We met at manda hill in the most unfortunate way. It was at the foot of an escalator, the most discomfiting episode of my existence. If life had an edit button, I would’ve cropped out that part of our encounter. You see, I wasn’t a town girl, more like bush mouse goes to town, for the first time.
The famous escalator was my downfall. I wasn’t going to go back to the village without using it. I needed to tell my grand mother about it, and my village girls needed to hear my great story of a holiday well spent in Lusaka city. But life as I’ve come to know it, dishes out embarrassment in kilos and tonnes….
I had escorted one of my cousins to Manda Hill, only because she insisted. I was so scared of venturing out because I had never been anywhere outside the comfort of my village, but since I was in the big city I needed something exciting to tell the people back home. So I agreed to go along with her.
While at Manda Hill my cousin met her friend and decided that I hang around the mall while she and her male friend discussed some important issue. We agreed to meet at the the spot where we parted near Hungry Lion in an hour or so.
I Have never been so scared in my life, not even the time I met a very strange looking animal while drawing water at the well one night. Indecided that if I was to impress my people back home, I better start acting like I was born and bred in town. So I put on my sunglasses given by one of my cousins. They were dark, a bit scratched and I couldnt see properly in them but they were sunglasses nevertheless.
There I was walking slowly from Shoprite all the way to game Stores and back, eyeing how people got on and off the escalator. If my math is anything to go by, I think I may have reached town and back on foot counting the number of times I walked back and forth.
On my fifteenth back and forth, a cleaning lady known as a cleaner in a blue uniform asked me in vernacular if I was alright. I nearly answered yes in Nsenga but decided it was best I pretend I didn’t understand the language. I needed to fit in.
“Pardon? ” I answered, trying to sound polished like my town cousins while peering down from glasses the way learned old men do. The cleaner looked me over as if not believing I didn’t understand what she said. She shook her head and continued mopping the floor.
I decided now’s the right time to go up the escalator. I pushed my sunglasses back in place and joined the people who were at the foot of the escalator. I shouldn’t have because before I knew it I was grabbing a man’s sleeve and holding on to dear life. He looked at his sleeve, then at me and pulled his arm away. He probably thought I was going to rob him. Once I was stable although still shaking in my legs, I apologised for holding on to him. He wasn’t one of those nice classy men so he muttered something and quickly climbed two steps up. I was about to breathe a sigh of relief when I realised the escalator had reached the top in time for me to get off. Too late.
It was clear I hadn’t learnt anything from watching all those people going up and down the escalator. The word itself was difficult enough for me to pronounce. Who was I kidding that I could confidently get on and off it without a fuss.
The escalator literally ejected me, tossing me into a group of boys waiting to get into Freshview cinema. They looked like rich kids I concluded, looking at their sneakers and boots from that position. I was so into the sneakers and boots I forgot why I was down there in the first place.
“Careful now”, one of the boys said in an accent that seemed more made up than real. He put out his hand for me to hold and helped me up. I said thanks while getting up and without looking back I headed right for the escalator to go down. I could hear whispers about my fall and muffled laughter behind me but I wasn’t going to be defeated. I had a story to tell my village friends and this minor setback wasn’t going to ruin my awesome experience.
Touching my painful face, I realised my no-brand name sunglasses were not there. Good riddance I thought. They were probably the reason why I fell. Without them I’d be able to see better and ride the escalator confidently. After this I’d get on the lift. That glass box looked so beautiful gliding down smoothly from where I was standing. It should definitely be part of my story.
Thank goodness there were few people going down. I stepped hesitantly on the escalator, holding on to the rail with one hand. Not bad, I thought. My legs wobbled but I planted my feet firmly and looked around with pride. Great mistake.
That last step that hurled me off the escalator on my way up hurtled me down. This time, I let out a scream as I hit into none other than the cleaner. “Mayo!” I cried. (that’s for mum in English). I could see the wry smile on the cleaner’s lips. “Mayo?” she asked mockingly. “I thought you don’t speak vernacular?” she added. Right then I wished the ground would open and swallow me, or that I lost consciousness and rather came to in hospital. But in real life, no such things happen. You’re made to face embarrassment live and in high definition.
“Isn’t this the same girl who fell off the escalator up there?” I heard someone ask loudly. The cleaner told me to get up and that’s when I realised I only had one shoe on. A number of people stood by wondering what was going on. I could hear ‘sorrys’ and ‘not normal’ being uttered. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to go home barely dressed going by how quickly I was losing my things. Firstly it was those silly sunglasses, and now my shoe. My confidence almost deserted me but then someone handed me my shoe.I mumbled a thank you, put on my shoe and headed for the lift.
I may not have conquered the escalator, but I was surely going to take on the lift in style and with ease. All I needed to do was wait for the door to open like I had observed, casually walk in and let it take me up. I would come down the same way and wait for my cousin at the agreed spot. I noticed that people were going about their business already, my embarrassing moments all forgotten. I like these town people, they mind their own business. Had it been back in the village, the crowd would’ve still been there, asking me to explain how I fell, why I fell, and even suggesting that someone may have done some magic on me.
I saw the lift come down and gently halt. The doors opened and the three people in it rushed out. I wondered why anyone would want to rush out of such a beautiful innovation. I was going to be the last one to enter after the five people in front of me. I strolled in, literally in slow motion much to the annoyance of the lady pressing one of the buttons keeping the door open. She let go before I could completely move my hand from the door.
I cannot describe the pain that shot through my arm. If at first I screamed ‘mayo’ when I fell earlier, this time I added ‘nafwa’ (I’m dead) for effect. It wasn’t intentional but came out naturally from the pain I felt. Some in the lift asked if was ok. I shook my head, almost running out of the lift when it stopped and the door finally opened to let us out. At this moment, I really wished I had on my useless sunglasses. One thing I was sure of though, I wasn’t going back down in that horrible thing. Besides, it seemed there was no one else using it at that moment to go down to the ground floor and I wasn’t going to risk being alone in it.
My heart willed me to try the escalator one more time. I defiantly stepped on it, this time fixing my eyes in the direction I was going. If I told you that my feet wouldn’t move when we reached the ground, you’d think I’m lying. Maybe the village stories were true after all. Someone must’ve done some magic on me because with my feet stuck on that step, let’s just say my fall was memorable.
I landed, thankfully in the arms of a man right at the foot of the escalator. He was kind, not like that escalator man who yanked his arm away from me. I was about to say thank you when my eyes opened. I closed them and opened them again just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. My husband was standing right in front of me, except it wasn’t at the foot of the escalator. It was at the foot of the bed and he was telling me it was 6:45 and time to prepare for work. Aaaarrgg!!
Ps. This was the most intense dream I’ve had in a while. I’m so sad because I won’t be able to tell my grandma and village friends about my experience. I tried to go back to sleep to see if I could continue the dream but alas, it didn’t happen. Oh well… (gets out of bed) till next time,
Thanks for reading.