“Drink ’til you drop!”
That was the last Facebook post I ever saw on his wall.
It has been nearly a year and a half since he disappeared.
Attached to that post was a picture of him, and a girl – wearing the bare minimum of clothes – kissing his left cheek. There was another group of girls in the same booth. All with pretty smiles, flashing wads of 500- and 1000-bob notes. It was November of 2016. I was a several months out of employment, hustling my own way in the world. Trying to carve my own niche. I envied him. And his partying sprees. Not to mention the top shelf ladies who always seemed to bomb his photos. Many of those photos were in swanky high end joints. Where beer sells for 400/- a bottle, and whisky goes for 1000 bob a tot. To get hammered there, I would have needed a month’s rent and utility bills. That was way out of my reach. So I avoided his company whenever I could. He sometimes dropped by my place. A bottle of Grants in hand. Sometimes a Jameson. He liked my place because it felt real. Meaning I was poor. He never stayed long. Just imbibed a glass or less then cruised away. He mostly drove this silver Nissan Bluebird that his mother had handed down to him. I still can’t figure out why we were friends, or how it happened.
I first met him on a basketball pitch thirteen years ago. I was being taught the art of lay-ups, and that two-steps-or-less rule, which I took months to internalize. I had just mastered how to dribble without carrying or doubles. My coach was a pretty eyed girl who played for the Egerton University team. She was taller than me and had these dreamy eyes that I still see from time to time, when am high. She walked with a bounce and wore singlets that let me see her sports bra underneath. Her voice often sounded sweet even when she scolded me for taking three steps instead of two during the lay-up. She was my second ever crush. I had just cleared my Form one studies. And was somewhat convinced I had a shot with her. I was wrong!
He had come to the pitch in a white Toyota Corolla belonging to his older brother. That brother now works for MTN in South Africa. He was sipping Redds from a can and his brother was kissing a bottle of Tusker. They had parked near the pavilion and opened all doors and the bonnet. Hip-hop music blasted from the car speakers. Entertaining the pitch and making the place feel like Harlem or the Bronx. I did not give a shit about the genre yet. The only Hip-hop song I knew then was 50 Cent’s “Many Men.” I still like it to this very day. Hip-hop, just like basketball, would come to grow on me over the next couple of years. Then I grew out of it. His brother was doing his masters in Engineering at the University of Dar-es-Salaam at the time. Tall chap with deep chestnut skin. They both spotted nice Air Jordan sneakers that must have cost no less than 5,000 a pair. I was amazed.
He was not much of a basketball player. But he lived the life of Allen Iverson. Complete with a headband and gold-colored grills holding his front teeth. I found him interesting and odd. He talked with an air of pride that not many would have noticed. Many on that pitch were nearly as proud as he was. We lost touch over the years, as I got better at basketball, and he did whatever it is he did. The next time I saw him, I was in my third year of campo, playing 3-on-3 with a bunch of entitled kids – many who thought the world revolved around them. It was a slow Saturday morning and I was too broke to go drinking. I had not recognized him at first. But then I heard one of the kids shout his name. The braces were gone. He was considerably taller, and bulkier. He was driving his mother’s RAV4. He clearly was entertaining a hangover. His breath smelled like my high school chemistry laboratory. He was nicely dressed. His cologne must have cost more than my year’s hostel rent. And his watch, close to my two year tuition fees. His game had not improved much; he still shot babies (that’s a B-ball term).
I introduced myself and he somehow remembered how terrible I had been at the game. He laughed. And offered to buy me a drink. He was headed to town later. It would be the first time I rode in a RAV4. He drove like a maniac, and bullied other motorists. He laughed like the Wizard of Oz. A deep throaty sound that ended in a light hiss. We landed at Rafikiz in the dying minutes of 6 p.m. The bouncers knew him. So did the waiters and waitresses. That would be the first time I ever drank Sky Infusion. He got louder with each successive mouthful of vodka. And predictably rowdier. I did not mind. I was a groupie, drinking from the generosity of his palms. A few girls milled around the table. Two or three even kissed him. And got cans of Black Ice in return. He told me stories that made little sense. The night ended and we lost touch again. For almost two years.
The next time I saw him, he was running his father’s farming business in Naivasha and often pulled wads of crisp-only-once-folded-smiling-Kenyatta-thousand-bob notes. He asked me for my number. And called me a few days later to get together. We painted Platinum 7D silver that night. I recall him offering to pay a girl to show me a good time. I politely declined. That would have been emasculating, right? Drinks flowed, and I mostly kept quiet because I knew I didn’t belong to that table. Some of his friends would later join us. We drank till about one thirty in the morning. They wanted to drive to Taidys. I fronted some flimsy excuse. He footed the bill. Close to sixteen gees. I hailed a tuk-tuk and took my tired and sleepy ass home. He called me the following afternoon, then drove over to my place. It was Saturday. I had company. We drank Grants and ate the full chicken he had brought. And made a great deal of noise for the neighbors. Then he drove away. He would drop by a number of times after that. Often with liquor. Sometimes to take me out. I never once saw his girlfriend. I heard rumors. I did not care.
One day he stopped calling. I was sad, and disappointed. Mostly relieved however. He had always been out of my league. I still saw him on Facebook. And on WhatsApp. Posting photos of lively nights in Mombasa, or Nanyuki or Malindi. Sometimes in Naivasha or Kisumu. He moved to Nairobi, and the frequency of the posts increased. I ran into him at a Prinsloo Rugby tournament a while later. He had a Range Rover and was drinking Black Label from the bottle. It would be the first time I savored both. We partied a bit and he dropped me home then drove away. I haven’t seen him since. Early last year I heard he drove his father’s Range Rover into the stone-hedge of his family compound.