Traveling by public means is not on the list of my favorite things to do but buses are admittedly some of the best places to find a good story and a good story from a writer’s perspective could be on both extremes; it could be very funny or sad and this was a heartbreaking love story.
On Thursday evening, I traveled by bus to Karongi District to find out why the KivuWatt project is taking long to start production; the journey was uneventful really until we reached Muhanga town where a handful of passengers boarded to fill the remaining few seats.
Among the new passengers was an especially young looking woman who ironically, was carrying a heavy pregnancy; she was carrying a red basin and a duffel bag that must have contained the rest of her belongings, she sat on the vacant seat next to mine, looking exhausted.
If she greeted me, I didn’t hear because I was preoccupied reviewing songs on a friend’s new album sent to me a few weeks ago and because I had failed to get time before, I thought it wise to exploit my time on the three hour journey.
Then something happened. Something that left me quite nonplussed.
Without my permission, the pregnant girl leaned against my left shoulder and dozed off; if it had been a male passenger or an ordinary female without a pregnancy, I would probably have gently shaken them off, but this was a feeble young woman obviously pregnant for the first time.
I reconsidered. In fact I found myself laboring to make my shoulder as comfortable as possible for her. But it must take a certain level of courage or care-freeness for someone to nap on the shoulder of a total stranger on a public bus, I thought to myself.
The window on my right was slightly ajar letting in a cold breeze from the outside that discomforted my ‘tenant.’ In the momentary silence of transition, between an ending song and the next one, I heard her voice for the first time; I yanked off my earphones and paid attention.
She was requesting me to close the windows to block the winds. I did. She then thanked me for lending her a shoulder to lean on. Then she told me her story, her head still docked on my shoulder.
I learned the girl’s name was Pauline and at only 17, she was expecting a baby, later this month. She was on the way to her parents in Karongi where she would deliver their grandchild.
Having dropped out of school after primary six, Pauline left her village and found a job as a house maid for a Congolese family living in Kigali. The main house had an annex where one of the sons in the family lived.
At just 16, little Pauline’s job was to serve the whole family which included taking food to the boy’s chambers, cleaning his room and organizing his bed, all for Rwf14,000 a month.
But that wasn’t all. After a few months of serving the family, the young man in the family started sleeping with her and the two repeatedly had unprotected sex until she realized that she had conceived.
Unfortunately, for her, the young man responsible for the pregnancy had left Kigali and returned to Eastern Congo; afraid to be noticed pregnant, she left her employers’ house and...?
At the time she was sleeping with her employer’s son, Pauline was in love with another young man, 21 years old, they had become friends via Facebook before meeting physically; he worked as casual labourer on construction sites around Kigali.
Pauline ran to his place when she left her employer’s house. The boy loved her and had promised to marry her.
He was excited to see her because it was the first time she was visiting.
But she had a confession to make. That she was pregnant with her employer’s son. The boy listened and somehow accepted fate; with her own savings and his, they agreed they couldn’t afford life together in Kigali so they went to live in the boy’s town of Muhanga.
It’s been six months and the two have been living together well until Wednesday when they had a big fight. The boy had finally freaked out of being a substitute father and he wanted her to leave, in fact he forced her out of their house.
When I met her on the bus, Pauline was headed home, home to her parents, home; always the last resort after everything else failing. She asked me if I could give her with Rwf1000. I gave her Rwf6000.
“Imana iguhe umugisha (God bless you),” she said on her way off the bus.