He smelled like a goat. Not a sweet, fluffy California goat that smells like fresh mint and runs on yogi’s backs. No. He smelled like a rancid goat. One that had spent hot days under the unrelenting sun, packed with hundreds of other even more odiferous goats, bleating for relief, for someone, anyone to save them from the fate that awaited them at the nyama choma joints.
He had the kind of body odor that permeated any space he occupied, seeping into walls, flooring, the furniture; indeed, not even the plants in his office were spared. The fetid air sat around Emilia like a heavy blanket, and even though she had swam competitively in her college years and was therefore accustomed to holding her breath longer than the average person, her breath-holding abilities were no match for this man’s putridness. She watched as he sank into his seat, his considerable girth barely fitting in the armless standard issue office chair. His face was a shade of red she had never seen on a human being before. When he finally looked up at her, he spoke in an extremely high pitched voice, which was surprising considering how big the man was.
“What do you want?” he squeaked by way of introduction.
Emilia, struggling to breathe, explained that she was the analyst sent over to update the branch’s web security settings in light of a recent spike in suspicious activity.
“Did I tell you what he was wearing?” she asks me.
“No. What was he wearing?”
She grabs her head with both hands, as if she can’t quite rid herself of the image.
“Picture a very tall, very large man, about this big.” She stretches her hands wide to demonstrate how big he was. Emilia is not given to exaggeration, so I believe her.
“Now picture this giant wearing a wife beater, in an office. As in, his place of work. And this wife beater must have belonged to his child or something because it was basically a tank top. And pants so tight I was afraid the zipper would pop. Some things just cannot be unseen.” She shudders.
My amused look spurs her on. I picture a man with what my mum would call “tumbo kama ya politician” wearing what we call a ‘tumbo cut’ back home, squeezing himself into a chair that is too small, and doing all this while smelling like a goat in marikiti.
“Oh and that’s not the worst part. It had stains on it.”
“What kind of stains?” I ask.
“They appeared to be barbecue sauce or blood, I couldn’t tell which one. Maybe both.”
I shake my head in amusement. I mean, I work in California, and things are very casual here. Some people go to work in shorts and flip flops. But even they wear t-shirts with sleeves.
“And then he reached into his desk drawer and retrieved a leg of something.” Emilia continues.
“A what?” I ask, wondering what on earth is going on in Kansas.
“Yep, he basically reaches into a drawer, grabs a leg of something, I’m guessing turkey or lamb by its size, reaches back into that same drawer, and retrieves barbecue sauce, slathers it all over the leg, takes a huge bite out of it, and burps so loudly, I jumped in my chair.”
I burst out laughing. This sounds like a bad movie.
“While he is chewing this leg, he asks me, mouth full of whatever it is he is wolfing down, barbecue sauce dripping all over his tank top wife beater, ‘why did they send a girl over. Don’t you have men left in California?’. And then he burped again. Really loudly.”
“I looked at him and the leg, now mostly bone, and asked myself what crimes I had committed in my previous lives to deserve this fate.” she muses.
“I explained in detail what my assignment was and how long it would take. I didn’t think it was possible, but he got redder and redder as he finally understood what my job was. By the time I was done, he was apoplectic. In my experience, when clients are defensive from the get go, they have something to hide.”
“Here in Kansas, we trust each other, not like you all over there in California, every man for himself. What I do on my computer is nobody’s business but my own” he raged as he finished devouring the mysterious leg and started to chew on the bones quite loudly, spitting shards across his desk.
“I didn’t ask anyone to send some Californian here to breathe down my neck! Get the hell out of my office, and out of my town. Go back to that damned California and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”
“At this point, he was breathing very heavily, shaking what remained of the bone at me. I hightailed it out of there, and back to my hotel. Good thing about coding is you can do it anywhere. My trip out there was just to introduce myself and see if it was a malicious attack on their software, but since the man outed himself, it made my job pretty easy. I was mostly relieved to be away from that stench and the flying shards of bone. Did I tell you about the food there?”
“No, tell me about the food.” I ask.
Emilia is a beef snob. She only eats Wagyu beef, but after a few days of eating vegetables, she decided to ask a local for steakhouse recommendations. The well meaning Kansan recommended a restaurant that offered what Emilia describes as ‘unique’ beef, which was of questionable origin because it glistened with a shimmer never before seen on beef. And it tasted like cardboard. After that experience, she was done with Kansas.
But Kansas wasn’t done with her. On her way to the airport, she was treated to the deafening sound of cicadas emerging from their 17 year underground residency, the grating sound getting on her last nerve. And just a few minutes before her flight started to board, she felt the tell-tale gurgling of her stomach that told her that her Wagyu beef-seasoned digestive system was violently rejecting the mysteriously glistening, rancid beef she had consumed in Kansas. It was a very long trip home.
Emilia has never returned to Kansas.