The “Brathe” zone, the one zone, where you will never be able to swim through the waters and shout out loud in your Martin Luther voice; FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! This zone is so deep the Titanic would never spot an iceberg even if it was jumping up and down yelling for the ship to divert its way. This zone makes you confuse your femininity and wonder why the estrogen in you can’t save you from this dire calamity. Don’t mistake the brathe zone, with; “oh she’s just like a little sister to me”, zone. No the brathe zone, is worse; it’s the “she’s one of the boys”, zones. My first encounter with this zone still remains very vivid in my mind:
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, you know those chilled out Saturday afternoons, when the sun is so bright, the breeze is just right and in your head nothing can go wrong, because you finally got that call. The call that has you floating in the air, you even throw your neighbors pesky kids in the air and play a few games with them on your way out. You’re dressed in a way that says slaying is my weakness, but it’s not like I’m trying to impress you, outfit. That outfit that can pass for you know what, it’s cool like whatever I’m chill! You have been waiting for this call for ages, and finally the lunch date has been set. In your mind, you probably assume, it’s either Moorings Restaurant or La Marina. After all, those are your favorite chilled out less crowded restaurants that you can enjoy the view of the ocean and have meaningful conversations to. But alas! That is not the case, the casual dress code and newspaper in hand were the first signs you missed. The second was how dirty the car was. The third sign hits you right smack in your face when you arrive at the location of your lunch date. The car wash in front of you, the garage next to it with mechanics balancing cigarettes on their mouth while talking at the same time, it’s the famous Le Quibanda!
If you’re not familiar with Le Quibanda, it’s the local place where you chill as you wait for your car to be washed, with a menu so tantalizing the five course meal is served in one plate. The waitress sat on the far end of the plastic chair, eventually she decided she just might as well get up to serve us. I looked at her drawn eyebrows thickly drawn with black eye pencil or is that picko (black henna is the new eye pencil applied on eyebrows nowadays) her eyebrows looked like they were about to skip around in the horizon with the rainbow eye shadow on her eyes waiting for them to pick flowers and gold coins while watching the sunset. She came over with a toothpick stuck in between her lips, dressed in a black tee and jeans, waiting to wipe our table with paraffin to ward off the flies hovering over our table, impatiently waiting for our meal to arrive, so that they might dig in as well. She asks me in a nonchalant, husky voice that couldn’t be bothered with formalities or whether she was going to get a will tip or not, on which drink I wanted.
“The usual for me”, my lunch date answered. Of course by now I realized that this was the kind of joint where goats came to rest in peace or rather people’s stomachs. She noticed the flies seemed to be quite a pest toward me (pun intended) and came to light a candle on the table. In my mind I wondered how the candle being blown away by the wind and the paraffin or is it petrol scented table would have caught fire and I would have ended up being the grilled meat. Eventually the wind blew the candle away and I seemed to relax. The décor was wanting to say the least, white plastic chairs, with a plastic Tusker draping on the table and a plastic mini petrol can that’s turned into a salt shaker while we overlooked the view of the car wash in front of us. He didn’t seem bothered one bit with the flies hovering around him, as he carefully flipped through the pages of the newspaper. He looked quite comfortable with the scenario at hand.
Fifteen minutes later, after listening to some Rhumba tunes, she came back with a basin, jug and liquid green soap that left my hands so dry, I was so sure they were about to turn dry up and turn into salt like Lot’s wife. By now my brain assumed that the food was just around the corner, but it took another fifteen minutes for it to arrive. Wetting the appetite seemed to be their motto or so I assumed. By now my hands were even dirty from warding off and swatting flies all around me. Finally the meat was brought on a wooden board, and splattered all around the table, a few pieces dropped on the paraffin scented table, but I guess the five second rule applied and they were picked right away and placed on my plate. She came back with a plate of greens, pepper and ugali. I faithfully finished my meal in silence; while she went back to sit at her corner seat scanning each and every gulp I took and hurriedly came to ask if I needed another drink. In my mind, I prayed and hoped that, that wasn’t a fly I swallowed, but just burnt black onions. She came back with more paraffin to wipe the table, even my sinuses were still too shocked to react to the situation at hand. Eventually my teeth got the hang of the tough meat and I soldiered on with the mortal combat moves of swatting the flies while eating.
It was time for us to leave, but one of his friends decided to bring his car to be washed as well. We went through the whole process again, the swatting, the paraffin scented tables and that’s when he dropped the B word on me; “relax, you better get used to the flies, since you’re one of the “boys” now! “Oh no, he didn’t? Oh yes he did!” the voices in my head assured me, I didn’t hear it wrong. I had just been brathe zoned! The zone where I wouldn’t be Free at Last! It is the zone of Le Quibanda lunch dates and car wash views!