She sits idly for long hours in the blistering sun, applying herself to the phone-charging business that occupies a small space in the open. A streak of frustration contorts her face sometimes, the etched lines of boredom and a halo of sadness. She is nameless to you as you walk past her; she is inconsequential, nothing, unworthy of your attention. But the humanity in you reels with curiousity: Where are her parents? Is she an orphan? Why is she not in school? Has she eaten?
You are peeling off the soggy, steam-drenched newspaper from the over-salted boiled corn you have kept in your handbag, the one you bought by a road-side corner after your eleventh job interview of the year. You settle in the back seat of the cooling BRT, stretching your leg forward as far as they would permit, and, in no time, your attention switches back to the nameless girl across the road who looks like she needs a bath. You are thinking this as you cleanly devour the corn down to the cob, turning and turning to expose rows your teeth has missed. You try to give her a story, the kind that depicts her condition but it eludes you. You feel a small sludge of guilt in your stomach at your inability to individualise her beyond the gnashing teeth of suffering. You want to act like you don’t care but you do. You are dimly aware that the BRT has started to move, full of people in stressed clothes and the evening-hour miasma that pervades the bus. You press your face to the window, misting it with your breath. The girl meets your eyes and you hold it – but not for long because a customer has just arrived at her table.
by Bernard Dayo