It’s three o’clock on a tired Thursday afternoon.
He sits slumped in his chair.
It is one of those cane chairs that are made by real artists. Who sit on stools in the shade in Shanzu. And speak Kiswahili with a Muranga accent.
The chair is great. He is not. He is tired. Lately he is always tired. He may not have slept well last night. Or maybe he is hangover. Most likely both. His eyes are red; a deep kind of red, like Sunfresh tomato sauce. He is in nothing but boxers and a black vest. He used to play basketball back in the day. He doesn’t anymore. Lately, he sits alone a lot. He is becoming an introvert. Or maybe a serial killer. His gait is that of an old mzee whose life is on the homestretch. He stares at his laptop blankly. It is his source of livelihood. He is one of those creative types who will mine coins from the internet. It’s a grueling task. But he enjoys it. Rather used to enjoy it. Now, he says it’s dull and boring.
The last meal he had was yesterday’s lunch; potato crisps and half a bottle of Coca-Cola. He is too lazy to cook. He rarely eats meat anymore. A bottle of Captain Morgan lies next to the couch, half finished. He will finish it before the day ends. And get some more. He will also go out for more weed, he says. They sell it in bulk here. You buy your own paper, and roll your own joints. He smokes a lot more these days. He never used to smoke cigarettes (the occasional Dunhill doesn’t count, right?). Now he even does Rooster. You know someone has given up when they start smoking Rooster. It means he no longer smokes for fun. Does it to feed the addiction. It’s a habit he doesn’t like, he confides in me. He wants to quit, but he cannot. So he tries to hide it. Brushes his teeth all the damn time. Never runs out of air freshener. Always chews some gum with strong mint. He does a good job of hiding it. A little of yesterday’s supply of blunts is very neatly tucked away in the bookshelf standing near the couch.
His house is immaculate. Impeccably clean and thoroughly organized. The black couch with red throw pillows matches the black and red rug. I notice that the big Samsung TV he had is gone, in its place is a smaller off-brand one that looks sad. He says he wanted to read more. So he downgraded.
I don’t believe him.
The books and magazines on the bookshelf are arranged so nicely I get a headache just looking at them. He doesn’t like being untidy. Something about late onset OCD. His parents’ place is the same way. Neat as heaven.
I look at him.
He avoids eye contact.
I ask him for a glass of water. He reluctantly offers (he was nearer to the dispenser). I try to draw the curtains. He asks me not to. I do anyway.
He has lost weight. I can tell. He used to be bigger and more muscular. He does not smile as much as he used to. His sentences are much shorter now. And more labored. Fingernails are still neatly trimmed. Just like they were back then. Just a lot blacker -with soot. His cologne is much more irritating now (and predictably cheaper). Probably hiding the smell of Roosters. The music is dull (and depressing). The kind you’d hear in a small kibanda somewhere in Rodi Township of Homa Bay County. You know Rodi, right?
His phone rings. He stares at it, and clicks. It’s his landlord. He is late, again. I notice it’s not the Samsung S6 he had a while back, it’s a sad looking Itel. The ringtone is still the same though, 50 Cent’s In da Club. He will ask to borrow a gee but I’ll only give him punch even though I know where he’ll spend it. He is still my friend after all. And I don’t judge.
The girlfriend left him about five weeks back. She said he had started going cuckoo. He insists he is fine.
“The bitch didn’t even matter that much.” He hisses.
It’s actually that “bitch” who called and told me to check on him. But I don’t tell him that. She admitted she would have talked to him herself if not for his temperament. He’s become a lot more sensitive these days. Takes offence at the slightest of jokes. He once hit a guy for talking to her in a bar, she told me. Had his ass handed to him pretty good by the other guy and his colleagues (they were three army guys).
“It was very humiliating,” Nancy had confided in me.
He tells a different tale. Says he beat the guy before some bouncers came to his rescue.
I know which side I believe. But I keep that to myself.
He and Nancy had been dating on and off since college. We had always known she was out of his league. It may not have been very obvious to him, but we knew. And told him on several occasions. He never thought so. Anyway, who were we to judge? They looked good together though. She looked like an angel, had the amazing legs of Denyque and the smile of Yemi Alade. He looked like that Smart Joker guy on Churchill Live. She was taking Biochemistry, we were taking something to do with Karl Marx, Abraham Maslow and Adam Smith. He had met her at a party in their hostel; the expensive ones that we always made an effort to ‘skip’ because we didn’t belong. We were JAB admittees, surviving on HELB and our mothers’ prayers – and the occasional par diem earned from playing for the various university sports teams. She was self-sponsored even though she had scored a strong A-. Her father is still a partner at Deloitte & Touché and her mother a banker with I & M. Both his parents are teachers. (Am just saying).
I offer to go cook up something before we can go out later in the evening. He mumbles inaudibly. I go to the kitchen anyway. The place is neat and organized. The sink is clean. Not a dirty dish. Not a thing out of place. The kitchen smells of lavender, and the ocean. His grains are labelled; flour, wheat, rice. I find it a little sad. The fridge is empty. So is the dustbin. He still maintains his cleanliness. I manage to find, and whip up some eggs. A sad and depressing waft of Rooster smoke welcomes me back to the living room…