Behind my office building there’s this joint where guys go to eat. Angela calls it dunga; I call it kibanda. It’s your typical normal-office-not-too-expensive lunch joint. Everyone goes here. From the watchman to the computer programmers to the delivery guys.
For ambiance you have to deal with wooden tables and plastic chairs and mabati walls draped in lacey nets, music blaring out of a rusty speaker it feels like your ears will get tetanus and ladies to serve you with attitudes that stink you almost have to hold your nose.
The food is palatable. You know you can get better but you settle. It’s that food you got pregnant by accident and now you have to marry it. You don’t do it out of love; just convenience. The thing with such arrangements is resentment grows and hangs between you like a cheap android phone. And you hate each other. Or you hate her. You forget about the first time you met. When you had the hots for each other. The cheap thrills. None of that matters. It’s a ghost of the past that haunts your present predicament.
The first time I went there I was impressed. The food was good. Fresh. Like a toothpaste advert. They were fast too I didn’t have to wait for Jesus’ second coming with my food. I liked their pilau beef. The beef was soft enough. So much so you felt it wouldn’t survive in a Kenyan highschool. No one likes hard meat. Hard meat is a sign of a troubled cow. Never had enough food. Heifer left him. Calves looked like the neighbors bull. You know? Cow problems. Split hooves. Probably took its own life on the way to the dip.
Then one day I go there. Spot this new face; heavy makeup. Nowadays, the term fleek is on fleek. Everything is on fleek. Corruption in the country is on fleek. The weather is on fleek. Her brows weren’t on fleek though. Poorly done Nike logos, they were on flee. She had on a shirt a size smaller and you could see the frustration on the buttons trying to contain her bosom. Same frustration EACC is facing trying to contain corruption. Look, I’m not saying her bosom was corrupt but I did see her slide a note in there. She walks to my table her attitude clearly where her eyebrows went. Doesn’t look at me, she looks past me. I’m non existent to her. The back up singer in a boy band. A ministers personal assistant. The lesser hot girl in an entourage. That torn note a conductor tries to slip you as change. Eurobond money.
It’s clear she doesn’t like me. I’ve never met her before. I’ve also never met her eyebrows. Must be the shirt. It’s too tight her heart can’t beat properly. Maybe it’s her mirror. I don’t know. Or I look like an ex of hers. Or she wishes I looked like an ex of hers. But I’m really a decent guy. Sometimes I try to be funny; I always fail. She asks me, or the wall, what we’re having. I want to say attention for me and a blank stare for the wall. But she doesn’t like me already why make it worse? I get the beef pilau. She doesn’t acknowledge she got the order, she just walks way. I’m an adult, I don’t catch feelings. She’s probably having a bad day. Can’t find her eyebrows. God knows if I woke up and looked like Mrs Owinos ticks back in primary I would be pissed. I let it go.
I’m waiting for my food. I’ve never had to wait more than five minutes here. Five minutes later the wall and I don’t have any food. I guess they must be busy. Cooking pilau, rolling chapati and finding eyebrows is intensive. Eight minutes later she’s back with my order. It’s not really my order I got cabbages instead of greens. But I don’t want to piss her off so I don’t point it out. I keep quiet and let it go. I take the first bite – hard meat. I’m eating meat belonging to a cow that raised calves that weren’t his, had split hooves and also couldn’t find their eyebrows. The rice tastes exactly like her attitude. The food is cold, like her heart. Like her unforgiving stare to the unordering wall. I look up, hoping to meet her eyes. I want to raise my eyebrows in jest. I want my eyebrows to show her eyebrows what eyebrows are. But I don’t see her. She’s disappeared somewhere in the back. Probably still looking for those damn eyebrows.
Now I don’t like her. I don’t like the food either. Maybe I don’t like the food because I don’t like her. I’m playing with the food like a 4 year old. Like a Casanova with ladies feelings. I’m not going to eat it. I’m done. I’m abandoning my pregnant food. I deserve better. I’m actually sorry for the wall, it can’t leave. I’m going to leave the hard beef with daddy issues. The pilau might turn out alright or end up dancing on poles to foot for its college tuition. I never liked the cabbage from the start, I hated it. But it might turn out the best out of all three. I hope she finds her eyebrows though, that lady. Maybe it’s hiding under the heavy makeup.
I shifted kibandas. Took Angela with me. She has a very interesting theory. Miss flee(k) eyebrows likes me. She’s probably watched one of those movies where girls act disinterested to show interest. Talk to her, Angela told me. That was last year. She’s still looking for her brows. I moved on.