Commuting by public transport in Harare is an extreme sport. First, I walk for over a kilometre to the nearest bus stop. Then, depending on the season, I brave the chilly breeze or scorching sun waiting for a bus to show up. It doesn't. So I take my chances with a mshika shika, where the driver stuffs up to 9 passengers of varying sizes into a tiny Honda Fit or Toyota Vitz.
My lean frame comes in handy here, well, sometimes. Today is not one of those days. Still, that's not the worst of it. The driver must find a strategic drop-off point where law enforcement won't harass him. Today, it is the lane behind the service station in Takawira. That's another kilometre to my next bus. Again, it doesn't show. This time, I'm more relaxed. There are more people waiting for transport.
A mshika shika shows up - it's an illegal kombi. We spill into the kombi like sardines into a can. A policeman yells and motions us to stay where we are, triggering a surge of adrenaline in my body. The driver disobeys the order. He zooms past five-o going against traffic on a one-way road. The police fire a gunshot in the air. My heart stops. The commotion around me blurs into the background. I’m yanked back to the present by the conductor asking for his money. The exchange rate has gone up again. I wasn't prepared for that, but it doesn't matter. In fact, this entire ordeal doesn't matter. I'd happily go through it again for my girl.
She's short and dark, with Medusa eyes and a Monalisa smile. She looks like she got a BBL, but, erm, we all know it's her inner beauty that counts. I spent a good US$12 on a couple of fresh roses to match the tattoo on her wrist. They are in a plastic bag in my backpack. I hope they weren't smashed to smithereens during the kombi kerfuffle. They are a surprise, you see. She loves fresh roses.
She also loves white dresses. I bought her one for her birthday just a month ago, a cute little number with a low neckline. She was so happy. She'd never seen one like it in all of Harare. I haven't really seen her in it yet, but I have a feeling that my dream will come true today. That's why I also got her this super shiny gold necklace and bracelet combo. The sales lady said it's the kind of gift that makes a girl swoon. I don't normally trust Harare salespeople, but the sales lady was pretty…
Anyway, my girl is meeting me at Village Walk. I get off the kombi and check my wallet for the sixth time in two hours - my five US$10 notes are safely tucked away in the card compartment. She got me this wallet for Christmas. Apparently owning a good quality wallet attracts money. My financial health is still dismal, but I'm holding out hope. My start-up has a lot of potential. Once the cash is rolling in, I'm going to get myself a black Ford Ranger. It's not fancy, but it definitely says I'm earning good money. Kind of like the one I just spotted in the parking lot.
I move closer to check out the rims on it. Not bad...functional, generic. Mine would be a custom design. I take a quick glance inside and notice someone in the driver’s seat. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if he saw me studying his car like this? Besides, my girl could be here already, waiting for me. I take one last look at my dream car.
Oh, look! There’s a lady in the passenger’s seat. And she’s in a white dress too. Lucky guy. I notice a big bouquet of roses on her lap. How ostentatious. She leans in for a kiss. I bet I’ll be seeing this same girl’s Instagram post doing the rounds on my timeline later. Let’s just hope my girl doesn- wait… Is that…? It can’t be! I’m already moving closer before I can stop myself. That dress…
The lady lifts her hand and moves her braids out of the way. I’d recognise that double-rose tattoo anywhere. I look at the mountain of roses on her lap and remember the ones in my bag. They weren’t as plump and vibrant as that, even at the shop. We lock eyes. My heart stops for the second time that day. Falling in love in Harare is an extreme sport.
9 May 2022