When Vanity Knocks and you Open

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When Vanity Knocks and you Open Photo by Krasha

Nicki Asante worked as a receptionist during the day. She worked as a bartender at night. Both her jobs were in the up market Westlands area in Nairobi, Kenya. Westlands had a very lively night scene. The club scene was lively from Monday to Saturday. It was quite an electric district.

Nicki worked at one of the biggest technology firms. She received clients, scheduled appointments and booked trips for everyone: from the CEO to the company’s manager. It was the month of October. It was time for the short rains. The meteorologists had predicted that this was the month of El Niño.

Oh well! Kenyan meteorologists could not be trusted with their predictions. It was unusually cold however. Nicki went to an Art Café, which was near her office block. The mocha warmed her up instantly. A few minutes later, she walked out of the posh coffee house and bumped into a street urchin. He was dirty and unkempt. He reeked of dirt and glue. A housefly hovered around him desperately.

During Moi’s era, just before he retired, the street urchins and beggars were relocated to rehabilitation centres. They had however found their way back to the streets in their large numbers.

“Hi aunty, you look good. Help me with some money I have breakfast,” the tiny street boy pleaded.

“Leave me alone. Dirty boy,” she retorted.

“Only Ksh 50, then give me Ksh 100,” he insisted.

She was now annoyed. She reached into her Louis Vuitton imitation bag and threw some rusty coins on the road. The boy reminded her of her childhood. Growing up, Nicki did not have much. Nicki had fought tooth and nail to get out of her impoverished surroundings. First, she got a rich boyfriend during her college years. Second, she secured a job but left her boyfriend to cater for her expenses. She saved her money.

Finally, it was seven p.m. It was time for her night job. She applied heavy makeup and drove to the location at the exquisite upscale Capital Club. The club was for members only. Executives and expatriates frequented the club with the gorgeous chandeliers and marble floors. They also tipped well. The previous month, her friend Nuru had been written for a Ksh 75,000 cheque for her good service.

Nuru was a waitress. She was Swahili. She had curves in all the right places. All the ladies there were curvy apart from Nicki. Nicki was thin as a rake. The previous night, she had overheard one of her customers complaining to her manager. He accused the manager of overworking Nicki. Maybe that is why she did not have time to eat. Although it was a joke, Nicki was embarrassed. Every night, the bouncer would ask for her identification card. With her small frame, she easily passed for a Form Three student. Lately, she spent most of her money on vitamins and supplements. Some of those pills had led to skin breakouts. She needed another solution.

Facebook was proving to be very helpful. There was a group exclusively dedicated to skinny women like her. She sat on her king-size bed in her elegant room. Her Apple laptop was on top of her Persian duvet.

On her face, was an avocado facial mask. Anytime she applied it, her boyfriend Mbugua could not keep a straight face. Today he was out with the boys at Tribeka, near Nation Centre watching an English Premier League match between Chelsea and South Hampton. That is what he told her. She didn’t know and didn’t care because soccer was not a sport that she enjoyed.

One of the girls in her Facebook group had uploaded her before and after photos. The photo on the right showed a more voluptuous frame. The trick was chicken feed. She had been injected with chicken feed in her hips and the change was drastic. There was a clinic at River Road, which offered that service for only Ksh 1000.

Nicki was excited. She took down the location’s details. The next morning, she ate Weetabix and prepared a heavy breakfast for Mbugua who had a major hangover. She took a tray upstairs for him. She then lied to him that she had an appointment with a nutritionist at Yaya Centre. He insisted on taking her but she declined.

Mbugua was too tired to argue. He had drunk like a fish the previous night. He was also engaged in a bar brawl with Oti after his team Chelsea lost the game. Now his body ached all over. He rolled over and slept like a log while Nicki prepared for work.

Mbugua had bought her a BMW convertible for her 25th birthday. She drove at a snail’s pace. She reached her workplace on the dot. Nicki worked robotically. She went for an early lunch break. Usually, she went for lunch with her colleagues but today she was on a mission.

At River Road, there were many black market shops. The lady in her Facebook group had said Healthspan Medical Centre was the place to go. At the end of the street, she saw an illegible, dusty signboard. Nicki went up a flight of stairs into a small crowded clinic.

Someone directed her to a minuscule office with a blood-red hospital bed. A stout man called Bonny excitedly introduced her to all the services the hospital provided. She said she wanted the chicken feed injection. Bonny told her that at Healthspan, the services were highly professional. The chicken feed injection was provided at the clinic next door.

A few months later, Mbugua was the envy of his friends. He had an African beauty with rich chocolate skin and a well-endowed figure. He was celebrating his engagement to Nicki at Heron’s Portico. Her friends had started calling her Nicki Minaj. She had the enviable 36-26-46 measurements. A month before her wedding, Nicki noticed some painless swellings around her left hip area.

When she went to the doctor, he referred her to an Oncologist. The Cancer doctor had a grave expression on his face. He had seen many cancer patients in his career but it was never easy relaying the news. He first asked her general questions but then Nicki felt the urge to come clean with him and tell him about the chicken feed injection.

The doctor was astonished. In his 20-year career, he had never heard anything that bizarre. Most, if not all of his cancer cases were caused naturally. Before giving her the news, he gave her a long lecture. He told her that some chicken feed contain feed additives called 3-Nitro or Roxarsone which contain the carcinogenic poison substance, arsenic.

He told her that unfortunately, she had cancer. High levels of arsenic were found in her blood and that, she had abnormal cell growth in her leg and that the swellings on her left hip were malignant. She had cancer. If her leg was not amputated, the cancer would spread to other parts of her body.

It was as though someone had stabbed her. Oh no, what would she do? What else was in that chicken feed injection? Her skin paled, she felt lightheaded. Darkness engulfed her. When she came to, the loyal Mbugua was beside her in the hospital ward. He promised that the wedding would go on as planned.

Nicki had no choice but to confess to Mbugua. She told him the naked truth. Mbugua was really angry but he tried to conceal it. He could not leave her at a time like this. It was a shame what her vanity had done to her. It had cost her a leg. Nicki would have to start loving herself.

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