For obvious reasons, my cousin and I always met in a bar in town. In fact, I got to know him through a bar, unlike everyone else who is introduced to their relatives in family gatherings. So, yes, this is like the vice versa of that story that you know, the one that ends in a bar and the one that she refuses to reply to messages. This one starts right at the bottom, the bottom of beer bottles and whiskey glasses.
If I ever pictured drinking in high school, I pictured a Harvey Spector whiskey on rocks kind of drinking. The one where after a kick-ass long day of dealing lawyers and haughty, entitled business people, he stands by his large window, palm against the pane and drowns his pain (see what I did? No? Windowpane? Come on!) It never happened like that, not even by a mile.
His name was Mark and he was the one who was sent by the ancestors we shared to introduce me to adulthood. I left Embu for high school in the city and because Embu is quite far, I would stay with Mark during midterms, end terms, suspensions and even once, expulsion. Any time I was not at home or at school, I was with Mark. Sometimes, Mark was with a girl, or girls, sometimes he was with a pregnant girl and even once, a baby.
Mark worked as a real estate marketer for one of this huge firms that have billboards everywhere in the city. If he sold a house or a piece of land, Mark was sorted in finances for close to three months. Three months only if he had decided to slash his drinking habits by half, so, it would last around a month and a few days and he would go back to the field to fish for fresh fish. He always sold houses and lands worth millions. He was good at it. He was good with people, especially those that he shared a drink with. His tongue would lure mercury out of a sugar packet. He was really good because he was full of shit. When you are good at your bullshit, the world accepts you as a professional and rewards you handsomely.
Meet me at Club Noodles when you are in town.
He had told me through a Simu ya Jamii phone the day we were to meet for the first time.
Do you know where that is?
Come, let me show you how to live in the city
He had continued talking until my twenty bob privilege ended. He loved talking. Everything had a reason for him to talk. Sometimes I wished he would stop, but he was older and the one introducing me to the city. Maybe that is how they are in the city, I knew nothing and he knew everything. It was best I listened. Sometimes, I would be silent for too long as he talked and he would pause his story and ask whether I was homesick before he went on and on about a girl he had met in a brothel.
I admired him. This was my role model. I wanted a house full of electronics of all kinds, some I could never get right. I admired his girls, somehow, they were are really good looking. I envied his proficiency in speech and I secretly prayed for the gift of charisma like his.
Wishes could indeed become horses because close to six years after we met, I am working for a real estate firm as an intern. He got me that position.
The thing about these huge firms with big green billboards everywhere is that the more money they make, the less human they become. They forget that the needs of a man are not purely and entirely reliant on money. They forget that some of the employees they have are still trying to understand the world and package what they knew in a nice book they could refer to whenever they felt lost. They fail to understand that some of us are freshly from college, barely with any experience of the world and how it works.
It was for this reason that we had a bar at the office. It was always open. When one person made a big sale, drinks were on them. When salary was out, we did not have to take it outside the office, we paid directly from the Visa cards in the office, for alcohol. When we were broke, we told the cashier at the liquor store that we wanted our bill to be deducted automatically from our wages at the end of the month and he never seemed to mind.
Such was life and the only one I knew.
I remember a few years earlier when I was ‘home’ from college for holiday and I had found Mark with this nice beautiful girl he called Babe all the time. She was nice but she was spoilt. She was from the elite families living in Karen, Nairobi. Whatever she wanted, Babe got. It took a while for me to know her name because I considered it uncool to directly ask for her name. Eventually, I ended up calling her Babe wa Mark and she never appeared to mind. She was a beautiful girl, a really beautiful girl. I cannot emphasize enough that she was really beautiful.
When the holiday came to an end, I went back to school, left Mark and Babe wa Mark at home. When I came back, she was pregnant and when I came back again, she had a baby. She was no longer Babe, Mark now called her Wife and so I adjusted accordingly, she was now Wife wa Mark. Again she did not seem to mind, so it stuck. The baby had a real name though, our grandfather’s name!
I grew fond of the baby fast, not Mark’s babe, the real baby. We spent too much time together since I was the only one cursed with sentimentality in that house. Me and perhaps the baby. The baby did not speak, so I could hardly tell which side he would fall into. He barely ever cried, he was one of those that understand that the world is messed up from the moment the nurse said, it is a boy!
Eventually, Wife wa Mark got tired, packed her stuff and took her baby, snatched him from me and left, back to her mansions in Karen. That is all I have to say about that.
We had this guy, his name was Majani. We called Majani on the phone when we were broke. Hell, sometimes we did not have to speak, we just flashed his phone and he was on the door after twenty minutes with a stash of weed. He said he lived in Roysambu which makes me wonder how fast he was, to get to Wangige from Roysambu in twenty minutes. Anyway, we did not ask questions, everything about him was a façade and it was important that it remained that way, such that if one day, the police asked any of his clients to name their supplier, it would be Majani from Roysambu and the police would be on a wild goose chase.
One midterm in my last year in high school, I came ‘home’ to find Majani had been burned alive by the villagers the previous night for supplying his product to high school students. That hurt. That is all I have to say about him. We got a new supplier though, he said he got his stash from Ethiopia but I did not have the nerve to tell him that we get no imports from Ethiopia. Weed became diet.
I don’t know whether you have smoking balconies in the buildings you work, you guys. Where I intern, we pass blunt sticks all the way from manager to intern on a cold evening like it is a file from the photocopier.
My internship was supposed to come to an end yesterday. Mark had successful lured and swept his boss off his feet and convinced him to hire me even though I had no single sale to my name. His boss had listened and told him that he was very pleased with him, so if he thought that would be the right thing to do, then he would do it. A meeting was scheduled for the next day, in the morning, for my official appointment. I would make lots of money and perhaps even move to my own house for once, get girls and electronics. It would be huge. Probably the largest I have experienced.
Mark rang me on the cell immediately after his ass kissery at 4.00pm. He said that he had big news that could not be delivered through a phone call. This would have to be done properly in a bar.
We met at 6.00pm at Club Noodles… Chill, this is too difficult, let’s use a timeline.
I walk into a bar and find Mark on a table decorated with Whiskey bottles. He begins talking immediately and pours me a drink and another. We are waiting for his friends and his new girl.
Friends arrive. I still do not know why we are celebrating. Mark has managed to keep away from telling me the big news. Mark is a dick head.
Losing sense of balance. It is Karaoke Night, I would like to sing, Bitch don’t kill my Vibe by Kendrick Lamar.
Marks new girl arrives. Her expensive scent arrives first then her tonnes of baked makeup later. Her makeup makes her look like she has taken a shower in crocodile tears.
8.00 to 10.00pm
I can’t recall anything.
Babe wa Mark, the original, the mother to the real baby walks in her arms tied around a man’s arm like her heart depends on it. Is this happening or am I hallucinating?
I do not think I am hallucinating because Mark looks irked. He must be seeing same things I am seeing. I still do not know why we are celebrating.
Please don’t Judge me – Chris Brown
I see myself walking towards Babe wa Mark, the original. I want to know where she took our real baby. She looks irritated by my question. I search my pockets thoroughly for fucks to give and find none.
Baby is dead. She had said and told her companion to make me leave.
Nobody makes me leave, nobody makes me do anything, so when he asks me nicely to leave, I punch him in the face and tell him I want to know about my baby. It is actually Mark’s baby but Mark doesn’t seem interested so he is my baby.
Guy tries to stand and I punch him again. I think twice. The last one is a foot on his face and he lands on the floor sending everything on the table flying. My baby cannot be dead. It is not possible.
Heavy arms are lifting me roughly. Mark tries to defend me, and he gets lifted too. Club Noodles has this contract with the police, you course a fight you sleep in a cell. This was not the first time so we knew the drill.
Mark tells me baby is not really dead, that girl was just nuts. We are in a cell but I suddenly feel calm. I am happy now, Mark knows how to make everything work out. I still do not know why we are celebrating. Is this a celebration?
Mark is talking. We are hurdled in a corner of the cell. There are other people, one of them keeps coughing. I can feel my eyes getting heavy. I am teetering on the edge between reality and unconsciousness. I drank a little too much.
7.45 am Today
There is a ray of light on the only small window of the tiny room. Mark had woke me up roughly and I keep wishing he had been nicer about it so I am sulking as I try to recollect memories from the previous night. Where am I? What happened? Why am I here? And why are my pants wet? Did I wet my pants? That does not sound like me. Mark is talking. Mark is always talking. He is asking whether I would make it to the meeting. I do not know what meeting he is talking about.
The appointment you idiot! You have an appointment meeting today. I got you the job…
He shouts. Everything makes sense now, this was why we had been celebrating. Stupid guy cares a lot about me and he got me a job and then got me unable to get to the meeting. This is how love stories should be.
The time the meeting was scheduled.
The time we got out of the police cell.
Cleaned up and went to a new club to celebrate living on the edge last night.
Met a guy called Dennis who cannot stop asking questions.
A thought crosses my mind. I need to get Mark’s real baby back. I do not like the idea that he lives with someone who lies about him being dead.
Feature Image courtesy of Mukiri Gitiri