Mary stood in front of her mirror. She was just over 5 feet tall so there was a lot of space left. That was what she was looking at. The space above her head. Her room was happy. It was a studio, the landlord called it a bedsitter. It was full of greens and reds and yellows. Her walls were an orange-red, her desk was hot pink.
“So why are you going butch today?” Mary said to her reflection.
She only ever looked in the mirror to make sure nothing was wrong. She met everyone’s eyes but her own. Her black pants were paired with a black shirt. On them would be thrown a scarf, a jacket, and uggs. If there were office-appropriate shoes by the door as she picked up her scarf and coat, they might be carried to the office.
Mary took the train every morning to work. She had to walk further to get to her building but she liked it better than the bus. No one ever took the seat next to hers. The usual crowd was there for the early train. Mary quietly sipped her tea as she waited.
It had rained the night before. Nairobi was wet and puddles would make the streets hell. Mary liked the rain, it always felt like the city had been cleansed, and heaven knew it needed a baptism.
With the travel mug held between her hands, she shuffled into the train and took her usual seat. Mrs. Oman nodded at her as she took the seat in front of her. The last passenger in before the doors closed was a woman. She was tall, her high heeled boots made a clack, clack, clack as she looked for a seat in the car. She stopped at Mary’s seat. She had gone for stockings and a woolen skirt. All black too, but not butch. She could not be butch if she was chewing tobacco and had a hook for a hand.
“Do you mind?” She asked.
Mary nodded. She turned to the window and stared at the grey as they started for the city. Her seat-mate smelled good too. Mary could not remember if she had used her deodorant or not.
“I don’t usually take the train. Couldn’t risk the traffic with the rain. How about you? Do you take the train often?” She asked.
“Everyday.” Mary said.
“You like it. My boyfriend kept going on about homeless people and criminals.” She said.
Her name was Isabel, like she had tripped and fallen out of a classic movie. She was a smoker, and her boyfriend seemed to disagree with most of the things she did. She did not mention what her job was. Mary did not really care, the faster she got away from her the better. She took Isabel’s offered card and scurried into the city’s foot traffic.
She was sweaty by the time she got to her desk. She did not need that. A beautiful woman to make her believe. It was bad enough that she was the way she was.
Her work as a systems analyst paid well. She hated the job. But that was fine, she had never met anyone who liked their job.
Mandy, the receptionist offered her a doughnut to take with her tea. Mary took one and lingered for gossip. Mandy was pretty and smart. Too smart. She tried to set up every female in the office with her brother but only called Mary when her cousin Grace was in town.
She sat at her desk, slapped on her ear phones, and started where she left off with a pending report. She would paint her walls purple.