No knee went down. No ring was held out. No song bellowed from a stereo. Not even Jason Derulo’s ‘Will you marry me’ – si that would have been perfect?
There was no table set by the beach, no ocean or endless waters to stare at to get the illusion of eternity. No candles danced in rhythm with a nonexistent breeze. No chopper ride, no mountain peak peeks, no nothing. Not even a speech about her undying love for him was delivered.
It was not your typical proposal but it was one nonetheless. She is the one who popped the question. And she did not just pop it; she blurted it out.
Would he say yes?
The man and the woman laid eyes on each other for the very first time that night. They had not gone out on a date yet. He had not enthralled her with flirtatious lines. He had not had the chance to decide whether he was awed by her beauty just yet. He had not spent sleepless nights planning how he was going to make her his. Equally, she had not had the chance to marvel at his masculinity. She hadn’t been allowed to blush at his never-ending compliments about her beauty, her brains (We are hoping he’d notice her pretty mind too?) her perfect smile and her full lips that would invite him to lean over the table and kiss them thoroughly. He had not had the luxury of deciding whether to plant a quick kiss on her lips at first, and if she didn’t resist, whether to go ahead and get right into it, or not.
None of that had happened yet. You must wonder, wasn’t the proposal ill-timed then? Did it not come too soon? Well, since the proposer felt that the timing was perfect, and since we’re all just spectators and have no stakes in their business, we have to trust her judgment.
She was no ordinary woman I can tell you that. I also know that men love this kind – women who are a cut above the rest.
See, when he appeared, she could have run like the rest of them. But she did not. She stood up and waited for him. He walked towards her wondering who this woman was that was not in the least afraid of him.
There had been other women on the street that night. They were going about their business. Their business being selling of fruits, vegetables, clothes, shoes, kitchen ware, belts, knives… every assorted item, on the street. They were hawkers. When these women saw this Council Askari, they fled.
She stood her ground. Her hands held akimbo, she waited for him. While others collected their wares in a hurry, flung their tomatoes, potatoes, cassavas, arrow roots and yams over their shoulders and dashed to the back street, she left her vegetables where they were on display at the roadside, neatly arranged as before.
They had been told to quit selling on the streets. They were an eyesore, they were told. They put an ugly smudge on the perfect picture of the beautiful City in The Sun. Their designated area of business was in stalls constructed far from the CBD. This was a problem because the stalls were covered in darkness at this hour of the day. It meant that they could not sell at night. Moreover, customers were not willing to walk all the way to the stalls to buy their goods. Without the customers, there was no business.
This was purely a case of Mohammed being unable to go to the mountain, and the mountain having to come to Mohammed. Her customers, the working men and women who leave their offices at 5pm, were always in a hurry to get home and help their little ones with homework or to cook for their husbands. They did not have the time to walk to the other side of town to find her and buy from her. She did the most logical thing. She came to them.
When that working woman left her office and made her way home, she would see her tomatoes and remember that her stock in the refrigerator needed replenishing. When she saw her fruits, her pawpaws especially, she would remember that it is the recommended remedy for her little girl who had been struggling to move her bowels for a while.
Her customers were here. She was going nowhere. No Askari would make her leave. The exchange begun;
You should not be here! I need to feed my children. Go back to your stalls! There is no lighting. Go back and wait for the lights to be fixed! I have no time to waste waiting for other people to do their job at their leisure. It is illegal for you to sell here! Is it illegal for me to fend for my family? Woman, leave before I take your goods away! Why don’t you marry me instead? What? Yes, marry me and take care of me and my children so that I won’t bother you in the streets any more.
Just like that. Out of the blues. She proposed. He stood for a minute to consider the question. He took his time. I bet he tried in that moment of silence to picture himself as the Mr. Clearly, the image wasn’t working for him.
If you won’t marry me, allow me to do what I can to send my children to school and to feed them. She said.
There is something about a woman who is unafraid. Her hands rested on her hips. Her legs were slightly spread out. She eye-balled the Askari. She was ready for anything.
They looked at each other. He had never had to exchange words with the hawkers before. He only had to walk around and all of them would scatter when they saw him, leaving a clear street in their wake. Now here was one who did not believe in fleeing. She had the balls to ask him to marry her.
He walked away. Sorry guys, he did not say yes.
Maybe he was a sucker for romance. Maybe he wanted to be wined and dined first before he could say yes. Maybe she should have held his hand when she asked him. Or he expected to be wowed by some music? The best of violin players should have lined the streets perhaps? Firework displays here and there? Do you think he was offended because she did not go down on one knee? Or did he just have a problem with Public display of Affection?
Whatever his reasons for not saying yes, she was not bothered. She bend down and placed a tomato that had fallen off its pile back to the top of the pile. She then breathed out, smiled and “Sema Customer Nikuuzie… Nunua viazi mami…”
Her life post-proposal continued uninterrupted.