A camera flashes. She smiles. It flashes again. On her right hand side on the table is a bottle of water, to her left a pad on the table and a pen in hand, firmly clutched between the thumb and the first two fingers. These two, the pen and pad, she won’t use much. She’s just playing along. Along to a script. A script that is largely punctuated by smiles, so she smiles again before clearing her throat.
“I was just like you” she says pointing to a group of young girls to her left in the audience. “Yes, I had a boyfriend and a few more admirers.” She smiles, pans her head right.
“And my breasts,” she smiles “my breasts were sharp till the boys made fun of them, saying that they pointed saa sita sharp.” There is a murmur and then a large round of laughter. The laughter dies down. Only shuffling of feet is heard. The camera people are moving round and positioning themselves those perfect shots. One is focusing on the left part of the speaker’s chest. Might be zooming in the missing breast or the pink ribbon sticker that has taken its place on the speaker’s cloth. “THE IRON LADY: STILL UNBOWED” a scribe hastily notes down, then puts his pen back in his mouth, listening intently. The room is vomiting, fully packed. Pin-drop silence. Our lady sits at the dais alone. Only her and a microphone, a few camera people who keep on moving around with cameras flashing after every ten seconds. “THE YELLOW RIBBON ATTRACTED HUNDREDS”, the scribe writes again, and our lady smiles.
“My boyfriend used to tease me. He’d say something about my breasts and the bottle top, that they were similar. I knew he was flirting me, and I loved that.” She pauses. Pulls the bottle of water, takes a sip and place it on the table. Hundreds of eyes watching her. Young ladies who are optimistic about life, concerned about their health. Ready to part with any amount of money to get mere information. Information they can google, or visit a medical centre to access. Information on radios and pamphlets, but they just can’t. They have Ipods to listen to music and not radios. They are so tied up and busy to visit a medical centre when they are not sick, just for mere information. Their browsing history is full of Kim Kardashian, How to abort safely, side effects of contraceptives et al. And yes, information gained in a “Pink Ribbon seminar” is more classy and valuable. It puts you somewhere when mommy calls, “You’ve been offline for three whole hours, kwani where were you?” and the answer is “I was in a ‘pink ribbon seminar’. You know, ile ya cancer, we were being told juu ya breast cancer blab la bla”. It puts them somewhere. So she smiled again. Then went on with her talk.
“But you see jokes…..jokes are the funny parts of our lives. Those parts that we laugh off but become haunted by them forever thereafter.” Many bowed their heads to write this. Her face was no longer smiling. It was a bit gloomy. Some fire seemed to burn from her eyes.
“When Steve, my boyfriend, told me of my bottle-top-like nipple, I should have taken him serious. I should have tried to feel the validity of the joke. But look, I left it to my Steve. He is the only person who did touch my breasts, more than I myself did” she goes on. She tells them of that hard lump and the adolescence jargon. She tells them of the liquid that Steve found in his mouth, after a moment of lovemaking and sucking the nipples. She told them what their mothers had never dared talk. She told them taboo. She knew they loved it, such talk. Talk that bordered romance, ha!
“My mother, a nursery school teacher, never had time for me. She never had time for my sisters. She only had her life for the little kids that people dumped in the village nursery, to eke a living”. The microphone is developing hiccups. How can it do this when they are all ears? She taps it by her fingers. Blows above it and it begins working. And she goes on addressing. She tells them how one day she was making love to her boyfriend. The fool had this tendency of going behind the bra, and fetching the damn contents by his mouth. His lips would cover whole nipple and he did it, one breast to the other. So on this day something like pus spurt out into his mouth.
“That was the turning point.” She announces. “That was the turning point”. She repeats. She can see how they are breathing. She can see how they are all ears. She can see how they have stretched their legs. She can see that nobody is listening, they are all day-dreaming, but who cares. They love it that way, semi-porn. And the script says as such, sex sells so give them a dosage. She pulls the bottle of water, takes a sip, clears her throat and returns it. She then signals two men from the far left, men in pink shirts. Men who disappear before appearing minutes later with heavy cartons. They go for the second pair of the cartons, placed neatly on her table.
“These books here have been authored by me. They are a story of my life before and after breast cancer. What I have said and what I haven’t.” One of the two men in pink shirts cuts the parking tapes in one of the cartons. He fishes out a copy and hands it to her. ‘MY PINK RIBBON’ reads the title of the book. The back cover had her photo- a smiling mono-breasted middle-aged woman.
“For only seven hundred shillings you get yourself a copy. Buy yours, buy for your mother, and buy for your sisters”. Bags are opened. Smaller bags in those bags opened and lastly the zips opened. She knows she has made a kill. The entrance for the seminar was not money, but a specific pink ribbon bought at some designated outlets. A ribbon that she is the mastermind. The ribbons’ sales won’t go to help cancer patients. The money accrued from these projects won’t be used to buy a chemotherapy facility, no. Nobody knows where it shall go, for nobody cares. This seminar has been sponsored by some renowned communication service providers. They paid heftily for this. Their banners are all over. This is a sure way of boosting their sales. Plus a water company, the water bottle on her table. It’s the only water that is available around. They fuel her car as she moves across. She can see the thirst, and she banks on that. Other men in pink shirts join in. They carry stacks of book around, high above their heads. Many hands are up, requesting the books. She smiles.
“I have to go, ladies. I still have two more seminars to attend before dusk. It’s been pleasure talking to you. Thanks for coming, I look forward to see you next time for My pink ribbon. Thank you. She bows, pushes the seat behind and walks out through the backdoor amid applause. Even after she is out of the room, the clapping continues, she smiles. She thanks God nobody from her village can access the city. They could have known it was not breast cancer that did it. She smiles.
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