Street Aromas — Part One
Sunday 1st May 2016:
Martin got out of the front seat of the Shell petrol tanker. The car had just arrived in Kampala from Hoima. The sleep on the journey had done him some good. He had a Techno button phone that was two years old. It served him well especially when it came to the issue of battery life.
It could go seven days before blacking out. He didn’t have many contacts on it either. Just his friend Jude, whom he had come to see hoping for a fresh start. His grandma had just died, and the rest of the relatives wanted nothing to do with him.
They hated him because when his father, Benson became successful and left Hoima for Gulu district, he never came back to visit and check on his family while still alive. He only returned as a corpse waiting to be buried, together with his wife’s body after they died in an accident.
That’s how Martin went from a riches-to-rags lifestyle.
Martin coughed as he slept inside one of the stalls at the Old Owino market, now behind the new Owino market mall. He had two old jackets on, a heap of cardboard boxes for a pillow, and two pieces of tarp the length of large blankets for a blanket.
Droplets of rain crashed on top of the iron sheets in increasing intensity. Yes, finally. I hope the rainy season is here. He stood, stripped to his boxers, and grabbed the basin that he shared with tens of other traders. He ran into the rain and spread his arms apart.
Water filled the basin as he washed his armpits and midsection with bare hands.
He raised his face to the sky and opened his mouth, letting the droplets quench his thirst.
The red basin was half full now, he lifted it over his head, and let the mass of liquid wash over his body. The cold didn’t bother him. He never suffered allergies. It’s like God had blessed him with good health in his current situation.
On an ordinary day, he would have to either go without showering or shower with sewage water, in the Nakivubo channel. On days, when he made enough money, he would pay for a shower at 1,000 shs in one of the public toilets inside the city malls.
Problems came when one of them made it big. Elevation in business meant you had to leave your friends behind because the friends turned into enemies. The culture didn’t allow one to do better than the others.
You would get beaten, robbed, and even killed for selling more and having better clients than the rest. This was not the life Martin pictured for himself. This was not the life any of the traders ever pictured for themselves. Even in the current life, they found themselves in, they pictured a better life.
Like us, they had visions.
Monday 5th February 2018:
Martin rolled up the thick polythene paper he used as a display for men’s t-shirts outside the old taxi park.