THE FREEDOM RIDE

I am supposed to direct a film with something to do with the train and its kinda getting to me cuz I cannot figure out the timelines of the train! Sometimes I hear it at 7 pm, other times; it passes through Kenyatta University at half past six. Therefore, I have put my movie off and labeled it impossible. Yet, I have been having sort of epiphanies and I hear chugging of trains more and more frequently. As though it is reminding me that I really should make that movie.

Just like now, as I walk towards Nyayo gate and I hear the horn. I can feel the chugging already even though I cannot see the train yet. I approach the gate and at about that time, the train comes into view- cream, brown, and fucking old and ugly yet, I cannot help but stare as it slows down across my eyes.

I have never been on a train. The last time I was coming to Nairobi, I planned to travel on the train but missing the cheap accommodation inside school meant that any extra cash would have to go into looking for a house outside. Therefore, no train riding for me. Just the old boring bus.

Now as I watch the train and see people standing at the doorways waiting to alight, a crazy thought occurs to me just once. GET ON THE TRAIN.

I almost laugh at the stupidity of the thought. I have never been on a train. I have always wanted to ride one- even this old fucking thing. But now?  Like impromptu?!

My phone says its ten to six. I have time.

Some invisible force propels me into the train and I get on it soon as the doorway is free.

What the fuck am I doing?

I have always been spontaneous but what the hell am I doing in this dark thing!

I find an empty seat nearby and take it. Two other seats face me plus the one on my right are empty. Where am I even going! I should get out!

Soon as the thought occurs, the train begins moving.

What am I doing?! Where am I even going?! Do I even have cash? Oh, fuck! Do I have cash?

Rummaging through my pink bag, the one that belongs to my cousin, I notice the iron box I had gone to pick from a friend at the Nyayo hostels. The plan had been to take it and go home to Ruiru. Getting on the train and going, heaven-knows-where was not part of the plan.

However, as the train speeds past KM I look out the window and ponder “how bad could it be? I have time. I had money somewhere! 100shillings! Thank God!  Wait! I do not have supper- that was supper. Now I will have to spend it o the train ride!

Shut up! I tell myself. The train cannot cost more than 30 shillings. Even I know that! I sit back and watch barren fields of grass rush past.  There is nothing much to see outside. No picturesque sight or awesome landscape. Just grass and faraway buildings. But I am smiling, visibly I think.

I notice a girl on the seat to my extreme left on the other side staring at me. I clear my throat and stare outside.

I can still feel her staring at me. I aint smiling anymore. Why the fuck is she staring?! I look at her again and when I notice her eyes on me, I raise a brow at her. She looks away quickly and I notice the child to her right sleeping against her shoulder. Now I am the one staring. Her t-shirt is cream- I have a feeling it is supposed to be white. On her feet, I notice that she is wearing rubber sandals. She has a dark skirt on-I cannot tell what color it is.

She looks back at me and I look away.

Grass again.

Btu I like how the landscape seems to be moving right across my eyes so I lean closer to the widow. I like the train. It is not so fast so that things whiz past me. The landscape is turning hilly. I have never seen this side of Nairobi! Where exactly are we going? And that girl.

I take out my phone and pretend to be looking at the time while stealing a look at the girl. She is a girl- I bet she is about my age. And she has a bump on her tummy- so slight but I notice it now. She is paged!

Damn. Two kids at what? She could be 21. That is fucked up! And that reminds me that I promised myself; no sex without a condom! Na da! Easier said than done- I know. But the thought of having a baby at my age is enough to make me take an oath of celibacy so I think I can handle safe sex.

My eyes meet hers guiltily cuz I was staring at her bulge. It is wrong to stare. Lord knows I hate it when people stare at me!

Someone walks and stands before me.  A man in a blue uniform- I am guessing it is the conductor.

I hand him the hundred shilling note. He does something with the machine hanging down from his shoulder to his torso and a receipt comes out.  He gives me back 90 shillings and moves on to the girl.

90 shillings. We cannot be going to town. The fare to town is 30 shillings.

I would ask but I hate looking stupid. Therefore, I sit and wait. And soon enough, I get my answer.

Thika superhighway comes into view and it looks freaking awesome from this point. I realize my position from the road I go to and from everyday. This train is going to Ruiru. To home!

Moreover, the view from up here is to die for! From this side, I see the stretch that goes to Kiambu and I can’t help but smile at the magnificent tarmac symmetrically divided by the white dotted line.

wewww

I notice that the girl’s kid has woken up ad is staring outside his side of the window. He giggles at the girl and points outside. The girl smiles a little and puts a hand over her belly. Her smile dims a little.

I stare back at my side of the window. I worry too much. I am in campus- broke most times – and I have 90 shillings in my pocket but I can still afford to take a spontaneous ride in the train. Even if it were going to town, I would still have had enough cash to travel back t Ruiru and get me supper. I worry too much. What about people with families and no jobs? What about girls with two children and unkempt hair and sandals on their feet?

I am just me. A girl in campus with ways to make money and spend it on things I want to do, not things I have to do. If I can ride the train when I want to with no consequence – as long as I can do things I want, when I want with no dire consequence other than the thrill of a view I have never seen, then even if I have little money, I am better off than most.

I worry too much.

I will ride the train again tomorrow. And maybe I will borrow a pal’s camera to take a photo of the view. Or even go ahead and make the film I wrote. Shit! I have options after all!

masidoo

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