As far as I was concerned, I had done nothing wrong. Everyone could see that I was doing anything wrong. Everyone who was paying attention that is.
We were at Space Lounge – Jamo, Daktari and I – sitting on a round table in the company of a liter of Jameson. Daktari had just concluded one of those weeks at the hospital – the kind he did not want to talk about, just drown away with as much whiskey as it would take. Then this chap showed up at the next table, with a girl in tow. I recognized him immediately. I knew him from, what, seven years ago? When I was working for some campus rag as the Managing Editor – a big title, that, with not such a big pay. When our eyes met, I went over to say hello. He still shaved his head close to the scalp as he did those many years ago, and we did that man hug thing where we knock shoulders and tap each other on the back. Then he turned to introduce the girl he came with, and as I stretched my hand for a shake, he said, “This is my future wife.”
He did not tell me her name, and he did not tell her my name. And that was perfectly fine by me because I could not, for the life of me, bring myself to remember his name either. So we were doing that thing where you must just deal with the awkwardness and save each other the embarrassment; because you have already hugged and he has introduced his future wife to you.
I went back to our table at the earliest convenience. Daktari was still brooding over his drink. Jamo and I were dancing. We like to do this thing where I bust a move, and he tries to follow, but not a complicated move because Jamo has rhythm like Ellen DeGeneres. He can hear the music, he feels it even, but the internet connection between his mind and his feet is powered by Zuku Fibre. And we dance different, Jamo and I. While I dance like nobody is watching, he dances like everyone is watching, and he doesn’t give a fuck.
As science has proven repeatedly, women at the club tend to be ensorcelled by men who dance. Not men who can dance. Men who dance. And do you know the first person to show up at our table? Yuuuup. My friend’s future wife.
Now, here is the thing ladies need to understand. If we are at the club and you came with your man, and we do not know each other like that, there is only so far we can go. You know the way you do not like being burned with hot water? Yeah. That is the same way even us we do not want to have bottles of Tusker broken on our heads. I know I can be hard headed, but I am not interested in finding out exactly how hard. Meaning, in this kind of situation, I’d honestly rather not dance with you, and if we do, terms and conditions will have to apply.
No grinding. You dance over there, and I dance on this other side of the rift valley. We give each other, well, Space. We dance like SDAs; the distance between your ass and my crotch needs to be wide enough to allow pathfinders to march through singing Pengine Milimani. If you can shaku shaku, the better. If you can do that Naija dance where you pick up air from your feet, lift it up slowly and then throw it at someone’s head like a basketball jump shot, then sawa. So long as there is no contact.
Lakini the sad truth is that many of the ladies you will find in Nairobi clubs have perfected one dance move only; ass shaking. They twerk to everything, including baby shark dooo dooo doo dooooo. And madam fiancé over here was one of those. And so every time she turned around to drop it down, I stepped back to give her thuolo.
The Daktari pulled me aside and said, “Omera what are you doing?”
“What do you mean what am I doing?”
“Si that is that jamaa’s woman?”
“Yeah. But have you not seen what is happening? Me ndio nilienda nikamwita? Me umeniona nikisugua vyombo vya wenyewe?”
“I am a doctor, Magunga, I observe people for a living, and me the way I am seeing this thing…hmmmm…wacha tu…”
The way this story goes is this; the long-lost pal decides to change tables to sit with some of his other boys, but the girl decides to stay with us, and he doesn’t mind. Somewhere in between, she says she knows she is chokozaing (her exact word), but I need to ‘loosen up a little.’ I don’t, so occasionally she dances the way she wants with akina Daktari because at least him he does not have a conflict of conscience. And when she finally decides to leave to be with her human, we hug goodbye, and she whispers something in my ear about me being so warm.
Joto is the word she used, and it is not that she said it, it is the way she said it. And me I am left wondering about how this city is indeed the ghetto. Wasn’t she introduced to me as my future wife just about an hour before, ama that was a
Madam Fiance would later come back to look for her man because he’d left her at their other table for thirty minutes, phone calls unanswered.
“How long has he been gone?”
“OK. Give him another 20, if he is not back, then we will start looking for him.”
At this point, I was getting a little peeved with this strange couple. Kitu two songs after she had gone back to wait for him, the mans showed up, and when I asked him where he had been now that his future wife was worried sick, he shrugged and said, “me ni mwanaume bana.” And we laughed and laughed, even though I didn’t quite get the joke.
Enyewe in this our Nairobi the only loyalty you can ever be certain of are loyalty points you earn in a supermarket card.
She must have just walked into the club, because I had been at the same spot at Space all night and I had not noticed her before. She is the kind of girl you cannot fail to notice. An orange jumpsuit, golden neckpiece, a Gucci bag with golden strings cutting across her chest, and a yellow jacket stitched with intricate black detail. She looked rich. Not wealthy, just rich. I cannot place a finger on whatever it was about her that felt expensive. There was a certain je ne sais quoi about her. If the DJ asked ladies in the club to shake what their mommas gave them, this one would probably shake her bank account.
I saw her when I looked to the side one time and found her looking at me. But she was not the shy kind to look away when caught staring. She merely cracked a smile – not too wide, but enough for me to notice from a few feet away. I smiled back and looked away. But there are women who you cannot look at just once. I turned again and found her still staring, and I looked behind me to make sure I was the one she was fixated on. You do not want to imagine thinking you’re having a moment with someone, kumbe it is someone else behind you.
I gestured to her with my head to come over we dance, but she refused, inviting me to go over to her instead. And it is only until I saw her up close that I realized she was already drunk. She was drinking a cocktail by the straw, and when we danced, it is as if the ground shook under her feet. She fumbled a lot. Spilling some of her drink on my shirt, but who cared anyway?
“Are you here by yourself?” I asked, and she nodded. So I invited her to join us at our table. Ten more minutes dancing and she would be licking the cabro. “Perhaps you should slow down with the cocktail. You don’t seem too good.”
“I am fine.”
She was not fine.
“OK. Are you, by any chance driving?”
“No,” I told her, “no, you are not driving. Not like this anyway. Take a cab.”
“Is this what you usually do?” she asked.
“Do you always meet random women at the club and start controlling them? Ati oh I should slow down…ati oh, I cannot drive myself home.”
This is where things tend to get blurry for me. You meet someone at the club. You are having a reasonably good time dancing and all. But she is getting drunk and says she also intends to drive. You suggest – for her safety – that perhaps that is not a good idea, and suddenly you’re hit with that kind of response about control. You cannot insist because she has essentially told you to mind your own business. And this is 2019 – we listen to women these days. You are forbidden from mansplaining to an adult woman the concept of drunk driving.
So I said to her, “You know what, wewe fanya vile unataka.” After all si me nilikuja huku to have fun with my boys?
“Me nataka kudance,” she said.
And that is what we did. When Wizkid started spilling from the speakers singing “Walicha oh say, walicha,” us we yelled “one liter, say one liter…..” And when he sang “Starboy dey for youuuuuuuu” we pointed at each other as we wriggled to the beat. And when she asked me to get her another round, I told her I would only buy her another drink if she promised to take a cab home from this place. She said sawa.
You see that side for Space that used to be an entrance before they changed shit up, and now is some car yard? Yeah. When you go there, the music is not as loud. We sat there as she took her drink, covered by slight darkness, and it is here that she spoke. She had been drinking from
“He is older than me.”
“How much older?”
“OK. So why do you call him your boyfriend when he is neither a boy or your friend?”
Either she did not hear that, or she simply ignored it. Also, what the fuck was this? Why was I only attracting chicks with relationship drama? Yaani siwezi tu kuenda out and meet a normal person? First, it was those two fiances, and now here I was with another one struggling with what sounded like a blesser.
“And how old are you?”
“Let me show you,” she said reaching for her bag. “I work for the government, so I must always have my ID with me everywhere I go.” She fumbled through her handbag and then showed me her ID. “What does it say?” she asked.
“I cannot believe it,” I said. “This cannot be true.”
I took out my ID from my wallet and showed it to her. “Take a look for yourself, because if I told you, you would not believe it.”
We share a birthday, this girl and I. What are the chances that you would leave your house to go clubbing and then the universe pairs you with a girl who was born on the same day as you? March 12th, 1991.
“Maybe that is why I felt like I could trust you,” she said. I wanted to tell her that it is not a special coincidence because according to Google, some 21 million other people were born on the 12th of March 1991. So the chances of meeting someone born on the same day as you is not ati that slim. But then Daktari showed up with a bag and a jacket.
“Boss, me nimeenda, but sijui Jamo ako wapi na hizi ni stuff zake,” he handed them to me and said hello to my birthday mate.
“Ameenda wapi sasa?” I asked.
“Sijui. He disappeared like half an hour ago, na hashiki simu.”
“Sawa,” I said, and he walked away until he was swallowed by the night.
Anyway. I tell this madam that I need to find my friend Jamo. I have known him since my first day in
I walk around Space Lounge looking for Jamo. I look everywhere; I do not see him. I beat his phone five times; he does not catch my phone. I even check the washroom just in case he has blacked out in there. Wapi. I give up. I figure, if I cannot help one of my oldest friends, then maybe I can save this lady I just met. I go back to where I left her, and she is also not there. I walk around Space Lounge again, looking for the girl in an orange jumpsuit and yellow jacket carrying a black Gucci bag and sporting a golden neckpiece. I do not find her either. All this time I am walking around with Jamo’s jacket and bag, looking like one of those DVD hawkers. It is so fucking heavy – what the fuck is a lawyer carrying around on a Saturday night anyway!
On my way out of the club to get a cab, know who I run into? Not Jamo. Not even my birthday mate. It is the couple from before – the ones who are to be married. At least they end up together by the end of the night. It is always the strangest ones that last.
But I still do not remember that guy’s name.
To the girl I met at Space – not the engaged one, the other one – I hope you got home safe and that you enjoyed today for both of us.