Once in a while you need it. Just one day with the guys and you letting loose. Having fun. A day where office titles are left at the office. A day when those with the Mrs. take the ring off. Not the gold band on their fingers, but the ringer to their phones. They put it on silent with one last message. “I’m with the guys. I’ll get home late don’t wait up. Love you.” They won’t even see the reply telling him to take care, not until 3 am. And at that time it’s too late to reply. But he will be fine because he ended the text with “I love you” or some version of it. Ladies love that shit. Say it once in a while. But not too often either, it gets old.
With guys you don’t have to plan for weeks. With ladies it is a bit different. They have to anticipate the weather. Check if they have the right dress to match the drink they will have. Also just in case Mary will want to wear that skirt of hers that kind of looks like Lucy’s blouse. They go on and on. So it might take them anything between three weeks to never. So no, you’ve not been planning it for weeks. It was just a random text in the group on an off Tuesday, some guy suggests that you should all link up over the weekend and do something. There’s blankets and wine coming up. An event a bit too bourgeois for you guys, you’re not there yet as a clique. You also don’t go out of town unless it’s on someone’s tab. You guys are not cheap, just economical. And let’s face it, kidogo cheap pia. That extra two thousand for fuel? That’s probably three rounds at the bar, with some kebabs and boiled eggs, and lots of chilli kachumbari, with the change.
It’s set, you guys will hit a club. Maybe three.
I get to town around 7.30 pm. I have a tusker flowing free in my blood. The only reason I actually had it was because I was waiting for Kev; his timing is more African than Kwaito. He doesn’t apologize for his lateness, instead he cusses me out. Guys. A guy will be late and be mad at you for him being late. Like you should have known better. But we are used to it and we don’t catch feelings. It just means that he will buy an unsolicited round. It’s the law.
The night feels young. The air is peppered with different kind of scents from the fuming mini buses to flowery perfumes on ladies in even more flowery dresses. The rest of the guys haven’t yet arrived. It is a good chance for Kev to redeem himself and get me a complimentary beer. We walk along the streets of Tom Mboya and we’re at a spot before you get to Gillian House. Town is almost empty. At 7.30 that’s shocking. We assume a better part of the crowd is stuck in Machakos in various states of inebriation and debauchery. There’s music blaring out of the balconies of different clubs. Clubs you do not want to enter. They look like rusty old nails. You’re definitely going to catch something when you walk in. But the devil usually has his own agenda and I start to feel the burning urge to pee.
Right opposite to us where we are walking, there’s Club Geo and Little Temple. Kev tells me that Little Temple is a not so conservative club. It has gays. I just nod. Completely nonchalant to his remark. All I want to do is pee. It doesn’t matter. Gay club or not; the toilets are the same. But Kev somehow manages to convince me that it is a bad idea. Two guys walking into a gay club. Hello? Sounds like a bad joke. So we ignore its bright LED sign and get into Geo.
I’m in dark blue chinos, black shirt and a jacket. Kev is in jeans, t-shirt and a college jacket. We walk up to the entrance and the guy guarding it pats us down without as much as a scoff. The club is one of those upstairs clubs with an entrance at the ground floor. The stairs have LED lights on each step. Blue. Red. Green. As we go up the music gets clearer, they are playing some 90s hip hop. A time when a verse was actual words. With consonants, vowels amd a meaning in the dictionary and rhyme. Not sdjfskdjbfsf shdbfsjbfsbdf HAAH nonsense I like nowadays. Such music travels me back in time to when I had no idea what hip hop was. Or RNB. Or what it meant. I only listened to it because my cousins, way older than me, liked it and I thought it was cool.
Reaching the top step, the club was empty save for a couple on the counter who smelt heavily of cigarette smoke and Guinness. There was also lady who sat across them in a black coat and a black and white polka dotted dress drinking a tusker malt. The lady had an inconspicuous bump. Pregnant. But she gently sipped on her beer like it was a normal thing. It wasn’t. It was unnerving. Like watching a person walk on hot coal bare feet. I had the mind to go talk to her, but I also had the mind to mind my own. Other than that, the waiters made up for much of the crowd.
You don’t go into a joint and expect much of the bathrooms. You don’t even think about the bathroomsnuntil you get into one and realize how much no thought was put into it. This club’s bathroom was just like that. It was boring. Plain. It made peeing a thankless job. It felt like it worked accounts at some government office where it would come in when it wanted and leave no sooner than 3 PM to go do ‘other things’. Although the interior felt like it tried, with the usual plush cushioned chairs and high bar stools and rotating lights and meagre dance space. It could’ve tried a bit harder. But this is what happens when you come in with a Kimathi street attitude into a Tom Mboya street joint.
Kev orders the beer. We are sitting at the counter amd the television is on National Geographic. I do not understand the obsession with clubs and Nat Geo. They could just leave the screens on sports. Or cartoons even. I don’t want to stare at mating deer when I am having a cold one. A quick glance at my phone and I get another text confirming one of the guys is on the way. I pass the information to Kev and he ignores it. He says something about the show. There’s foxes on the television in the middle of winter and they are fat.
“Sasa hizi vitu zimenona zinakula nini? Ice?” he quips
I try to tell him that maybe there’s an underground stash of food that’s not been frozen over. I also don’t know I’m guessing.Then we see the fox hunt. Clever little bugger. It listens to the ice. It can hear movement from beneath it. Rodents trying to scurry to their burrows. All it does is run ahead and dives head on into the ice intercepting the poor rodent. Like a line back. Kev’s question is answered now, so he looks back at me and asks what I was on about.
“Anacome ako kwa njia.”
“Ooh poa basi.”
And just like that that conversation drifts into something else.
The other guy’s name is also Kev. He gets to the club and finds us at the counter. We motion to leave but he sits. He insists on having a beer just like we did. We don’t argue, a man needs his beer. He is the kind of guy that drinks White Cap. Something about White Cap says you have a tea plantation and you wear oversize coats and drive a double cabin pick up. It also says that before venturing into farming you were a math or science teacher. I don’t know why he likes it but he swears by it. I stick to my usual. Tusker. Cold ones. Kev likes Guinness. Calls all the other beers watered down piss. A beer should be dark like an African man. Or something stupid like that. Ati not light like a socialite. Kev.
By the time we are living Geo it’s still dead. Kind of like Lazarus’ tomb on the second day. It did not have prospects that it would look up later on. I don’t think people look at Tom Mboya as a viable clubbing zone. It’s a bit too vulgar. Rough around the edges. And there’s the one too many occasion people have left the club only to be relieved of their personal effects. Mostly phones and money.
We leave the club after deciding that we should go to Mist. Mist is also on Tom Mboya but it leans more on the upper side. Also rumor had it that there were having an offer for bottle service. If you know anything about Nairobi, and its clubs. You should know that if the standard price for a bottle is 2K then you’re better off buying one. It is more cost and drunk effective. Between four guys that’s roughly 600 bob. The extra 100 is for your kebab, samosa or chaser. Not everyone believes in taking drinks neat. Apparently. I think it brings out the flavor.
Mist is a typical Nairobi club. For a minute it was hot. Everybody wanted to party at Mist. The hype has waned off but it’s partially there. Walking in the music is a bit more upbeat. We are expecting one more guy but he has gone cold turkey on us last minute. We figure the girlfriend did not let him go. Did not buy his shit about two for the road or whatever half-baked excuse he used. So it’s just three of us – two Kevs and one me.
The club is full. It feels like a government clinic on a Monday afternoon. People are all over the place. A bouncer, brown guy with bulging muscles, walks over to us and asks us how many we are. We tell him three and he scurries off into the middle of the club only appearing minutes later telling us he has found a spot for us. We do not ask if “finding” involved making other people uncomfortable. We are glad. Happy almost. After all we are not accustomed to having our drinks standing like an initiation ceremony. The table has three other guys. Two guys and a girl. We are right behind the counter. Behind us is an island bar. But between it and us is a moat of scattered tables and loud women. One of the women acknowledges us and gets back to her drinks.
A pretty waitress in a black shirt comes over to the table. We ask her how much a bottle of brandy is. She thinks for a while then announces she does not know. That puts us off. What does she mean she doesn’t know? She works here right? Or at least the branded shirt says so. Also a name tag is conspicuously missing. I make it a habit to always read the tags because sometimes the waitresses get cute with your change. Since she is going back to confirm the prices we decide to have her bring a list of other prices as well. Expand our options. She leaves the table and melts into the crowd. They’re playing some dancehall tune now. It’s not late. Maybe 9-ish. A few people are gyrating to it. Others are just nodding it away like they have somewhere else better to be.
She’s back. Tells us the prices. Almost shouting them into our ears because of the loud music. All of them are exaggerated by an extra five hundred bob. So naturally we imagine she is pulling a fast one. Making an extra buck out of us. I ask her if she is sure. That maybe she should go back and confirm again like she did the first time. She laughs it off. Kev decides it’s not worth the hustle. So we just order. Again she disappears into the crowd coming back minutes later with a bottle tucked in a bucket of ice. Another bucket of ice for the neaters. And three sodas.
The guys at the table give us an acknowledging look. The ladies behind them also nod. But we stare at our glasses like they don’t exist. We do not want a smile here to act as an invite to our booze. Selfish.
A few doubles in and the brandy had started its work. I feel confident enough to walk to the bathroom. If for anything to test my sobriety. I had been taking mine over ice. Kev had one round over ice and the other Kev added two drops to his coke. Also their bathroom nothing to write home about. But it had more personality. Maybe because it was fuller and drunks know how to make things fun. Even peeing.
I get back to the table and the guys are pulling moves. They’re playing millennial hip hop now. So there’s a lot of dabbing, whipping, and spinning arms around. Normally I can’t dance. Not to save my life. I’m already thinking how I will have an “Accident” the eve of my wedding. But a few shots in, moves I did not know I had are unlocked. And so we do our thing. The other guys on the table join us. But we’re eying our drinks just in case. Kev has his sights on the pretty damsel adjacent to him. The rest of us don’t care. We just dance. The damsel joins in. They do their thing. Meanwhile my phone rings. An old buddy from the day is in the CBD. Got permission from the Mrs. and wants to let loose. I give him directions and wait. Sipping some more.
Some minutes later he arrives with an entourage. One guy and girl; I can’t remember their names. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I’ll remember them next time. My pal is in a dashiki. At least that’s what I think they call it. Spectacles and dreads. He is a photographer. They have this thing with African wear. Catch them at weddings. Tell me. He does some really amazing jobs at Photoarmoury. His crew and he can’t fit on our table. So the both of us move to the island bar. This involves asking some people to move to accommodate our movement. One lady gets up and tells me that if I am going to keep passing there I should buy her a drink for the inconvenience.
Kidogo chit chat here and there a little bit of catching up and I notice he is only having a coke. He says something about driving home. And I may or may not have poured a double into his glass. Time starts to fly. The booze in me does not allow me to sit and talk. I have moves begging to be unleashed and so I join the dance floor. He doesn’t mind. He actually looks bored. Lol, Baraka… are we that boring? The dancefloor now has a healthy population. There’s the staggering chap wielding an equally staggering damsel. Their staggering offsets each other so neither falls. A train is forming. I don’t remember the song but we joined in. As we go round in circles someone taps my shoulder. A quick glance behind it’s the lady that wanted a drink for her inconvenience.
“My drink?” she asks
“The one you owe me.”
“Me? I don’t remember that.”
“I do.” She says
“And because you do that makes it true?” I ask then add a quick chuckle in case she finds offense in my humor.
“What are you having?”
I get her a drink and we talk for a while. All the time noticing the waitress has not brought back my change. Mid drink we dance. I don’t catch her name. She has okay moves. Not that the club is a place to show off anyway. But they were okay. Better than mine. We talk some more before she has to go. Her and her friend. All this time the waitress has not brought my change. I go sit with akina Kev and start throwing a tirade. Each time I ask a waitress she denies being the one who took the money. So I figure it’s gone. I could cry all I want but I wasn’t going to get it back. Kev laughs at me. Tells me:
“That’s what you get for buying a girl a drink.”
It’s now almost 3. We leave the club. Go home. It was an okay night.
But as I write this I can’t help but think about my change. It’s almost mid-month dammit. It was worth a few days lunch. The pain. Pinch.
That’s what I get for buying a girl a drink.