I’m sitting at this restaurant. In the garden. It’s not really cold just a bit breezy. The kind of breeze that’s like a soft kiss at the back of your neck. They have this little tent like gazebos dotted across the garden. Each of these is named after an exotic island. The wind is blowing through gently and it rustles the leaves as it wafts the scents from the flower bushes to our noses. It’s serene. This is one of those settings that have yoga and are in tune with their inner self. Settings that don’t yell in traffic. Instead they turn up the radio to some Zen music and whisper “Namaste” to other drivers. This setting was one with itself. The only thing missing was the sound of a rushing stream. And breathing exercises. Definitely breathing exercises.
Two guys walk in. One in a khaki blazer and white shirt. Maroon pants and black loafers. He looks chill. He has rectangle spectacles, black framed sitting on his nose and resting on his forehead which seamlessly merges with his bald head. He is maybe 5’5 or 5’4. But his frame has personality. Like a full bodied coffee. He has those flabby-ish cheeks. Clean shaven. His voice is a not so deep baritone but full of laughter. From where I am seated I cannot see the parking lot. But I am guessing he drove in with a four wheel drive. He looks like a four wheel drive. Maybe a discovery or a harrier. But the harrier would be the mama’s because his was at the shop. He also looks like he calls his girlfriend mama.
The other guy was maybe 5’8 or 5’9. White sleeveless shirt folded up to the forearm. Those shirts that have a lining on the collar and sleeves that are a different color. His was navy blue. He had neat hair. Blue jeans and loafers too. He had a cool factor about him. Maybe it was the way he wore the shirt. Two maybe three buttons open revealing his chest. And a chain. Maybe it was the way the shirt hang around his waist. Untucked. He had a large silver ring on his left hand’s pinky. The air around him bend to his will as he walked. Like it moved out of the way. His voice was a little deeper and his eyes were animated when he talked to his pal. He looked like he was the one that drove them here. And probably had to endure a lot of “you guy this is mama’s car take it easy bana”. He looked athletic. Like he ran. Something stoic about his posture.
A waitress walks over to the gazebo. White blouse. Black skirt. Black waist coat. And black shoes. She had a plain face. A face that could be lost in a sea of faces. A face you would not remember. But a face you would see and it would look familiar. A face that tastes like morning tea. Tea that has been in the thermos the whole day and has been reheated in the microwave for 32 seconds. Those faces that make it look like you’re making a bad attempt at flirting.
“You look familiar. Have we met before?”
“No I don’t think so. I think I’d remember meeting you.”
What can I say, I have a memorable face.
“Are you sure?”
“But I’m sure you were at… You know what never mind.”
You will have realized before it got too far you should not push it. You might end up calling her a different name and mention an event and offend her. You will introduce yourself or re-introduce yourself. Start-up an acquaintance then meet another plain faced person and swore you two just had a conversation.
Back to the waitress. She smiled at us as she handed over the menus. Then she walked a distance away. Like we needed time to read through the menu. Write a review and recommend it as a good read to other people. I treat restaurants like I treat relationships. I know what I want. I go for it. If I don’t get it I leave. I don’t go in wanting steak and end up having Caesar salad. But just for effect I glance over the menu. Look at the pages. Feel it on my skin. Ask it a few questions like what it’s like to be a menu. You’ve never thought about it but being a menu might be one of the hardest things.
“How long have you been a menu?” I’d ask
“Not long enough but I hate it.”
“Hate is a strong word.”
“But it’s not strong enough. Listen. Let me ask you something.”
“Do you know what it feel like to have someone look at you and desire everything but you?”
You will want to talk about that girl at the club that other day that looked at you. That girl that did not really look at you but looked past you at your friend. But you feel that might be a little bit insensitive. So you don’t. Menus can be touchy and moody and you don’t want it hating you.
“No. No I don’t.”
“I have. Everyday. You know the sad part?”
“That even though you talked to me you want something else not me. You will hand me over back to that lady. What’s her name? I forget.”
“No there’s no but. It’s true.”
“Yes, so hate is not really a strong word.”
Menus need some form of therapy. A group session where clients can just go and hug each other. And tell stories. And be themselves. And team build. And want each other for what they are. The old torn ones and the new glossy ones. The ones with salads and the one with drinks. The whole lot of them need a whole lot of love.
The waitress is back and I give her my order. I’m getting grilled pork chops. And fries. My colleague, a vegetarian, ordered a pizza. Quick to write down the order she looks back at me. Her and her plain face. Then asked what I’d be drinking. I did not have to think about it. It was a Friday afternoon. So I asked for a cold beer. Two. One for me and the other for my colleague. She did not write down the drinks order. She’s probably used to it. Two guys ordering beers. How cliché could it get. It was almost as if our drinks order was as plain as her face.
Right across from us in another gazebo sat two women. Older. Probably in their mid-forties. They sat adjacent to each other and leaned in talking in hushed tones. They were probably conspiring to overthrow a chama leader. One had heavy jewelry on. Heavy gold bangles. Large gold earrings. And a long wavy weave. Black. Her face too had on heavy make-up. She probably thought it made her look younger. It didn’t. The foundation and mascara all highlighted the creases and folds casting the unescapable glimmer of ageing. I could not see her friend clearly. I could only see the side of her head. Her left side. She had gone easy on the make-up. So I assumed she was a lower forty than her friend. They were having some brownish liquid in glass mugs. Figured it was dawa. A concoction of ginger and garlic and honey. Something for this Nairobi cold.
When beer comes to your table there is that brief moment of acknowledgement. Especially when it’s cold. And the bottle is sweating. And a drop falls majestically from its neck to the bottle bottom. And you just want to appreciate it in its splendor. Take in the view. Sigh in its magnificence. Probably bow and call it sire. It’s sweating for god’s sake. The damn thing is sweating. This either means it has the hots for you and broke into a cold sweat or that it worked hard to be there. It is not like the other privileged drinks. It fought hard for that position. To be at your table. And the last thing you can do is to appreciate it. By enjoying every last drop. Asking it about its children. But not its dreams. Because beer is not like wine or whisky. Beer has no dreams.
Beer is that guy you will find at the corner in a bar drinking a cold man. Alone. Not enjoying the music. If it does it will just nod its head. Otherwise it will be ignoring it and the other people around it. It will have exactly two men. Pay the bill then go home. At home it probably has a nagging wife and two children. Beautiful ones. The children not the wife. He will find food covered and inside the microwave. He will peep into the children’s room before walking into his. He will find the wife asleep. Snoring maybe. Face facing the wall. He will slip out of his clothes and slide in. Try to cuddle the wife but get a response colder than his drinks. Then he will also turn and fall asleep.
I drink my beer. Wait for the food. And while I do so, I watch the two guys who had walked in earlier. The shorter one has a beer. Same one as mine. I immediately feel connected. A guy drinking the same drink as you is akin to finding your neighborhood buddy in a foreign land. You feel connected. I’m about to raise a glass to him but realize he probably won’t see it. I decide against it and watch his friend. The one oozing cool. Shirt open. Untucked. He is having a wine. Red. In a glass that shimmers when the light reflects off of it. The glass has a long stem. And a narrow mouth. It looks like the cross breed between a wine glass and a champagne flute. On his plate is pasta. I hate this guy. Wine and pasta. That’s culture. He probably has a collection of old school Benga in his crib. Not even in digital format but the old vinyl records. When I grow up I want to be this guy.
Our food comes. My pork chops. They look good. Like they dressed up to outdo the beer. Smells great too. Those wafts of grilled meat tingle my senses. Make me feel more man than I should. There’s something carnal about eating meat. Something intimate. Like you are one with nature. Actually not one; but above it. Like you just saw an animal and decided that you would devour it. And you’re so badass that you don’t even know what animal was killed. You just looked at a book with glossy pages and pointed your finger and declared “This one!” “I will eat this one.” And it was brought to your table. Cooked. Dead. Tasty.
I cut into it. It refuses to yield. The knife grinds against the meat like they are dirty dancing. Like some Caribbean song is playing in the background. The meat just refuses. Completely. I stare at the knife. Like I am telling it this is its fault. It’s not doing its job. Incompetent. The waitress prances over. Apologizes. I didn’t even call her. She brings over a much tougher knife. A manly knife. With serrated steel. This time the meat yields. Like I bought it drinks and said it had beautiful eyes and dangled car keys in front of it. I stab the damn thing with my fork and raise it into my mouth. This must be a horror how for my veg counterpart. I don’t care. It goes in. And I chew. Ever had depressed pork? That’s what it tasted like. That pig was skinny. Not fat like its friends. The meat was chewy and tasted like it had been marinated in salt and water. It taste like her face. The golden brown fries did nothing for the meal. The veggies were just soaked in hot water. I hated it. The only seasoning those veggies had heard off was the new season of game of thrones. No amount of ketchup made up for the taste. Just like that lady with her jewelry and make-up that didn’t make her younger.
The sad part is I will have to dress it up. Write a rave review. That story will be more spiced up than the meal. The sad part is as I left the waitress asked me if I enjoyed the food. Talk about rubbing salt to injury; salt that should’ve been instead used for the food. But I smiled, and said yes; lied to her face. Maybe it was the beer. But I just had to write my truth here.