At 9pm everything is quiet, save for the occasional sound of a motor vehicle passing on the road outside. Silas is in the salon alone with his boss, Silvia. All the other employees went home hours ago.
Today Silvia requested Silas to do dreadlocks on her hair. Silas is the dreadlocks specialist at Silvia’s salon, SilvHair Parlor. But Silvia did not want her hair done during the ordinary hours because, in her words, her best stylist should dedicate regular hours to customers. Silas started working on Silvia’s locks at 6.30 pm, after attending to the last customer of the day. He is almost done now, and he can’t wait to get home and rest. Today has been a particularly busy day. He only hopes that Silvia will pay him overtime allowance for this.
Silas’ interest in hair started when he was young. At the time, his mother ran a small hair salon in Wangige. Whenever he was not in school, Silas would hang around his mother’s shop and watch as she plaited her customer’s hair. Wangige has more small salons than the actual demand for hair services, but Silas’s mother
Silas scored 192 marks in KCPE and could not go on with education. His mother, a single mother, could not afford secondary school fees. The small salon was her only source of income, and she had seven children to support. Silas’ father had already left them; he moved in with another woman in Mucatha and left his wife with the burden of single handedly bringing up the children. If it were up to Silas, he would have spent all his days at his mother’s salon watching her work. But that was not possible for two reasons. First, his mother was getting concerned that her first born was spending too much time with women.
“What are you doing sitting among women?” she would tease him. “Why don’t you go and find other men in barbershops and veve bases?”
But that alone would not have prevented Silas from spending all his time at the salon. What moved him was the fact that he knew that his mother was struggling to feed him and his siblings. So he did odd jobs at Wangige market to earn a living. He would carry sacks of potatoes and cabbages at the market; he would help truck drivers offload cartons at supermarkets and wholesale shops; he volunteered to help mitumba people pack, transport and unpack; basically, Silas did every kind of manual job that availed itself. At fourteen, he was already tall for his age, and after a short period of doing manual labor, his body started filling out with muscle. He would hand over half of the money he made to his mother to help her defray the expenses associated with running their home.
His interest in hair did not diminish though. Silas spent every free minute he had at the salon, silently watching as his mother worked. Other young men, and even women, started ridiculing him, but he was undeterred. His fascination with hair was just too strong. One day, a young man showed up at the salon and said he wanted dreadlocks. Silas’ mother playfully challenged Silas to work on a man’s dreadlocks.
“Instead of sitting there listening to gossip, why don’t you make yourself useful?”
She was joking, but he took the challenge. His mother guided him through it, and to their surprise, he did a very fine job. In fact, Silas found that he had enjoyed the experience. Working with hair was a much better prospect than carrying heavy sacks of potatoes.
Silas quickly established himself as a loctician in Wangige. Young men and women flocked to the shop. Somehow, perhaps because of his popularity, a dreadlocks fever hit Wangige. His mother left him to exclusively deal with dreadlocks, while she focused on braids.
His lucky break came several months ago, after he had been working with his mother for years. His cousin Anne was coming for her sister’s ruracio, but had been too busy over the week to get her dreadlocks retouched by her usual stylist.
Anne and Silas grew up together in Lower Kabete, and went to Ngurunkuri Primary School. Anne garnered 399 marks in KCPE and was admitted to Kenya High School. She later scored A plain in KCSE and got a scholarship to study Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. She did her masters at the same Institute before coming back to the country. She now works with the Ministry of Transport. She is still mentioned with pride by teachers, parents and former schoolmates at Ngurunkuri primary school.
Anne did not come back to live in Lower Kabete after leaving the US. She moved in with her boyfriend, and shortly after, they got married. Anne, her husband Fred and their two children now live in South C. On the eve of her sister’s ruracio, Anne came to spend the night at her parent’s house, and decided to visit Silas’s mom’s salon to have her dreadlocks retouched. After all, her aunt’s tiny salon was where she had always had her hair done as a teenager. She was surprised to find Silas there; he was not watching like he had always done when they were young, but he was actually working alongside his mother. Anne was skeptical when she learned that he would be the one to work on her locks. But by the time he was done with her, she was so impressed that she later mentioned him to her friend and regular hairdresser, Silvia. Silvia is the proprietor of the posh SilvHair Parlor in Kilimani.
After hearing his praises from her friend and loyal client Anne, Silvia reluctantly travelled to Wangige to watch him work. She hired him after watching him for only two hours. She gave him a starting salary of Kshs. 60, 000. Silas was shocked. He floated to the moon and toured the universe before accepting the offer. 60,000! On a good day in Wangige he used to make 700 bob; his monthly average was between Kshs. 15, 000 and 20,000.
Silas loves working with hair. He is a fine hairdresser and has carved a niche for himself in dreadlocks. He has widened his spectrum to braids while working at SilvHair, but his primary specialty remains dreadlocks. He has a loyal clientele of men and women who have come to trust his workmanship. He makes the locks with love, stringing each strand with affectionate gentleness. He massages the heads with tenderness, pours his life into the heads of his clients and giving them not only his expertise, but his soul. Most of his clients insist on being handled by him alone. They come to SilvHair Parlor specifically to be attended by him. Many call him to book appointments a week in advance.
The only aspect of his job that has been making him uncomfortable of late is the attention his boss has been giving him. Silvia is a lovely woman. She has a very pretty face, and her beautifully curved body is kept in shape by regular visits to the gym and a strict diet. She can afford outfits that tease her figure, and exotic perfumes that cast a spell on any male that comes within range of her personal realm. She is only a few years older than Silas.
Silvia has always flirted with him since his first day at the salon, but it has always been very subtle flirting. Silas has been playing along because he did not want to offend his boss. Maybe, he told himself, this is the normal way of conducting conversations among the wealthy. What does a man from Wangige know about etiquette and social graces? The problem, though, is that she has recently stepped up her game. These days she often calls him at night, and even sends him sexually suggestive messages. In private, she now calls him ‘sweetheart’ or ‘hun’.
Perhaps he should be flattered. After all, many men dream of sleeping with a beautiful woman like Silvia. But Silas is a born again Christian, and has a girlfriend. In addition, Silvia is married to a South Sudanese man. The man is said to be insanely rich; according to gossip at the salon, Silvia’s husband made his money importing weapons for the South Sudanese rebels: a war merchant. He is also said to be a close associate of Riek Machar. Since the cease fire, he has been spending a lot of his time in Juba, with rumor suggesting that he is being considered for a government position. He is not a man you want to mess with.
“You really know how to do this,” Silvia tells Silas as she inspects her hair in the mirror. “You deserve a reward.”
“Thank you,” replies Silas, already thinking about the overtime allowance.
“Alright, let us lock up so that I can drop you home.”
A few minutes later, Silvia pulls up in front of her gate in Lavington. A guard quickly opens the gate.
“I thought you were dropping me home,” Silas asks, trying not to sound rude.
“I know you have not eaten. I will warm something for you then I will take you home.”
“Your husband may not take it kindly if you get home at this hour with a man.”
“He is in South Sudan. That man hardly has time for me these days. I suspect he has a Dinka woman somewhere in Juba.”
Silvia leads him into her house. Before Silas can even admire the richly furnished house, Silvia attacks him with kisses. She leads him to a couch and continues kissing him hungrily. She removes all her clothes, unbuttons his shirt and is in the process of pulling down his trousers when a man coughs.
“What exactly do you think you are doing, Silvia?” the man asks. Horrified, Silas pushes Silvia away and sits up. He finds himself staring at the barrel of a gun, with a huge South Sudanese man holding the trigger.
Image by Adeboro Odunlami from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/young-nigerian-man-nigeria-africa-3834272/
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