A man should be able to put on a hoodie over a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, sneakers, grab a quick bite at around 8.30 switch off the lights and walk to the local for a cold one. No drama. No fuss. At the bar he should be able to have two. Just two. Enjoy national geographic on the screens, take in his surroundings scoffing at the overly drunk elderly shouting in a corner. He should then summon the waiter, pay the bill and leave. We need that alone time to reflect on important issues, issues that affect us and entire generations. Things like why texts go unreplied or why bars insist on National Geographic and if one day if they introduced a science to allow men to give birth if we’d be open about it or boycott sex altogether.
So once in a while I do that, I step out into the uncertain night grab a cold one and bury my head in the solace of a lonely bar counter soaking in the wonderful tidbits by a bored white man’s voice talking about leopard poop. Did you know they don’t shit in the trees? Yeah me neither. I thought they had special branches for that. Like they’d climb to the branch with the fluffiest, greenest bush of leaves and drop them. But no, they hide, like other cats and do their business. Never been caught on camera doing it. And it’s times like that I think, after a beer or three, maybe I should start a wildlife blog on big cats poop. Catching them in the act, no one is doing it. I’d call it the big dump diaries. Genius.
But on this Saturday I had no intention of being alone, I was supposed to meet Kev, we had some business to take care of and a bottle of whisky to take care of it over. But then the bagger was somewhere across county lines out of his wits, silly drunk, dancing to some funny Nyadundo tune. So I ended up alone next to this lady who had two unopened beers, an ash tray, a pack of lights and a cheery attitude. She looked mid forties sober and a few beers later (mine) she was a solid thirty five. The gentleman that serves me is usually some young guy who’s balding. I think running a pub is stressful, he looks barely 26 but has the hairline of a retired engineering professor. His forehead has more creases than a conductors change and he has a weary smile. I order my beers and sit. I try Kev one last time but the phone goes unanswered. Perfect.
My local is quite cozy, it’s far from dingy. Drinks are surprisingly cheap and they have an upstairs lounge with upholstered couches where you can bring booze from outside and pay a corkage fee, 500 bob. Sweet deal. It hides in the clefts of a gated estate and not many people know about it, a well kept secret, a mistress, a haven for heathens that want to be undisturbed. The bartenders know me by name, I know two by name, half the patrons know me as well;some by name others by merit of familiarity; just because they’ve seen my face there before. Here everyone has their seat. Mine is the third seat from the left on the counter. Kev’s is the fourth. Almost always its empty unless some new comer walked in and didn’t realize there was an order to the place. At such times the bar tenders apologize and offer an alternative seat.
When you enter the local flanking you to your right is usually a group of middle aged women. They are louder than the men, their jewelry loudest and their faces caked in expensive make up. They are in one business or the other and they drink dark brews, Guinness and the likes. They leave the softer brews for us girls. On the left is a younger crowd. They’re always there and they always have a krest, gin and the off beer on the table. On that day however the ladies were not there except for the one on the counter.
I sat down and ordered my drink. All this time her back was to me. She had angled herself in the seat such that I could only see the back of her head (weave?) And her back. Her trench hang on the shoulders of the chair and she was having a livid chat with some chap. She had on a denim dress.
Some nights like that night don’t look like they will amount to much. They feel dead. In my head all I wanted was two beers then I’d walk home and sleep. A lone man walking the streets like a experienced hunter. There’s something about that tipsy victory walk, that invincible feeling you have and the way the world seems so inanimate in it’s different stages of sleep.
My phone rings, it’s kev. He apologizes and mumbles something about heading to Karen. At 11 pm. I tell him to stay where he is and sleep. He insists that he can’t let me down, pretty stand up guy, but I also don’t want him getting mugged so I lie.
“I’ve gone home. The place is dead.”
Annoyed, he hangs up. Trust this guy to be mad for keeping you waiting since 5. Its like he is princess cinderella. I take another sip of my beer, I like how it has been chilled, it feels like happiness going down my throat. I look around and this time my eyes meet with the lady next to me. She smiles and turns.
“Hi I did not even notice you there” she laughs
I say a quick hi back, stare at the television and sip my beer. I’m usually somehow, in a distant kind of way; a snob. I don’t engage in small talk, especially if I don’t know you. But she’s had a few in her system and alcohol is a conversation lubricant so she does not let up.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you…” she laughs again “… I just grew up in a generation where it’s rude not to talk to people next to you.”
I smile and nod and mutter a quick it’s okay. She suggests she can let me be; but, that would be rude of me so I tell her it’s fine we can talk. Afterall locals were not made for snobs, if you want to feel extra special you go to carpeted clubs in Kileleshwa where you pay for the exclusivity and privacy. She’s quick to mention that she is not hitting on me, so it’s not that kind of party. I laugh, feign disappointment make a witty remark and we introduce ourselves.
I have had random conversations in a bar before but never one like this one. We talked about a lot including if I believe in God, her cakes business and her daughter who ditched her for her friends that night hence why she was at the bar. I wanted to ask her what she thinks her daughter was doing at that time. That if she was worried she was somewhere talking to someone older (like I was) and probably dancing the night away for a few drinks. But instead the conversation steered to her mum who’s abroad and wanted to call her but her phone was off. Again I wanted to ask if she’d get into trouble if her mum called her and she said she was in a bar. Maybe she’d have laughed and thrown me a round; but again I did not ask. There’s something about asking someone your mother’s age about their mother that’s off.
Minutes later we started talking about why I was at the bar alone. I should’ve told her I got dumped and get her daughter’s number but instead I threw Kev under the bus and we laughed about it. What’s wrong with friends these days? She asked. I ignored the question and offered that another one of my friends was on the way coming and that it was not such a big deal. The music by now was getting a bit up tempo and the sound of a broken glass, usually the ‘people are now drunk’ anthem, brought my attention to some ruckus. A guy, little bit round around the edges, bald head, bushy beard, pilsner bottle in hand had slapped a lady. Smack across the face. Honestly I wanted to laugh. Not because she was slapped but by her reaction. She was shocked for what seemed like an hour, then she caressed her cheek with her mouth open but couldn’t get up because she tried and the drinks in her system sat her back down, roughly. So she screamed then shouted and then insults flew across the room. Meanwhile the guy, unperturbed, walks over to me says hi, fist bumps, says something chauvinistic and sits two chairs away from me and continues drinking.
The lady I was talking to excused herself and left the counter. Maybe she went to console the poor girl or something. My friend called and said he was on the way. Asked about the “weather” of the place. I lied, I said it was chill. I called Kev one last time to make sure he had not gotten himself into a car in his condition. The phone was on but no answer, and in some cases, especially with him it is a good thing. With kev when the phone is off it means he got into trouble and lost it, always. Never exceptions with that guy.
So as I’m sitting and sipping, the slapped girl walks over to the counter. I look at her and shit, I know her. She’s covered in tears and is sniffling. First thing she asks me is “Where’s kev”. I tell her he’s not coming today that it’s just me and she laughs asks if we’ve both been stood up. I laugh. I don’t want to not laugh because she’s been crying and I don’t want her crying again. But it never works out does it? She bursts into tears. Guys, don’t hit drunk ladies. Please. Also don’t hit ladies period. But if you must chose hit them sober sawa? No. Dumbass. Don’t hit them. So she’s now crying, thank God for her no make-up face, and it looks like I’m the guy making a lady cry at a pub. She asks what she did wrong, I don’t know, I’d have better chances in knowing who let the dogs out and why the chicken crossed the road. I am an awkward comforter. So I mumble something and excuse myself, go to the bathroom and come back to find my lady friend on her seat consoling her. I swear I said a silent prayer. We talk for a while over a few more things, I’m now aloof, I couldn’t care for the conversation and so when someone taps me on the shoulder and I see my friend I’m relieved. But boy I have no idea what the night has in store.