In primary school, in those poems we memorized to present to distinguished guests, parents, teachers and fellow students, one swims to the conscious:
(This part narrated in a sing-song voice)
I need some cash money nimesota,
Can you feel me?
Me nataka pesa, pesaaaaa
(Here, employ the poetic voice)
Pesaa pesaaa, ina maana (the actual word here escapes me) lakini ukiitumia vibaaayaa,
I get jittery around money. Scratch that. I get jittery ABOUT money. I am the girl who fears using money. I am also a spendthrift. There is a conflict on its own. I want to clarify it badly. Confusion is not a good state of mind. However, I sit here thinking, when was the last time you had something eating at your mind?
I am the girl who advises people on how to use their money. It is a conversation happening in my mind more often than not. I micromanage people’s finances while justifying mine with excuses of treating self after a long period of starvation.
I am the girl who will curse at the other human chopping their money on cheap booze as I deplete mine shopping. Do not be deceived. I do not possess too much money to splash around. The enough I have is never enough because I find little many ways to spend it all!
This is the girl who will not dare walk into Mr P or Levi’s for a pair of jeans. Vans for 2500 of Kenyan shillings? Excuse me while I buy 10 pairs at 100. You go for durability. I call my thing “saving”. No big shops. No tagged clothing and shoes.
The cheap ones going at 10, 20 and 50 still cover the same nakedness, don’t they? Besides, that expands my 1000 worth of Kenyan shillings to cover clothes, shoes, food and transport. Where else have you had a deal so accommodative?
All this explains why I enjoyed the show Extreme Cheapskates too much. Measured by those cheapskates standards’, I am doing Great.
Enjoyed the short commercial break? Welcome back!
I am the girl who advises people how to use their money. Lately, no one has asked and my preaching slogan has been laying low. Amplified here, it reads: If you want to lose friends, lend them money.
I read it from somewhere. Or heard it. It never sat clearly with me because what are friends for? had already been drummed into me proper. Until the day, experience became my best teacher.
Shaaban walked into my room on a Friday evening. Short and always wearing a hat to cover his face. He compensated for his unattractiveness by talking too much. Like many others before, the recollection of our meeting is unclear. We were acquaintants all the same.
Greetings. He didn’t sit on my bed. He chose to pace around like one in deep thought. Truth of the matter was he had analyzed, weighed and decided on the matter. All he needed was a look to paint his story a dip of accuracy for my acceptance.
After enough pacing, the amount he had decided was suitable from his rehearsal, he perched his arm around my neck. Any observer would have sworn we were best buds sharing a nasty secret about a mutual.
See, Shaaban was in a rut. He needed ONLY 500 Kenyan shillings from me to rescue him. Moreover, it wasn’t a mere favour. This would be like dressing a wound from sketchy first aid classes. Shaaban would return the money, latest by Monday.
Reluctance knocked. This was before the none money-lending slogan and me linked. In the Islamic calendar, Shaaban is the month right before Ramadhan. Ramadhan where we fast and pray and fast and pray and fast and pray. What we do during Shaaban is prepare for Ramadhan. We forgive those who have wronged us. We ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. We correct and attempt to make ourselves “pure” for the incoming blessed month of Ramadhan.
With the background of his name, do you, can you say no?
I unlock the wardrobe provided by the university. My keys clang against each other on my yellow duck keyholder with a red beak. I duck my head in to retrieve the 1, 2, 3…500 Kenyan shillings binded in one piece of paper. We are taught to call them notes.
Handing him the note, I remind Shaaban to keep his end of the deal. On Monday.
Is it befitting for me to let the cat out of the bag? Of the many Mondays that came and went. Of the times dialled and redialled Shaaban’s contact because in his introduction, he liked helping first years not to be exploited. Of bumping into Shaaban live live in a group of his friends, mimi kumshika mashati (English has nothing on this one) and him promising to insert his offline simcard and MPesa me ASA to the Now.
Three years later, I am on the verge of going to bed hungry. I have withdrawn all my “back up” money and my bank might be calling to check why I am sucking my savings dry. Why? Why you may quip. Why when I have become a seasoned economist in handling, none-lending and spendthrifting responsibly?
I fell for Shaaban once more. Unbelievable because I decided to triple it. This time through MPesa, together with the transaction charges. Basically, in the blink of an eye because that is how efficient the mobile transfer has grown to be. The Shaaban receiving on the other end, certified by Safaricom services, was female.
The 50 Kenyan shillings worth my level of affluence currently had to be spent wisely. 30 shillings went to a KK lunch (I am just learning it means Kata Kata). The 20 shillings change sits pretty, occupying space in my skull-decorated pocket pants as it presses on my right thigh.
The cycle is the same: Calls, normal texts (why do we call it this?), Whatsapp. Female Shaaban is online. She views my status. She posts her own. I joked to someone that my frustration was almost sending me to her other social media sites. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and download, install and sign up on Snapchat for good measure.
The worst feeling in the world is to beg, plead and borrow your fellow human, your own money. You feel ashamed. The shame wearing you cannot surpass being spotted naked.
Keep your money and friendships separate and distinct. In truth, let it reflect to all your relations except when bounded by the hip. Be humane but let brokenness be your language. As you reorganize your finances trying to stay afloat, the Shaabans on the other end will go incommunicado!