Wednesday. Dusk. The sun is taking a dip, going down the horizon, taking with it the exams. I’m standing outside Taifa hall in a slight blue t-shirt, breathing in the serene air, listening to the gushing sound of the fountain. I’ve just finished my exams and I feel light. I figure I’ll be drinking Tusker Lite today, there’s just somethings that just go together. Unquestioned analogies. I’ll be drinking it cold and straight out of the bottle so I can feel the beer gushing just like the fountain. It’s been a hectic semester and I’m just glad I’m done and in one piece. The exams have sapped me of all my mental energy. I couldn’t even think up a reason to validate my existence if it depended on it. But all’s well that ends well. Maybe I might have missed a CAT or two, copy pasted a couple of assignments, failed to hand in a term paper but they’ll be time to think about that. I’m not even thinking of the ruthless Psychology paper I just sat. Freud can hang dry at some German hill for all I care. What I need is a ciggie, because it’s colder than a witch’s tit and because I need to get settled, curb the restlessness if you please. I was among the first to hand in my paper, not that I found it easy, blood, but because I could not bullshit anymore. I mean, there’s a cap to these things, no? A limit beyond which you’ll just be insulting the lecturer’s intelligence. But that means I’ll have to wait for the squad to finish. No matter, I’ll watch the girls stream by as I chill.
Now, you might know this about me, from the way I walk about town, or how unkempt my hair always is, or because you saw me on the queue at Odeon, but I am a student at the University of Nairobi. Yessir. I just love how that rolls of the tongue. UoN. The prestigious institution. Or as the ads always insist, “a world-class institution.” Which I’ll assure you is a whole load of bullshit. There’s nothing world class around here. But we do have history, and I’ll pick history over novelty all day. The University of Nairobi has been around a long time. Only thing that’s older than the school is KANU’s cockerel. But there’s nothing much here to keep me interested. Definitely not these chicks streaming out of the hall. Not enough ladies, not the one that uplifts my spirits. I reckon I should have joined Maseno or something or even at some place near the border where I could always cross over to M7’s domain and sample exotic birds. Being a student in the capital is hard enough as it is and its even more unbearable when you don’t have enough cash to take respite in.
Life here does not come cheap and there’s still people trying to fleece you. By people I mean thieves, pickpockets, conmen and of course, cops. Popo. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the popo and usually, they frisk then frisk me. If had a thao for every time the popo tried to fleece me I’d still have nothing, they would’ve taken it all.
Jamo and Nottingham come out at last. I’m pissed.
“Saa juu mmekaa sana hivo mnadhani mnapata A,” I spit.
“Relax morio, I was seated with some other smart kachic, nikikosa kupita huyo lec ni hater,” that’s Jamo. He’s all smiles. I have never known how he manages to get chicks to do his assignments and show him their answers – the lucky bastard. Nottingham, on the other hand, does not look too happy and I have an inkling why. We hit the smoking zone at Jevanjee and draw up battle plans through rings of smoke, how we are going to kill the night, celebrate the end of the semester. Everyone has differing opinions. Jamo wants us to go RnB at Westie, Nott is up for some joint at LA and I’m insistent on kicking it at the local.
“Guys, let’s go get a bottie first, that should show us the way,” Nott says and as we are not ones to turn down liquor, we praise his thoughtfulness and pop into Lifestyle. We get a bottle of Best Whiskey and take shots right outside the mall. Our star from the East, guide us home. The star guides us instead to club Mist, tucked safely inside my trench coat, away from the prying hands of the bouncer. We sit by the balcony, overlooking Tom Mboya and order rounds of Tusker which is just a cover up because the whiskey is what we are really imbibing and we can’t buy whiskey in a club. We are as cheap as they come. Why would we get a bottle at 1500 in a club if we could get it at 600 in a decent wines and spirits? If clubs want us to buy liquor they should lower their prices, its logic. Otherwise, we’ll keep sneaking in botties and if the bouncers catch us, well, we’ll just cough up an extra 200 to grease his big ass palm.
The rounds are coming in fast and peeps are getting drunker and drunker with each round. Nott is getting down with some chic to a kikuyu jig, who’s determined to grind his crotch to nothingness, or all the way to Nottingham, while Jamo’s jabbering on about the world wars and other stuff I don’t care about.
“Let’s go to Westie you guys bana!” Nott comes over shouting. We’ve been at Mist long, it’s almost one.
“Where are we gonna get a mat to Westie at this time man?” I ask.
“Easy, we’ll get a cab” It’s Nott again.
“Cabs are expensive man, kwani leo umeosa aje? Plus, we can’t go walking around at this time, the cops will be onto us,” Jamo counters.
It seems like a dead end. A cab is the only way out but Nairobi cabbies are extortionists. They charge higher fares, as if the cab comes with an Eritrean masseuse. And then there is that thing about when there is traffic, or whenever it starts to rain, prices go up. Costs are never constant, they are like graphs in a hospital monitor – always going up and down. Unreliable as fuck!
“Guys, check out this app,” I say, fiddling with my phone, “Little App, comes right to your doorstep. Let me check where the nearest driver is.”
“How much does this cost man because there’s no pint riding around like dons then later on we have no money for liquor…” I say.
“Easy, you guy. It’s only 55 bob a kilometer and 4 bob per minute. There’s even free wi-fi, we could download that new Desiigner song on the way, then get the driver to play it. C’mon you guys, nearest driver is seven minutes away, what do you say?” He’s all smiles. He knows he has us. He knows this will be our way of shuffling between clubs and we’ll owe it him, the smug SOB.
“Let’s do the math first,” That’s me, always in check of my finances. “ Westie is about ten kilometres tops right? So that ten times fifty five, five fifty. Then we can’t be on the road more than fifteen minutes, there’s no traffic, so that’s ninety bob, totals 640. There’s three of us so everyone’s coughing up two hundred bob. Mmmh, not bad. Order the cab.”
What these fellas do not understand about Little Cabs is that every time I use it, I stand a chance to win 500 bob back. So in as much as I am coercing them, and saying that we can split the fare, there is a fat chance that I will get back my money two times over! Sneaky, yes, but at the end of the day, this is Nairobi. Everyone is looking out for himself.
With that decided, we take our last swigs and head down to the alley where we’ll await the cab to ferry us to our destination- Westlands, or as is more appropriate given our mission, Wastelands.