This happened some time back last year, when the year was running out of breathe, chest heaving like a Masai marathon runner, ready to give up but still striving to hand over the baton. The setting was some pub in Embakasi tucked away like the sleeves of a well cooked samosa. The place had as much personality as a buffaloes Instagram page; but you don’t go to these places because you want to but because you have to.
The place feels like you walked into a museum’s cafe. There’s old people; older than my folks. These guys probably remember what it was like painting on cave walls. You have this feeling that they might ask for a Pilsner and a pill for their arthritis. The music was decent but I think it’s because the deejay was a youngen and probably thought playing Fester Skank was the right move to the manger’s brief “Play something that will make them feel young again.” But to be fair; music that would make them feel younger is fossilized somewhere in the earth’s tectonic plates. The last time these guys felt young Noah was learning to swim.
When there’s so many older guys around you expect at least there to be young ladies milling around. You know? Getting themselves sponsors. Paying for college. Putting in work. But this place would be the envy of a feminist lawyer type; everyone is just as old. The men. The women. The in between. In small clusters like village elder meetings discussing anything from Alzheimer’s to foot and mouth disease. The ladies are a bit more brazen – they definitely don’t dress their age. If you think you know trauma take a back seat. You don’t know trauma until you see side boob from an old lady. You’re not even sure where boob ends and armpit begins. It’s all a flabby mess.
You imagine a conversation with her side boob or armpit. Okay not the whole conversation but how you’d start it. You know? Like “hey how’s it hanging?” And it’d probably insult you in a scruffy voice, like it smokes old people cigarettes; the ones without filters. “Low like your esteem.” It will shoot back. It would be a little witty. You’d look away, because when an older woman’s side boob or armpit insults you, and it’s good at it, so good that it bruises your entitled millenial ego, you shut up. But you know how smart things come after you’ve walked away, and how useless it is? Kind of like strapping after round one. Or asking for your change after you’re already off the bus. Or trying to ask your girlfriend what’s wrong after she’s said everything is fine. Or trying to get out of trouble for actually believing her. Women are just their own kind of special. But this – the come back – will nag you and you’ll probably try and provoke it – the side pit (side boob + armpit) hehehe – the whole night just so you can redeem yourself.
So here surrounded by an older generation where writing letters was in vogue and gramophones were as cool as iPods I cooled enjoying a pint. Everything seemed normal, it didn’t have that old people smell, the waitresses were young and the deejay was doing a pretty decent job. A pal taps my shoulders and points to the direction of some lass in a blue floral dress. He asks me what I think. I shrug, she’s not my type (not that I have one but even then she wasn’t). She was a bit too muscular. I think I can handle the independent career type. I think I can survive a radical feminist. I don’t think I can survive a weight lifter. What would we talk about? How much she benched? Why the heck I didn’t include eggs in her diet? Why her protein shake tastes funny? When my balls will drop? No. Please. Just no.
“That’s a guy” he says
I’m forced to take another look. A guy. In a dress. Come on?!
Her (his?) Features start making sense. The chiseled face, the baseball cap drawn lower than the inhibitions of the guys around her. Fuck. Him.
(S)he’s drinking a guaranna, in a wine glass. Her legs are crossed over each other and (s)he’s laid back on the couch throwing smiles around. The guys near her all want to dance, and in lady like fashion she declines. All the time. Gives some flimsy excuse, maybe her periods. But the guys are insistent and when she finally gets up her legs look like she works two shifts at a sugar cane plantation. They’re all over her. I can’t figure how they’re so up close and can’t make out that she’s a guy. But (s)he doesn’t mind she’s busy grinding up on them, twisting and whirling. One guy slaps her ass, which must feel like the side of an embasavva, but he just smiles like he did the greatest thing since the light bulb was invented.
Speaking of light bulb. Imagine some poor chap taking her home. Drunk. Staggering up the stairs, fumbling with keys in one hand and fondling her embasavva butt with the other hand. He finally gets in and sways in the entrance admiring the darkness. Smirk on his drunk face.
“Welcome to mi casa” he’ll mumble.
Drunk guys try to impress. It’s too basic to say house and mi casa sounds sophisticated.
The lady will blush put a hand over her mouth.
“Thanks” she’ll giggle.
Drunk guy will want to put on the lights. A fluorescent bulb to light up the room and bring what he thinks are beautiful dreams to life. So as he’s caressing the wall she’ll stop him. Spin him round and plant a wet whooper on his lips.
“Leave it off.” She’ll say
“Anything for you darling”
He’s not thinking. He wants a piece of ass. So he stumbles his way into the bedroom, lives the lights off and throws her on the bed. They’ll fool around and at some point he’ll feel something hard and tout. Strange. But his drunkenness will lie to him that it’s him. His. The man(dingo).
Morning comes and he wakes up. Light seeping through the curtains. He sees his pants on the side of the bed. The dress on the bed post at the bottom right edge. He will turn to see a face that looks like Fred, he’s colleagues uncle’s brother. The one they contributed towards a funeral for. He will want to scream but won’t. His throat will be dry. He will see the chest hairs. He will grab his head and heart. He will whisper a silent prayer to all the gods and their mothers and their wives. He will at that moment know he can never ever talk about that night. He will wake up and sneak out of his own room. With the dress and throw it in a bin.
If anyone is leaving that house they’ll wear jeans. He’ll hear her groan and clear her throat and turn in bed like the choking engine of a tractor. He’ll grab his head again and heart. He’ll forget the gods and curse alcohol. Then he’ll get mad. Angry. Seething through his teeth. Eyes red. He will wake her up for answers. She will just smile and say something vague.
“You were great”
He will shut up. He will throw jeans on the bed and tell her to wear them. He will get a white t-shirt. Branded. Throw it on the bed too. Then he will ask her to leave. Politely. He does not want the neighbors to know.
When she leaves a lot will go through his mind. How did he not see it? How did he not sense something was wrong? Where was God? Yes God. It’s his fault. This cannot be Satan. Satan tempts with sins you’ll love. Sins you’ll want to commit again. God makes you regret and change your life. This definitely has God written all over it. He will curse some more. Take a shower. Curse even more. Then sleep it off. On the couch. He decides he needs a new bed. New everything. So next week he moves out to a new neighborhood.
He’ll be distant from friends for a while. John from accounting will ask him out for drinks but he’ll just say he’s busy. He’s weeding the dogs. He won’t care that it doesn’t make sense.
But over time he will come out of it. The stupor. Not a closet. Get himself a girlfriend to prove himself wrong. Two actually. And be back to his normal self. Buy John from accounts rounds and make up stories for his absence.
I don’t know though. I just imagine that’s how it’d go. I was just surprised to see a man in a dress.