BANK HALL.


I hurriedly walk into the banking hall, panting, cussing. I had wasted the last ten minutes getting convinced by the guard at the ATM that my account was still intact. See, I had just visited the ATM next to the bank to withdraw some two thousand shillings, the last two thousand shillings, from my account. I initiated the transaction and it had gone so well until the ATM machine decided my life was too easy and needed some knock down. As soon as my ATM was out, the ATM Machine gave the dreadful “Out of Service” notice on the screen. This would have been okay if my cash had already been dispensed. Now, however, I wasn’t sure about my money’s fate therefore I wasn’t ready to leave until I was assured it was safe. I had anxiously and angrily called the guard and complained, which was more like insulting him, for the poor services. I demanded that he goes to the bank and finds out my account balance before I left the ATM, and he tried explaining that no one is allowed to check another’s account unless one is a signatory or an agent to the account but his efforts were unsuccessful. He had to get help from bank’s employee to calm me down and explain the matter to me. He assured me that my 2k was still in the account, and suggested that I withdraw over the counter because the next ATM Machine was a bit far. I follow him hurriedly only for him to lead me to the tickets dispenser and tell me I have to pick a ticket like everyone else. I complain again but he is already on his way so that my complaining is a waste of breath.
I sit, lean on the chair, shut my eyes, and think it’s going to be okay. A few minutes to go then you can have your 2K and go pay for that amazing pair of six inch heels that you know you can’t walk in, then ask your best friend for a loan to last you the last two weeks of the month.
Ticket Number A-Seven hundred-twenty five, counter number four, the automated ticket lady calls out. She is always calm that one, and it infuriates me. You have no idea what I have been through! I murmur angrily. You better be glad you haven’t experienced what we have, I say looking around, trying to convince myself that everyone in the banking hall has been through all I have been through. Then it hits me, I haven’t even checked my ticket number.
Fifty people ahead of me, shit! These people have the worst services ever, I exclaim angrily. The lady seated next to me stares at me for a minute, shakes her head as if disgusted by my tone and my cuss, then faces in front.
hi there miss goodie-two shoe lady. Idle! I add. No normal busy person wouldn’t want to leave the place as soon as they go it. And God forbid I find another lady buying MY shoes, I think staring at her.
I continue staring at the little miss perfect. She is indeed perfect. Smooth face, long well-manicured nails. Nail Gel of course. I wish I could get five hundred shillings to get my nails done too, but well, that can wait till end month. She has curly human hair, the silk smooth ones. It really looks like her real hair but I know all too well. Her make up is perfectly done. Her perfume is exotic, the designer kind, something close to Burberry Weekend but am not so sure since it has been a while since  my hundred and fifty shillings worth of perfume got finished, the ones they use a syringe to measure when you can’t afford the whole bottle. She probably bought the whole bottle, I think jealously.
Her clothes look like the Woolworths, LC Waikiki kind, not the mtumba ya soo biri biri that I am wearing. Niliangukia hii koti, I think of my blue coat. Trust me, it was a kill at two hundred shillings.
Back to the perfectly dressed lady with her six-inch heels, she would probably comfortably rock MY new pair. I think, envying her looks and lifestyle. 
Miss, follow me, a young bank employee calls her and she follows him. He leads her straight to the teller. I see the people seated close to me stare in disbelief. Yaani ukiwa mrembo unapitishwa line tu, one guy shouts angrily. Others murmur and other laugh, embarrassing the bank staff. I sink in my chair, acting unbothered, lest people think I am insecure about my features, no, more like confirm that I am.
She was here earlier, he says embarrassed, trying to calm down the angry crowd. They calm down. They all know it’s a lie but it’s no use being petty. We are complacent with the fact that her beautiful face and elegant clothes can get her anything. She chats with the staff as she is served, giggles at his jokes. She must find him boring, but simply laugh because he helped her “jump” the line, I think. Poor guy. He leads her out but she disappears even before he is out of the door with her. He gets back to the banking hall sulking. Serves you right, I think.
I am distracted by the fast AC. I am sitting right next to it and I am now freezing. I see the guard walking by and I summon him with my hand.
Zima hii kitu, kuna baridi sana, I demand. He stares at me with his round big eyes, disgusted too by my tone, and sneers. He looks at the scarf in my hand and dares to say jifunge scarf kama unaskia baridi, and walks away. I immediately regret the tone I used on him. He probably thinks I am a mean, entitled person. I swear that’s not what I was going for. I am just angry, frustrated, cold, and afraid that MY stilettos will belong to someone else. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t have taken it out on him. I respect the bank guards. They ensure our comfort and security in there. Moving is not an option because the seats are all occupied. I meekly cover myself with the scarf. It stinks of the now dry milk that poured on it that morning, It’s now noon. I hold my breath and pray that I get to the counter soon.
I don’t care if I got the wrong ticket. I am not leaving until you serve me, an aging man shouts catching everyone’s attention.
sir, sir…. the teller desperately calls trying to get through to him but he shows her the hand. That’s how you know that the person will not budge, I think. The guard hurries on. The teller explains to the guard what is going on. He tries to lead the man from the counter but he refuses. I said I am going nowhere. I have been here for the last one hour, and it’s not my fault that your ticketing device is so complicated, he says stubbornly.
m-serve tu tuendelee, a younger man shouts from his seat, angry that they are wasting too much time on a single person. People nod in agreement. Kumbe wakenya tunaweza ungana, I think proudly. I find myself smiling, the first time since I got here. 
Sir, this teller doesn’t offer the services you are seeking. Stand aside and go to counter six after the lady being served, the guard says carefully. He doesn’t want to cause any more uproar. The man agrees and nods victoriously. The guard comes and stands next to me.
Nini hiyo inanuka? He asks studying the area. 
Ni scarf yangu, I say embarrassed. He stares at me, shakes his head, gets the remote and turns the AC off. Thanks, I say genuinely, feeling like he has saved my life. I take off the filthy scarf
I watch the clock tick until my ticket is called out. I put my things together and hurry to the counter, and quicken my steps when I see an elderly woman walking towards it. She gets to the counter before me because she was seated closer to the counter. I stand behind her hissing. I lift my ticket up for the teller to see it.
Sorry madam, she says to the elderly woman apologetically, what’s your ticket number?
The woman sighs and moves away from the counter. I place my items at the counter but cannot bring myself to hand the lady my ID and my withdrawal request slip. I think of the woman, what if she were my mother and some young girl after some six-inch heels treated her as I did, what if she is withdrawing the cash to pay for her grandchild’s school fees because her daughter dumped him with her and does not support them, what if she needs the money to go to the hospital? I think and shake myself from the endless list of what ifs. I ask the lady to come back and get served before me. She smiles gratefully and whispers, God bless you, young lady. I stand aside and watch her pull out a cheque and deposits it. I just had to place her in the worst of situations ever, what’s wrong with me? I think as she is served. 
It’s my turn to get served. The lady across me is so slow, too slow. I start feeling anger rising in my chest.
Is there a problem? I ask irritably. If only she knew what was at stake here.
No, sorry, she almost whispers. She is still taking her sweet time. 
Hey, I don’t have all day. If you can’t carry out the transaction just transfer me to another counter, I say angrily, hoping my 2K is still intact.
I look in her eyes and see tears welling up but I ignore them, put my needs before hers.
You do not have enough funds to withdraw 2k, she says, now with a louder voice. I shudder, my ears feel hot, my heart races, tears start filling my eyes. It is obvious that I have lost my money. I prepare to throw a tantrum and blame the bank for the loss of my money when the teller lifts up a paper. 
1976, it reads. That’s all you can withdraw after deducting the withdrawal fees, she says calmly.
What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you start with that, I ask both relieved and angry that she had gotten me angry and nervous. The poor lady breaks down.
Am so sorry, I say regretfully. She reaches out for her handkerchief and wipes her tears.
It’s okay, she says sadly. 
I shouldn’t have spoken to you in that tone. Am sorry for making you cry, I plead, helpless, guilt eating me up.
It’s not that, she mutters, stares at me, as if trying to decide if she could open up to me then says, nilikosea hesabu nikapatia mtu 80k badala 50k. sijui hiyo pesa itatoka wapi. She looks helpless, desperate, confused, sad.
Oh no, I am so sorry, I say, angry with myself for being nasty to her, and everyone I have been to today, and realizing that people have bigger problems than stiletto problems. My heart goes out to her. I am embarrassed to even pick the 1976 shillings she hands me.
Shika hii uongezee kwa fare ya Kesho, I say helplessly, handing her one hundred shillings note. 
She is startled, and maybe a little confused comparing the one hundred shillings note to the thirty thousand shillings deficit, then accepts it realizing that she would need any help she can get.
Asante, she says with a smile.
Karibu. I wish you the best, I say genuinely and say a little prayer for her in my heart, and a little for me telling God to provide another potential pair of stilettos at the end of the month, after payday. 
I walk out and make sure not to use the route leading to the shoe shop.

I wish to thank my very good friend Tina Nyambura for this awesome guest post. 
She is a gentle soul with a beautiful heart and a personality that screams kindness in the most innocent way.
Tina is an accountant by profession and very passionate about interior design.
When she is not dealing with figures and designs, find her reading contemporary African books and writing short stories. Her first book is coming out very soon.

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Wacera Kieha

Wacera Kieha is a Lifestyle Content Creator based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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