I could feel myself shaking in righteous anger. Tony or whatever the hell he was called let out a string of curses as he touched the place on his cheek that had been hit. My hand stung with heat and I knew that if I was light skinned my own cheeks would turn red in anger.
That was the problem though, wasn’t it? I’m not light. I’m far from it, in fact as dark as night. I have had it though. This was the last straw. I turned around, but not before I heard the dude screaming over my shoulder.
“I just complimented you, you crazy witch!” noticing I wasn’t paying attention he continued to mumble under his breath about how stupid women were.
I shouldn’t give a damn what he thought. I didn’t, did I? I wasn’t supposed to with all that self and woman empowerment that’s been playing out on the media. All the Oprah talk shows about loving your body, and yourself; it all felt like nonsense at this point.
I walked briskly towards the stage and waited for a matatu. I watched the people around me. An old mama was carrying a gunia on her head, a man in a business suit talking on the phone, a teenage boy with his earphones on, and two primary school kids gossiping and snickering in their uniforms, enjoying the fact that it was Friday.
Such different walks of life, and diversity and no one really took more than passing notice of the other. The matatu finally arrived, the makanga repeating over and over “Mbao Junction” as if we didn’t already know the twenty shilling fare that was always charged to the closest intersecting junction. Just as everyone who needed to had clambered in, and the mat was about to leave, a light-skinned girl came into view of the matatu from behind. The makanga lifted up his hand in an understood gesture of inquiring whether she would be coming along. She nodded her head and increased her pace to catch up with the mat. To me, she still seemed like she was walking at the speed of one kilometre an hour.
I couldn’t help the slight resentment that rose up from the pit of my stomach as she drew near and finally entered the matatu. I noticed her red lipstick-lined lips and the cat-eyed mascara applied to make her light brown eyes pop. She was probably around my age, around twenty-two, twenty-three, and I had to draw my eyes away to keep from staring at her.
I hated her. She was the epitome, the embodiment of my life’s pathetic state, but as she was a stranger I couldn’t let her see the hate in my eyes. I thought back to my miserable life.
Two months ago my boyfriend left me for a chick that looked almost like her. A light-skinned, rich brat. Who was gorgeous? I’m a model and my agent always told me my complexion and baby soft skin were lovely just what the industry needed right now.
“A fresh new face in modelling.” She said. That changed when I got a call from her about the photo shoot I was going to do, advertising a new lotion in the market. Her voice was soft as she said,
“Hey Amy, darling it looks like the photo shoot is not going to pan out. They found someone else to do it, for today.”
In confusion, I asked, “What? Why not?”
“I already told you dear, they found someone else who they think would suit the part better.”
“I don’t know if you know her, Stacey, I think her name was?”
The fog in my head suddenly cleared and I understood. Stacey had taken modelling gigs from me before, hand creams, face washes, and a few other beauty products. Stacey was also light-skinned.
I tried to talk to Stella my agent one more time, “Stella, but I haven’t had a job in weeks, and I was just…”
I heard her talking to someone else in the background, she wasn’t listening to a thing I was saying, “Darling I’m sorry I need to go, don’t worry there will be other gigs, bye for now love.” She cut the phone before I had a chance to get anything in edgewise.
I chuckled to myself in the matatu ironically, making the lady who sat next to me look at me like I’m crazy. I didn’t care. That was the second time someone would have thought I’m crazy today.
Speaking about today, my friend, Noni, thought I had been wallowing too long over my ex and decided to set me up with a pal of her boyfriend’s, the guy whose name started with a ‘T’; Tim, or Tony, or Tom, or whatever.
I decided I would do the courteous thing for Noni’s sake and actually dress up and look pretty for this guy. I saw him in the far corner of the restaurant, looking bored out of his mind. He was the only person by himself in the obvious couple’s restaurant. I walked up to him and introduced myself and he gave me a look of surprise.
“You’re Amy?” He asked incredulously.
“Uhh, last time I checked yeah,” I said as I sat down in front of him.
After that, the conversation flowed better than I expected until I saw him checking out a waitress. I ignored the fact that she reminded me of my ex’s newfound girlfriend, and continued on, pretending I hadn’t noticed.
“So you want to know something interesting?” He said with a smirk.
“Mmhmm, sure,” I said.
“After Noni told me about you, I actually looked for you on Facebook.”
I smiled, curious to see where this was going, “and?”
“And, to be honest it wasn’t that interesting. I didn’t expect the date to go well and was only going to do this because I didn’t want to her Noni’s feelings because she’s my homie’s girl you know?”
“Uhh” I actually didn’t know, and this was not the way I originally thought it was going to go, “Okay?”
He looked at me deeper and these words came out of his mouth, “But to be honest. I’m actually enjoying this date, and you are actually quite pretty… for a dark-skinned girl.”
Before I knew what was happening my palm had already made contact with his cheek, and I wasn’t just slapping him. I was slapping my ex, I was slapping the modelling agency, I was slapping Stacey, and every other light-skinned girl out there who is presumably more pretty because they are a shade or two or ten lighter than I am.
It’s like unspoken racism. The silent fact that if a girl is fair and light skinned she is probably pretty, but when it’s a dark girl if she’s pretty that’s a shocker. The lighter your skin the more gorgeous you are, right? Of course, it would never be said out rightly, but it is lived in everyday life. In small things, it is noticed, and I am freaking tired of it all.
As the makanga was yelling Junction, indicating the next stage was close by and passengers should get ready to get out, I pondered the expression the scoundrel had used over and over again in my mind, “Pretty for a dark-skinned girl?” When the hell will we as people be able to get out of that caveman mindset? I just think it’s about time. I closed my eyes as I realized that I may be becoming part of the very group of people, I at this moment hated. It’s time to test whether I was better than any of them.
I looked towards the light-skinned girl who was still texting with her red painted nails, and shrugged my shoulders while I thought to myself, “She’s only going to be the third person today who thinks I’m crazy.”
I tapped her on the shoulder and said in my sweetest voice, “I love the colour of your skin.” Then I jumped out of the matatu as it came to a stop before I could relish the dumbfounded expression on her face.
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.