“I’m Mr Red Extra”: Lugala At Large On V Day

"I contend that any person in his right mind who knows the colour of a fire brigade vehicle will not ask further questions on seeing the car I’m driving on lover's day."

“I’m Mr Red Extra”: Lugala At Large On V Day
 
By Victor Lugala
 
February is a beautiful month. Moreover, it is the shortest month in the Gregorian calendar. Beautiful and warm as it is, poor old February is atoning for the sins of January.
 
Love is in the air. Oh, yes. The sun is warm with love. The heat is telling. The wind blows and whispers love.
 
Love is blooming in my heart, the very engine and centre of my romantic life.
 
Today people are pairing up like pigeons. It is Valentine's Day. Lovers' day.
 
Red wine is in stock. And everything is red. Love birds riding on noisy bodabodas are painting the city red. 
 
I'm red myself. I mean I'm wearing the single colour of Valentine. Red. I look like the interior of a Chinese restaurant. My shirt is red. My trouser is red. My shoes and socks are red. My inner wear is red. My hanky is red. The blood in my veins is red. At midnight my eyes will turn red.
 
Last night I went to bed thinking of this day. I woke up very early like a soldier. Fit. And active. I dashed to the bathroom to spruce up my epidermis - that is how young learners of English call skin. I whistled, "No woman no cry...” Sorry, that was a wrong number for a day like this. I tried another one with soap lather in my eyes: R. Kelly's “When a Woman Loves.” Oh, I hear the man behind that hot hit is in hot porridge on allegations of sexual misconduct.
 
Well, let me enjoy my shower without bothering with the misconduct of superstars. I use Valentine soap, which has a bewitching scent. I spray myself with Valentine perfume, which can linger for a week like perfume used by Somali market women.
 
 
My friend, Ustaz Madut has a red car. I sked him if I could use it for the evening. "Nilepet on me. I'll fill the tank," I assured him. "What are you up to?" He asked.
 
When I told him that I was going on a hunting expedition, he frowned and stepped back. He thought I was going to trespass on Lantoto National Park. 
 
"I'm a hunter. Not a poacher," I corrected. Although I attempted to clear all doubts in Madut's mind, he was still skeptical because he didn't want his red car to be used on a wrong mission. I had to use my index finger to write in the sand like Jesus: VALENTINE'S DAY. Even as he gave me the car key he still had some unanswered questions concealed in his habitual smile.
 
In choosing my Valentine this year I had to consider some virtues and values in a human being, even if I didn't know them personally. I wanted to say thank you to an individual by honouring their respect, aptitude and professionalism, especially. 
 
The person in mind is one individual whose beat is always on the road, come rain or shine. These days they are many at road junctions or roundabouts.
 
They can stop a motorist for one reason or another, or to just say hello. After all, they are human beings like us, with Valentine blood like us. However, what separates us from them is the whistle and the boots.
 
They can stop a motorist to inspect and ensure that their driving license is valid, that they are not driving a stolen car, to remind them that their car tyres need replacing. But also they ensure that you fastened your seat belt so that when you are involved in a road accident you are not reduced to a cabbage. But most importantly, they ensure that a motorist has a fire extinguisher in his car because Juba is very hot these days and an overused reconditioned car from Japan can catch fire like a grass-thatched tukul. And, oh, before I forget, they also make sure that a motorist does not drive as if they were race drivers.
 
I reckon Madut's car doesn't have a fire extinguisher. But it is a red car, all the same.

I contend that any person in his right mind who knows the colour of a fire brigade vehicle will not ask further questions on seeing the car I’m driving on lover's day.
 
As I was saying, I have been driving on the streets of Juba city and I have been stopped several times every day, every week, even when I drive at a snail's speed.  I'm a law abiding citizen, and God-fearing for that matter, so my driving papers are valid.
 
I'm being stopped several times until some of the uniformed people now know my face. Sometimes I give them lifts when they finish duty and they happen to go in the same direction.
 
One of the uniformed people who has become familiar is a woman with slender limbs and a flat stomach, which means she is only receiving one pay slip every month. She is also a regular church goer in her community church where she is tasked with some ecclesiastical duties. By the way, she is also a God-fearing woman. She does not ask for “some tea” from motorists.
 
Whenever she stops me on the road or I stop without being stopped to exchange pleasantries, she would flash an official smile which could turn chloroquine when things are not good for other motorists.
 
She always asks me: "Dude, have you fastened your seat belt?" She would peep in to be sure. With her little fingers she would give me thumbs-up and say: "Your life is precious. South Sudan needs you to continue paying taxes."
 
That has been my life on the road whenever I meet this woman of the law. I don't know her name. I have never asked. I may not ask. However, out of respect I call her with the generic name reserved for uniformed people like her, regardless of rank, religion, gender, marital status, or ethnic affiliation, "ginabo" or "hukuma".
 
As time ticked away I was already sweating profusely even before I could meet my Valentine. I was not nervous though, you know me.  With sweat mixing with perfume, I was not sure if I still smelled nice like Mr Valentine I was supposed to be. I took stock of my new self as Mr Valentine. But I realised that one important item was missing.
 
Valentine ’s Day is no Valentine’s Day without flowers. Fresh rose flowers, not those plastic Chinese things you find in toy shops. Last week I learned on social media of an online florist in Juba. Oh, yes, nowadays they sell fresh flowers in Juba. 
 
When there's a wedding, flowers are in high demand. When a person departs this world, flowers must be placed on the hearse or grave. So with this high demand in fresh flowers, somebody somewhere saw a lucrative business opportunity. And now Valentine's Day!
 
Maybe when we start embracing the culture of delicate things like flowers or perfumed candles, we'll value nature and life in general.
 
Without wasting time I hurried to pick a bouquet from the florist. But as the flower culture has not yet caught on with the people of Juba because they are busy with sports betting, I was lucky to get a bunch of red roses at a reasonable price. The flowers even smelled fresh. I kept bringing the petals close to my nose and inhaling the sweet aroma of Valentine.
 
With my fresh flowers in the red car, I was set. It was 4 pm local time. The sun was at an obtuse angle, if you know mathematics. Where I come from when the sun is at this angle they say dumba wate, which means the sun is teasing women, or it is time for teasing women, whatever. I'm going to tease my Valentine under candlelight dinner at the Pyramid hotel. Or pir amit –life is sweet, if you like. All roads lead to pir amit.
 
I hit the accelerator pedal and the red car zoomed at a romantic speed, with a bit of bravado and show off, never mind that the red car is not mine. With wheels squealing, I skidded off Soukh Custom road turning off from the junction with a dry fountain and stopped where traffic police waylay errant drivers of water takers.
 
"Where's my Valentine?" When I waved the question at a male traffic policeman, he was terrified because I looked like Mr Danger, dressed in red clothes and in a red car. Maria! He thought maybe I was strictly following the prescription of some powerful kujur from Zanzibar.
 
She's not here.
 
I proceeded and stopped abruptly at the University of Juba roundabout. I scanned the faces of the uniformed men sitting on plastic chairs under a tree, but I couldn't see my Valentine. The traffic police waved me away quickly because they didn't want to see any bad omen in a man wearing red clothes in a red car like Mr Bean. "Go! Go! Go!"
 
With my red shoe foot on the petrol I reached Malakia, and made as if stopping but accelerated until I reached the road junction near where Juba Hotel once stood. It was getting late, actually coming to 5 pm.
 
I stopped the engine and jumped out of the car in style like James Brown's in the track “...sex machine.” 
 
I walked over to a group of traffic police with weather-beaten faces. "Ladies and gentlemen, I beg your indulgence," I announced with a swagger, and they all cocked their ears. “I’m looking for my Valentine." Before they could respond, I rushed back to the car to pick my flowers. I repeated the question. The people of law looked at each other, surprised. I could see they were controlling laughter. One of them plucked some ginabo courage and said to me: "Sorry dude, we don't have a cop by that name."
 
I wanted to insist but it was pointless. And besides, my Valentine flowers were wilting in my hand. But one final plea succeeded. I planted myself among the uniformed people, and together we took a selfie. All smiles, and we cheered "Peace!"
 
Happy Valentine’s Day.
 
 

  

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