I’m seated at home on a Friday evening. It has been an intense week and all I can think of is resting. My friends have called me several times asking me to go drink with them but I’ve turned them all down. I just want to be alone. The lights are off and I’m curled up on my couch binge-watching Prison Break. This is probably the fifth time I’m watching this show and I can probably narrate most of the scenes. I start to fall asleep and before I know it, it’s now 10 pm. I wake up and remember that I was supposed to apply for a job, and yet the deadline is midnight today.
I jolt up and turn my laptop on. I connect to the neighbour’s Wi-Fi. I haven’t paid for mine in a week because my salary was late. I open my email and just as I’m clicking to compose a new one I see an inbox from my boss.
This letter is to inform you that your contract with the company has been terminated, effective immediately…
I don’t bother to read the rest of the email. I start to weep. I know I’m a man and I know that I should have a thick skin, but this one gets to me. I open an application on my phone and order a bottle of Smirnoff to be delivered. Within thirty minutes the delivery guy is here. I open the bottle, pour a shot into a glass and start to indulge. An hour later I realise that I still haven’t sent my application letter, but I know that I’m not in the right headspace.
I start to scroll through my social media, and the first thing that I see is a poster for a beauty contest audition. The event is taking place in the next two days at a mall not too far from where I live. The top three contestants will be winning cash prizes of 250,000 shillings, 150,000 shillings and 80,000 shillings respectively. As I scroll past this post, I can’t get it out of my head. A crazy idea comes to mind. What if I applied and got the money? I really need it. I start thinking of how I can apply. This shouldn’t be too hard. My ex-girlfriend tried it before, and even though she failed I was there through the entire process. I learnt a thing or two from her.
The next morning I wake up at 4 am to go to the washrooms and suddenly I can’t get back to sleep. I check my Pinterest account to see the models there. Maybe they can teach me one or two things.
I board a matatu and head to Town to buy outfits for the audition. By the end of it all, I have a beautiful flowing yellow dress with a deep cleavage. I think to myself that this will look perfect on me. I also buy a red jumpsuit.
I pass by a lingerie shop to buy silicone pads and a fitting bra for my ‘breasts.’ The attendees are looking at me weirdly so I go ahead to defend myself saying that they’re for my girlfriend. I can now head home to create the outfit for the last category of the audition. I have it all planned out. It will be made of newspaper. A bandeau top with a short skirt.
I call my ex-girlfriend Leonora to let her know my grand idea. It’s a great thing, I think to myself, to still be close friends with your ex. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You what?” She responds as soon as I tell her, and then she starts to laugh.
“Are you done laughing now? I could use some help,” I tell her.
She says that she will pass by my house after she’s done running some errands and then we can talk about it. When she gets here, the first thing she does when I open the door is to kiss me. Just like that, everything that I had planned out for the evening of preparation goes down the drain. God only knows how much I missed having sex with her.
It’s now the D-day. I have nothing prepared. I haven’t laid out the accessories to go with my outfits, neither have I made my newspaper outfit. But that’s why my Leonora is here, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
That’s what I loved about Leonora. She never judged any of my crazy ideas. She encouraged me to do a lot of things, and maybe that’s what made our relationship thrive. Some part of me had always wondered if she would ever take me back even after I showed her my true colours. I looked at her tying her hair up as she started to help me, and I knew I was in good trouble.
We piece everything together and it seems to be coming up well. The funniest thing about the experience is the fake breasts. Now I know how women feel like walking around with a bra all day. It’s completely uncomfortable, but I know that I have to do what I have to do.
Within an hour I’m ready to go. Leonora has given me everything I need: accessories, shoes and makeup. I’m in a pair of baggy jeans and a floral T-shirt. I figured that I will need to register before changing to my first outfit.
“What about an I.D? What if they ask for yours?” Leonora asks. I honestly hadn’t thought this one through.
“Wait. I can call my friend Josse. When we were 20 he got us fake ID’s so we could enter clubs with a higher age limit.”
“What will you call yourself?” She asks.
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“Brenda. I’ve always loved that name.”
“Okay, that works,”
Coincidentally, Josse happens to be in town. He says that he can get it done. He asks me for a passport-sized picture and says he will have it delivered to the mall in thirty minutes. Leonora helps me to take the picture using a snow-white sheet as the background.
“How do I look?” I ask her.
She stares at me from head to toe and then starts laughing.
“Your penis can be seen and it’s completely obvious,” she says.
“Wow, what are we going to do about that?” I ask her.
“Luckily you have me. Don’t ask me how I know this, but we can use the tucking technique. Here, look…” She says as she shows me a demonstration on Youtube.
“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” I tell her, as I start to follow the instructions.
“Here, this should help. They’re tight enough,” she responds handing me female underwear.
“Don’t worry, I’ve never worn them before. It’s a good thing some of my stuff is still here.”
As we’re walking down the stairs I see her walking towards the car.
‘Where do you think you’re going?” I ask her.
“Uhh, home,” she responds.
“There’s no way you can help me out this much and then leave. It’s not possible. Come on, let’s go,” I say, trying to persuade her.
We get to the mall where the auditions are to be held. Leonora and I meet the delivery guy who was sent with my fake I.D, and when we look at it he has done a pretty decent job. We head towards the registration desk.
“Your identification please?” The highly unbothered lady asks and I start to panic.
I hand it over to her holding my breath in the hope that she will not realise that it’s a fake I.D.
“Register your full names here please,” she says.
Leonora then realises that we forgot the accessories in the car and so she goes back to get them.
“I’ll meet you back at the washrooms,” she says.
I stand outside the washrooms wondering which one to go to. If I go to the men’s washroom then come out as a woman I will look ridiculous. If I go into the women’s washroom (as a man) I will be chased away faster than I know it.
Eventually I sneak into the women’s bathroom. I clumsily put on my outfit and by the time I’m done, Leonora is out there waiting to help me put on my wig and do my makeup. She also helps me to put on the dress properly. In less than twenty minutes we’re all done and I’m all glammed up. This is when I realise that I’m excited. Beyond the money that I might make from this, it’s completely out of my comfort zone and I couldn’t be more excited.
Leonora and I walk towards the exact venue, and by this time I’ve changed my voice to sound more feminine.
The ushers lead me to a room where I meet my competitors. As soon as I look at them I think to myself that there’s no way I would beat them in this competition. They’re all super gorgeous.
I’m scrolling through my phone when suddenly I see someone next to me.
“Oh my God, your dress is so beautiful! Your glow is from the gods wow. You’re making me feel like I have nothing to offer in this competition,” she says.
“Thanks,” I say coldly, trying to brush her off.
“Wait a minute, I know you from somewhere. You look like my friend,” she says.
When I look at her properly I realise that this is Jacinta. My heart starts to beat immediately. You see, Jacinta and I were great friends back in university. We were inseparable. But then I started dating this girl called Ashley who was insecure about Jacinta, and just like that we had to stop being friends. She had confronted me publicly about being unable to stand up for myself. She even insulted me and went ahead to troll me on social media. It was ugly.
“You must have me mistaken for someone else,” I say, looking down and trying to act calm.
I start to walk away from her when I realise that she could very easily recognise me and let the cat out of the bag.
A few minutes later a lady walks in to give us instructions on the procedure. She then starts to read out the list of contestants and asks us to be ready to walk onto the stage when we hear our name. She further explains that the first level of the competition will be a model session followed by a set of general questions for each individual by the judges.
“Anita, Ashley, Brenda…”
As soon as I hear my “name” my heart starts beating. We didn’t think this through. We should have picked out a name starting with the letter Z or something. Now I have to be among the first ones.
Two minutes later the first name is called, and she takes about five minutes. When she gets back into the room people surround her and start to ask a ton of questions. By this time I’ve set my mind to whatever is coming and I’m ready to go out there and prove myself worthy.
I finally hear my name and start to catwalk towards the stage. When I see the size of the crowd my anxiety kicks in again but then I see Leonora waving excitedly, and this calms me down.
“Tell us about yourself. Who is Brenda?” One of the judges asks.
“Brenda is an outgoing young girl. I’m an engineer working at the…”
As I’m explaining myself, a girl starts shouting as she walks towards the stage. I look back and I see Jacinta. Before I even understand what’s happening she pulls my wig off.
“You! I know you! Michael Koro! You’re not a woman,” she says loudly.
She pulls my dress off and I’m now naked with just boxers.
I stand on stage and look at every one. The judges are shocked and the crowd is laughing heartily. I can’t see Leonora in the crowd anymore, and this intensifies my anxiety. People have taken their phones out and are taking pictures and videos of me.
Suddenly everyone goes quiet. I pick up my dress, cover myself and ran out of the stage. This is possibly the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me.
I walk into the room where we had all been assembled and everyone is talking about me. I carry my bag and walk out towards the car. I find Leonora waiting for me at the exit.
“What am I going to do?” I asked.
I look at Leonora waiting for an answer and all she does is laugh.
“Can you imagine what would happen if I listened to you and went without underwear?” I asked.
“Relax baby. The internet will talk about it for a few days and then life will go back to normal. Now you have a story for our children when they grow up,” she says.
“Our children? Does that mean we’re back together?”
She looks at me and smiles. The smile that I first fell in love with.
I may have lost my job and my dignity, but at least I have my girlfriend back.
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