I stalked her for many months last year. She remained an eel, an illusion, a mirage. She gave me three dates which she ended up cancelling, with apologies. Late last year she ghosted me (yeah, I was a bit stung), until January of this year when she surfaced again like a submarine in Antarctica, extending a bush of olive branches. “I know you think I’m being difficult,” she texted, “but I have been very busy in South Sudan and then Christmas and family and all.”
I said what you say when you want something more than the other person does; ‘Oh I understand. Might you have an hour in your schedule soon?’ We set a date. I suggested tea at Serena Hotel because she wasn’t the type to buy wet happy-hour cocktails at some dive with tattooed waiters. We could sit on the low seats in a corner at the Pambara Lounge, I suggested. It’s a great spot if you want to hear a pin drop. She said Serena was OK with her. 11am? Yeah, 11am was perfect.
I didn’t hold my breath.
But she showed up; an hour earlier, it turned out. I wasn’t late, but I parked like an idiot on the rooftop parking and ran down. [An idiot parks like he’s had several wet happy-hour cocktails at a dive with tattooed waiters]. I found her seated near the door, laptop open, fingers rattling on the keyboard.
Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch.
I will take this moment for the First-To-Comment brigade to cry, Lady-Who? Because to them anybody who isn’t Lady Gaga doesn’t deserve the title Lady prefixing their name. Suffixing her name were EBS, CBS. It occurred to me that if you are accomplished you can also get away with just throwing letters after your name, JACKSON BIKO ECG BUR KNF, DBP. People will be afraid to ask you what the hell they mean. Because what people fear more than looking ignorant is feeling ignorant. For whoever is asking, Lady Justice Aluoch was a court of appeal and a high court judge, the second woman in Kenya to hold those positions. She was also the first Vice President of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands. She brings weight into rooms.
“You are early, Lady Justice.” I told her, receiving her bejewelled hand for a handshake. Very important people don’t shake your hand as much as hand you their hands to shake. She had big globs of rings on her fingers. If the Greek goddess of glam wept and their tears froze they would resemble her rings. As I shook her hand I thought of the expression, “kiss the ring” to imply show respect. It now all made sense, that expression. You saw it in ‘The Godfather’. She had gold around her neck and elegance on her back. Her red or maroon purse matched the dots on her dress. Now in her 70s, she was elegant. Nay, resplendent, dazzling even, but in an earthly, anchored way. Like her roots ran so deep in the ground nothing would uproot her…no storm, no gale, no idea, no reason.
She sits in important rooms with men who don’t agree. She helps these men navigate difficult conversations which means she listens a lot, she listens more than she speaks. She walks the knife’s edge with these men. She doesn’t arbitrate anymore, she told me, she mediates. To arbitrate, she explained, is to make a judgement, to mediate is to help parties communicate. It’s in her. It’s always been in her, this emotional intelligence to recognise what people want and turn it into a language that everybody speaks.
I let go of her bejewelled hand. She closed her laptop and said something about Sudan, where she is stationed now as part of the Judicial Reform Committee under the Peace Agreement. I moved her to a corner table, my favourite spot, with her back to the window to avoid people headed to the gym or the pool area seeing her and screaming, ‘Oh My God, lady Justice!’ and coming to rain on my parade. We had a chit and a chat. I ordered masala tea for us. The honey came in an Aladdin-looking gizmo that, if I had a purse, I would have seriously thought of nicking. This one time we went to Under The Radar Bar and rest…well, a story for another day.
Across the room, a gaggle of Somali men in suits were convening in murmured tones. The obvious patriarch, an elderly man with a wheezing stare, sat stroking his long dyed beard, a walking stick between his legs. At another table two ladies who looked like they ran an insurance firm sat in skirt suits, legs crossed.
The Lady Justice said, “What did you want to know about my life? Who wants to know about my life? It’s not that interesting.” I said, “that’s not true. I bet there are tons of people who want to know about your life and how you ended up here. What did you do to end up here?” Then she started telling me about her father and mother, which is always a great place to start one’s story.
At some point, I started getting really pressed. This is because when I woke up my urine reminded me of the yellow in UDA’s logo and so I had been hydrating furiously. Now I could feel my bladder pout. I did what we all do to our bladders; ignore it. But then the Lady Justice noticed I wasn’t sipping my tea anymore and said, ‘you don’t like it?” to which compelled me to take sips which is exactly what my bladder had planned the whole time. At some point I was literally suffering. I wondered how unprofessional it would be to excuse myself to go to the washroom. What was I, six?
It got increasingly bad that I couldn’t move without feeling pain. So I threw in the white towel. “I’m sorry, Lady Justice, but can I just dash out for a moment? A small bathroom break.” I ran to the bathroom and held the wall over the urinal with sweet relief as my bladder emptied. There is no better feeling than when your bladder wins. Everybody ends up winning.
When I went back there was a lady seated with Lady Justice. She was leaning close to her, peppering her with questions. She gets that a lot. Women walking up to her and asking her, how did you end up here? What did you do? How do you do this?
After I shooed her away I asked her, “Lady Justice, what’s the one thing people always ask you when they meet you?”
I have a nasty cold, my head hurts so I will stop here and take a nap. Read about Lady Justice in this Friday’s Business Daily.
Oh, and register for the Writing Masterclass HERE. Talk soon.