Way Back When…

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Depending on where, and with whom, I had spent the previous night or two, I would walk into my house either on Saturday or Sunday morning.

Of course the house would have spent the night by itself.

If I had spent the night with female company, I would stroll into the compound nodding along to an upbeat tune, feeling refreshed and well fed and satisfied; often with much of my money still intact and my clothes clean. If I had spent the night in the company of males, I would stumble into the house with a terrible headache and nothing but thirteen shillings in my pocket. Struggling to recall how I blew up my week’s upkeep in one night. And chewing gum to help me not smell like a distillery.  I don’t have to tell you that the second scenario was much more frequent than the first. Female company was hard to come by and even harder to maintain. Male company was as easy as catching a pint every week or every other week – depending on the favor of God upon my pockets.

I lived for those weekends.


Often, I clearly recall, before the night outs, I would have told myself that I’d get just one drink then head home. And sure as am black, I was always wrong. The one-bottle-then-I-head-home theory has never been right. It has been disproved time and again. Even by the best of men. It just doesn’t work. Never. I would wake up the following morning at 9 or 10, on Kimani’s carpet, with a biting headache, his two-year old daughter staring at me with a great deal of pity. I think she might have assumed I was a mad man. She found me lying there on the carpet more than once. She called me “Uncle Mkubwa.” Because I was bigger (not older) than her father. His wife would prepare me some breakfast which I would be too hangover to enjoy. And the hot tea would burn the taste right out of my tongue. I can still remember the shame with which I would hold the cup in my hand. Feeling the girl and her mother staring at me. Kimani still snoring away in his bedroom.


Those drunken weekends often started out at the end of otherwise normal weeks. You know, chasing clients, and some tail while at it. Arguing with a client here and another there. Having to go back to another because they wrote a bad cheque. And begging another to write me a cheque that matures within the week instead of within the month. God would often answer my prayers and I’d find a client who wrote cheques maturing in less than 24 hours. It would be Thursday and so my weekend would have been sorted. On Friday, we would mark our time in the office, looking down at the vehicles stuck in the afternoon jam. Wishing we were in one of them, headed away from town. Because town was never fun during the night. The clubs there were overrated. The clock would strike four and Kimani would be the first to leave. “Going to the press” he would tell the boss. I would follow about ten minutes later “going to see a client.” The boss definitely used to see right through those excuses.


We would rendezvous at this bar that serves the most blessed goat meat – wet fry of course. And drink a Pilsner each before finding our way out east. We would then start off at 7D by drinking a bottle each, and then another, and then a shot of some overpriced whisky, then more bottles. Then he would trip on someone’s leg, in a drunken huff. And threaten the victim that his bodyguard (that would be me) would beat them up if they ‘leta nyokonyoko…’ And I would stare at the victim with great meanness. Trying to look intimidating and all the while struggling not to laugh out loud. Most times it worked, other times the situation escalated. But never to actual brawls. I would never allow it to go that far. Bar brawls are for teenagers and lower apes. By midnight we would be so hammered, Kimani would be trying to sing “Kanungo” in a terrible, terrible Kirinyaga accent. (He always loved that song. I still haven’t figured out why).


Sometimes he would pass out at the table. Especially if we had come into some unexpected money and had to drink more whisky than usual. And I would have to carry his small behind into a tuk-tuk, or a taxi depending on whether he or his wife would be sorting out the ride. I never paid for those rides because well, I was his bodyguard. Plus he was older than me. All the way home, he would be quiet. Though sometimes he found the strength to tell me how and why he is “…the man.” On the rarest of instances when he was really hammered, and not yet passed out, he would tell me how he loved me more than his own brother. (Oh, how emotional some men get when they drink too much!!!).


I would feel my consciousness ooze away as I sat on the carpet in his sitting room while his wife prepared us supper (At one in the night!) Kimani, now oscillating between consciousness and craziness, would be trying to sing very awful renditions of Sauti Sol’s “Sura Yako” at the top of his lungs. Whether he was trying to serenade his wife or not, I never could tell. Quite a lovely woman the wife was; with a soft motherly voice that always made me feel guilty for drinking too much. I couldn’t really tell whether she pitied me or hated me. It was hard to discern. She must have thought I was a bad influence on her husband. Or must have felt sorry for me because all I had to go drinking with was a married man. Drinking with married men is no fun, but with Kimani it was always something else.


The following morning I would wake up and apologize to the wife then find the best excuse to leave. But never before her hot tea scathed my tongue. I would catch a matatu back to me place, with my loneliness in tow. Having pissed away all my money against a wall in those East side clubs the previous night. All the while telling myself never again.




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