I met her in the lift the first time it happened. I was just rushing out of our offices at Winfred House. It was to be a quick errand. The package tucked under my arm was my ticket to a few minutes of freedom. The day really was one of those obscure ones when the heat and disgust got the better of you.

I looked to the corner and there she was. Tall and slender. She had a captivating smile on, that made anyone who looked at her blush. It was her skin though that really got the better of me. It was pure and flawless. Dark, and handsome to behold. It flowed and slid all through her body, clutching to her comfortably. Her chubby cheeks augmented the effect and she looked divine. They seemed to squeeze her eyes into her skull so that she looked crushed inside.

As she walked out of the lift, she took form. Her gay clothing seemed to effortlessly add colour to the environment .The luminous green dress and long flowing orange scarf fought for attention. Her red earrings dangled brazenly, dancing to the beat of her strides. Everyone who saw her walk by turned and stared. She was a sight to behold. The latest fashion adorned like a peacock she whisked around the corner and disappeared out of my sight.

I let her go on her way and crossed the street. I was late already. I rushed along, brushing past people who seemed to own the street. They walked ever so majestically. I felt like slapping the back of someone’s head. I moved along, taking a moment to glance at my watch. I broke into a jog. Twenty Minutes!!I was twenty minutes late!

As I looked up my eyes struck another one of her kind. She stood tall, nearly a foot above everyone. The dressing was the same. She was as bright as the midday sun. Her stride was calm and gentle, maybe even playful. There was something else though. Something in her eyes. It was a flicker. It seemed to speak to me. It was urging me to look closer and closer still. Then I saw it, rather I heard it. No, I saw and heard, therefore I must have perceived it, and it made my skin tingle.

There was a call of desperation in her eyes. Not one of those obvious ones you hear or see. It was not presented in tatters and dirt. She didn’t stink of the nearby alleys with drunkards urine freely spread all over.  It was not like a woman in agony over her dead son, weeping loudly. NO. This one brought a feeling of despair right in the pit of my stomach. It was an imminent hopelessness. It compelled me to stop. I stopped and looked, and looked again. My throat went dry. I couldn’t understand why.

But I was late, I had to hurry.  I pushed these piercing thoughts to the back of my mind and hurried on. I had documents to deliver for my boss.  I was about to lose my job. I zigzagged and wove through the crowd with the prowess of a real city dweller.

I got to Malabu Building five minutes late. I was ushered into a waiting lounge and asked to take a seat. The secretary told me that the boss would be right with me. The endless bureaucracy people were fed these days. My mind began to wander off five minutes into the wait. This was going to be a long one, or so I thought. I went back to the piercing eyes and gentle faces of her kind. They looked like they had gone through a lot. Suffering was inscribed all over their smooth faces. Where I was expecting to have deep trenches and creases of longstanding trouble though, there was an only smooth and layered fold after fold on the skin. That skin was like a beauty cream advert of sorts, refined over the years of tests. Their tests though, seemed different.

Then I thought of the men, their men. Tall and slender as well. Dark as coal. There was something more. There was a concentration in their eyes. It was like they were seeing something more. The men seemed to carry a burden and a purpose that they needed to put down. They couldn’t though, try as they did. There was a promised land they were seeing, just like Moses. I wondered if Moses’ face was also as creased and folded as theirs. Was he as tired looking and burdened? Did he try to hide it like they did? Was he dressed like them also, showing us the joyful outside and hurting inside? I wondered.

Across their foreheads, the men’s foreheads, there was something. Some had lines, others had tattoo like scars, they all had something.  It seemed like the marks on their faces were a constant reminder of what they wanted. They needed to remember their heart beat. The heartbeat of their people. It struck me as odd, awe inspiring even. I felt my heart throb to a beat. It was like I wanted to be part of them. To fight on with them, to get to a unity of purpose.  Was my heart beat like theirs? One that resonated with that of others? I reached out to my forehead, touched it lightly. Did I also have lines?

The boss walked in abruptly and I almost fell out of the chair in confusion. I was too deep in thought. It was the heat and disgust. He stuck his hand out to me and I took it and shook it. He stared at me blankly and I let go of him swiftly.  He was holding out his hand for the documents.  I passed them to him reverently and withdrew my hand.  He didn’t have his turban on today, but the crisp white kanzu and the checked scarf reminded me it was a Friday. These people were so consistent, so devoted. Quite unlike me I must say, in so many ways. I was shamed to silence by the way they carried out their affairs.

He was still looking through the papers that were in the envelope when a couple walked in. These were two samples of them again. Ah!! Was I being followed or pursued? It was too much now. What was God trying to say to me? They were smiling broadly and looking so pleased with each other.  The smile that opened my eyes again. It split right through to my heart. It was like a ray of light that coursed through me and brought out a realization in me. I was reminded that the sun still shone on everyone. The rain also fell on them as it did me. It reminded me that there was hope. Theirs was a smile of hope at the least, and a freedom song at the best.

Their people had seen enough tears. The battle still rages on their silent tussle for freedom, but one message remained clear. They could make it. All that from a smile. I smiled as I thought to myself.

As they walked in, I quickly stood up. The boss was done looking through the papers. I decided to get on my way as soon as he handed back the documents to me. Besides, my work for today was done. I didn’t hear anything he said to me, the boss, but I knew I was happy. I couldn’t help but smile at my realization. I still had my smile as I walked into the lift, another lift. I looked around to see if there was another on of them. That evening was an excellent and peaceful one.

I saw another one of them last week. They were so many in the streets. High heels, makeup, skinny jeans, leather bag, green yellow red mix, slender, dark skin, chubby cheeks, typical. I remembered, there was still hope for them. Hope for tomorrow, and she smiled. It was that smile again, a smile of hope.

© Samson de lui