There are things that I have made my peace with. Things that I will never understand, but I have learned to accept because, honestly, they are none of my business. But that does not mean they do not fascinate me, you know? Take tongue piercings, for instance. I try to imagine how a human being can decide to pierce their tongue. The pain is unfathomable to me. Personally, I cannot take super piping hot tea without blinking tears from my eyes. So imagine sticking out your tongue for somebody to crucify! Damn. How do people with tongue rings even click? How do they, uhm, talk to the mic, you know, check check 1-2 1-2, before chudex?
But tongue piercings are not the only thing that blow my mind. There are these people called ‘wine aficionados’ (I wonder , though, about the the fool who called them that, instead of ‘winos’). I was reminded of such people the other day at Utamu Restaurant. We were there for a group dinner. As usual, my plus one was Jaber, and sitting with us at the dinner table was Rayhab Gachango (you may know her as Potentash) and her friend. So the waiter comes to take our drinks orders. The chicks say they want sweet wine. To me, it would not have made a difference if they ordered Delmonte spiced with a hint of Konyagi. I mean, is there any difference between the two, really?
I ask for beer. Cold.
The waiter comes with the drinks. My Heineken is brought with a chilled glass that looks like it is exhaling smoke. He opens it so gently that the beer opens with a sigh. Then he turns to the ladies and asks, “Who ordered the wine?”
We all look at one another, confused. They all did. It was a consensus. Rayhab tell him, “Sisi wote.”
“OK, but there has to be the one who chose the wine.”
“Ooooh. It was her,” Rayhab says, pointing at Jaber.
At this point I am quite concerned because it sounds as if the person who ordered the wine did something wrong. So I ask him,”Why? Is there a problem?”
“No. None at all. It is just that there is a way in which we serve the wine,” he responds, walking over to my girlfriend. Then he does this thing where he presents the bottle to her, asking if it is the right one. He has a white cloth on his arm which he places on his palm, then lays the bottle on top of it and shows it to her. The way he presents it, you would think that bottle of wine is the one that Jesus served at the last supper. He handles it with such veneration. He makes it look like something so delicate, so fragile, like the egos of some of these Facebook narcissists.
She nods and then he proceeds to open it. When he pours it, it is with respect. One hand holding the bottle at the base, the other hand behind his back. And he pours the damn alcohol with a smile. For a moment there I wonder whether we are fine dining at a seven star hotel, or at Utamu, inside Tune Hotel, the three star budget lodge on Rhapta Road. I looked at Jaber’s face beaming in that kind of way that it usually does when she is confused as to whether she is impressed or she is blushing. And I have to admit that I feel a little jealous. Just a little.
But that is besides the point.
My point is, I can never get it with wine people. I cannot ever see myself being a wine person. They have turned something as banal as consumption of alcohol into a procedural thing. Yaani, having a drink almost becomes as tedious as applying for a VISA.
Anyone who has drunk with serious wine people have been subjected to the spectacle of watching wine being served properly. Jaber has this friend who stays in Dubai. When she is in town, they always have to meet. Last time she was here, we went out for drinks and I got to experience first hand how wine is supposed to be consumed.
First of all, it is presented. The waiter shows her the bottle, whispering to her all manner of details about the wine. They have a conversation. They talk about where the wine is from and how old it is. It is called vintage. They chat about when the grapes were harvested; was it in the afternoon or morning? What kind of farmer is this? Does he have children? Does he scratch his balls when he wakes up in the morning? What are his thoughts on abortion? Pro-life or pro choice? Does he have a beard or is his chin an airport? Does he think climate change is real or it is an invention of the Chinese? Speaking of climate, what time of the year was the wine made? Was it summer or fall? And the political climate? Was it before or after Aleppo? And the water that was used to make the wine – was it rain water, tap water or from the borehole? Does this farmer’s daughter have a tongue piercing and coloured hair, or is she an independent corporate career woman who wears monotone pantsuits and governs her hair into an austere do every morning? And lastly, what is this family’s blood group?
Oh, they talk. For a while. After that, the waiter pours a little of this wine into the glass. And this is where it gets interesting.
First she swirls the glass while holding it up into the air against the light to examine what colour the wine is. Because, I imagine, wine people are woke enough to taste colour. Then she smells it. Not in the way we smell clothes to check whether they are clean enough to be worn again without people noticing. Uh-uh. She brings the glass under her nose, and then inhales. It is only after all this that she can now taste the wine. Taste, not drink. She sips a little, swishes it around her mouth as if it is mouthwash and then swallows.
It is only after this that she tells the waiter whether or not the wine is good enough. How do you know whether the wine is good? I do not know. I did not understand her when she tried to explain it. She talks about wine as if it is a living thing. Ati the wine has character. Which does not make sense to me. Hell, she can smell the ingredients in the wine and say shit like, “I smell oak.” Trying to understand this woman is like trying to, well, understand women. It is impossible. And you know what? She has a tongue piercing too!
Presently, the waiter pours the wine for the rest of the girls. I look at my beer and wonder why we beer people never fret about the origin of the beer we drink. Why we just do not give a fuck. What does that say about us? Is it reflective of the way we live our lives? Carefree. Not paying attention to details. Will I be a terrible father because, after years of drinking beer, I have developed the type of personality that does not give a bat’s cold nipple about the little things in life that matter, like my kid’s birthday or my marriage’s anniversary? Do we need to do better as a community, fellow beer people?
I mean, come to think of it.
Most of the time we just open the damn beer and drink straight from the bottle or can. And when we want to feel a little sophisticated, we drink from a chilled glass. Which is still taking things too far. Because at the local, you see men pour kidogo alcohol in the glass to rinse it first, so as to remove any potential mcheles. Then they pour the rest until the glass wears a white foam at the top like old hair.
I did not drink much that night, even after the sirloin steak was sitting square in my belly like a rock. I was a caught up in a bit of introspection from then on, not really about alcohol, but about life. It started with me marveling at how wine aficionados make me feel less, but then it moved to other things. It is like when you get on the internet to watch a clip on YouTube, a song perhaps. Then you click on related videos which somehow export you to a completely different segment. Before you know it, alas! you are watching Dr. Pimple Popper excavating an enormous lipoma from a patient’s back.
I was distracted when we went out with Rayhab and her friend that night. Even when Rayhab bought us a round at Vineyard – which is just across the road from Tune – I was there without being present. When we moved to Privee and found no seats, I was a bit relieved because it meant that we could not stay for long. Later on that night, back in the hotel room, with Tom Mboya’s paintings staring at us from the wall, we got into bed. There had been a prospect of planned chudex, but then Tune Hotels have these really comfy beds that swallow you the moment you slide inside the duvet. The beds have mattresses from Dr. Mattresses, which apparently, is approved by the Queen of England herself. Such regal comfort can ease a troubled mind into rest.
And so when I fell asleep, it did not even hurt.