I need you to do me a favour. I need you to, for the sake of this story, imagine that you are somebody else; a young man in his mid twenties, with a chipped tooth and flaming red hair that sits on his head like a rooster’s comb. You are at Club Mist in town on an early Friday evening, and next to you are two empty seats. It was not your idea to go out today because it is that time of your month when everything is on a roundabout, never mind that it is end month. Being a freelancer means that you do not know the joys that come with having constant pay at the rise of every new moon. But for guys like your friend Pato, it means something completely different. That is why he called you and said, “Goon! Vipi bana? Si tukutane Mist tukunywe kamoja tu?”
Because you know Pato, you also know that there is no such thing as ‘kamoja tu’, and so you say no at first. But then he insists and says drinks will be on him; a mouth watering offer which you pretend to begrudgingly accept. “Haiya basi. Tupatane 7?”
It is now 7.30. In front of you is a CocaCola you ordered thirty minutes ago. You are fiddling with your phone and realise that you haven’t rated the cab driver who brought you to tao. You tap on the fifth star and ignore the question about what displeased you most about the ride, because it is irrelevant to you. Given your fiscal (always wanted to use that word) position, you would not have taken a cab, but then Little Cab had that offer where they gave a 500 bob discount on rides that Friday. Quick Math; a cab ride from your place to tao would be between 480 and 530 bob. In the worst possible scenario, you would only have to pay 30 bob. But then in actual fact, the ride cost 510 bob. You did not take a taxi because you had money. You only took it because it is good math.
Fifteen minutes later, you call Pato and he says his boss gave him one of those annoying last minute joboz to sijui draft a plaint for a new client, so how about you give him an hour? You say sawa. Because in your pocket you only have a kathao that is supposed to be your supper and transport back to the diggz, you order another Coke and start sipping. Slower, this time. Eyes fixated on the TV that is showing a different music video from the song that is spilling from the speakers. As time goes by and darkness creeps in, the music gets louder and the club begins to fill. You decide to book him a seat. You take off your jacket and place it on the chair next to you.
It is not until an hour later, when you are almost finishing your soda and the straw you were sipping on is almost chewed through, that your boy walks in. You know these lawyer types; always in a suit even at the club. He is wearing the grey one. The top button of his shirt is unbuttoned and the black tie is hanging a few inches lower. He looks like someone who has just been sentenced to death by hanging, waiting for a priest to pray for him before he is dangled on a stage. At first, when he appears, you do not pay any attention to the chick next to him. You get up, give him one of those man hugs that involves shoulders tapping and backs being slapped painfully as if there was a mosquito on it, for which he has a warrant to kill. Then he turns to her and says, “G, this is Brenda. Remember her?” You had not noticed they were together.
Of course you remember Brenda. Who doesn’t? She was in Module 2 in the year behind you guys in campo, but you never really spoke. Regally good looking. Pillowy lips. Wore her hair in a knot that caressed the nape of her neck. And when she spoke, you could tell her passport had been touched by immigration officers. Rumours in campo said she was the scion to a family with the kind of money that buys loyalty.
“Oh yeah. Brenda. From Parkie, right?” you say, extending your hand. “It’s been long.” You say that simply as a matter of common courtesy, not fact.
“Yeah. How have you been? Blogging treating you good?” she asks.
“I am not complaining.”
You notice the softness of her palms, among other things, like the way she still ties her hair. She is wearing a brown skirt suit. Not so high heels, sparse make up, except for some lip gloss and eye shadow. When she sits down next to Pato, she does that thing that chicks do where she sort of wipes her ass with her palms before sitting. It has always amused you, when girls do that. It is weird. We dudes just sit. But girls have to wipe their asses first.
Brenda sits with her legs crossed and then leans close to Pato.
“You guys are together now?” you ask nobody in particular. Four startled eyeballs stare back. “At the same law firm, I mean. You work together?”
“Eeeeeh bana. She joined us like a month or so ago.” Pato replies and then holds her hand, then strokes it gently with his thumb. She smiles.
“You finished that plaint you were drafting?” you ask him.
“Ah, never mind.”
Small talk is useless.
A waitress comes and takes away your empty bottle of Coke. She asks if you would like another and you say no. “Beer please. Tusker baridi.” Pato asks for the same, while Brenda orders a Black Ice. The bottles come pretty fast. It is incredible, however, how when you order for beer at a club, the waitresses always bring two. It is almost second nature for them. And then they rush to open the first one, before slipping away and being swallowed into the madness of the night club.
The alcohol lubricates conversation. You observe the two. How Pato occasionally whispers something to her and she giggles. How she finishes some of his sentences. And how awfully close they sit next to each other. It is undeniable that they have something going on, which would be none of your business, except for the fact that you know Pato has a mama; Monique. Who you have taken to simply referring to as Mo.
Time ticks on. It is headed to ten. By now, the javs to your hood have stopped operating and there is no doubt you will have to cab home. Most likely, Little Cab, because the even though you already redeemed your discount for the day, their fare is resoundingly cheap. But midnight is still like an hour away and in front of you are two coworkers who have been smilingly doing much more than drafting plaints together. Sometime during the night, Brenda excuses herself from the table to go to the loo.
“Eish chief,” everyone likes to be called chief – the perfect endearing title to use when you want something. For example, in your situation, you want information. “So, what is going on with Brenda? What is the deal?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I am talking about.”
Pato laughs and burps.
“Aaah. This is just one of those things, you know. She is just a friend from jobo.”
“Boss, stop carrying me foolish bana. Unanyandua hii maneno?”
He laughs again, and takes another sip of his beer. And in that laugh, you have your response.
“Na Mo je? Kwani kumeendaje?”
He does not answer, and again, with the words that he leaves unsaid, he gives you your answer.
“Does Brenda know?”
“Of course she does.”
“And she is OK being a side chick?”
“Ah, weeh wacha story mob.”
Whenever someone evades questions like this, they are lying. They do not want to say anything, lest they say another lie that contradicts the first one. One lie is enough to question all truths. In this case, something tells you that Brenda does not know she is eating somebody else’s lunch. Poor thing probably thinks your boy is single, and surely, it is not your duty to correct this, because it is none of your business.
You live by an unwritten ordinance; that if your friend is fooling around, you do not get involved. That is his problem. He is a big boy. He understands what he is doing. The only thing you need is information. Is he fucking around or not? And who is he doing this with? So that when Mo calls you one day to ask where Pato is you cover for him by saying, “Pato is with me. Do not worry. We are having a boys’ night at my place. Usijali. I will bring him back to you kesho, good as new.” You say that, never mind the fact that you have no idea where Pato is. It is called covering up for your persons. You do that knowing that he would do the same for you. You have been having each other’s back since campo. He would give you his assignment on deadline day, you’d spice it up kidogo, change the font size, font type, page alignment, and then present it as your own. During exams you and your crew would sit in formation for the sake of refreshing memory.
Given this kind of history, there is no way you can climb onto a high horse and lecture Pato about cheating. You just let him be, but then one day pull him aside and ask him what the fuck is going on?
“I mean, If you are unhappy with Mo, si you guys just break up? There is no way a situation like that can end in any other way other than badly. Hoping that this will somehow work out is wishful thinking at best, and suicidal at worst. Crimes of passion have been committed for less.”
You go easy on him because inasmuch as he may be a bad boyfriend, Pato has always been a good friend. Excellent and reliable. To you, he is not so much an asshole, as he is simply a human being with his flaws. Truth is, you are yet to meet a man who cheated on his woman with the sole intent of hurting her. It just doesn’t figure at all. Cheating is always out of a need to satisfy a certain need – either emotional, sexual or physiological – that s/he has been deprived. Granted, some other circle-jerks may look at Pato and pass the death sentence, but not you. As a friend, you are bound by loyalty to stand by him. And if someday Mo was to catch him pants down (literally, perchance) and kick him out of their apartment, you would help him get a cab, pack his stuff into boxes and then give him your sofa to crash on as he figures out what to do next.
There must be a Bachelors Loyalty Pledge somewhere that provides for this.
Cheating is not just about screwing somebody else. The moment you find yourself deleting messages in secret and answering calls in hushed tones, then you’re already there.
On the flip side, if you were to see Mo with another dude, even if she is simply sitting and laughing in a way that you find only find suspicious and circumstantial, you would take out your phone, take a photo for evidence and then present it to Pato. You would snitch everything. Spare no quarter. You would prepare a detailed report that would be garlanded into national mythology.
“It was about an hour ago; exactly 2137Hrs GMT+3, Friday the 13th of April 2016. Location; Mercury ABC on Waiyaki Way. Latitude: -1.262968, Longitude: 36.764697. The night was clear and there was a crescent moon. The temperature of the atmosphere was at 17 degrees and the wind was blowing towards North North West at a steady speed of 15km/hr. From the look of things, her heart beat was slightly above 75 beats per second. She was wearing a black sequin dress that ended three inches above her knees. Black shoes, five inches high with red sole. Her lipstick and nail polish were painted fuschia pink; I am guessing #FF0080 on the HTML spectrum. She had three glasses of Four Cousins white wine and the distance between her and the dude was 2.35 feet. The man was light skinned, the colour of white coffee, sporting light stubble, seemingly in his early thirties, and wore a blue pin-striped blazer over a pair of sand brown khaki pants and brown Aldo loafers . From where I was seated, I could smell his cologne – definitely Hugo Boss. His heart rate was racing at 90 beats per second – irrefutable evidence indicating that his blood , for whatever reason, was rushing down south.
Professional Opinion: I smell bullshit.”
When it comes to your friend’s heart, do not negotiate with terrorists.
Anyway, back to Mist.
Brenda comes back from the ladies. They are all over each other, and this time you start to feel a tad uncomfortable. So you tell him you are going out for a drag, but then you duck and leave them there. You wonder why the hell he even called you for drinks in the first place. Was it to show you Brenda? For a moment there you had imagined that he had missed you and simply wanted to catch up. You take out your phone, tap on the Little app on your phone and order for a taxi. It is a bit after 11.30pm You are sure he is not going to even feel horrible about you skipping drinks, because, hey, a bird in hand is worth a friend in the streets, eh? Outside, the early September cold stings as if it is provided for in the constitution.
A driver pulls up next to you. You hop into the back seat and ask him to switch off the radio because the noise in the club has left you in need of utter silence. You connect your phone to the Little Hotspot Wi-Fi and as the engine purrs to life, the app begins to count my fare in real time. A breeze blows from the driver’s window, and at your request, he rolls up the window.
“Nikuwekee AC?” he asks.
Meanwhile, buildings and street lights start to pick up pace in the opposite direction.
Cover Photo Credits:
From the cover Image of A Side of Raunch by Abigail Arunga
Photographer: Jackie Chirchir