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Which door?

29177180_10155946855076251_5912836430786199552_nAbraham knows he has to choose one of the doors that have appeared in front of him, but he’s not sure why, or how he knows. He’s sure he’s read about things like this, in the short stories in the magazines people leave in the buses he touts for on the main axe slicing through Nairobi. He doesn’t get a lot of choice in life. Here he seems to have all the choices but none of the knowledge, which usually makes choices easy.

 

The door with the graffiti reminds him of the buses he works on. there’s even thumping music audible from behind, it, making the metal of the door shake a little at every beat. He wouldn’t say he enjoyed the deafening sound, but there was something comforting about it, familiar. He’s glad when he gets home to his bedsitter in a busy, dusty, cramped compound shared with around 150 other families, singletons and fathers that come and go to mothers that aren’t sure if they even need a father in the house. There’s barely space for them all.

 

This isn’t a silent place by any means, but at least he has some space that he can control and call his own. For someone that lives in chaos and works by the rules of the road, which are mean and unforgiving, Abraham is obsessively neat and organized. His toothbrush, with its little cover to protect it from passers-by who might like to feast or defecate on it, stands next to a clean glass for rinsing, and a clean, folded towel, on the little nightstand that served as kitchen counter, bathroom cabinet and entertainment system all in one. Next to it, a speaker with a slot for an MP3 player, which had been pinched by a street lout only last week, looked sad and empty, but sparkling clean and ready for a new guest when money came through.

 

But this door didn’t offer any promise of escape, which, much as Abraham refused to talk about to anyone, he longed for. So he moved on to the next. He wasn’t sure if  he walked or just shifted his focus of vision, he wasn’t really sure where his body existed and whether the doors were in front of him, or on a screen, but they certainly felt real. This door had no handle.  But is definitely wasn’t locked. There was that almost imperceptible gap between the frame and the door that tells you that with a soft push the door would swing open, and however much you tried to shove it closed, it would never quite stay shut. In the same way that Abraham tried to shut out his dreams of something better than working the buses for a living, from 5am to 10pm.

 

But what good was hoping when there was nothing to cling on to? No door handle. No education. No way out. He’d left school at 13 when his dad got sick and his mum couldn’t eanr enough for him and his five younger siblings. He started touting for the buses and got a good reputation. He worked his way up the ranks and was now one of the most well-respected conductors on his route. His uniform was always neatly ironed and he was never drunk on the job, which was a rarity amongst his peers. But still, no certificate and no  Maybe this door was trying to tell him something. Even if there’s no handle, there might be a way out.

Publicités

Certitudes

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Elle allait sonner. Ça serait bizarre d’attendre. Elle devait sonner tout de suite. Dix minutes pour monter les escaliers. C’était déjà bizarre. Il fallait sonner maintenant. Mais elle avait peur. Quand elle fermait les yeux. Elle ne voyait pas son visage.  Pas son corps. Rien. Elle avait peur de ne pas la reconnaître. Il y avait derrière cette porte six femmes. Elle avait oublié son visage. A elle. Celle qu’elle venait voir. Son corps aussi. Elle avait passé quatre heures face à elle. Les yeux droits dans les siens. Mais elle ne se souvenait plus la taille de ses cheveux. La forme de son nez. Quand elle ouvrait les yeux. Deux choses apparaissaient. Des yeux noirs qui la regardaient sans peur. Au milieu d’un corps légèrement courbé par un mélange de nonchalance et de timidité. Elle ne savait rien d’elle. Quasiment. Rien. Mais elle était sure. Sure qu’il fallait la voir. et la revoir. Elle avait été invitée. A manger. Elle n’avait pas faim. Mais en ouvrant cette porte elle savait qu’il faudrait manger devant six femmes. Qui avait préparé ce repas. Pour elle. Donc il faudrait manger. Sa vie était pleine de femmes qu’elle avait aimées avant de connaitre. Ça c’était toujours passé comme ça.  Une phrase. Un geste et elle aimait. C’était extrêmement étrange d’aimer quelqu’un qu’on est incapable de décrire et pas sure de reconnaître tout de suite. Elle avait l’impression d’être en avance. Un bout de femme dans sa tête qui s’agrandirait peu à peu. Apres des bières. Des thés. Mais parce que ça lui était arrivé toute sa vie. Elle ne doutait plus. Quelque chose au fond de sa tête avait vu le truc en entier. Elle. Non. Pas encore. Mais ça viendrait. Elle n’en doutait pas. Allez. Il fallait sonner. Ça avait commencé quand elle avait seize ans. Une femme. Parce que c’était déjà une femme. Avait installé une capuche sur sa tête au mois d’avril. Juste ça. Placé une capuche sur sa tête alors qu’il ne pleuvait pas. La courbure de son dos, de son épaule formée par la capuche, cette façon conquérante, septique et féminine de marcher. Elle avait été envahie immédiatement par cette certitude. Une certitude obsédante. La même qu’ aujourd’hui. Ce n’était pas de l’amour. Enfin si peut-être. Elle ne tremblait pas. Quand elle est venue face à elle. Elle ne voulait pas lui dire tu es extraordinaire. Elle ne voulait lui dire tu es belle. Elle voulait juste lui dire. Ouf, tu es là. Comme si c’était la seule. Elle ne tremblerait pas. Elle ou  l’ennuie. Elle n’avait rien à perdre.  Elle était venue s’asseoir en face de la femme à la capuche. A l’époque où tout était effrayant, elle n’eu besoin d’aucun courage. Elle pensa à ça et à ces 14 ans qui ont suivis. Où elle avait bu ces bières face à elle. Elles avaient construit ensemble un parole douce et précise de grandes personnes. Pour exprimer ce qu’elle exprimait à l’époque par des doigts d’honneurs dans des nuits d’ivresse urbaines. Tout avait été là dans la capuche. Un geste. Une démarche. Un manteau avant même qu’elle ne connaisse son prénom. Elle avait été envahie d’elle. Elle avait été sure. Elle va sonner. Maintenant. Elle a ses yeux dans la tête et ça suffit. Ce corps qu’elle ne peut décrire mais qu’elle connait. Elle le sait aussi grande soit-elle. Elle a des doigts d’honneur. Des nuits d’ivresse urbaines. Dans sa vie. Dans sa peau. Elle va manger. Elle va s’asseoir. Juste en face. D’elle. Et attendre un peu. Que peu à peu elle comprenne autre chose de cette femme. Que ces yeux noirs qui n’ont pas peur. Elle sonne.

 

 

 

Puritys shoes

What do shoes mean to you?

 

What do shoes mean to you? To me they are a means to the ends I seek: to running, to walking, to driving, to functioning. I think very little about them and I replace them as I need to, not more, not less. I alternate between pairs that offer maximum comfort and are suitable for the setting. They protect my feet, and they don’t hurt them, and I always make sure of this, ever since my mum told me the one thing you couldn’t afford to have as a young child working on a farm was sore feet. I still put them through trials and tribulations, squeezing them into strappy set-ups that do more harm than good for my body but a lot of good for my image (supposedly), and I’ll keep wearing my favourite boots even when they’re no longer watertight, because I’m too attached to them to just let them go. Often overlooked, but we realize when we ask, directly, and unabashedly, ‘what do shoes mean to you?’ that they’re more than the stitched together swatches of leather or plastic we look down on from above.

 

 

Alex:

 

“Shoes are very important to me because they protect me from injuries and diseases and they act as a symbol of attraction according to my job, whereby I need to be official to attract customers, and agents that I recruit. I’m a inspiration and a role model to many in the street. When they see me smart they get motivated and know they too can be like me”.

 

Wilson:

 

“The key thing is their hygienic purpose. They keep my feet clean and prevent injuries to my feet. They make one look presentable and smart and maintain good posture. They also prevent orthopedic problems to the ankle and foot, and build one’s self-esteem by positive self-image. Then they help at the gym and in sports, for performance and comfort whilst doing these activities. They prevent one from getting jigger infection as they act as a barrier. They protect feet from harsh weather conditions and also create employment for those that sell them.”

 

Phibris:

 

“Shoes are important to me because they protect my feet and some other shoes make me look smart”.

 

Wairimu:

 

“Shoes enhance my walk and general look making me feel graceful and feminine”.

 

Peddo:

 

“Shoes are an identity. Shoes tell the greatest of stories. And sometimes the most worn out of shoes tell the most beautiful stories.

 

In life, we’ve heard a million times the phrase ‘keep walking’, and so we must. They come in different shapes and sizes. There’s no one size fits all.  We spend a lot of time picking the most comfortable shoes for the journey because only good shoes take you good places.

 

Some people want the most expensive brand, some people wish they had any, and some wish they had feet to wear any.

 

Shoes. Also everything women want.”

 

The opinions are direct quotes from men and women in Nairobi, from a variety of backgrounds, and have not been changed, shortened or added to. Thank you to all of them for contributing so willingly and genuinely.

Exit number 3, Nation square

It is lying there, right by the exit number 3 of Nation metro station, to your right where you can find a little kiosque, on one of the steps somehow protected from Parisian rain.

As if carelessly left aside to be taken back later, this pair of shoes has caught my sight because it almost looks like the one I am wearing right now – and I actually deeply wish I wasn’t because they get wet too easily and I know that by the end of the day I will find my feet cold and humid.

One shoe is awkwardly standing while the other is resting on its side. Both shoes’ leather is washed out and dirtied by dust, although not quite mud. I turn around, looking for an owner nearby, a woman, a man, an adolescent that would have found refuge in this shelter. It is empty, looks deserted.

Who could have left these shoes here? How did that happen? Violent images, of fights, drunken bodies, come up to my mind. Of solitude too. Does someone, today, miss these shoes?

But maybe, on the contrary, will they provide a wretched happiness to a passerby with holed, sunken, sick sneakers.

And so, like everyone else I go on my way, this is not my business anyway, I have my own shoes here and more back at home.

When coming back I will not even have a look to see if they are still there, hanging around on this grey step next to exit number 3, Nation square.

 

***

 

Elle repose là juste à la sortie 3 de la station de métro Nation, sur la droite où vous voyez un petit kiosque, sur une des marches à moitié abritées de la pluie parisienne.

Comme négligemment déposée pour être reprise plus tard, cette paire de chaussures a attrapé mon regard car elle est presque exactement semblable à celle que j’ai aux pieds en ce moment – et que je regrette bien d’ailleurs car elles ont vite fait d’être trempées et je sais qu’à la fin de la journée j’aurai les pieds froids et humides.

L’une se tient un peu tordue, l’autre couchée sur le côté. Toutes deux ont le cuir bien délavé et sali de poussière sans que ce ne soit de la boue. Je tourne mon regard, cherchant un-e propriétaire alentour, une femme, un homme, un-e adolescente qui aurait trouvé refuge dans cet abri. Il est vide, semble abandonné.

Qui a pu laisser ces chaussures ici ? Comment cela est-il arrivé ? Des images violentes, de bagarres, de corps trop imbibés d’alcool, me viennent en tête. De solitude aussi. Est-ce que ces chaussures, aujourd’hui, manquent à quelqu’un ?

Mais peut être au contraire feront-elles le bonheur misérable d’un-e passant-e aux basques trouées, noyées, enrhumées.

Alors comme tout un-e chacun-e je passe mon chemin, cela ne me regarde pas de toute façon, des chaussures j’en ai aux pieds et à la maison.

Au retour je ne jetterai pas même un regard pour savoir si elles sont toujours là, trainant sur cette marche grise près de la sortie 3, place de la Nation.

My neighbor gave me this pair of military surplus boots

My neighbor gave me this pair of military surplus boots, and when I wear them out people often ask me if I was in the marines or military. People sometimes wear military surplus for it’s practicality, most often. Sometimes as a political statement in the form of clothing. Military surplus is some of the best quality clothing I’ve worn. It’s interesting , in the u.s where innumerable people are suffering the effects of our state’s bloated military budget, how the material of the military enters everyday life, in the form of boots, pants, jackets, outerwear.
I wear these shoes and consider how many people worldwide suffer immense trauma at the sight of american soldiers, in afghanistan, in Korea and Vietnam, in every nation this country has invaded or declared war upon. I walk in these shoes and think how triggering it must be to see u.s. military clothing & uniforms after troops in those uniforms destroy homes and commit violent atrocities. Yet i don elements of this costume for practicality, in the land where this is the costume of heroes. In amerikkka patriotism is enforced through statues and images of « heroic » american soldiers. I wear these shoes and consider how the dynamics of war are such that this is the costume of heroes in america yet a spectre of destruction for those suffering under u.s. occupation. while i don’t say this to speak for folks in that position, or project my ideas onto their experience. curtailing the truth victims of war suffer is itself a tool of propaganda and dehumanizing. my intent is to learn how people are effected, to listen and fill in the gaps left by my incomplete understanding . It’s vital that i listen, understand, support, and act in solidarity with those targeted in u.s. wars. I wear these shoes to carry me far from the footsteps they may have carried another, someone with fewer options than me who joins the military to escape poverty, their dead end small town or which ever iteration of related positions. I wear them with love in my heart and intent to act in solidarity with all victims of war- the young people drafted into a poor man’s army, civilians caught in the crossfire, families. With each step in these shoes striving to walk close with humanity in a world where it appears in jeapordy, sometimes, at worst a dim flicker. Yet it’s a fire that blazes within all who love and dream and know humanity is stronger than this. we kindle these fires with empathy. When we « walk in eachothers’ shoes » we learn to walk close with humanity.