Urban Renewal

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I lived in an apartment right above this little factory that turns old clothes into stuffing for furniture. Its on Mawanda road, a run-down industrial part of Kampala city that most businesses fled long ago, mainly because it sits in the shadow of one of the worst gang-infested slums in the city. Or did. The slums are gone now, torn down and replaced with luxury hi-rise condos, but the neighborhood still has the dark, haunted feel of gang turf, with abandoned buildings and trash-strewn empty lots, urban wreckage everywhere. The neighborhood is pretty safe now, but the people in the hi-rises live behind heavy security and still drive through it with their car doors locked and their windows rolled up, eyes kept straight ahead.

Because of all that, urban renewal has been slow in coming, and rents are dirt cheap in the buildings still standing, and parking is easy on the deserted streets. The neighborhood is really a kind of hidden gem, and it attracts all kinds of urban pioneers.

Upper-middle-class suburban young women with Toyota Harriers and bi-weekly eyebrow-threading appointments. Middle-aged men who trade in brainy and hip investment-banking colleagues for time with their families in the evenings. Not to mention housewives, who would rather lose their husbands to a fatal illness than to the twenty-somethings, with perky tits, who reside at the numerous hostels around Kampala.

It was here, in a parking lot, that I met him. On a clear evening, with early stars outshone only by his eyes. Two thick-lashed eyes of that hue between brown and black.

As I introduced myself, I went hoarse from nerves. My attempt at Christina Aguileras husky voice sounded more like reggae artist Butchaman. Not a plus.

I cleared my throat and offered him a smile. He was gazing at something beyond me, so I glanced back.

I waited for him to ask What can I do for you? Or return my mini-smile. But he said nothing. His face was blank. So I said my name. It was so silent I could hear the engine of a distant Subaru. And more silence.

I tried to look at him without appearing to stare and swallowed, hard. The encounter was moving from uncomfortable to disturbing and yet, the silence didnt seem to bother him. He burst into a sudden smile and declared brightly: “I was thinking we could fall in love.

Susan Nava

Susan Nava blogs at flygirlchronicles.wordpress.com if you would like to read more from her

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