The gray mist was settling gently on Nairobi’s skyline like a fine layer of dust. It looked like a sleepy city; a city that was just stirring. Groggy eyed and hoarse voiced. A voice that feels as if it is scratching the back of the throat when it comes out. Rather crawls out. It’s rough around the edges like a high-school kid.Unruly too and it has this lazy demeanor about it like it just doesn’t want to cooperate. But beneath that layer it was abuzz. After all it was a Friday. And here, in Nairobi, everyone: at least normal people love Friday. Even the city itself loves Friday. Gods favorite day of the week. When he created beer, something they dont teach you during C.R.E.
We are having cake at the office; soon-to-be former. It’s white forest, tastes like an Angel’s lips on a Sunday morning. I don’t know if it’s a combined effort between Angela and Joyce or rather just Angela herself but they’ve come together to throw this little shindig. They both wear sentiment like loud jewelry. I’m more subtle. If I wore it at all it would be like underwear. They called it a farewell. They even had ‘we will miss you’ inscribed on the cake; like I had just been diagnosed with something chronic. It felt like the world had given me two days to live. And here I was; eating cake and orange juice. No beer. No whisky. Just cake and orange juice. And two people making me feel bad for leaving. You guys know I will miss the whole lot of you; well until Fridays then it’s happy hour.
Angela has this look on her face. Like she’s daring me to become office buddies with a new person. Or maybe I’m imagining it. It’s the look of a thousand deaths and turning cold beer to camel piss. And I kind of felt bad; we had this thing going where I was the annoying little brother. I was the DeeDee to her Dexter. She usually has this thing where she tries to pretend she’s not a morning person. But if you push her hard enough she smiles, then remembers she’s not supposed to; so she tries to hide it again. And she does it every morning like clockwork; walking in like she took the night shift from Atlas and has the world’s burdens on her shoulders. Also when she gets pissed off or excited she loses that polished eloquence to her accent and the winds from the shores of Lake Victoria blow in that native tongue. A hint though; just enough to make it interesting and funny. Like an Ankara bow tie to a white shirt. Pro tip though, you do not want to make her angry.
So with all the hullabaloo of cake, juice, people forcing me to make a speech I didn’t really want to; mindless banter and the smell of Friday delicately hanging in the air, it all came to an end. And you know what Friday smells like; fun. And musky cologne that’s a bit earthy. With breathe that has a tinge of spicy rum that’s both erotic and repulsive at the same time. We had to take the party elsewhere. And we did; the night had just begun with the promise of a few beers and good music lingering on like a lovesick teen.
I walk into the joint; there’s soft music playing. Music that’s welcoming. Music that softly brushes your face and smiles and asks if you will have tea or coffee or the occasional juice. Of course I have neither it’s always a beer for me and when I’m feeling extra spiffy a double of some single malt. But lately the economy has been shit. Bandit they called it; so single malts are frowned upon. Just like anything single anyway. I haven’t seen a single-single that was received with some form of positivity. Single mums are facing the brunt on social media. Everyone likes their shots in doubles. Even on holiday people favor the double rooms. Even songs and artistes won’t talk about singles for long. We all want to know when the album will come out. Even in the office it’s all about teamwork; when was the last time Rachel from HR did something singlehandedly?
So I get a cold beer; it’s happy hour so they come two. See? I’m feeling pretty happy with myself. As happy as you can get with two beers; cold, on a Friday evening. Right across from me is a guy in a blue sweater. Those sweaters that are t-shirts but then again are just really sweaters. He also had blue jeans but I didn’t see his shoes. Fit the description of someone in tendering, probably communications equipment. A waitress saunters over to his table; they exchange brief pleasantries and she smiles. He breaks into a hearty laughter: an underlying naughtiness to his laugh. His laugh probably pinched the waitresses butt on her way to get his order.
Here, beers are priced at 400 bob. For four hundred bob you’d expect a ticket to heaven and a VIP backstage pass to Gabriel’s rehearsals. You’d expect your receipt to come with detailed eurobond monies and complete financial statements from PWC auditing your account. EACC would call a commission to inquire about your new found wealth; establish any connections with traffic officers. But here you don’t pay for the beer; you pay to say you’re there having a beer. It’s like social currency. I don’t know what the rate on that is but I’m guessing three umoinners, two citi hoppas and a royal to one black legacy.
The guy, blue T-shirt that’s not really a T-shirt but a sweater worn as a T-shirt guy is on his phone. Only looking up once in a while to scan the crowd. Two short glasses and a bucket of ice are brought to his table. Glasses I’ve not seen before; all the times I’ve come here. These are the glasses parents would hide for special guests. So my interest is piqued. I wait to see what happens. I’m eyeing him, but carefully lest our eyes meet. When your eyes meet that of another man, there’s a brief moment of self-awareness. Your life flashes before your eyes. Your heart beat slows down, the noise fades away; vision around you is blurry you’re just focussed on this man’s eyes. At that moment you can’t look down. Or away. You have to stare into his eyes. Look imminently into his soul; find his inner child and spank it. Make it cry. Be the man.
Lady waitress prances back with a bottle of Glenfiddich in hand. Now if you think the beer is expensive, this bottle probably costs a plot in ruai plus the price of pulling electricity to it. And maybe a probox with custom rims and a Sony stereo. She stands to the guy’s right and opens the bottle. No ceremony. Not like in uptown clubs in town; where even a bottle of the bluest moon comes with sparking flares. Nothing. It was like they opened a bottle of water. She poured him a finger or two and dropped a block or three of ice before leaving.
People right now are having kids. Getting married. You meet someone in the super market pushing a trolley laden with groceries. Its tires are creaking at the weight. Then there on the handle bar there’s a toi sitting. The kid is excited saying daddy this mummy that. You think maybe it’s creaking because it’s heavy with child. Like the woman in a glowing sundress next to the guy. Both beaming pointing at some peanut butter brand. You figure the mama is craving some. You get closer and realize you know the guy. Some chap from back in the day. Used to love the tipple; bad breath and even badder girlfriends. So guy finally settled. You should feel envy. You don’t. You exchange knowing glances and smile. Maybe nod.
But seeing this guy here, blue sweater maybe t-shirt, with a bottle of Glenfiddich; you ooze envy. You try to figure out what a guy like that does. Probably bathes with mineral water. Eats baked food. No frying. Has wifi in his bathroom. Not the same one as the rest of the house, no, this is bathroom wifi. So when he’s in there he can download in more ways than one. He probably has someone who flushes his toilet when he’s done. I’m now hoping we make eye contact. So that my eyes can ask his eyes to invite me over. Call me a whisky whore if you want. Sometimes you just can’t help it. Whisky has this thing about it; it’s sexy. And fiery. Also cultured it won’t ask why they’re playing boring songs. It just knows.
Side note: If you ever go to that place; they now have a waitress that speaks French. I think she’s Belgian. For that they can even charge me 600 for beer. Put it as French accent service charge. Heck they can even take my kidney too.
Side side note: Hey Steve 🙂