There is an Engen filling station along Parklands Road. It stands stoically opposite a kiosk which serves also an Mpesa stand as well as a payment counter for the ramshackle food den at the back. We call the owner of the shop ‘Fyf Baaab’ because every time you go to buy something from the kiosk he seldom has enough change, so he is fond of asking for five shilling coins to sought out his mathematics. But since he is kuyu, he says “Nipee fyf baaab nikupe hamsini”. I have met kuyus who mix up their ls and rs but this is the first one I know who says ‘Fyf baaaab’.
We prefer that shopkeeper Fyf Baaab. His goods are cheaper than those sold at Engen’s Quickshop. I once asked out of sheer curiosity how much the kawaida Trust Condoms are worth at Engen, and the guy at the counter, with all the courage and respect he could master for me, said they go for Ksh. 100. And no, Jemo, they do not come with German strippers in a hot Jacuzzi.
But ‘Fyf Baaab’ closes his shop early at 8pm because he stays in Lower Kabete, which when you come to think of it, is on the other nook of the world. So for those of us who do not cook in hostels, and do not cohabit with our girlfriends, we have to eat twice in the evening. Once at the school cafeteria where you pay eighty shillings for four pieces of beef the size of a quail egg’s york. And the next time is at 11pm.
I, particularly, have to eat twice because I have this condition that burns my stomach the second I feel hungry. It feels like raw acid corroding the walls of your gut. When that happens, a debilitating back pain comes to lend a hand to the stomach pains. These two musketeers will not let me sleep until something lands on my stomach. And they have standards too- no saliva, no water. They want solid food.
Some self-declared med experts studying law have said it’s a mild form of gastric ulcers. The good friends I keep suggest that I have been taking too much wine. I just think its hunger- a fussy kind of hunger that is determined to make me fat, never mind that my belly is already spilling slightly over my belt.
Because of this condition, I make a point to get fries from Engen’s food court every night. If I do not, the sting in my gut will not hold back from waking me up at 2am.
This past Monday I was with my mate Oscar. He is kind enough to escort me for my nightly food chasing, on condition that I get him a samosa every time. Which makes me wonder why lawyers call themselves ‘learned friends’- especially those of us still in training. Because we are neither ‘learned’ nor are we ‘friends’. You do not call yourself learned when you Google is your friend in exam room. As for friendship, what sort are those who demand payments in kind when their mates are dying from stomach aches? Learned friends my ass.
We are walking back to the hostels, talking of course about third year girls, and trying to find out why half of them are saved. While trying to solve this social conundrum, we meet this lassie. She is not from our campus, but we know her nonetheless. She is one of us by association, never mind that she is from Lower Kabete where our good friend Fyf Baaab hails from. We know her because she is a classmate’s squeeze. She is Mumbi.
I call her his squeeze because saying that she is his girlfriend would be a stretch. She comes and goes; yet when she is not around, the bed in his room still squeaks, and he still goes to shower with some other girl.
Since it would be unprofessional to mention his name, let’s call him Pete.
Pete is the kind of campus guy who plays rural girls like chess pieces on a board of his own making. On one morning, you will meet him coming from the shower, followed timidly by the shy Mumbi, and the next day, he will be heating water for another damsel. The chap has turned his room into a skeevy emporium where girls trade their bodies for a kiss and a smile, and he only deals with those who are willing to sell.
If you shoot enough pool and listen to enough talk, you will understand why his roommate dwells at the billiards table, gambling. That’ because he has been exiled by Pete. Dr. Ringding was not a qualified physician, but even he could tell that Pete is good at giving multivitamin shots.
Law books also have a name for Pete’s source of infamy- best legal euphemism ever for his shenanigans. It’s called nemo chudex est lungula sua. For all of you in boring courses, that will be Latin. It loosely translates to; “One has to travel and eat out before he enjoys home cooking.”
Remarkably, none of these girls know that Pete is playing away games- or maybe they know but they do not mind. Sharing is caring, right? He is from deep in Central Kenya, and he often advices the rest of us to get laid daily or else our equipment will become vestigial.
As a general rule, he doesn’t date girls from our campus. He likes his girls imported; better known as inter-county love. Most from his hometown in Meru while the rest are from neighbouring campuses like MKU, Inoorero etc.
We all love Pete, but we love his tales of conquest in Meru more. When we are bored, he storms in from nowhere and begins to amuse us with stories about how he was once a teacher after form four at a girls high school. That in his class, there were two ways of passing CATs i.e.: hard work or STM- sexually transmitted marks.
“Wengine hulia utadhani wanachinjwa,” he says of virgins who opted to the second choice. And when he tells these tales, you will forget about the impropriety of his unorthodox teaching methods, and laugh until your ribs start cry foul.
But out of all these girls Mumbi is the official squeeze. The one he has grown fond of so much. This should kind of send a message to all cadres of side chics, that men will rarely leave their girlfriends for you. That if he screws you without so much as dinner first, then you are just a booty call. Simple.
Now, back to Mumbi on the road.
She is looking at her phone, staring at it as if waiting for an Mpesa message starting with CONFIRMED. She is doodling with the keys on the touch pad like she has forgotten the number she wanted to call.
I offer her my packet of fries from Engen, and she declines. On hindsight, ‘decline’ would be too soft an adjective to describe her refusal to share my fries. She simply showed me her hand and the looked up from her phone to give me this look that exacerbated my stomach pains.
A careful squint in the dark revealed that she was barefoot, and that there were lines on her face, betraying the fact that she has been crying. Clearly, she has been fighting with Pete, and he kicked her out, or she stormed out. Either way, it was none of our business.
Now, there is a code that campus guys live by- it creates some order in the universal scheme of things. The code is simple. It’s called the Bro Code. To break it down a bit for the ladies reading this, it means that we men will always take the side of our brothers no matter what. You do not side with the girl even if she is barefoot, alone and crying by the roadside at a little past 11pm. You walk ahead.
Oscar and I committed a terrible sin that Monday night. We did the unthinkable. Jesus should die and rise again to save our wretched souls. We broke the code. We made Pete’s business our business. We asked her what’s wrong, why she way out alone at that time, and that is when she told us that she had been kicked out. They got into a verbal altercation whose genesis she took credit for, and when his tempers couldn’t behave themselves, he threw her out.
“It’s your fault then; we should not get involved in this,” is what I thought until she dropped the nuclear bomb; that she is expectant of his child- has been in the family way for two months now.
On a Monday night like this, goons like us should be shooting pool, talking about third year girls and what drives them to salvation and fighting over who owes who how much. We should not be shrinking people’s girls; much less Pete’s girls. But when she mentioned the pregnancy, all that goonship bullshit vanished like fart in the wind.
Oscar went back for sandals (which she is yet to return by the way), I bought her supper, and then we escorted her to the station for her ride back to Kabete. We did our good deed of the month.
Once a guy descends that far into kind villainy, she told us, he ceases to be human and degenerates into a misanthrope deserving only of a sad, lonely, protracted death.
On our way back, we began talking- which when you think of it is more like gossiping, but after breaking the code, what other sin could be greater? One thing was for certain though- that campus love is only exciting and lovely without commitments, because the moment vows are put to the test, they fail miserably.
So yeah, we may be goons alright. Cold, hard-core stony men without heart. But once in a while, on Monday nights like these, we meet barefooted pregnant, hungry girls with no two coins to rub together and in need of a pair of sandals and food. And we help them.