“A taxi comes barreling down the pedestrian path and someone pulls you out of harm’s way.” [Meet Cute Prompt provided by Bhala Writers.]
I want to say that it happened in slow motion, but if it had, I would have been dead. In any case, it felt like slow motion. I felt fingers winding themselves around my wrist. My reflex was to resist, but resistance only showed me his strength and not mine. The grip around my wrist tightened and I felt my body lurch towards this strange being. I say being because there was no time to assess whether he was human or not, in the moment. For all I knew, Robocop was real and was somehow interested in my dull existence on the streets of Julius Nyerere.
My body crashed into what felt like a cotton wall. I was spitting out fluff from a collision with a woolen jersey before I knew what was happening. As I coughed more violently than necessary and wondered who still wore woolen jerseys in 2020, a taxi zoomed past me — almost grazing my back. I teetered backwards, but the being steadied my frame before my legs could fail me. The being (because Robocop was still a very real option in my mind) had saved me. I looked up to identify this woolen clad being.
“I’m sorry ma’am, are you ok?” Ma’am? Do ma’ams wear ripped jeans and crop tops? Did I miss something?
“I’m good. Thank you for helping me.” I finally got a moment to assess the being. The being was male, tall and clean-shaven, concern in his dark brown eyes. Not a bad guy to bump into, really.
“You dropped your bag.” In my quest to assess the being, I didn’t notice that all my belongings had scattered on the pavement. I scrambled to the ground, hoping he caught nothing of my scatterbrain from the contents of my bag.
He bent down to assist me. This was the last kind of help I needed. I snatched my stocking-turned-hair-tie off the pavement before he could see it. Why had I forgotten to take out Nola’s medication from my bag? I watched him slowly pick up the different bottles of pills as I silently prayed that he would not read the labels. Thankfully, his eyes had no questions when he raised them to meet mine. He calmly handed me the pills and I stuffed them hurriedly into my bag.
He straightened to his full height and then looked sheepishly down at his sweater. “I’m sorry about my jersey shedding more hair than a dog. If I had known I’d bump into a pretty lady…” I had begun mentally going through all the things that should have been in my bag and stopped listening.
“You seem a little disoriented from all of this, can I walk you somewhere? Where were you going?”
“Nowhere,” I said absent-mindedly. I had been wondering whether I had left the house with my earphones, a quick rummage through my bag having failed to locate them.
“Nowhere? You must be more shaken than I thought. Do you live in Harare?”
“Yes, sorry of course I live here. Sir, I am fine and I will be on my way. Thank you again for saving me.” I came to, and smiled.
“Sir? Surely we aren’t that far apart in age.”
“Far enough for you to call me ma’am,” I retorted.
He grinned. “It was a placeholder until you told me your name.”
I folded my arms. “What made you think in that moment, as a taxi was careening towards us, that I would tell you my name?”
He laughed out loud and I almost jumped in surprise.
“Firstly, nobody uses the word careening in casual conversation and your use of it only makes me more curious to know your name.”
“Why? It is of no concern to your future.”
“Wow. Do you always sass people who help you, ma’am?”
“Only when they are presumptuous, sir.”
To my chagrin, he laughed again. “Well, since you have no name that you can tell and no place that you were headed to, can I buy you something to drink?” He pointed to a food court across the road and motioned for me to follow him.
“Are you trying to kidnap me?”
“In broad daylight?”
“So I’d only be in danger if it was dark?”
“You’re more in danger because of your absent mind around taxi drivers.” He grinned and started walking away before I could retort. I wanted to turn and walk the other way but noticed he was holding my cardigan. Ugh. Only half annoyed, my pace was too quick to be deemed reluctant.