TO A COUGAR’S RESCUE

I step out of an Uber and into Q-Lounge, right opposite Royal Media offices, a couple weeks ago. I’m here to meet an old friend I once featured during my days at The Nairobian Newspaper; he called, out of the mist, and said he wanted to meet and discuss some business over a drink or two. I wasn’t really feeling like going out for a night on the tiles that weekend but rent was due and I didn’t know where it was going to come from. So I showed up because I figured when a Kikuyu tells you he wants to “discuss business,” there’s usually money involved. And I desperately needed money if I was going to keep the lights on in my house.

 

It was a Friday, about 10pm, and the weather was chilly-ish; not too cold and not too warm. There was a swarm of kids in funny colorful attire trying to get into the Royal Media offices for what was most likely 10 over 10 show. (Ezekiel Mutua may have his qualms with it but ‘10 over 10’ is the best thing on TV on Friday nights, NMG killed ‘The Trend’ when they gave it to Amina, she can’t handle it.) The parking space at Q-Lounge was almost full, so I told the Uber guy to just drop me at the gate and I would cover the remaining 2 meters inside myself.

 

I find the guy I’m meeting at the counter, sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels with some Citizen TV anchor. They tell me they have been drinking since 4pm. That they began with beers – White Cap, which I absolutely hate – but the anchor guy said he wanted “something that stings because it’s Friday” so they switched to whiskey. Their eyes are red and their coats hang behind their chairs and, going by how much they’ve had to drink, their manners are most likely out the window. They trade a bunch of silly stories and laugh and stare at the World Cup match going on in the big screen ahead of them and laugh and drink some more and point at beautiful women passing by. They look happy; the kind of happiness that only Jack Daniels on a Friday night will give you.

 

The bartender passes me a glass and I ask for a bucket of ice cubes and the chaps urge me to catch up. I hate it when people around me are drunk and I’m not; It makes me feel like I’m missing out on so much in the world. It makes me feel left out, like I’m the weird nerdy kid with glasses in the middle of all the cool kids with snap backs and iPhones. And you don’t want to be the weird nerdy kid with glasses in the midst of cool kids because cool kids are mean and heartless and will make fun of your teeth and your torn socks.

 

Three doubles in and I feel like my bladder is about to blow up. So I get off my seat, dash to the gents for a quick leak and, as I’m headed back, I hear a voice – a woman’s voice – hollering at me from within the darkness.

 

“Excuse me,” she says, “can you help me.”

 

She speaks in that sweet Eve voice that convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and got their naked asses kicked out of Eden. She leans out of the wall, from the darkness, and approaches me; the light from her phone illuminating her face. “I’m trying to call a cab but I can’t find one in the area, can you help me out?”

 

I get a clear view of her when she finally steps into the light, handing me her phone with the Uber app on. She’s in a tight black dress and red heels, with her hair flowing down her back. She has on a dash of reddish lipstick and a stream of bangles on her left arm. She doesn’t look too old, but she also doesn’t look too young to know what ‘lamba lolo’ means.

 

I take her phone and order the first Uber; some guy called Ali, on the other end, says he’s dropping a client at Nairobi Hospital from Yaya Centre and that “ukipenda unaweza ngoja ama uwache.” I hung up, because I’m not in the business of talking to arrogant people over the phone. (Point to note: This was during that period when Uber and Taxify drivers were on strike.) I hand the phone back to the lady and she says, “Just keep trying until you get one. Kindly, I’m not so sober right now.”

 

I order the second cab, he says he’s along Ngong Road and where we are – Maalim Juma Road – is too far so he can’t make it. Then I call a third – who is dropping off a client at Valley Road – and a fourth – who sounds like he’s drunk and chewing mogoka in the car so he can’t hear me clearly – and a fifth and a sixth.

 

Finally, I land one who just dropped off a client at some embassy a few blocks away. I tell him to find us at the Royal Media Services’ gate and he says Sawa. So I give the phone back to the mami, tell her someone’s coming and she says, “Just stay with me until he arrives.” In my head, I’m thinking “Excuse me? Who died and made me your servant?” But I’m three doubles in. I’m a nice guy after three doubles. I can give you my Mpesa PIN after four doubles and I can pretty much jump in front of a bullet for anyone at five doubles. At six, I’ll give you the coordinates to a hole in the middle of Chalbi desert where I keep my savings.

 

While we wait, she says, “Can you get me two glasses of wine in a bottle from the bar?”

 

“Wait, What now?”

 

“Yeah, just tell them to give you two glasses and pour it into a plastic bottle and bring it.”

 

“And, pray tell, where am I supposed to get this magical plastic bottle? But, most importantly, is that even a real thing; wine inside a plastic bottle?”

 

“Yeah, it’s no big deal. Just ask them for one. Let me send you the money, how much is a glass of wine?”

 

[Inner Voice: Woman, you’re asking me the price of a glass of wine? Son of a teacher who doesn’t even know how to use a T.V remote? Mayie. Thunder fire you.]

 

“I’m not sure, maybe Ksh.300, but I’m not doing that.”

 

“Why not? It can’t be a big deal.”

 

“It is. If I want to keep my balls.”

 

It’s about half past 11 now. She has a coat on but she looks like she’s freezing. I can tell because her lips keep trembling every time she speaks and she has her arms across her chest. Her boobs appear bigger in that midnight breeze. Her lips seem fuller and her palms look so frail and so soft; like a baby’s ass. Even though she’s hammered, she still seems aware of her environment. She looks polished and mature. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman that calls men chauvinists for refusing to carry her handbag. She looks more like the kind that has a book club membership; the kind that doesn’t take three full moons to make an order during a date. She seems mature. If we had met under different circumstances, I wouldn’t argue if you told me she was the CEO of some multinational corporation.

 

The Uber guy calls. He says he’s outside the gate, I tell him to give us a second. I tell her the cab is outside and she asks me to escort her to it. “Hold my hand, I can’t walk properly,” she says. So I put her left arm over my shoulders and – steadily – assist her onto the waiting cab. I open the door, tuck her in and tell her to “get home safe” like we’re bosom buddies who didn’t just bump into each other five seconds ago and, right before I shut the door, she says;

 

“Can I have your number?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Yeah, let me send you something, you’ve really helped me.”

 

[Inner Me: Take the money! Take the money!

 

“It’s fine, you don’t have to, I just did what anyone else would have done.”

 

[Inner me: Really? You broke asshole.]

 

“You’re such a nice guy. You look so young but I’m 43, you know?”

 

[Inner Me: No, I don’t know. Who do you think I am, Jesus?]

 

“I’m not that young either?”

 

“Good. How can I ever repay you?”

 

“By getting home safe and having a decent night’s sleep.”

 

“Okay. But I want to do something nice for you too. Just put your number into my phone, save it as ‘Nice Guy from Q-Lounge.'”

 

“Okay.”

 

So I keyed in my digits, gave her back the phone and waved the cab away because the driver was already beginning to show impatience.

 

Dear Cougar, if you’re reading this, ‘Nice Guy from Q-Lounge’ is waiting for that call. Or at least an Mpesa text.

 

Folks, if you see me cruising around in a Prado next time we meet, don’t ask silly questions.

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23 LITTLE THINGS

I’m slowly beginning to realize that only the little things matter in life.

 

On Thursday last week, I walked out of the office circa 7 p.m. I was tired and broke, with a bag carrying an extra set of clothes huddled to my back. All I wanted was to grab a beer and get some sleep. But my Dad’s first anniversary was the following morning, so I took out the very last 1000-bob note I had in my pockets, hopped onto a bus that stank of piss and headed home.

 

I slept the entire journey; not once getting off that bus to pee, take a shit, or grab a snack because I was afraid the bus might leave without me and, because I didn’t have any money left, I would remain stranded in that town and turn into a glue-sniffing street kid or a security guard at some Sacco offices or one of these chaps that come to you as you’re trying to reverse your car from the parking lot and pretend to be telling you how and where to move just so you can leave them with some 20 bob as you drive away.

 

I arrived home at 6 a.m., Friday morning, and found my mum, brother and sisters preparing for church. So I dropped my bag and joined them. And for the first time in a long period, that morning, I realized how out of touch with the church I had become. I didn’t know the words to any song or prayer; hell, I didn’t know when I was supposed to kneel or stand or clap. Nevertheless, that service was dedicated to my father’s soul; so we sang whatever we could and prayed along to whatever sermons we had mastered and knelt and stood and knelt and stood some more and shook hands with the rest of the congregation and paid tithe and knelt again. And it was beautiful and quick; 45 minutes, in and out.

 

Then we drove down to the village that afternoon and went to my father’s grave and my mother led us in a million songs only she knew the words to so we just hummed along and she didn’t mind because, at that moment; she wasn’t our mother anymore; she was his wife. She was a wife singing for (and to) her dead husband. She was a woman reminiscing on the decades of beautiful life she had spent with a man who could now neither hear, speak, nor touch her. She was a woman struggling with finding her footing after losing the first man she ever loved, dated, and later got married to.

 

And we understood. So we hummed along as she kept singing. And, when she was ready, she stopped. And she led us in prayer, then we cleaned the grave and put flowers on it and hoped he was doing fine up there. And then we went into the house and had fish for lunch because we believe that was what he would have wanted us to have; not chapati, not omena, not beef…fish. Because he loved fish. I stayed alone with that man for about a year after finishing high school and he would let me cook anything but on the days he came home with fish, he would tell me to go watch the T.V and he would take his sweet time cooking that fish to perfection. Then he would serve us both and, when he was done eating, his plate would be so clean you wouldn’t need to wash it. Which is why I knew his illness was serious when he asked me to buy him fish one evening and, after making it, never touched his piece.

 

Throughout that entire period, it was just us; my mother, brother, three sisters and my mother (occasionally, my cousin too.) We slept in bug infested mattresses and blankets, under a roof that leaked at some parts when it rained. We were all broke; one of us had just lost their job, the other had just received their first pay but had to use that money to pay for some exam in school, another was yet to pay their rent and was busy playing cat-and-mouse games with the caretaker (leaving the house at 5 a.m. and coming back at 11 p.m.)… between just us siblings, we had a solid Ksh. 50 bob. But we were happy. We were a bunch of broke ass happy souls. We ‘beat’ stories and cracked jokes and watched Afrosinema from a 14-inch screen and ate chicken and fish and laughed.

 

I loved that trip. Because I was with just the people that matter. Your father dies and the world calls to tell you, “Stay strong, it will be well.” A year down the line and nobody remembers anymore. They call you on his anniversary, because it is a Friday, to ask whether you’ll be buying drinks and you say, “I don’t have money. I’m also at home.” Why? They ask. “It’s my father’s anniversary.” And then the next thing is, “Ooh, Sawa. Niambie ukirudi.” And then a beep. And it’s okay, because some of them don’t matter; it’s the ones that pray with you at the grave that do.

 

And, so, as I turn a year older today, I’m starting to appreciate the little things more. I love how the sun shines on my face; I love how traffic weaves along Thika Road in the evenings; I love how Tdat says “Kaasabun” in all his songs; I love the ‘Samsung’ ring around the top of KICC; I love Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish movies, and I love a cold bottle of Coke.

 

Here are 23 other useless little things that have come with my age;

 

1. I have reduced my drinking. Not stopped, just cut down kidogo. I’m gaining the courage to say ‘No’ to people who call me out for drinks on odd days. Because, in as much as I love me some (good) whiskey, I have realized I can no longer drink from Monday to Monday. Not because I can’t, but because I just don’t feel like it anymore.

 

2. My Father died a week to my birthday. That did it for me as far as throwing birthday parties go. So, if you were planning to call me about a cake; don’t. I won’t buy no cake. I won’t buy no booze. However, it falls on my day off so if I do go out, it will be just a normal night out, nothing to do with a birthday. Maybe someday when I have finally moved on I’ll have the courage to throw one. But not today. Just not today. Not Yet, at least.

 

3. I’m also discovering I actually love walking long distances. I walk from work almost every day. I breathe in the fresh air and admire women I will never get driving cars I will never drive. It’s a thrill, really. Somebody also told me it’s good for the heart.

 

4. I gave another shot to burgers and pizza the other day; they still don’t taste right in my mouth. Chapo-Madondo are still the shit.

 

5. Khaligraph Jones may just be the best rapper Kenya will ever have. But King Kaka is still the Best Artist to ever do it (Yes, there’s a difference.) Timmy Tdat is also a legend, don’t argue with me. .

 

6. Miguna Miguna, the most famous man in the country at the moment, has singlehandedly kept the biggest airport in the country at its feet for three whole days. That tough-headed Son of Nyando will go down in history books as one of the greatest activists of our time. Nobody can take that away from him.

 

7. I have dreamt about winning the Sportpesa Jackpot three times now. I already know what car I would buy and how I would distribute the money amongst relatives. Yet I don’t even bet. Perhaps that’s a sign that I should start, No?

 

8. Everybody seems to be flocking there these days, but I think Blend Bar, along Mombasa Road is overrated.

 

9. Don’t ever spend your money on people – especially women – who don’t spend theirs on you.

 

10. For the first time ever, I boarded a Thika-bound matatu and the driver (a Kikuyu) played Musa Jakadala the entire way. I gave him a 100-bob note as I alighted and asked the Lord to bless his soul.

 

11. I’m not a morning person, but ever since I got this 8-5 that kind of pays the bills, I have found myself waking up at 4 a.m. many a time. I don’t like waking up at that hour, but I think it has instilled some kidogo sense of discipline in me that I wouldn’t have acquired otherwise.

 

12. By whatever means, I don’t care how, I have to be driving by end next year. I don’t care if it’s Uber Chap Chap or kuendesha chooni.

 

13. A friend of mine called me out for a drink a while back. We downed a whole bottle of whiskey before some mamis joined us. He went home with one, and I was tasked with ensuring the other got home safely. My phone had gone off, and I had just about 100 bob in my pockets.

So I tapped my boy and he handed me some loose 300 bob as he got into an Uber. Now, I normally don’t have any cab service on my phone but, even if I did, I couldn’t hail one because my phone was off. And I didn’t bother to ask if the other mami had Uber because I would still not have been able to pay for it with my phone off. So I did what any other man would do, I told the mami we were going to board a matatu; straight up. Midway, she asked for Chips and Chicken and I had to buy that shit for a mami I wasn’t even going to bang, at 3 a.m. in the bloody morning. Which meant I now remained with just 150 bob. Fare for two came to about 140 bob. The matatu took a while to fill up, during which time she was pestering me to call an Uber. “How, you have the app stashed somewhere in that huge butt of yours?” is what I really wanted to ask. Instead, I said, “But I have already paid.” “It’s just 140 bob,” she responded. I even called her after she had arrived at her destination to ask if she was Okay. Yet I hear she is now grumbling and saying things about me. There are some good women in this world; and then there are those that would just have been turned into newspapers at birth tutumie kufunga nyama na kuwasha jiko.

 

14. I pride myself in having an ear for talent, and I’ve listened to some amazing artists during my time. And then I went to a friend, Brian Oguna’s house in Embakasi a couple weeks back and, as we drank whiskey, an upcoming artist walked in and played us a few songs from his soon-to-be released album. His name is Bassil Vishindo and, I guarantee you, by the time you guys will be hearing of this kid it will be too late. Sample his first track HERE.

 

15. There is an old muscled chap in Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ video that says, “I ain’t got nothing, but I look good, it’s the good life.” That chap is my hero from now henceforth.

 

16. No, seriously, someone should kick Octopizzo out of the studio already.

 

17. I just got a text from Blaze saying “Hi, Ian. WHOOP WHOOP, It’s your birthday today…” yada yada yada. I mean, “WHOOP WHOOP?” What year is it, 1960?

 

18. Here’s to two decades of eating Chapos. The amount of Chapos in my stomach right now and that that I have released over the years could probably buy me a piece of land.

 

19. I need to switch banks, KCB keeps stealing from me and they think I don’t notice. Any recommendations?

 

20. I still haven’t watched Black Panther. Or Game of Thrones. But I’m breathing just fine. How about you? Now that you have watched them both. Does T’challa file your tax returns for you?

 

21. Lang’ata has some of the cheapest bars. They also have some of the hungriest cops. I was literally arrested for just walking across the street at midnight, in the name of “Nyinyi ndio mafisi wa hapa Lang’ata sindio?” T.F does that even mean?

 

22. To those men who go to fast food joints and buy chips with just one of those tiny packets of tomato sauce, the Lord is also watching. There won’t be space for you in Noah’s Ark should these floods persist.

 

23. Gifts acceptable are only in form of Mpesa or aged whiskey. Thank You.

IN A NUTSHELL

Thursday, 23rd March 2017. 11:44 a.m.

 

Is a day (and time) I will never forget as I live out the rest of my years. Because it stands as the day the man who raised and taught my siblings and I the value of everything we know finally caved to Cancer and left us to fend for ourselves in this big bad world; all on our own.

 

I would like to think that my father, Thomas Omondi Were, held out for as long as he possibly could. When we kept asking him how sick he was and he kept replying, “I’m fine,” I’d like to think he did that for us. Sometimes when he would fall asleep with a mug of lousy porridge that I made and unconsciously produce the sound of a man having a blade driven through his heart but deny it when he woke up, I want to keep feeding it into my mind and soul that he was fighting. For us. I want to continue living knowing that he fought on and tried his best to stay on, until his number came up and he couldn’t put on a brave face anymore. And so, with the little remaining strength floating away from his fragile body one gloomy morning, he would turn in his hospital bed at Aga Khan in Kisumu and ask Austin, my big brother, three questions a father should never have to ask his son;

 

 

“If I should go now, is there anything I haven’t provided you people with?”

 

“Is there anything you would lack?”

 

“Is there anything you would need that you don’t know where I kept?”

 

 

To this date, my brother admits that witnessing our father in that state ‘messed up’ with him. Broke him as a man. As it did me. I will never move on. I will continue going about my days – getting up at 5 a.m., preparing for work, and drinking neat whiskey – like I’m Okay and nothing is wrong because that is what a man must do but, deep down, I will never be “Fine.” I will never be just “Okay.” And I need people to understand that I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that on this blog and not in person because you, reading this, cannot see the tears flowing from my eyes and onto the keyboard as I bang this down. Because that is the kind of man my father raised me to be; to keep my emotions in check and act like a man. And, to be honest, I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing. But I know that, on a 29, 000-bob monthly salary, Omondi Were took my siblings and I through some of the best public schools in the country and not once delayed in paying the school fee. Because that was how important education was to him.

 

I’m still figuring my shit out, but my brother graduated the other week. An LLB from the University of Nairobi.  The old man would be proud. Because, like he used to say, “The difference between successful men and the rest is found only within the pages of a book.”

 

Folks, I’ve had a rather slow year so there’s not going to be much on this post. Nevertheless, here’s the rest of how my 2017 has been;

 

Reconciling with my Mum

My Mum and I haven’t been in a good place for a while, since way before my Dad passed on. We could go without speaking for three months straight and I wouldn’t feel like I was missing anything in life. And, I’m not passing blame here but, a part of that was my fault…but most of it was hers.

 

But then my Dad died. And I saw what that did to her. And I couldn’t live with myself. I couldn’t live with not knowing how she was doing every once in a while. I couldn’t live with being the family black sheep anymore. I couldn’t live with knowing I was always going to be a disappointment in her eyes.

 

So I called her one evening, after a sit-down with an uncle in town, and we spoke. We’re not on the best terms yet, but we’re getting there. Because a broken iPhone screen or burnt chapati you can replace; what you cannot replace is your Mother.

 

Friendships. (This one is a bit petty so if you hate drama you might wanna skip on)

My Dad’s death (and I promise this is the last time I’m referring to it in this post) taught me a lot of things about Friendship.

 

The most important being this; Nobody owes you a damn thing in this world. Nobody! There are people I considered so close to me I would have crossed miles for in their tough times. But, as I came to realize, just because you would do something for someone does not automatically mean they would do the same for you.

 

From the convoy that came to bury my Father, only 10% were my actual friends. The rest of the group composed of people who were my friends just by the virtue of them being my brother’s friends (great folks, those chaps.) And I think I’ve said this here before, the morning after we buried my Father, my brother came to me and said, “Omera you have no friends.” And, even though we laughed about that, it stayed with me. It sunk a hole in my heart and made a home in it.

 

And so, if you consider yourself my friend and we drink together and hit each other up for loans when we’re broke and talk about girls but you couldn’t even spare a day out of your ‘very busy schedule’ to come bury my father, I want you to know this; we’re cool. Just that if I were in the house on a Saturday night watching a movie and you were out and, accidentally, got arrested, I wouldn’t pause my movie to come bail you out. And it’s nothing personal.

 

8-to-5

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would wake up at 5 a.m., go to an office and sit at a desk till 5 in the evening. I always thought I’d land one of those flexible (or conservative) jobs; like those advertising firms where you get to the office at 12 p.m., work till 3 and pour yourself a double of whiskey from the office bar (yes, most of these advertising agencies have bars in the office) to round off a day of hard work. I always thought I’d enjoy that kind of thing; it’s what I’m made for.

 

But, No, I landed an 8-to-5 job towards the end of 2017. And, at first, I thought I’d hate it (I’m not a morning person) but, truth is, I actually love it. I love it because it involves the one thing people, including my Mum, say I’m decent at; Writing (well, there’s also drinking and dissecting Chapos but who’s keeping record.) And I love it because I also get to work and interact o the daily with people I grew up admiring but never thought I would ever meet in my lifetime.

 

Irvin John Jalang’o; May the Good Man Above keep opening doors for you and expanding your horizons Baba. I’m forever in your debt. Ero Kamano. Always.

 

Relationships

 

I realized this year that I’m still not ready for anything serious just yet. Found myself in situations where I was almost in a couple relationships but they all fell apart because, apparently, I’m an emotionless jerk who just can’t seem to find time to call every day. I don’t see myself finding that time in 2018 either so that shit might just have to take a back seat. But I wish the rest of you in relationships the best of luck this coming year. To the ladies, just remember this; nothing is more of a deal breaker to a man than a woman who, for the life of her, just cannot cook Chapos.

 

Folks, I’m getting tired of apologizing for posting less every year. Which means that you are too. But bear with me, I’m trying to switch it up kidogo in 2018. Let’s  redesign and re-brand the blog first then move on from there, ama namna gani my frens?

 

That’s my time, I need to go grab a beer now. Have a blissful 2018. Stay safe. Stay alive. Stay happy.

BED 10, 11:44 A.M.

 

Thomas Omondi Were

 

 

(My Father died exactly three months ago, on a date like today’s – 23rd – and at the exact time this blog post will go up – 11:44 a.m. These are some of the events leading to his passing. As well as my way of dealing with it.)

 

 

I stay with my father for two or three weeks at home; making him shitty porridge and humongous Ugali that he doesn’t even touch and helping him type work stuff on his laptop and sending mails on his phone and acting as his escort to wherever he needs to go because he’s weak and could fall at any given moment and would need someone to pick him up when that happens.

 

 

Then he leaves for the airport one brisk morning on his way to a hospital in Nairobi West; he’s accompanied by my Mum and one of his best friends in the teaching profession who offers to drive them to Kisumu International Airport (you have to say it full like that) in his car. That morning, he wakes up weaker than he has throughout the entire time I have been with him. His legs are swollen and he’s shaking and he only points at stuff he wants brought to him because he feels pain every time he speaks. My Mum tells me she’ll call me soon as they get to Nairobi and I wish them a safe journey. That evening, my brother texts, telling me the old chaps never made it to Nairobi and are still in Kisumu. I call my Mum and she says Mzee could not be allowed into a plane in the situation he was in; and so he was admitted at Aga Khan Hospital – Kisumu – ward, Bed 10.

 

 

***

 

 

For the first couple of days he seems jovial and settled and comfortable. He takes all the medicine provided by the doctor and even asks for more. He smiles with everyone that comes to visit him and tells them not to worry because, “…I’m fine, I’ll be back on my feet in no time.” And then he laughs so loudly it feels like the heavens are pulling apart. He talks to the Luo nurses in Luo and the Kikuyu nurses in pathetic broken Swahili because if there was one thing that man could not do even if it had a billion-shilling reward was speak proper Swahili; and he was unapologetic about it because he came from a place best known for sugarcane and the highest number of chang’aa drinkers in the whole county. A place the government – in 2009 – recognized as the most rural place in Kenya. A place people pay to be signed onto WhatsApp and Facebook. A place people could not pronounce the President’s name if they tried so they just call him ‘Ouru.’

 

 

He asks me if the money he left us for food and basic necessities back home when he was leaving for the hospital has run out and I say, “No, we’re still good for a couple or so days.” He makes as if to reach for his wallet and my Mum stops him, tells him to rest and not to bother himself about big boys. He laughs and tells me, “You heard your mother, you’re big boys now.” I say, “Yes, we are, we’ll find a way.” And, with that, he leans back on his chair and my mother walks me out as one of his best friends comes in to see him. Two seconds later, the laughter coming from his ward could deafen a family of bats. I say to myself, “Ah, he’ll be good.” And I run downstairs to the hospital cafeteria for a soda. Then I go back home in the evening because my kid cousin is alone at home and he’s already texting, asking what we’re having for supper.

 

 

I do not go back to the hospital for a while (and regrettably so) because, at some point, my Mum lies to me that the hospital has slapped a ‘no-visitors’ policy on my Dad. Then my brother texts one evening asking why I do not go to see Mzee and I tell him Mum said visitors are not allowed at the moment and he tells me that was a whole load of bollocks; that she was probably only trying to protect me because Mzee was getting bad. Real bad. I scrap around for fare from friends and make my way early the following morning.

 

 

I get there and my father does not recognize me. Just stares at me blankly, breathing in and out, stomach fattened. There are only a few things that can hurt a man deeply – texting the girl you think is your soul mate in 2015 and she replies in 2017; rushing into marriage with a woman because you ‘love’ her only to later realize her Chapos taste like tissue paper; and then there’s sitting two-feet from your father and him having absolutely no clue who you are, or why someone who looks like a Solex padlock is shedding tears next to his hospital bed. At some point my brother – who had spent the entire night by his bedside, together with my Mum – drops by and notices him struggling to turn over so he helps him do so, and then shouts in his ear, “Have you seen Ian? That is Ian seated back there.” But, still, he does not acknowledge or even make any movements in the affirmative; he just lies there shaking like a leaf in the winter. And nothing has ever broken my heart like that. Nothing probably ever will.

 

 

I continue coming every day after that.

 

 

And then, on Thursday – 23rd March – I get to the hospital and, after one look at him, excuse myself to go to the Gents. And I cry in there till a stranger comes in and, without even saying a word, offers me a tissue. And I say to myself, “No, that in there is not my father. Can’t be. Impossible.”

 

 

Let me explain;

 

 

***

 

 

The man I have known my entire life has always been Strong. The man we have all known has always been Strong.

 

 

In the wake of the very first year when my father took over at a little-known school in Siaya County – Rang’ala Boys Secondary – as the Principal, succeeding a hugely popular man, the students went on strike. One night, at around 10 p.m. (I remember because it was just after the News and we had been sent away to bed so the adults could watch ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’) the students – about 50 of them, by my rough estimate – surrounded our house and started pelting us with stones. At first, we hid in the bedrooms but soon as a stone went through and hit my sister, we converged at the corridors – as we figured stones could not pass through the walls – and we waited for the tension to die down, all the while taking care not to shit our pants. But those boys were determined to pelt us for as long as they could. So my father went into his bedroom, wore a heavy grey jacket, picked up this monster torch that was so popular in those days, grabbed a big ass rungu, told us to stay in the corridors and walked out the door. Alone. Less than twenty minutes later and those boys were back in class and silence and peace had been restored and he came back. One old man with a torch and a rungu; against over fifty students armed with stones. Folks, you can’t make this shit up.

 

 

See, that was my father. That was Thomas Omondi Were; a strong man; a fearless man; a man with balls of steel; a man who faced problems head on and almost always won; a man with a black belt in karate that he never even bragged about.

 

 

(I don’t know about you guys but if I had a black belt in karate, I would drop that shit on every conversation. I mean, we could be talking about how tasteless chicken smokies are or how shitty Infinix phones are and I would just blurt out, from nowhere, that “By the way I have a black belt in karate guys.”)

 

 

***

 

 

I exit the gents, head back to the ward and say to myself, “Yes, that is definitely not my Father. That man shaking like a frail bird with tears almost welling in his eyes and hooked onto endless pipes to aid in his breathing CANNOT be my Father.” And I say that over and over again in my head until the ward is filled with people – Aunts, Uncles, Friends – and the nurses ask some of us to make room. So I leave and go take a seat at a park near the hospital’s entrance.

 

 

About an hour later, I notice my Aunts and Uncles and Sisters coming out of the hospital breaking down. And I think to myself that maybe, like me, they’re just in denial over his present condition. But I decide to go check it out anyway.

 

 

I pass my mother in the hallway crying against a friend’s shoulders and, dreadfully, walk into my Father’s ward. I find my brother covering him while singing a song that, for the life of me, I just can’t get out of my head; “…I will sing the wondrous story, of the Christ who died for me…” And, at that moment, even though I’m in denial, it hits me that he’s gone. But I still need someone to confirm it for me. “He’s Dead,” my brother says, amidst his singing. I hear him clearly, but I pretend not to have, so I say, “What?” and he repeats the same words (just this time louder and clearer); He’s Dead.

 

 

Time Stamp: 11:44 a.m.

Date: Thursday, 23rd March, 2017.

 

 

And so, the story goes, my Father would die a week to my Birthday.

 

 

Here’s the thing; I will never understand Death. And I don’t know what criteria God uses to decide whom He takes and whom He leaves in this world. But what I do know is this; my Father did not deserve to go like he did. My Father did not deserve to die that way; frail, half-unconscious most of the time, unable to recognize his own son, unable to walk to the loo so pissing himself in bed and having my Mum and brother clean him up, with his stomach so swollen someone would have thought he swallowed an elephant whole.

 

 

The man that raised me – Thomas Omondi Were – did not deserve to go out like that.

 

 

Fuck Cancer.

NURSING MY FATHER

123

 

 

He sits on a plastic chair at the center of the living room; his legs – swollen as a balloon – hoisted onto a stool in front of him, his left hand supporting his head, the right on the armrest of the plastic chair. The T.V is on, to full volume, and some flimsy Nollywood film about a Prince falling in love with the Princess of a rival land is on. His eyes, unflinching as ever, stare directly at the T.V screen. And, for a second there, it beats me how a man as old as he is would be enjoying such a distressingly pathetic script about how a Prince and a rival Princess fall so deep in love that when their two communities go to war, they jump into the middle of the battle and declare themselves sacrifices for the sake of Peace. Because, “Love trumps All.” Such baloney.

 

 

And then I take a closer look and notice that he’s really not watching the television or paying attention to the Prince’s incessant whining about how great Love is. He’s staring into space. He’s staring into thin air. He’s staring at empty nothingness.

 

 

***

 

 

My Mum called me sometime mid last month but it went straight to voice mail. So she texted, “Your Father is Sick. Get back to me.” I called her that evening and, after her usual shouting and bickering over what I really do in Nairobi, she said, “I need you to come back home.”

 

 

“Why?”

 

“Didn’t you hear me, Mzee is sick?”

 

“Sawa. Wacha I come kitu next week.”

 

“Kama hutaki wacha. Utamwona kwa coffin.”

 

 

Then she hangs up. That was Auma Nyar Keya being her usual self; dramatic as ever. I called her back.

 

 

“Sawa. I’ll come Monday or Tuesday.”

 

“If you cannot be here by Monday morning then just let your brother come. Hakuna shida kama hutaki kuona Baba yako.”

 

“Sawa. I’ll travel Sunday night and be there by Monday morning.”

 

 

She didn’t even acknowledge what I had said, just hung up. And so, that Sunday night, I hopped onto a Busia-bound bus and was home before the dogs evenwoke up for morning glory. I sat next to this pretentious loud mouthed Luo chap in a stinky white hoodie, ugly dark sunglasses (but why are some Luos hell bent on embarrassing us?) and these ridiculously shiny shoes who seemed to want the whole world to know he was going back to Kisumu. He called close to 12 people and the script was always the same (and you have to read this part in a Luo accent);

 

 

“Omera narudi Kisumu bwana.”

 

*Other person*

 

“Eeehh. Tunaenda kuangalilia Baba ground bwana.”

 

*Other person*

 

“Ntakaa wiki moja hivi alafu nikirudi ntakupigia.”

 

“Eeehh. Hahahahah. Si unajua lazima ka-GlenFiddich kaanguke nikirudi.”

 

 

By the time he was on his fifth call, I could recite his conversation word by word. So I fell asleep and, gladly, woke up as he was alighting. I almost poured libation to the goods in gratitude.

 

 

***

 

 

“Ian…” he goes, “…what’s someone got to do to get some porridge around here?”

 

 

I put aside the book I had been reading and head for the kitchen. I have never made any porridge all my life. Shit, I don’t even like porridge. But, for my ailing father, I will learn how to cook squirrels if he wants me to.

 

 

Thirty minutes later, I serve him a bowl of what, in my mind, is the most kick ass porridge human hands could ever make. He takes a sip, twitches his face and says, “This is the shittiest porridge I’ve ever tasted.” Then he attempts what sounds like a laugh, but only a cough comes out. A long strenuous cough. A painful cough.

 

 

The old man has been ill ever since we buried my Grandfather – his father –in September, 2016.He has grown thin and weak. He barely eats, only drinks porridge, and rarely speaks.He coughs 973238 times an hour and, when he walks, takes every step like it could be his last. There are days he can barely get off the plastic chair – never sits on the sofa – and then there are days he gathers some little strength and drives around.

 

 

The other day he had to pick up a parcel from the Post Office so I took shotgun while he drove. We arrived at the Post Office at 12:58 p.m., exactly 2 minutes before their lunch hour. He parked, we got out of the car and as we headed for the door, we saw the Post Office guy close. And we know he saw us see him close because we were right there, literally less than five steps away. And I got so pissed off I remember saying to him in my head, “Makes you feel pretty good, doesn’t it? Denying an ailing man a simple thirty second service?” I imagined him going home that evening, tucking his children into bed, kissing them on the forehead, and hopping into bed with his wife. And she would ask him, “How was work today?” And he would sigh and say, “Great. I sent away this old sickly man and his bushy son at lunch time today. You should’ve have seen them beg, it was hilarious.”

 

 

“Kijana,” he began, soon as we got back from the post office and I was assisting him back to his chair, “would you do me a favor?” I said, Sure. He said, “Shave that bloody beard.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “Because you’re young yet too old?” And that’s the most confusing thing my father has ever said to me my entire two decades of existence.

 

 

Get Well Wuod Agatha.

HIGHLIGHTS 2016

1

 

There’s just five of us at the bar.

 

 

I’m at the counter with my phone in hand and a glass of local brew staring me coldly in the eye. I’m on my second glass, to be precise, and the ground is starting to feel a little shaky. Could be a mild earthquake or just the brew kicking in, I don’t know. All I know is my ex called me sometime during the day and wished me a “happy new year” in a voice so sweet it almost sounded divine and I find myself unnecessarily thinking about her now. (Okay, scratch the earthquake, it was the booze, it was definitely the booze.)

 

 

There’s the Waiter behind the counter. Some chap in a dull black t-shirt written ‘Under 18 asipewe’, eyes red as a monkey’s ass, nose bloated, and eye brows hairy as a pedophile’s ass crack. His face reads frustration; like, you know, those times in high school when you were pressed and had to use the loo but it was the deputy head teacher’s [Math] lesson and you knew he wouldn’t grant you the permission even if you asked so you just sat there and hoped, in the very least, it came out as a trifling fart instead?

 

 

The DJ is on the corner to my right. There’s a packet of what appears to be a million greenish leaves on his decks and his mouth is so full you would think a Brazilian bee bit him on the lower lip. He’s playing a lot of Konshens and Tarrus Riley and Vybz Kartel (believe me, I’m ashamed I can even spell these names right); which is pissing me off but he seems to be enjoying himself just fine.

 

 

There’s this chap at the table right behind me. I think he’s on his gazzilionth glass of the brew. He looks higher than the peak of Times Tower. His eyes are half open and his hair is disheveled and his mouth is warped in a not so great way and his trouser has multiple holes that look like breathing points for his ding dong. Basically, this guy is the perfect guide book for scoring a Hollywood zombie role.

 

 

And then there’s the mami at the other corner. She has sunglasses (I don’t know why) perched to her forehead and her nails look longer than the Nile and scarier than the ending of ‘Night On Elm Street’ and her face has loads of make up on. She’s in a fine red dress and her chocolate thighs are sticking out for all and sundry. She’s drinking from a can of Red Bull and has her eyes glued to her phone. Sometimes she glances up and her eyes meet mine and she blushes and goes back to her phone like she didn’t just awaken emotions in my heart (read: pants). She’s not even eti cute or anything. She’s just hot. I don’t know if you guys get the difference? Like, say, Anita Nderu and Huddah Monroe. Anita Nderu is cute; her face looks like a cup of Vanilla ice cream, I would lick that baby till dawn. But Huddah Monroe is hot, like Game of Thrones Season 7 hot; I want to bang her till all the fluid in her body comes out via her nose. I understand that that description might have been a bit too graphic for some of you but do you guys understand the difference now? Good.

 

 

I want to know what she’s doing here. And, most importantly, why she’s here alone. Is it the music? Is it the ambience? Is it the warm seats? Or does she just like hanging out with guys who look like Mahatma Gandhi (if he smoked weed and chewed mogoka, that is)?

 

 

“Hey there, waiting for someone?” I advance and say.

 

“Not really. Just having some ‘Me’ time,” she replies.

 

“Aha. Me too. What are the odds?”

 

“Ati?”

 

“Never mind. So…nice sunglasses by the way.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“I dig the dress too. The color blends in well with your skin.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Do you like the music here?”

 

“It’s not bad.”

 

“But it could be better, right?”

 

“I guess.”

 

“Can I get you a glass of something stronger?”

 

“No. I’m fine.”

 

“Okay. Well…uhmm…how about some breath mints and a new attitude?”

 

*Looks up. Startled, and pissed off* “Look, dude, niko kazini hapa. Kama huongei pesa songa. Izo lovie dovie pelekea kuku zenu.”

 

*Also startled* “Excuse me?”

 

Unanidinya ama haunidinyi? Chit chat baadaye.”

 

 

And then it hits me. Homegirl here is actually the resident hooker, waiting on some drunk horny chap to take home to bang the few hours left of 2016 out of her brains. And I looked to the sky and said to myself, “Lord, is this how I’m really ending my year? Is this how you’re really going to let me go out? With a glass of fifth generation liquor in hand, a stoned Mahatma Gandhi in the distance and an arrogant hooker with an Infinix and a choking breath?”

 

Ladies and gentlemen, these have been some of moments of 2016. Some happy, some sad, others just a complete waste of your time.

 

 

Losing Mzee

 

Even at 86, he still went to the shamba and herded his own goats. He was old and weak and you had to use 99 or more microphones to speak to him. But he was the kindest soul. He spoke with a calm voice; one of finality, no less.

 

Gramps finally succumbed to his age-long battle with Cancer this year. On his deathbed, in his final hour, they say when they requested he be returned to the hospital for further medication he said, “No. Call me a Preacher. I’m ready.”

 

Forever in our hearts Mzee.

 

Nominations And Features

 

A friend of mine going by Irvin Jalang’o and I began this other blog in February, this year, where we tell all the silly stories people go through. Like Irvin talks about misplacing his socks in the pad and I rant about women who can’t cook kick ass Chapo a lot. By the way, Kenyan women, let’s just come to an agreement today, every single one of you is learning how to make Chapos in 2017, sawa? Kick ass Chapos; not Chapos that taste like unleavened bread and look like a goblin’s ears. You are not going to get a husband hell, even a boyfriend if you can’t cook kick ass Chapos. Okwabisecho.

 

 

We called the blog Mister Left. And, midway, Mister Left was nominated in the OLX Social Media Awards under the ‘Best New Blog’ category. We didn’t win, but the overwhelming support we witnessed from some of you guys was enough for us. We will forever be indebted.

 

We Mister Left were then featured in Couture Africa Magazine’s ‘Male Gaze’ section. And Irvin and I shared a beer and reminisced on how far we had come.

 

 

Awards

 

Fresh from losing the OLX Social Media Award, I was nominated in the Jomo Kenyatta University Student Awards as the ‘Blogger of the Year.’ I was scared and expected the worst, so I didn’t campaign much. And so when my name was called out as the winner that Thursday evening, I took a second to thank The Good Ol’ Chap Above before strolling across the stage to receive my award. I was in old faded jeans and an oversized trench coat but I didn’t care. I had won. We had won.

 

Asanteni sana to everyone who voted. Here’s to many more.

 

 

Graduations

 

A lot of my guys graduated this year from the school of Academia to the unforgiving School of Life.

 

Earnest ‘Riccobeatz’, Owiso, Ken Jacks, Roy Omae, Daniel Katana, Brian Gitonga, Eric ‘Dogo’, Kevo ‘Juicy J’, Caro, and the entire Bsc. I.T Class of 2016.

 

Guys, go kick ass out there.

 

 

Tony Mochama

 

Tony Mochama is an award-winning Author and Poet of over 3 books and a Standard columnist, but most of you guys might know him as Pulse Magazine’s Smitta Smitten; the chap who writes in a language only he knows.

 

I ran into Tony in a South B jav juzi. He held a book in his right hand and was in a fitting vest. He was walking by when I called out, “Ontita” and he paused to shake my hand, saying, “Niaje Boss.” All I could get out was, “Big Fan.” And he smiled and replied, “Asante sana.” Then he walked to the back of the bus. And as I was alighting, he waved at me in the air and smiled and I waved back; like we were teenage lovers who had their own language or some shit.

 

The lady friend I was with asked me, “Who was that?” and because I knew she wouldn’t recognize any of his books, I said, “That’s the guy who writes for Pulse as Smitta Smitten.” And she screeched and said, “Oh, Shit, that was Smitta?” and I replied, “No. That was a unicorn riding a bicycle.” Okay, I didn’t, but I really wanted to.

 

 

Lost Friendships And Relationships

 

I’m a selfish egotistical prick who loves nothing but words, Chapos, and aged whiskey. And sometimes, that gets in the way of people I care about [Look at me getting all mushy and shit.]

 

I may have offended a few friends in 2016; some unintentionally, others intentionally (let’s face it, some of y’all dicks too.) Some cut ties with me, some stayed.

 

To the ones who stayed, I’m sorry. Shit happens. Nothing we can’t solve over a bottle of beer and nyama choma.

 

To the ones who cut ties, I wish you all the best in 2017. I’ll be here if you ever need me. If you never do, just remember this: vegetables are healthy for you.

 

 

Gigs

 

I have been privileged to bang copy for a few publications this year. But the highlight of those has been being the Chief Editor of JKUAT’s upcoming Student’s Magazine. We did a kick ass job guys, look out for that mag. in January 2017. I’m literally breaking protocol just telling this to you guys.

 

 

Mentions

 

The female friend I was with when I met Tony (up there), her name is Brenda. Lovely mami. Has the smile of two moons, the laughter of a new-born cricket, and the soul of a gold coin. But she’s also loud after a couple shots of vodka and needs to stop thinking she can drink more than I do. Hehe.

 

Anyway, homegirl here bailed my ass out of ‘jail’ a couple months back when I was nabbed in town for doing literally nothing. I wrote a ka-small piece about that incident on social media the next day but may or may not have blacked out her role in it. I met her the weekend after that and she gave me a hard time about it.

 

So, here, Brenda, bless your soul. And can I just have my whiskey already? Madeni za 2016 tusiingie nazo 2017 tafadhali.

 

 

More Mentions

 

Also, there are friends, and then there are chaps like Tom Chacha. Chaps who will call you during the weekend like;

 

Unafanya?

 

Hakuna. Nimelala tu.

 

Aya. Toka kwa nyumba.

 

Say what?

 

Toka kwa nyumba.

 

 

And then take you to a joint in Westlands and ask, “What do you want?” and you will say, “I feel like a little Jack Daniels today” and he will say, “Knock your face out.”

 

 

Bless you too, Sir. To more debauchery.

 

 

Even More Mentions

 

There are also guys like Brian Ogenya. Guys who will accidentally take you to a gay club in Westlands and call you a ‘bitch’ for being mad about it. Like, dude, it’s a fucking gay club? What, I’m supposed to be glad? I’m supposed to buy you a beer and pat you on the back and say “Atta boy” for taking me to an all whites gay club? Hehe. Lok Pachi Baba.

 

 

And, as always, You Guys

 

I realize I haven’t posted as much as I would have wanted this year. But there’s always room for improvement, right?

 

Thank you for always wasting those five or so minutes of your time to come here for a giggle. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without you. And, for that, I will forever be grateful. You’re going to keep coming in 2017, Yes?

 

 

Folks, that’s my time, have yourselves a blissful 2017. And go slow on the bottle, will you? Because I won’t. And one of us has to stay alive to witness the Trump Presidency.

 

 

THE MAN AT THE BAR

Man in suit sit at bar counter

 

 

He sits at the bar counter in silence. Head lowered, eyes staring straight at the cold hard bad floor, right hand holding a bottle of beer and the left holding onto an empty glass. He’s dressed in a suave fitting black suit, a tie with cute polka dots, and those multi-colored socks Larry Madowo wears. He looks deep in thought – or loss – like the burdens on his shoulder have finally outweighed him and he wants nothing to do with the world anymore. Like he has given up and surrendered his whole-being to his inner demons and they’re having a field day with it.He takes out an iPhone from his breast pocket, fiddles with it for a couple of seconds and shoves it back with a disappointed look on his face. Perhaps he was to meet up with someone and just realized he got stood up. Maybe he just got a work mail reminding him of that report the Boss needs on his/her desk by 8 a.m. the following day. Maybe, the wife had finally had enough of his broodiness and texted, “I can’t take it anymore. I’ll be at my sister’s place if you need me. I took the kids too.” Or, maybe, the mpango wa kando had gone through Huddah’s Instagram account and was now demanding her own line of lipstick as well. I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here.

 

 

He lifts the bottle to his face, stares at it for a while, mumbles a quiet “Fuck It” (I assume) and in just one long swig, downs the whole goddamn beer. He then lets out a loud careless belch, summons the waiter and says, “Another one.” (Like he’s DJ Khaled or some shit) And as the waiter walks away to fetch his order, he summons him back and says, “You know what, bring me two more.”

 

 

It was a frosty Monday night, I was at The Alchemist Bar in Westlands (great place, their food is shitty, but great place). I was at the bar because, despite already being jobless and broke and single, I had just lost a gig that would have well set me up for at least five months’ rent and I needed something, something stiff, to get my mind off it. I was meeting a friend here but he left after the second double because he had to go in early for work the following morning. I joked that the missus had put a curfew on his ass and he said he was just tired. So he ordered me another double, called an Uber, and disappeared into the fickle night. Now I was alone; Angry, depressed, slightly drunk, and starting to wonder when Adelle was releasing her next album.

 

 

Usually, when I’m troubled, I always just get shit-faced drunk and then go sleep it off. But not that Monday. That felt different, I felt different. For the first time, I actually wanted to talk to someone about my shit. And, maybe, that was in some way connected to the two doubles working their way up my system but, I needed to talk to someone who was nearly as messed up as I was that night.  Or much more. And I wasn’t going to call the boys because they would think I’m just a sissy who needs to suckle his mother’s tits and calm down. My Counselor was out of the question because she once told me I wasn’t as tough as I pretended to be and that deep down my heart was just as soft as everyone else’s and I’d hate to make her feel like she was right. But, Mister-Polka-Dots over there at the counter seemed like just the right fit. So I grabbed my glass, walked over to the counter, sat a chair away from him, sighed and said, “One of those days, huh?”

 

 

He took a quick look around as if to ascertain he was the one being addressed and when he saw no one else within earshot, he hissed and said, “Yeah. Tell me about it.” I moved from my seat to the one next to him and chimed, “You look like you could use something stronger than a beer, brother. Name’s Ian.”

 

 

“Sam. The beer is just because I still have to drive home.The last time I drank whiskey and drove, I ran over my wife’s dog. You a fan?”

 

“Of what, whiskey? We’re practically in a relationship.” He lets out a quiet struggled laugh, sips his beer then shouts to the waiter, “Double of whatever my new friend here is having on my tab, please.” The waiter turns to me and I say, “Singleton, neat.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is called breaking the ice.

 

 

“So, was she mad?” I ask. “Your wife, I mean, when you ran over her dog.”

 

“Mad is an understatement. She went bonkers. You know, sometimes I think she loved that thing more than she does me. Can you believe she bought the damned thing a casket, buried it at our backyard and had me read the bloody sermon?”

 

“Damn, that’s cold.”

 

“Yeah. She got over it eventually, though. At least that’s what she said. Methinks every time I do something wrong her mind still races back to that day, and then she gives me one of those looks…you know.”

 

“Women, huh? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”

 

“Don’t I know it. So, what about you, son. Why are you here on a Monday? Girlfriend troubles?”

 

“Little bit of that, but mainly work problems. I lost a major deal today, can’t think straight.”

 

“Don’t sweat it, you’ll get another one. Believe that.”

 

“Amen.”

 

“What exactly is it you do?”

 

“Oh, I write. Anything. Everything.”

 

“Hmm. Good for you mate. Me I’m in Real Estate. And, between you and me, I hate every second of it.”[Sips beer.]

 

“Why? Real Estate seems fun.”

 

“Yeah…from the outside.”

 

“Well, what do you want to do then?”

 

“I have absolutely no idea, that’s why I’m drinking. All I know is I hate that shit, but I can’t really quit because I have baby shoes to buy, salon and reckless shopping expenses as well as rent to pay. Whatever settles the bills, son; A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

 

“You plan on talking to your wife about this?”

 

“Been there, done that. Says if I quit I’ll find divorce papers on the table when I get home. The nerve. And the sex is not even eti that good anymore.”

 

“Hahahah. What do you mean?”

 

“She gives pathetic head and won’t let me bang her doggy style bana. Says she wants to make love, not just fuck. The hell does that shit even mean?”

 

[Still laughing.] “So it’s just missionary, huh? Yeah, that doesn’t sound any good.”

 

“It’s shitty, I tell you. I mean, I don’t want to look at the pimples on your face when I’m climaxing bana. Psht. Anyway, enough about me, what about your girlfriend troubles?”

 

“Oh, yeah, that. Well, it’s not really girlfriend troubles per se, but…I think I screwed it up with this girl, man. She was there for me, I wasn’t there for her, one thing led to another and now we’re complete strangers. And you know what pisses me off in all this? Chic could make kick ass Chapos, man.”

 

[Laughs.] “Ouch! You don’t leave a chic that can make kick ass Chapos, my friend. Those are rare these days. Lord knows my wife has a stick far up her ass but the one thing I can always look up to are her Sunday evening Chapos. Makes everything better. You gotta get that chic back, son.”

 

“Yeah, I’m not so sure I wanna do that.”

 

“Why not? You’re here drinking over her, aren’t you?”

 

“It’s complicated.”

 

“Two words said by every loser I know.”

 

 

Sam checks his watch and says, “It’s running towards midnight now, gotta get home.” He then beckons to the waiter, settles his bill, pats me on the shoulder and says, “You’re still way too young to be having lady troubles, son, so I have no advice for you on that end. But as far as work goes, if you love what you do then keep holding on tight; something will always come along eventually. And when it’s time for marriage, don’t marry a woman with a stick up her ass; otherwise you’ll be served your food cold when you get home past midnight. Warm night, son.”

 

 

As he walked out, I remember thinking to myself, “Lord, if the woman I marry ever chooses to bring a dog home, in as much as I will want to, please prevent me from running over it.”

HONORING MZEE

kwara-2

 

 

Thursday, September 15th.

 

 

Something was strangely unpleasant in the air that afternoon. The winds didn’t blow, the sun shone faintly, the surrounding stank funny; like Lucifer was having an orgy with kina Jezebel in a swimming pool and wicked ole’ Jezebel kept farting in there (although, to be fair, I live in Juja so that might just have been the smell of weed). It was cold – it always is in my pad, I live on the ground floor – and I was broke and my neighbor was playing one Drake song after the other like his heart had just been broken and he was trying to move on but had no idea how so he thought, “Hey, you know what, let me listen to a Drake album, On a bloody Thursday afternoon.” I had been bedridden for close to a week by then; my toes were swollen – making it hard for me to even walk past the gate – and they smelled of a cocktail of rotten eggs, Athletes’ Foot and Jägermeister. I was in bed, all covered up to the chin, phone on flight mode, watching some series about Women and Drugs and Power. And Sex. Especially Sex.

 

 

Then I got this burning feeling to check my phone and the first 14 text messages that streamed in all read “I tried calling you…” And they were all from my Mum. And as I lay there trying to figure out what it was I had done wrong this time (because Auma Nyar Keya doesn’t call you 14 times to commend you for saving the world or to ask if you need money for beer), the 15th text message came in; and with it, a defiant gust of cold and gross indifference. It read;

 

 

“Your Grandfather is No More.”

 

 

Friday, September 23rd.

 

 

The setting is a remote village deep within the heart of Ugenya – Siaya County. A village so remote Google Maps won’t help you find it; a village so remote those chaps probably pay to join WhatsApp Groups.  I just got here. I’m saying hello to cousins and sisters I haven’t seen since the cold war and exchanging pleasantries with aunts and uncles here and there and they’re telling me “You look famished. You don’t eat?” and I’m grumbling and rubbing my hands against my belly and responding “Nairobi si mama ya mtu” and those who like to brag how they wiped my ass – even those who didn’t – when I was young are coming at me like “Na si you’ve grown” and I’m just there stroking my beard in silence like I’m the shit.

 

 

We just came back from the mortuary with Mzee’s body. Wailing has taken over the entire compound. Men and women I have never seen before are mourning my Gramps, and I’m just standing there lazily, with my crutches in hand, looking like a Maasai in the Sahara; struggling to fight back tears. And, you know, nobody ever thinks they’ll be that guy; the guy that cries and kicks and bites and scratches after viewing the body. Something takes over you, and for a minute or so, it no longer becomes your body. It becomes the universe’s body; and the universe does whatever it wishes with it.

 

 

My Dad appears from the main house with my big bro beside him. He looks weak; he looks defeated; he looks like he wants to throw his hands in the air and ask God, “Are you happy now?” He had been there with Gramps – his Father – through it all. They had gone to hospital after hospital and visited native doctors and been prayed for but still, here we were. A single tear trickles down his cheeks and he wipes it away then forces a smile. His walk is frail, his voice shaken, and his facial expression is downcast. Yet he still forces a smile. Because he’s a Man; and Men must be strong; Men must not cry. Not in the presence of their wife and kids.

 

 

My big bro has a well of tears in his eyes. My cousins are crying their lungs out; some are fainting and regaining consciousness and crying some more. My Mum cries with her hands on her head but not a sound comes out. My Aunts mourn and throw their lesos in the air and mumble words of grief. My Uncles spot a few tears in their eyes in silence; their faces tell it all. I see people who worked for my Gramps cry out for him. I see his friends and relatives and fellow elders mourn his passing. I had promised myself I wouldn’t tear up, but a voice inside me tells me I owe Mzee at least that much. I walk into the house to view the body and a couple drops of tears appear. That voice inside me comes back once more. It says, “It’s Okay, Son. It’s Okay to Cry.”

 

 

Saturday, September 24th

 

Atogo Michael Were was a man of very few words. Mzee preferred to do his stuff alone. Even at 86 years old, Mzee would take his goats out to herd in the morning and bring them back in the evening by himself. Mzee cleaned up after his cows shit up their shed by himself. Mzee liked his meat tender and cut into humongous pieces. Mzee liked the meals served communally; he never liked the idea of someone pinching ugali from their own plate. And if he noticed you eating faster than the others, he told you to take it down a notch; to come slow. Mzee liked his uji served hot in the morning. Mzee was big on cleanliness as well; before showering, he scrubbed his legs with bucketfulls of water – that is, one bucket per leg. He spoke slowly and warmly, never once raised his voice no matter how pissed he was. And when you needed to speak to him, you came armed with 99 microphones because his hearing had gone to the dogs.

 

 

My Dad wore the white shirt my Mum bought him (look at them being all romantic) and gave the story of his last days with his father during the funeral. He got his shit together and spoke about watching his father slowly fade away. And I don’t know where he got the strength from but he did. He spoke of how Mzee hated hospitals and of the midnight phone calls he would receive because Mzee couldn’t go to sleep. He narrated how, often, Mzee would speak to himself and he wondered whether he was going cuckoo as well. He talked about watching the Cancer tear his father apart – bone by bone, fleshy by flesh, strength and mind – yet he could do absolutely nothing about it. He spoke about being with Mzee to his last day, when he would notice Mzee in so much pain and offer to take him to the hospital – again – but Mzee would say, “No. I’m Ready.” He talked about being called in to work that last day, and looking at his phone almost three hours later to find a gazillion missed calls and – knowing what that meant – saying to himself, “Rest, Baba. Rest.” When I grow up, I want to be an inch the man my father is today. I want to have half the strength he embodies.

 

 

Mzee’s lips looked wrinkled and dry. His face, astute as ever, was bony and fragile and his nose had been stuffed with cotton. Dressed  in a cosy black suit, he just lay there; Still. And Peaceful. Dead as a dodo. He was Gone. Gone, Baby, Gone.

 

 

That evening, after we lowered Mzee down to rest, we downed local brew and recounted memories with my big bro and cousins. And we made memories (It’s funny how English just rolls out of the tongues of city people after one too many.) And as I lay in bed later on that night, sleep evading me, a tear dripped down my cheeks and I said to myself, “Go On Well, Mzee. On To A Better Place.”

‘ONE’

 

ONE

 

 

There are just three things I consider myself good at in this world; Tearing through Chapo, Skipping morning classes, and Pointing Out Good Music. See, I listen to a lot of music – local, especially – and there are those that make me smile; and then there are those that make me want to shoot myself in the nuts. I can smell talent a mile away. For instance, 90% of Kenyans only recently came to know of Vicmass Luodollar; after he did the ‘Bank Otuch’ remix with Octopizzo. But I had heard of the guy even before Obama flew down here. Same applies to Jay A; most guys only knew him after ‘Dumbala’. Me? I had listened to his first track – ‘Clap yo hands – even before I stepped out of high school. I remember telling a couple of my classmates the kid would be a star and they would look at me the way Americans now look at supporters of Donald Trump; like I was batshit.

 

 

 

A few weeks ago – on a lazy Thursday afternoon – I walk into an apartment in Juja belonging to a friend of mine. Warm fellow, sharp as a serial killer’s blade. He comes from Coasto; which means he says words like ‘Kakangu’ a helluva lot. The first thing I see as I take my seat on the couch is a tall Sheesha pot, peeping from the kitchen door; which totally makes me want to blow a few smokes, but I hold myself back. You don’t go into someone’s house and just right walk into the kitchen. There is a small keyboard on the table, a couple medium-sized speakers at either ends, a laptop at the centre, and a microphone lying lazily beside it. He has another friend over; an overly tall dark man with the humility of a pregnant bee. They’re logged onto YouTube, sampling a couple tracks of his (my host’s) latest E.P. His name is Rashid Beduni; but he goes by Rash Raww. A music Producer, as well as an Artist.

 

 

 

Rash was in Germany for the better part of the last three months of 2015 on a school project. Says he enjoyed himself. That the activities were fun. And the people were amazing. And the food was kick ass. I want to chime in, “I bet they don’t make better Chapos than ours, aye?” But, instead, what I find myself asking is, “And Racism?” Says he, personally, wasn’t a victim and neither did he witness any traces of it. At least where he was. So we can assume the Germans are cool peoples. I ask him how the German mamis were and he refuses to comment. Says he was too busy. I ask, “Doing what?” And he says, “Making music.”

 

 

 

Apparently, while in Germany, Rash Raww ran into 5 other really cool chaps – including one very beautiful lady – with the same passion and drive in music as his; Christian F⍤rster (Germany), Keyboard P (Germany), Lynn (Germany/Phillipines), Mattan (Mattan), and Chidi (Nigeria/Germany). It may also be of note that Chidi sings in the African Gospel Choir, ‘Voice Of Joy’, whereas Mattan says he’s a Rapper working on solo projects – including an L.P – under the artist name ‘Mein Name ist Nase’. Don’t beat yourself up, I don’t know what that means either.

 

 

 

Anyway, so the six of them hooked up at the studio many a night and, at the end of it all, they had a six track – five, out of which, were produced by Rash Raww here – E.P. to show for it. And because they met in Flensburg, they decided to release the E.P under the collective name, ‘Friends In Flens’. And they named the E.P, ‘ONE’.

 

 

 

So I asked Rash to play me the E.P and he did. And we listened in silence, and the other guy and I offered our criticisms and opinions where we deemed fit. Rash switches between English and Swahili throughout the whole E.P while the rest of the guys rap and sing mostly in German, with a little English here and there. The E.P has a smooth feel with free-flowing easy to comprehend lyrics; save for the German parts. It’s sort of like a Sunday afternoon playlist. It’s a collection of soft tracks that you listen to when your mind is at peace; probably when you’re laid out on the sand, facing the beach, glasses blocking your eyes from the sun, and a bottle of sting Whiskey standing boldly beside you. My personal favorite in the E.P is the track ‘My Name.’ Simply because, in it, the guys ask, “When I’m gone, would you remember my name?”

 

 

 

“So, why the name ‘ONE’ though?” I ask soon as we’re done.

 

 

“Well, because the whole point of the E.P is to promote peace and oneness throughout the entire world,” says Rash. “We may have different colors on our skin; we may speak different languages; we may come from different parts of the universe; but what we MUST never forget is that, at the end of the day, we are all ONE people,” he adds.

 

 

 

I mean, look at it this way, blacks are being shot down in the streets of America like stray dogs every minute; innocent law-abiding Muslims are being treated as terror suspects even here in Kenya; Trump has vowed to kick Mexicans out of the States if he comes to power; yet we all just smile and drink and dine and make merry and post Facebook statuses of Game Of Thrones like it doesn’t matter. Like the world isn’t coming to a rot. Some people drive while the rest of us here walk; some like Pizza and others like yours truly here love Chapos; some women want tall, dark and handsome men while others just want chaps with dreams; some guys want women with big tits, others like us just want women who can make kick ass Chapos.

 

 

 

But, beneath all our individual differences, we are all the Same; we are all ONE.

 

 

Be so kind as to preview the E.P via this LINK.

STORIES FROM AMBOSELI

CHEF WANGA

 

 

A little past midnight – a couple Saturday nights ago – I’m stumbling into my boy’s place in South B. I’m a little high. The door is wide open, he’s blacked out in the bedroom, mouth ajar, hands crossed over his chest, snoring like an Albanian field wench. That’s how you know someone had a good night. I make myself comfortable on the sofa, make a few drunken calls and soon doze off. People tell me I sleep with my eyes half open, that I scare them. My only questions to them always are, what the hell are you doing awake in the middle of the night looking at people who are already asleep? What, you want something? Something you can only get from me in the middle of the night? When I’m dead asleep? Shit.

 

 

Tom – the chap I’m at his place – wakes me up at 9 a.m. the following morning. All dressed up. Says he’s on his way to some hotel in the middle of Amboseli. I ask why and he goes, “Some of us actually work.” I hate it when people tell me things like that, it makes me feel idle. It hurts my feelings. It makes me feel like applying for license to carry. Because I’m pissed off, and I’m still nursing a persistent hangover, I want to ask him, “So why the hell you gotta wake me up? You want a goodbye hug or something?” But I don’t. I just roll back over on the sofa and go back to sleep. Then I hear him say, “You know what, you don’t look like you’re doing anything today, get up, let’s go.” I turn to see if he’s pulling a fast one on me and he gives me that “I’m serious, fool” look. And then he adds, “All expenses covered. Get your ass in the shower and let’s go.”

 

 

Tom runs this cleaning and pest control outfit – Imagine Care. He started it soon after campus, he says he has never wanted to work for anyone. Wants to get off bed when he feels like it, not because he has to. Has always wanted to be the one running shit. Now they go round the country to some of the best hotels helping them handle their pest problems. As I bang this down, they just got back from the Mara and are off to Mombasa before the weekend. He’s the C.E.O and Founder of the outfit, which basically means he doesn’t do jack. He walks around in a blue suit supervising as the work is done, and cashing six figure cheques. He gets the best hotel suites and dines with Chief Chefs. Sometimes I joke that he has the best job ever and he says, “No, Bikozulu does. And Larry Madowo.”

 

 

We pitch up at Sentrim hotel, Amboseli, circa 8 p.m., after a five hour long drive on tarmac and another hour on a rough road through the Amboseli national park, with hyenas running and howling beside us. Sentrim hotel is located right in the middle of the Amboseli. The only thing separating them from the park is an electric fence that is supposed to electrocute the elephants’ nozzles when they come too close. Half of the staff down there are Maasais, which means this is not the place to cause trouble. At night they walk around in shukas and sandals probably made out of leopard skin, carrying rungus the size of my head, talking in hushed tones and laughing loudly. One of them told us he had been bitten by a snake before, and the way he said it was like it was nothing. Like it was no big effin’ deal. There we were, scared out of our hoots, talking about how afraid we were of snakes, and then this guy with very big earrings hanging from his ear walks by and goes, “Mimi nimeumwa na nyoka by the way,” while smiling, like it was normal; like it was cool. You know how in high school Math was such a pain in the nut, yet there was always that one cocky chap with the long nose and the stinky breath who always seemed to know everything? Like, you would be there, fidgeting in your seat, all sweaty, trying to solve for ‘x’ and he would show up behind you, grab your pen and go “This is actually quite easy” then go ahead and solve the bloody sum in 30 seconds. A sum that had already taken you 5 hours yet you hadn’t even gone past the second step. Pricks!

 

 

They put us up in these really cool tents designed in the shapes of actual houses. Like, they were normal houses, but instead of cemented walls and a mabati roof, they had tents. Cool, right? The floor was made of wood and there were a set of seats and tables  – all wooden – outside looking into the wild that would have made for a good spot to smoke a cigar, if you’re one of those people, or down a bottle of Whiskey. There were a couple of beds in each room – tiny comfy beds – with a Bible on a stool beside each bed for the occupant to read some scripture from before hitting the sack. How thoughtful! There were also three bottles of water, in case, for some strange reason, you got thirsty in your sleep. And then there was a fan as long as the Eurobond trail on the farthest corner of the room. Here’s the thing, me I come from the ghetto; deep down in Eastlands. We shower in basins using kina Geisha and Flamingo soaps gikmakamago. But here, to turn on the shower sijui you tilt this ka-metal thingamajig to your left – for cold water –and to your right – for hot water. Alafu their bathrooms are so clean I almost said, “Hell, bring me a mattress in here, this is where I’m napping.

 

 

There are just two things I don’t understand about Sentrim Hotel; Every night at 10 p.m., they shut the lights off. Complete blackout. If you’re one of those people who have to use the gents in the middle of the night, you’ll be lucky if you don’t knock the stool containing the Bible on your way. Two, They have minibars, only problem is they’re not stocked. I mean, si that’s like having a girlfriend you ain’t even smashing, No? I’m just saying. But, in their defence, they said it was low season. Ati that’s why the minibars weren’t stocked. Sawa, I’ll let it go, Mr. Manager.

 

 

The following morning Tom and I were called to have breakfast at the main restaurant. They first served us a glass of passion juice, and a plate containing well-arranged slices of mangoes, oranges, and an apple. Basically, it was just fruits. The ghetto in me blurted out, “The hell is this?” and Tom replied, “Welcome to the life,” like he was some kind of a Saudi Prince used to this kind of life and shit. As if his shagz is not Tanzania down here. After the fruits they served us tea along with an omelet and a small round bun, this time the ghetto in me smiled and said, “Now we’re talking.” Then the Chief Chef, a nice chap by the name Livingstone Wanga, comes and sits next to us, asking how we are faring so far. Deep down, I want to say, “Well, now that you ask, Sir, how do I eat this bun using a fork and knife?” Hehe. But what really comes out is, “Fantastic. Thank You.

 

 

He – Chef Livingstone Wanga – then goes on to tell us about his career and what it’s like to be a full-time Chef. Says most people, especially bachelors – like yours truly here – think cooking is just about rounding up the tomatoes and the onions and pilipilis into one sufuria and coming out with something edible. Apparently it’s more complicated than that. He shows us a sample of his own unique creations and we’re left wondering how people are even supposed to eat that. I mean, do you use a fork and knife or do you just dig in, you know, like a normal person from the hood? “What do you call that?” Tom asks. And he goes, “This one here is flakes of beef stir fry in a blind baked pastry case on tomato soufflé rice, and then the other one was pan seared perch fillet set on a warm potato salad, green beans and laced with doria lemon butter.” Okay, I’m not even going to lie to you that I understood any of that. The whole time I was just thinking, “Where’s the bloody bar?” So we asked him to repeat those names but by the third time we still hadn’t gotten anything past ‘beef stir fry’ so we just said, “Listen, Sir, just WhatsApp us the names, Sawa?

 

 

Some of you guys here must think I’m making this stuff up, ndio hizi hapa;

 

 

BEEF FLAKES
Chef Livingstone Wanga’s ‘Flakes of beef stir fry in a blind baked pastry case on tomato souffle rice’

 

Pan seared perch
Pan seared perch fillet set on a warm potato salad, green beans and laced with doria lemon butter’
avocado fan
‘Avocado fan salad with a 1000 Island dressing’

 

 

Chef Livingstone Wanga (you have to address him by all three names like that) is a man with an interesting perception about life. Takes every day as it comes. Does his work to the best of his ability, leaves the rest to the customers. And, Chefs also go an attachment. Whodathot? Chef Livingstone Wanga says when he’s on leave, he likes to go to the Norfolk to sharpen his skills. His work is not as easy, because he has to ask for feedback on how the food was from every customer that tastes his meals. This Chinese couple dined while we were there and when they were done, he went to them and asked, “How was the food? Good?” The Chinese couple said, “Food good.” Then he asked them, “Food too much or too little?” And with a straight face the man said, “Too little.” We just laughed that one off, as Chef Livingston Wanga assured them of an increased quantity at dinner. I almost walked up to that Chinese guy to ask, “How much did you want, Sir? An elephant?” But it wasn’t in my place now, was it? Besides, we were also just visitors here.

 

 

Sentrim Hotel has this spot from where you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro that is just the most beautiful view I have ever seen. Go there early in the morning, when the grass is still wet (no, not in that way) and the birds are still singing from the trees. Go there in your sweatpants, or your boxers if you have to, and enjoy that view. Breathe in the warm smell of the morning mist, enclose yourself in the beauty of nature and let it reel you into captivity. From that view – and for that split second – all your troubles will go away. They will fly away with the birds and disappear, like  Nairobi men after getting under your pants. During the day, go to the swimming pool area and if you’re scared of drowning, or are just a terrible swimmer – again, like yours truly here – just sit by the bar and order a mojito or a cocktail named Monkey Dance. If your Boss calls you at that particular moment, just laugh and tell him, “I’m at Dik-Dik Bar.” He won’t get it. Chances are he’ll probably say something like, “You’re fired.” Keep him calm, tell him you’ll work overtime next week, then say, “No, seriously, it’s called Dik-Dik Bar.

 

 

When the guys who were doing all the work were done and we were about to leave, Chef Livingstone Wanga (Ok, I see it now, the name is a mouthful, hehe) took Tom and I to the bar and told the guy behind the counter, “Wapatie soda baridi,” which we downed while bothering the bartender with silly questions. Say;

 

 

“Which guys drink the most here? The Whites or the Africans?”

 

“The Whites. Especially the Germans. Those guys love the bottle a tad too much.”

 

“But which ones misbehave the most after one too many?”

 

“Oh, The Africans, most definitely. Once the Whites have had to their limits, you’ll just see them walking out of the bar towards their rooms. But the Africans, man, saa hizo ndio sasa anataka kukuonyesha ako na pesa. And they become arrogant.”

 

“Na wagani hawatoangi tips?”

 

“Haha. The Chinese. Those ones are tough to crack.”

 

“Who is the most famous person that has ever walked through these doors?”

 

“Wako wengi sana. We’ve even hosted some Saudi Billionaires here, and those guys come with their own security, hawa wetu wanawafukuzanga waende walinde wanyama. But Michael Rannerbarger has been here. Even Serena Williams was here sometime back.”

 

 

Guys, this is me begging, if any of you goes to Sentrim Hotel anytime soon, book the room Serena Williams slept. I’m not asking for much, just bring me the towels she used. Sawa?