The bristles of the brush rub against the black leather, gently then vigorously scattering the dust particles on the man’s shoes. The shoe-shiner sat humbly on his stool, rags clinging on to his body as if they were customarily made for his lean figure. His client, a plump bald-headed man arrogantly spread his legs with his head buried in the dailies. I catch the headlines, ‘Increase Taxes~ Warns Finance Minister.’ The midday sun was burning fiercely and from where I sat, there was no shade to save us from this burning ball.
The shoe-shiner’s name is Akatsa. My name is Rosa. I am the daughter of a renown shoe-shiner who sits in the middle of Nangili Market. My mother, a traditional African woman, pride herself in being a home maker. She refused to be referred to as a housewife, because according to her, she was not the house’s wife rather Mr. Akatsa’s. Semantics or puns, my mother was the pillar that our humble home stood upon. While my father, slaved away polishing shoes for rich men or men pretending to be rich, my mother sort small jobs in people’s farms. We couldn’t farm ourselves. Not for lack of resources nor skill, Mr. Akatsa had to sell the larger portion of his land to put us through school.
I spent my weekends fetching water for my father and running small errands for him. He was a fountain of wisdom, with a pompous personality that sent ripples to his clients. I remember one time, in primary school, the head teacher appointed me as the timekeeper. Well, I was disciplined growing up but she must have admired how shiny my shoes always were. She would dish out compliments whenever I run into her and on sunny days, she would encourage the other students to be as clean as Rosa. This day, I rush home overly excited. I knew father wouldn’t have closed his Turk shop at this juncture. I break the news to him, and he looks at me, his mouth ajar.
‘Will I buy yams for your mother or a watch for you?’
Perplexed, I walked home forlorn. I expected a brighter face than that. The next morning, he wakes me up with a small Casio watch with no straps smiling down at me, ’Leadership is responsibility. You have to keep time for everyone else.’
Let me start from the beginning…
The man buried in his newspaper, looks up and notices me~ a budding young woman. He smirks his lips tenaciously and whispers something to my father. He steals a quick glance at me, then quickly responds. Two weeks later, my mother packs for me a few lessos and some of her old dresses in a kiondoo. Father tells me that this man needed a house help and in return he would take me to school. I saw how my folks slaved away to put something on the table. My father, a shoe shiner had not even a single pair of shoes whilst I had two pairs. I knew and understood that sacrifices were necessary. Sometimes, we would have porridge for supper and my father would remind us,’ You’d rather be comfortable than happy.’