Living by the Roundabout

“This is Jane calling from central Kenya. Sasa, so, I am in a lesbian relationship, and we are hoping to get married, and I would like to pay bridewealth to my partner’s father, but we don’t know how to bring this issue up with him because he thinks we are just friends.” The voice spills from our taxi’s radio, tuned to one of the FM call-in stations that have recently begun to proliferate in Kenya — perhaps Radio Maisha, Lifestyle Radio, or Classic 105 Kenya.   It is July 2018, and my daughter Ada and I are seated in the back of the taxi. Ours is one of at least two hundred cars stuck in traffic at a major roundabout on one of Nairobi’s main thoroughfares. The four traffic policemen manning the roundabout have let the vehicles in the other three lanes enter and exit the circle twice, but we remain stuck, packed as tightly as kernels on an ear of corn. Three rows of motionless vehicles, as still as a parking lot. All the while we are being assailed by brash vendors, both men and women, selling bottled water, peanuts, bananas, padlocks, tea strainers, and all kinds of plastic merchandise from China or Thailand.   Apparently, it is a common practice for the police to rotate the traffic jam on each of the four roads feeding into the roundabout so that the vendors have captive customers throughout the day. It just happens that it is time for vendors to “eat” from our side of the road. We have been sitting in the traffic for almost ten minutes now, listening to the radio.   “So, are you the husband in the relationship?” The male host of the radio asks with a hint of mockery. Before Jane can answer, another male

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