes and how big of a Rolex I could eat with my new pay.
“Wama sikyo ssebo? Isn’t it the case Ssebo?” The woman inquired of me.
“I think…” I started my answer, but, at the same time, I was still trying to solve the puzzle of whether I would go to Isa or Claudio for my rolex at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, answering the question was also important. But we are living in different times. At the time of writing this, the country is going through inflation brought about by many things. Mostly it was fuel prices that had risen, affected by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Everything is expensive, including the wheat flour the Rolex chapattis are made from and the tomatoes that make the classic nyanya mbisi rolex. For those who do not know, the Ugandan Rolex or what Kenyans shamelessly call chapatti mayai, is at the fundamental level, a chapatti rolled with fried eggs and some vegetables. Nyanya mbisi translates to a rolex with raw tomatoes.
Different rolex seekers (abasiika rolex) have decided to employ various strategies in the face of the inflation challenge. A rolex of two eggs and two chapattis was an appropriate 2000 shillings. 500 shillings for each of the four components. Some rolex people decided to up the price of a traditionally 500 shillings chapatti to 1000 shillings. An unpopular policy that saw many rolex sellers lose clientele.

Others, actually most, have chosen to charge the tomato separately at 500 shillings. Fans of the nyanya mbisi are known not to mind going the extra mile for that dripping juicy tomato flavour.
“Ssebo, I didn’t hear what you said?” The conductor tried to prompt the rest of my answer.
Isa had decided to go with the option of retaining the thickness of the chapattis. He instead made them smaller in circumference by a margin so small that it could only be discerned by rolex connoisseurs such as I. The other way to know that the rolex you had eaten has a small chapatti is when you bite your finger through the polythene wrapper, thinking there is more rolex when there isn’t.

“Nga tayogela, doesn’t he speak?” a nosy passenger who I had hoped wouldn’t join the fray joined the fray.

Claudio, on the other hand, kept the circumference but dropped the thickness to make his signature infamous transparent chapattis.
Claudio was a nice guy we all liked. However, no one envied anyone who was feasting on Claudio’s rolex. Feasting is putting it decently. No one envied anyone who suffered from Claudio’s rolex. The Rolexes were not only weightless, but the thinness made them hard and damn near brittle when dry.
Evolution has made us lose the kind of teeth that would be required to bite into Claudio’s rolexes. They were so hard to chew. Still edible but unbitable. That’s why it would require the denture and jaws of Australopithecus Africanus and the unevolved cerebral dimwit to eat Claudio’s rolex. I speak from experience. It took me several hours, but I defeated it. And I should note that the taste is good.

I have been squeezed to only procure from those two fellows, Isa and Claudio, because of location. I recall the heyday, when I was still at University, in rolex utopia. There was a pair of Basoga men, one of them called Bwire, who were rolex technicians.
Tribalism aside, Basoga, who hail from Jinja and the surrounding areas, are masters at making Chapattis. The best in the land. I hypothesize that when the Indians were on their way to Kampala, they found rich land in Jinja that they coveted as much as the Basoga coveted their Chapattis and how to make them. An exchange was made, leaving Basoga with the unique abilities to deejay the meanest Chapattis and rolexes and the Indians with the land.

“Oba, what is he thinking about? He is so deep in thought,” said the taxi driver.

So one would forgive me for asking myself what Claudio or Claude, a Munyarwanda and a darling one at that, is doing selling safety hazard rolexes in Kampala. He skipped making milk products or their famous chilli sauce, akabanga, that Ugandans can’t seem to get enough of to make razor slivers of chapattis.
Someone once threw his rolex back at him in anger. But he dodged it, and it hit the car behind him on the tyre, releasing pressured air and ripping the tyre apart. I was not sold on the imagery of Swaibu the cobbler that when the presidential car’s bulletproof window was broken during the Arua 2018 Bobi Wine saga, Claudio’s rolex was the projectile used.

Still, Claudio’s chapattis remind me of that hard bread that Jesus broke in that one Jesus film. Interestingly, Jesus’s rolexes or, in Arabic, Isa’s softer rolexes do not taste as good as Claudio’s Jean Claude Van Damme rolexes. And I often find myself doing what filmmakers call ‘fixing in post.’ Or what coders call modding. Dissecting the finished product and modifying it with the proper balance of ingredients.

However, something was now clear. Until something changed, I was going to be eating a rolex of 3000 shillings. 500 extra for an extra Chapatti and the other 500 for a tomato to convert it into the glorious Nyanya Mbisi. I will use Isa’s chapattis, but I will get Claudio to fry them.


I was now ready to answer the question.

The woman began, “Anyway, what I was saying was, I got on from Kalerwe at the market. Just because this man won’t vouch for me. I think he forgot me.”
“I didn’t forget you,” I said, awakening the driver’s attention, “But also, I don’t remember you or who I entered the taxi with. Sorry. I don’t know.”
I don’t care if it’s the Great Wall of China, the walls of Benin, or even Trump’s USA-Mexico wall. If there is a fence, I will sit on it. There was silence. The cars began to move.
“Kweli nyabo, you are from Kalerwe. Mpozi nga you work in the market?” Asked the driver.
“Eela, that is where I work. What did you think… that I was just standing by the roadside?” She replied.
The conductor said, “Isn’t that your evening job?”
“Naye this conductor! Actually, the problem is not with you, you are okay. The problem is with your head. It is stupid!”
“Madam. Do not start abusing me. You don’t know what I’ve been doing all day or where I come from.”
“What can you do?”
“You don’t want to pay, and now you are abusing us. Kale. For me I don’t talk a lot,” The conductor said, playing the biting dog that seldom barks. He started to place his belongings in his pockets and fold his sleeves. The woman did not respond but kept her defiant face strong.

I had seen these instances multiple times. The last time was outside at a taxi stage. I was boarding an Entebbe taxi from Kajjansi, and the conductor lost his collar to a large woman who had more fight in her than anyone in the taxi expected. It would probably explain why bringing the fight to a stop was delayed.

People watched the spectacle in silence as the woman slapped the conductor several times until he staggered off his bearings. Then she pulled him back and charged his face with another hot wave of emancipation that sounded like a punch. Then she held his button shirt collar and swung him 180 degrees, bringing him to a sudden halt while still clutching the collar such that it ripped off, and he tumbled away without a collar. She placed the collar in her bag and walked away with it. That was the cue for some concerned people to come and stop the fight.

That conductor’s new style looked rather fashionable, in my opinion. A button shirt without a collar. I think I had seen it on a runway or two. But different context from this fight that the conductor couldn’t run away from.

“Abaaye! What is going on behind there? You want to beat the customer?” The driver asked as we went down the square 1 road to Kampala Road at the City Square.
“He wants to beat me. Nze, If you want to beat me, then drop me off, and I pay your money,” said the woman.
“The woman is abusing us,” said the conductor. The driver responded, “No one is going to allow you to be beaten, wama nyabo. We are just chatting.”
“Nga, who will protect me?” Asked the woman.
“Atte, am I not a man? I will protect you with these other men,” the driver said, inter-wieving with laughter. The driver now kept looking back at the woman more and more. She sighed and giggled as well, “Nze you make me laugh. Atte driver, you have a lot of words. Drivers don’t talk a lot like that. People who talk a lot can’t do anything.”
“Hehe, nyabo, there are so many things that I can do. You just look at me here.” The driver laughed again. “Mpozi you told me you work in the market, whereabout?”
“Driveer, driver. I didn’t say that I work in the market, but yes, I work in the market.”
“I always ply this route, but I’ve never seen you, yet I take people from the market every day.”
“You can’t know everyone. Every day you meet someone new. Today, you’ve met me.”

The driver stopped the car and some people got out of the taxi on Kampala road, leaving behind the driver, conductor, a certain young man, the market woman, and I. The driver took off that time to look back and ogle the market woman before proceeding down Dastur Street by Nakasero Market.

I pride myself on having a good nose with a strong sense of smell, and I could smell the pheromones building up inside the taxi between two parties. Mind you, that was no easy feat considering someone had just transported a sack of manure, chicken refuse, in the back of the same vehicle. That smell sat in the air whenever the car came to a halt.

The conductor spoke, “Nyabo, we have reached the taxi park, the money.” We had started going down Market Street, where the old taxi park lay in front of us. We met the popular image of a sea of white taxi vans, some parked, others snaking towards exits, and others towards entrances, like an organized sea of ants. Beautiful chaos.

Taxis sometimes stop finally at the Energy Centre, a building on Market Street, and drop off all passengers so that they continue to the old taxi park empty. This was such a taxi. I knew the drill, so I prepared to leave.

“This is where you stop? I thought we would enter the park,” said the woman to the driver. The driver laughed it off. Then he thought about it and said, “Kale, I will do it for you. We go to the park together. The rest, this is your stop.”
I was more than willing to let whatever magic was happening to happen. But then the young man from the back spoke, “Then you shall also drop me in the park with her. No discrimination, Ssebo.”

There was a perfection to the moment that the young man took away. I would have expected a fellow man like him to be a bro. Perhaps he had not read the bro-code: Thou shalt not block your brother’s rooster. Writing cock-blocking any other way sounds weird so let me switch to calling it what it is.

A certain Ugandan once tweeted, and this is paraphrasing, that we shall never see the Uganda we want until we develop a central nervous system that allows us to feel each other’s pain.

As the taxi driver thought about how to respond to the young man, I could, at that moment, feel his pain. And that is the essence of what it means to be human. Seeing a stranger’s cock blocked and feeling as If it was your own cock that had been blocked.
But in social-political truth, we do not have this nervous system. And day after day, the system continues to condition us not to stand up for an injustice done to another Ugandan because doing so is unnecessary and disorderly. The conditioning is coated with a warning that needs no further proof than we’ve seen, that says ignoring the conditioning will get you arrested, tortured, or killed. So we end up harbouring cold hearts that lack compassion for fellow citizens to keep safe.

Even the most compassionate are forced to be indifferent to the suffering of others. We are not friends. A country full of people who are not friends is a recipe for disaster. But that won’t happen because we have to hope that our famous hospitality that holds our social fabric together will keep us through this era and the next.

Let me move on before it gets all Malcolm X-y in here.

I could see when I turned back to look at the smiling woman that she wasn’t in any delay to leave the taxi, unlike the young man who looked defiant. The driver looked stuck. He needed a hero. Would I be that hero, or would I display the aforementioned conditioned indifference?

This conditioned indifference is what has made Ugandans vegetate, unable to demonstrate on the streets or riot against injustice. Social media is as far as activism goes. They are now too lazy to shout, march, or even simply wear clothes that identify with a political activism movement.

Maybe if the demonstration was much simpler, and probably involved mere dressing up normally as people do. Like if an opposition leader announced, ‘Tomorrow we are going to demonstrate by wearing clothes to work.’ Ugandans would be more than helpful in that direction. The turn-up would be in the millions, a tsunami, like a certain politician used to say. Some would even demonstrate without being aware that they are.

And I would 100% not be shocked if the indefatigable partisan police actually went out into the streets, tear-gassed and beat up all clad people. That would obviously mean that the officers themselves would not be partaking in the demonstration by wearing clothes. And thus would begin the prevalence of unseeable images of butt-naked armed adults chasing clothed civilians. A most disturbing display of enforcing the law, male security operatives displaying their batons and canisters for all to see and measure.

“I will alight when entering the taxi park since we are going to the park,” said the youngster. The taxi driver whispered some things to the conductor as he tried to feign busyness.

I might not act upon my political will to physically demonstrate love for my fellow citizens, but at least I can express concern for my cock blocked comrade and attempt to unblock his cock in whatever way I can. That does not sound right. Let’s go on.
“Ssebo, where are you going from here?” I asked.
“You are asking me?” The young man spoke, “I am going to Bweyogerere.” Perfect, I thought.
Then I told him, “If you are going to Bweyos then you don’t need to go to the park. The Bweyogerere taxis are just a javelin throw from here.” Well, I didn’t say javelin. I don’t remember what I said.
“Me, I want to enter the park,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.

He looked at me, then he sucked his teeth and got out. The smiling driver gave me a brotherly thumbs up which I reciprocated before I got out and walked into the busy downtown Kampala evening, following the young man. The taxi drove away. I caught up with the young man walking with no particular expression on his face.

I sought to parley with the stranger, saying, “Bro, I’m sorry I caused you to get out.”

His blank face quickly turned into a playful smile. He said, “Bulaadi kili easy, (It’s okay, blood). I was just messing with the guys because I knew that the driver just wants to eat the chick. Atte, she also wants. She won’t even pay transport fare. They are going to dance each other!”

I did not dispute what he said but I felt like we were now cool, especially since that was enough of his conversation that I wanted to hear.

“Yeah, it seems he liked her as well,” I said.

He replied, “Atte those market women be retaining water inside there. That guy is going to enjoy. Do you know a woman who spends the day eating watermelon and cucumbers? He’ll die of drowning. Let me tell you. I once dated a mutooro-”

I slowly trailed away from him towards the bodabodas that would take me home. I didn’t mind his raw conversation, but my head was not in the place for it at the time. I thought about the thumbs-up the driver gave me and how it made my day feel extra fulfilled. What a day! I thought this as I walked some paces to the boda stage. I witnessed the start of something lovely between a man and a woman, I helped out a brother in need, and I did some creative work that earned for my pocket, a gorilla. Hold up! The gorilla!

Panic set in as I stopped in the middle of my gait. I started rewinding my memories. I gave the gorilla to the conductor at the petrol station because he wanted change but he told me to keep it until I gave it to him again and then… I received no balance! What to do? I could not remember the number plate, and I didn’t even know if it could help looking for the taxi in the sea of old taxi park taxis. I still tried. Long story short, I did not find the taxi. It probably ended up parked near some lodge somewhere.
If only I had concentrated less on cock-unblocking a bro and more on the rest of my gorilla.

Much love y’all,

Mukama Kevin Rushokye

Kevin is a satirical writer, artist, and author of Following The Madman. To support, buy his book from the link below.

You can also watch his short film, The Pizza Movie on YouTube or below.

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