“ So, what are you?” I knew I was bait when she asked this question. I look at her again. I am a little tipsy as of now, but still it’s early in the night. Listen, I don’t know her name, I don’t even want to, but it was Friday, and Friday is when you leave the office at five, straight for the bars and clubs. That is the gospel according to Nairobi diaries.
I want to answer. I am a lawyer, my suit sells me out. It’s a three piece, Carnali, a bit old because I bought it when I was doing clinical externship in my third year of campus. You know, guys think that lawyers have cash, but we don’t. The old ones probably do, but they are as mean as Luhya gizzards. You can die working for them for small cash. But you don’t say that, we are still loved. I want to talk to her, the night is still young. If all goes well we might retire to my ka one bedroom stuck out somewhere in Rongai. But when I open my mouth to impress her with the `Pontius Pilate` talk that young lawyers don on their sleeves, I hiccup, hard. And yes we are proud, you ask us a mundane question like “are you single?” and we have to perambulate in the jargon of legal technicalities, past entities, aggravated assault blab bla bla. No wonder we are all single like our briefcases.
“Chill niende choo kiasi ntarudi.” I need to get a grip on my tongue. Whenever am this drunk it slips like a condom (I didn’t say that). I stagger from the tall stools they have in have in all joints. Why can’t they also accommodate short men like me, since we drink the most? Past a couple of other guys drunker than me. “Oya (hic), lawyer (hic), si utuachie ka (hic) chupa ya kufunga giza?” that is another drunk man`s gospel, especially when its February, and your pockets are still stuck in January. I don’t feel like buying anyone a drink, somehow when you do so they always suck you into their tales to start invigorating you with their half-baked political analysis and footballing tales, punctuated by requests of “ waiter niongezee keg kwa bill ya lawyer apa!”
I think Bob Marley`s song was blaring over the speakers when I staggered into the gents room. It was his birthday too. So I stumble and shuffle my feet into the tiny room. Let me tell you something, ladies, you should respect your men. You have never been to a gent’s room in Nairobi, especially in a bar. The stench hits you from the outside, it’s acrid, and stinging like a conductors armpits, or changaa as it goes down your throat. But we have no option; we are always drunk when we need to take a piss. First sight is the “urinal”. It’s nothing big; it’s only a wall, usually with its white tiles turning brown, with a small kamtaro somewhere where you need to aim with precision from a thousand kilometers away. And the troubles, when you enter, and find a guy at the other corner, you take the furthest corner. If they are two, you stand behind them to wait., and you never look at each other`s eyes or what they carry below the belt, ever! And you don’t talk, that might just be taken for sarcasm, or jest.
I am `kazwad` as hell. But ahead of me are a bunch of guys who seem to take pride in their peeing. I think they have been taking tusker cider, or guarana, those light light drinks that never get you drunk but fill your bowels. And they are three, I have to wait, until the two, who are trying to outcompete each other in singing their rendition of Bob Marley`s song, then wait for the next one to take up my position for my two minutes of fame. They take forever, these guys. Seems they have rivers of liquid deep down. Somewhere in between they stop singing, and start discussing which of the `ladies` each will take home. All the while am stuck, shuffling, shifting my wait from side to side like a footballer preparing to take a spot kick. It drags on and one. They even have the guts to argue about who has taken the `mali Safi` of the ladies. I lose hope of ever peeing, I am turning to go, when they also decide to leave, the two zipping up their pants and bending to confirm whether they have zipped up correctly. The third wasn’t even doing anything; he was acting as escort apparently!
Man has to pee, you know. I do my thing; there is nothing to regal you about it. Its “churrr, shake after use, zip and go.” Nothing to write home about. I am slightly soberer than I came in; I even have the guts to think to think I can stand on the left leg without falling. But I don’t want to try that, last time I did it I ended up slipping and falling on the road. No, I refuse to say that I was drunk. That was a product on involuntary intoxication leading to insane delusions and temporary insanity. Yes, objection overruled? You see, am so very sober, I can even talk in lawyer language. Yes, your objection is sustained. Let me go back to the girl.
There is nothing ravishing or extreme about her. She talks in that lilting and excruciating mix of Kiswahili and English, which they don’t pass for sheng, that wants to scream “ I am from kilimani!” when you live in some bedsitter in Umoja. I am not intending to investigate her. She`s shalolo0w, like real shallow. I want to compare her depth of knowledge to that of Nairobi River without the sewage. Somewhere between inexistential and hardly there. She says she works as a model, which I don’t believe. Doesn’t modeling require someone taller than me? She’s having her fair share of troubles with the `sina tabu` seat that I was complaining about. She does it with grace, though. Every time she slips from it, she stands up. Stretches the skirt that is shorter than short, orders another drink and climbs back on. Look, I am not saying it was comical, I am just saying….. I hope the drinks are not on my bills though.
She swallows “makali” faster than I do. I want to think that that is part for gender equality or something. I am regaling her wth courtroom tales all the while, sipping my drinks at a moderate and gentlemanly speed, because I don’t want to look like a general `fisi` out there, but a lawyer `fisi`. She’s laughing, giggling, smiling, though I know too well she doesn’t know what damnum sine injuria and habeas corpus are. But somehow I have to keep up the presence, be the perfect gentleman. You know my dry spell has been too long it’s almost got to be climate change or something.
Somehow I want to start the idea that we should retire to some `better` place. I am always stating like “hey, how about…” and her worship goes like “just one more.’ I have been doing the same for an hour now.it has become poetic. Suddenly she stands up, no, stands down. Her makeup is messed, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She is drunk, so drunk that she walks straight into me when I climb down from the height of the stool.” Can’t we go to some other place?” my head stands up, not the head above my shoulders that is.
I am slightly elated. I have hit the jackpot for the night. I pay the bill in a hurry. Even when I realize I don’t have enough cash I beg the bartender with my eyes, and words that I will pay tomorrow. He lets me go, I am a local here I should buy shares in its ownership. But m drunk too, and excited in some ways. I can’t stop the grin. I feel like singing along to Eminem`s River, not because it applies to the situation but because it is my favorite song. I step in to the road; a taxi is parked, almost as if it was ready for me. The window slides down, I am thinking about the fare, and how much is left of my pockets. She beckons; I don’t have a choice but to follow. Am on autopilot I think.
Door opens, as if from a will beyond my hands. This sounds like juju. But am not letting `bahati mzuri` fly away. I will have a one night stand, for the first time, a one night stand. It feels like the time someone took your virginity, remember? But when I get in, when the door slams with some finality, when I look out of the window, when the driver asks “Oya, boss mpaka wapi?” I get a chance to look at her with some sense in my head. Her make up isn’t that good; her hair isn’t that good on her either, her nails are shredded around the edges like a bread knife. Apa nimecheswaaa. And that head, and the hands, they look like mine. This isn’t what I bargained for. She is a man! Or he is a woman.